Martyn White | Wednesday, 11 March 2020

I'm heading over to Malaysia shortly to see Paul for some beers, campfires and a bit of fishing. I'm really looking forward to it, like any trip but I think the challenge of the snakehead on Belum is something a bit special.

Last year was my first attempt and I didn't catch any, just managed a couple of chases, it was also the first trip I ever went on where I wasn't confident I could make the shots required. Despite practising a lot, I just wasn't quite there, not a million miles away, but not quite. In the run up, I would spend my mornings at the lake and my evenings tying all manner of flies, different experiments based on photos of the insects that those bastdardly gourami might eat. This year I'm still out practising  the improved PULD snakehead shot using cruising carp as targets and I feel much better about it than I did last year, but I've only tied 8 flies, 8. Just 8. I'm a fly tier, I love tying and I always carry too many flies.  I'm sure anyone who travels for fishing knows the feeling of "needing"  to tie a few extra flies for already overfilled boxes the week before leaving on a trip. Sometimes it can be a good thing, and is all part of the anticipation.  Other times I wonder.


Most of us it seems spend a lot of time looking for the next deadly fly, the next new material, a perfect fly  the one pattern to rule them all. It's just around the next corner, and it always will be. I think we all know this too, but it doesn't stop us looking, tweaking patterns, or whatever else we do to "improve" our flies.  I always get people asking me on YouTube about what flies are best for this fish/place/time of year. but the most common thing one is for their first saltwater trip.  My answer is always "Ask the guide if there is one,otherwise a few shrimpy/crabby things in a few weights and sizes and a few baitfish, but it's not important you should focus on practising casting". It's often negatively received.  Casting is so central to our sport, but so many of us still put so many other factors ahead of it, flies being a major one. I suppose it probably something psychological to do with being able to control certain factors(flies) but not others . I don't get it though, I've always practised casting, even at my most intense fly box mania. Casting should clearly be in the control category, but it's harder work than grabbing a malt and tying another couple more flies of an evening I suppose.


I know I'm not saying anything new here, but Belum really forces you to think about what matters and what doesn't.  Obviously the fly is, or should be the only thing the fish sees and  is the most important part of the whole package, but also it doesn't matter at all, especially if you can't put it where it needs to be. Flies are a security blanket, a crutch that most of us carry even when we know we don't need them.. but we might.  I know how I developed my own particular brand of this affliction, I was indoctrinated into loch style competition at a young age, at the time it seemed great and  I liked making inconsequential changes to mini cat's whiskers and the like to see if it was the new next best thing. Utter nonsense though and eventually, despite a lot of success, I grew to hate these competitions. 


I still usually carry too many flies, but I'm getting better. I might tie a few more before I leave but it won't be many. No amount of flies in the bag will make any difference if the shot doesn't go in. I doubt  I'll ever fully walk without that extra flybox shaped crutch, I'm not sure I want to, I like flies I like looking at other people's flies and talking about them, I care about them. I just think it's quite refreshing to not humphing around a bag full of boxes that won't make any difference anyway.  After all ll, they don't matter... Except when they do.