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Title: Fishing with Floating Flies
Author: Camp, Samuel G.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                           FISHING WITH
                          FLOATING FLIES


                          SAMUEL G. CAMP

                    "FINE ART OF FISHING," ETC



                             NEW YORK
                     OUTING PUBLISHING COMPANY

                        COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY
                     OUTING PUBLISHING COMPANY

                        All rights reserved


  CHAPTER                                             PAGE

       I. THE MATTER OF EQUIPMENT                        9

      II. THE FLY ROD                                   22

     III. THE REEL, LINE AND FLIES                      36

      IV. HOW TO CAST THE FLOATING FLY                  55


      VI. HOW TO FISH THE FLOATING FLY                  80


    VIII. INSECTS OF THE TROUT STREAM                  107





No man knows, or ever will know, the art of fly-fishing in its
entirety, and the present writer is far from claiming omniscience
in the matter. Wherefore the fact may well be emphasized that the
following pages are not intended for the expert--the seasoned
angler skilled in wet, dry, and mid-water fly-fishing--but, rather,
for the beginner at the sport of fishing with floating flies and
for the novice who may take up fly-fishing with the purpose of
ultimately employing the dry fly. At the outset, before going into
the details of the dry fly caster's equipment and methods, it would
seem necessary to outline certain general phases of the subject
with special reference to the enlightenment of the veritable
beginner at dry or wet fly fishing, and also with regard to the
present status of the sport of dry fly casting practiced upon
American waters.

American dry fly fishing may be defined briefly as the art of
displaying to the trout a single artificial fly floating upon
the surface of the stream in the exact manner of the natural
insect. Upon occasions, somewhat rare, indeed, but nevertheless of
sufficient frequency to render the fact noteworthy, the American
dry fly man casts consciously to a rising and feeding trout--the
invariable custom of the English dry fly "purist." On the trout
streams of this country, however, the orthodox manner of fishing
the floating fly is to fish all the water as when wet fly casting.

In America, owing to the fact that the dry fly angler fishes the
water and not the rise, wet and dry fly fishing are far more
closely related than is the case in England where the orthodox
sportsman stalks the trout, casting exclusively to a rising and
feeding fish; from this it may be easily deduced that much of the
following discussion on the subject of fishing with floating flies
is--in the very nature of things must be--equally applicable to
either dry or wet fly fishing.

Moreover, angling conditions are such in this country that the
fly-fisherman to be consistently successful cannot rely solely
upon either one method or the other--he should be passably expert
with either the dry or the wet fly, employing one or the other as
conditions warrant or the occasion renders imperative. Dry fly
fishing conditions here and in England are quite dissimilar. The
English dry fly specialist follows his sport, in general, upon the
gin-clear, quiet chalk streams; slow, placid rivers, preserved
waters artificially stocked with brown trout (_Salmo fario_), and
hard-fished by the owners or lessees.

The open season is a long one, extending, taking an average, from
early in the spring, about the first of March, to the first of
October; and as a consequence of the steady and hard fishing the
trout naturally become very shy and sophisticated. Owing to the
placidity of the streams the rise of a trout is not difficult to
detect, and it seems to pay best to cast to a single trout actually
known to be on the rise and feeding rather than to fish all the
water on the principle of chuck-and-chance-it.

On the other hand, the American fly-caster largely enjoys his sport
upon the trout streams of the woods or wilderness; erratic rivers
with current alternating between swift and slow, broken water and
smooth, rapid and waterfall, deep pool and shallow riffle. While
insect life is not, of course, absent, one can actually follow
such a stream for days without observing the rise of a feeding
trout, although, as noted above, sometimes a rising fish will, of
course, be seen; but seldom will a sufficient number be observed to
warrant the angler's relying exclusively upon casting to the rise.

That, indeed, upon the average trout stream of this country, the
well-chosen and cleverly cast floating fly has its place has been
amply proved by the experience of many anglers. Upon the typical
wilderness trout stream, where the fish are both very abundant and
totally uneducated, dry fly fishing would be in the nature of a
farce--although doubtless successful in view of the fact that the
wild trout of such a stream will rise to almost anything chucked
almost anyhow. But the average American trout stream may now be
classed as a civilized stream, and it is upon such waters that the
dry fly has proved its worth by succeeding time and again, under
certain conditions, when the wet fly has failed.

The conditions under which the balance of probable success is
on the side of the dry fly and against the wet will be more
particularly detailed in succeeding chapters; in general, it may
be said that the angler who fishes largely upon hard-fished public
streams--and that means the great majority of fly-fishermen--where
much whipping and wading of the stream by all sorts and conditions
of fishermen, good, bad, and indifferent, have rendered the trout
wise in their generation, cannot well afford to overlook the
possibilities of the floating fly. In such streams the trout only
upon rare occasions are afforded the opportunity of seeing a single
artificial fly, singularly lifelike in appearance, cocked and
floating in a natural way upon the surface--and they will rise to
such a fly, if cleverly placed on the water in such a manner as not
to arouse suspicion, when a drag of two or more wet flies would
only serve to set them down still more obstinately.

Parenthetically, in this connection, in view of the fact that
fishing with the dry fly is beyond doubt a very successful method
of taking trout when or where other methods may have failed, it
should be obvious--to put the matter on a strictly practical
basis--that the assumption of an "holier than thou" relation by
the dry fly enthusiast toward his brother of the wet fly, on the
ground that dry fly fishing is more sportsmanlike, is, to say
the least, somewhat illogical. Surely there is little virtue
in the resort to and employment of an angling method of proved
deadliness under conditions which at the time render the sunken
fly harmless--however, we are not here concerned with the ethics of
the matter.

But dry fly casting does, indeed, call for a high degree of skill
on the part of the angler, both in casting and fishing the fly;
additionally, it is imperative that one should be familiar with the
best there is in fishing tackle and know much about the habits of
the trout and of stream-life in general. In a word, the customary
rough-and-ready equipment of the average desultory fly-caster will
not do--nor will the ordinary unrefined and casual methods of the
average wet fly fisherman.

To succeed with the dry fly, the wet fly fisherman of average skill
must study to become still more proficient; the veritable novice at
fly fishing for trout should, it would seem, first become fairly
adept with the wet fly before going on to the finer-drawn art of
dry fly casting. Therefore successful dry fly fishing, as done in
America, is predicated upon a thorough knowledge of the craft of
the wet fly fisher.

The beginner at fly-fishing must strive to become a first-rate
fly-caster--to cast a light and accurate fly, not necessarily a
long line. He must study fishing tackle in order to know the tools
best suited to the sport under normal conditions, and also under
the conditions as he finds them. He must familiarize himself by
much actual stream experience with the habits of the trout--learn
to read a trout stream as another man might read a book. Moreover,
he should cultivate the power of observation and apply it
constantly to stream-life in general and the insect life of the
stream in particular.

The correct fundamental theory of fly-fishing for trout, with
either wet or dry flies, consists in the closest possible
simulation, by means of an artificial fly, of the form, coloration,
and action of some natural insect then upon the water and upon
which the trout are feeding. In England this theory has always
been very closely followed by expert fly-fishermen, although over
there, as in this country, various fancy flies--not dressed to
counterfeit any certain natural fly--have long been in successful
use. In England it is the custom of many good fly-fishers who are
also skillful fly-tiers, to take with them to the stream a small
kit of fly dressing materials and to tie at the stream-side correct
imitations of the natural flies then upon the water.

The American fly-fisherman, speaking of the class generally, has
never followed the theory of exact imitation of nature in the
selection of his trout flies. The larger part of our so-called
American trout fly patterns are actually of English origin, and
were introduced to the waters of this country through the medium of
our first professional fly-tiers, Englishmen and Scotchmen, who,
as a matter of course, after coming to this country, continued
to dress the patterns with which they were familiar. A certain
few of our most famous artificial flies are, indeed, of American
invention--flies such as the Seth Green, Reuben Wood, Parmachenee
Belle, Imbrie, Barrington, and a few others. Other patterns,
so familiar to the fly-fishermen of this country that the fact
that they are not of American origin seems very strange, are the
coachman, grizzly king, Montreal (Canadian), Cahill, governor,
cowdung, silver doctor, Beaverkill--in fact, nearly all of our most
killing and widely known patterns.

Regarding the Beaverkill, the name of which is so suggestively
American to one at all familiar with the trout streams of the
East, it might be well to amplify to some extent, as I am sure
many anglers would otherwise take exception to the statement that
this fly is of English origin. In "Familiar Flies," by Mary Orvis
Marbury--an invaluable book for the fly-fisherman--it is related
that an American angler, fishing one day with a cast of three
English flies, had particularly good luck with a certain one of
the three, and subsequently had the pattern copied by the famous
old-time fly-tier, Harry Pritchard. At that time the fly was
christened the Beaverkill, it being evident, from the facts as
stated, that the English name of the pattern was unknown to the

From the story as told in "Familiar Flies" it may be gathered that
even the persons who introduced the "Beaverkill" to American waters
in time lost sight of the fact that the fly was originally dressed
after an imported model. Personally, I am sure that the Beaverkill
is none other than the "silver sedge," a well-known English pattern
used frequently in both wet and dry fly fishing, and I am certain
that anyone who will take the trouble to compare the two flies side
by side will quite agree with me.

As to the basic principle of trout fly-fishing, that of
approximating with the utmost fidelity, in the dressing and
manipulation of the artificial fly, the shade, shape, and movement
of the natural fly, various "schools" have arisen from time to time
in advocacy of the greater importance of coloration as compared to
size and shape (within reasonable limits, of course), or, again,
of the action imparted to the artificial fly as compared with its
coloration, size, or form. Into matters of this sort it is needless
to enter here. The practical, common-sense point of view would
seem to be that neither the proper color nor the correct imitative
action of the artificial fly can safely be disregarded by the
angler; moreover, the size and the shape of the artificial, varied
to suit the occasion, are factors of great importance. By the
skilful employment of the modern tackle and methods of the dry fly
caster the angler approaches very closely to the ideal principle of
his craft--exact imitation of nature.

Recalling a foregoing statement to the effect that the American
fly-caster, in general, has not to any serious extent followed
the theory of exact imitation of nature; moreover, in view of the
fact that practically no artificial flies are to be had dressed
in imitation of the native insects common to our trout waters, it
should be obvious that the dry fly caster must continue to rely
upon artificials of English pattern or manufacture. It is a fact,
however, that it is possible, provided your fly book is passably
well filled with various patterns, to approximate very closely the
appearance of many of the natural insects you will see upon the

Furthermore, in view of this state of affairs, it would seem
best to avoid at this time any lengthy reference to the
entomology of the trout stream, as leading only to confusion
worse confounded--there is an instant and imperative need of an
authoritative American fly-fishing entomology and of a fairly
comprehensive series of artificial flies, dry and wet, dressed in
imitation of the native insects common to our streams and upon
which our trout are known to feed; until these are available
we must adapt the means at hand to the end desired. In this
connection, however, it should be noted that it is not strictly
necessary for success that the angler at all times use an exact
copy of a natural fly--witness the wide employment of various
fancy patterns both here and abroad, and the further fact that our
native trout are still fortunately rather less discriminating in
the matter of rising to the artificial fly than the brown trout of

The selection of the proper tackle for dry fly fishing is obviously
dependent upon a thorough knowledge of the manner in which it is
to be used. Possibly it is unnecessary to say that the dry fly
caster invariably works upstream, casting, preferably, upstream
and slightly across the current, and that between casts it is
generally necessary to dry the fly by several false casts, that is,
without allowing the fly to touch the water. To the fly-fisherman
of any experience it should be very plain that a first-class
fly-rod and a skilled wrist are somewhat essential. Moreover, the
dry fly man works largely, although not exclusively, on the still
pools and quiet reaches, where only the best of tackle, handled
with a more than moderate degree of skill and care, can produce
consistent results.

Furthermore, no little skill must be exercised by the angler in
order properly to manipulate, or fish, the single "floater" when
the cast has been made and the fly is upon the water, it must
be allowed to float naturally downstream in the manner of the
natural fly under like circumstances. All of which sounds perhaps
not so very difficult, but, in practice, the operation really has
complications of which the tyro little dreams. It is true that a
dry fly possesses a certain degree of buoyancy, but if bunglingly
cast and subsequently awkwardly manipulated, the fly is soon
"drowned," drawn under water by the weight of a carelessly slack
line or from some other cause really, as a rule, preventable by the
careful and skilled rod-handler.

Indeed, the difficulties of clean-cut dry fly-casting are such that
even an expert caster can do little with a poor equipment; the
beginner, therefore, should be extremely careful in the selection
of his tackle. The disappointments and difficulties of the game are
quite numerous enough without starting in with the very serious
handicap of a poorly adapted outfit.



It would seem that the tentative dry fly caster cannot too
carefully consider the details of the rod which he will use in the
pursuit of the sport. The majority of anglers cannot well afford
a battery of fly-rods; moreover, there is no market for used
fishing rods, as in the case of firearms, so that if the rod proves
unsatisfactory it cannot be got rid of unless one practically
gives it away. It is claimed that, in time, an angler will "grow
to" any sort of rod, regardless of its unfitness to him personally
or of inherent faultiness in some respect; possibly this is true.
Patience is, indeed, a virtue possessed by many good fishermen,
but, in this instance, it is safe to say that not one fly-caster in
twenty can bring himself to the continued use of a rod from which
he derives no pleasure and which actually handicaps him on the

The demands of dry fly casting on the rod are exacting in the
extreme. On a river where there is much dry fly water probably the
rod does double the amount of work required of the wet fly rod;
the need of continually drying the fly by false casting keeps the
rod in almost constant action. If the rod is unsuitable in length,
balance, or in some other detail of construction, this continual
whipping in casting and drying the fly is anything but enjoyable.
If the rod is really poorly constructed, of poor material, and
thrown together rather than painstakingly fitted, a few hours
of dry fly work will surely bring about its relegation to the
scrap-heap--where, indeed, it belonged in the first place.

The selection of the rod for dry fly work, then, should be made
with deliberation and based upon the best information obtainable.
In this connection it may be noted that it is the fashion with a
certain class of sportsmen to consider the purchase of a fly-rod
which, relatively, may be termed an expensive one, simply a foolish
waste of money and entirely a matter of "pretense and affectation."
Usually this opinion is wholly the result of misinformation and
lack of experience. No angler who ever had the pleasure of a
day's fishing with a first-class fly-rod--provided, initially,
he possessed sufficient skill and experience to thoroughly
appreciate the revelation, for the action of such a rod is,
indeed, a revelation to one accustomed to the use of an inferior
article--ever willingly returned to the use of the makeshift rod
with which perhaps he had theretofore been contented.

The purchaser of a shotgun is usually aware of the fact that
beyond a certain limit, varying with guns by different makers, he
is paying for finish pure and simple--not for practical shooting
efficiency in the weapon. But in the case of the fly-rod this is
not true--with due deference to the opinion of the man who holds
otherwise, simply, I am sure, because he has yet to cast a fly with
a genuine fly-rod. All this, of course, within reason; it should be
manifest that a merely "highly ornate" rod spells increased cost
without return in practical casting and fishing value. However, the
gingerbread fly-rod is so rare that it may safely be disregarded
as a factor in the present discussion--also, parenthetically, as a
factor in the day's score on the trout stream.

Reducing the matter to the practical dollars-and-cents basis, it
may be said in all truthfulness that up to thirty dollars, taking
an average of fly-rods by different makers, every additional dollar
spent on the rod inevitably means a commensurate increase in the
rod's efficiency, serviceability, and all-round desirability. But
while no experienced fly-caster would, I believe, take exception to
the above, it still remains to be said that if economy is, indeed,
an object--and that it is may usually be taken for granted--a
very good rod, quite satisfactory in action, hang, and general
construction, may be obtained for half the above amount plus some
little discretion in its purchase. Wherefore, for the benefit of
the sportsman who is willing to grant that only the best of tools
are suited to the purpose of the fly-caster, and particularly to
the work of the dry fly man, but who, nevertheless, wishes to
obtain his outfit with the least expenditure commensurate with real
efficiency in the equipment, it would seem desirable to describe
briefly the characteristics of a first-class fly-rod.

To the question, Exactly what constitutes a really efficient and
satisfactory rod for dry fly-fishing? ninety-nine out of one
hundred expert and experienced fly-fishermen--men who have been
through the mill, and so far as the rod is concerned, passed
the experimental stage of the game--would, I believe, answer at
once, with the utmost confidence, practically as follows: A rod
constructed by hand, by an experienced rod-maker, of thoroughly
seasoned and carefully-selected split-bamboo, in six strips; in
length suited to the character of the water and the fishing upon
and for which it will be used, having good balance (not heavy in
or out of hand), strength, adequate casting power together with a
pleasant and resilient action, a speedy not a slow rod, not too
pliant nor too stiff, and, finally, beyond reproach in the matter
of guides, windings, handgrasp material, ferrules, and so on.

The sportsman familiar with the diversity of fishing-rod materials
will at once note the implied elimination of rods constructed of
the various solid woods, such as bethabara, greenheart, lancewood,
dagama, and others, as well as of split-cane rods of other than
six-strip construction, such as the eight-strip, steel-centered,
double-built, and so on. It is not my purpose to consider at
length historically, theoretically, or practically, the matter
of fishing-rod materials as compared one with the other--matters
quite fully discussed in my volume on "Fishing Kits and Equipment."
Rather it seems best to state once and for all that past experience
has proved and present use serves only to emphasize the fact that
there is no better fly-rod, all things considered, for the trout
fly-fisherman than the one of six strips of cane, rent from the
whole cane, carefully fashioned by hand and assembled with skill.

Of the solid wood fly-rods it is generally believed that bethabara
(washaba, "noibwood") is the best. My own experience with this
material has been such that I cannot discuss it with any great
enthusiasm. Greenheart is largely used in England for all sorts of
fishing-rods, but over there, also, the split-cane rod is conceded
first place for the trout fly-rod, and is constantly increasing in

Parenthetically, the present trend of English anglers is toward
the use of shorter and lighter rods of the American style, the
two-handed fourteen-foot affair for trout fly-fishing being little
in evidence; in fact, one of our most reputable firms of rod-makers
annually sends a considerable number of fly-rods to England. But
the split-cane fly-rods of the English makers and anglers are still
much stiffer and heavier, length for length, than those favored in
this country. For instance, a split-cane fly-rod constructed by a
very famous firm of rod-makers according to the directions of Mr.
F. M. Halford, whose angling books and articles, largely on dry
fly-fishing, are absolutely authoritative as well as most readable,
sensible, and genuinely informative for the American as well as
the English fly-fisherman, is nine and a half feet in length with a
weight of nine and a half ounces. An American split-bamboo fly-rod
of this length would not, at the utmost, weigh over six ounces.
Moreover, this proportion of weight to length--except in rods
called "featherweights"--is maintained throughout the general run
of English split-cane fly-rods in common use.

The American fly-caster for trout need not concern himself other
than theoretically, as a matter of general angling information,
with octagonal, double-built, or steel-centered split-cane rods.
Eight-strip rods are commonly produced in this country--at a
considerably higher figure than the rod of six strips--but it is
generally and wholly agreed among those who know that there is
nothing to recommend the octagonal over the hexagonal rod. The
double-built rod--a rod in which each triangular strip of cane, as
finally ready for completing the rod, is composed of two strips
cemented together, superimposed, thus having two thicknesses of the
hard outer enamel--is undoubtedly desirable where great strength is
imperative, but hardly requisite for the trout fly-rod. Practically
the same may be said of the steel-centered rod. Double-built rods
are not made in this country. Only one firm of rod-makers produces
a steel-centered rod.

To the experienced fly-fisherman the impossibility of such a thing
as an "all-round" fly-rod is constantly more apparent. No one rod
can, in the very nature of things, prove thoroughly adapted to
the variety of trout streams whipped by the angler even within a
restricted territory. Angling conditions vary considerably with
each stream; upon one water a rod of four ounces, or even less,
eight feet in length is exactly the thing; for another stream the
wise angler would rightly select a ten-foot rod of six ounces or

In view of this it is scarcely possible for one to recommend any
particular length or weight of rod as being the most satisfactory
and efficient. For small trout in small streams only the lightest
tackle should be used for fly-fishing, either wet or dry. But,
particularly with reference to casting the dry fly, it may be said
that a fly-rod of from nine and a half to ten feet is the most
desirable for streams of average size. While it is seldom necessary
for the dry fly caster to cast any great distance, it is only in
the longer rods that really good casting power can be obtained; and
casting power, in view of the preferable use of a somewhat heavy
tapered line and the constantly repeated process of drying the
fly, Is very necessary.

The ten-foot fly-rod, other things being equal, is probably
the most efficient tool for the dry fly fisherman. However, a
nine-and-a-half-foot rod is a sweeter rod to handle, is suited to a
greater diversity of trout waters, and, granting good material and
action, is sufficiently powerful for average work--the foregoing,
by the way, with the understanding that increased length spells
increased capacity for handling the line, which certainly does
not follow unless the rods are built on the same proportional
dimensions and in proportionate weights. The five-ounce rod of
the tournament fly-caster is a very different matter from the
five-ounce rod of the average practical stream fisherman.

The rod for dry fly casting must not be too light in the butt;
otherwise the rod will lack line-driving power; the tip, also, must
not be too light and pliant, or it will result in the practical
impossibility of lifting the heavy tapered line quickly and neatly
from the water when a fair length of line is out. However, while
a strong, speedy, and resilient rod is manifestly indicated, its
action must not be too harsh--if possible the golden mean should
be the final choice. The fly-caster should never lose sight of
the fact that fly-casting, pure and simple, is by no means all of
fly-fishing--that in the selection of the fly-rod its suitability
to striking, playing, and landing a trout must receive careful

Fly-rods which answer all too strongly to the quick impulse of the
angler's wrist when striking a rising fish are by no means rare.
Bearing in mind the small flies and delicate leaders necessarily
used in dry fly fishing, the result of striking too strenuously can
easily be imagined, but the fault cannot be corrected if the use
of a rod too stiff and harsh in action is persisted in. Moreover,
during the process of playing a trout, it is essential that the rod
give and take with the movements of the fish, exerting an even but
not too decided strain. A stiff rod is a very risky one with which
to play a fish; there is great danger of the unconscious employment
of too much force; a trout even poorly hooked may usually be safely
landed if delicately handled, but a fish quite firmly fastened can
easily be lost if forced by the angler. A rod possessing just the
correct degree of elasticity and resiliency may often offset errors
of judgment on the part of the angler while playing a fish, but
a rod of incorrect action can never be other than a handicap no
matter how skilfully It may be handled.

In the selection of the dry fly-rod it is well, however, while
avoiding the really stiff rod, to favor one with an adequate degree
of "backbone"--in other words, steer very clear of the whippy rod.
For dry fly casting no line is the equal of the double-tapered silk
line, enameled or vacuum-dressed, and a rather heavier article than
the ordinary level line chosen for wet fly fishing should be used.
The rod must have sufficient casting power to handle a line of this
sort. The line generally employed is size E. The matter of the
mutual adaptability of line and rod will be treated later; it can,
however, be noted here that only a rod tending to stiffness rather
than whippiness is capable of rightly handling the line designated.

I have elsewhere ("Fishing Kits and Equipment," pages 48-50)
described the manner of testing a fly-rod with a view to
ascertaining its possession or lack of the various qualities and
characteristics outlined above. Therefore it seems best not to
rehearse the matter here, but, in this connection and as a final
word on the question of the desirable fly-rod qualities from the
viewpoint of general utility and practical serviceability in dry
fly casting, to simply suggest that you accept no rod, by no matter
what maker, without first putting it to every possible test. I have
endeavored to make it plain that a first-class rod is the result of
first-class labor and material, and that it must possess a degree
of excellence not found in the common run of fishing rods. The
obvious corollary is that any sort of rod passed over the counter
to you should not be duly and dutifully accepted on anyone's mere

Regarding the practical details of the rod, apart from the general
matters already discussed, and recalling the recommendation of
six-strip construction, it would seem that much stream usage and
experimentation in the tackle shop and on the casting platform
have resulted in the standardization of several forms of fly-rod
fittings as being best adapted to the purpose in hand and producing
the utmost efficiency in the rod. In the matter of ferrules, only
those of German silver should be considered. Also they should be
capped, welted, split or serrated, and waterproofed. Furthermore,
it is perhaps unnecessary to suggest the elimination of the "patent
lock-fast joint"--the omission being based upon the fact that
American rod-makers, knowing the efficiency and safety of the
plain suction ferrules with which their rods are fitted, employ no
other sort.

German silver is also the best material for the reel-seat. It
should perhaps be noted that "German silver" is a substance varying
considerably in strength, appearance, and merit as applied to use
on the fly-rod; the best ferrules and reel-seats of this material
are hand wrought and drawn to almost steel-like hardness. The
writer would not advise a "skeleton" reel-seat for use on any
fly-rod for fishing either wet or dry.

It is generally conceded by experienced fly-casters and rod-makers
that the very best handgrasp for the fly-rod is of solid cork,
formed by closely fitting a number of thick cork rings over a
wooden core. Cheap rods have handgrasps of thin cork sheathing
glued over a form of wood--about the most unsatisfactory of all

Steel guides, of the snake pattern, are preferable to those of
German silver; in time the friction of the line wears deep grooves
in the latter. While not imperative it is, nevertheless, a good
plan to have the rod fitted with agate first and tip guides,
thereby eliminating much line-wear and friction, which occurs
principally at these points, increasing quite appreciably the
casting power of the rod.

The rod should be plainly wound at intervals varying from not
more than an inch at the butt to a quarter-inch at the tip.
Experimentation in the matter of rod-windings has never resulted
in anything definitely better than the ordinary plain silk winding
carefully done and well-protected with varnish.



As in the case of fly-rods and fly-rod materials, a complete,
comparative study of fishing reels is not here purposed. It is
hoped that the reader will accept as true the following statements
and suggestions regarding the reel and its selection--and this
applies equally to the other articles of equipment mentioned in
this chapter--without the necessity of much argument pro and con or
the presentation of many reasons in every instance. In fact, the
general matter of fly tackle is one which has been very thoroughly
threshed out in other books, and, as regards dry-fly fishing,
differs only in degree, not in essentials. It is the intent of the
present chapter merely to take up the subject of fly-tackle aside
from the rod to an extent which will enable the beginner to start
right, at any rate, without the necessity of reference to other
volumes or sources of information.

The single-action click reel has for many years been recognized by
experienced fly-fishermen as the only reel suited to the purpose.
In general, multiplying reels, whether double or quadruple, are
entirely unsuited to use on the fly-rod. The rapid retrieve of
the multiplier is of no advantage--rather the opposite--to the
fly-fishermen for trout. Line fouling occurs constantly over the
projecting handle of the multiplying reel; moreover, as a general
thing, multiplying reels are too heavy for the purpose and balance
the rod poorly. Reels of the automatic persuasion have not received
the unstinted approbation of anglers.

Granting that the single-action reel is exclusively the one with
which we need here concern ourselves, it does not follow that there
is little choice in the selection of the reel. On the contrary,
single-action reels are made of rather numerous materials and
certainly in varying degrees of desirability. For use on the trout
fly-rod a reel of solid metal, capable of holding thirty or forty
yards of double-tapered line, size E, is apt to be too heavy,
although this may possibly be a personal prejudice of the writer.
Aluminum reels are, of course, light, but reels of this material
are easily damaged and put out of commission--usually at a very
critical time. The last statement applies also to reels of hard
rubber without metal protection.

Possibly it is more or less a personal matter, but the writer
has always favored in single-action click reels of the ordinary
construction the reel of hard rubber with metal bands around the
edges of the side plates. These bands are either of nickeled brass
or German silver, the latter naturally being the more expensive.
The band on the handle side of the reel projects over the edge so
as to form a protection against line fouling, and the reel handle
revolves within this protecting band.

The reels commonly used in England and also easily procurable in
this country are of the "revolving-disc" style--a very efficient
and satisfactory form of reel; perhaps, all things considered, the
best. In the revolving disc reel the handle is attached directly to
the side plate, which itself revolves and is affixed to the spool
or spindle.

The reel selected should be as light as possible, but strong and
capable of holding at least thirty yards of double-tapered line of
size E. The spool should be narrow; that is, the space between the
side plates contracted, so that the line may build up quickly when
reeling in. The click, or "check," should not be too stiff. On the
other hand, if it is weak and unreliable, over-runs and back lashes
will occur constantly.

Regarding the size, it should be noted that the sizes designated
in yards assigned to various reels by the tackle dealers are based
upon the reel's capacity for holding very small caliber line.
If the reel is to hold without crowding thirty yards of size E
double-tapered line the side plates must have a diameter of about
two and three-quarters to three inches, depending upon the make and
style of the reel.

The subject of the fly-casting line is worthy of far more extended
treatment than it can possibly receive here--it is doubtful
if there is any more interesting or vital question to the
fly-fisherman. Generally speaking, with the right line all things
are possible; but an unsuitable line is capable of defeating the
efforts of the most expert fly-caster. In the selection of the line
there are two principal points to be considered: The line must be
of the right material, and its weight or caliber must be suited to
the rod upon which it will be used.

Lines for fly-casting are usually known as "waterproof, enameled
silk lines." This description hardly fits the vacuum-dressed line,
of which I shall speak in a later paragraph, but the term may
be used as generally defining the very best line for the purpose
of the fly-caster with either wet or floating flies. In order to
cast well the line must possess weight; at the same time it must
be flexible without flimsiness, and smooth. These requirements are
fully answered by the enameled line, and by no other.

At the present time it is generally believed by experienced anglers
that the soft-enameled, vacuum-dressed line of English manufacture
is the superior of all lines for dry fly casting and fishing. Lines
of this character are repeatedly filled with pure, boiled linseed
oil under the exhausted receiver of an air pump, being dried out
after each filling in an oven heated to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and
subsequently dressed down by hand. The ordinary "enameled" line is
dressed only superficially. Manifestly the vacuum-dressed line is
the more serviceable; and the combination of weight, flexibility,
smoothness, and perfect action in casting found in this line is
difficult to surpass. The vacuum-dressed line is necessarily
somewhat expensive, and the angler who does not care to invest too
heavily in what may possibly be merely an experimental outfit will
find the ordinary enameled or varnished line, in the best quality,
quite satisfactory and fairly serviceable.

The length and caliber of the line should be determined by the
character of the fishing--always bearing in mind the fact that
the line must of necessity be suited to the rod, a matter wherein
the beginner is prone to go wrong and concerning which he is apt
to receive some very bad advice from the man who angles chiefly
in streams of printer's ink. From the time when the memory of
man runneth not to the contrary the "gossamer line" of the trout
fly-fisherman has been a favorite topic of the producer of the
"speckled-beauty" style of literature--the practical fly-fisherman
knows that there is nothing more absolutely futile than the attempt
to cast a line which in effect is without weight.

Very little thought will convince the reader that only a line which
indeed has weight will carry well through the air when cast, and
that a very small caliber line simply will not do. I shall not
trouble to enlarge upon the matter. Concisely, for the average
fly-rod of nine to ten feet the line should be of size F or E,
the latter for the nine and a half or ten-foot rod. For the rod
somewhat above the average in weight, length or casting power
size D may perhaps be best suited. Unless, however, the line is
thoroughly adapted in weight to the rod upon which it is used,
satisfactory casting will be quite impossible.

In the matter of suiting the line to the rod, remember that a line
which is too light will fail to bring out the action of the rod and
cannot successfully be employed. On the other hand, if the line is
too heavy, the overburdened rod cannot lift it quickly and neatly
from the water; if the angler wishes to make a somewhat longer cast
than usual he may smash his rod in the endeavor to perform the
impossible. The casting power of a rod is not determined purely by
its weight or length; wherefore, if the opportunity offers, it is
well to fit the line to the rod by practical experiment.

That a tapered line is most efficient and satisfactory for dry-fly
casting is generally conceded. By the employment of a line of this
character, the line being gradually fined down toward the ends, the
caster has all the advantage of a heavy line in casting, while at
the same time the line may be cast delicately and lightly. Also a
tapered line, exactly suited to the rod upon which it is used, may
be cast farther and more accurately than a level line. The majority
of American fly-casters undoubtedly fish downstream and use the
level line; when dry fly-fishing, however, it is imperative that
the angler fish or cast upstream and by all odds the better plan to
employ the tapered line.

For ordinary work select a double-tapered line, both ends
graduated, of thirty yards' length. The length of the taper varies
from fifteen (occasionally less) to eighteen feet. As to the proper
length of taper, that again, other things being equal, depends
somewhat upon the nature of the fishing for which the line will be
used. If rather short casts are to be a rule, a short taper will
work best for the reason that more of the "swell" of the line will
be in use and not merely wound upon the reel. A short taper also
works best against the wind for the same reason.

It should be obvious, although the fact has not been adequately
emphasized by angling writers, that if the caster can as a rule
(owing to the restricted nature of the stream, which may be small
and with banks thickly wooded) use only the light tapered end
of his line on a rod really adapted to the size of the swell of
the line, he is working at a great disadvantage. For average
small-stream fly casting it is best to select a line having a
"quick" taper, fifteen feet or less.

The leaders furnished by the tackle dealers especially for dry-fly
fishing are usually of very good quality--the best is none too
good--with dropper loops, of course, and from six to nine feet in
length. The angler who elects to tie his own leaders, a very simple
matter and by far the better plan, should purchase the very best
silk-worm gut for the purpose--round, hard and clear. It will be
necessary to have gut of different weights or caliber from heavy to
very fine, in order that the leader may be tapered from about the
size of the end of the reel line to very fine undrawn gut nearest
the fly. Drawn gut was at one time extensively used by dry-fly
fishermen, but it is now generally recognized that fine undrawn gut
is quite as efficient and the additional strength gained by its use
is a distinct advantage.

The tapered leader certainly aids materially in fine work over
clear, still water and shy fish. I believe it was Henry P. Wells,
the author of "Fly-Rods and Fly Tackle," a work familiar to both
American and English fly fishermen, who stated that in his opinion
the most important factor for successful fly fishing was to make
invisible any connection between the fly and the line, and the use
of fine terminal tackle tends to bring this about. Moreover, fine
caliber gut near the fly assists in floating it. Better, straighter
casting can be done when a tapered leader is used.

The proper length of leader varies with the immediate angling
conditions. Under no circumstances, for practical fishing, should
the leader exceed the rod in length--this entirely in the opinion
of the writer, although concurred in by many other anglers. Under
rough weather conditions a short leader works best. For long, fine
casting a nine-foot leader should be used. For average dry-fly
fishing on the general run of American trout streams, I believe a
seven-foot leader to be the most practical and efficient.

As regards the color of leaders, the fact that any advantage is
gained by the use of variously stained gut (with a view to making
the leader invisible) has never been conclusively proved--natural
or mist-color leaders answer every purpose.

For attaching eyed-hooks to the leader or snell there are several
different knots; one of the best of these, and the simplest, is
shown in Fig. 1. The gut must be rendered perfectly pliable by
soaking in water before tying on the fly. Pass the end of the gut
through the eye of the hook, bend it back and make a slip-knot
or half-hitch around the gut; draw the slip-knot nearly tight and
slide it up to and over the eye of the hook, and pull tight. This
forms a jam-knot easily upset but impossible to disengage by a
straight pull. After making the knot, cut off the superfluous end
of the gut. For cutting off gut ends after changing flies at the
stream-side nothing is handier to carry or use than an ordinary
fingernail clip.

[Illustration: Figure 1.]

In Fig. 2 is shown the method of knotting together two strands
of gut in tying a leader or making repairs in one. The two
half-hitches should be pulled perfectly tight and then drawn

[Illustration: Figure 2.]

For attaching the leader to the line use the jam-knot shown in Fig.

[Illustration: Figure 3.]

If you wish to attach a dropper fly to a dry-fly leader without
loops use the method shown In Fig. 4, attaching at a point where
two strands are knotted together.

[Illustration: Figure 4.]

So many intricate details are connected with the subject of
artificial flies, and with dry or floating flies particularly, that
in order to reduce the discussion of the matter herein to a not
inordinate length many points must of necessity be merely touched

In later chapters, the efficiency of various patterns, as well as
how and when to use them, will be discussed; at this point we are
concerned chiefly with the purely material details of the "floater."

The construction of the dry fly differs considerably from that of
the wet, but as this is a matter pertaining rather to the art of
the fly dresser the subject need not be considered as imperatively
within the province of the present discussion. It has previously
been noted that at present the larger part of the dry flies
obtainable in this country are imported from England. The tendency
of the tackle dealers is to furnish comparatively few of the
familiar American patterns tied dry.

The dry fly is, of course, dressed with the purpose of causing
it to float as well as may be, and this is effected--although
the method of construction varies to some extent with various
patterns--by dressing the fly with double or "split" wings tied
at right angles to the body (called "erect" wings) and with the
hackling arranged to stand out well from the shank of the hook. The
body of the fly is dressed very lightly and in some instances is of
cork, straw or quill.

In the case of some of the latest patterns horsehair is used for
the body material. As a rule dry flies are dressed upon small
hooks, number twelve and smaller, and the hooks are of light
wire. A list of floating flies which have been found effective on
American trout streams is given in a later paragraph.

Almost without exception floating flies are dressed on eyed
hooks; that is, without gut snells whipped to the shank of the
hook, following the time-honored American custom, but with an
eye or ring at the end of the shank by means of which the fly is
attached directly to the leader. If space permitted the practical
advantages of the eyed hook could very well be emphasized in
detail; at present I can only urge every fly fisherman to adopt
the use of the eyed fly for either dry or wet fly-fishing. If for
no other reason than that of economy, the use of the eyed hook
justifies itself: the feelings of the angler, who when looking over
and testing his tackle for the approaching trout season pulls the
snells without difficulty out of an even two dozen of the old-style
trout flies which have never even been once used, are best left to
the imagination.

Eyed hooks are made in two styles, with turned-up and turned-down
eye; that is, in the case of the turned-down eye the eye is on the
under side of the hook shank or bent toward the barb of the hook,
the opposite being true of the other form. Much controversy has
taken place regarding the respective merits of the two styles of
eyed hooks, various authorities enthusiastically and convincingly
championing either one or the other. It would seem that each form
has its virtues and is quite satisfactory. Undoubtedly the reader,
impartially experimenting with both styles, will soon discover
which is best--for him. The greater part of the floating flies
which come to this country are dressed on turned-up eyed hooks.

As to the form of the hook, whether Sproat, Pennell (turned-down),
O'Shaughnessy, Sneck, and so on, it is a matter in which one cannot
exercise personal choice to any great extent--one must needs be
contented with the flies as he finds them. Hooks with the Sneck
bend are favored for the smaller patterns; others may be dressed on
any of the above-named hooks. Unless you are willing, many times,
to undergo great delay in stocking your fly box, you must sacrifice
a personal prejudice toward any particular form of hook for the
sake of obtaining the pattern you wish in the desired size.

I give below a list of a few floating flies which I know to be
successful under average angling conditions, and would suggest
that in making your selection of dry flies you obtain some, at
least, of the patterns dressed upon number ten hooks. The use of
the very small English patterns, tied, as a rule, on number twelve
hooks at the largest, is not at all times and in all places most
advantageous on American trout streams. The flies named are, as far
as may be, typical; that is, selected with a view to approximately
imitating the general insect life (consisting largely of water-bred
insects) of any trout stream, so that the angler may as a general
thing find in his list a fairly close imitation of most of the
natural flies, any one of which may be temporarily abundant on
the water, and upon which there is reason to believe the fish are

The list is as follows: Coachman, Cahill, gold-ribbed hare's ear,
Wickham's fancy, brown sedge, silver sedge, iron blue dun, whirling
blue dun, and olive dun. These should be dressed upon hooks,
numbers twelve and ten. It is seldom necessary to use smaller than
a number twelve dry-fly, although, of course, occasionally only
the very smallest flies are effective. To the flies named should
be added the green May female, brown May female, and spent gnat
female, of the new series of floating flies developed by Mr. F. M.

Of the above the coachman, Wickham's fancy, gold-ribbed hare's ear
and Cahill are frankly "fancy" flies, not intended to represent
any particular natural fly. The Wickham's fancy, coachman and
gold-ribbed hare's ear are wonderfully successful patterns, as a
rule, throughout the entire season, and under a great variety of
angling conditions. The Cahill is a fly of very delicate coloration
and dressing and is particularly useful over very low and clear
water. The duns, olive, whirling blue and iron blue are dressed in
imitation of various ephemera in the sub-imago or dun stage, and
when the fish are feeding upon the natural fly these are apt to
prove exceedingly successful.

The green and brown May fly patterns are representative of the
corresponding Ephemeridæ, and their usefulness upon streams when
and where the May fly is abundant is sufficiently obvious. The
Caddis flies in the nomenclature of the dry fly are known as
"sedges"; the silver sedge and brown sedge belong to this class.
The spent gnat pattern represents the female May fly which,
having voided her eggs upon the water, thereafter falls upon the
surface of the stream practically lifeless and with wings flat
and outstretched. The spent gnat, accordingly, is dressed with
horizontal, not erect, wings.

For carrying eyed-flies various fly-boxes are furnished by the
tackle dealers. The method of holding the flies is usually by
means of a metal clip, although some boxes have several small
compartments with transparent (celluloid) covers, and others have
cork strips into which the fly may be fastened. The last sort is
the least satisfactory. As a rule, in the ordinary form of eyed
fly box the metal clips are set very closely together, and it is
advisable to procure a box capable of holding at least double the
number of flies you intend to carry, so that they may be inserted
without crushing and be easily distinguished and removed.

Paraffin oil, or some one of the other similar waterproofing
liquids furnished by the tackle dealers, is a necessity to the
dry-fly caster. A floating fly, if perfectly dry, will float fairly
well for a number of casts without the use of paraffin; but it soon
becomes drowned and sodden and very difficult to dry out by merely
false casting. Whatever preparation may be used (and I have found
very little practical difference in them) it should be carried in a
small bottle having a stopper with brush attached. Apply the oil to
the fly lightly, and remove the superfluous liquid by pressing the
fly between folds in your handkerchief. It is usually practicable
to prepare a number of flies in this way before going to the
stream, thus obviating the the necessity of carrying the "oiler."

It would seem unnecessary to consider the matter of the creel,
waders and other general fly-fishing equipment, as these are
familiar to every fly-fisherman of any experience. However, for
the benefit of the virtual beginner it may be said that a rather
larger basket than that usually advised to the trout-fisherman say
a creel of twenty-pound size--is preferable for many reasons. The
new style sling, which suspends the basket from the left shoulder,
should be used.

Waders, of course, are necessary. Whether wading pants, wading
stockings, or ordinary sporting rubber boots are worn is more or
less a personal matter generally dependent upon the conditions
under which the fishing will be done. The wading stockings, worn
with woolen socks and hobnailed wading shoes, are as a rule the
most satisfactory equipment. A leader-box in which extra leaders
may be carried between pads of dampened felt and a landing net are
other requisites.



The sportsman who has fished only with the wet fly may rest
assured that should he take up dry fly fishing he will discover
a renewed interest in the sport of fly fishing for trout, which,
perhaps, through custom, may have lost something of its former
charm. Moreover, in dry fly fishing he will find a sport of such
wide scope that, it is safe to say, he will never consider himself
other than a beginner in the art. For the scientifically inclined
sportsman--the man who chronically seeks to know the "reason
why"--it is difficult to name any outdoor recreation which would
prove more to his liking or more worthy of serious research and
study in its various branches, particularly that dealing with the
entomology of the trout stream.

In photographic work most people are perfectly willing to "follow
the directions," trusting that the results will be good enough, and
caring little for intimate knowledge of the scientific details
of the various processes which produce the completed photograph.
This, certainly, is not at all the state of mind with which to
take up dry fly fishing, or, for that matter, angling of any sort.
In fact, the dry fly man should be a student of causes as well as
of effects, for the simple reason that only in comparatively rare
instances can the desired effect be produced unless the angler
knows the underlying cause and proceeds to utilize it practically.
This is particularly true of the selection and manipulation of the
floating fly and, in a lesser but quite considerable degree, of
casting the fly.

Almost every book on angling contains a more or less understandable
treatise on fly-casting, and it is only for the benefit of the
virtual beginner at fly-fishing for trout, and further with a
view to completeness and the emphasizing of certain points which
even the old hand is prone to forget or possibly neglect through
carelessness that the following brief explanation is incorporated
here. Casting the floating fly differs little essentially from
the manner of casting the sunken fly; in detail, however, the
difference is very great.

Casting the floating fly divides naturally into two quite
distinct phases; first, the actual cast which places the fly,
cocked and floating, upon the surface of the stream; second, the
subsequent manipulation of the fly in such a manner that its action
approximates with all possible fidelity the action of the natural
fly--the fly must float in the exact manner of the natural fly
under like circumstances. Granting judicious selection of the fly
in the first instance and some skill and finesse in placing it, it
is with the correct action of the fly--after all the most important
thing in the whole art of dry fly fishing--that the sportsman has
chiefly to deal, and the dealing is not always of the easiest.

It should go without saying that properly and effectively to
cast and fish the floating fly it is essential that the tackle
be correctly assembled. In this regard I believe the point most
in need of emphasis is the question of the right way to fit the
reel to the rod; that this should be done so that the reel is
underneath the rod with its handle to the right (in the case of the
right-handed caster) is in my experience the only satisfactory and
thoroughly efficient way. With the reel thus placed it is never
necessary, when playing a fish, to turn the rod over so that the
reel is above, as in the case when the reel is fitted to the rod
with the handle to the left. After a fish is struck, if it becomes
necessary to use the reel, the rod is simply shifted to the left
hand--without the awkward necessity of turning it over to bring the
reel on top--and the fingers of the right hand fall naturally upon
the handle of the reel.

Of the English books on the subject of dry fly fishing I have seen
only those of Mr. Halford. In "Dry Fly Fishing," by this author,
the cut illustrating the proper grip of the rod shows the reel
rigged underneath the rod with its handle to the left, and this is
the method advised by the author. It may be said with certainty
that this manner of assembling rod and reel is not sanctioned by
the majority of American fly-fishermen.

The manner of casting a fly is best described by an explanation
of the overhead cast--the typical cast although by no means the
one exclusively used in fly fishing, and in dry fly fishing, for
reasons stated below, a cast which is used only when the horizontal
cast is for any reason rendered difficult. Having assembled rod,
reel, line, leader, and fly, using the knots shown in Chapter III.,
and taking pains to see that the leader before bending on the fly
and attaching to the line has been previously well-softened by
soaking in the leader-box, proceed to make the overhead cast as

In the case of the beginner at fly-casting, the first practice
casting may best be done casting downstream as the current will
help to straighten out the line and leader. Two distinct motions
constitute the complete overhead cast; first the back cast which
throws the line behind the caster, then the forward cast which
returns it in the desired direction. Fifteen or twenty feet is
enough line to use for the first practice casting. The right hand
should grip the rod firmly with the thumb extended along the upper
surface of the handgrasp--this is the only proper grip of the rod
and is a distinct factor for accuracy in placing the fly and also
tends to make the caster use his wrist.

Good casting results only from utilizing the elasticity of the
rod; the casting power of the rod is brought into play in one way
only--by using the wrist in casting. Keep the elbow low.

In the back cast swing the rod smartly up to a position but
slightly beyond the vertical and inclined a little toward the right
so that the line when passing to the rear, or returning, will not
tend to strike the rod. In the back cast throw the line up in order
that there may be no possibility of its falling upon the water
behind you--a high back cast is very essential. Lift the line from
the water quickly and neatly. Care must be taken not to carry the
rod too far back--only a little beyond the perpendicular--as this
will inevitably result in loss of control over the line.

Instantaneous photography has conclusively proved the fallacy of
the orthodox advice of the older school of angling writers, to
"wait for the line to straighten out behind you" before starting
the forward cast. This fact was noted sometime ago in a short paper
in one of the outdoor periodicals and the writer at once proceeded
to verify it--since which time I have often seen in print the old,
familiar warning to the novice stated above. However, it is now
generally recognized by well-informed anglers that when casting any
fair length of line there is a considerable loop of line and leader
which straightens out only after the forward cast has been started;
that, in fact, the right time to begin the forward motion of the
rod is when the line first begins to pull noticeably on the tip of
the rod--a psychological moment soon readily recognized after a
little practice. To avoid weakening the leader by whipping, or in
rare instances snapping off the fly, the forward cast should not be
started too forcefully.

Start the forward motion of the rod, then, when the line, having
passed to the rear, begins to pull back on the rod-tip, and carry
the rod forward and down with increasing speed, stopping it when
it is a little beyond parallel with the water. Before beginning
another back cast be careful to reel or strip in any slack
line. The beginner should concentrate on casting accurately and
delicately; ability to cover average fishing distances is soon
gained without much conscious effort to that end. As for accuracy,
the dry fly man cannot possibly over-rate its importance or more
profitably seek to perfect himself in any other branch of the
sport. Particularly when casting to a rising fish, other things
being equal, everything depends upon accuracy.

At this point it seems best to note the matter of the use of
the left hand in fly-casting for the purpose of controlling the
rendition and retrieve of the line while casting, playing a trout,
or floating a dry fly. In brief, the caster should control the
line, practically at all times, by holding it in his left hand, as
it comes from the reel, stripping in the line through the guides
of the rod when it should be shortened, or allowing it to run out
through the fingers when a longer line is needed in casting or when
giving line to a hooked fish.

It should be understood that the left hand, when used in this
manner, need not be held in an awkward position, that is, close
up to the reel, but may be held in a natural way at about the
waist-line; it is simply a matter of the length of the loop of line
drawn out by the left hand between the reel and the first guide of
the rod. When this loop for any reason becomes so long that there
may be a possibility of fouling it may be taken care of by shifting
the rod to the left hand, clipping the line to the handgrasp of
the rod beneath the fingers of the left hand, and winding up the
superfluous slack line.

The beginner should accustom himself to handling the line in this
way when first learning the use of the fly-rod; later it will be
all the more difficult to master since at the same time he will be
under the necessity of correcting other casting habits which may
have become almost second nature. Further reference to this manner
of manipulating the line--a most important factor in effective
fly casting and fishing--will be found in connection with various
subjects such as playing and landing a trout, methods of preventing
drag, and so on; in fact, in one way or another the method is
essentially a part of practically every phase of the purely manual
side of dry or wet fly fishing.

It has been noted above that the overhead cast, although the
typical cast and the one, by the way, with which the greatest
accuracy and distance may be attained, is less used in dry fly
fishing than the horizontal; in the latter the rod, in the back
and forward casts, moves in a plane about parallel with the water.
The reason for this preference is a very real and practical one
although difficult to explain in detail; the fact of the matter
is, however, that the horizontal cast is far more apt to cock the
fly--to place it upon the surface of the stream with its wings
upright and not floating on its side--than is the overhead.

The reader should carefully note the above point and, wherever it
may be possible, always employ the horizontal cast. It would not
do to say that every trout would refuse to rise to the fly when
floating down on its side--although I have seen a statement made
to that effect; but with shy fish the probability of a rise to the
correctly cocked and floating fly is greater than to the fly coming
down upset. Apart from the known advantage of the horizontal cast
cocking the fly is a matter quite beyond the caster's control.

Where there is smoothly flowing water with little chance of drag,
and little if any wind, if the fly is cast with some skill it will
float properly with wings upright more often than not. If the
horizontal cast cannot be used, owing to the conformation of the
banks or other reasons, the caster in employing the overhead cast
should direct his fly at an imaginary point in the air some two or
three feet directly above the spot where he intends to place the
fly; the greater delicacy in delivering the fly resulting from this
will tend to multiply the chances of cocking the fly.

As I have said, the horizontal cast is made by swinging the rod, in
the back and forward casts, in a plane parallel with, or slightly
above, the water. The back of the caster's hand should be turned
toward the water, the fingers uppermost. The attempt to cast too
long a line, or the slightest delay in starting the forward cast,
will cause the fly to fall upon the water behind you--a thing to be
religiously avoided.

The above includes the essential details of the first phase of
casting the dry fly--the actual cast which places the fly, cocked
and floating, upon the water over a trout which has been seen to
rise or where the angler may have reason to believe a fish is
lying, the latter being more frequently the case upon American
streams. We come now to the second phase of dry fly casting, the
subsequent manipulation of the fly in such a manner that it
simulates as accurately as possible the action of the natural fly
floating in a like position. The importance of simulating with all
possible fidelity the action of the natural insect has previously
been emphasized; the subject is one of very broad application, but
at present we may note merely the necessity of upstream casting.

I believe that printed briefs for or against up or down stream
fishing with the fly are wearisome to the average well-read and
experienced angler; wherefore brevity in discussing this point
seems advisable. As regards wet fly fishing any broad-minded angler
willingly concedes that under certain conditions it is best to fish
the stream up and under other conditions to fish down. The dry fly
man, however, has no option in the matter; regardless of all other
factors for upstream fishing, the practical fact remains that the
floating fly cannot be fished downstream for when thus cast it is
drowned almost at once.

But even if this were not the case the application of the rule
of exact imitation of nature upon which dry fly fishing is based
would prove the method of casting downstream and pulling the fly
up against the trend of the current wholly wrong. Even the wet
fly should never be fished in this way. Parenthetically, the
present writer has always recognized a distinction between fishing
downstream and casting downstream; the progress of the angler may
be with the direction of the current--always most advantageous
upon the swift and rocky mountain trout stream--while the actual
casting may be cross-current, a very effective way of fishing the
wet fly under normal conditions, or upstream and slightly across if
desirable. When upon the water the natural insect floats downstream
as the current directs it; wherefore, as invariably as may be, the
dry fly caster should cast upstream, allowing the fly to float down
toward him without restraint from the line, following the natural
trend of the current.

Leaving aside for later discussion the matter of drag, a state
of affairs wherein the artificial fly tends to travel at an
unnatural rate due to conflicting currents in the stream which
affect line and fly differently, and also passing over for the
moment certain other points more or less intimately connected with
the advisability of upstream casting, there remains for present
consideration the matter of false casting, or drying the fly.

As a rule, when casting a fair amount of line, the fly will be
quite free from moisture--if previously well-waterproofed--when
the angler has again lengthened out his line after having made a
cast and allowed the fly to float down over the water he desired
to cover. Unless the fly has become thoroughly soaked four or five
false casts are enough. These should be made as gently as possible
to avoid whipping the fly; the constant casting tends to shred
the wings, and if this results the fly loses much of its natural
appearance and is more difficult to cock.

The longer the line used when drying the fly the longer distance
the fly travels through the air; thus a lesser number of false
casts are necessary to dry it. But it is better to take more time,
use a shorter line and more casts, and endeavor not to whip the
fly out of shape. After playing and landing a fish the fly will
be thoroughly soaked and draggled. Ordinarily it is then best to
put up a new fly; if this seems unnecessary, much of the water can
be removed by holding the fly close to the mouth and blowing off
the moisture, after which the wings should be nursed into their
original form.



Before going further into the details of casting and fishing the
dry fly it would be well to consider at some length the question
of the best times and the most favorable places when and where the
angler would be wise to depend solely upon the floater. That the
fascination of dry fly fishing is such that many fly-fishermen
elect to practice no other method under any and all conditions
goes without saying, but the fact remains that under average
American fly-fishing conditions the floating fly is sometimes at
a disadvantage and the average American angler may well accept
this fact with good grace, using the dry or sunken fly turn and
turn about as the occasion determines. In this I do not wish to
be understood as holding any brief for the wet as against the dry
fly for any such reason as that "bigger bags" may at times be
killed with the wet fly than with the dry--it is merely a question
of a few good fish taken by fair methods under the prevailing
conditions. If these may be taken by dry fly casting, so much the
better; if not, then assuredly the average angler, whose fishing
trips are few and to whom a moderate success on the stream seems
very desirable, may have recourse to the wet fly without losing
caste. That, at times, nothing can be done fishing dry is a fact
easily susceptible of proof.

Personally I have never so fully enjoyed fly-fishing as I have
since taking up the dry fly, which I have now come to use almost
exclusively and often when I know perfectly well that more success
would attend the use of the sunken fly. This, however, I take to
be a strictly personal matter; my fishing opportunities are many,
and although I am on the stream a great deal (during the last ten
years at the very least four days a week throughout the season) it
is only infrequently that I go out with any great desire to "catch
fish." To the general run of trout-fishermen, for the reasons
stated above, I would not advise the exclusive use of the dry fly;
if, on the other hand, the angler elects to practice this method to
the exclusion of all others, that is his affair--and a matter for

It would seem that the ideal conditions for the dry fly are
somewhat as follows: A clear, smoothly flowing stream, whether fast
or slow being immaterial if the surface is not too broken; the
stage of water should be normal, although at the lower levels, as
the season advances, everything is in favor of the dry as against
the wet fly; finally, insect life should be fairly abundant on the
stream and the trout feeding more or less at the surface on the
natural fly.

In the early days of the season, when the stream is apt to be
in flood and the water very cold and more or less discolored,
the wet or sunken fly is plainly indicated. Until, with the
progress of spring, air and water have grown warm, and the bright
sunshine brings on the natural ephemeridae, the fish are usually
ground-feeding, or feeding in mid-water, and will rise only
infrequently to the fly fished upon the surface. At such times the
fly caster who holds to the employment of the dry fly is doomed to

In fact, it would seem that fly-fishing under these conditions
should be done more along the lines of bass or salmon fly-fishing
--not with the idea of simulating even approximately the natural
insect food of the fish but rather with the purpose of exciting
the trout and inducing them to strike by the use of a glittering or
highly colored fly which, fished considerably beneath the surface,
arouses their curiosity or anger or may be taken for a small
minnow. This style of fishing with the fly is distinctly on a lower
level than the correct imitation of the natural floating insect
by means of the dry fly; nevertheless, in fairness to the many
fishermen whose days on the stream are rare and eagerly anticipated
with attendant hopes of some practical success, I cannot but advise
the use of the sunken fly under the conditions named or when, at
any time during the season, somewhat similar conditions prevail.

In an average season the dry fly man may confidently expect
success on suitable water from about the first of May to the last
days of the open time. The trout streams are now clear and at or
below the normal stage of water; the temperature of the water is
rising steadily; the observant fly-fisherman will note the natural
ephemeridae abundant at intervals over and on the stream--and there
is no sight in nature (at least from the writer's viewpoint and, I
fancy, from that of all other trout fly-fishermen) more interesting
or more wonderful than a good hatch of duns. With the advance of
the season and the usual gradual falling of the water, conditions
ever grow more and more in favor of the dry and against the wet fly.

I could easily cite numerous instances which have occurred in both
my own experience and in that of other anglers which go to prove
the effectiveness of the floating fly on low, clear water, late
in the season, when the wet fly is usually ineffectual. Without,
however, going into narrative detail, it should be sufficiently
obvious that, under the conditions named, a very delicately
dressed floating fly, in appearance quite similar to the natural
ephemeridae common to the stream, attached to a practically
invisible leader and riding down buoyantly on the surface, with
wings erect, in the exact, jaunty manner of the natural dun, is far
more apt to deceive the fish than two or more wet flies, shapeless
and draggled, of dubious coloration, pulled across or against the
current in a manner never followed by the natural insect. Wherever
a fly may be floated the dry fly is distinctly the thing for late
spring and summer fishing.

Much has been said and written concerning the character of the
streams favorable for the employment of the dry fly--that is, as
regards the natural characteristics of the water itself, whether
fast or slow in current, smooth or broken, shallow or deep, and so
on. The dry fly having originated upon the placid currents of the
south of England rivers, it is only natural that the impression
should prevail that a floating fly can be used effectively only on
a slow stream. The practice and experience of American fly-casters
has thoroughly proved this an erroneous theory. It may be
truthfully said that the dry fly may be successfully used upon all
except white water.

It is not the rate of the current which determines the suitability
of the floating fly to any given stream; wherever the surface of
the water is unbroken the dry fly works well, but where white water
prevails, although the angler may persist in the use of the dry
fly, actual dry fly fishing is impossible, the fly can only be made
to float for an infinitesimal length of time, is almost immediately
drowned by a wave or drawn under by a whirlpool, and the result is
a hybrid sort of angling in the nature of wet fly fishing with a
dry fly.

The point has been made that even under these conditions it is best
to use the dry fly on the ground that, dry or wet, the floating fly
is materially, in form and coloration, a better imitation of the
natural fly than is the average wet fly. Under like circumstances
the natural insect acts in a similar manner, that is, is drawn
under the surface in broken water and carried here and there by
conflicting currents. For some time it has been my custom to use
dry flies for wet fly fishing, but I would emphasize the fact that
fishing a drowned dry fly in white water is hardly genuine dry fly
fishing and that any resultant success must be accredited to the
wet fly method. Any statement to the effect that the dry fly may
be used in the rapids of any trout stream where white water is the
rule must be taken with a grain of salt and with due allowance for
the enthusiasm of the man who makes it.

In any stream the swift runs where the water is smooth may be
very effectively fished with the dry fly; taking an average of
American trout streams, excepting the smaller rocky, mountain
brooks (generally a succession of shallow, rough rapids with
comparatively few smooth places) it may be said that a fly may be
quite successfully floated over probably three-quarters of the
water comprised. By smooth water I do not wish to be understood
as meaning absolutely flat water--the floating fly will ride a
wave or a succession of them with surprising buoyancy; but if the
crests of the waves are broken into miniature "white-caps" then
the fly is soon drowned. The wet fly, or wet fly methods, should
be followed wherever the water is of the latter description. The
writer's own custom when fishing a stream wherein smooth and white
water alternate constantly is to use a single dry fly, a coachman
or Wickham's fancy, casting dry or wet as the nature of the stream
may seem to render expedient.

In line with a general discussion of the times and localities
when and where the dry fly is indicated it should possibly be
noted that dry fly casting, as the more clever method and designed
particularly for the purpose of angling for educated trout, should
be favored over wet fly fishing on any stream which is whipped a
great deal by wet fly fishermen. That the trout of such a stream
grow "gut shy" and exceedingly canny and, at best, when the
stream is clear and natural insect food somewhat abundant, rise
reluctantly to the wet fly, is axiomatic. In view of the fine
tackle, the finesse, and the fidelity to nature afforded by the dry
fly method it would seem that no angler could for a moment doubt
the efficacy of the floating fly under such circumstances. On the
other hand, I believe--although practical experimentation has never
yet been possible--that a skilfully fished wet fly, on a stream
where dry fly fishing has become the rule, might, on occasion, by
the very novelty of the thing, be made to do wonders.

Finally, as regards the general question of when and where to use
the dry fly, let me emphasize the fact that, for success, the
sportsman must have confidence in the floater and use it constantly
wherever he may consistently do so--that he must not consider his
box of dry flies as merely supplementary to his familiar, old-time
book of wet flies, but must give preference to the dry fly method,
consider himself, in fact, a dry fly fisherman, and have recourse
to the wet fly only when his common fishing sense advertises the
fact that the floater is not the thing for the time being.

Sporadic experimentation with the dry fly when the wet has failed,
although frequently successful in its purpose, is not a true test
of the efficacy of the method when followed consistently, for the
degree of true sport which the dry fly is capable of affording. Of
all forms of angling, the phrase "it is not all of fishing to catch
fish" is most true of fishing with the floating fly.

Coming now to the question of when and where to fish the floating
fly on water evidently suitable therefor, in view of the fact
that the American dry fly caster of necessity usually fishes the
water rather than the rise, it is evident that the fly-fisherman
must depend upon his knowledge of trout haunts and habits in the
determination of this matter. Given a stream fairly abundantly
stocked with trout, either _fontinalis_, the native speckled brook
trout, _fario_, the brown trout, or with rainbows, where the most,
the best, or any trout will be found, is to a considerable extent a
matter of time and temperature--notwithstanding which the careful
angler, and in particular the dry fly fisherman, will proceed to
fish all the water except such as may be known to be barren of

In general, trout will be found at the head and foot of riffles and
rapids; at the head and tail of pools; in the lee of rocks in swift
runs; under shady, shelving banks and boulders and similar "hides";
particularly in warm weather, where small, cold, spring-fed brooks
enter the trout stream; and anywhere where the set of the current,
as in little bays and on the bends, is such as to collect insect
food in quantity. Really the angler need only remember that trout
require cold, moving, and aërated water, especially brook trout,
and the same thing is true of brown trout in somewhat lesser degree.

To enlarge upon the matter further would be impracticable here.
In point of fact, stream experience alone will enable the angler
to spot confidently and with precision the places where a good
trout may be lying. Each trout taken by an observant fly-fisherman
adds to the angler's sum of knowledge regarding "where the trout
hide"; it would seem that a mental picture of the place is retained
subconsciously--the trend of the current, the character of the
banks and stream-bed, and where, in relation to some prominent
object, such as a large boulder or possibly a sunken log, the trout
rose; all these and other details are noted and mentally recorded,
and eventually the angler, by the correlation and association of
these mental pictures, comes to recognize instantly, almost to a
matter of inches, the places where a rise may be expected. That an
experienced fly-fisherman can tell "almost to a matter of inches"
where a trout will rise may seem, to the casual reader, to be
putting it rather strongly. However, inquiry of some sportsman of
many seasons' experience with the fly-rod will definitely settle
the matter one way or another.

While, indeed, the character of American trout streams is such
as to definitely discourage fishing the rise purely, it cannot be
too strongly emphasized that the dry fly-angler, while fishing the
water, should constantly be on the lookout for a rising trout.
Time and time again, while fishing a good pool or run where the
rise of a trout could be noted, the writer has spotted rising
fish to his very practical advantage. In this regard it might be
well to note the fact that a rising and feeding trout creates
very little disturbance on the surface of the stream, and does
not, in accordance with the popular idea, leap above the surface;
sometimes there is a slight "plop," and at times a little spray
thrown, but the fish very seldom shows itself, and twenty trout
could rise within the vision of an inexperienced and inattentive
angler without attracting his attention. Upon glassy, still pools
the subsequent widening circle of ripples tells the plain story of
a rise; in a current, however, the actual rise must be seen--and
often is if you are looking for it.



Presuming that the angler has outfitted correctly and that he is
a fly-caster of average ability, and further assuming that the
stream he is on is at least fair dry fly water--which he will
fish upstream manipulating the fly with whatever skill he may
command with the purpose of imitating the action and appearance
of the natural fly floating down on the surface--success, then,
is predicated wholly (apart from the question of the right fly at
the right time) upon the manner in which the fly is fished. Under
this head--how to fish the floating fly--there are many points for
consideration, of which not the least in importance is the matter
of drag.

Drag occurs when the artificial fly travels at a rate different
from that of the natural fly in the same position--either faster
or slower or with a tendency to move across or contrary to
the current. It is caused by conflicting currents which exert
dissimilar forces upon fly and line. The natural dun coming down
without restraint, of course, from line or leader, is affected only
by the current whereon it floats; the artificial fly, attached
to line and leader, several feet of which must often lie upon
the surface, is subject not only to the rate and direction of
the current upon which it floats, but also--unless the angler so
handles his tackle as to prevent it--to the force and direction of
the currents which play upon the line and leader.

Thus, when the fly is so cast that it falls upon still or slow
water while the line is allowed to rest upon swift water, the
artificial fly will at once drag rapidly across or over the still
place in an utterly unnatural manner. The natural fly would rest
quietly upon such a place, or, if there were a slight current,
float slowly downstream.

The foregoing is an extreme case, cited merely with the purpose
of making clear exactly what is meant by the expression "drag."
Ordinarily when drag occurs the conditions are rather more subtle
and complicated than in the foregoing example. Conversely to the
above, when the fly falls upon swift water and the line upon slow,
the natural downstream course of the fly is retarded. Again it
often happens that unless the sportsman notes clearly the trend
of the currents whereon fly and line will rest, he may cast a
taut line over a place where the currents are actually moving in
contrary directions, the fly may rest upon a "set-back" (a current
moving upstream) while the line is carried downstream with the
general trend of the stream, in which case, if the natural current
is the stronger and a taut line is thrown, the fly will drag
upstream in relation to the current whereon it floats, and across
and generally quite contrary to the action of the natural insect in
the same position.

In the matter of preventing drag I think that the one rule above
all others for the sportsman to observe is this: Before making
a cast--by all means before casting over a rising fish--study
carefully the trend of the currents which may affect your line and
fly. In other words, the best way to alleviate drag lies in the
ounce of prevention which may be applied before the cast is made.
It is generally possible to cast over any given place or over a
rising trout from a number of different points; one of these will
be found to offer the least chance of drag.

The necessity of obviating drag, so far as possible, arises from
the fact that a shy trout, feeding on the natural ephemeridae, is
not apt to rise to the imitation--however good--which comes over
it in an unusual way. A feeding trout, possibly rising from a fixed
vantage point wherefrom it can easily see and capture the duns
floating down on the surface within striking distance, will, as a
rule, rise only to the artificial fly which floats in an exactly
similar manner to that of the natural flies which come within its

The novice should also bear this in mind and religiously observe
it: Avoid any upward or backward motion of the rod at the instant
when the fly falls upon the water or immediately thereafter. In
line with this it may also be said that no matter how fast the
current may be, the angler should never begin to strip in the
line until the fly is well started on its downstream journey. The
seasoned wet fly-fisherman, upon his initial attempts at casting
the dry fly, will doubtless find that he has an habitual tendency
to raise the point of the rod at the moment when the forward cast
has been completed and the fly has just fallen upon the surface of
the stream; if this is done, the fly is at once pulled under the
surface--drowned--and the habit is one which must be constantly

The same may be said of the tendency to begin stripping in the line
prematurely while it is still taut; the slightest pull upon the
line at this time is at once communicated to the fly and either
drags or drowns it. The proper and strictly necessary procedure,
then, for the dry fly-caster is this: At the completion of the
forward cast hold the rod absolutely motionless for a moment until
the fly, floating down, has created more or less slack line, in
accordance with the character of the water over which the cast has
been made; then slowly bring up the tip of the rod or carefully
strip in the line, or both, bearing in mind that to float the fly
successfully there must always be more or less slack line between
rod-point and fly.

As above noted, the best way to prevent drag is to first study the
nature of the water over which the cast is to be made, eventually
casting from the stand which seems most favorable for the cast's
coming off well. If, however, it is absolutely necessary to cast
so that the fly will fall upon a slower current than will the line
or upon a swifter run than will affect the line, the only remedy
is to cast a slack line--the fly will then float for a greater or
less distance without restraint. If the fly is cast upon a still
or slow place while the line rests upon swift water, drag will not
set up until the slack line has passed downstream and begins to
pull upon the fly. In the opposite instance, when the fly is on a
swift run and the line in slow water, the cast being so made that
the slack lies in the swifter current, the fly will float without
drag until it has taken up the slack, when the line will retard it.
How, when, and where drag will occur is not only a matter of the
set and strength of the currents acting upon fly and line, but also
dependent upon the point from which the angler casts in relation
to the currents--obviously a matter which cannot be detailed in a
manner to cover satisfactorily even a few of the situations where
drag is likely to occur. The angler must practically solve each
problem of this sort for himself, as it is presented in the course
of the day's fishing. But in practically every case the slack-line
cast, varied to suit the occasion, is the best way out of the

The usual way in which the slack-line cast is made may be described
as follows: The angler, in lengthening out his line, strips
from the reel a number of feet more than will be necessary to
reach the spot where he desires to place the fly; then, the line
having been extended, in making the final forward cast the rod is
momentarily but decidedly checked when half way, or possibly a
little more, through the forward swing, with the result that the
line is doubled back upon itself and the fly settles down upon the
surface at the end of a considerable loop of line and leader. The
motion of the rod should be stopped only for an instant, and the
rod should then be carried down to its usual position at the end
of the forward cast, about parallel with the water. A variation
of the above method of casting a slack line, one which the writer
has found very useful at times, while essentially similar to the
method described, differs somewhat in that a loop of slack line,
drawn from the reel by the left hand while "lengthening-out," is
prematurely released, when making the last forward cast, the result
being that the extra line does not "shoot" out straight, but comes
down curved and slack upon the surface. To make the slack-line cast
and place the fly accurately--as when casting to a rising trout--is
a matter of much practice, and, it may be admitted, sometimes
equally a matter of much good luck.

Although the matter of striking a rising trout will be treated in
a subsequent chapter, it should perhaps be noted here that the
seasoned wet fly fisherman, accustomed to fishing a fairly taut
line, will soon learn to strike his trout with the loose line
most often used in dry fly casting with really fewer resultant
misses than is the average when using the sunken fly and a
tight line fished downstream or partly down and across. That the
average angler whose dry fly knowledge is confined wholly to a
greater or lesser familiarity with the literature of the subject,
seriously doubts his ability--or that of any man--to strike his
fish successfully with a slack line is, I am sure, a fact; and this
identical thing, possibly more than anything else, is responsible
for the hesitancy with which the confirmed wet fly fisherman turns
to the dry fly. In point of fact, the trick is soon picked up and
the angler finds his percentage of trout well-hooked really larger
than when wet fly fishing.

Two of the chief reasons for this are that the dry fly, being a
very close imitation of the natural insect in appearance and (when
properly fished) in action, is generally taken by the fish with far
more confidence than is the wet fly; as a result fewer fish are
merely foul-hooked by chance or simply pricked, and unless the fly
is missed entirely--even the natural fly is missed at times--the
trout is generally well-fastened. Also, inasmuch as the dry fly is
fished upstream, and, as a rule, the angler is below the rising
fish, the direction of the strike is toward the fish and not away
from it, as is frequently the case when casting the wet fly
downstream. That the tendency toward establishing a satisfactory
connection is greater in the first instance should be obvious.
The angler has only to learn to disregard the slack loop in his
line--which, of course, must never be allowed to get absolutely
beyond control--and to strike with certainly no more force than he
has been accustomed to use in wet fly fishing.

To recapitulate, before going on to discuss in a more general way
the matter of fishing the floating fly, it would seem that the
chief points for the dry fly-caster to observe are somewhat as
follows: To use a single floating fly generally selected as to
size and color with regard to the natural ephemeridae common on
the stream at the time; to cast the fly upstream, allowing it to
come down after the manner of the natural insect, favoring the
horizontal cast to insure, as far as may be, cocking the fly; to
avoid immediately raising the point of the rod or stripping in line
at the finish of the forward cast, but to hold the rod motionless
until the fly is well started on its downstream course; finally, to
avoid drag by casting a slack line.

In general, dry fly-fishing as done in America naturally divides
into fishing the water and fishing the rise. The dry fly caster
when fishing all the water should proceed much after the manner of
the wet fly fisherman: the angler who has been accustomed to fish
upstream with the wet fly need not alter his general methods in
the least, save as regards floating the fly and avoiding drag. As
a rule, it is best to follow or wade along the left bank, looking
upstream, as this will give you an unobstructed right-handed
horizontal cast.

As the dry fly man works upstream and the trout habitually lie
facing the current, the careful and quiet angler seldom needs to
cast a long line--provided, of course, he is casting practically
straight up and actually stalking the fish from behind. But when
casting diagonally up and across from either bank, in which
manner it may happen that a great deal of the water may be most
advantageously worked, the familiar fact that "keeping out of
sight" is half the battle in trout-fishing must never be forgotten.
This time-honored rule of the trout-fisherman is, it would seem,
quite frequently neglected by even the most experienced anglers,
its non-observance often constituting the "inexplicable" reason for
failure when casting to a rising fish or when fishing a good pool.

It is always best to use the shortest line compatible with safety,
constantly bearing in mind the well-known very acute vision of
the trout. The chances of failing to hook a rising fish or of
eventually losing a fish successfully fastened increase measurably
with the length of line in use. Moreover, with a short line it is
easier to prevent drag because there is less line upon the water.
On windy days when the ordinarily smooth reaches are choppy, and
always when fishing the swifter, broken runs, a thirty, even a
twenty-five-foot cast is ample, if you are fishing nearly upstream
and take pains to swing the rod low. On several occasions, having
allowed my fly to float down very close to me in order to lift it
from the water without wetting (if you lift your fly from the water
when it is well away from you, the pull upon the submerged leader
drags it under), I have had a rise less than five feet away.

But to successfully fish close-up, the angler's progress must
be slow, careful, and quiet, and the rod must be kept down low.
Overhead motion, more than anything else, alarms the fish. You have
only to pass your hand over a can of fingerling trout fresh from
the hatchery to verify this and to appreciate the instinctive alarm
of trout at anything moving in the air above them. Avoid quick
motions--in fact, dry fly fishing is a game which simply cannot be
successfully played in a hurry.

Not infrequently the downstream wet fly fisherman covers several
miles of water in a day's fishing--I know, because I have done
it innumerable times myself, and I do not say that there is not
much charm, good exercise, and generally a few fish to be found
in this sort of fishing. But anything of the kind is strictly
incompatible with properly fishing the dry fly. The wet fly man who
takes up the dry fly method should understand at the outset that
the cast-once-and-walk-a-mile sort of fly-fishing is simply out of
the question. If you know your stream, select a moderate reach of
evidently good dry fly water, and fish it leisurely, deliberately,
and searchingly.

Keep an eye out for rising fish, and observe closely the natural
insects, if any, about and on the water. Cover all the water
thoroughly, floating your fly not once but several times over the
best places. If the water is equally good from bank to bank, let
each cast be not more than two feet to the right of the preceding
one, beginning under your own bank (generally the left facing
upstream) and working across the stream. Then move up slowly and
proceed to cover the unfished water above in a similar manner.
Pools should be fished in the same way--covered thoroughly from
foot to head. The matter of the most likely places to look for
trout has been discussed in a foregoing chapter and need not be
reconsidered here. The suggestions to follow on casting to a rising
fish will also be found to have a general application in many ways
to fishing the water.




Casting purely to the rise is the orthodox way of dry fly fishing
on the English chalk streams; that this manner of fishing the
floater is of necessity subordinated to fishing all the water on
American streams has been mentioned heretofore. Save in extremely
favorable localities where the conditions closely approximate
those of the British streams, stalking the fish is practically
love's labor lost. However, large, quiet pools may be fished in
this way if the angler selects the most propitious time for rising
trout--in the warm season a little before sundown and for some time
thereafter. Extensive, quiet reaches where the fishing is open may
also at times be resorted to with the idea of casting to the rise,
and some fair sport obtained.

Regarding the sporting merits of the two methods, I personally am
sure that if conditions allowed I would never cast a fly except to
a rising trout. The visible rise of a trout always appears in the
nature of a challenge, and my inability to get away from a place
where I positively know a good trout is located has frequently
resulted in my return with a pretty light creel. When casting over
a pool, no matter how good, while fishing all the water, lack of
success eventually breeds a doubt as to the presence of a trout
therein; anglers going before may have temporarily fished it out or
for some other reason, the pool may be barren at the time.

But when casting over a rising trout everything is certain and
well-defined. You know where the fish is located, or at least where
he came up; you generally have a pretty fair idea of his size; if
duly observant you can guess closely to what sort of natural fly
the fish rose, everything is sure save the eventual capture of that
particular trout. You are fairly certain that if the right fly is
put over the fish in the right way success will follow. It is up to

To cast with some understanding to a rising trout, it is very
necessary that the angler be somewhat familiar with the habits of
the fish when feeding upon the floating insect and also be fairly
conversant with the life histories of what may be termed the
fishing flies. That rises occur when the fish are not feeding,
that sometimes the trout roll up to or leap above the surface,
is well known to the experienced stream fisherman. With this
feature of the matter we are not here concerned; the habit has
been variously accounted for by anglers and icthyologists but the
motive of the fish in thus acting is still debatable. However this
may be, the angler may safely conclude that any visible rise--save
generally a clear leap above the surface--is a rise to the natural
fly by a feeding trout until the contrary may appear from the
attendant circumstances.

It is with the _bona fide_ rise of a trout to the floating natural
fly that the dry fly caster is chiefly concerned. But in this
connection it should be noted that the feeding of trout upon the
natural insect is by no means confined to the time of the latter's
appearance strictly on the surface. Of the water-bred insects the
_Ephemeridae_, called "duns" when in the sub-imago state, occupy
the place of greatest importance in the entomology of the dry fly
fisherman. In a later chapter something is said of the commoner
insect life of the stream; it should here be noted, however, that
trout feed upon the _Ephemeridae_, for instance, at all stages of
their existence.

From the eggs deposited upon or in the water by the adult insect,
or "spinner," in due time the nymphs are hatched. Upon these the
trout feed at times on the stream-bed and in the weeds, nosing upon
the bottom and in the aquatic vegetation in somewhat the same way
as the common sucker or the German carp go about their business
of drawing sustenance from the muck and weeds of the stream-bed.
This habit of the trout, when followed in shallow water, results in
an occasional disturbance of the surface by the tails of the fish
and is called "tailing" in the nomenclature of the English dry fly
fisherman. In this connection it should be noted, however, that the
nymphs of the _Ephemeridae_ which burrow under rocks and in the
stream-bed and there remain until about to assume the first winged,
or dun, state are practically inaccessible to the fish, although
doubtless taken at times. Tailing trout are usually feeding upon
caddis and other larvae.

Subsequently the nymphs, having undergone certain physical changes
while in the nymphal stage, are ready to rise to the surface, cast
off the nymphal shuck or envelope, and emerge into the air in
the first winged state (sub-imago) at which time, as noted, they
are called duns. During the rise of the nymphs to the surface,
when about to assume the dun state, they are often taken by the
trout with avidity, and frequently when the nymph has neared the
surface a trout taking it will visibly disturb the surface or break
water--again in dry fly parlance called "bulging."

Ground-feeding or tailing trout and trout feeding in mid-water upon
nymphs floating up to the surface--bulging trout--are manifestly
not genuinely rising fish. To consider briefly once more the life
history of the _Ephemeridae_: when the "hatch" is on, the nymph
upon reaching the surface splits open the nymphal envelope and at
once takes wing as a dun--an ephemeral fly in the sub-imago or
first winged state. When the duns are thus hatching the fly may
float for some little distance while ridding itself of the nymphal
envelope and drying its wings for flight; a rise to the fly at
this time is a true rise. It would seem, however, from very close
observation of the water during a good many plentiful hatches of
duns, that only an occasional insect, as compared with the great
numbers hatching, remains upon the water for any appreciable time
while undergoing the metamorphosis from nymph to dun--the change
is in most cases practically instantaneous. You may select any
certain area of water, when duns are emerging constantly from
every part of a pool, and watch that certain area with the utmost
intentness; the chances are you will not see a single fly actually
upon the water although many do, indeed, emerge from the water
under observation and fly away.

In "American Insects" Professor Vernon L. Kellogg, of Leland
Stanford University, writes as follows: "At the end of the immature
life the nymphs rise to the surface, and after floating there a
short time suddenly split open the cuticle along the back and after
hardly a second's pause expand the delicate wings and fly away.
Some nymphs brought into the laboratory from a watering trough at
Stanford University emerged one after the other from the aquarium
with amazing quickness." This from an undoubted authority, with
my own experience, comparatively short but to the same end, leads
me to believe that rises to the duns on the surface at the time
of metamorphosis from the nymph are certainly less frequent than
commonly believed and implied by dry fly writers; the rise would
have to come at such an acutely psychological instant that the
chances are altogether too many against it.

In fact it would seem that when the duns are hatching many, perhaps
most, rises are to the floating nymph and not to the winged insect.
Autopsy shows a marked preponderance of larvae and nymphae about to
change to the winged state over winged insects in the stomachs of
trout taken under natural conditions. Furthermore, I might quote
Mr. Halford when, in discussing bulging trout, he says: "Fish,
when feeding on larvae and nymphae, at times rise quietly, without
moving about from place to place. It is almost impossible under
these circumstances to distinguish the apparent from _bona fide_

All of which does not militate in the least against the theory
that the artificial fly should correspond with the natural; when a
decided hatch is on the trout are fully aware of the nature of the
prevalent fly and if feeding upon it are quite likely to notice no
other either natural or artificial. But the theory does, indeed,
explain some phases of dry fly fishing which otherwise are quite
inexplicable; for instance, inability to induce a rise to the
properly fished winged artificial when its corresponding natural
is hatching and "apparent" rises to it are evidently common. It
seems fairly certain that at such times the fish are feeding
exclusively on the floating nymphs, taking them on the surface in
practically the same way as the winged dun is taken. Also fish
thus feeding would hardly come within the technical definition of
bulging trout as that term is generally understood.

Having assumed the first winged state, scientifically the
sub-imago, the duns thereafter are upon the water more or less
during its continuance, sometimes blown upon the water or
descending to the surface without apparent reason, and the trout
rise to and feed upon them when in the mood. In a short time the
dun or sub-imago undergoes another metamorphosis to the imago or
"spinner"--the adult insect. The male spinners are subsequently
upon the water in a spent or practically lifeless condition
following the completion of the act of coition. The latter takes
place over the stream to which the female spinner then descends to
void her eggs. This, with some species, is done upon the surface,
the fly floating downstream the while eventually to rise again
and fly, generally it would seem, upstream--unless the program is
incontinently halted by the accurate rise of a trout. The spent
spinners ("spent gnats") also serve as food for the trout--the
male when it has completed the act of procreation and falls to the
stream, the female when all the eggs have been voided.

Excluding, then, bottom-feeding or tailing fish, also fish feeding
upon nymphs either in mid-water or, as noted, practically upon the
surface, the trout feed upon the _Ephemeridae_ first as duns and
subsequently when, as spinners, the female floats on the surface
when voiding her eggs, and upon both males and females when spent.
Before casting to a rising trout the angler should, as far as may
be, determine the nature of the rise and the fly to which it was
made. The question of the right fly having been decided, it remains
only for the angler to put the fly over the fish in the right way.

When you see the rise of a presumably feeding trout, spot it
carefully; that is, make very sure of the exact spot where the
fish rose. Unless this is done it will be necessary to wait for
another rise, which may never come, or to cast haphazardly over the
approximate place, which usually results in failure. As a general
rule the artificial must travel in practically the same path as
the natural fly if the trout is to rise to it

Choose your place from which to cast over the trout with two
things in mind--to avoid being seen by the fish, and to lessen the
liability of drag. Keep low and cast not a foot more line than

Do not cast to the exact place of the rise; drop your fly some two
or three feet above it so that the fly will float down over the
place where the fish rose. Moreover, if possible, avoid throwing
your leader over the fish--which will not occur unless you cast
actually in line with it from below.

If the fish fails to rise let your fly float well below it before
lifting it from the water--for which the reason should be obvious.
My own experience leads me to believe that often a trout will rise
only to a fly, natural or artificial, floating over a certain small
area of the surface which sometimes the fish seems to have selected
for the purpose of feeding; if the artificial fly fails to cover
the exact spot to which the trout is rising it may be the fish
will wholly disregard it. Frequently I have cast to a rising fish
and failed through difficulties of drag--and poor casting--to get
the fly over the right place in the right way until possibly the
fifteenth or twentieth cast, and in the meantime have seen the fish
rise to the natural fly within six inches of the artificial. But
when I have had the right fly and by dint of persistent casting
have at last floated it over the exact spot--the "dead line" for
the natural fly--the response has almost always been instantaneous
and emphatic. So I would advise not letting up on a rising fish
until you are sure that what may be termed the feeding zone of the
trout--often very restricted--has been covered by your fly while
cocked and floating in an absolutely natural way.

At the same time it is poor business to keep hammering away at a
very particular fish for the simple reason that the more you cast
to him the more shy and finicky he is apt to become--certainly
if the casting is not done with the utmost possible skill and
unobtrusiveness--and eventually you may set him down to stay. It is
best to divide your attentions, fishing the water above or below,
and returning from time to time to make some half-dozen casts over
the reluctant one.

I believe it pays best when fishing all the water to use a
fairly large fly--as dry flies go--say a fly dressed on a No. 10
long-shanked hook. I have had particularly good results from the
floaters tied on these long-shanked hooks and am of the opinion
that for average dry fly fishing under American conditions, when
fishing all the water, they are more successful than the orthodox
patterns. This goes for the larger, deeper streams and, as noted,
for fishing all the water. For small stream fishing smaller flies
are preferable. So far as I know dry fly patterns on No. 10
long-shanked hooks are procurable only from William Mills & Son,
New York.

But when casting to a rising trout, even if you cannot discern
to what fly the fish is rising it is best to discard the fancy
pattern--hare's ear, Wickham, or coachman, which are generally
best to use when fishing all the water for general results--and
to put up an imitation of some one of the duns, olive, iron blue,
whirling blue, and so on, dressed on a No. 12 or 14 hook which
best approximate in size the natural ephemera ordinarily prevalent
on the trout streams. The common-sense of this should not need
argument, and it is best to try the small dun before possibly
setting down the fish with a fancy pattern.

From the above it could be gathered that one of the approximately
exact imitations of the duns might be superior to a so-called
fancy pattern for steady fishing, fishing all the water; and,
indeed, upon occasions, this is certainly the case. In the season
of 1911 I was out one day with a wet fly fisherman on one of the
smaller Berkshire streams, upon which occasion we took eight trout
from a small pool at the foot of a falls. The wet fly man, who, by
the way, has played the game some thirty-five years during which
time he has learned some few things about it, took two fish with
the coachman and then cast for fully half an hour without results.
In the meantime I busied myself with the camera, by no means,
however, failing to note several rises in various parts of the pool.

When the wet fly man had gone on about his nefarious business I
rested the pool while putting up an olive dun dressed on a No. 14
hook. Shortly thereafter I had six good trout for my pains and a
still greater respect for the great little dry fly--in addition to
a good working "bulge" on the veteran. But below the pool I could
do nothing with the little dun and I was eventually compelled to
return to my favorite golden ribbed hare's ear with which I then
killed several good fish.

For straightaway all-water fishing it would seem that a good fancy
pattern, rather large, ordinarily gives the best results, save
over very clear or low water when everything depends upon refining
the tackle. Moreover, when fishing the water it is distinctly
easier to keep a comparatively large fly dry and floating--the very
small patterns when in constant use soon become thoroughly soaked
and difficult to float.



The order _Ephemeridae_ includes the natural insects most
important to the dry fly-fisherman, the May flies and other day
or ephemeral flies; of the life history of these Insects a fairly
complete sketch has been given in the preceding chapter. Of course
the locality will determine In great measure the natural flies
which the angler must approximate with his artificials, the duns
having precedence practically everywhere, but the caddis flies,
_Trichoptera_, are quite certain to be prevalent at times, and
also the stone flies, _Plecoptera_; in addition there are many
small two-winged insects, _Diptera_, which occasionally appear on
the water. However, the strictly water-bred flies, such as the May
flies and duns, caddis and stone flies, are practically the only
ones with which the angler is intimately concerned.

The life histories of the caddis and stone flies, with which the
writer does not feel sufficiently familiar to warrant discussion,
are very interestingly given by Prof. Vernon L. Kellogg in his
book, to which I have previously alluded, "American Insects," a
volume, by the way, invaluable to the tentative American dry fly
fisherman. (Published by Henry Holt & Company, New York.)

"So it was that my first summer's camping and climbing in
the Rockies acquired a special interest from the slight
acquaintanceship I then made with a group of insects which,
unfortunately, are so little known and studied in this country that
the amateur has practically no written help at all to enable him
to become acquainted with their various kinds. These insects are
the caddis flies; not limited in their distribution by any means to
the Rocky Mountains, but found all over the country where there are
streams. But it is in mountain streams that the caddis flies become
conspicuous by their own abundance and by the scarcity of other
kinds of insects.

"In Europe the caddis flies have been pretty well studied and more
than 500 kinds are known. In this country about 150 kinds have
been determined, but these are only a fraction of the species
which occur here. Popularly the adults are hardly known at all,
the knowledge of the group being almost restricted to the aquatic
larvae, whose cleverly built protecting cases or houses made of
sand, pebbles, or bits of wood held together with silken threads
give the insects their common name, i. e., case or caddis worms.

"The cases are familiar objects in most clear streams and
ponds. There is great variety in the materials used and in the
size and shape of the cases, each kind of caddis worm having a
particular and constant style of house-building. Grains of sand
may be fastened together to form tiny, smooth-walled, symmetrical
cornucopias, or small stones to form larger, rough-walled,
irregular cylinders. Small bits of twigs or pine needles may be
used; and these chips may be laid longitudinally or transversely
and with projecting ends. Small snail-shells or bits of leaves and
grass may serve for building materials.

"While most of the cases are free and are carried about by the
worm in its ramblings, some are fastened to the boulders or rock
banks or bed of the stream. These fixed cases are usually composed
of bits of stone or smooth pebbles irregularly tied together with
silken threads. In all the cases silk spun by the caddis worm is
used to tie or cement together the foreign building materials, and
often a complete inner silken lining is made.

"The larvae within the cases are worm- or caterpillar-like, with
head and thorax usually brown and horny-walled, while the rest of
the body is soft and whitish. The head with the mouth-parts, and
the thorax with the long strong legs, are the only parts of the
body that project from the protecting case, and hence need to be
specially hardened. At the posterior tip of the abdomen is a pair
of strong hooks pointing outward. These hooks can be fastened
into the sides of the case and thus hold the larva safely in
its house.... The caddis worm crawls slowly about searching for
food, which consists of vegetable matter. Those larvae which have
fixed cases have to leave it in search of food. Some of them make
occasional foraging expeditions to considerable distances from
home. Others have the interesting habit of spinning nearby a tiny
net fastened and stretched in such a way that its broad shallow
mouth is directed upstream, so that the current may bring into it
the small aquatic creatures which serve these caddis-fishermen as
food. The caddis flies live several months, and according to Howard
some pass the winter in the larval stage.

"When the caddis worms are ready to transform they withdraw wholly
into the case and close the opening with a loose wall of stones or
chips and silk. This wall keeps out enemies, but always admits the
water which is necessary for respiration.... When ready to issue
the pupa usually comes out from the submerged case, crawls up on
some support above water and there moults, the winged imago soon
flying away. Some kinds, however, emerge from the water. Comstock
observed the pupa of one of the net-building kinds to swim to the
surface of the water.... The instant the creature was free from
the water the wings expanded to their full size and it flew away
several feet.... The time required for the insect to expand its
wings and take its first flight was scarcely more than one second;
certainly less than two. As such caddis flies normally emerge from
rapidly flowing streams which dash over rocks, it is evident that
if much time were required for the wings to become fit for use, as
is the case with most other insects, the wave succeeding that which
swept one from the water would sweep it back again and destroy it.

"The adult caddis flies ... are mostly obscurely colored, rather
small moth-like creatures, that limit their flying to short,
uncertain excursions along the stream or pond shore, and spend long
hours of resting in the close foliage of the bank.... They probably
do not live long."

Of the stone flies Prof. Kellogg writes as follows:

"On the under side of the same stones in the brook 'riffles'
where the May fly nymphs may be found, one can almost certainly
find the very similar nymphs of the stone flies, an order of
insects called _Plecoptera_. More flattened and usually darker, or
tiger-striped with black and white, the stone fly nymphs live side
by side with the young May flies. But they are only to be certainly
distinguished from them by careful examination.... The feet of the
stone flies have two claws, while those of the young May flies have
but one. The stone fly nymph has a pair of large compound eyes, as
well as three small simple eyes, strong jaws for biting and chewing
(perhaps for chewing her nearest neighbors, the soft-bodied smaller
May fly nymphs), and two slender backward-projecting processes
on the tip of the abdomen. The legs are usually fringed with
hairs, which makes them good swimming as well as running organs.
The nymphs can run swiftly, and quickly conceal themselves when

"All stone fly nymphs, as far as known, require well aërated
water; they cannot live in stagnant pools or foul streams.... It
is perfectly certain that the nymphs serve as food for fishes....
The eggs, of which 5000 or 6000 may be deposited by a single
female, are probably dropped on the surface of the water, and
sink to the bottom after being, however, well distributed by the
current. Sometimes the eggs are carried about for a while by the
female, enclosed in a capsule attached to the abdomen. The young
moult several times in their growth, but probably not nearly as
many times as is common among May flies. When ready for the final
moulting the nymph crawls out on a rock or on a tree-root or trunk
on the bank, and splitting its cuticle along the back, issues as
a winged adult. The cast exuviae are common objects along swift

"The adults vary much in size and color, the smallest being less
than one-fifth of an inch long, while the largest reach a length of
two inches. Some are pale green, some grayish, others brownish to
black. There are four rather large membranous, many-veined wings
without pattern, the hind wings being larger than the front ones.
When at rest, the fore wings lie flat on the back, covering the
much-folded hind wings.

"About 100 species of stone flies are known in North America.
The adults are to be found flying over or near streams, though
sometimes straying far away. They rest on trees and bushes along
the banks. The green ones usually keep to the green foliage, while
the dark ones perch on the trunks and branches."

This list of floating flies given in Chapter III., comprising the
Coachman, Cahill, gold-ribbed hare's ear, Wickham's fancy, brown
sedge, silver sedge (or Beaverkill), iron blue dun, whirling blue
dun, green May female, brown May female, and spent gnat female,
will be found as a rule quite sufficient (if the angler is stocked
with a fair variety of sizes) to enable the sportsman to match
with adequate fidelity any natural fly which may be temporarily
prevalent on the water.

In the matter of the selection of fly, with regard to the theories
of the "colorists," "formalists," and other sects of the dry fly,
much might be written, but, it would seem, matters of this sort are
rather out of place in a practical handbook for the mere beginner.
If the angler will follow the few simple suggestions made in the
preceding pages, constantly holding to the idea that the _natural
action_ of the artificial fly is of first importance, he cannot go
far wrong; and if, as a result of actual experience, he may wish
to go deeper into the science of the dry fly, he will find the
relation, theoretical and otherwise, of the artificial fly to the
natural detailed at length in more ambitious treatises than the

It is very important that the angler use flies true to pattern, and
as tackle dealers are prone to substitution, and furthermore as
different fly-dressers frequently turn out quite dissimilar flies
under the same name, the angler should make sure that the flies he
may purchase are correct in coloration, size and shape.


In a previous chapter something has been said of the manner of
striking a rising trout when employing the slack-line cast as a
preventive against drag. Other things being equal, success hinges
upon the angler's ability to strike at the right time and with
correct force--or lack of force. When fishing downstream with the
wet fly, which the fish often takes beneath the surface, quick
striking, at the first suggestion of the strike of the trout,
is at a premium; it would seem that when casting the dry fly
the strike should be timed just a bit slower in the majority of
instances, although when floating the fly down a swift run one can
hardly strike too promptly.

To avoid drowning the fly when fishing "up" in a fair current the
line must be stripped in gradually and with the greatest care; at
the same time it is well to take up every inch possible that there
may not be too much slack to straighten out in the event of a rise.
Striking should be done from the wrist and with strict avoidance of
anything like a sudden jerk which will almost surely snap the fine
leader if a heavy fish has taken the fly or possibly tear out the
hook if the fish is hooked lightly; the motion should be smooth,
swift and even, and it must cease at once when the barb has gone


As a rule when fishing with the dry fly the fish will be upstream
from the angler when hooked. If possible keep him there. In the
majority of instances the trout will bore upstream, or angle
upstream to one side or the other, and will not turn and run down
with the current unless roughly and carelessly handled. Nurse the
fish along, exerting a constant but not too heavy strain, so that
he will continue to fight upstream against the current, thus tiring
more quickly; in other words, "play it safe." If by any chance the
fish gets below you, "takes the bit in his teeth" and runs with the
current, go with him. Wade if you can, but if this is impossible
get out of the stream as quickly as you can and follow down along
the bank. As soon as possible get the fish upstream from you again.

Never try to net a fish which is downstream from you; get below him
and let the current float him over the net--not away from it.

With regard to tackle handling while playing a trout, I might
abbreviate here from an article which I contributed to _The
Outing Magazine_ for July, 1911, as further experience has served
only to strengthen my belief in the methods set forth therein.
That skilled tackle handling, after the rise, is at a premium in
trout fly-fishing is due not only to the delicacy of the tackle
ordinarily employed, particularly the very small hooks and often
fragile leaders, but to the distinctly game qualities of the brook
trout itself and the usually difficult angling conditions afforded
by its habitat. There is all the difference in the world between
playing a fish in still and fast water, and the brook trout is
essentially a fast water fish.

The way you will play a trout depends in great measure upon how
your tackle is rigged. If you have assembled rod, reel and line
correctly, the chances are that you will soon discover and adopt
the best method of handling a hooked trout; on the other hand,
if your tackle is improperly adjusted, it will be physically
impossible for you to go after your trout the right way. The
necessity of saying something about how to adjust your rod, reel
and line is apparent.

In his book "The Theory and Practice of Dry Fly Fishing," Mr. F.
M. Halford advises a method of assembling rod and reel which is
directly contrary to the usage and advice of most seasoned American
fly-fishermen. Briefly, his advice is to have the reel on the under
side of the rod with the handle to the left, presuming that the
angler casts with the right hand. When a trout is hooked the rod is
passed to the left hand, turned over so the reel is on top, and the
fish is then played directly from the reel.

In view of the fact that Mr. Halford is a universally acknowledged
authority in fly-fishing matters, it would, indeed, be presumptuous
in me to say that this method of handling a hooked trout and of
assembling rod and reel is all wrong, were it not that, as I am
quite sure, the majority of experienced American fly-casters so
regard it. The practice of most expert fly-casters in this country
is to adjust the reel underneath the rod, but, in contradistinction
to the method above described, with the handle of the reel to the
right. Thus, when a fish is hooked, it is not necessary to turn
the rod over when it is passed from the right to the left hand,
but the reel is retained underneath the rod at all times, the very
best position for it, for several reasons, for the business of
fly-fishing. Moreover, the best way to play a trout is distinctly
not from the reel. It is taken for granted in the above discussion,
and also in the following, that the fly-caster uses a single-action

I believe implicitly that the best way to handle a hooked trout,
the one sooner or later adopted by most anglers who do much
fly-fishing, is as follows: Having, as above noted, your reel
underneath the rod with the handle to the right, maintain at all
times, both when casting the flies and playing a fish, a loop of
line of convenient length between the reel and the first guide of
the rod. This loop of line is controlled by the left hand, allowing
the line to run out through the guides or, when necessary, drawing
it back. Use the reel only when the loop of line grows so long
that, when you are wading the stream, there is danger of fouling
the line. When casting from a boat or canoe there is little chance
of fouling the line no matter what the length of the loop may be if
you take pains to lay down the line evenly on the bottom boards.

Now when you hook a trout you do not, at this very critical point,
have to pass the rod from the right to the left hand and, what
is worse, turn the rod over so that the reel will be on top. On
the contrary, you "stand pat," as it were, still keeping the rod
in the right hand and, if the trout is a large one, yielding the
line to him through the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, or,
if the fish is a small one, gradually drawing in the line--and
the trout--with the left hand without recourse to the reel. When
stripping in the line, clip it to the handgrasp of the rod between
the first and second fingers of the rod-hand.

If the trout is a fairly large one and is hooked in fast water it
will often happen that his first run will exhaust the loop of free
line. Then, when he stops running, pass the rod from the right to
the left hand--you do not have to turn it over because your reel
handle is placed to the right--and play him from the reel until he
gives in a little, when you at once return the rod to the right
hand and strip in line with the left.

Playing a trout in this manner one is master of the situation at
every stage of the game from the strike to the landing net; and if,
at any time, some unusual action of the fish renders the outcome
more than ordinarily doubtful, your chances are many times better
for getting out of the difficulty than if you depend upon the reel
for the intake of your line; for instance, every experienced trout
fisherman knows that often a trout will run out many feet of line
from the reel and then incontinently about-face and run in toward
the angler--one of the most difficult situations the fly-caster is
ordinarily called upon to face.

About nine times out of ten--at least it is not safe to rely upon
odds more favorable although, of course, sometimes the fish will be
so deeply hooked that the chance is lessened--a slack line spells a
lost trout. The rapidity with which a fish coming directly toward
the angler creates a wake of slack line is difficult to estimate;
in any event, the fly-caster's single-action reel is utterly unable
to cope with the situation no matter how skilfully the angler may
manipulate it.

The fly-caster who handles his fish as here indicated is of all
anglers best armed against the running back of a hooked trout. Once
you have reduced the action of stripping in the line with the left
hand to a purely automatic motion, so that you perform it quickly,
expertly, and without forethought in the matter of how to go about
it, it is a very fast fish, indeed, which can accumulate much
slack line, for the line may be retrieved through the guides far
faster than with any sort of reel and almost always with sufficient
rapidity to save the fish.

It seems, too--indeed, it is a fact--that when playing a trout
in this manner one can usually tell what the fish is going to do
before he does it, and the value of this forewarning should be
obvious. Every slightest movement of the fish is carried to the
left hand of the angler holding the line, and the least lessening
or increase of tension between the rod-tip and the quarry is
instantly sensed and line taken or given accordingly. Moreover, the
method insures against forcing the fish too strenuously because one
knows to a practical certainty when there is too much pull--a thing
far more difficult to estimate when killing the fish on the reel.


We have now considered more or less completely most of the matters
with which the beginner at dry fly fishing should be familiar,
namely, the correct tackle, how to cast, and where, when and how to
fish the floating fly; also we have said something of the insect
life of the trout stream and of the playing and landing of the fish
when hooked. But we have almost entirely neglected any hint of
the great fascination of fishing with the floating fly. It is the
writer's earnest hope that these pages, which deal so exclusively
with the practical side of the matter, may, nevertheless, lead the
reader to the stream-side, fly-rod in hand, where, as he quietly
follows the stream and his sport, it will presently appear that the
matters upon which we have herein placed the most emphasis are,
after all, rather unimportant--that the true reason for the dry
fly may be found in the sunshine on the riffles, the cool lapping
of the stream about a moss-grown boulder, in the quiet of a glassy
pool where the duns dance and the peaceful pines are reflected

                              THE END

                        TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

-Plain print and punctuation errors fixed.

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