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

What do I do now?

- By Graham Waterton

"What do I do now"  they scream.

I have, only on the odd occasion you understand, been guilty of not explaining to newcomers in enough detail, what to do if a fish is hooked and occasionally, the object of the exercise obliges earlier than expected.

Concentrating on getting attached to a fish has been the priority ... we'll worry about landing it later.

In 1910 AH Chaytor (1869-1939) wrote a book called Letters To A Salmon Fishers Sons. It is written, as the title suggests, with each chapter in the style of a letter to his two sons, Drewett and Kit. He was a lifelong salmon fisher and this was his only book (that is other than editing some published Law Lectures) and the fact that it has been published many times in many formats, witnesses both its readability and how relevant the content remained.

Letter 6 is entitled On Playing A Salmon. These short extracts do not do it justice but give you a flavour.  It remains great advice ... for most fish in most situations:


'Hold the rod well up. - This above all things, is what you must remember to do. From the moment after the fish is hooked until the moment he is gaffed you should never, unless the fish is in the act of leaping out of the water, cease to hold the rod well up...

Next, watch the fish carefully ... If  you feel a sudden rush, look out for a leap to follow it.

Never let the fish rest. When he makes a rush, let him go-even give him line pulled off the reel by your hand. But at the very moment he slackens his efforts, pull him and worry him into action, and in a very short time he will be yours.

Never hold his head out of the water.

Never let the rod point be directly above the fish to be lifting him out of the water, but keep it either down stream or up stream of the fish, so that the pull of the gut is not a lifting pull.

Never let him have a long line out if that can be avoided.'


As you would expect the language is old fashioned and the chapter ends as controversially as is possible in the early 1900s but I doubt there are too many experienced fisherman today who would disagree with the points he makes whether attached to a tarpon, a trout, a salmon or even straight sticking a GT.

The whole book is worth a read and not difficult to get hold of a copy.


Blagdon in the 1930s

- By Graham Waterton

 Donald G. Ferris Rudd, under his pen name, Jock Scott wrote a number of books including Greased Line Fishing for Salmon, Spinning Up to Date and Fine and Far Off. In 1936 he wrote Game Fish Records, a collection of facts and figures of fish and fisherman from around the world.

In the England and Wales chapter he very enthusiastically comes to Blagdon ...

'I have seen some stirring battles at Blagdon; have witnessed the capture of a seven- pound brownie and a six-and-a-half pound rainbow which fought with the concentrated fury of a demon! I have seen an angler, new to the lake, hook a large rainbow; have seen his reel stripped of line and backing, and the inevitable smash follow; I have had a five and a half pounder jump out of the landing net and grassed him at the second attempt, and I have known a hooked rainbow to dash wildly into the shallow water and beach himself high and dry! I have seen strong men turn pale, and reverend gentleman use language that was visible; I have heard ladies scream, and seen elderly gentleman reach for their flasks, and all because they have, for a few minutes of time, been tethered to four pounds of live steel and whipcord - a Blagdon rainbow! '

I think he liked Blagdon.

Blagdon has turned me pale a few times, normally my inability to touch a fish during one of those extraordinary and intensely frustrating  evening midge hatches.

He also lists a few casting records. The single handed trout fly overhead record set in 1902 was 46 yards and 2 feet! That record was set by one H. Golcher from San Francisco.

OK it's now about 80 yards but imagine the rod and line he had in 1902.

The book is a fascinating read, full of records and some great fishing stories but it has the  inevitable pictures of dead fish, salmon in particular; evidence of what was possible in that age of abundance.

I love these old books but the slaughter is enough to make you weep ... and feel guilty ... and a little jealous.

Why do we like catching grayling?

- By Graham Waterton

Simple question ... why do we like catching grayling? Is it because they're easy?

Reg Righyni in his book Grayling, published in 1968 seems to suggest they are. He comments on the observations of the end of season trout fisher.

'It comes as a very pleasant surprise to him to discover that the grayling is much more tolerant of the figure of the angler on the bank. Fast movements and casting shadows should be avoided, but creeping and crawling are quite unnecessary... normally one can move forward in full view of the fish to a suitable casting position without upsetting them at all.

Sometimes it will mouth at the fly tentatively without getting a proper hold. Alternatively it will nudge the fly, splash at it, or turn away at the last minute without actually touching it... However it will probably come again at the next cast, and try something different. Another common variation is for the fish to let the fly travel a yard or two downstream of its lie, as if ignoring it entirely; then turn, swim calmly after it, and take it with a lovely bulge'.

Although Righyni says this behaviour only happens with a surface fly I have experienced similar behaviour to a nymph.

These fish that have seen every fly and nymph and a thousand clumsy casts and heavy footed trout fisherman all summer, still let us catch them. So why do we love these simpletons! These ladies of easy virtue.

Well firstly it is because they are there; trout season's over and we still want to fish. Secondly it's because they are easy, well easier, to catch than the spooky, pricked, caught and released late season brown trout. And we all like catching fish, don't we?

Thirdly, and for me most importantly, they are wild and beautiful. Shame on you if you are not softened by their sad, cold bonefish faces and dazzled by the sight of watery Autumn sun shining through that unreal fin.

And lastly for those who fish on beats which are dry fly only for trout in season it is an opportunity to fish nymphs.

Even a passionate life long respecter and lover of grayling like Righyni acknowledged their naive and accommodating ways.

That's not to say though that a careful, considered and even technical approach to grayling won't catch you more and bigger fish particularly when conditions are tough.

I know it used to be said about perch but for me there is nothing bigger than a big grayling.


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.