I have been fishing with a fly rod for more years than I can recall and for the majority of those I have had a weakness for dry flies. Firstly I just like the look of them and although it may not be the most demanding way of catching fish, it is the visual aspects and the beauty of the whole experience that I’m a complete sucker for.
Even the old records seem to suggest that dry fly fishing was where it all began and the earliest descriptions and illustrations are of flies with wings and I suspect that in those days what was observed was fish feeding on floating insects – the rings of the rise on the surface and the insect disappearing in the rings. It didn’t take any kind of rocket science to realise that a fly or bug impaled on a hook would bring reward in the form of a trout or two for the supper table. But, I’m sure they quickly discovered that an impaled insect didn’t float well and that natural fur and feather to rather imitate insect, would do a better job of it. Of course it eventually got to the stage in the later 1800’s when G E M Skues started writing about upstream wet-fly and nymph fishing and not wanting to rock the ‘dry fly only’ boat, skippered at the time by F M Halford with a dedicated crew of supporters, and loose his membership of the prestigious English chalk stream Fly Fishers Club, he called them ‘minor tactics’ and not intended to ‘supplant or rival’ dry fly fishing. Notwithstanding his views the debate of dry fly only raged on for many years. Of course much turbulent water flowed beneath the bridge until It calmed with both techniques now readily acknowledged and accepted. Looking back, dry fly only seems nothing short of ridiculous considering that the trout spend more time foraging for food below the surface and feeding on nymphs than taking the adult insects floating on the surface. Having said that I am still a dry fly fisherman first and as a consequence my fly tying leans heavily in that direction – not unexpectedly the mayfly because it is the most prolific of the insects on our streams and when tied correctly have a familiarity about them that will get the attention of the trout more often than not.
I guess though for those of us who occasionally claim to be a dry fly man exclusively we do so because, as John Geirach once put it so succinctly in his inimitable style, “…..he likes the poetry and prettiness and that patina of Old World snobbery, which is, in fact, about the same brownish amber color as a hundred –year old bamboo fly rod.”
I happen to agree with JG’s sentiments and make no apology for my preference for dry flies. And as a parting shot here is a little mayfly that I fish on my favourite small streams in the mountains and it feels even better if I’m using my exquisitely handcrafted Stephen Boshoff bamboo fly rod.
Please note that all written and photographic material contained in this blog and its posts are the sole ownership of the author/photographer and may not be copied or used for any purpose whatsoever without the prior consent of the author/photographer having been obtained – Peter Brigg.