Ask Ian Archives #1 of 5
From about 2000 to 2002, give or take a few months.

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These folk Asked Ian

Can I use my smallmouth bass gear for doing some saltwater fly fishing, I have a 6 weight?
Ted from Toronto, Ontario.

Dear Ted:
I hate to tell you buddy, but there is not a lot of saltwater fishing in the Toronto area. Now I might be wrong here, but the last time I checked, Lake Ontario - on both the US and Canadian sides - was freshwater, well, if you don't count the pollution. Saltwater will corrode most freshwater fly fishing gear, so if you do use your bass gear hose it down, or take a shower with it, when you are done. You also might want to pick up a stainless steel fly line - the Super Slick Stainless brand is about the best - available at most fly fishing shops.

Dear Ian,
What kind of dressing do you put on your fly lines? There is a bunch of them in the marketplace, and I don't know which is the best. I have a floating line in a nice fluorescent yellow colour.
Confused in Cambridge, England.

Dear Confused.
For dressing, I prefer Russian or Blue Cheese. Seriously. You can't beat Armourall for cleaning a fly line. There is a bunch of junk on the Internet stating this product will screw up your line. NOT true. I have been using it for about 22 years and some of my lines are still working after 10 years of use. You should always coat the last three feet of your line with any of the silicone floatans available. It pops the line up onto the water surface and it will float like a beach ball.

Dear Mr. James,
I have had the pleasure of fishing with you a number of times. The conversation is witty and pleasant, the scenery spectacular (especially the silhouetted smokestacks over Hamilton Harbour), and there's always lots of Horton's coffee, but why, if you don't mind my being forward, do we never actually catch any fish?
C. David Johnson Young's Point, ON

Dear C. David.
Aftershave is the answer. We are simply wearing the wrong aftershave This I believe could also be why women make better fly fishermen than men do . . . they don't wear aftershave Also, I have checked through my extensive archives of fishing trip notes and to my horror have found you fish dry flies on a regular basis. You know as well as I do, fish only take about 10 percent of their food from the surface, so by fishing a dry you are seriously limiting your chances of success. I think we need to start wearing the popular Italian after shave a Dash-o-Anchovy and we should stick to fishing streamers, nymphs and bucktails, preferably from the warmth of a donut shop.

Dear Mr. James:
I could not help but notice the 'accute lack' of fly fishing events at the 2002 Winter Olympics, in Salt Lake. I am sending a letter to the IOC to see if they will add some fly fishing events to the next Winter Olympics in Italy. Can you offer any advice?
Trudy in Trout Lake, Alberta, Canada.

Dear Trudy:
You are right, although I failed to notice, as I found it rather difficult to peal my eyes away from the woman's speed skating events. That's the kind of clothing fly tackle manufacturers should be designing. Anyway, I don't think you will get the IOC to run 'fly fishing only events,' but here are a few 'combos' which might get their attention:
a. Bassing with a Bobsled.
b. Crappies, Casting and Curling.
c. The Skeleton Steelhead Run.
d. Two Man Float-tubing.
e. Skiing for Salmon.
f. Nordic Nymphing.
You also might want to pick up a copy of the book by Wedgie Ima Stuckio - the Japanese Sumo wrestler bobsled brakeman. It is called: "Emperor, Free Me from the Sled: My legs are blue and numb."

I am 65 and recently retired. I would like to take up fly fishing, but I would also like to take up a companion sport. Any ideas?
The Old Guy. Moose Jaw, Canada.

Dear Old Guy:
Great question, much better than some of the dribble I have been getting lately.
The obvious answer is free fall parachute jumping as it will give you access to many areas which are off limits to other fly fishermen. You might want to buy a pack rod, plus I have the feeling a few first aid courses would be a good idea.

Hey Ian:
In the brochure for the Winters Hatches 2002 Symposium in Toronto it states you are: "... a very nice chap. He's a vegetarian who lectures football teams on how to get the meat out of their diet and how to get in touch with their feminine side. Ian is well known for his pet psychology lecture; Dog, get your carcass off the sofa or I'll introduce your butt to the toe of my boot." Ian, are you a vegetarian? Did you get your pet psychology training at the University of Guelph? Needless to say I was shocked and disturbed when I read this, as I think of you as a meat eating, rugged outdoorsman. And Mr. James, did you not at one stage in your career wrestle a black bear?
Moragh. From an undisclosed location.

Dear Moragh, if your name is in fact Moragh.
The folk at the Symposium were having a wee bit of fun. Nothing more.
They are great folk. I am a big fan of burgers. All kinds of burgers, except tofu or veggie burgers. If humans were meant to be vegetarians we would still have a fully functioning appendix or a rumen - or two. We would be setting up trap lines for sunflowers or beets which would drive the price of fly tying fur through the roof! Plus, if we all 'went veggie' , there would be no chickens and therefore no feathers for tying soft hackled wet flies...makes me woozy just thinking about that. I say fire up the grill and keep the steak edges thick and crunchy. Yes I did tackle a black bear - unmuzzled, declawed with a 37 inch neck - at a sportsman's show in the early 1980's and I got my ass kicked. Badly. Hey, it was a good idea at the time!

Dear Ian:
My husband and son are entirely absorbed by the game of Rugby so I have plenty of time for my own pursuits. As you know here in Scotland we have some of the best fishing areas in the world. How do I get started?
Kerry from Kirkintilloch, Scotland.

Dear Kerry:
Firstly, you should be thankful they are into a 'man's game' and not one of those woosie sports for the 'wee lassies' like American football, baseball, darts or God! Secondly, most of the great fly fishing waters in Scotland have a pub near them. All you need to do is wear one of my fly fishing brooches on your jacket and then start hanging out in these establishments. It won't take the fly fishing fraternity long to break the ice and offer to get you onto the river or loch. Here are some key phrases you might want to memorize:
1. I will bring a bottle of 15 year old Single Malt.
2. That looks like a big fish for this water.
3. Don't worry, I am SURE you will catch another one that size.
4. I won't mention we visited a fishmonger on the way home. Honest!
You should also get the lad a fly tying vice. "Can you make mummy a dozen more Peter Ross in a size 14," should awaken a fly fishing interest in the boy. All the same, it will be tough to get him away from "The Rugby".
P.S.: If your son makes it to the Scottish National Team, any chance of some tickets for the 6-Nations Championships?

Dear Ian:
My wife is into gardening and I was thinking of asking her to plant some bamboo. In a few years I'd like to harvest the stuff and start making my own fly rods. I know you are a University of Guelph 'Aggie' grad, so any suggestions you have will be appreciated.
Ted in Tannockside, Scotland.

Dear Ted:
Bamboo is one plant you don't want to put into your garden. It is an aggressive weed which spreads by underground runners. Like horse radish, once you get the stuff in the ground, you will be over-run in no time. Plus, bamboo will attract panda bears. They might look cute and cuddly, but an infestation of panda bears will cause horticultural havoc and you won't have anything left to harvest. Being on the endangered species list, I don't think you can live trap them, and I don't think there is an effective panda bear repellent spray on the market. I suggest you try planting some graphite seeds, and in a few years your graphite grove will produce lots of flyrod material.

Dear Ian:
I would like to catch a steelhead this year but I have no clue as to what fly I should be using. Any ideas?
Bert in Bradford, Ontario.

Hi Bert:
The quickest way to catch steelhead is with a very large magnet. Plop the magnet into the water and the steelhead will soon be attracted to it in ways they never thought possible. Naturally if you are fishing in a big river, you will need a very big magnet which would be costly, so try searching the Internet for a used one from the nuclear and quantum physics field.

Dear Mr. James:
I want to add white bass to my species list, but the watersheds in my area hold trout, smallmouth bass, perch, walleye and northern pike. I am willing to travel, so where should I head to so that I am certain to catch a white bass?
Cindy, age 25, lonely in Cyberspace.

Dear Cindy:
You sound like a sensible young woman. Don't bother traveling anywhere. Save your cash and buy more fishing stuff, you can never have enough fishing stuff. All you need to do is catch a smallie and then quickly coat the fish with a light dusting of unbleached flour. When you snap a photo just keep the fish slightly out of focus. With a bit of backlighting - and a bit of luck - no one will know the difference. When you release the fish the flour will wash off. If you are going to have a shore lunch, the fish is half way to being battered and pan ready.
P.S.: Many thanks for the pics. I can't post them or Net Nanny will red flag my site.
By the way, for future reference, a bottle of single malt - Glenfiddich Solera Reserve or Glenmorangie Cellar 13 - would be a much better way to get my attention.

I was looking through your Tips Section and noticed you suggest taking bits of fruit out onto the river when fly fishing in the summer. What do you suggest I take out there? I don't know if it makes any difference, but I mostly fish for trout and bass, preferring to use nymphs over any other style of fly.
Mike in Michigan, USA.

Hi Mike:
There is only one choice for a summer fly fishing fruit . . . watermelon.
And don't be a woosie by cutting it into bite size chucks before you go fishing. No sir, to fully appreciate the flavour and to keep the flesh fresh, you need to take the whole melon. Here is a little tip I picked up when fishing in your country many years ago. To allow for optimum weight distribution, and to keep things "balanced, "pack a melon on each side of your vest, and never carry a watermelon in the big pocket on the back of your vest. Should you fall over backwards, you won't be able to right yourself and like an upturned beetle - I ain't talking John, Paul, Ringo and George - you will be stranded until help arrives. There is no need to carry a knife with you, just find a suitable rock for opening up the fruit when you feel the need for a snack. For winter fly fishing I suggest taking coconuts. When the rocks are covered in ice, you can usually find a fisherman or two smashing their nuts among the riverbank boulders, so you won't be alone.

Dear Ian:
I read someplace I should be washing my fly line to keep it in good nick. What setting should I have the washing machine at? Should I be using a fabric softener in the rinse program or in the drier and should the line be in with my white wash or my colour wash?
Larry in Luxembourg, (part of Europe.)

Larry my boy.
You do need to clean a fly line once and a while, but the automatic dish washer is the only way to go. Simple remove the dishes and string the line around all those little nubbies which keep the dishes in place. This will help in preventing the line from tangling up.
Important Safety Tip: Make sure you remove the reel, and it goes without saying, if you add the backing you are flirting with disaster. The separated wash makes me suspect you are married, so make sure the 'Dearly Beloved' is out of the house BEFORE you fire up the dishwasher . . . just in case there are complications.

I have been tying flies for about three years. My family is thinking of buying a dog.
Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.
Harry in Hamilton, Ontario.

Dear Harry:
If you fish 'nymphs and dries', go with something like a husky which is walking dubbing factory. You would think it is best to collect the shed fur from the sofa, the car seats, your socks or the dog brush, but this is wrong. Go directly to the source. There is a ton of useable fur on the belly area. Careful snipping should quickly fill a bag, plus the wife and kiddies won't notice the bald spots.

Do you have any suggestions for deep wading in very fast water?
Pete in Pittsburgh, USA.

Dear Pete:
A boat springs to mind.

Dear Ian:
I have been unemployed and institutionalized since I read Fumbling with a Flyrod. My doctor committed me due to uncontrollable, spontaneous outbursts of laughter. This was fine when I was stuck in a traffic jam, but I was an air traffic controller, and my workmates and the pilots - especially on their final landing approach - did not appreciate my fits of laughter. Can you please suggest some fly fishing books which are not as funny as the one you wrote?
Lofty in L.A, USA.

Sorry to hear about the bad luck. I suggest you pick up: The Complete Guide to Flyfishing the Sea of Tranquillity, by the little known author Mr. Asstro Naught. It is a bit of a dry book, but quite a lite read. If you need some flies, have one of the voices in your head give me a call and I will make you some.

Herr James:
About three weeks ago I was in a Bavarian pet shop and I foolishly tried to acquire some 'molted' macaw feathers, from what I thought was a sleeping macaw. The bird bit into, and latched onto, my right index finger - luckily I am left handed so typing this is no problem. I have been unable to remove it since the incident and Heidi, my fraulein of four years is starting to become unhappy with the bird. I quite like her, so I don't feel like ending the relationship. Can you help? I had to pay around $3,000 US for the bird, money I had set aside for an engagement ring. I hope the bird will eventually become hungry and let go.
Stumpy in Stuttgart, Germany.

Please send a photo of your girlfriend. If she is cute, I might be willing to take her off your hands. Don't be sad, just think of all the classic salmon flies you can now tie. As for the bird, it ain't looking good. I think they are like pythons in that if they have consumed a good sized meal, they only need to eat once every 8 weeks or so. I would suggest heading to Brazil and taking a trip to the jungle. Once the bird gets a look at his long lost relatives, things should take care of themselves.

Dear Ian:
I know this is not exactly your field, but maybe you can help. I recently took my PC apart to fix it. There were more bits in there than I thought there would be, and there were a few bits let over when I had reassembled it. It is not working, can you help?
Desperate in Dundee, Scotland.

Dear Desperate:
No worries, but why do you own a Piece-O-Crud? Anyway, may I suggest with a bit of tweaking, it would make a fine four slice toaster - you can never have enough toasters can you? If you plug all the holes in the case, an aquarium would be my second choice.

Dear Ian:
Last year I took your advice and I caught my first carp on a size 8 Cased Caddis nymph. Since then, I have become addicted to catching them and I find alternative species like trout, steelhead, smallmouth and Atlantic salmon, don't do it for me anymore. None of my trout fly fishing buddies will talk to me and my wife is objecting to the carp pond I built in the spare bedroom. Any suggestions?
Cliff in Clinton, Ontario, Canada.

Dear Cliff:
You are suffering from the early stages of Carpitis. Unfortunately there is no known cure for this affliction. It will only "get worse" over time. Before it is too late, you might want to donate all your fishing gear to the Ian James Fly Fishing Foundation, where it will be put to good use. Catching carp is very addictive, as they can be more selective than any fish species, with perhaps the exception of the Great Lakes Coelacanth. Now you have gone over to "the dark side", there is little hope. By the way, is your pond open to the public? Just thought I would ask.

Dear Mr. James:
Thanks for the tip on the belly hair of the dog for fly tying material. My golden retriever has been very cooperative. I must admit though, that it hasn't done much for my casting and the dog scares the fish as she bounds into the water, so a clear line isn't much help. I'm off to find 70 lb. test, as the dog is 65 lbs. I'm sure I'm not hurting the dog (she's having a great time), and as you know the breed are quite genial (and love the water), but I've never heard of this method of fly fishing and I'm not sure what kind of rod I should be using. Any advice you can offer would be helpful. By the way, what is the name of a golden retriever fly? And, what kind of fish am I going to catch?
Dog Tired in T.O. (Toronto, Ontario.)

Dear Dog Tired:
Casting a dog on a fly line can be tricky. I recommend the following books:
(A) Double Hauling with the Doberman
(B) Fly Casting Chihuahuas
(C) Schnauzers on the Single Haul.
As for a fly, there are in fact two flies made from dog fur, both of which have their origins in the UK:
The Colliedog is an Atlantic Salmon fly from Scotland, usually tied as a tube fly, and fished deep when the water is cold. Then again, due to the climate and the snow melt - 364 days a year - there is hardly any 'warm' water in Scotland.
The Dogsbody, a dry fly from Wales, uses 'dog dubbing' as the body of the fly. It was invented in the early 1920's by a barber called Harry Powell, who used the fur from the pet of one of his clients. Strange but true. Both these flies are popular in the UK. Here in Canada, I have used them for smallmouth bass, brown trout, carp, chinook, gar pike, coho and steelhead.




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