Photograph by Steve Barnett

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

What have you already got?

If you are making the move from lakes and reservoirs to rivers and streams it can be more to your advantage to spend your money on your fishing ticket(s) than on tackle.  You already have some tackle so let's take a look at it and see what can be put to use without having to buy new.  Of course eventually, if you fall in love with the Sport, then you will indeed be investing in some new items specifically for your dry fly fishing.

What will you need?  Let's be conventional for now and agree to leave Macedonian, Medieval, Tenkara and other fixed line arrangements to one side.  So, among your stillwater rods, do you have one that is between eight and nine feet long and that uses a line no heavier than a six weight and no lighter than a four weight?  If you have then that solves your rod requirements.  The only cost may be to buy a spray can of matte black paint, to paint the rod and rings so you get rid of any shiny surfaces before they scare all your fish away.  Simply assemble the rod.  Mask off the corks and maybe the writing on the butt then waft two or three thin coats over the whole rod making sure the guides (if not already black) end up matte black too.

If you are going to be spending money on a new rod for dry fly fishing, choose a rod of eight and half feet to nine feet long that uses a number five weight line and has a middle to tip action.  Most importantly your rod needs to be matte with no shiny whippings or fittings.  Yes there will be those who suggest other rod lengths and other weights of line and other actions but if you start with a rod as suggested here, it will serve you very well on most rivers and streams in all wind and weather conditions and let you build on your own experiences.  If you are anything like most dry fly fanatics you will end up with a cupboard full of rods representing a great variety of line weights, rod lengths and rod actions but you will come back to this starting point rod again and again. 

So, this rod from your stillwater armoury, have you got a reel with a floating line (any floating line) on it to suit the rod?  Yes?  Well, for now, that has saved you some more money but...  You will need to change the colour of the line.  To do this you need a Pantone or similar broad tipped permanent marker pen in dark brown.  This next bit is messy so put on some rubber gloves before pulling off twenty yards of the line from the reel and then carefully rub the line with the marker, working your way forward until the front twenty yards of the line are now brown.  Okay this is not the perfect answer but it is a very important improvement to make before you begin dry fly fishing in earnest.

If you are going to buy yourself a new reel and a new line make sure the reel is NOT SHINY and try to get as small and as light a reel as you can.  We are looking for tools not jewels!  Your reel is not (well should not be) a piece of jewellery.  It is there to hold the line and not much else. 

Look at these two reels, I've had them for the same length of time.  One of them was a prize in a Wild Trout Trust competition, only one of them has made it to the riverside though (clue: it has a line loaded on it).  There is no place for shiny stuff when Dry Fly Fishing!

As for the line... 

Whether you decide to invest in one of the 'EXPERT' lines or choose something else is entirely up to you but please, for your own sake, do end up with a mucky brown line on your reel even if you have to colour it yourself.

Next time we will look at landing nets and some of the smaller but pretty well essential items for your dry fly fishing.

Regular Rod


  1. RR, some interesting comments on reels, given the choice between the two I would bet on 99% of anglers choosing the left hand one. My father used to say that most floats were designed to catch anglers not fish and I take it you subscribe to the same view about reels. I was wondering what make is the right hand reel and is it composite if you don't mind me asking?

  2. You are right, today most anglers would prefer the reel on the left at first sight. The one on the right is a Shakespeare Condex Fly 2764 and cost me about £12 in a sale (RRP was about twice that but there were always bargains to be had).

    It is made of carbon reinforced plastic, came with a spare spool, has a built in disc drag (that I never use) and can be dropped onto hard surfaces without breaking, bending or distorting. The exposed rim is positioned so that even if you drop it in silt or sand it still runs freely. Shakespeare dropped it from their range some time ago. Maybe anglers, at that time, were too much interested in reels similar to the one on the right?

    1. Correction: "Maybe anglers, at that time, were too much interested in reels similar to the one on the left?"

  3. I am confused over the 'mucky brown' line colouring - how come we see differing colours (and some very bright coloured lines they are too)for floating/midi/sinking - these are extremely 'hi-viz' lines - are you inferring we should stain all these mucky brown ?

  4. Yes. For dry fly fishing a dark, drab, dull, brown line scares fewer fish than bright lines do. Bright lines are easy to see and so can be useful when wet fly fishing, or if demonstrating casting. In dry fly fishing you watch the fly not the line and so there is no need to use a bright line that will scare some of your fish whilst casting.

    If you prefer not to buy a fresh line and you only have a bright line, then my suggestion is to change its colour. You might be able to get a dye to stain it but some modern lines resist dyes, so I suggest the Pantone permanent marker pen in dark brown as a quick way to get you out there with a line that will not scare the fish. If you are happy to buy a fresh line just for your dry fly fishing then, as you might expect, I recommend the 'EXPERT' dry fly line that you can read about on this blog.

    Are you okay with this explanation? If you would like any more information just let me know.

    Regular Rod

  5. Hi RR, Hope you're well and the good Ship Haddon est.......... I see the Fly Fishing Forums still have their Clever Trevers and Herbert's and those who will never enjoy Fishing as they cannot grasp the skills or watch and read the River and its Enviroment , just too busy putting downers on people's enjoyment. Keep up with the Blog...Very Enjoyable Cheers

    SC Anonymous at 13:30