In my opinion we overburden ourselves with more gear than we really need for river and stream fishing – time to scale down. In the past few season I have been drastically reducing the extra baggage that at one time I thought was essential, or someone told me I needed it, or just fashionable to have the right appearance. I ditched my fly vest that I bought over 15 years ago at Filsons’s flagship store in Seattle. The story goes that they locked 12 of the best guides in a room and were only let out when they had designed the best fly fishing vest – true or not, they did a good job with enough space to accommodate the average man’s worldly possessions. It served me well until I realised that I was carrying a lot more than I needed. There were things in the pockets that I hadn’t seen for years or didn’t remember putting there or what they were for. It was bulky, heavy and hot. I have now more or less come full circle from when I first started fly fishing. In those days in a shirt pocket I had one of my Dad’s old Three Nuns tobacco tins with a few flies and a packet of split-shot, in my shorts I had a spool of nylon for leaders and tippets and a Joseph Rogers pocket knife that in those days was used mainly for gutting my catch.
I now use a belt pack also made by Filsons, or a small Frost River shoulder bag. In there is a fly box, although bigger than I need I kept my lucky Wheatly fly box, floatant, forceps, a couple of spools of tippet indicator yarn and a few other essentials. My small 10 L backpack is for my camera, waterproof jacket, spare leaders and something to eat and drink. Since a dentist capped a tooth and changed my bite, my once useful cutting tool is no more so I hang a pair of nippers in an easy to reach spot off the backpack shoulder strap. And, that’s about it.
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The scaling down has extended also to the flies I now use. There was a time when I carried a couple of large fly boxes, both filled with an excess of flies some well-known, others experimental and many nondescript. Ostensibly these were there to match any aquatic or terrestrial insect likely to be found in or around our streams, I never wanted to be caught short – 95% of them never made it out of the box. I rethought what I needed in the way of flies reducing them to a core selection of generic patterns that will do the job in most situations – it works for me and I have seldom been found wanting.
One of the aspects that prompted me to simplify my fly tying and the patterns that I carry, was the number of days I have had where all that was needed was a single, seemingly irresistible fly. We have probably all had those ‘one fly days’. It has happened now far too frequently to be ignored.
On the first occasion despite trying a CDC and Elk I was fishless after 20 minutes. I changed to a Wolf Spider and took a pretty small rainbow on the first drift. From there on the trout rose to it steadily all day. The only fly changes were to replace the battle scared spider for a fresh one.
Not long ago with trout rising freely I just couldn’t go wrong with a Mayfly Spinner despite no sign of spinners on the water. I suspect that there had been a fall the night before and they were keyed into coming onto them – I’m sure it was the familiar profile that got them excited. On another occasion when the trout were rising to emerging mayfly nymphs, I had a similar ‘one fly day’ with my variation of the Klinkhamer, the Klinkie.
And then, on my last outing of the season in 2018 I used a bushy CDC and Elk as the indicator with, a small lightly weighted nymph below – the Rooinek, a simple yet effective pattern that is nothing more than a GRHE with a red thread collar and a hint of UV dubbing blended with the hares ear. It took a mess of trout. I never felt the need to change, why would I? The same has happened a few times since then.
And, a couple of weeks ago to end of the season Philip Meyer’s excellent Para-RAB was all I needed. I’m probably inviting debate, apologies Philip, but I don’t see anything of the RAB in this fly. It deserves a name of its own.
Having cut my gear to the ‘bare necessities’, I feel unencumbered and comfortable, and I know where everything is. The preparation for a fishing outing is a lot easier, as is the choice of fly.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2019. All rights reserved