Taking a surface-feeding fish by dapping is a time honoured technique. But to be successful, the angler must first master the art of concealment and be prepared to move swiftly
There are two methods of fishing that are called dapping. One technique is employed when fishing from a boat and aided by wind, the other when fishing from the bank, when the influence of wind is, as far as possible, reduced to a minimum.
For dapping from a boat (to catch trout and sea trout) a very long rod is used with a line that catches the wind. Formerly, loosely woven floss-silk was used but nowadays anglers manage quite well with nylon monofilament; and where once they used 16ft or 18ft rods made of whole bamboo, they now use 13ft glass-fibre rods of the kind designed for coarse fishing.
Dapping from a boat
The procedure is to position the boat across the wind, which causes it to drift broadside. The angler or anglers point their rods downwind, so that the wind extends the line, allowing the fly to be bounced lightly on the water. The angler strives to allow only the fly, and none of the line, to touch the surface. When the wind is excessivly strong, a small shot may be pinched on the line, a foot above the fly. If the wind is not strong enough, its effect can be increased by attaching a large bushy fly to the line, above the one which is expected to attract the fish.
The fly is usually a real mayfly, daddy long legs or grasshopper, hooked through the thorax, although artificial flies will do if there are not enough of the real ones. Sometimes two flies can be used on the same hook. Skill and practice are required to keep the fly on the sur- face of the water without allowing the line to touch. Restraint is essential when the fly is taken, for it is fatal to strike too soon. The rod-point must be lowered a foot or so, to allow the fish to close its mouth and resume a horizontal attitude, before one strikes to set the hook.
Dapping from a boat is usually practised, on large lakes, sea lochs, and reservoirs, and success depends on natural insects to bring fish to the surface, on an intimate knowledge of the best areas to fish, and on capable boat handling.
Dapping from the bank
Dapping from the bank is used to catch coarse fish and of them all the chub responds best. Ordinary coarse fishing tackle is used, a live insect is impaled on the hook, and a large shot or pierced bullet on the line allows it to be lowered without being blown by the wind too much. A strong hook and line can be used, because the line will not be on, or in, the water until the bait is taken. Chub often lie under the branches of trees or bushes, through which the rod is carefully poked, with the weight wound up to the top ring. When the weight is judged to be directly above the fish, the insect is slowly lowered until it touches the surface, when the fish may be expected to bite. Some difficulty may attend the subsequent proceedings if the foliage of the trees or bushes is too thick and the anglers who dap often realize after hooking a fish that extracting it is altogether impossible. It is sensible, therefore, before lowering the insect, to decide how, and if, a fish can be landed once one is hooked.
Favourite baits for dapping from the bank are grasshoppers, crickets, large beetles of various kinds, furry caterpillars, or any other fairly large insect; but one can also use slugs, or even a piece of breadcrust with good effect, especially if a few free offerings are dropped in before the hook is lowered.
The trick is not so much to catch a fish, but to select the largest in a shoal or group. This demands patience as well as some skill, for if a smaller chub gets the bait and is hooked, the chance of a bigger one from the same spot will be lost, at least for some hours.
Sometimes such fish as chub, dace and rudd are to be found near the bank in open water. To approach these without being detected is usually very difficult, and the angler has to emulate Napoleon’s armies, who were said to march on their stomachs. All too often, after enduring nettles, thistles and cowpats, an angler will find the fish scattering at the last moment. However, it is all great fun and the effort is rewarded often enough to encourage the angler to make further attempts.
A predictable supply of bluebottles may be secured by putting a handful of maggots into a suitable long-range dapping presents itself. For this you should attach an Arlesey bomb to the end of the line, and attach a hook to a short link above the lead. How far above is determined by the circumstances; the idea is to cast the lead so that it falls on the opposite bank. By keeping the line taut to the lead the fly on the hook is held above the surface of the water, but can be lowered by slacking-off a little. Bobbing it up and down attracts the attention of the fish, and it is allowed to rest on the surface when the biggest fish in the group is nearest. A stout line is needed, for not only has the fish to be hooked but the lead must also be pulled away from the bank. Too often it is embedded in mud or caught in the grass, so the method is far from infallible. The long-range dap is not usually a first-choice method, but it can catch some fish that could not have been caught by any other method.
It is important to take care of the bait. You need a well-ventilated box or boxes, for you must not mix fragile insects like daddy long legs or mayflies with such hard ones as beetles and grasshoppers, nor put any insects with slimy slugs. For insects that can fly away easily, or container, about three weeks in advance of requirements, and waiting for them to pupate and then emerge as winged flies. Other winged insects, and grasshoppers, are harder to catch, and those of you whose age or girth precludes much agility may be grateful for the assistance of suitably rewarded small boys.