“This changes everything…”
The leader changed everything. French leader, the leader. Leader-to-hand. And now there are fly lines that do it. Sunray. Tom Bell. It has changed the sport. Dragged it from its mediocre stagnancy into a new way of doing it.
Fly fishing, at its best, is delightfully simple. Minimalistic, elegant, subtle, but mostly, just simple. At its core is the idea of presentation. A fly fisher’s success is a consequence of how the fly is delivered, and its behaviour on and in the water. Maybe, though, fly fishing at its best is just about that simplicity. Good presentation is not a variable, it is an absolute, while trout and grayling behaviour is universal; only the waters and the circumstances are different, and even then there are constants.
The advances in the sport of fly fishing have been almost entirely river-based. I am not talking about the proliferation of any of the methods that are used to catch stocked fish in great numbers. I am not talking about stocked fish at all. And on the river I am not talking about squirmy-type flies, or indicator nymph fishing, or bung, or anything really that has become part of the instant gratification fad in the sport. If these things are for you, well, it’s nonsense, you know it; but good luck, and enjoy.
Modern trout and grayling flies have developed considerably to be so much more than subjective, irrational collections of materials with variable ability to induce fish to take. Today’s flies, while simple and pragmatic, have built-in characteristics that affect both their presentation and general impression of size and shape, GISS. So too has the line, leader and tippet evolved considerably. These now allow outstanding presentation at all ranges in circumstances and conditions facing the contemporary fly fisher. Is this not what we have always sought? I call it the ‘ultimate refinement’. It often involves little or no fly line whatsoever, with the leader-to-hand or leader-only concept, or the fixed line, as in tenkara. Shortcomings in conventional fly lines and particularly the out-dated AFTMA weighting system, and the tired technology of thick PVC lines, have become obvious, though we now have a new generation of fly lines which as never before meet the requirements of the presentation-orientated angler.