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7 Aug 2011

Reflections on fly-rods for Irish sea-trout fishing

There was a time, somewhere between 1982 and 1996, when I felt I was probably using optimal sea-trout fly-fishing tackle. The rods I then favoured were Daiwa CF98 tools; the reels were Beaulites; the lines were generally DT floaters or intermediates; the waders and coats were made of tough plastic; and I used an old, sturdy, fixed-head landing-net which also doubled as a makeshift wading-staff. Since then, like the rest of us I have...upgraded. Breathable waders and clothing...weigh-nets....reels which are light, with cassette spools and no click-check....and fly-rods which are ever faster, ever lighter, ever 'better'.... Tackle development has been relentless, and I must say that there have been many, many improvements.

All the same, and rather wistfully, I've found myself of late wanting to fish with proper fly-fishing rods rather than with casting weapons. It's only occasionally, in the Irish sea-trout fishing context, that I need to cast more than 20 yards, and I do very much need a rod with a through action and a softish tip. Such a rod needs to be able to roll- and switch-cast, as well.

For the record, I've almost invariably used three fly-rods over the past three years, all of which I think are admirable. (I discount the occasion when I found myself using a 7-footer and a 3-weight line, throwing surface lures over big sea-trout on a diminutive East coast river.) They are a Zpey 10-foot Z1 switch rod for a #7; a Hardy Marksman Drifter (another 10-footer, for a #6); and a Bruce and Walker 10-foot 6" rod which I had to have specially made in 4 sections. Now, I'm not made of money - far from it - and these rods have been the product of sales and assiduous discount or second-hand shopping, or (in the case of the B&W rod) a big wedding anniversary. All of these rods, too, perform separate tasks: the Zpey is a revelation when teamed in high water with an #8 intermediate, and is a rod I cast cast with easily over both shoulders. It also copes with gale-force upstream winds admirably. The Drifter is I suppose my default Irish sea-trout rod, and typically I team it with a Rio Gold WF7 floater (a good line, very stable) to which I attach a 5-foot intermediate polyleader. The B&W excels as a boat rod on big loughs, and recently, on the Boyne estuary, I found myself casting relatively long distances with it in order to reach a tidal channel. Slow down the casting stroke a little and the line fairly flies out - and the loop can be as tight or open as you wish. Despite its fairly heavy line rating (#7-8) the rod's soft enough in the tip to handle finnock, and a through action copes admirably with larger fish - not that I catch too many of those in the course of a season. It's true that the B&W is heavier than its contemporary sisters, but I don't mind that at all: fished with, relaxed with, the rod comes alive.

All these rods, though, have one thing in common: they're fishing rods, as opposed to things you cast 30m with or merely pose with. They remind me in some ways of those 'optimal' rods I imagined I was fishing with twenty years ago...and again for the record, I've just bought myself a splendid heavy-duty plastic coat for boat fishing, too, as well as exhuming that old, fixed-head landing-net. You'll probably think this is mere nostalgia (it'll happen to you, too, I hazard), but I prefer to claim that it's sheer practicality. In Irish sea-trout fishing, reliability and simplicity seem to me to be two very desirable attributes. But of course, you may disagree with that - and indeed with any or all of the above.

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