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A Cautionary Tale!

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by Terry Lawton

My host suggested that I made my way upstream and started fishing in a pool, somewhat similar to a hatch or shallow weir pool, where the water at the head of the pool ran over a concrete sill before widening out into a nice small pool. The flow out of the tail of the pool split into two round a tiny island that would have been underwater if the water level had been a bit higher. A rise at the head of the pool close to the right-hand bank looked encouraging.

As there were no flies to be seen on the water or in the air, I tied on a generic CDC dry fly and cast up to where the fish had just risen. A number of casts in and around the rise did not result in an offer. So I then tied-on a small copper bead-head PTN nymph and cast up to the head of the pool. The nymph had hardly started to drift downstream when it was taken with a solid take. I set the hook and was soon playing a very lively brown that was giving a very good account of itself. Then it was gone. I assumed that I had not set the hook firmly enough and that it had come unhooked, even though I had been playing the fish for a couple of strong runs and a jump. Stupidly that is all I did.

I then changed my position, moving away from the bank to the middle of the tail of the pool where the shallow water barely covered the insteps of my wading boots. Here the light was coming from a better angle and I could see two or three nice trout patrolling the deeper parts of the pool. I then became aware of a bullock standing close behind me, with a look of wonderment and admiration on its face as it watched me fish. As there had not been another rise nor any sign of a fly on the surface, I continued with the PTN nymph. After a cast or two my leader dipped to signal what seemed to be a take but when I set the hook, nothing. Perhaps it wasn't a fish or it had just nosed or plucked at my nymph, usually a rare occurrence on a river. A few casts later, the same thing happened again.

Broken hook
Fishing without a point on your hook is taking catch and release a bit far, particularly as the first part of the phrase cannot be achieved.

As I had now fished the pool for quite some time, I decided to reel-in and head off upstream. When I took hold of the nymph to hook it into the top ring on my rod, I discovered the reason for my problems. The dressing was still in good order but the bend and point of my hook was missing. Little wonder that the seemingly tentative plucks were not converted into hooked fish. Usually when I hook and lose a fish I do check that the point of the hook is sharp and, if it seems a bit blunt, I will sharpen it. But why I did not do so this time is a mystery. It is the first time that I remember a hook breaking like this although I have tied flies on cheap hooks that have straightened out. As well as checking your hook for weed every time that you hook the bottom - or think that you have - make sure that you check it after hooking and perhaps losing a fish. The few seconds taken to do this could mean the difference between a fish "on the bank" and the frustration of failing to hook a fish.

By way of a footnote, the next time I went fishing, a few days later, I pricked and lost a number of fish. But I did check my fly to see that it was still all there and I sharpened the hook. That seemed to have helped as I then started catching and releasing fish.

This story can also be used by anyone who ties their own flies to drive home the point of the importance of using good quality hooks.


Fly Fishing in Rivers and Streams by Terry Lawton


If you would like to read more from Terry, please follow this link to check out his published works in our Amazon book store, including his latest - 'Flyfishing in Rivers and Streams'

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