Every year, among the millions of anglers in Britain, there are those who, never having cast a fly in their life, turn to trout fishing and thus add yet another facet of sportfishing to their list. Why is the number of trout fishermen increasing so dramatically? The reason is that there has been a steady buildup of every kind of coarse fishing in the past decade.
There are basically two kinds of trout fishing waters, the river and the reservoir. Britain’s trout rivers are renowned throughout the world both for the quality of their trout and the stunning beauty of their scenery. The chalkstreams of Hampshire, to name only the Test, are hallowed places where fishing is conducted with a quiet dignity and much grace; the becks and streams of Northern England and Scotland do not hold many very large trout, but their attraction lies equally in the splendour of the fells and dales through which they run.
It is through reservoir fishing that the new fly fisherman will first experience the thrill of hooking a trout on the artificial fly. One of the first things the beginner must learn is never to strike in the manner usually adopted when coarse fishing. Such a strike can pull the fly from the trout’s jaws. The correct action to take is simply to tighten the connection between angler and fish and never allow it to slacken.
The explosion in the number of reservoir trout anglers has led to many improvements in equipment and in the techniques of breeding both brown and rainbow trout to be released prior to the opening of the trout season. The rainbow has come in for special treatment now, especially at Avington, a water in Hampshire. This trout has been released after having been reared to the huge weight of 20 lb. The reply to an angler who asked what one should do when such a huge fish was hooked was, ‘Just hang on for the rest of the day!’ These giant rainbows may be artificially reared, but power they have in plenty.
The costs involved in game fishing can vary from astronomically high prices for fishing Scotland’s famous salmon rivers such as the Tay, the Dee, the Spey and so on, to virtually nothing for worming for trout in a tinkling burn among the Highlands.
English reservoirs, they include vast, manmade lakes such as Rutland and Chew Valley, offer bank and boat fishing for quite reasonable prices. As with coarse fishing, the angler must be aware that not only is the cost of the day’s fishing to be considered, but the River Authority licence for game fish.
Once the angler has fallen to the spell of casting that tiny knot of feather, fur and hook towards a feeding trout chomping happily on dead and dying mayflies littering the surface of a rippling stream, he will soon explore the greater delight, if that is possible. These delights are twitching an imitation nymph deep down near the bottom of a rainbowstocked reservoir, waiting for that giant fish to take in a crashing lurch on the rod; or perhaps he will find the time—and money— to seek a freshrun salmon from a Highland river using a spinning rod to fish the prawn or lure.
Artificial flies, spinners, prawn and shrimp, of course, are not the only means of catching trout and salmon. While the dry fly purist’s heart will miss a beat or two at the mention of the dreaded worm, freelining a large wriggling lob upstream to wary trout can be very rewarding. It was once said that fly fishing was invented because game fish were so easy to catch by other means, so a way had to be devised to make fishing for them difficult. But since fly casting is not difficult, and trout are just not easy to catch by ‘other means’—and bearing in mind that trout have never heard of the manmade flyonly rule—worming for them must be just as legitimate, if the rules of the water allow it.
The trout fisherman’s accessories are not as profuse as those of the coarse angler, but there are a few which no wellappointed game angler should travel without. One is the item which, when quickly and properly used, kills the fish decently. It is known as the priest, perhaps because it gives the fish the last rites. But a smart rap on the head with a priest will kill without unpleasantness. For fishing the floating line, specially prepared floatants are available that keep the line on the surface, while a dab of washingup liquid on the leader will ensure its sinking properly. For landing nets, most game fishermen prefer the collapsible type that is worn attached to the belt. On release, a quick flip of the wrist opens it out ready for instant use.
As for the game fisherman’s clothing, it does the ego good to look the part, although the only necessities are good waders, thigh or chest high, high quality rainproof wear (it has been known to rain in Scotland) and a fisherman’s hat that comes down near the ears. Why? Because a large artificial fly, on the end of line cast badly during the forward stroke, travels very fast and should it connect with the head or an ear the angler will not only look bloody and silly, but his fishing could well be over for a day or two while the wound heals.
Every trout angler should learn the simple art of fly tying. The ultimate satisfaction comes on the day when you net a goodsized trout that has been deceived by a homemade fly.
Coarse anglers must forget the outdated image of the lofty game fisherman exercising his flyfishing skills and looking disdainfully at the man fishing the carp lake with ledgered bread. Both kinds of fishing demand the acquisition of angling skills and a high degree of expertise.