Ask Ian Archives #3 of 5
From: The summer of 2003 to December 2003, give or take a few months.

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Archives #1. | Archives #2. | Archives #3. | Archives #4. | Archives #5. | Ask Ian Schematics.

These folk Asked Ian

What is the smallest size fly hook you can reasonably sharpen with a hook sharpener? Do you try to sharpen very small hooks, or simply tie on a new fly when the tip of a 24 has been bent or dulled?
Larry (Location Unknown.)

Dear Larry:
Good question. The obvious reply would be why are you fishing a 24 in the first place? I am sure there must be a self-help book or even some group therapy sessions which will wean you away from feeling the need to fish with that size of fly. All the same, it could be worse, you could be using a 32, or you could be manufacturing your own smaller hooks in the garden shed. There is a banner add for Nano Flies at the bottom of the Ask Ian Archive page 2, so you might want to give them a call. What I suggest you do is to simply dump the fly. Most size 24 flies are not all that complex to make, so dump the dull hook and start with a new fly. I also got to thinking, how are you managing to dull down or bend the point of a 24? You might be setting the hook too hard or it could be that after setting the hook into several hundred fish, the point becomes dull. To prolong the life of your size 24's I think you should stay well clear of species with a hard mouth, species like pike, bowfin, muskie or barracuda*.
(*both species of barracuda: the salt water variety and the endangered Lower Great Lakes Freshwater Barracuda.)

Dear Sir /Carpfather:
Last week I purchased a wooden landing net. Before you delete this e-mail, please hear me out as I know in Fumbling you consider them only as a form of "tribal identification." I was wondering what the etiquette or protocol is for wearing the net on the back of your vest if a rain storm breaks out. Should I put my rain jacket on over the net to keep it dry, or do I unclip it from the vest, then reattach it to the back of my jacket so that other anglers can still see it?
Perplexed, in Ontario.

Dear Perplexed:
Firstly I read all my e-mail. Secondly this is a great question and one which I have never thought to dwell on. I called around to a few 'I Gotta Have It All Gear Pigs' and the unanimous answer is that the net MUST be worn on the outside of the rain jacket. According to my sources, there is simply no point in spending money on gear if other anglers can't see it. I say, "Wear it with pride. But only if you have to."

Dear Ian:
Recently, I seem to be having difficulty getting a hook set when using dry flies. Up until now I have been doing well. I have tried a quick set and a slightly slower set, but I still seem to be losing a bunch of fish. I assume my fly placement, and choice of pattern is OK as I can get the fish to rise and grab my fly - what am I missing? Should I: 1. Try a larger/smaller hook size? 2. Invest is a BIG coffee pot or some sort of horrible synthetic stimulant to shorten my response time? 3. Quit altogether and take up hunting cows with a sack of hammers? (don't answer that) 4. Lighten up and keep practicing as the fish are just getting picky? Yes - I always give the hook a "wee touch up" with the stone before I cast. I am running out of colorful metaphors to use on the river to describe my frustration, and would appreciate any relevant advice you could provide.
Best Regards, Phil, Ontario.

Dear Best Regards:
I have never heard of a town called Phil, and Best Regards is a bit of a whacky name if you ask me. However let me get to your problem. Do not change the fly pattern or the size. The wee rascals like what you have on, so don't change a thing. Stay away from coffee as you might end up with 'the shakes,' or even worse a mid river coffee withdrawal, just as the fishing is getting good. Both of these afflictions will make setting the hook a disaster. I would like to have a go at your number 3, but I best leave that to the vivid imaginations of the folks who visit this site. The answer is ........ cut a chunk out of your leader. Shorten up your leader and then give the fish a few seconds to set the hook by itself when it grabs the fly. When I teach dry fly fishing - it is starting to catch on - I will keep the leader around 4 to 6 feet. The drag from the fly line will also aid in setting the hook. Remember, the fish should see the fly first, not the fly line, so when river fishing with a dry fly you can get away with a short leader. Note: In stillwater, this will not work. I mean it will NOT work. One last point. If you are going to shorten your leader you might want to drop the tippet down by a pound or two, say, go from a 4 pound tippet to a 2 pound tippet. And yes, a shorter leader will make bite detection a whole lot easier.

Dear Mr. James:
Einstein, my wife's 110 lb Irish Wolfhound puppy, had a great time in our basement ripping up a deer hide I was drying out. How do you suggest I punish the dog for doing this?
Allen from Flint, Michigan, USA.

Dear Allen:
It's not the fault of the dog, he was simply doing what dogs do. To punish him would be wrong, however I would take the time to teach him how to spin deer hair, as obviously he likes working with the material. I would also suggest, with the FULL approval of your wife, you change his name as no doubt he gets a ribbing from other dogs when he is out for a walk. This in fact may be the source of his pent up frustrations, which manifested themselves in his ripping apart the deer hide. Well that, or he started in on it and then as he was having such a good time he went ballistic. Stay away from names like: Bruits, O.J or Hannibal. As he is an Irish Wolfhound how about names like: Pat, Murphy or Shamus? Tip: Buy him a chew toy... a big chew toy and keep him off the Guinness.

Dear Ian:
Love your Website. Ian, I was wondering if I hired you for a day on the river would you wear a kilt ? Also, are you willing to answer the age old question about what is worn under a kilt?
Samantha in Down Town Toronto, Canada.

Dear Samantha:
I knew this day would come. Sadly a kilt won't fit into a pair of waders. As for the second part of your question I am going to quote you section 44b, paragraph 36c of the Association of Fly Fishing Guides Oath which states: "No guide or gillie shall divulge the names of their clients, where they fish or what is worn under a kilt." Now if you are one of those women who just has to know, I suggest you take a trip to the Highlands of Scotland, stalk a few lads wearing kilts and wait for a gust of wind. In the Highlands you won't have to wait all that long for a gust of wind. It's a little known fact that the original design for a wind tunnel was based on the topography of the Highlands.
PS. Who put you up to sending this in?

Dear Ian:
I read in one of your previous Ask Ian questions that you are working on a device called The Sphincter Stopper which will aid an angler when a big fish is hooked. When will this be available and in what sizes? I am not saying that I need one, I am just asking. Also, how did you come up with the name?
Robert, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada.

Dear Robert:
Good question. The Sphincter Stopper 2000 should be ready to roll in the year 2004. We - my ace design team and I - liked the name Sphincter Stopper 2000 much better than Sphincter Stopper 2004 so we stuck with it. Other names we considered were: Sphincter Stopper Classic, Sphincter Stopper Extreme and Ye Olde Sphincter Stopper. One size will fit all, so you don't have to worry about trying them on when you are in a fly fishing shop. We anticipate they will be a hot item, so prevent theft each Sphincter Stopper will be shipped with a locking mechanism and a 9,000 digit serial number. As a safety precaution each Stopper has a radio controlled release mechanism. If your Stopper gets stuck, we can release it remotely from our world headquarters in L.A, using a GPs system and a satellite radio wave. Our carp, muskie, steelhead, salmon and pike Stoppers will be industrial strength, while the brown trout / smallmouth bass Stoppers will be 'run of the mill' as we anticipate they won't get all that much of a work out. We are developing a stainless steel version for salt water use.

Dear Ian:
Do you use a hair stacker? I have seen them in shops and I don't know if they are worth the money. Thanks for your help.
Chad, Cincinnati, USA.

Dear Chad:
I am pretty much bald, so a hair stacker is of no use to me. Actually I do use one on the deer tail hair I use on my brooch pins. I also have various sizes of bullet casings - including a 38 Special - which I use for lining up the hair ends for the wings on my caddis dries. I try not to use a stacker - read, I don't - on the hair wings of Atlantic salmon flies as I feel it gives the wing a 'bowl cut.'

Dear Ian:
There is no doubt you have a small bit of notoriety within the North American fly fishing scene. Are there any plans in the works for you to bring out your own line of fly fishing products like rods, reels, jackets or waders?
Bert in Brantford, Ontario, Canada.

Dear Bert:
Not a chance! SURE, the world needs another darn fly rod. I am however working on a fur lined jock strap for winter steelheading and an item called The Sphincter Stopper. The stopper will prevent anglers from filling their waders when a large fish hammers their fly then takes off at an alarming rate across a river.

Dear Ian:
I am just starting to get into fly tying and I am overwhelmed by all the materials. What is the strangest material you have used when making flies and what material would you like to use but have never had the chance to?
Amy in Detroit, Michigan, USA.

Dear Amy:
I would have to say a snippet of fur from a stuffed duckbilled platypus is about the strangest material I have used and the animal is still on public display. I also have a bag of brushed out lion fur in one of my supply boxes which I used on stonefly nymphs. I guess there could be an Elton John song waiting in the wings like: "Can You Dub The Fur Tonight?" The fur was collected when the lion was undergoing surgery at a zoo. Well, we don't get too many lions ending up as roadkill in Ontario. I would like to use a dodo feather or a chunk of wool from the late Dolly the Sheep. I am guessing that as Dolly was a clone, all my flies would look exactly the same. Funnily enough there was a bit of Dolly Fluff on display the last time I visited the Lighthouse the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building in Glasgow. I was thinking of switching it with some regular sheep fluff, but my brother talked me out of it.

Dear Ian:
Do you know any good flies for smallmouth bass?
Dan in Ohio, USA.

Dear Dan:
Yes I do, and thanks for asking.
Ps. I also know a few bad ones and a group of flies which could go either way depending on the company they keep.

Dear Ian:
How many fish do you catch in a year?
Mike, age 5, Hamilton, Ontario.

Dear Mike:
Hmmmmm. You asked a good question. I would have to say, "Just one and some of his buddies." I have no idea. I can't count all that well once I run out of fingers.

Mr. James:
We fished the Grand River in June and must say we had a good time. One thing we noticed was that anglers would hog a pool, and there was a distinct lack of angling etiquette on the river. My wife and I have fished extensively across Europe and much of Scotland - as well as our home waters here on the east coast - and we have never seen such a poor display of river manners. Why can't anglers on the Grand River follow the rules of fishing a pool and then moving on to the next? Even some of the guides we saw would park their clients in a pool or riffle and there they would stay. We have never had so many fishermen walk through the riffles we were fishing without so much as asking if they could cross the pool.
Miffed from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Dear Miffed:
Welcome to Ontario Angling 101. Sad to say they don't get it, they won't get it and they are never going to get it. I think it is because there is an acute lack of tradition within the Ontario fly fishing community, hence the lack of river etiquette. If I see someone going to cross an area I am fishing, I will often ask them something like, "You're not planning to walk through my drift, are you?" Nine time out of ten they see the error of their ways. If not, I will lay out a few long casts and in the process bounce a few flies off them. Luckily a few anglers will ask if the can fish below you or above you, which I do find rather refreshing. As for parked anglers, I am with you. I just don't get it. It may be that they have been successful in one spot, and like a homing pigeon they simple return there. You would think a guide would be 'more clued in' to moving a client around, but you need to remember there are still many guides on the Grand River who, will throw onto the bank what they determine to be trash fish like suckers, pike, perch and carp. If their head is so far up their waders to behave like this, they will never change their other habits. Next time you are here, hire the folks with the banner on the bottom of the Ask Ian Archive page 1. Hire these folks.

Dear Ian:
I recently purchased some snowshoe bunny feet to make some of the dry flies you have recommend. Some of the feet were a darker colour than the other feet. Will this colour change effect the productivity of the finished flies?
Worried in Windsor, Ontario.

Dear Worried:
Seems to me you simply have a mild case of 'Dirty Bunny Foot.' Luckily it won't make any difference, so just tie the flies up and fish them. You might want to note: left bunny foot hair should only be used for making flies for fishing from left to right, and that the right bunny foot hair should only be used for making flies for fishing from right to left. This is due to the twists and curls in the actual bunny foot hair. I think this may have something to do with the DNA Double Helix Spiral within the actual genes and chromosomes of the bunny which produces the twisting in the foot hairs. You don't want the wrong fur on the fly - say, left foot fur on the body of a right fly - as it will created more drag. Obviously the curls will be working against the current rather than with the current as the fly drifts down river producing drag. In the case of right foot fur tied on a fly fished right to left, the curls will produce less drag and the fish will be more willing to have a go at the pattern. In order to distinguish left foot flies from right foot flies, change the colour of the tying thread. Say, white for the left foot, gray for the right foot. However, in low light it might be tough to distinguish these thread colours, so you might want to stick using white and then black threads. One last thing. To get rid of the dirt, you could always take the feet to a pet grooming salon and have them wash them. For a wee bit of fun, when you go back to pick them up and they hand you the feet, break down in tears and ask them where they have put the rest of your little girls pet. It should be worth a laugh or two.

Mr. James:
Each month a group of us gets together to tie flies. At the meeting we pick a new topic to discus which is not related in anyway to fly fishing or fly tying. At the last meeting, we were tying your Muncher fly and we were debating the topic of whither or not the US actually put a man on the moon. We know you are a closet conspiracy theorist and that your Web pages make us howl, (required reading before each tying session) so we thought we would ask your opinion. Did NASA put a man on the moon?
John in Michigan.

Hi John:
I was but a wee lad in shorts coming home in the rain at lunchtime from St. Columbus Primary School in Viewpark when I heard that they had put a man on the moon. I quite vividly recall watching the scratchy black and white TV footage of those famous first steps. Who can forget those words, "One small step for mankind, and crap I don't see any fish rising. Wish I'd packed a box of nymphs." Had Neil Armstrong cast a fly line, instead of whacking a golf ball, the world would be a different place. Robert Redford would have gone on to make movies like; A Fairway Runs Through It and perhaps The Carp Whisperer. Tiger Woods would be one of the finest fly casters in the world and The Bob Hope Classic would be a one fly only competition in California. I don't think NASA went to the moon. I think it was mostly propaganda to get one up on the Russians. At the time the US was running short of BBQ sauce and there was not enough to go around at the Bay of Pigs Barbecue and Cuban Cook Out, so tensions were running high. We all know there is a huge radiation field just outside the atmosphere which would 'nuke' anyone heading to the moon, and which was one of the main reasons the Russians did not make the attempt to get there first. Well, that and the refund value of an empty vodka bottle had fallen through the floor, so their space program was hurting for cash. I believe that NASA was also 'bought off' by many of the world wide dairy producers marketing boards. Had NASA discovered that the moon was in fact made of cheese, millions dairy farmers would be out of work. The final proof that man has not been there is that if you look up to the moon on a clear night, there are no advertisements or billboards. I know, it was just too obvious, but I had to say it anyway. By the way, let me know if the Munchers get you a few fish.

Several people have sent me information on the Van Allen Radiation Field. From what I understand, and I may have this wrong, the very intense radiation field is 3000 miles wide, and it encompasses the earth about 1000 miles above the atmosphere. It would take almost 45 minutes for a manned space flight to pass through this field and it would kill the crew on contact. Seemingly the radiation is so intense that not even the modern space shuttle, nor the modern astronaut space gear, would shield the astronauts from the radiation. The radiation protection on the Apollo missions was almost non existent and it would have made it impossible for a manned flight to pass through the field. One of the recent space shuttle flights reached a height of 350 miles, and although they were still some 650 miles from the radiation field the astronauts could see 'radiation sparks' when they closed their eyes. Many folks believe that this shuttle flight is in fact the furthest a manned flight has traveled into space and that the Van Allen Radiation Field made the man on the moon landings impossible.

Dear Ian:
On your last bunch of Ask Ian Questions I noticed you were slamming the use of beadhead flies. I would just like to say that I use beadheads and they get fish.
Bill in Elora, on The Grand River, Ontario.

Dear Bill:
Dew worms will also catch fish, as will minnows, a lump of bread or roe bags.

Dear Ian:
I read a lot of UK magazines and they often refer to a fly called a Cruncher. Is this the same fly as your Muncher fly?
Susan in Boston, USA.

Dear Susan:
Thanks for bringing this up, I have received quite a few e-mail on this subject. They are not the same fly. The Cruncher is a nymph pattern developed in the UK for fishing as a middle dropper (or top dropper) pattern in a team of three flies for fishing Loch Style on stillwater. I created the Muncher primarily as a river pattern, much earlier than the Cruncher. The patterns are not similar in the slightest and the way they are fished are not similar. There is a picture of the Muncher in the Flies by the Dozen section of my site. Here, as best as I can recall, is the dressing for the Cruncher: Hook, standard wet fly in sizes 10 to 14. Tail, natural red rooster fibers. Body, pheasant tail fibers. Thorax, black seal's fur. Hackle, Greenwells tied short. Hope this helps. Ya gotta admit, they are great names for flies. Sadly I have no idea who invented the Cruncher nor do I have any info on how the fly got its name. Then again, you don't have to have much in the way of an imagination to figure it out.

Mr. James:
Several of my friends have gone out with you and caught alternative species like gar pike, carp and sheephead. However, I note there is an absence of fish pictures and fly pictures on your website. How about posting a page of fish pics and fly pics? Those of us who can't get out on the river as often as we would like, can drool over the eye candy.
Jack, from Michigan.

Dear Jack:
You make a good point. I will try and get a fish picture page (black and white to keep down the page size) posted by the end of June. I also have someone lined up in the US to help me try and post some fly pictures. Now, the term 'alternative species' strictly depends on your point of view. We hooked into a 15 pound steelhead this spring when fishing for carp, so I guess the steelhead was an alternative species, and at the time a real pain in the butt when pursuing the Mighty Carpalope. As for eye candy . . . I am not touching that one.

Dear Ian:
About a week ago I was watching you guiding two clients on the Grand River south of Fergus, and frankly I was horrified to see you did not use a landing net. Surely as a guide, you must know that a landing net is an essential part of fly fishing for trout, and it ensures that the fish are released unharmed.
Hank from Ottawa, Ontario.

Hi Hank:
Essential my ass! In my opinion - based on a whack of reading and from releasing hundreds of fish - a landing net might be as an essential part of fly fishing for trout on the Grand River, as a six inch gash in a pair of waders. The quickest way to release a fish - and the way you no doubt watched me performing - is to wet your hands and while the fish is still in the water, gently support the fishes belly while removing the hook. You might have or should have, noticed that with the exception of the fish we photographed, fish were released by this method and they never left the water. Simply grabbing the fly with a pair of needle nose pliers and gently shaking it free from the fish will also work, leaving the fish to swim away untouched by human hand - or landing net. A landing net is however a 'must have item' when going after big fish - those over 20 lbs, and there are not many browns in the Grand River over that weight - or for toothy critters like pike and muskie. Further, you could have wandered over and said something to me while we were on the river. One last point, an educated angler is the only thing which ensures fish are released unharmed.

Hi Ian:
I read your article in the Isaac Walton Double Haul Magazine called To Bead or Not to Bead. I agree with you that they do 'dumb down fly fishermen' but I must admit that I love fishing beadheads and I tie hundreds of them each year. However, I have noticed some inconsistencies in the beads I purchase. Although they are the same size, some of them have smaller holes than other beads in the same package, and I have also noted that if I switch from one brand of hooks to another brand, the beads won't fit, even when the hook size is the same. Do you have a list of hook sizes and the appropriate bead sizes? It would help not only myself, but many other anglers. I have even weighed some of the beads and there seems to be no consistency in the weight of individual beads.
Charles in Milton, Ontario.

Dear Charles:
Hmmmmm. If you have the time to weigh individual beads, you must have more than a wee bit of free time on your hands. In my 38 years of fly fishing, I have never met anyone who cares so passionately about beads. If you decide to form a Bead Lovers Club, please let me know. Here is the scoop. Beadheads were made popular in the mid 1980's by Roman Moser (Austrian) and the Dutchman Theo Bakelaar. Yup, Theo is the same chap who invented Theo's Biot Stonefly. I say made popular as fly fishermen were using glass beads on flies at the start of the century in Europe, but they kept their effectiveness 'nice and quiet.' Back then beadheads were called goldheads. Once the word got out, it was US anglers who pushed their popularity in the fly fishing world. Unfortunately there are no Hole Tolerances Standards (H.T.S) within the bead manufacturing industry. The beads may be the same size but the hole might not be the same diameter from one manufacturer to another. The only way to figure out which beads fit which hooks, is to try them and see, then start making your own list. If the bead won't fit around the bend, then the bead is too small. Naturally if the bead slips over the eye, then the bead is too big. Make sure that you have fully debarbed the hook. Often we fail to squish the barb down all the way, which makes it tough to get the bead onto the hook.

What is your preferred brand of waders? I am looking to buy a set for myself and my wife. Any advice would be helpful.
Steve and Laura, London, England.

Hi Steve.
Ones which don't leak are always my first choice. This is tough. I prefer to buy the 'Use Them For Two Years Then Throw Them Away' brands. I very am hard on waders and so are my clients. I have yet to find a brand which will not leak after about two years of heavy use. Again, I guide for a living, so my waders get a lot of abuse. Best to ask the members of your local club which brands they use, and maybe if you are lucky, they will let you try them out. Stick with fly fishing clubs, as I doubt that there is much call for waders in groups like: the chess club, the hunt club, the water polo club or in fact the polo club. Also, be aware that from a fashion point of view, there are few brands of waders on the market which will not 'add a few pounds' to yourself and the wife. Just letting you know in case the question pops up, "Honey, does my butt look fat in these?" Should this happen, my advice is to busy yourself with something and to let the store clerk field the question.




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