Continuing my posts on commonly observed mistakes in river fishing, having described three quite similar faults, this time I'm going to point out something different; something that can be put right before you get anywhere near the river - "using unsuitable tackle"...
My clients turn up with all sorts of tackle. Some own old, sentimental, handed down, antique rods, that are virtually unusable. They are best left at home in a collection, taken out from time to time to admire and dust off, and eventually handed down again. These anglers marvel when I present them with a modern Greys XF2 Streamflex or Hardy Marksman river rod that we will be using. They cannot believe how light it is, how thin the blank is and how well it casts in comparison to their current rod. No more lighting a cigarette while waiting for the back-cast to straighten! Others have ultramodern, state of the art, carbon fibre rods with matching reel, costing many hundreds of pounds. If this outfit is the correct length, line weight, action, etc, it is a luxury and a pleasure to use.
Of course I also see everything in-between and it is common to see 9’6” and 10’ #7 and #8 rods being taken from the car boot and assembled. These are rods at home on stocked reservoirs and lakes up and down the country but have no place in river fishing for trout and grayling with dry fly, nymph or wet fly. We need to match the tool to the job and line weights #2 to #5 should be used on rivers, more commonly nowadays #3 and #4 lines. We use the maximum length of rod we can on the river we are fishing, up to the superb 10’ XF2 Streamflex on larger, more open waters.
|In this picture I am using a long rod (Streamflex 10’ #3)|
for maximum control of my fly, in conjunction with wading,
keeping low and cover from the rocks, to fish complex,
clear water, with a single nymph.
This, in my opinion, is the maximum length of rod we should use for all round fishing. The Streamflex range of fly rods are available up to 11' #3 and #4, but good as these rods are, they are best reserved for French nymphing or "Leader To Hand" (LTH). Call it whatever you prefer, but what I mean is any of the methods where only the leader extends from the rod and not the fly line, plus North Country Spider fishing, which is also best done with long, lightweight rod and short line. I have one of the original Streamflex 10' #3 rods and it will do everything from dries to wets, Czech to French. Rods over this length tend to be very soft, intentionally, so that they can cast ultra long leaders and very little to no flyline.
I like to split river techniques into two groups: 1.) where we cast the line in the traditional manner (dry fly, upstream nymph, etc), and, 2.) where we use a fixed line (Czech nymphing, duo, etc.) or have just leader outside the rod (French nymphing, LTH, etc.). If you intend just fishing the techniques in the second group the long, soft, rod, is what you'll need. If the first group is more your thing, and I think that will be the majority of anglers, a shorter, crisper, rod will be more suited and 9' is probably (still) the rod of choice. Of course small streams will demand shorter rods, so if you fish a variety of rivers you may need a collection of rods to cover each, but remember, longer rods give us more reach and control when we are fishing, and are easier to cast, so use the longest you can get away with.
So what if you fish a variety of methods throughout a day's fishing? Enter the unique XF2 Streamflex Plus...A crisp actioned, 9' 6" rod (for fishing the techniques in group 1), that by means of a (patented) extension section, hidden inside the butt, becomes a 10' rod. Of course you now have a longer rod with more reach, but that is missing the point here. What that short 6" piece does is completely change the action of the rod from crisp casting tool to soft actioned wand, capable of delivering a French leader upstream, a team of North Country Spiders across the river, or any of the other methods in group 2.
Clients who turn up with unsuitable rods in stillwater weights are quickly offered one of my demo rods. When they hook their first fish they often comment on how lively the fish are and how hard they fight in comparison to stillwater trout. I explain it’s not that river fish fight harder (probably the opposite is true), just a case of them feeling the fish more because they are using a lighter outfit. The fish we catch are generally smaller in rivers; the flies used in river fishing and the distances we cast are all smaller than those used for stillwater flyfishing, so we scale our tackle down accordingly.
Materials, designs and manufacturing processes have advanced massively in recent years. The tackle companies have responded and given us a fantastic range of rods (and other tackle), to cover every situation, at various price points, so there is now no excuse not to use suitable tackle.