by V C Bennett
Tony Orman came across this delightful article in a May 1939, “New Zealand Fishing and Shooting Gazette.” He has abridged it to suit the space.. Read and enjoy and get a laugh or two. “Many a true word is said in jest” as the saying goes.
I went in for fly-fishing. I had to do it in self defence. A lot of my friends were fly fishermen and at times I found their conversation almost too much to bear. They were good fellows so there was nothing else for it.
I commissioned one of them to buy me a trout fishing outfit. He did not stint his fancies with my money. I still have gadgets which will never be used. It was a mild surprise to find to learn that casts were not necessarily things left about by worms, that 3X might refer to something else than beer and that there were other Hardy’s besides the jewellers.
Then I had a lesson in casting on the front lawn. I found no difficulty in cracking off one fly after another. The reports startled all the sparrows and they left in a body. My supply of flies was diminishing so fast that I gave it up for the day. The grass was a bit anaemic and I hoped that all the iron of hooks scattered about would be good for it.
My stock of flies was almost gone before i had reached the stage where I could wave the rod around with a reasonable hope of finding a fly on the end of the cast afterwards.
But the day to try it all out on the river was approaching. The necessary preparations were colossal. More flies were indicated. I went to buy some myself. Their fascination was terrific and the urge to acquire large numbers irresistible. I had known every variety when I left the shop. I reached the conclusion that a salesman who couldn’t sell flies to a trout fisherman, should seriously consider changing his calling.
We got to our destination in time for bed and the next morning commenced trout fishing. This does not mean we went onto the river right away. Not a bit of it. The lines had to be strung out, haversacks packed and various other paraphernalia assembled. It was thought a suitable time to start a general discussion on the relative merits of different makes of rods, on whether small flies were more deadly than larger ones and finally tactics on the river and where to go. The river was quite handy but it was soon made clear to me that the immediate vicinity was never any good for fishing. It appeared that it was essential to walk or drive some miles to another part of the same river or to another river altogether, and that the farther you went, the better would be the fishing.
It was nothing that on the way, you met other fishermen making for the spot you had left.
The road was bad but we eventually arrived after taking a couple of wrong turnings. The rods had to be set up. By the end of the day, I lost several flies by my well tried method of cracking them off and I quickly found other ways of parting with them. If there was a ti-tree bush anywhere within casting range or outside it, the fly caught in it – never low down for some reason, but always just out of reach. Briar bushes provided even more food for thought.
There might not be a bush or tree in sight at some places but lurking unnoticed there would be a single stalk of gas. The fly found it without difficulty and I realised for the first time the enormous strength of grass.
When I did manage to put my fly on the water, it fell like a bunch of keys and soon became such a pitiful looking object that I was astounded when a fish – obviously mentally deficient – seized it. By falling over backwards, I managed to keep a strain on it, as I had been told to do, and eventually got the trout safely on shore. My first trout, a 3/4 lb rainbow.
All this was six or seven years ago. I still carry a picture of the knot for my fly I used, because by the beginning of the next season, I have forgotten it. Every now and again, I run into somebody who wants to show me another kind of knot, but i am too cunning to listen. I still generally splash my fly on the water and my line retains sinuous curves. But I have solved the question of the kind of fly to use by the simple trick of having one variety and one size of hook.
I have caught a fair number of fish but the ridiculous thing about this whole trout fishing business is that, although it is very nice to catch some occasionally, it honestly doesn’t matter very much if you finish the day without catching any.
I had been told this but didn’t believe it.
The reason, quite apart from the beautiful mountain air, the hills and trees, and the running streams, can perhaps be explained by the table I have prepared showing how an ordinary fishing day is divided up between 9 am and 9 pm.
Discussions and argument about the merits of various rods, reels, etc. Examination of each man’s box of flies, with debates on the efficacy of the different varieties and on the best size hooks. * Detailed descriptions of fish taken or lost. Reach a decision on the ever present question of why the fish are not rising, whether there are any fish in the river anyway and where would be the best places to try tomorrow – 40 percent.
Drying and and preparing lines, fixing up casts, several attempts to tie the fly on – 10 percent
Putting on, taking off fishing boots and clothes and arranging them to dry afterwards – 10 percent
Fallin in river- 15 percent
Trying to disengage fly from ti-tree, grass etc., – 10 percent
Struggling from one spot on the river to another – 10 percent
Actually fishing – 5 percent
A Final Word
Just one word more. The question of why the trout are not rising is so important that I must give the result of my observations in regard to the behaviour of these peculiar animals.
Things that will stop the trout taking your fly:-
River too high
River too low
River too clear
River too muddy
Things that will bring them on to feed
I took on fly-fishing as I said, in self defence.
Do I regret it?
I do not.
I owe my friends who started me off on it, a debt of gratitude, I can never repay.