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Gus- introduction to fly fishing question...

Gus- great write up on intro to fly fishing. I'd certainly like a few more articles for us novices...maybe a how to tie one of the most useful flies. Have my own kit and had a go with a few but thinking fly I could use a lot would be useful (with step by step pictures)
...barbless hooks? do I use them all the time or just at commercial fisheries?
...also any suggestions to reassure me about how to remove hooks etc without damaging fish- I tend to just stop fishing when I reach catch limit out of paranoia about not being able to put them back alive. Funny really as sea fish I have no problem with- they seem much hardier but a trout seems so much more delicate- what if I catch a brownie out of season and it dies.
...and are there social rules/ etiquette for fisheries (ie keep anyway from the experienced anglers who don't want you splashing the water and scaring the fish.)
Just moved and the nearest fishery is a drop you money in a box one so there's not going to be anyone to ask these types of basic questions too....
any suggestions or future articles much appreciated
woody guthrie

Hi, I can help you out with some of your questions:

Barbless hooks, I use them all the time fly fishing my local river, most of the fish are small and it makes life easier unhooking, if you want to catch fish to eat and are not bothered by catch and release then you don't need them.

Removing hooks; its a lot easier with barbless hooks (see above) hold the fish with wet hands and get yourself a pair of forceps to grip the fly to get it out quickly and easily.

Etiquette; the fly fishing world is littered with rules and practices which you must adhere to but if it's a put your money in the box type of fishery I wouldn't be too worried. Just be courteous and treat others the way you would be liked to be treated yourself. Don't fish right on top of another angler, don't wade where it's not needed, watch your backcast and have fun.

Hi natty, glad you liked the article. I don't have an SBS fly tying instruction, or a lot of spare time to do one at the moment unfortunately!

I prefer a compromise as far as hooks go - rather than buy hooks that have been manufactured without a barb, buy normal barbed hooks and squash the barb flat with a pair of snipe-nosed pliers, or even the jaws of your fly-tying vice. This leaves a barbless hook with a small smooth lump where the barb used to stick up. You get the improved penetration of a true barbless hook, but the wee lump of the flattened barb helps to stop the hook falling out when a fish gets some slack and shakes its head.

Artery forceps (at least 6" long - you can buy them from lab suppliers on-line for around four quid) are the best thing for unhooking fish. There are several things you can do to release fish alive and unharmed, and it's good practise to employ all of these methods whenever possible;

1. Never remove the fish from the water - there's no need, unless it's for the pot. All this stuff about wetting hands and being quick is actually responsible for an increase in mortality rates of released fish. As soon as you lift a fish from the water, wet hands or not, gravity takes a serious toll on the suspensory ligaments that keep the fish's internal organs in the right place. wet hands are still rough enough to remove slime from a fish, and once that's removed, scale damage and the subsequent fungal or bacterial infections will make survival beyond a few days unlikely. This is rarely apparent in 'put and take' fisheries, because the stock rotates so fast that the fish are often caught and removed before they succumb to the damage from poor handling.

2. Unless your hook is very easy to remove (it generally is in flyfishing - the nature of the method means that a fish will most often be hooked in the front part of the mouth) consider it a sacrifice to the sport, and snip the line as close to the fly as possible. Carbon steel hooks, particularly those that have been debarbed, will loosen and fall out easily within a few days, and will not damage the fish. Holding a fish round the middle with one hand while you repeatedly attempt to wrench a hook from anywhere near the gills or throat with the other, will fatally injure the fish.

3. If It's been a long fight, make sure the fish has recovered enough to swim away strongly. If it's rolling over and not making any attempt to bolt back to deeper water, it's exhausted and depleted of oxygen. You can help things along by giving the fish equivalent of mouth to mouth resuscitation - gently grip the tail and flip the fish the right way up, then gently swish its head from side to side. If the water at your feet is stirred up and silty, move the fish along the bank a bit until you have some clearer water where you can do this. You'll find that wild fish recover very quickly - it's the flabby stocked rainbow trout that will struggle the most. This is because they are grown in claustrophobic fish farms at an unnatural rate on a diet of almost pure fat. The average 3lb stockie is around 2lb heavier than a wild fish of the same age; their circulatory system just can't cope with a long fight, and they exhaust quickly.

If you are fishing at a mixed fishery where wild trout are present, and the fishery owner chooses to allow flyfishing during the close season for brownies, you just have to do your best to release them alive. Because they're smaller, and as long as you use debarbed hooks, you can release them from 10 feet away by using the tip ring of your rod as a disgorger. Don't try this with fish over 10" - a sudden lunge from a feisty lunker can snap the rod tip.

As to etiquette, ask five different anglers to describe it, and you'll get five different answers. Unwritten rules aren't rules. Just be a decent person, and never be afraid to ask advice from a fellow angler. I've seen grown men square up to one another over two square feet of bank space, while trout rise every yard along half a mile of bank. Ridiculous. If someone gets proprietorial over a spot on the bank, my advice is to leave them to it, and try another spot. Fish swim around a lot - one will swim past you eventually, and no-one needs to throw a punch!

Hope some of this helps you, and I'll try doing a flytying SBS sometime soon.

Crikey. Long time no see. Welcome back. Smile

Smile Cheers Sean.

Wow that's extensive! thanks, it's great to get this type of detail. I definitely feel a lot more confident now- especially with the fish 'mouth to mouth' Wink
You should write a book Gus! I know lots of newbie fishers that would welcome this type of information. Everything else for beginners seems to focus on casting and nerve really answer the questions I guess fishermen just take for granted.
Fab, ok, now to actually have a go....
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