About that trout set. It’s not a thing that’s done in saltwater or warmwater or 99 percent of the fishing I’m wont to do. My muscle memory has been ingrained with setting the hook on the strip, and this hasn’t been helping me in pursuing the diminutive but wary common carp that reside nearby.
The thing about sight fishing for carp, I’ve come to find, is that it quickly exposes all of the things I am doing wrong. I couldn’t get a carp to look at my flies for ages until two years ago I had a breakthrough. I caught a few more and thought I’d unlocked some sort of secret code but I hadn’t. I think, maybe, I was just getting lucky.
The wrongs: I’d throw a fly in front of tailing, mudding or foraging pond carp and start slow stripping it, like a bonefish retrieve. They did not like this. I’d think casting within a foot of its mouth was close enough. It wasn’t. I’d think they couldn’t see or hear me standing on the banks. They could. I’d somehow hook one and not know why then go four or five trips in a row without getting a serious look.
My continuing relationship with the common carp is like living in a piscine version of a David Allan Coe song.
But there’s something about them that brings me back. As I told a friend recently, “I suck at it but I really love it.”
Of late, a few wise words have helped me suck at it a little less. The great John Montana of Carp on the Flyoffered up this advice: Cast a little beyond the fish’s mouth and drag the fly back so it drops right in its feeding circle. Then don’t move it. Since I started doing this I have had at least one carp attempt to eat my fly on every subsequent trip. Revelation.
This led to confounding problem number two: a catastrophic run of missed hooksets. There is nothing like watching a fish eat your fly but not hooking it, or thinking a fish ate your fly but not knowing or not feeling it or maybe it did but did it, jesus, what he hell?
It’s still several degrees removed from easy for me, but I’m going to buy Kirk Deeter’s book. Because if a mere six-pound fish is capable of exposing the backing on my 6wt, it’s a thing that’s worth all the suffering.
An unexpected package came in the mail last spring and I opened it. These electric little plastic baggies fell out and I thought, this was meant for somebody on the Furthur tour. But it was clearly labeled, Free Range Dubbing.
I didn’t know what to make of it, or with it. I am not a fly tier but someone who ties flies, a selection of saltwater patterns and some bastardized variants, none of which require dubbing. I resolved to learn some patterns that do, but I am lazy. And forgetful.
The other day I started rummaging for other materials and saw the package and remembered. I bought some dubbing wax. I know just enough to be dangerous but it doesn’t matter because there are no real consequences.
These bastards will swim and we’ll see if something comes of it. If nothing, I’m blaming the goddam weather.
At this moment, there are exactly 113,347 fly fishing blogs in existence. Twice that many have come and gone. (Where are you, Blanco Honky?) But of all the blogs that are, were and will be, none can make the same claim as the the Urban Flyfisher: World’s First Fly Fishing Blog.
His name is Alistair, he fishes in Scotland, and this is his story.
You are recognized as the first fly fishing blogger. With no real contemporaries at the time, what compelled you to start a fly fishing blog?
Essentially I wanted to start a diary that I could update easily involving photos. I did not know any html so found this new fangled thing called “blogging” and it looked like it would suit my needs. At the time there was no other dedicated fly fishing personal blog. There were a few blogs I identified with and we would link to each other and pass visitors on – one was called “A View from the Bridge” about a chap whose job took him to the waves on large industrial ships – his photos were amazing.
And a blog about urban fishing, hip before its time. What gives?
To be honest it is just circumstance – my local river is a true urban recovering river full of Trout and Salmon that runs through the heart of Glasgow. At the time I did not drive so it is was the easiest river to walk to – additionally I was a student at the time (not one of those students that the whole experience was wasted on as I was a mature student who could embrace stupidly long summers involving fishing and cheap wine.) The blog actually started out as “Urban Fly Fishing on the Kelvin” and then after a while morphed into “The Urban Fly Fisher” as I realised pretty much all the rivers I fish are within a stones throw of the city. However my soul still resides underneath bridges with buses thundering over them.
Even though urban fishing may be seen as “hip” there are still not a lot of guys actually doing it – it appears to be the same old die hards rather than new folk. A lot of people go fishing to get away from the city not actually go into it. Saying that, now I have a couple of young children my fishing is now solely once more on the Kelvin as it takes me a few minutes to get there.
How long did it take before you had any readers?
Within a few weeks I had around a dozen unique visitors per day and it stayed that way for a few months. Over time it grew and grew.
Were you surprised from the response from across the pond in the States?
The majority of my readers are from outside the Scotland and the UK. I get a lot of emails from folk who have emigrated to the States and Australia who are homesick and want to check up on Glasgow – they are amazed that there are now fish in the river. I am still amazed that people enjoy what I write about the Kelvin – I assume they enjoy the Glasgow chat.
Nine years is a long time to be churning out content on a regular basis. What compels you to keep going?
It is a diary so I am never without content – during our close season sometimes content can be a bit difficult to think up so the whole blog slows down until the season starts and then it is back to being about trips. Of course now that I am Vice Chair of the River Kelvin Angling Association I do not get to moan at them anymore I now get people shouting at me at meetings – I then get to write about them instead.
Has blogging about fly fishing helped your actual fly fishing?
Without question yes.
I can honestly say that every fishing buddy I have now is because I started the blog. The majority of knowledge that I have gained through chat and observation of my fishing pals has made me a better fisher – not a particularly good fisher if the truth be told however certainly above half assed (just).
I reckon most of the guys I have fished with would not have fished with me if it were not for the blog – not saying I am a big celebrity or anything more of recognizing a kindred spirit type of thing. It opens the doors to new opportunities that’s for sure.
Any insane celebrity stalking stories arising from your blog?
I have good stories and bad. I am constantly surprised that people recognise me and when it happens I am still taken aback. Just last week I was at the swimming baths with my son and this huge gent with tattoos all over his body kept glaring at me. I thought it was because my son was splashing him and edged away, he edged closer and stared into my eyes and asked if I was Alistair – after confirming that this was the case he nodded and began to move away – “I read yer site” he said before swimming off without another word.
Another time I received an email from a guy who told me he was standing behind me in Ikea the night before – we now fish together regularly.
I have had guys over the years who send me loads of emails however sometimes I just find it difficult to email back regulary and I think this annoys them.
I do actually have some bad stories as well, up until quite recently there was a guy who was internet stalking me as I banned him from my wee local forum. It all got a bit serious to be honest.
Do you think the rest of the fly fishing blog community should present you with a certificate or something? A watch? (I’ve got an old Timex.)
I think there should be a minimum payment of ten flies sent to me by any new fly fishing blogger – also an open invitation to stay in their home and fish with them.
You motherf&*$&*rs got no creep,” -Kima Greggs, “The Wire” Season 2
The bonefish started moving away from me the second I raised my rod to throw and I had no accounting for it. But Ellie, my guide, gave me a look that made it clear this was all my fault.
“What’s in your bag, Pete?” he asked, and I felt embarrassed for overlooking such a small thing that could dampen my prospects.
I get to go flats fishing for bonefish, on average, about once every two years, so I am no authority on the subject. But in my brief travels I’ve picked up things that have stuck. Besides the general obvious ones–false casting sucks, poise counts and so on–it sometimes seems to be the tiniest of details. Such as…
THE SHIT IN YOUR BAG: Sound travels 4.3 times faster through water than air. Ellie, one of the guides from Andros South*, had detected a rattle coming from my pack when I loaded my back cast. The culprit: Those little plastic containers you throw your desired flies into at the fly shop. I’d left one loose in there with three crabs I’d purchased and forgotten about. And it cost me shots.
THE SHIT ON YOUR LINE: Scene two, I was walking along a shallow flat, floating line stripped and trailing at the ready. Except it kept sinking. Every ten feet or so I’d snag a rock or shell or coral bit and get otherwise hung up. This again, entirely my fault. Despite my known preferences for ditch fishing in sandy, muddy and potentially toxic areas, the number of times I had cleaned my line added up to never. All that grit, and all the times I’d stepped on it added up to FUBAR. Thankfully, I’d left my spare reel sitting safely in my luggage at the lodge.
The guide wound up serving as my personal line caddy for the session, walking side by side and holding my line free from snags until I was ready to throw. Mighty cool of him.
The fish I did catch were, thankfully, blind to my inadequacies.
Wanted: Drummer and bass player to comprise rhythm section of power trio. Looking for Fugazi-style vocal foil arrangement set against the backdrop of late 80s emerging Wetlands jam band funk noodling, with a one drop backbeat and a strong Creedence personality.
Must assume responsibility for all solos, like dogs.
Rob from A Bad Backcast invited me onto his weekly show on Kayak Fishing Radioto talk about The Blitz: Fly Fishing The Atlantic Migration. Very generous considering the book is unintentionally kayak-free. (We had a whole yak session cancelled due to A Noreaster.) There is a green canoe, though.
Here’s the link where you can listen to a podcast of the conversation on iTunes: