Fly fishing questions, sea trout at night, pike fly fishing, salmon, grilse, hooks for tube flies, fly colours

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Fly fishing questions page 2.

Questions can be about any aspect of fly fishing, fly casting, casting instruction, fishing in Scotland or abroad, fly fishing courses, fishing flies, etc. The following is just a random selection of questions that have been send by readers and answered by Ally. If you have a question that you wish to ask please do not hesitate to complete the form.

Mouse over the question title for the answer.

Questions

Sea trout at night
Pike fly fishing
Salmon on the dangle
Grilse
Fly fishing in dirty water
Hooks for tube flies
Fly colours and mobility

Sea trout at night
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Question: I have fly fished for trout for some years but have never fished for sea trout. Having read your article on FishandFly.com could you answer the following:-

1)Do you cast across and down stream for sea trout , or up and across stream?

2)There is much talk of sea trout having soft mouths. This being the case, what is the best way to "strike"

Answer: Normally the cast is made down and across with the angle varying to extract a sensible fly speed from the current, supplementing that where necessary with retrieving. The slower the current the more squarely the cast can be made and an upstream cast can be effective on slow pools. In fast streams the cast has to be made at an acute downstream angle to slow the drift and give the trout a chance to take the fly.

In fast water I rely on hooking the trout from the reel so that they get a chance to turn on the fly, even then a secure hold is not a certainty. In slower water I would hold onto the line and just tighten as usual. Sea trout do have tender mouths and the advice that my experience suggests is to use as large a hook gape as sensible if the trout are fresh run. This is when their mouths are most soft and also when the trout are at peak performance, the combination of which makes them infuriatingly difficult to land at times. I think that it is a mistake to play them gingerly, just be firm and be ready for aerobatics. You will loose a few but just remember that you never lost what you never had and wait for that heart stopping bump in the night again. I should warn you that sea trout fishing ought to carry a health warning because it is addictive and very exciting.

Pike fly fishing
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Question: When flyfishing for Pike do you need to use a wire trace?

Answer: I don't know how much you need to use a wire trace, when I first tried pike fly fishing I was told to use one and have always stuck with it. My standard leader is about four feet of 15/20 lb Mason hard nylon or similar extended by a small swivel and about a foot of Cannelle Nylflex or similar around 5 or 7 kg BS. This I find suitable for the largest pike flies I have and so far I have not been broken. One of those days maybe if I hook a monster!

Salmon on the dangle
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Question: Several times I have salmon take and fail to be hooked on the dangle, what do I do if a salmon takes the fly when it is directly below me?

Answer: Salmon that take directly downstream of the rod, "on the dangle", are notoriously difficult to hook because any attempt to set the hook is likely to instead pull it out of the fish's mouth. There are all sorts of recommended techniques for coping with this situation. The intention is to provide slack line in the hope that the fish will turn and set the hook in the angle of the jaw. Raising the rod gently during the last part of the drift, so causing a drooping belly of slack line to cushion any take is the most practical method. When a fish takes, it is wise to react by tightening only when its weight is felt. In this way the fish contributes to the hooking effort. Regardless of how you endeavour to deal with the situation some fish will be missed or poorly hooked. The chance of a solid hook up is I think increased by keeping the fly moving.

Grilse
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Question: I have heard several discussions about salmon and grilse, some anglers say that any fish under 7lbs is a grilse, above that weight they are salmon. Can you clarify what a grlise is?

Answer: Grilse are adult salmon which have spent only one winter at sea before returning to freshwater. They return from late spring onwards. Salmon are adult fish which have not returned to freshwater for a further year (or more) and thus spend at least two winters at sea. These are often referred to as multi-sea-winter fish and are almost always larger than grilse entering the river at the same time, simply because they have spent much longer on the oceanic feeding grounds. These fish return to freshwater throughout the year, commencing ahead of the grilse in the springtime.

In order to answer the question of grilse size, we must return once more to saltwater. As one might expect, the warmest months of the year offer the greatest feeding opportunities to the growing salmon, and this holds true for the period between the end of the final winter spent at sea (in the case of grilse, the only one) and river entry, the period of "plus growth". By remaining at sea for more of this time and therefore accumulating more plus growth, a grilse which returns to freshwater in late September will be much larger than one which returns in May because it has spent much more time feeding. In this way grilse, and indeed salmon, become increasingly large as the season progresses. While early running grilse may weigh as little as 3 or 4 lbs., late running fish may weigh well over 10 lbs. Indeed, scientists conducting catch sampling on the River Tay have identified grilse weighing up to an incredible 18 lbs. Alas, most decent-sized grilse are probably never recorded as such by anglers, and the confusion doesn't stop there. Commercial fisheries and Government statistics "avoid" the question of salmon or grilse by arbitrarily defining the grilse as any fish under 8lb caught from May onwards. Thus, many grilse are officially recorded incorrectly. Small grilse can usually be identified by their slim, streamlined shape and forked tails. Larger grilse are only distinguishable from salmon by reading their scales to establish the length of time spent at sea.

Fly fishing in dirty water
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Question: Most fishermen appear to prefer to use a spinning rod in dirty water, is fly fishing hopeless in such conditions?

Answer: If salmon can be caught, then it is possible to catch them on a fly. There are of course times when water conditions are so bad that it is practically impossible to fish due to rising water and debris. Under these circumstances it is better to stay home and make a few flies to be sure to be ready when the river starts to drop. My favourite dirty water patterns are copper or brass bodied tube flies tied with fluorescent bucktail wings. Patterns with lots of yellow show up well in dirty water and a Garry Dog tied with a fluorescent yellow, red and blue wing and a silver or gold "flectolite" body is hard to beat. As the water clears, Willie Gunn, black & yellow or black & orange flies with a similar body material become more appropriate.

In dirty water it is essential that fish get to see the fly and it is normal to fish a sunk line to achieve this. Fish are unlikely to be lying in deep pools when the water is coloured, if they are, catching them will be difficult. Thin water, the two to four feet deep margins off the main stream, or the tail of the pool where fish have a good opportunity to see the fly offer the best opportunities.

 

Hooks for tube flies
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Question: Is it possible to use other than treble hooks with tube flies?

Answer: Trebles are generally used due to their 360 degree hooking potential, however, they are not essential. Any hook can be used with tubes, provided it lies straight in line with the tube body. If up or down eyed hooks are used they will tend to cock, which is not ideal since the hook point should always be in direct alignment with the leader for efficient penetration.

In some parts of the World, trebles are illegal so doubles or singles are used instead and they are quite successful. It is easier to remove either of these types than it is a treble, so they are better for releasing live fish and especially if the barbs are removed. When using doubles or singles with tubes I normally use hooks a couple of sizes bigger than the trebles that I might have used in order to keep the fly balanced. Loop Tackle market straight eyed double hooks specifically designed for tube flies and I use them regularly.

Fly colours and mobility
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Question: I would like to explore your vast knowledge of salmon fly fishing and fly tying. My question is "Does color or motion of the materials" in the dressing of the fly play a major importance in the fly? I am not mentioning flash materials at this moment. I am also wondering how much the size of the fly pattern is important?

Answer: Salmon are predators, they spend most their life eating prey that is alive and moving so one way or another your offering has to convince them that it is alive. It does this by moving (in relation to the fish or the stream) and movement. If you can create a fly that has an illusion of life about it, it is much more likely to be successful than a solid object but I think that this effect becomes less important as the size of the fly diminishes. Fly size is important but not in itself, only in relation to the water conditions and the speed that the fly moves at. If say the water is warm and a greased line presentation a la Wood calls for a size 10 fly, it is not unusual to catch a salmon on a three inch tube fly provided that it is fished fast and close to the surface and the fish see it only briefly. On the other hand a size 12 fly fished slower than normal might also prove effective.

I hope that this page will help fly fishermen and anglers to distinguish between the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and the migratory trout or sea trout (Salmo trutta) at the waterside.

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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.