Ian Archives #3 of 5
From: The summer of 2003 to December 2003, give or take a few months.
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More Ask Ian Archives:
Archives #1. | Archives
#2. | Archives #3. | Archives #4. |
Archives #5. | Ask
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.)
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
(*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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do you know any good flies for smallmouth bass?
Dan in Ohio, USA.
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.
How many fish do you catch in a year?
Mike, age 5, Hamilton, Ontario.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dew worms will also catch fish, as will minnows, a lump of bread
or roe bags.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.