August 27th, 2001

The Way It Is
By James Castwell

A simple hypothesis. Spin fishing is to hunting with a gun as fly-fishing is to archery. You may not agree with that, but in many ways it's how I see it. None of the above are necessarily right or wrong, they are just the way we choose to do things. And sometimes we change from one to the other over time, or sometimes we do both. The archer enjoys the hunt as much or more as the gunner, but chooses to 'do it his way.' The archer may even decide to use home-made gear, long bows etc, 'going traditional' they call it. The fly-rodder may build cane rods. Pretty much the same thing. 'To each his own, live and let live' they say, I am for that.

Why do we sometimes change? Perhaps we just get tired of the same old way, maybe we want to get more out of the sport so we add new elements to it. Fly-fishing is like an oak tree. The branches go in every direction, but it is still an oak. So it is with fly-fishing. We each do things differently, but we are all fly-fishers. We look for and find our own rewards, doing so in our own way and at our own pace, recoiling at any suggestion we are doing something wrong, yet drool over any new information on how to do something better.

Most of us eventually attempt to tie flies. Often it's an exercise in futility. The original idea may have been to save money. That got lost in the dust of purchasing materials and equipment, lessons, a host of books, hours of study of insects, more equipment, time spent on the stream not fishing and involvement in any of the many facets of fly-tying. So much for saving money. But, we do it, and once started, it is not an easy road to reverse.

Time and age will play a part as the eyes get foggy and the fingers complain, we tend to use a diminished assortment of flies, often down to an 'old standby' for each stream and fish sought. We elicit buddies who will tie a 'few for next Saturday' for us and we are seen nonchalantly perusing 'out of town' fly shops. Such is the life of a fly-fisher.

We no longer fight to the death the merits of a fan-wing over a parachute, those days pass and we tend to become . . .

PRESENTATIONISTS . . .and we defend our position thusly.

Well before Dame what's her name and Izaak something-or-other, going way, way back, there was this guy. He had the original 'fishing club,' about four feet long and stout, used it to whack fish with. Effective somewhat, he also used a spear, or just grabbed for the things. A few centuries of this and he got smarter. Things moved slower in those days. With a slim vine attached to the spear and a sharpened crotch with some 'bait' he was able to increase his take.

A few more eons rolled by and some real smart fella noticed fish were actually eating identifiable things! Wow, humanity leaped into the future. Instead of simple morsels for bait, he caught some of the bugs from under the rocks at stream-side and stuck them on, viola! The 'nymph' was born. Not knowing a proper name for it, he called it a 'wet-fly.' These proved hard to catch and often came off. The light of evolution once again came to his rescue. Make an imitation of the bug! We are racing along the time line here like Mario Andretti now.

One of his buddies invented metal on a Friday and he immediately made a fish hook from it for Saturday. Evolution was in fast-forward now. By Sunday he had wrapped some fuzzy stuff on the hook and a bird feather he found on the front of it so it would have legs like the bug had. It did well, it sunk. While spending time using this new 'wet-fly' which looked like the stream-side bug, he noticed some fish taking floating bugs. This caused intense distress and he worried for a few centuries how to make his 'wet-fly' float. That has not yet been resolved, but more on that in another column.

It was decided that better bird feathers would do it, so he invented chickens and used the feathers from them. He called them 'Cackles.' Over time this has of course been changed to our present word for the feathers. So much for that. Since the fly he was using already had the feather wound at the front to represent a bugs legs, and liking the looks of it, he left it there and wound on more and improved hackles. Today we know this as the 'Dry-Fly.' Nothing more than a floating version of a concoction invented to represent a submerged or drowned bug. Interesting and perhaps absolutely true fact.

But enough of history, I digress from the point. A 'presentationist' will 'poo-poo' the idea of using a fly tied to look exactly like the natural. He probably will chose to only fish floating flies as well. They are easier to see and they fit with the philosophy he has adopted. Nymphs and wet-flies are not usually 'presented,' they are cast and 'fished.' He feels that the fish sees and keys in on the footprints of his fly long before it enters the fishes vision window. He believes that if he can make a perfect cast, mend his line and leader correctly and keep his slack under control, he can get the fish to rise. That is his game. Once the rise has occurred and the fish is hooked, he is happy, contented, and ready to move on to another 'riser.'

His fly-box will contain but few patterns. Marinaro type 'thorax' flies in various sizes and shades, some full palmered flies and anything that would represent a 'life-form' pattern. He is not concerned with the number of fish cast to, hooked, landed, or released. His life is satisfied by the event, the time spent on the water, the smell of the rose and the wind it came in on. For the 'presentationist' he has reached the top, the end, there is nowhere else to go.

Unless, of course, perhaps, just maybe he could possibly use . . .a new cane rod? ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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