Ask Ian Archives
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From about 2002 to summer 2003, give or take a few months.

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These Folk Asked Ian

Hi Ian:
I have dropped by your site several times and I have always found great information, tips, and even a few good belly laughs. But why not a few pics of the flies you use and tie? Are they copyrighted??? What is your favorite fly?
Curious in Cyberspace.

Dear Curious:
We all know what that did to the cat. It is not a copyright issue, it is just that they are shy. Many of the patterns can be found quite easily in fly fishing books, so I don't see the need for duplication. Also, I don't have the time to 'faff about' taking pics and then uploading them onto the site. I am going to post a job opening, looking for a full time or a part time faffer (no experience necessary) to take care of these kind of things. Naturally, the faffer would have to be bilingual in English and Scottish, and have a good working knowledge of how to 'faff about' on the World Wide Web. My favorite fly is always the one connecting my leader to a fish.

Dear Ian:
I braved the ice storm (and the SARS epidemic) to take your Never-Miss Nymphing class at the Isaac Walton Fly Fishing Forum in Toronto a few weeks ago. Now I am all set to try my hand at steelheading. Apart from the flies you suggested in the class, and the Muncher, if you only had to fish three patterns for Spring Steelhead in southern Ontario, what would they be?
Ken in Mississauga, Ontario

Hi Ken:
Good question. I'd go with a Nuclear Egg, a Sparkler and a Zonker. The Nuclear Egg is a useful pattern for wakening up lethargic fish. Then again, so is an aquatic alarm clock. I find the poached Nuclear Egg won't stay on the hook as well as a hard boiled egg. The Sparkler is handy for swinging across their noses to trigger 'Ya Ticked Me Off' strikes from steelhead, plus it works well in clear water and in off-coloured water. The Zonker is a one of those flies which will always turn a fish or two. Speaking of egg flies. I have had a few questions about using egg patterns for carp. I have never taken a carp on a egg fly, but from what I understand, it is starting to take off in the UK.

Dear Carpfather:
I am a faithful reader of your website and I particularly like your 'Ask Ian' column. As a beginner to this sport I have a question of much concern that perhaps you could answer in your column. My doctor, who is an ardent fly fisherman, told me something that I find most disturbing. Apparently in the UK and Europe, there is a long tradition of anglers who actually bait fish with maggots impaled on a hook. Worse, he told me, that these anglers actually have the disgusting and revolting habit of warming these maggots in their mouth before throwing them in the water as chum bait. What troubles me is it that my doctor says that these individuals apparently will go bald and some actually take-up fly fishing. My question Mr. Carpfather. Is this true?
Yours truly, Concerned on the Credit River, Ontario.

Dear Concerned:
Thank you for being a faithful reader. I hope you have sent my site address out to all your fly fishing buddies and that you have purchased a few flies now and again to keep the site running. I think the lads in the Spinal Tap movie said it best, "It's all about perspective . . ." When I was a kid back home in Scotland, I raised and used maggots for fishing. It is not all that hard to do, and they get fish. In Europe, raising maggots for bait is a million dollar a year industry, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the maggots don't see much of the profits. Yes, during the UK cold snaps - about 360 days a year - some anglers will pop the bait into their mouth to keep them warm and thus make them more active. Many anglers don't do this as they believe the fish can pick up the human scent and then will shy away from the bait, especially if the fisherman smokes. This also holds true in fly fishing where some nymph fishermen won't cut the leader with their teeth, as they feel the fish can pick up the scent of their saliva. I guess if you are a smoking fly fisherman who is looking for a good excuse to quit, you now have one. You might be correct about going bald and taking up fly fishing, as I used to 'pop them' years ago long before Fear Factor popped up on TV. There is a group called the B.B.C. - Bald Bait Chuckers - who should be able to give you more information on bait usage and balding.

Mr. James:
Love the site. I too am a Maple Leafs hockey fan and a MAC owner. As I am in advertising, this is more of a suggestion rather than a question. Have you ever thought about selling 'game used flies?' A few weeks ago we were at the Leafs game in Toronto, and I picked up a 'Game Worn Sweater' for my son. I got to thinking that Game Used Flies - River Used Flies - which you have personally caught a fish on would be a great marketing idea. In the past, I have used your flies and they worked, but don't you think Game Used Flies would give you an edge in the highly competitive fishing fly marketplace? Plus they would sell for a premium price, much like a bottle of good Single Malt. As you say, "Rover and Out."
Tony, in Toronto, Ontario.

Dear Tony:
Nice One! Seems like you have a wee bit of free time on your hands, and I am assuming you were doing your thinking when the Leafs were on a power play. I will run the idea past my marketing people, my advertising agent, my mum and the company stock holders. I could branch out into, 'River Worn Shirts,' complete with the holes in the back, where my clients have buried a fly or two. Smashing idea, the possibilities are endless.
PS. I have yet to discover a bad bottle of Single Malt.

Dear Ian:
I have been tying flies for about a year now, but I was wondering why you never see bird feathers turning gray? Dogs turn gray and human hair turns gray, but you never see birds turning gray when they age. Also, what is bronze peacock herl?
Poly in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Dear Poly:
Want a cracker? I have never had the opportunity to turn gray, but your question would certainly speed up the process if I were that way inclined. I am an Aggie Grad, not a veterinarian, but I would hazard a guess that birds don't turn gray because they molt, and after each molt, the new feathers contain 'fresh colour pigment.' It is either that, or they use 'Grey Away,' available from the Gray Goose company in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. It could also be that having an IQ of about 4, they don' t have all that much to worry about. Chickens on the other hand, never get the chance to get old enough to turn gray or to worry. They end up being 'Floured and Fried' after about 8 weeks. Now as for the bronze herl, you must be tying older traditional UK flies, which have bronze peacock herl in the dressing. To make bronze herl, take the regular peacock herl - which is sort of greenish - and hang it in the window for about a week or two. The sunlight will break down the colour pigment in the herl and it will take on a bronze sheen. You now have bronze peacock herl. Of course and easier way is to head to the an aviary - or the zoo - with a spray can of bronze paint.

I noticed in your Free Fly Draw section there was a bit about, ". . . abuse of the flies," or something like that. Can you please explain what 'fly abuse' is?
Puzzled in Pittsburgh, USA.

Dear Puzzled:
I had to think about this, which gave me a headache. I was referring to folk sending in their name 50 times, or folk complaining that they won a dozen Munchers, but could they, "Please echange them for some fully dressed Jock Scott flies in a frame." Then I got to thinking again - another headache - that there is 'fly abuse' practiced on our rives, lakes and streams on a daily basis. For example. Rusty hooks, how can you expect a fly to live up to it's full potential, if it is hampered by being rusty? I think a strong case could be made for 'pattern neglect.' A dull hook point would fall under that heading. As the angler was negligent - there is NO excuse for fishing with dull hooks - the fly won't perform as it should, and if it hired a lawyer . . . . . . . .

Dear Sir:
We are thinking of taking a trip 'to the Frozen North' (Northern, Ontario) to do some moose hunting and some fly fishing later this year. Any pointers you have would be helpful.
Fritz, in Florida.

Dear Fritz:
Firstly. Did you know there is a UK fly named after you? It is called a Fritz Fly, and it is a smashing pattern for steelies, browns and smallmouth bass. Secondly. I am not a hunter, but a gun - or several guns - with some kind of ammo is probably what you need for going after moose. You will need to check with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to find out what kind of guns are legal, and when the hunting season for moose is. Make sure you ask the M.N.R. if you can still use a 'Moose Stringer,' in the area you want to hunt. Over the past few years, most of the Province has gone to using 'Live Wells' and parts of Ontario are under a test 'Catch and Release' program. Possessing a moose - or in fact, being possessed - in a 'Moose Catch and Release Area' is a very serious offense under the Fishies and Games Act. The lads in Northern Ontario, take their hunting very, very seriously, so you need to make sure you are working within the Provincial regulations. As for fly fishing. Take some pike gear with you. While most anglers heading to Northern Ontario want to go after pickerel, speckles and steelhead, there is some smashing pike fishing. Some good flies are: Big Muddler Minnows, Dexters, Mickey Finns and salt water patterns in about a size 1/0.

Dear Ian:
What a delight it was to find a fly fishing website without a hatch chart. Then I got to thinking, why would a full time guide not have a hatch chart on his site?

Dear Anonymous:
Great observation and a great question. Actually, until you brought it to my attention I had never noticed it before. I think the reason I don't have a hatch chart is that, as it is 'the web' I believe few insects use it because there are too many spiders. Also, I don't think insects can read, so there is no point in letting them know when they should be hatching. I have never been a fan of hatch charts, In fact I have never used one. Most folk use them as an excuse for not getting fish. You know, they get skunked - every one gets skunked once in a while, including my goodself - but when they get back to the car they say. "I should have checked my hatch chart BEFORE I went out. Says here the size 22 Blue Winged Olivers (BWO's) were hatching and I only had some size 20 Blue Eyed Sinatras - and a few BLT's - with me. What a pity." Or WORSE, they read the chart before they get out on the river, then load up with the flies they think they need. Sad part being, there was a foot of snow the night before - or the week before - which has delayed the hatch of insects they just filled their fly box up with. You would be far better off keeping a diary, then you will know what insects were hatching on the rivers you fish. If you're going to fish a river or the first time, try the chat rooms on the Web for fly pattern ideas, OR call the local shops and ask them to send you a dozen flies. One mans Tan Nymph is another mans Sand Fly. Also, don't stick with one shop. Asecond or third opinion is always a safe bet. If you can't be bothered to try any of these tricks, stick with caddis nymphs as they can live in a wide variety of watersheds You could always try a great searching pattern like a Coves Nymph, the Pheasant Tail or a Hare's Ear Nymph. They have been around for eons and they constantly get fish, so, "Start spreading the news."

Dear Ian:
After going over your site and reading your book, it did not take me long to realize that beneath your tough Glaswegian exterior, there is a conservationist at heart. Did you know they are planning to wipe the Ruddy Duck off the face of the UK? Surely as a kid growing up in Scotland, you must have seen these magnificent birds. Can you offer any suggestions or help?
Laura, in Liverpool, England.

Dear Laura:
First: Do you know any of the Beetles? Second: I don't know much about the ruddy duck, but here is what I do have. I guess they were brought over to the UK from North America about 60 years ago as 'pets' but some of them escaped into the wilds. Hey, it could have been worse, it could have been a breakout of killer bees. Then again, I can't imagine killer bees lasting all that long - especially north of the border - as Scottish bees would certainly not put up with any killer bee guff or guff from anyone else for that matter, who tried to start messing with their heather. The trouble with the ruddy ducks is that they migrate. They migrate to Spain in the winter - smart little chaps as anyplace, even Spain, is better than the UK for spending the winter - where they breed with whiteheaded ducks. Lots of fun if you are a ruddy duck, but not so good if you are an endangered whiteheaded duck. The 'thinking' is, if they annihilate the ruddy ducks then the whiteheaded ducks will prosper. Of course, there is a hunting season in Europe, and Asia, for the whiteheaded duck but there would be little point in putting a moratorium on that. As far as I can see, taking out the ruddies will flood the market with cheap cul-de-cunard feathers (I can hear the muffled glees of a 10,000 dry fly fisherman as they reach for their boxes of size 22 hooks) and there will be a flap of 'Duck Specials' on many menus in restaurants across the UK. All I can say is, "If you know a hunter, stock up on orange juice." The easiest thing to prevent the inter species breeding, would be for the UK Passport Office to hold back on issuing the ruddy ducks with any kind of travel documents.
~ other solutions and pic ~

Dear Ian:
I took up tying flies last year, but I have been unable to get any good quality or bushy squirrel tails for making streamer flies. Can you suggest a reputable mail order supplier?
Pat in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

Dear Pat:
See below and call Don. Once upon a time, the squirrel tails found in fly fishing shops were the cast off items from paint brush manufacturers. Now however, many of the tails are premium tails - taken from the many nut farms in the US - which are targeted for fly tying. The trick to 'getting quality' is to tell the mail order folk exactly what kind of tail you are looking for. Tell them you want hair for a size 2/0 Cosseboom if that is what you are tying, and make sure you have their OK (in writing) to send the tails back if they are not what you want. You don't want to be stuck with any bad tails. The hair you will need for a size 10 Picket Pin will be much shorter than the stuff you need for the larger hooks. Another useful source of squirrel tails - mostly from slow or unlucky squirrels - is to scour the roadsides for . . . well . . . you know. Always keep a set of rubber gloves and pruning shears in the trunk of the car just in case. You never know when you might get lucky. Should someone catch you in the act, simply tell them you are recycling or that like salamanders it will probably grow a new one . . . even when dead.

Dear Carpfather:
As fellow carp fisherman I hope you can help. In the winter, I love feeding the birds in my back yard - yes, they drop the odd colorful feather which I use in tying flies - but I can't keep the squirrels out of the feeders. They are scattering my nuts all over my garden, making a horrid mess and it is costing me a fortune on bird feed. I was told to try using thumb tacks to keep them away, but they simply used them as a stair case en-route to the feeder. I am at my wits end. Any ideas?
Name withheld, Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Dear Don:
Polecats is your answer. You need to introduce a few polecats into the neighborhood and they will clear up your squirrel problem within a few days. Don't woose out by purchasing cheep and therefore timid polecats, get the Glasgow Polecat strain, direct from Pete's Pets and Polecats in Pittlochry, Scotland. They are tougher than a soccer hooligan with a hangover. As introducing polecats into an urban area in southern Ontario is illegal - I know, the MNR always spoils the fun - you might want to remove the bar-codes and the serial numbers from the polecats so they can't be traced back to you. The bonus of having a few polecats in your back yard is that there will also be bags of feathers available for you to use. AND you won't have to spend as much money on bird seed. If you can't track down some Glasgow Polecats, you can always try putting a cone of aluminum around the base of the feeder, available from farming supply stores like the Co-Op or TSE. They work well on the feeders I have in my back yard, and on a good day I can fine tune them to pick up satellite signals from TV programing.

Dear Mr. James:
I am thinking about taking a trip to Ontario to try a spot of fly fishing, but I am hearing a lot of rumors about the dangers of West Nile disease. How can I protect myself when I am fishing in Ontario?
Mary in Florida, U.S.A.

Dear Mary:
In Ontario, you have a greater chance of being hit by a bus or being crushed by a pack of stampeding squirrels than you do of catching West Nile disease. To be absolutely certain you don't pick up the disease, I suggest you stick to ice fishing. We don't get many mosquitoes out and about in the winter, as I think they are afraid of being whacked by snowballs or being smushed by some mosquito hating psychopath operating a snow blower. Having said that, we do however have one small hatch of mosquitoes in late January locally called The Little White Slushy. To match the January hatch, stick with sizes like: -18, -20 or -24 but if the weather warms up a wee bit in say March, you might need to switch up to say a -6 or even a -4. If you happen to drive past a frozen pond, and there is no one fishing it, there is a good chance the mosquitoes have driven them off. You can't miss the emerging insects as they use small jackhammers to chisel their way up through the ice. If you stick your ear onto the surface of the ice, you will clearly hear the tap-tap-tap-tap-tap of the jackhammers, and the occasional 'THUNK' of fish bumping into the ice while they pursue the hatching insects. Remember: The bigger the 'THUNK,' the bigger the fish.

Hey Ian:
I do a lot of cold weather winter steelheading. How can I stop my guides from freezing up? I need a 100% solution. I tried the Sparkler fly in your salmon section and it worked!
Chuck in Michigan, U.S.A.

"Yo, Chuck:"
I also do 'a lot of cold weather winter steelheading' and I have discovered the only 100%, sure fire way to prevent ice from forming in the guides is to keep the flyrod at home. I have tried a ton of stuff, and I have yet to find a product which works. Your best bet is to stay home and tie flies. As for the Sparkler, why are you surprised. I've been using it since the mid 80's and it has always caught fish. (There is a joke here about guides and 'camp fires to prevent freezing,' but it is just too easy.)

Dear Ian:
Love the site. I am new to fly tying and I have read that I need to mix my dubbing to get the proper blend. How can I do it with out making a huge mess?
Wendy in Wisconsin, U.S.A.

Hi Wendy:
Glad you like the site. Welcome to the sport. Get help NOW, before it becomes an addiction. Mixing dubbing is quite easy. All you need is an old coffee grinder, you know the type where you dump about a cup of beans into it, pop on the lid and it goes "Schwirrrrrrrr." To mix dubbing: 1. Remove the dubbings form their packages. 2. Place in grinder - the dubbing stuff, not the empty packages. 3. Make the grinder go "Schwirrrrrrrr." 4. The important bit. STOP the grinder from going "Schwirrrrrrrr." 5. Dump the blended dubbing into a clean Zip-Lock bag. 6. Remove grinder from the power source and wipe clean with a sheet of fabric softened to remove the static cling. This will help to make your next batch blend more easily. Note: When blending dubbing in bulk - about 3 pounds at a time - dump the stuff into an old pillowcase and tie shut. Run through the delicate setting in your cloths dryer, with a few fabric softener sheets in the drum. TA-DA. Done. If you are going to blend wool, please remove it from the sheep before hand, as their hooves make a heck of a clatter in the cloths drier drum. Plus, you will never get the scent of sheep out of the house and you will have a constant craving to eat mutton.

Dear Ian:
You frequently mention that you use a 10-12 foot level leader of, say, 4 or 6 pound Vanish fluorocarbon for most of your fishing. Could you please give the formula for this and maybe sketch a schematic so I can build some of my own. This is the only thing your sight is missing. Otherwise it is very informative and motivating.
Dan, from Downtown, Dunsville, Ontario.

Dear Dan:
Obviously you are a dry fly fisherman, but you make a good point. I will type this very slowly so you can follow along. Snip off about 10 feet of the leader material from the spool. (Note: if you need a 12 foot leader, snip off about 12 feet.) Put an overhand knot in the end of your fly line. (The fly line is the thick stuff that looks like string wrapped inside your fly reel.) Now, take ONE end of the leader - the thin stuff - and put it behind the overhand knot in the fly line. Wrap it back over itself and make an improved clinch knot exactly as you would if you were tying the leader to a fly. As there is no eye in the flyline, the knot in the fly line becomes the eye. Wet the improved clinch knot when you snug it up. I developed this system years ago and it works just fine. The bonus is, the overhand knot in the fly line becomes 'a strike indicator,' I mean a 'sight bob,' I mean a 'float,' I mean a bobber. Tip: Don't forget to tie your fly onto the end of the leader which is not attached to the fly line. I had a crack team of illustrators - which is better than a team of illustrators on crack - put a schematic together for you.
~ illustration link ~

Mr. James:
I get a lot of magazines, watch a lot of programs, and read a lot of fly fishing info in books and on the web. There are a million billion flies out there. How do I figure out what to try to tie for the waters I fish? (Thames River and other semi local waters near London, Ontario ) Which ones are a waist of my time and materials? Please keep my name off your page as I love fishing carp and bass, but I don't want the 'Trout Snobs' I hang around with to disown me. They talk about carp as an alternative species.
Ps. Saw you in the February Issue of Outdoor Canada Magazine.
Anonymous, London, Ontario.

Dear Anonymous:
The obvious answer is to hire a 'highly trained professional guide,' who lives in London and who guides on the Thames River, but I am not going to say that. First. Dump the 'Trout Snobs.' Never hang around anyone who classifies any species of fish as an alternative. Alternative to what? It's not as if they are selecting a hockey team and they need an alternative in case one player gets injured. Join the Thames River Anglers Association in London, and you won't find a trout snob in their club. Look for a link to their site on my links page. Secondly, get out and fish instead of faffing about on the Internet or wasting valuable fishing time by reading books or magazines. Instead of watching the lads on the TV shows get fish . . . go out and fish. Thirdly (Hey, is that a word?) If no fish are showing try fishing nymphs. Stick with Hare's Ears, Pheasant Tails or Munchers and you won't go wrong. A good rule of thumb is to fish 'soft materials' like marabou based flies in slow water - deep pools, back eddies - and 'hard materials' like hair in faster water. If the nymphs I have listed fail to turn a fish, you might want to pick up my video called: 'Beyond the Falsecast: Chucking Bait with a Flyrod.' There are some good techniques in there like: Roll Casting Roe Bags, Double Hauling Dewies, Chuck-and-Duck a Creekchubing and my patented Minnow Mend. As for the magazine . . . . . . I think they needed filler.

My dry flies are not floating, but they were when I got them. I am too cheap to buy new ones. Anything I can do to make them float again?
Bob from Bristol, England. (Near Scotland. South of Hadrian's Wall.)

Dear Bob:
Try fishing them on a floating line and not a sink tip. Just kidding. Dry flies and surface patterns should have a periodical application of a product called funnily enough, 'fly floatant.' There is a whack of this stuff on the market and they are all silicone based. I use Gink and Muclin. The trick is to rub the stuff between your fingers and NEVER to apply it directly to the fly from the bottle. Nope, I am not going to tell you why, just spend a bit of time thinking about it. You might also want to steam the flies - this is dangerous, so do it under the supervision of an adult - by hold them with a pair of pliers in the steam from a kettle. The steam will do a few things. It will 'poof' the hackle back into its original shape and it will help remove the gunk from the hackle by dissolving all the 'yucky river scum' which is stuck on the feathers. Here is the big trick to steaming flies. When they are done, hang them by the bend on a row of bead chain. The hackle will dry out naturally and it won't have a dead spot, the way it would if you had pattern drying on table. Also, the bead chain insures that the flies won't touch each other. Tape the bead chain across a window frame and the sun will dry them off quite nicely. This trick also works for 'poofing up' deer hair patterns like mice, muddlers, poppers or flies using seal's fur. Note. Never try to 'poof up' a seal by holding it over a steaming kettle. Someone is going to loose an eye, and it ain't gonna be the guy with the flippers.

Dear Ian:
The wife gave me a box of your Black Froggies of Death for Christmas. They look great, but how do I fish them and have they been 'fixed' as I don't want to be up to my butt in bullfrogs by the spring.
Ted in New York, USA.

Dear Ted:
Yes the froggies have been fixed, otherwise they would not have been cleared for entry into the USA by the US Fish and Wildlife Department. Don't worry, the only way to 'grow your own' is to pick up a few of my tadpole patterns and let nature take its course. The Black Froggie of Death - featured on the TV show: The New Flyfisher - was created by Stephen Eszes from Guelph, Ontario for fishing smallmouth bass. The best way to fish it: Chuck it out and let all the rings disappear from the water surface. Wait a few seconds, then retrieve the fly with three-short-sharp-tugs and a long pause. Wait a few seconds and repeat the retrieve. Nine times out of ten, the fish - pike, browns, muskie or bass - will smack the fly when it is pausing, and not when you are tugging it. The 'three-short-sharp-tugs-then-a-pause retrieve' is mimicking the way a frog will make three kicks and then glide when swimming. No kidding.

Dear Ian:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Last week when I was cleaning out the turkey and prepping it for the oven, I was disappointed to find there were no turkey feathers on the carcass. I did manage to stuff the bird - and, unlike last year, no one in the family got food poisoning - but I feel I was ripped off as I was planning on making a whack of muddlers with the turkey feathers. I am only writing to tell other fly tiers to watch for this when they are buying a bird. Also, what can I do with the giblets, and can they be used in tying flies?
Ticked Off in Timmins, Ontario.

Dear Ticked Off.
Thank you for the update on the lack of feathers, I never would have guessed. You need wild turkey feathers with a nice mottled design on them to make muddlers, and you won't find too many of those birds in the freezer at your local grocery store. Domestic turkeys - those with wings, not your bar buddies - produce white feathers, which are the source of much of the marabou we use. Naturally, purple marabou is from purple turkeys - not from Barnie the Dinosaur - yellow marabou is from yellow turkeys - not unless Big Bird steps out of line and there is an Open Season on Sesame Street - and orange marabou is from . . . well you know the story. As for the giblets, not much you can do with them in the way of fly tying, but you might want to pick up my next book and C.D. ROM called, Fun with Giblets: Finding Inner Peace with Innards, which I am trying to get Martha Stewart to co-author. It covers making all the hot craft items like paper weights, dream catchers, bookends and bracelets. Being from Timmins, do you know Shania Twain, and if so, any chance of getting her autograph?

Hey Ian:
I got a House of Hardy flypole for Christmas, and I have been reading up on the sport. The question I have for you is this. What is drag and how do I prevent dragging? I know it scares fish.
Doug from Dundee, Scotland.

Dear Doug:
Drag is a bit of a 'sticky wicket' in that there are times when drag is bad and there are times when it is a good thing to have. Here is a simple explanation. Take a look at stuff floating freely down the surface of river like leaves, twigs or deceased woodland creatures who were poor swimmers. You will see they bob a long quite merrily at the same speed as the river, and they don't produce a wake. The theory in fly fishing is that hatching insects will drift along in the current without producing a wake. The fish see a lot of, and then start to feed on, the no wake insects. Sounds good so far. When you fish a fly on the surface, the currents will draw the fly line and put a belly in it. This belly increases the speed of the line, and thus the speed of the fly. The fly then starts to speed up and is dragged across the water surface producing a wake. The fish will refuse the fly when they see the wake, well not unless they are an Irish fish who would never pass up a good wake. To prevent drag, all you have to do is make a small upstream flip in the line. By the time the water pushes this flip - or bow - out of the line, the fly will have had a chance to float along at the same speed as the current, and you will be fishing drag free. The technical term for the small up stream line flip is a 'mend.' I know, beats me why you would want to mend something when it is not busted. If you want the ultimate in a drag free drift, all you need to do is take the flies and drop them off a bridge. If they are not attached to a leader or a fly line, there will be little chance of them dragging. The draw back is that setting the hook can be rather tricky. One of the few times 'drag is good,' is when you are skating a caddis pattern on the surface. Natural caddis - as opposed to unnatural or supernatural caddis - will create a wake when they move across the water, so a little bit of drag is a handy thing to have when fishing in this situation.

Dear Carpfather:
Dis summer whilst pursuing carp on my favorite stretch of river. Deez two guyz come up and start fishing my beat. I wuz unsure what to do. So, erring on da side of caution I moved to da udder water. Later dat day it still troubled me so I ask my godfadder. "Godfadder, what should I do?" He said dat I should'a clipped em both with my iron and hid the bodies in the tall grass on the bank. His Capo (Salvatore, who is my mother's cousin's brother and a stand up guy) said dat I should'a ice-pick'd da first guy and let da udder guy go so he tells udder people not to fish der no more. Deez both seemed like reasonable responses. But, while I have dee utmost respect for both of deez men, neither one of dem fish. What do you think da proper etiquette is?
Baffled in Brooklyn, Ricky 'The Bull' Corleone.
P.S. I still got deez guys on ice in da trunk of my car waiting for your reply.

Dear Mr. Corleone:
Unfortunately this lack of Angling Etiquette is becoming an increasing problem of global proportions. Don't worry, whacking them was the right thing to do. (Remember: If in doubt: whack 'em and stack 'em.) One can only hope they have not yet reproduced, and your swift actions have take a few of the 'idiot genes' out of circulation. Personally I feel that some form of national recognition is in order. Sadly, due to the witness protection programs the old way of letting one chap go to warn the others is a thing of the past, so you had no option but to whack them both. After all, you don't want to be the next poster child for T.V. shows like America's Most Wanted or COPS. Now as for the bodies. Luckily as this is the Christmas Season all you have to do is, fake a signature on their organ donor cards, gift wrap the bodies and then drop them both off at the nearest medical training facility or the local hospital. I am sure someone in the family can get you a deal on industrial strength wrapping paper and tape. Now, if you are too busy collecting gifts - it is Christmas after all - here is plan 'B.' Take the bodies back to the river, but don't take them to a 'no kill section' or you will be in deep doo-doo with the Conservation Officers. At the river, 'ice-pick' the front of the first chap to make it look like he fell on the ice-pick, several times, while using it to poke some old line out of the eye of a lure. To make it convincing, take an old lure and place it in his left hand. On the second body, smack it around with a big heavy branch, to make it look as if he received some 'blunt object head trauma' while being mugged by a band of delinquent beavers. To make it easy for the cops - they are over worked - leave a bait shop business card glued to the lid of a box of fresh donuts, close to the bodies. It won't take them long to discover the donuts which will eventually lead them to the business card. They should wrap up the case in about an hour, or as soon as they get the crumbs off their uniforms. One last thing. When you head to the confessional for forgiveness, use this line, "Bless me Fadder for I have sinned, but it wuz okay, 'cause they wuz bait fishermen." You should be out of there with a few Hail Mary's and an Our Father.

Hey Ian:
Being an Aggie Grad, I thought you might be able to help. My wife recently washed our three rottweilers and as a Christmas gift, bought them each a new woolen blanket for bedding. The dogs now smell minty fresh and they have a very pleasant odor about them, which reminds me of a spring time trouting trip in the Canadian Rockies. However, they simply refuse to sleep on the new blankets and they are becoming grumpier each day. Any ideas on how I can get them to use the blankets? To punish them, I have cut them off from watching TV and I have even stopped giving them their morning cappuccino.
Lefty, in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Dear Lefty:
Firstly, let me state I am a fan of rottweilers, but I am a bigger fan of Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Here are a few pointers in animal husbandry. Intelligent animals need intelligent TV shows, therefor you should only let intelligent dogs - like Rotties or Staffords - watch the News, sporting events or documentaries. Keep them away from poodle and pomeranian shows like; talk shows, game shows or any of the Survivor or Real Life programming. Secondly, dogs are creatures of habit and their actions are mostly governed by their nose. I am afraid to say that the new blankets just don't smell like home. Your dogs are taking one sniff at them and thinking, "What the !*#@?" The simple solution is to spray the blankets with a bottle of 'Big Stink' scent available from most veterinarians. Go with something like: Big Stink Ferret Fresh, Big Stink Lemming Lite, Big Stink Simply Skunk, Big Stink Chunks o' Chipmunk or the ever popular Big Stink Sundried Squirrel Surprise. Thirdly, only a fool would give a rottweiler a cappuccino - I bet 'walkies' are a blast - but only a bigger fool would then cut them off from the caffeine fix. Little wonder they are getting grumpy. To get back on their 'good side,' I suggest you buy each of them a new leather sofa and when you are out, pick them up a 12 pack of 'Slow Cats.' I'd go with the Slow Cats Arthritic Plus, Slow Cats Obese or Slow Cats Declawed . . . dogs love 'em.

Dear Carpfather:
If, in making lures, one can use cat hair to catch catfish, and dog hair to catch dogfish, how does one collect carp hair?
Tina The Fishin Mom, Ontario.

Dear Tina:
Great question! Being a Mum, you should be well aware of the dust bunnies hiding under the sofa and the kiddies beds. So, take a look behind some of the larger boulders on a river bed and you will find carp bunnies. Collect them, put them through a wash with a load of delicates, and when dry . . . Bobs Your Uncle. You also got me thinking that if a Hare's Ear nymph could hook hares, and a Pheasant Tail nymph could catch pheasants, then every angler should quickly dump the Bitch Creek nymphs from their boxes. As, who in there right mind, would want to be up to their ears in dogs.

Dear Ian,
On the subject of dysfunctional, what would you do about a fishing buddy who: "lets" you drive; lets you provide all the flies; munches down Cuban cigars (even slipped and dropped a Trinidad in the river). Any suggestions for me? I like habanos, too.
Ron, in Texas.

Dear Ron:
I had to think about this one. Here in Ontario, one chap drives while the other chap springs for half the petrol and a bag of dough nuts on the way there. Lunch is purchased by whoever has the fewest fish at high noon. It is obvious to me your fishing pal is so far out of the Angling Etiquette Loop, he must be a cigar smoking alien. Yup, he is calling home just as ET did, but only to request another box of smokes. Next time you take him night fishing check to see he is using a flashlight, and not the tip of a finger, to aid him when tying on a fly. And keep a close eye out for the Mothership. Once your suspicions have been confirmed, and I am confident they will be, call one of the US Alphabet Agencies - FBI, CIA, IRS, KFC - they will be only to happy to take him off your hands.
Ps. I am also very fond of habanos, but I find them too hot for my pallet. However, they are nice when served in a Mexican salsa with a hamburger on the side.

Dear I.C.J.
I hope you can help. I have no one left to turn to. Here goes. When I am on the river doing a spot of winter steelheading I find my hands get very, very cold. I have tried wearing gloves, but they don't work when I am stripping in the line and all that stuff. How can I keep my hands warm, yet, still 'look cool' and un-whimpy.
Patrick from Port Huron, USA.

Dear Patrick:
The easiest way is to have someone else do the casting and the fly retrieval for you. When they hook a fish, you remove your gloves, play out the fish, pose for a few pics and then pop your gloves back on. Get them to release the fish so your hands stay nice and dry. If you can find a location where you can watch the chap fishing and still stay in the warmth of your car, so much the better. Another way would be to train your hands, to acclimatize them to the cold. All great athletes must train for their events, so you should do the same. Try holding 'cold things' - like bottles of beer - in your hands. The more you train the tougher your hands will become. You need to train every day and what you do with the beer as it heats up is your choice. Having said that, keep a minimum of three cases of beer in the fridge for when you have a heavy workout.

Dear Ian:
It is now the start of the Fall and like most folk in Southern Ontario, I am up to my butt in leaves. I want to spend more time out on the water fishing steelhead and salmon, but the wife won't let me out of the house until our lawn is 100% leaf free. Do you have any suggestions for getting these picked up quickly?
Chuck in Toronto.

Dear Chuck:
This is a very common situation at this time of the year. Here are my best suggestions:
1. Clear cut the entire neighborhood, a tad drastic I admit, but you can always replant with coniferous trees. Hey you won't have to rake any leaves, the place will smell great and if you sling a few lights on them, you won't have to buy a Christmas tree. 2. Before the leaves fall next year, buy an an extension ladder and an industrial strength Branch Vac 2000. If you vacuum the leaves off the trees before they hit the ground, you won't have to rake them. 3. Hire a pyromaniac, then give them a gallon of petrol and a box of matches. You might want to call the Local Fire Dept so you can hire the pyro on a day when they are not too busy. 4. Slap a law suit on the neighbors as their leaves are obviously falling on your property. Please note, you would have a much better chance of winning this if you were living in the USA. 5. Give the wife a leaf blower for Christmas with these words on the gift card. 'Dearest Snuggums. I know you wanted a drill press, but this was on sale.' She will love you forever, especially if you have her name engraved on the blower. 6. Run the lawn mower over them. They will magically disappear into the lawn. The chopped up leaves will instantly become dew worm food, and when they eventually break down and decompose, provide nutrients for the grass. This is better than applying lawn fertilizer which mostly runs off and pollutes local rivers by promoting aquatic weed growth. Yup, the weeds deplete the water oxygen levels and the fish kick the bucket. All in all, a small price to pay for a great looking lawn.

Dear Carpfather:
In an effort to ward off picking up West Nile disease on a fishing trip, I coated myself in a bug repellent which was high in DEET. Quite a bit found its way onto my fly line. I put the rod and reel away when I finished, but now, three weeks later, I have discovered the line has become 'tacky' and it has sort of 'melted.' Any help you can give me would be appreciated.
Willie from Windsor, Ontario.

Dear Willie:
Bummer. This is no joke as the same happened to me years ago in the 80's. Some insect repellents will 'melt' a fly line. There is nothing you can do about the line now, except perhaps to use it for garden twine. If you are worried about West Nile, the obvious solution is to fish in January and February when Ontario mosquitos are not very active, except those wearing snow suits.

Dearest Ian:
Many years ago I took casting lessons from you and I am still doing it. Now, I would like to get my kids into the sport. Do you have any suggestions on how I can do this?
Hugs and Kisses, Sue.

Hi Sue:
The simplest way would be to stick your foot through the TV and then back your car over their video games.



"It's a dog-eat-dog world. So don't get caught wearing Milk Bone underwear."