No sooner have we latched on to the latest line of kit when a newer shinier model appears, leaving our past purchase looking little more than a poor second. All too often we find ourselves flitting like mayflies from one goody to the next, ever anxious to find that wonder gizmo capable of bringing us bigger and better trout. While our frailties undoubtedly please tackle suppliers it's noticeable that, despite the smooth sales blurb, the end product does not always quite live up to our expectations. As one who has trolled through the gamut of absolute boons and useless lemons, there follows the ideal trouters Christmas wish list.
RODS FOR WILD TROUT
Brown trout are special and fishing for them is a specialist thing. In selecting a trout rod you must do a little advance thinking about where you are going to make the most use of it. For example, it's often thought that big lochs/loughs need correspondingly heavyweight gear to cope with the distances involved. Not really. As exposure to the elements of wind/rain/hail increases so does rod wind resistance with aching muscles to match. If you would prefer not to end the day in an exhausted heap, choose a light carbon fibre, tip to middle action rod for fishing in the wilds. Rods in the 9ft to 10ft range will normally cope with most conditions and try if you can to select one with a thin section leading into the butt/cork. This is probably the best sign of a quality rod, though note `skinny' rods like this will usually cost more. Some loch enthusiasts love those heavy `fat and floppy' rods, though I've owned them I'm not a fan, these beasts are too much like hard work! If you mainly fish small streams or stillwaters then you can of course use a shorter rod but do bear in mind your light 10fter will work almost anywhere.
With reels you get what you are prepared to pay for and these days there are some super precision instruments made. Choose one which balances the rod, i.e. not too heavy and also one which has enough capacity in the drum to store your fly line fairly loosely. Dinky little reels look sweet but if you store a standard length line on them a heck of a lot of `memory' builds up and you can end up with corkscrew twists. Other features to look for include a drag which is not so severe as to take an eternity to pull off or wind in line, and also the choice of metal used on the rim (this is where most reels take knocks as you assemble and disassemble tackle). Do remember that if you clean and oil the interior of a reel, a good quality one will last you almost forever barring calamitous mishaps like running over it with the car!
A few moons ago I used to think the rod/reel set up was the most critical in the choice of kit. However, as advances in technology now normally ensure a minimum standard in these, the fly line takes central stage. Think about it. This is THE piece of equipment which makes the most contact with the trouts watery environment (not the rod or reel!). It must also efficiently propel your fly just where you want it and in delicate fashion. Therefore the lines' movement over and contact with the water must be light, slick and subtle rather than crass, hefty and highly obvious.
Buy or ask your loved ones for the best you/they can afford and then once you've got it, take loving care of it! `Mill ends' and the like might seem a bargain but they rarely last very long. If you fish a lot, cheaper lines will start to crack with wear pretty quickly. Invest according to anticipated use, and choose lines suited to your main needs. In my windy neck of the woods that means principally a WF floater with a WF intermediate as a `back up' for deeper fishing. For you it might mean only a DT floater but do ask for line cleaner and enhancer to go with it and make as much use of these preserving aids as possible.
This is a cheap but necessary piece of kit. I use straightforward 4lb nylon attached by a small loop direct to the fly line. I make my own droppers on it as required, sometimes none sometimes two or three. Remember that pre made leaders, either tapered or already assembled with droppers, mean you have no flexibility in leader length. The amount of glitter emanating from the nylon in sunshine is a key factor in judging its quality/effectiveness. I don`t believe that trout have super human eyesight capable of seeing all nylon no matter what (if they did we would never catch them) however sudden glitter in bright light could cause a fish to turn away from the fly. Balance this also with the fact that very fine nylon, 3lb or less, is difficult to see/work with especially in poor conditions.
The only time you will really need a net is if you are fishing for wild trout from high banks or in a boat. Most of the time you should be able to catch and release, if you use barbless hooks you can slip the trout back in the water there and then. Knotless nets are compulsory in England and should be made so in Scotland too (though to date it's not happened). Make sure you use them as fish suffer far less scale damage. Also get the right size of net for the job. Knackered anglers struggling up to high hill lochs with a mighty great salmon net are still a fairly common sight in the North!
Flies are probably one of the most popular gifts for the ardent trout fisher. A selection doesn't cost the earth, they are small, easy to send by mail and so on Trouble is if you buy one of those pre assembled assortments for chalkstreams/lochs/river or whatever, you might find that up to half the flies are the wrong size or the wrong design (too sparse, too dressy) and the colours unsuitable for your everyday requirements. Though these `package deals' provide a starting point for those new to a particular sector of wild trout angling, it's best to make up your own if you can.
Choose flies to suit your most fished water first but go for an across the board mix of nymph, dry and wet in sizes 10 to 16 rather than being too specialised. Wild trout will take a sparse size 16 Greenwell Spider in a big loch just like they will take a Size 10 Dunkeld in a tiny beck. Remember, it ain`t what you fish as much as how you fish it. Personalise your selection, mine includes Hares Ear Nymphs, Dry flies like Red and Black Sedges and amongst others the three classic wets Invicta, Soldier Palmer and Zulu in all their variations. Don`t go all natural or all traditional, make it a good mix and avoid building up too much of one colour to the detriment of another. Half way through the 2000 season I realised I had hardly any green in the box (speedily rectified with Green Tailed Zulus, olive green nymphs, Grouse & Green etc). This for me turned out to be the killing colour of the year, so beware.
If you are hoping for something good in your Christmas stocking this year, printing this article out and leaving it in full view of your nearest and dearest could be a good place to start