Fly fishing: Minimal approach is just not my style

A Scruffy Kebari, much loved by Dr Ishigaki, who is known as a wizard of fly fishing.  Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham
A Scruffy Kebari, much loved by Dr Ishigaki, who is known as a wizard of fly fishing. Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham
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As it is now March, it is the time of the year when fly fishermen like me begin to think about the forthcoming brown trout season.

If they have not already done so, their rods, reels and lines will be checked and cleaned and a fury of fly tying will have to be done to stock up their fly boxes.

Recently I have been closely watching social media and I have been surprised to witness grown men and women become so engrossed in the run up to what can only be described as the ‘Christmas Day of fishing’. The excitement expressed by internet-savvy members of the fly fishing community has seen a flurry of posts along the lines of “Only 20 more sleeps before opening day!” and “Where are you going on the first day?” or “What fly will you be using?” and “Cannot wait to try my new rod”.

Social media is littered with pictures of fly boxes, stuffed with creations, some of which I bet will never even get wet. Just how many flies can one use? Okay, so you may have to allow for the condition and colour of the water, the hatches of insects that are coming off the water and so forth but it is easy to go over the top with the number of flies and fly boxes one can carry, and I know because I have been there and done it myself.

Over the past couple of years I have met many anglers on the riverbank and discussed tactics and flies with them. I have been amazed at a few of the older generation whose choice of fly has been what I can only describe as minimalistic. One gentleman I met used only two flies all year round, a Grey Duster which is a dry fly, and a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear which is a wet fly. He was happy for these two flies to do the business for him no matter what.

Another guy only used a black parachute dry fly. I won’t go into the tying method but it is a very effective fly and attracts fish. He was a happy chap and caught plenty using this alone.

In 2014 I was a guest of Discover Tenkara and was invited to fish the small streams that feed Ladybower and other reservoirs around Sheffield. Together with the company owners, Paul Gaskell and John Pearson, was a gentleman from Japan called Dr Ishigaki who, by all accounts, is a wizard at fishing in Japan.

Before turning up on the day I did my homework on Dr Ishigaki and found that he quite literally fished with only one style of fly all year round. That fly was a black Ishigaki Kebari so off to the tying bench I went and tied up a host of these flies neatly aligned in a new fly box.

On being introduced to Dr Ishigaki I proudly opened my fly box and showed him my interpretation of his fly.

“Ah, so!” well at least I think that’s what he said.

“Too neat, too tidy, needs to be scruffy,” was the translation I received, and then he showed me his tying of the same fly.

I could see I had been too careful in the tying, particularly because he ties his flies with his fingers and not with a vice.

During the day I was able to watch Dr Ishigaki manipulate his fly in every conceivable way, imitating hatching and drowning insects, casting in areas which seemed unlikely to hold fish and to just generally get the best presentation to an unsuspecting trout.

The question now remained: could this fly be the answer to all my prayers? Could I fish with one fly only, all season, no matter which method I used?

Sadly, I must confess that the answer is must definitely a ‘no’.

In my case I am still stuffing fly boxes with flies which will only get wet when I drop my fly box in the water...