Ian Archives #4 of 5
From: The summer of 2004 to December 2004, 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 Ian Schematics.
These folk Asked 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
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
Sheila, Suffragette City.
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.
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.
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!
I am looking at buying my first pair of wading shoes. Do you have
Bob in Cannington, Ontario.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Don, Waterford, Ontario.
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.
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
Larry, *******, Michigan.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
Will scent work on a fly?
Joe from Manchester, England.
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?"
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.
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?
Do you prefer round toothpicks or flat tooth picks for applying
head cement? I am in a bit of a quandary.
Fred, Michigan, USA.
I would suggest using adequate ventilation when applying head cement.
The world might become a wee bit clearer.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I am going to try fly fishing for salmon for the first time this
Fall. Any tips?
Colin from New York, USA.
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.
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.
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.
I read in Fumbling with a Flyrod that you could castrate pigs all
by yourself. Is this true?
Colleen, Texas, US.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?