Light & Magic

At this point in my fly fishing/casting life, I’m definitely not a glass or bamboo guy. Yet, I think I’m close to be sold to the glass cause just because for their cosmetics. Yeah. I love to admit it, but I’m in this game in good part because of the way it looks. I feel relatively safe in this confession, I’m in good company: Gierach wrote something along the line. The special effects you can get when building on glass are really beautiful.

Here’s a master of this trade, a true artist in rod building — when he’s not possessed by some Transylvanian demon and fucks up a build big time with a red marker, a tragedy indeed, but thankfully rare.

So, you begin with stuff like that

tightloops1 tightloops3which admittedly is quite good as a start, and then some light and varnish magic operates and you end up with this

tightloops2 tightloops4 tightloops5

This is seriously good.

A hazel branch

Last week, I was staying at my parents’ house. The very place where I first felt the fishing bug catching in me.


One morning some memories came back to me of the early days. I was ten, and already completely obsessed with fishing, even if my occasions to actually go and fish were relatively scarce. I would read and re-read La pêche sportive en eau douce (Sport Fishing in Freshwater) by J. M. Boelle, published in 1978 by Solarama, and stay in absolute awe looking at that guy:

In his way, the fly fisherman is an artist. His cast, both graceful and precise, has no room for sloppiness.

I was nowhere near to have the money to buy a fly rod, and there wasn’t any trout water I could reach by a bicycle ride. But I really wanted to know how it felt. So I did what I usually did in these cases: I built the damn thing myself. I grew up surrounded by wonderful hazel bushes, full of straight rods ideal to make bows, arrows, spears, swords, staffs, wands, walking sticks, and a couple more things I can’t remember now. So that would give me a blank.

Any of these would do

Any of these would do


The guides were a little trickier since I had no notion of how to do a wrap, but sneaking around in the basement I found just what I needed:

well, yeah.

well, yeah. No fancy Rec stuff.

I used an empty thread bobin as a reel The final product was quite bad and looked a lot like this:


With a coarse string as a fly line and my 10 years old’s enthusiasm as fuel, I even got a couple of loops in the air, and since I didn’t know what a tailing loop was, I think I didn’t make any. My parent’s lack of understanding of what I was doing was maybe a tad deeper than usual this day. They probably thought I was trying to catch imaginary air fishes.

Looking back on those days, I realize that most of what my fishing life was to become was already there. Lots of dreaming, books, cheap rod building and fly casting.

I was doomed.

The philosopher

[Traduction française à la fin]

Georgie, a.k.a. B. Hinde, a.k.a. Captain Stoke, a.k.a. A Butt, a.k.a. ye ole git.

Georgie, a.k.a. B. Hinde, a.k.a Simplex Munidishes, a.k.a. Captain Stoke, a.k.a. A Butt, a.k.a. ye ole git.

I’m a philosopher. I mean, that’s what I do. I would have said that’s my job if it weren’t for the very obvious answer I’d get from every aspiring comedian in the world…
— Do you call that a job?
Well, I do. There are those, we’re not short of them by any means, who won’t get the point, and will spare no effort in making it clear. It does get a little tiring at times. So it’s always a nice surprise when you discover a guenuine philosophical effort somewhere you weren’t expecting one at all.

I knew Skues was quite the smart guy, he’s got a splendid reputation, but the following passage fell well beyond expectations. We’re page 10 of The way of a Trout with a Fly. Skues is about to begin the discussion of one of the core topics of the whole book: understanding trout vision.

A preliminary cast

In a well-known Greek myth, Semele, one of Jove’s many mistresses, is presented as having persuaded her lover to reveal himself to her in his Olympian majesty, and as having been burned to a cinder in the conflagration; — the moral of this being that man is not intended to see things as they are, but only in such form and to such extent as is good for him. This is, I believe, in full accord with the views of modern science, which holds that man sees nothing absolutely as it is, but only relatively and as is necessary for the purposes of his being. Even so his perception of things seen is not the sole result of the image on the retina, but is a subjective effect produced upon the mind by the combination of the image and the results of experience gained through the sense of touch and possibly other senses connecting and co-ordinating the image thrown upon the retina. A baby, it is supposed, sees everything flat at first. He has to feel his way through his sense of touch to a sense of distance and perspective. Man’s eye therefore is not in the absolute sense a perfect organ, but only relatively perfect for the purposes of the needs and nature of man.
I do not think that, if this proposition be true of man, it can be any less true of fish, and, in considering the way of a trout with a fly, whether natural or artificial, it may be worth while to spend a little time in an endeavour to see what can be deduced from known facts about the nature and characteristics of the eyesight of the trout.
The nature and the needs of trout differ greatly from those of man, and it need not therefore surprise us if examination should lead us to the conclusion that his perception by eyesight differs materially from that of man. Indeed, I think it would be remarkable if, living in a different medium that is subject to certain optical laws from which the air is free, and having different needs and modes of being from man, the trout were to see things in all respects as man sees them — even after making all allowance for the correcting and co-ordinating effects of tactile experience.

In his foreword for The Essential G.E.M. Skues, Goddard wrote:

I still look on Skues with considerable awe as, with out doubt, the greatest thinking fly fisher ever to put pen to paper.

Well, I think he may very well be right.  Just for illustrative purposes, here’s a relatively faithful rendition of the tying described in the plates of Skues’s book. Thanks to Les amis moucheurs.

First method, p. 124:

Second method, p. 128:

To cover the awkward silence of the videos, here’s something nymphy and good: Végh Quartet, in Beethoven’s 7th. I think Skues had it in mind when he fished the Itchen.



In an effort to share Skues’ extraodinary wits, I will now translate the passage in French.

Un lancer préliminaire
Un mythe grec bien connu présente Semele, une des nombreuses maîtresses de Jupiter, ayant persuadé son amant de se montrer à elle dans sa splendeur Olympienne, et réduite en cendres dans l’incendie ; la morale de l’histoire étant que l’homme n’est pas fait pour voir les choses telles qu’elles sont, mais seulement sous la forme et dans la mesure qui sont bonnes pour lui. Cela est, je crois, en plein accord avec les vues de la science moderne, qui tient que l’homme ne voit jamais les choses telles qu’elles sont dans l’absolu, mais seulement de manière relative et pour autant que c’est nécessaire aux fins de son être. Même ainsi, sa perception des choses vues n’est pas le résultat de la seule image sur la rétine, mais elle est un effet subjectif produit dans l’esprit par la combinaison de l’image et des résultats de l’expérience acquise par le sens du toucher et possiblement des autres sens connectant et coordonnant l’image projetée sur la rétine. Un bébé, suppose-t-on, voit tout à plat au début. Il doit sentir son chemin par le toucher vers le sens de la distance et de la perspective. L’œil de l’homme, en conséquence, n’est pas au sens absolu un organe parfait, mais il est seulement parfait relativement aux fins des besoins et de la nature de l’homme.

Je ne pense pas que, si cette thèse est vraie de l’homme, elle puisse être moins vraie des poissons, et, dans nos considérations concernant la truite à la mouche, qu’elle soit naturelle ou artificielle, il peut être utile de consacrer un peu de temps dans le but de voir ce qu’on peut déduire des faits connus à propos de la nature et des caractéristiques de la vision des truites.

La nature et les besoins des truites diffèrent grandement de ceux des hommes, et cela ne devrait donc pas nous surprendre si l’examen nous menait à la conclusion que sa perception visuelle diffère considérablement de celle de l’homme. En effet, je pense qu’il serait remarquable que, vivant dans un milieu différent soumis à des lois optiques qui ne s’appliquent pas à l’air, et ayant des besoins et des manières d’être différentes de ceux des hommes, les truites voient les choses à tous égards comme un homme les voit — même après avoir pris en compte les effets correcteurs et coordonnants de l’expérience tactile.


Old gits have always had the upper hand on fly fishing, a fact nowhere truer than in the UK (which — now that I think about it — should be the UQ). Witness the way the angling authorities reacted in the famous Halford vs. Skues case. During decades, the old gits have been slowly but firmly pushed into obsolescence by carbon modulus, saltwater on the fly, euro-nymphing, carp and pike on the fly, scandinavian reel design, aircraft-grade T6061 aluminium (a magnificent piece of marketing bullshit if I ever saw one) and — god forgives — even long reelless japanese rods techniques.

Bouglé says: il faut être résolument moderne !

Bouglé says: il faut être absolument moderne !

Now it seems that the old gits are back with a vengeance. Bamboo and fiberglass are hype again. Silk lines are the next big thing. The fly-fishing world seems to be on the verge of a conservative revolution, I wouldn’t be too suprised by a dry fly ultra-purism boom (at least everywhere it wouldn’t mean to abandon any hope of actually hooking a fish).

So, avant-garde (should one say arrière-garde ?) of the trend, Hardy issues a special ultra limited 110th anniversary edition of the Bouglé, a reel the Alnwick firm launched in 1903, produced until the WWII, and reinvented (the old gits…) in 1999, recently reaching the Mk VII avatar. I must say it’s a beauty.

the gits are taking over

the gits are taking over

Interesting guy, this Louis Bouglé. Cycling athlete, successful gambler, first class fisherman, casting champion, founding member of the Casting Club de France. He asked for a tweaking of Hardy’s Perfect reel in order to make it lighter. Smart, but not cost saving: what was to become the Hardy Bouglé was a real pain in the neck to produce at first. But it was good enough to convince the loaded fly fishermen of the world that it was worth twice the price of a Perfect.

It would be a pity if the irony were lost on us that the name of the most forward-thinking modernist French fishing has known in the early twentieth century, someone foolhardy enough to try to introduce US-style casting in France and fly-casting as a sport, should emblazon traditionalism à la British now.

Distance casting, March 1913.

Distance casting, March 1913.

The present author would rather go the futurist way. I’m one of those still waiting for the flying cars the future was going to give us. For instance, I think I’d gladly put this thing on the pike beast I’m going to build in a while. I love cassette reels. Actually, if you are willing to pay the price of a whole reel just to get a spool, I hope you’re also spending at least twice that much in casting lessons each year.

hardy cls002

If you don’t, you may want to sort your priorities. Just saying.


Sound of the day: Elvis Costello. He’s either the smartest rock singer, or the rockest smart singer, I don’t know.

Night fly

Julie London is my find of the day. Fantastic voice, and the looks to match. She’s the original singer of Cry me a river. I can’t believe it took me so long to discover her.

I chose ‘Round midnight because (a) she totally nails it and (b) I was looking for an excuse for slapping in irrelevant fly fishing footage. But there’s nothing really exciting on the tubes. Just ugly nightshots. And after some research, turns out this whole night fly affair smells really fishy.

How they'd like you to think it will look like

How they’d like you to think it will look like

How it will probably look like on screen back home (ie: shit)

How it will probably look like on screen back home (ie: shit)

Lee Cummings doing esoteric stuff with a fluorescent Xi3

How it looks like if you dropped acid with a fly casting guru and his phospho Xi3

How it actually looks like (according to Marc anyway)

In the dark, the living may be easy and the cotton high, but you’ll hear them goddamn fishes jumping like never before.

Go alone and it will scare the crap out of you.

Hot with a rod, cool by the pool

One of those days

One of those days

It was just one of those days for Claudine. Fishing should have been great, lots of surface activity, but the fish were taking some invisible stuff that she couldn’t figure out. Then a strong wind began to blow. Despite her repeated supplications, Coco hadn’t thought one bit about designing a wearable stripping bag, so Claudine had spend an exhausting morning managing the line’s follies.

And just when she had finally hooked the first good fish of the day, her line had snagged on the one branch of the whole lake… Pohkatchak, for goodness sake! — she cried.

And now that she thought about it, she was going to have a serious conversation with Charles. The guides distribution on her rod was a mess, and he probably had done the static the same drunken night when he invented his famous grip shape.