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Black Lure

So, that was one of the best week's fishing I've had in a long time. Technical daytime fishing, spectacular night time action. I've never had to fish size 26's before. I've fished them before, of course, I've regularly pulled out 28's on stillwaters just as an experiment and used to catch some decent sized Ardleigh fish on such small flies during ant falls. But to be forced into it has been something quite different. And that's got to be good.

It was also interesting to be fishing surrounded by so many people, sort of takes me back to the reservoir fishing I grew up with. It's good and bad. Of course it's not the experience I prefer now when flyfishing; I want everything to myself: no people, no footprints, no manmade structures, no river maintenance, no noise pollution. So to be fishing the same river, and at times the same pool with others – most of whom pretend you're not there – was pretty weird. At least at Ardleigh we knew each other and were friends. That was cool. But it's still good to outcatch everyone. Sorry but it is. And to nail fish when everyone else is struggling is best of all. It's not an ego thing; it just tells you that you have it sussed. And I haven't had that in a while.

And the amazing thing was, I was using exactly the same methods I'd use on a lake. OK the flies were smaller, like much smaller, but the approach and patterns were identical. That's really interesting for me. It was the same on Ardleigh, people were fishing buzzers (midge pupae to our American friends) and we were nailing them on scruffy emergers and shuck patterns. I guess I'll always be a stillwater fisherman at heart.

Yeah, I'm back into fish catching. I'm eating, breathing, dreaming catching fish and I absolutely love it. It's my intention to nail everything that moves; New Zealand is in big trouble this time. You know we can talk about how pretty the trees are and how beautiful the water sounds, but when I'm fishing – and I mean really fishing – I don't really notice any of that. Sure it's pretty, but I'm there to nail fish.

I don't know why, of course, but it's great!

I actually want to talk about two things, an approach and the black lure. Yes this is a fishing Vortex. If you read these and you don't fish – believe it or not, we have a few – then I don't care. This is the most amazing thing on the planet and you're missing out. To be good at this sport of ours, this life we lead, is the most complicated, at times most frustrating, incredibly satisfying world we've created. Flyfishing is life because it includes every aspect of life and a few of its own besides.

So there's an approach to flyfishing that works. All the really good stillwater anglers I know do it. The reason I like Steve's writing so much is because he's the same tactical angler. I got bored with teaching this, but you'll find it contained in the Stillwater section.

But what I didn't write in there was the standard, simplified approach that nails fish [the SSA, Jason]. Many of you will probably do something similar, but the best stillwater anglers have it down to a T. And I'm not talking afternoon tea either, no; in fact I don't know what I'm talking about.

Had to search for my notes; I've started constructing these Vortices over the week! Lucky you! Believe me; just wait 'til the next Vortex. Even I don't know what's in there.

My good friend Guy in New Zealand – “Camo-Guy” – is a transplanted Pom, and he has it. Funny, Guy's my longest-serving friend; we've known each other for 13 years, since our eyes first met on the Greenstone River and I fell in a broke my rod. He hasn't changed much, well apart from his fetish for camouflage, which I appear to have caught. Guy and I have a habit of getting incredibly drunk together and discussing technical flyfishing until we can't speak anymore. Then we tie flies, or I do; Guy usually falls asleep in a coma.

He must have shown me 50 times how he used to tie leaders in the dark while seatrouting the Loon. And how he always knew where each of the 8 items he used to carry about with him were spread around his waistcoat, because he put them there – always. And how he knew exactly how long his leader was because it was two and a half times the distance from his outstretched right arm to his left hand side chest pocket. Stuff like that's important when you're fishing without a torch.

I once spent three months living with Guy. We were like the odd couple. I even did some gardening stuff; it must be neat to live in a house sometimes – no, not really. Guy's like me; he lives for fishing. He's a male nurse – which makes him a bit weird already – who works shifts: three days on / four off and vice versa. The rest of the time he's fishing Fiordland. He immigrated to New Zealand for the fishing – as I hope to also one day. Guy is a fish catcher.

I know a few. Tom is a fish catcher. Deano is – I don't know how, but he is. Ronan, who I'll be fishing with in New Zealand this summer, is. Hair is.

So yeah, that's what it's about. For me anyway. And the casting really helps. You nail more because you reach more.

Anyway, let's talk about that method.

[1] The first thing you have to do is find the fish. That can be the hardest thing of all. Because you have to have some of the other three things right to be successful. But let's assume we know a little about what we're doing; you know, seasonal stuff. Such as trout are downwind on a lake in Spring cos that's where the warmer water is, and they'll be eating midge. Or the damsel nymph is a Universal search pattern in Summer. Or fish will nail lures during the back end on rivers. Basics.

The first thing you need in locating the fish is local knowledge. There is no point in searching water known not to hold numbers of fish – not unless you know something different or have a hunch. Fishing regularly – erm, every day preferably – is the best way to obtain this knowledge.

Wind direction is next. By wind direction I mean both the seasonal wind direction and the daily wind. This mainly applies to lakes, but the daily wind can have an effect on rivers too, blowing bugs off trees.

And then you have to search. That means walking or drifting. The faster you can search effectively the quicker you'll locate fish.

[2] Once you've found them, you have to pin them down, and this means both depth and how far apart they are spread. You obviously want to fish where the most fish are. I usually go up, if I can, then down. If I'm already fishing dries then I'll go down of course. But I tend to fish dries until they stop working effectively, not necessarily for the best.

If there is two of you fishing then this is where you should work together in locating fish. The best days are when everyone has a blast and your fishing will be better in the long run anyway. This is where competition sucks, as it does in other areas.

[3] You have to tweak the flies: immediately and long term. Multiple flies as far as I'm concerned work as a team. Getting the flies spot on is the battle. Face facts, if the fish are feeding and you're not catching them – and you're covering them properly –then your flies aren't right. It can take years to get the flies exact. But to get really on top of it takes around five days. If you're not fishing every day then you're kind of buggered right now.

I should point out that I was fishing every day between 12 or 13 (in school holidays) and a couple of years ago when I got my priorities mixed up. I've held down jobs and done this, I've been in relationships and done it too. The only thing I haven't had is children – and that wouldn't stop me, which is probably why I'll never end up with them. Apart from the sock thing, of course.

I find the reaction to my flies amusing. Some of these flies are amazing. Many of them have caught thousands of fish. And the best ones have nailed fish when everything else was catching sod all. The Shipman's, the Black Marabou and the Cove are excellent examples. These flies catch fish all over the world. Hang on; nail fish.

I've had to add a few new ones while I've been in the States; and I haven't really worked on them yet. But I will. The flies you tie will always be better than those tied by Thai women who don't fish. And you'll be able to tweak them. One less turn of hackle, half a pinch of an additional coloured seal fur. There's some magic that only you can put in your flies; a little bit of your soul (Magnus).

It takes a lot of fish to get the flies right. And you are forever tweaking them as your understanding grows.

[4] Tweak the method. Now you'll have been doing this from stage one. But when your flies are right you can really work out how to use them. Basically there are two ways: angles and retrieve. Angles is of course a three dimensional approach, and that can be a bastard. It takes skill and experimentation. You may be catching fish on a slow retrieve, induced lift at 30 degrees with a 10 second drop, but maybe you'd be catching bigger fish on a slower retrieve, with pauses, at 40 degrees. See how I've already linked in the retrieve? That's because retrieve and angles are inseparable (and I've had a couple of beers). An induced take may only work from a certain angle.

So yeah, that's my approach. It's methodical and it makes the transition from stillwaters to rivers rather well. There are a few things I haven't grasped here in America, such as deep blind nymphing on rivers, but I'll get there, because I want to nail those bastards too.

So let me talk about the black lure, because it fits with the above. The black lure is an amazing fly. I'm not talking about a Woolly Bugger; I use those differently. I'm talking about an unweighted hinged fly – I always weight my Woolly Buggers with a tungsten bead to make them wriggle. Here we go:

[1] Location. The Black Marabou fishes best just under the surface – it's a silhouette fly. The fish have got to be in the market for this for it to be successful. This may put them in shallow water – thus making it a great night pattern – or it may mean they are cruising the upper surface layers.

[2] Speed. Mostly this is a slow fly, occasionally it needs to be slowly pulled, but this is rare.

[3] Pauses. This fly nails when it pauses. That is how to fish it; pause. Very exceptionally they want a continuous retrieve. Erm, that's how troutdudes talk, just in case you thought I'd lost it.

[4] Angles. Fish can be quite particular which angle they really want when dealing with a moving fly. I would say 30 – 60 degrees in the direction they are facing is best. Although last week I found fish wanting it swimming directly downstream.

[5] The Strike. I find it best to continue whatever retrieve and wait for the hook up. Many fish hit this fly and return. Sometimes several times. A Pause can often catch these fish. Interestingly the change of angle doesn't seem to work as well with this fly, probably because they hit it hard. I have caught a few fish throwing a curve in the cast – cos I can and you probably can't – and a few on the dibble (always change direction on the dibble, and dibble everything, especially on rivers). But the Pause is best.

[6] erm lastly is curves, which I just talked about – so read it again. You know; properly.

For a long time I often felt that these should be tied on black hooks, and that certainly seems to work best during dull days, but I now think that for night fishing they should be tied on silver wire hooks. It's important not to use too much flash in the rib and to use “fluffy” chenille. The marabou should be pinched to length – slightly longer than the bend – unevenly with your finger tips (not nails). No varnish on the head; it will fish better.

By the way, this is not a “trigger” fly, such as a glow bug; this is an eating fly.

That's one of a 100. And if you want to see the black marabou I've tied you'll have to pay to be a member.


For members only: link to the black marabou.

Essential Bush Skills

The start of any flytying good flytying sequence involves squirting The Light of Apgai on your polyprops
Both alarm and curiousity set in when the polyprops start melting
Putting the lid back on the jar to stop *that* happening again
The flytying proper is underway
Notice the composure, that's true class that is
A difficult bit, you can tell that from the vacant expression
Essential bush skills: the third hand
Notice my hat here, it's quite daring
Snip, snip
I'm not quite sure what I'm doing here, but it's cool
Trimming an oversize hackle that appears to have become trapped in the whip finnish manoevre
Delicate precision work, the hallmark of any good flytyer
A sexy catch...

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