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?


Worm Fishing

By Alan Shepherd, Australia


In lowland rivers and streams during winter or early spring, when the rivers are rising and discoloured, the 'glob-worm' (two of three worms on a hook) is often used with great success. The aim is to encounter the fish at the time they are gorging themselves on the food the flood holds, the next day or two may be too late. Actively a worm can be cast upstream and allowed to trundle down quieter eddies or places where the force of the torrent is broken by obstacles. Fish find sanctuary in these areas or pockets where they can reside easily and wait for food. Less strenuously, a worm can simply be set in backwaters or along flooded edges of grass or it can be fished from an undercut overhanging bank. Any likely spot suits.

When rivers are severely in flood, trout seek out the quieter backwaters preferring to find and feed on earthworms and other terrestrial creatures washed into the rising water. Even in backwaters the current can be strong and it may be necessary to use a running sinker so as to hold bottom. In lakes worms are often fished near weed beds. Basically the worm is a very versatile bait, one that is arguably used by the majority of freshwater anglers world wide.

Dirty water restricts the trout's vision so food is detected by using smell and vibrations. Remember, vibrations such as heavy footsteps can also be detected so always tread softly. Some of the advantages of fishing dirty water are; the trout can't see the angler and thicker stronger line can be used. In any form of worm fishing never use 'Tiger worms.' Trout seem to intensely dislike those striped worms that are commonly found in popular compost heaps.

In the clear low summer waters, river trout go a bit quiet during what is sometimes called 'the dog days of summer', the warmest months of the year. At this time, trout become much more discerning, rejecting the offer of the 'glob-worm.' Nevertheless, in summer when earthworms are deep down in the ground and anglers as well as trout find them hard to come across - for some curious reason, much like us humans longing for something we can't have, trout often develop a fancy for worms when presented in a natural manner. Because the water is clear, some stalking and casting skills are necessary. The trout are sight hunting but also they are guided by their sense of smell, insisting on an authentic looking and smelling food.

The most rewarding time for worming is at sunrise if the weather is fine and mild. In those first few hours, all trout seem to be on the lookout for food. If worms can be found, purchased or farmed, good trouting can be had throughout the day, no matter what the weather. Summer 'worming' is similar to the fly-fishing technique of 'nymphing.' Using light thread-line tackle with a single worm without a sinker (sometimes a split shot), the worm is cast upstream and allowed to trundle back downstream in natural looking manner. As the worm comes downstream the rod tip is slowly raised. If a fish takes the worm you often see the line move. Timing of the strike is not critical, after all it's a real worm and the fish won't spit it out - rejecting it like an artificial fly. After two or three casts to likely drifts the angler stalks further upstream repeating the process by random casting, but much more heart-pounding worming can be had when actually casting to a sighted fish. It is important to cast a suitable distance upstream so the worm reaches the trout at the correct depth. This also reduces the possibility of spooking the fish. Repeated casting, whilst trying not to jerk the bait gradually rips the worm from the hook. To prevent this to some extent, packing them in damp moss toughens the worm skins, even so, a good supply is always required.

In a container previously lined with well washed moss, place freshly obtained worms in layers. Between each layer of worms add plenty of loose moss. For best results the moss should not be too damp. Inspect every few days removing any sickly looking worms; they will always be found at the top of the moss. Depending on worm species, it may take from two days to about a week to toughen the worms.

Another alternative method mentioned by Mr. Blain in his Encyclopaedia of Rural Sports advises a plan of soaking a clean coarse hempen (old sugar bags etc.) or linen cloth in hot water in which mutton fat has been boiled. When cold, the cloth is put over a tub, then the worms and fresh decaying plant matter are added. Over the top is tied a linen cloth to allow air to circulate. When kept in a cool environment the worms will scour, staying lively and fit for months.

In days of yore, a worm was always impaled on a single hook until a Mr. W.C. Stewart proclaimed a better way. Stewart reasoned, by using three little hooks one above the other with a small spaces in between he could produce a more natural looking worm, therefore rendering the trout less suspicious. This three-hook set-up went on to be called 'Stewart Tackle.' A few generations after Stewart's innovation a Mr. Cholmondeley Pennell asked himself, "Would not two hooks suffice?" Hence the 'Pennell Tackle' became fashionable. In both these tackles, a worm is hitched on leaving the head and tail loose so as to wriggle and attract trout. Using Stewart tackle or Pennell tackle the worm is forced to assume a more natural poise. Today we can even use worm coloured hooks. To some extent, using two or three hook tackle reduces the tendency of the worm tearing. When the worm gets broken or soft and dead looking; it should be replaced with a fresh one. In clear water trout may become wary of such bait, leaving it well alone.

Clear water worming is an art, and an art my friend well worth learning; once mastered, this method can take trout in very low waters and in bright sunshine where many other forms of fishing produce next to nothing. Over time using this method, the clear water wormer learns much about the habits and ways of river trout. All in all, the areas where casts are made depend more on instinct and experience. Once proficient, he or she can sum up a piece of water at a glance and stealthily drop a worm upstream of places where the best trout are hopefully holding station.

If regular worms are difficult to obtain or unavailable, this is one that I use.

~ Alan Shepherd

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