Fishing Rod Decoration

Fishing Words

I don't have that many fishing books, perhaps a hundred or so, perhaps a few more, I've never really counted. Some of them I have not read; unwanted presents from well meaning relatives but some I have read many times. They never disappoint and real favourites are tattooed with notes, underlinings, highlights and margin scribbles, sacrilege to the bibliophile but a quick way to find old friends that constantly delight. I do so admire those who conjure with words. Here are extracts from some of my favourites.

Fishing Words

By Graham Waterton

Catching the selective feeder

- By Graham Waterton

In The Longest Silence, Thomas McGuane applies some logic to why trout feed, particularly a fish which he describes as the 'selective feeder'.

' having ascertained that many of the objects going by his view are edible, he decides which ones he can eat efficiently and which will do him the most good. Then, in the interest of energy conservation, and if the chosen food item is in sufficient quantity, the trout gradually transfers the decision making process to something like muscle memory, to thoughtless routine. If the fly we cast fails to trigger that recognition or is not in the rhythm in which the trout is feeding, we get a no sale.'

This very nicely describes the actions of the selective fish which only drops its guard when a large hatch is underway. He describes the big fish that occupy the best spots, where the river conveyor belt brings them the most food as 'masters of the perfect niche.'

He analogises the trouts behaviour to the motorway driver who...

'having engaged the cruise control, sleepily notes at the mouth of an obscure off ramp a sign that reads FREE BEER. Most motorists would conclude somewhat abstractly that there must be a catch. The paranoid motorist would conclude that it's an ambush. A few motorists, the dumb ones, might disengage the cruise control and pull off.'

I want to catch the paranoid fish but I suspect I just catch the dumb ones.

Get the first cast right

- By Graham Waterton

I love clear water nymphing. It is why New Zealand was the ultimate trout fishing for me.

There, I bought a book called Catching Trout by Les Hill and Graeme Marshall. The title hints at the typically no nonsense approach of Kiwis and the focus of the book.  There's a lot on casting but they are very practical chapters and clearly written by expert fisherman who are used to having to make the right cast as the only way to catch big, spooky, wild, difficult fish.

As a sort of preface ... often a bit of a book I don't read ... there are 2 or 3 pages entitled The First Cast. It tells the story of one large fish which nosed the fly on the first cast but ignored it on the subsequent better casts. I recognised that problem then and sadly still do! It goes on;

'Much of our talk, long into that night, centred around the number of fish deceived on the first cast and the number of fish which refused our initial offering through some minute foible and were not to be tempted beyond inspection again.

The first cast. If the assumption of its importance has substance, if it offers the greatest chance of luring a feeding fish, then perhaps it deserves appropriate attention. Heed your fly choice, tread lightly and present delicately. A mindful first cast is a tribute to the trout, a tribute to its instinct and nobility. This compliment paid will reap reward'

Sound advice, elegantly delivered.

They go on to describe many ways of ensuring the first cast works.  A lot on reading the water, casts to combat drag and of course, stalking. It is a really good, no nonsense, pragmatic book written from a land where they get the importance of the first cast; a notion entirely transferable to our waters in the UK.

One particular tip I really liked related to the use of long leaders. In New Zealand 4/5/6 metre leaders are often required for all the normal reasons. In addition they advise this length because it forces you to cast a long line. You can't turn over a 15 ft leader with 10 ft of flyline outside the rod tip. To get a long leader, whatever the taper, to turn over well you need a good length of line out and although it sounds obvious, this keeps you well away from the fish. Maybe not for the novice but as ever, long, accurate, delicate casts do improve your chances.


Something wonderful in our lives

- By Graham Waterton

Part of John Gierach's appeal as a writer for me is his ability to swing from from backwoodsy philosophy to straight forward pragmatic angling tales and make the connection between the two normal and uncontrived, all expressed with charm and humour. First, a little philosophising.

'Fishing is engrossing because it's so lovely, and that's central to everything. We try to be logical, but there's no way round it - we end up believing in whatever we think is beautiful, whether we can prove it makes sense or not. Everyone needs something wonderful in their life that they can't explain, and that they might not explain even if they could.'

People go fishing for lots of different reasons but many do it to escape their real world. For me, part of the enjoyment is the solitary aspect of fishing; not to have to make conversation, and the ability to blank out the rest of your life. It's not that problems get solved when you're fishing but that the period of concentration required to fish well, gives your brain time to clear and rest.

John Gierach was fishing with one of his many fishing buddies, John.

  'That was the one time we were close enough not to have much of a conversation. For most of the afternoon it was just the occasional one or two syllable comment: "All right," "Good" "Oops" "Shit". The one other time John and I get within speaking distance of each other, I asked, just to make conversation, "So how's the business?"

He said, "Thanks for reminding me." '

I know how John felt.

Another little gem from Even Brook Trout Get The Blues. Billings is a Montana town where winters can be harsh;

'my friend.....wrote from Billings last winter saying it was so cold he saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets'

Te he.

Why do we flyfishermen impose rules on ourselves?

- By Graham Waterton


In 2010 Blood Knots  by Luke Jennings was published. One of his mentors as a young man was Robert Nairac, a lover of the dry fly. Here, Jennings ponders on failure, success and the self imposed rules we fly fisherman observe.

'Fishing has its disappointments, its frustrations and its blank days, none of which lessen with the passing of years. There are times when you feel yourself an alien figure in the landscape. Days when, for all your effort and calculation, you just can't read the water. And then there are the times when it all comes right. When the theory falls away, and you and the place are one. Those moments represent a sum of practical experience, although they are also the gift of those who taught you. I understand now why Robert was absolutist in his method, and why he spoke of honour and the dry fly in the same sentence. Because. The rules we impose on ourselves are everything - especially in the face of nature, which, for all its outward poetry, is a slaughterhouse. It's not a question of wilfully making things harder, but of a purity of approach without which success has no meaning. And this, ultimately, was his lesson: that the fiercest joy is to be a spectator of your own conduct and find no cause for complaint.'

Blood Knots is not so much a fishing book, more a personal memoir but fishing is the gold thread that ribs the body of both the authors life and the work. My enjoyment of this book is not just that it is so beautifully written but the author is a similar age to me, came from a similar background and many of the social and cultural references resonate deeply. I too came from a broadly non fishing family and so identify with learning from passing mentors and hard won childhood experiences. There were times and events and places and people in this little book that I recognised the instant I read it.

I read it twice, from cover to cover on a train as we rattled and lurched across beautiful  Tuscan countryside. I could have been anywhere, I was so absorbed.

Please read it, no distractions, let it draw you in.

So you want to be a good caster?

- By Graham Waterton

I've been pondering recently how long it would take to become a really good flycaster. Not just very, very good but a world class fly caster ... all casts, all conditions.

Matthew Syed wrote a intriguing and challenging book called Bounce. It's not a fishing book but anyone who has an interest in sport at any level will be fascinated by the various unconventional conclusions he draws about how world class sportsmen and women are produced. What struck me as an obvious parallel between fly-casting and other more mainstream but complex sports, is how long it takes to become good, really, really good.

'So the question is: How long do you need to practise in order to achieve excellence? Extensive research, it turns out, has come up with a very specific answer to that question: from art to science and from board games to tennis, it has been found that a minimum of ten years is required to reach world-class status in any complex task'.

He argues this fully with many convincing examples and then goes on:

'... most top performers practise for around one thousand hours per year (it is difficult to sustain the quality of practice if you go beyond this), so he re describes the ten year rule as the ten-thousand-hour rule. This is the minimum time necessary for the acquisition of expertise in any complex task'

That's getting on for 3 hours a day for 10 years.

I'm reminded of something I heard many years ago that the gifted amateur sportsman practices in order to always be good but the professional expert sportsman practices more, so that he will never be bad.

I'd like to be a really good caster but bloody fishing keeps getting in the way ... thank God!