As you’ll recall (like heck you will, I bet you already forgot) I went fly fishing a couple of days ago and caught my first ever fly-caught fish, I used something fluorescent and feathery and glittery that looked like nothing I’ve ever seen in the Insect World to deceive Mr. Thicko Trout into grabbing the hook. I’d used rental gear obtained at the marvelous Cheshire Fishing but having enjoyed the experience so much I knew it was time to get my own stuff.
First thing I noticed is that I could get a perfectly good fly rod for less than the price of the line. Here’s the rod I bought:
It’s a Shakespeare Sigma Fly Rod, absolutely beautiful piece of gear and it comes in a hard compartmentalised tubular case with a shoulder strap. Total damage on that was under £28.
On the other hand, the Fly Line came to almost £40. Here’s how: It cost me £29.99 for the Wychwood fly line. Now, this isn’t by any stretch of the imagination considered expensive. Fly lines can cost over £100 a pop but I imagine the people who pay that sort of money probably have their own trout stream next to their mansion and pay their servants to fish for them. Bear in mind, the £29.99 I paid isn’t the end of the line buying story. I still had to buy backing line for about £4 and also you need a tapered leader to tippet which also set me back about £4. So, we’re looking at about £37 for the line, £10 more than the rod cost me.
The good news is that if I don’t tread on the line or eat it or set it on fire it should last a couple of years although the tippet will have to be changed frequently.
I paid about £40 for the reel, the Airflo Classic Cassette Reel. I actually bought it from Go Outdoors but for some reason they don’t have it on display on their website.£40 is more than I could have paid – you can easily buy a decent fly reel for about £25 – but I liked the fact that this reel comes with a total of four spools which means I get to spend a LOT more money on mid-priced fly lines. Apparently I need floaters and sinkers and intermediates and so the extra spools will come in handy.
I’ve had some fun and games loading the reels. First up, you need to put the backing on the reel and it’s important to get that bit right. I used the trusted Arbour Knot but one trick I didn’t know about was the need to wrap the backing line around the spool a few times before tying the Arbour knot otherwise the whole of the line could spin on the spool when you’re trying to wind a fish in. This would be counter-productive, to say the least. I’ve always tied my own coarse fishing knots but I had to learn new knots to prepare for the Wide World of Fishing On The Fly.
One of the best places for great knot tying tips is the amazing Animated Knots website (above). I don’t know about you (why would I, we’ve never met) but I’ve found when watching YouTube videos showing knot tying that my small and slow brain often can’t keep up with what is going on, knot-tying wise, and so I have to replay the video several times. Animated Knots allows you to click a frame for each stage of the knot such that you can go at your own pace which in my case is one click every 2 minutes (or slower). I already knew about the Arbour Knot but there were new knots to amaze and delight and learn.
The next knot is the one which ties the backing line to the fly line. For this one I did use YouTube and found this very easy to understand (even for me) knot tying video.
This is the hardest of the knots you need to tie when preparing for fly fishing (he said, writing like an expert fly fisherman instead of the rank beginner he actually is). The knot for tying the other end of the fly line to the leader (or tippet or tapered leader or….) is a simple loop to loop or it can be an Albright Knot or a more complicated Nail Knot and of course tying the fly to the end of the leader can be the improved Clinch Knot. Now I could tell you exactly how to do all of the above knots right here but instead just go to Animated Knots to see those knots or the excellent Scientific Anglers webpage for setting up fly line just like I will have to when I’ve finished writing this article.
The final critical bit of fly fishing gear (apart from the fishing vest, the scoop net, the forceps, the zingers, the grease, the tippet holder, the polyleader, the snips, the sunglasses, the weigh sling and the scales) is, of course, the fly. I don’t know about you but I always fish with barbless hooks so I was pretty miffed to see that the majority of flies available are tied onto barbed hooks. It’s a pain having to nip the barb down and of course it’s not always possible to get the barb completely flat. I actually use barbless hooks for two reasons (1) The fish appreciate it (I’ve received letters from them saying so) and (2) I appreciate barbless hooks even more when I prang myself with one. Stick a barbless hook in your thumb or ear, no problem, slide it out. On the other hand, a barbed hook in your cheek might mean a visit to A&E and as a tax payer I object (and so should you) to having to pay for treatment to anglers who insist on using barbed hooks.
I’m happy to report that the excellent Cheshire Fishing tackle shop carries barbless hook flies. It is also good to see this on Amazon:
There are other fly sets too on Amazon so there really isn’t any excuse for using barbed hooks and that along with shops like Cheshire Fishing Tackle means the Barbless fraternity is well served. Mind you, any fly fisherman who insists on using barbed hooks should take the extra safety precaution of not fishing anywhere near me because I won’t be impressed if their hook causes my fishing day to be shortened by a hospital visit.
As I’d mentioned in my last article, the fly fishing thing I’m on right now is my way of beating the clammy wet weather we’re having. I love my coarse fishing but being able to travel and fish light which is easy when fly fishing, is going to make for some fun fishing days during this dank, damp and dreary winter. Am I fishing tomorrow? You bet! Report to follow!