Ask Ian Archives #4 of 5
From: The summer of 2004 to December 2004, 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

Dear Ian:
I stumbled upon your site by accident and I was quite interested to see that you referred to Christmas many times. In fact, you even wished the visitors to your site a Merry Christmas. Did you know that there many people and religions who don't celebrate Christmas? Personally, I found it offensive. You should be more sensitive to the beliefs of others. Do you know that most wars are started over religious differences?

Dear Anon:
Here is the scoop. Just in case you failed to notice, it's my website. Personally I celebrate Christmas, so perhaps you should try being sensitive to other folk. Also, if your reference to war was a veiled threat, I would like to extend an offer to you, and one of your buddies, for an all expenses paid trip to London, as I would like to deliver a serious ass kicking to the both of you. That way you can keep each other company when you are in our local hospital. Instead of Seasons Greetings, I'll be delighted to give you Seasons Beatings. Hey after all, it is the season of giving. As I believe that all men are created equally, I will make sure that you both receive the same treatment. I give you my word, I will show no favoritism.

Good day Ian;
I was recently fishing beside you and a very successful female angler. It was obvious to me that even though she was fishing water you already covered, she hooked and landed more than twice as many steelhead as you. Does she have her own web site and an "ask " column? With thanks;
Sheila, Suffragette City.

Dear Sheila:
Funny you should ask. Nope, is the short answer and here is the long answer. It 's common knowledge that women are better fishermen than men, but that is no reason to put them in front of a camera to shoot a TV show. Also, it would appear that most male fishermen would rather look a TV show hosted by a male than a female. What would Dr. Freud have to say about that I wonder? Anyway as I was fishing, she must have been one of my friends. It is simply rude to fish when guiding and that is something I have NEVER done in all my years on the river. All I can say is that it was not a competition and obviously she had learned a thing or two. OR, I may have been simply 'letting her' get a few fish to build up her fishing confidence. Sure I was. Yeah, that's it! One last point. Please let me know when David Bowie rolls into town.

Hey Carpfather:
Lots of times when I am trout fishing, I can see fish, but I can't make them take my fly. Any ideas?
Stephen, Sussex, England.

Hi Stephen:
Good question. Most of the time if you can see the fish, there is a good chance they can see you. Plus, I bet the water must be gin clear, otherwise you would not be able to see the fish. Having said that, you should stick to smaller flies - maybe nymphs in a size 16, or dries in a size 18 - and use the longest leader you can. Also, don't be tempted to use two or three flies, as in gin clear water these will spook fish. Try making a side cast so the fish won't see the flash from your rod, and keep a low profile. If they can pick up your silhouette, there is no way they will take a fly. Drab clothing will go a long way in helping you get fish. If you try this lot and you still can't pick up a fish, give yourself a good spraying of 'Invisible Angler,' a product which will make you completely invisible to fish. Obviously, you don't want to get any onto your fly, or the fish won't be able to see it!

Dear Ian:
I am looking at buying my first pair of wading shoes. Do you have any advice?
Bob in Cannington, Ontario.

Dear Bob:
The obvious things you should look for are:
1. A left and a right shoe.
2. Two shoes of equal size.
3. Unless you are ice fishing, try to stay away from snow shoes.
4. If you are not good at tying knots, look for shoes with Velcro fasteners.
5. To break them in, wear your new shoes around the office and your home.
6. Taking a shower in your wading shoes so that you can get the feel of them when they are wet.
Seriously, go with a light weight shoe and one with a non-slip sole. NEVER leave wet shoes in a plastic bag. Always take the time to hang them up to dry when they are not in use. All wading shoes (normally referred to as wading boots) will rot out quickly if you don't let them dry out properly. Plus, they start to stink.

Hey Carpfather:
Do you honestly think strike indicators will be the down fall of fly fishing? I think you might be over the top on this.
Kenneth, Ohio, USA.

Dear Kenneth:
Yes I do! There are times when some anglers with poor eyesight might need a float to let them know when a fish takes their fly, however, for most fly fishermen using a bobber has become nothing more than a bad habit and an addiction. It won't be long before rod manufactures start producing and promoting more fly / spin rod combos, specifically designed for use with strike indicators. Then fly rods will start to take a back seat to the longer casting spinning rods and before you know it the only flyrods left in the world will be tucked away in museums beside piles of dinosaur bones. Hey, it only takes one match to start a forest fire, not that I would know anything about that.

Dear Ian:
Last year I fished in Scotland for sea trout and salmon. Why are the sections of rivers called 'a beat?'
Tom from New York, USA.

Hi Tom:
Great question, and I am afraid I am not too sure of the answer, but I will find out. I think it dates back to the Bronze Age, where one angler would say to another, "Hey, this is my spot. You want me to have to beat you into a pulp? On the other hand, it may have started with a bunch of kilt wearing and drugged up hippies sitting on the banks. "Hey Dude, that river has a great beat. Listen to the rhythm man and pass me some haggis, I got the munchies." By the way Tom, you could have asked when you were over there.

Dear Ian:
Thank you for explaining what a hospital pass is in a rugby game. (See 3 Q's below. Ian) Why is it that rugby players don't talk back to the referee when he gives a decision? Ice hockey, soccer and American Football have a lot of mouthy players, and yet this does not happen in rugby, can you tell me why?
Colleen, Oshawa, Ontario.

Hi again Colleen:
Rugby is a game for men, played by men. Hockey, American Football and soccer are simply games for wee lassies, often played by wee lassies. On a rugby field the referee is basically, 'god with a whistle.' Rugby players respect him, even if they feel he has given the wrong decision. The key word is respect. When the game is finished and you are at the 'after game dinner' or the pub, you can ask the ref why he gave a decision, and he will explain it to you. The middle of a rugby pitch, with tempers flaring, is not he place to question a referees decision. PS. Are you sure you have a boyfriend, as you keep asking me these questions and not him. I suspect you may be dating a bait fishing soccer player.

Dear Ian:
Love the site. (I have been following it since your 'early days' when you had the flatten / pink background!) As you are an outdoor kind of chap, can you please tell me why birds will not sing at night? I do a lot of smallmouth bass fishing here in Ontario and I have noticed there are less birds singing at night than during the day.
Don, Waterford, Ontario.

Dear Don:
Nooooo, not the pink background! I am colourblind, so it looked fine to me, but I received so much hate mail about it, that I had to change it. Obviously you are fishing in the Grand River, if you are, try using big hexagenia mayfly nymphs as carp, smallmouth bass and river redhorse love whacking them after night fall. Now about the birds, they are asleep, or they can't see the sheet music.

Hey Carpfather:
Have you ever used corn chunks on a flyrod when fishing for carp? There are a few of us who do this in *******, Michigan and it works quite well!
Larry, *******, Michigan.

Dear Larry:
Obviously you are not a long time reader of my site, and you have a very large and it would appear, empty cranium. I have kept the city you are in off the record just in case you get a visit from the Canadian Carp Aficionado Tact Team (C.C.A.T.T.). Ya HAVE to be kidding me? Right? If you feel the need to fish corn . . . use a spinning rod. Nothing wrong with that. I have spent many a wonderful day on the river bank just chucking out the old dough ball, then spending quiet time watching the end of my quiver tip, while waiting for a nibble. No Larry, do the right thing and use a spinning rod if you are fishing bait and a fly rod if you are fishing flies. Then again, I see more anglers going after carp using noodle rods and drifting flies below a float. Ps. When did you move from Kentucky, and how's your banjo playing?

Dear Ian:
For a little background, I write an outdoor question and answer column for Fur-Fish-Game magazine and often receive letters from many different regions relating to many different subjects. I received a letter from a reader asking about a fishing lure called, "Lightning Bug Fishing Plug". According to the reader this clear plastic lure looks like a river runt with a compartment in the middle in which you place lightning bugs. The flashing insects are suppose to attract fish. Any information about this lure and its collectors value would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Randall Davis, Fur-Fish-Game magazine.

Dear Randall:
Hmmm, are you sure that someone is not pulling your leg on this? It's an interesting concept, but I doubt that a lighting bug, or a pack of them, would emit enough light to attract a fish. Plus, how would they get enough air to survive if you were fishing the lure for long periods of time? Then, there is always the nagging question about fishing them down deep, which would inevitably lead them to suffer form the crippling condition of lightening bug bends. I will post your question as an Ask Ian, and perhaps someone will be able to help. I hope that the Lightening Bug Liberation Front, won't pursue this in a court of law.

Dear Ian:
I know you are a big rugby fan and my boyfriend is as well. He also is a fly fisherman. I have been watching the Rugby World Cup with him and I keep hearing about a 'hospital pass.' I am too embarrassed to ask him what this is. Please help.
Colleen, Oshawa, Ontario.

Dear Colleen:
A 'hospital pass' is usually a pass which hangs in the air. The chap trying to catch it has to stretch up to grab it, but as the ball is taking a long time to reach him, it leaves him an easy mark for a hard tackle as the opposition have a more time to get to him. Plus, as he is reaching up for the ball he exposes his rib cage, making any kind of hard tackle a 'Big Ouchy.' In fly fishing I have developed a similar thing called a hospital cast. After repeated warnings about not casting over the drift I am fishing, I will casually and in a non threatening way, suggest to an angler that their next cast may in fact take them to hospital.

Hey Carpfather:
Will scent work on a fly?
Joe from Manchester, England.

Hey Joe:
Sure it will, but not on dry flies. Scented flies are best fished below a strike indicator, and they will work much better if you tip the with a chunk of dew worm. The other obvious answer is, "It depends on what perfume she is using?"

Dear Carpfather:
Some UK fly fishing magazines are suggesting I chum the water with dog biscuits before I start fly fishing for carp. As you are a world renowned expert in the field (or is that pond?) is this ethical?
William, near Loch Leven, Scotland.

Dear William:
Don't do it. How much credence would you put in a fly fishing article which started out, "When fishing for trout, you must first lob in a bag of worms to get the trout on the feed." Most fly fishermen become frustrated trying to catch carp, as they are a tough fish to get. Personally, I would ban it, but then again, I would be happy banning strike indicators. If you fancy a laugh, see if you can find a few hungry elk hounds and release them in the general vicinity of those throwing out the doggie treats. I am sure it would be a howl. If you do, please send pictures. One last point, if dog biscuits were intended as a carp food, there would be an image of a carp on the bag, would there not?

Dear Ian:
Do you prefer round toothpicks or flat tooth picks for applying head cement? I am in a bit of a quandary.
Fred, Michigan, USA.

Dear Fred:
I would suggest using adequate ventilation when applying head cement. The world might become a wee bit clearer.

Dear Ian:
My wife and I just finished planting all our Fall bulbs. The neighborhood cats are now using the flower beds as a giant litter box. Do you have any thoughts on how to keep the cats away? I know you are an Aggie Grad, so we thought you might be able to help.
Gary in Detroit, Michigan, USA.

Dear Gary:
Yes I do have some thoughts but I can't post them here for fear of going to jail. Call the local humane society and see what they suggest. One of the simplest solutions is to purchase a large dog with a mouthful of sharp teeth, and a bad attitude. If your wife won't go for this - they seldom do - you can always amuse yourself with the cats. Take a deerhair mouse fly and cut the bend, barb and hook point from it. Next take a box and cut a hole in it big enough for the mouse to pass through. Now tie the mouse to a chunk of mono and attach this to your fly line. Turn the box upside down with the mouse underneath it. Wait for the cats to show up then slowly pull the mouse out through the hole from under the box. On a 3 weight it is a pile of fun. You might want to check the drag setting on your reel as some breeds of cats can get quite frisky. One last point. Catnip should not be on your planting list, but you could track down the cats owners and then set about sprinkling copious amounts of this plant in their yards. That'll teach em!

Dear Ian:
I have read Fumbling many times, and I have picked up a few fishing tips from it. I got to wondering, if you could have written any other book, what would it be and why? Go easy on me I fish dry flies.
Brendan, Wisconsin, USA.

Dear Brendan:
The obvious answer is, Go Dogs Go. It has a great plot, it is well illustrated, the title is easy to remember and the story line is easy to follow. It is crisp and clean, plus it connects with the reader on so many levels.

Dear Ian:
I am going to try fly fishing for salmon for the first time this Fall. Any tips?
Colin from New York, USA.

Dear Colin:
Great name you have there. Take a look at the latest (#10) Tips and Tricks section. Other than that, all I can offer are these pointers: 1. Equipment warranty cards. 2. Dry clothing. 3. More dry clothing.

Dear Carpmaster:
I have been trying to dye up some deerhair to a jet black. I can't make it work and the hair comes out all squished up. Do you have any tips on dying deerhair?
Frank in Waterloo, Ontario.

Dear Frank.
Good Luck! Let me know if you manage to do it. Dying deerhair is a fine art. If the dye bath is too hot, it will cook the hair which makes it useless for tying flies, as the walls of the hair collapse and it won't flare. If the bath is too cold the dye will not set properly and your fingers will look 'a wee bit on the darkside' as you work with the hair. The best way to get dyed deerhair is to purchase it. Don't do it by mail order unless you know that they will take the stuff back if you don't like it. In a pinch, you can always spin the natural hair onto the hook and when you are done trimming it to shape, simply colour it with a Pantone marker. By the way, it is Carpfather, not Carpmaster.

Dear Ian:
I read in Fumbling with a Flyrod that you could castrate pigs all by yourself. Is this true?
Colleen, Texas, US.

Hi Colleen:
Yes I could but sadly I am out of practice. Is there a competition or something coming up? I have to say that when I farmed, I never once castrated a gilt.

Dear Carpfather:
Most fly fishing magazines wax lyrically about the latest and greatest fly fishing gadgets. What do you think was the biggest advance which turned out to be a bad idea in the long run?
Dave in Ohio, US.

Dear Dave:
Without question it would be the strike indicator, which is nothing more than a float. Sadly the strike indicator - bobber, bung (U.K.) or float - has for many fly fishermen become a pacifier or security blanket. They head to the river and chuck out a bobber with a fly below it, never thinking of trying another technique. Yes this is fly fishing, but a spinning rod with a bobber would be a much easier way to accomplish the same thing. Then again, this is just my opinion. There are many fly fishermen who use roe bags on the end of their leader and they still consider themselves to be fly fishing. I guess it all depends on how you look at it.

Dear Carpfather:
Most folk head to the river to relax. You are a guide so what do you do to relax?
Jeff in Michigan, U.S.A.

Dear Jeff:
I like long walks on the beach at sunset, bubble baths with scented candles and puppy sniffing. Yeah right. When I do have a wee bit of free time I take the rotties for a walk, or I try to watch some rugby on the TV. In a pinch I will take a look at the N.F.L or if I feel like ending up in a coma, some baseball. I also like to putter around in the garden and I play the tenor bagpipe in a traditional Scottish bluegrass band.

Dear Ian:
In your expert opinion, what would you say would be the most essential part of fly fishing for Chinook and coho salmon in Ontario. This is my first season, so any advice on flies?
Carol in Toronto, Ontario.

Dear Carol:
Backing. Lots of backing. Plus make sure you use a nail knot to secure the backing to the fly line, not an albright knot. An albright knot is fine for small stuff like trout and smallmouth bass as nine times out of ten, you never see the backing. However a big Chinook or even a good size coho will easily pull apart an albright knot and quickly separate the backing from the fly line. As for flies . . . stick with zonkers and puke flies.
Ps. Don't forget to put a drop or two of Superglue onto the nail knot. By the way I am not an expert, I am just a guy who fishes a lot.

Dear Carpfather:
The rumor in some of the local tackle shops is that you have a group of fly fishermen who test your fly patterns. Is this true? If so, can I become one? I try to fish at least three times per week.
Pat in Waterdown, Ontario.

Hi Pat:
Yes I do, and no you can't. The folks who test my patterns are also some of my best fishing mates. Sometimes a pattern will take about 10 years to 'get just right' so it can be a very slow process. The folks who test my flies don't mind spending the time to get it right and all the while keeping things hush-hush. Sadly too many fly fishermen have a nasty habit of stealing patterns and then telling the world they created it. A few years ago, some clown tried to do this with both my Dexter and Blue Thunder patterns. He changed the tying thread colour and renamed the flies. Luckily, it did not take long to get him sorted out. For the record, I also have anglers in Scotland, Ireland, England and in the USA who test my flies. To date none of my flies have passed a driving test and they have all failed a pregnancy test.

I tried using a shorter leader like you suggested in an earlier Ask Ian when fishing dries and it worked. I get way more hook ups. FYI, I also used a Blackwells Baitfish to catch trout in some of the streams I fish in Montana. I will be heading to Alaska in a few weeks and I will give them a try when I am there.
Happy in Montana.

Dear Happy:
No worries, glad it worked out and I will pass on the info to Dr. Blackwell. Let me know what species you catch and I will add them to the list. Note: If you hook into a large furry thing with sharp teeth and a mitten full of claws, it is most likely a bear. The easiest way to recognise a bear is that your guide will be hurriedly heading away from you. Bears are tough to land on a fly rod, so I suggest you simply drop your gear which will allow the bear to use your fly line as dental floss. As the old joke says, "You don't need to out run the bear, you just need to out run the guide."

Dear Ian:

Why do you constantly refer to Grand River browns as 'cute little trout?' I have caught two fish over 18 inches.
George in Toronto, Ontario.

Dear George:
Try to follow me here. Grand River brown trout are 'cute' and they are 'little,' which is why I refer to them as being 'cute little trout.' An 18 inch fish is a nice fish, a 6 inch fish is a nice fish it just depends on your point of view. I know of one angler who has landed two Grand River brown trout over 30 inches and one at 32 inches. Nope it was not me, and I am not telling where he got them. Personally, I have yet to break the 30 inch mark which proves, you can beat skill, but you can't beat luck. The biggest brown trout I have seen hooked in the Grand River was in the 33 inch to 34 inch range. The woman who hooked it lost it after about a 5 min battle. I suggest you try catching a few 18 inch carp on your fly rod, and then perhaps you will reevaluate the concept of 'big.' You need to remember here that no matter how you slice it, Grand River brown trout are STOCKED fish, carp on the other hand have not been stocked into an Ontario watershed since the 1800's or there about. While fishing the Grand River is fun and gratifying, you need to keep in mind it's a heavily stocked river.

Dear Carpfather:
Is there any 100% sure fire way to get fish (trout, carp, steelhead and bass) to hit my Muddler Minnow fly? I know it is a good pattern, but I am not having much luck using it.
Pete in Michigan, USA.

Dear Pete:
Yes there is! Tip your muddler with a 4 inch section of dew worm or a roe bag. As the fly is now 'heavy' you will need to 'open out your backcast a wee bit,' so that the fly won't run into the line or the rod on the forward cast. Sort of like chucking a conehead and heavily weighted woolly bugger. This also holds true for casting a team of large beadhead nymphs on light weight rods. Muddlers work. You might want to try them in smaller sizes than the size you are using. If they are not working nine times out of ten, the fly is too big.

Dear Ian:
I was appalled to find out you believe cats are worthless. I have two cats and they are part of my family. The kids love them and so do I. How can you say such a thing? Needless to say I probably won't be buying any more of your flies. Cats are people too.
Horrified in Hamilton, Ontario.

Dear Horrible:
I think the lines are a bit crossed over here. I have NEVER said, "Cats are worthless." What I have said publicly is this. "Fishing flies are not your best buddies. They are like BIC lighters and cats . . . they are completely disposable." Sure a cat can be an intimate part of a family, but the bottom line is this . . . it's a cat, not a human. Question: If you were driving down the road, and your kid stepped out from behind a parked car while your cat ran out from behind a parked car on the other side of the road, what would you do? You have no time to break, so you have to hit one of them. If you even THINK that it won't be 'Fluffy the Unlucky' then I strongly suggest you get your moral compass realigned. One last point, brushed out cat fur makes fantastic dubbing on smaller flies. Did you know there is a fly called a Cat's Whisker?




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