Fly fishing questions page
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
Mouse over the question title for the answer.
Sea trout at night
Pike fly fishing
Salmon on the dangle
Fly fishing in dirty water
Hooks for tube flies
Fly colours and mobility
trout at night
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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.
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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!
on the dangle
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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
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.
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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?
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.
in dirty water
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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
for tube flies
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Is it possible to use other than treble hooks with tube flies?
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.
colours and mobility
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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
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.