Irish memories & Yeates

Irish memories & Yeates

Just the other day my brother Remko van den Berg handed me some old photo albums which belonged to my mother. While browsing through them, I stumbled upon an old postcard. It was sent from Ireland to Holland by my late Uncle Jan Baaijens (my mother’s brother) who accompanied me during my first proper fly fishing trip abroad in 1979. I was just 15 years young. And unstoppable 🙂

I was keen to catch my first Irish trout. However, when we arrived at the Glencar Hotel I was “welcomed” by some dead Salmon and Sea trout in the beautiful entrance hall. It was “the catch of the day”. It was a salmon & sea trout hotel. Not trout 🙁  That was a bummer. Since I was definitely NOT a salmon or sea trout fisherman. Yet.

The staff understood and helped me as good as they could. The advised me to fish this little feeder stream and it was indeed full of trout. But they were rather small. I was not happy. The next day I was invited by an other hotel guest, a strange Frenchman, but my uncle, who went for a hike, judged it “ok”. We fished the main lake (lough) from a boat he rented. I remember vividly how he rigged up a spinning rod and fixed a devon to the end of his line without a swivel. I was eager to explain that it would not be wise to troll a devon behind a boat without a swivel in between. But how to explain that in French? So, I did not manage to explain. The boat caught speed, he threw his devon out and started trolling. 20 minutes later he saw some turbulence behind the boat and wondered what it was. It was his devon. 30 meters of nylon was twisted into one huge knot! (a birds nest). Merde! Merde! Merde! he shouted in French! O, how I remember learning my first proper French swear words 🙂

Well, I have many, many more fond memories of that somewhat awkward fishing trip to Ireland. Like catching my first sea trout and drinking my first Irish coffee as a reward, back at the hotel. For now, I would like to end this blog with the beautiful poem by Yeats which is printed on the back of the postcard I found.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glencar
In pools among the rushes
That scare could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping
  than you can understand.

W.B. Yeats (1889)

Lough Caragh

Lough Caragh

Postcard

Postcard Lough Caragh

Erik’s Sawyer Nymph

Erik’s Sawyer Nymph

At first I hesitated to show this “secret” fly to the world…that is how good this nymph is… believe me. But since I do not mind other people having fun and catching fish I decided, what the heck, let them know about it! (I also wrote an article about it for the Canadian magazine “Eastern Woods & Waters” which you can find here.)

The pheasant tail nymph (also known as the Sawyer nymph, after the famous river keeper Frank Sawyer) is one of the oldest and most successful nymphs ever. This fly has a worldwide reputation as a very good all-round nymph. It is easy to make with very simple materials. Nothing fancy, just the way Mr. Frank Sawyer saw things, but very deadly. This nymph is a good imitation for a whole range of insects, you only have to vary the size a bit. (I find myself using TMC3769 or Kamasan B175 in hook size #12 & #14 most often) I prefer fishing it upstream in a dead downstream drift. However, watch your leader when it swings round and starts to rise to the surface, that is quite often the most deadly moment! (Especially when fishing for Grayling)

Now I would like to make a little jump to the success of the gold bead (goldhead) flies and nymphs. We all know that they work well and I think it is because of 2 reasons: 1) The fly sinks like a stone and 2) The goldbead is reflecting the light. After a couple of years I got sick and tired of just sticking a gold bead fly at the end of my leader and chucking it in. There’s more to life than goldbeads. So I went back to the classic patterns like the Pheasant Tail Nymph but noted that I had not as much success as with the goldhead flies. So I started looking for more shiny wire and changed to a red colored pheasant feather. The combination of those two ingredients was just amazing! This fly is an absolute killer for trout and grayling and I have tested it in many different rivers, lakes in just as many different countries. Every time I had other fishermen with me, they were just as stunned as I was. OK, here’s what you need (see step by step instructions below in thumbnails):

  • Heavy wire nymph hook (TMC 3769 is my favorite)
  • Shiny brass wire 0.3 mm (I find this on large spools in handy craft shops!)
  • Red dyed pheasant tail feathers.

By-the-way, all credits go to Mr. Frank Sawyer….not me 🙂
(Click on thumbnails)

Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman (book review)

Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman (book review)

Ernest Hemingway is a very famous writer, he won a Nobel price for his works in 1954. Many fly fishermen feel attracted to this writer because it is known that Ernest used a flyrod every now and then. In his adventure stories it is always the person of “Nick Adams” who does the fishing. Big Two Hearted River is probably the best known fishing story and many fishermen have been -and still are- looking for this “hot spot”. The explanation of their lack of success is to be found in the wonderful autobiography of his son, Jack.

Jack Hemingway, nicknamed; “Bumby” by his father, appears to be a much more enthusiastic fly fisherman (and maybe a better one ) than his famous father.  (Jack died in 2000) That get’s clear as soon as you read his book Misadventures Of A Fly Fisherman because you have to be “pretty mad about fishing” if you tie a fly rod to your standard gear when you get dropped behind enemy lines during the Second World War…..

Personally I find his book easy to read and very amusing. The stories take you to all corners of the world and it is finally a book which is not completely dedicated to fly fishing only. Besides, you can find all kind of interesting details about the lifestyle and behavior of his father Ernest, details which you will never find in any other work ever written about him. All kind of famous people like actors, writers, politicians and others are mentioned, something which comes naturally being a son of such a father. But Jack Hemingway doesn’t make the mistake of making his book simply a long list of those people. Personally I find Jack Hemingway to be a very pleasant and flexible writer and his style is, luckily, not as “somber” as his father sometimes was.

Being a keen fly fisherman and an ardent admirer of (some of) Ernest Hemingway’s works, I find Misadventures Of A Fly Fisherman a true asset to my book collection. My copy is a very nice hard back and the 30 page’s of black and white photo’s (mostly out of the Hemingway family records) make it a very complete work. I do not know if the book is still in print but it surely is worth to find out. (The ISBN No. is 0-87833-379-7)

Book cover

Book cover

Cut the crap, please

Cut the crap, please

What is this about? I will try to explain…. In a previous life I have been making my living with trading (wholesale) fly fishing tackle, from fly rods to Tiemco hooks. (Did you know that Tiemco stands for: Tokyo Import Export Manufacturaring Company?) Wonderful company, delightful people, great products.
During those years I have been puzzled (but also annoyed) by the bullshit, wrong information and plain lies fed to us by the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. I almost (I said “almost”) forgot some of the “famous” fly tiers and fly fishermen which do the same thing. Well, I decided to write this blog to kick some of those “masters in making bullshit”…….! (But it’s meant to be with a smile 🙂 )

Let’s face it, quite a lot of the tackle we buy today is utter crap. I buy a jacket, it leaks the same year and the zipper is stuck for ever. I buy some waders, they leak from the start. I buy a fishing rod and it breaks on the first trip. What the hell is going on?

I wished I was talking about cheap tackle….but no, I’m talking about stuff for which I paid a lot of money, thinking like Oscar Wilde; “I am a man of simple taste, only the best will do“. I wished it was me, not looking after my stuff, but no, I do really care for it. Well, “the best” just seems to get worse. Let me describe a disaster….

reddington-shoe

Torn wading shoe

Crap Wading Shoes
For my trip to Patagonia in 2004 (it was my 40th birthday) I bought myself a nice pair of new Reddington wading shoes. I think I paid about $ 90 .= USD for them and I don’t think that that is cheap. (It was 2004) They looked kind of “ok” to me and yes, I did enjoy them in Patagonia. Right, I get back to Europe where I start to fish my local rivers, using the same shoes. What happens? To my horror one shoe is completely split open at one side! What the.. %$#@)#% is going on? How is this possible? I have used those shoes for about 12 fishing days in total…! (The last pair of Orvis shoes lasted me about 10 years) By coincidence I meet the Dutch wholesaler, Mr. Jaap Muda at a tackle show and I tell him about my experience. His reaction: “Oh, well, you must have been to rough with them”. Thank you very much.

So my friends, this is what we get today; crap tackle and lousy after sales service. (Not always, I realize) However, I am glad that not all manufacturers are like this but it is getting damn difficult to find good quality stuff nowadays, I’m telling you. By-the-way; I just heard that Sage bought Reddington, well, I wish them good luck!

Fast fly rods
Let’s be honest; “fast” fly rods for those #2, #3 and #4 lines are just made for 1 line class heavier. (#3, #4 and #5) There, I have said it! They make it a soft tip which will help you with casting the first couple of yards. (“A rod on a stick” is what one of our most respected sport fishing journalists, the late Mr. Kees Ketting, use to call them.) And everybody is casting like a true champion during those tackle shows; “look daddy, 30 yards !” (Unfortunately most fish will lie right in front of your feet…) Those sensitive tips also brake a lot, like when a goldbead nymph hits it, very nice when you’re out there in the middle of nowhere, trying to enjoy your precious day off, huh ? (It should also teach you to leave those damn goldbeads alone, that’s not FLY-fishing, is it ?) Again, during a salmon fishing trip this June (2014) in Canada I broke a Greys Platinum XD (what’s in a name?) #8 on a 2 lb trout. I was pulling the fish in to release it, bend the rod a bit backwards (it was, after all, a trout) and SNAP. The tip broke, for the second time. (The same thing happened before with the same rod a couple of years ago. I had it repaired, after fighting Greys about the repair costs. They changed the fee you see. Although my original guarantee clearly stated an other -lower- fee.)

And what about those code’s they’re using; IMX, RPL PLUS, HMG, GL3....ha, ha, even at NASA they never heard of it. In a while the shortest rods available will be 8 feet otherwise they won’t be able to put the code’s on. What a delicious (but annoying and confusing) nonsense.
Last-but-not-least, let’s mention the ridiculous prices we have to pay nowadays for a “top of the bill” model….USD $ 900 or more…pardon me, but I think that’s crazy. No wonder they can afford to give us “live-long guarantee”….

Breathing waders and jackets
Right at the moment when I thought that the fishing tackle industry was running out of brilliant idea’s to get more money out of our pockets, some smart-ass had an other trick up his sleeve. Get your credit card out ! comfortable fishing in so-called, breathing waders and hat Now, we have waders that can breathe…really, it’s true. Some guys (sorry girls) have invented a fabric which stops water going in but, at the same time, does let water (stinky sweat) go out…wow, that’s smart ! At first we could only buy coats -and hats, see photo- made out of this fantastic fabric, terrible expensive but revolutionary. (At least, if you would believe the commercials) So I HAD to have one, you guessed…. First a nice short Patagonia wading jacket, over-sized hood and with lovely big pockets for all the junk I carry around. If I remember it well did I pay about $ 250.= US for a tiny coat. (We’re talking at least about 12 years ago)

Enjoying their breathing waders

Enjoying their breathing waders

Well, to be frank, I discovered rather quickly that the term “water-proof” is a bit “stretchable” because if I stayed out in the pouring rain all day (guess those guys didn’t count on idiots doing such a thing in real life 🙂 I did get some water in, all in all, it was OK, I guess. But “BREATHING” ?? I don’t think so.. To give it some proper testing I wore it during an endurance bicycle trip, you know, with lots and lots of sweating involved. According the instructions on the label, my sweat should have disappeared to the outside, like a miracle. As you know, miracles don’t exist and breathing coats don’t either. You see, those coats are very comfortable to wear but please, do not talk about “breathing” it makes me sick.

A bit later “breathing” waders appeared, we could have waited for that. Again, terribly expensive but it looked very good indeed. After 4 years fishing and a lot of walking along riverbanks in “breathing” waders of various brands I came to the conclusion that, again, they have pulled our legs (so to speak) and stretched our credit limits…. Sweat remains on the inside and, with a bit of luck, water on the outside. Still I think those waders are worth their money because they are very, very comfortable to wear, just as if you’re wearing an extra pair of jeans. And, to get more comfortable while fishing I don’t mind spending a couple of bucks (Euro’s) more. But if a sales guy has the guts to start talking about “breathing waders” I’d like to pull a pair over his head and close it real tight around his waist, see if he still thinks they can “breathe” after a couple of minutes…:-)

A first blog on my new website

A first blog on my new website

A first post on my new WordPress powered website. It was about time I guess to update my website. It was outdated. The very first edition was created back in 2000 or so, the second in 2008, using Macromedia Dreamweaver. Quite a history for online stuff 🙂

I made my own life a lot easier by re-desiging the website with moving to WordPress and buying a good looking responsive “theme”. It makes my life (and yours, if you are using a tablet) a lot easier I guess. Well, at least I already managed to add two destinations under the Portfolio chapter. One about my travels to Slovenia, the other about Canada (Gaspé peninsula)

Well, enjoy my website and feel free to come back for more 🙂