Sunday, 10 March 2013

Casting The Hookless Fly

The river in Summer
I was out walking along a local river last week taking some photos and watching for rising trout. The new season is just around the corner so like all trout anglers I'm chomping at the bit to get out fishing. For some time now I've been testing the idea of casting hookless flies, I'm sure there are many anglers who would consider this a stupid idea but it does have benefits.

One of the benefits is that I can spend time on a trout stream out of season and practice my craft and continue learning about trout, fishing styles & flies. I was out on a stream recently casting hookless flies and the results were quite surprising to me and the enjoyment I got from it was the biggest surprise.

This was the first time in over 20 years of fishing that I've ever targeted trout during the close season, that said, there's no possibility of actually catching a fish with a hookless fly. I took my tenkara rod with me and a small box of hookless flies, part of what I wanted to do was test the flies. As I walked up the stream there was no sign of any trout and no flies coming off the water,

I sat down at a pool I've fished many times and just watched. After a while I set up my tackle and set about casting my flies to where I thought I'd find a fish and sure enough after a few casts a trout came and took my fly, my line went taught for a second and I felt that familiar tug and then it was gone. I actually got a bit of a shock when this happened, I hadn't expected to feel anything, I had expected it to be a purely visual experience.

I then continued casting to the same spot and after a few more casts what I suspect was the same trout came and took my fly again, this time I felt nothing so I think it may have missed. The technique I was using was to manipulate the fly by pulsing the rod tip, this is common in tenkara and imparts movement into the fly to make it more lifelike. In the next pool I wanted to try a downstream approach as this is something I very rarely do but something I've seen many tenkara anglers practicing. I cast my fly to the top of the riffle and allowed the currents to sink the fly until it was downstream of my position before pulsing the fly up and across, a fish came for the fly first cast. I repeated this many times and the same fish came for the fly at least half a dozen times, a couple of times I felt the tug, some of the time the fish missed the fly and other times I did nothing when the trout took and so felt nothing on the rod tip.

I continued casting downstream but varying my techniques to see the results, the fish kept coming to the fly and sometimes  more than once, sometimes I would get a sharp tug on the rod tip and other times nothing. It was also very visual as my fly was only a few inches under the surface and I would often see the trout coming out from behind a rock or it would splash at the surface as it aggressively attacked the fly. After around an hour I had to start heading back but I had a lot to contemplate so it was an enjoyable walk.

I was really surprised by how many times the same trout would come to the fly, I've had trout do this even with a hooked fly but usually only until hooked or pricked with the hook point. I guess with no hook as a warning they'll just keep taking until they realise they're not getting the reward.

The last time I spoke about this subject I spoke about the fact that this is not fishing, it's casting. Fishing is the "activity of catching or trying to catch fish", by casting a hookless fly it's not possible to catch a fish and it's clearly not the intention and therefore this is not fishing. The fact that this is not fishing means it can be practiced at anytime of the year and anywhere you have the right of access which in Scotland is pretty much anywhere. I will continue to experiment with the hookless fly and report my experiences, I don't expect many anglers to be following in my footsteps but for me at least, it's an interesting experiment.

If there's such a thing as fly fishing blasphemy this could be it!