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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Kerry from Kirkintilloch, Scotland.
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 forbid...cricket! 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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
A boat springs to mind.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
(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.