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21 Jan 2011

Fly-rods for Irish sea-trout fishing


It's always risky to write about fly-rods, since we all quite rightly have our preferences. There are certain rods, sometimes from justly famous makers, which one simply can't get on with. The following notes detail some of my own preferences. Please note that in making these notes I only have one form of angling - for Irish sea-trout - in mind. I'd write very differently if I were thinking about fishing wet-flies in Yorkshire or Welsh sea-trout fishing.

(a) longer rods - 10-11 feet - are in my view infinitely preferable to shorter ones. Longer rods offer better control if and when the fly is being worked, and you'll work the fly or flies very often during sea-trout fishing of all kinds, boat fishing as well as fishing from the bank of a river or the shore of the estuary. A corollary of (a) is....
(b) a fly-rod for this form of sea-trout fishing is not just a casting tool. A corollary of (b) is....
(c) tippy-action rods might be fairly good for distance casting but they're next to useless as proper fly-fishing tools. A corollary of (c), in the Irish sea-trout context, is....
(d) a fly-rod for this form of fishing should have a through (progressive) action and a 'soft tip' - a yielding tip. Fly-rods with a fast, aggressive action should be avoided.

So much for length and general action. Further, I prefer

(e) rods which can be cast (and/or fished) double-handed if necessary. That means my own fly-rods for Irish sea-trout usually have some form of extension handle. I often cast double-handed in order to cheat the wind. After a great deal of practice, I'm also able - after a fashion - to roll- and switch-cast over both shoulders, which helps both on rivers and (sometimes) on estuaries. A longer rod with an extension handle works in this capacity very well. With a shorter single-handed rod - say, a 9-foot 7-weight - one has to have recourse to double-hauling over the 'wrong' shoulder, and of course that can be done, but it's very tiring when one has to do it hour after hour in a gale of wind.

And further

(f) most of my Irish sea-trout rods are rated for lines between #6-8. Irish sea-trout aren't generally as large as their Welsh relatives. I fish the dry or dragging fly a fair bit (e.g. in the evenings on the river), and there, a 6-weight is good. On the other hand, occasionaly one picks up small summer salmon or grilse, and there, a 7- or 8-weight gives you the beef you need to handle and control a fish in a flood or strong current.

And further

(g) I use both DT lines (particularly when boat fishing) and WF ones. I very often use lines one size up from the size anounced on the rod's official rating (and therefore fish a 7-weight line on a 6-weight rod and so on). My most used lines are WF7-8 intermediates, followed by full floaters. Occasionally I'll use a faster-sinking line. If I do use WF lines I favour those with a longish back taper: these are easier to roll-cast. I no longer use aggressively-tapered WF lines, which may be great for e.g. pike fly-fishing but are next to useless for Irish sea-trout fishing.

(h)fittings must be top-class, and be saltwater-resistant. Irish sea-trout fishing is no place for fancy walnut inlays. I like plain, uplocking reel fittings, slightly over-sized snake rings and a hayfork tip ring. I also rinse the rod in freshwater after every saltwater session, periodically wipe the rod-rings with a damp tissue, and apply a drop of sewing-maching oil to the reel-seat.

And last

(i) I prefer a matt finish to the rod.

For the record, many years ago I used Bruce and Walker fibreglass rods. In the 1980s I bought a Daiwa fly-rod, and it became at the time (actually, for over a decade) my most-used sea-trout tool: an old Daiwa CF98 11-footer, made in Scotland. After that was retired I used rods by many different makers, but recently (since 2007) have tended to use Hardy, Grey's and Zpey rods (usually 10-footers, rated #6 or #7-8). This past winter, too, as I was thinking through what I really needed in a fly-rod for Irish sea-trout fishing I contacted Bruce and Walker and asked them whether they could make a dedicated Irish sea-trout fly-rod for me. After a speedy and most courteous correspondence, during which possible specifications were exchanged, they very kindly agreed to construct such a rod, and it's being made as I write: 10' 6", #7-8, four pieces, progressive action, yielding tip.... Yes, I suppose this is an indulgence, and I'm lucky to be able, and for the first and probably only time in my life, to have a B&W rod made for me to my own specs. All the same, I can't wait to try the new stick, though will have to wait until next July to do so.

8 Jan 2011

The Bibio man


During the drafting of the book's text I reached an entry about Burrishoole in Mayo, which I visited in 2007 and 2010. When I interviewed him in 2007, Ken (Whelan) gave me some extensive and fascinating insights into the life and work of Major Charles Roberts, who once owned the fishery. As I was drafting recently, I dimly remembered an article about Furnace in an old number of T&S; I thought the article, which included a rather splendid photo of Major Roberts, dated from the 1970s. I wrote to T&S. Very kindly they tracked the article and the photo down (it was from 1980) and sent me a copy of the relevant photo. Here it is, courtesy of T&S. Not for the first time, I'm most grateful to them.

Major Roberts is also known to posterity as the creator of the that splendid fly, the Bibio, which he tied with a midriff of orange fur (not scarlet, red or claret). I don't know whether Major Roberts invented the fly or whether he was adapting an older dressing (I suspect the last), but it's fairly clear that Major Roberts' Bibio is intended to be vaguely representative of the Heather fly.