Welcome to Just Old Flies

Welcome to 'just old flies,' a section of methods and flies that used-to-be. These flies were tied with the only materials available. Long before the advent of 'modern' tying materials, they were created and improved upon at a far slower pace than todays modern counterparts; limited by materials available and the tiers imagination.

Once long gone, there existed a 'fraternity' of anglers who felt an obligation to use only the 'standard' patterns of the day. We hope to bring a bit of nostalgia to these pages and to you. And sometimes what you find here will not always be about fishing. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Perhaps you will fish the flies. Perhaps?

The Gentle Art of Maggot Fishing

By Alan Shephard, Australia

Maggots or as they are sometimes called 'gentles,' are as everyone knows the larvae of flies. The word gentle implies amiable, mild, aristocratic, courteous, or tame; making the name 'gentle' a very odd choice to call a maggot. Actually throughout history, maggots have been extremely beneficial in medicine. Throughout the wars of our human history, maggots were medically useful because they only eat dead flesh, not living flesh. A suitable number of maggots placed on a wound and then bandaged, apparently actually helps in the healing process by eating and therefore removing unwanted infectious material. One could say, maggot's have their role in nature, that being consuming only dead flesh.

Old poachers would hang a dead rabbit or hare over a stream and leave it there. Over time the carcass would become fly-blown. As the maggot larvae grow, they crowd the liveable surface, but there is only so much space and in due time, a saturation point is reached. Growth after this point can only result in some maggots falling out, so to speak. Growth of the maggot clump thereby results in a constant drip of individual maggots falling on the water. This continues until the larvae finally hatch and fly away.

Trout soon become aware of this constant food supply and some good fish actually take up residence under, or just downstream from the hanging maggot infested corpse. It was a simple matter for the poacher to catch those fish using a small hook baited with few maggots, or even boiled rice. Clever but hardly sporting!

To breed your own clean maggots

Put pint of well-curdled milk into a large basin, mix in about lb. of boiled potatoes (mashed and cold). Place the basin outdoors until fly-blown. As the maggots grow, remove and place them in small tins containing bran - don't have the bran too deep. As the maggots grow in the tins (in a cupboard or sometimes buries), add small quantities of fresh bran now and then. The bran hardens the maggot skins and the eaten bran purges the digestive system, thereby whitening the maggots. Some accomplished anglers even go so far as to stain the live maggots pink and other seductive colours.

Fishing live maggots, using thread-line or fly gear

To bait a hook using maggots, impale three or four by putting the point of a wet or dry fly hook through the thick end - the tail end of the maggots. They are then slid around the bend and up the shank. Also in the same manner, another one or two are put hanging from just behind the barb. Baited in this way the head parts of the maggots wriggle about like tantalising grub-like fingers. Arguably, maggots baited up using this tried and true technique, produce one of the worlds most deadly trout bait's! The movement attracts, whilst at the same time, from a trout's point of view, the maggots most probably look perfectly natural and highly delectable.

Generally maggot fishing is best at night, preferably over a gravel bottom. After daybreak this bait is often shunned by trout however later in the day when things warm up, a single maggot hanging from behind the barb of a tiny hook can often be extremely deadly. Night or day, the baited hook is cast well up and across the stream, as close as possible to the far bank. It is then drawn back very slowly whilst the current takes the line downstream below the angler. Throughout the 'drift and draw,' expect a slight touch or pull. When the bait comes on the dangle, also expect a strike. If no action occurs the rod is gently moved up and down three or four times working the bait against the stream, this often get a result, especially at night. The cast is repeated several times before new water further up or downstream is fished.

When a trout sees or detects the sunken, slow-moving bait it will often take very gently, only mouthing the wriggling bait - making a barely detectable tremble on the line. If thread-lining (using a split shot on the line) and a fish is felt, the angler stops drawing in the bait and simply lowers the rod, thereby gaining time to open the bail arm on the reel. If fly-fishing loose line must be available to let the fish run. Maggots are real food, trout won't reject them. Half-mouthing the bounty a trout usually drifts for a short time seemingly examining this strange irritable and attractive concoction. Eventually a decision is made and the trout swims off like a greedily seagull with a chip, searching out some secluded spot where it can safely devour the food in peace. You can strike quickly as the fish runs and rarely miss the fish, or let it swim off, stop, and eventually swallow the bait. When it moves again it will be gut hooked.

Once it was common practice for fly-fishers having bad days to impale a single maggot just behind the barb of an artificial fly. This trick has gone out of vogue and the 'purist' fly-fishing ideology of today shuns such behaviour. Bait fishing using maggots, even using a fly rod is acceptable behaviour where bait fishing is legal. Nevertheless placing a group of maggots, or even a few caddis (removed from there cases), on the bend of an imitation fly is utterly bad form, not sporting and totally inappropriate behaviour. Nevertheless it works! ~ Alan Shepherd


Publisher's Note: While this method is 'old' there still are people who are passionate about their maggot fishing. In the UK a group even has shirts, hats and jackets proclaiming their love of maggot fishing with the logo shown. Most of the fishing is for "coarse fish" non-trout species. You can read more about it at: http://www.Maggotdrowning.com

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