fly fishing sport fishing freshwater fishing
Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Some Most Asked Questions and Answers

Over the past few months I have received many questions about our great sport and I have picked some of the most popular ones to answer. Without doubt, the number 1 question is - What tackle and flies do I recommend for catching pike? For the past 4 years I reckon I have been using the best, the Thomas and Thomas Helix 4 piece 9 foot rods in 9 and 10 weights. These rods can be hidden in the car from thieves, packed in your check in luggage, and they make an excellent rod for saltwater fly fishing. These rods will cast big flies, throw tight loops in the wind and have plenty of lifting power in the butt joint. The Helix will handle big fish, also you can use 20lb leaders with confidence, which are needed when fishing snaggy conditions. My Thomas and Thomas rods have accounted for many big pike. On my 10 weight I have landed lemon sharks to an estimated weight of 80lbs.

My choice of fly lines have changed over the years, from one company to another as new lines have come on the market. In that time I have used lines from Cortland, Scientific Anglers, Rio and Masterline. I have been happy with them all. 2 years ago I was given the opportunity to try the Wulff Triangle taper lines both floating and sinking. They have proved a good workhorse, and today most of my lines are from the Wulff stable.

Jim Teeny has an excellent mini sink tip line on the market that I have found most useful on slow moving rivers, it will fish the fly down 2 or 3 feet. Fishing big deep still waters I like to carry a selection of shooting heads in different sink rates from slow to ultra fast. The Rio Versitip lines are certainly worth having. Many writers suggest you need 30 feet of shooting head, this is not quite true. I have a couple of 20 foot shooting heads that really do shoot through the guides. I always uprate my shooting head by two weights. My advice is experiment with different lengths of shooting heads until you find what length suits your rod and casting ability. It could be anything from 20 to 32 feet.

In trout fishing we need the fly to land like thistledown. It's not the same for the pike. A fly creating a splashy disturbance will often cause a pike to strike, it was for this reason I felt I didn't need tapered leaders. As always we anglers are learning all the time. I have NOW changed my view and feel a tapered leader DOES gives you a better turn over. I make my leaders with a 40 LB nylon nail knotted to the fly line tapered down to a 20lb tippet. In the past I used small swivels or rings to join leader to wire. Not today, I now attach a foot of 20lb wire to the nylon leader by the use of an Albright knot. It's probably the best knot for tying two different materials or lines of different thickness. For further reading I recommend two books I recommend Practical fishing knots by Mark Sosin and Lefty Kreh. Batsford books and The pocket guide to Fishing Knots by Peter Owen published by Merlin Unwin books The latter is an excellent book that you can keep in your tackle bag or pocket.

Pike flies come in all sizes and descriptions from 1/0 up to 8/0 hooks. My first choice pattern would be the Polar fly on a size 3/0 hook. The tying for this pattern is as follows - Tail - white Polar bear hair and pearl crystal
Body- Pearl Fritz or silver tinsel strip
Wings - White Polar bear hair and Pearl crystal hair
Remarks- Two types of bodies should be tied up as one type of body will often work when the other doesn't. That's the way of fish. This pattern is also an excellent saltwater pattern for bass.
Some other patterns are the Sally Rand, Red tailed rat, Black nosed dace, Rabbit strip Zonker, and a selection of Lefty Kreh Deceivers and Clouser Minnows all tied up on Partridge barbless hooks. On a recent trip to Swedish Lapland the Red tailed rat out fished all the other patterns, probably because it was used more than any other pattern. The tying for the Red tailed rat is
Tail- Red crystal hair
Body - Black deer hair meddler (wedge shaped)
Silk - Black - Remarks plastic bead or brass eyes may be added to give a mouse like animal effect

You will need a selection of floating and sinking fly patterns, always make sure the hooks are barbless and needle sharp. They should draw blood when you prick your finger. I have found the best conditions for chucking flies for pike are warm sunny days with dawn and dusk the best taking times. This is not to say you cannot catch pike in the middle of the day when it's raining hard and blowing a gale, You can, but dawn and dusk in the summer are I feel better times to fish.
When fishing a canal it certainly has to be dawn through to breakfast time. Usually the water is clear, there is no disturbances from boats or dog walkers. The latter often insist on throwing a stick in the water where the pike is lying up and saying "Fetch Fido" These people are a real pain in the butt. Providing the water is clear and not disturbed you can often get a dozen strikes in a two hour session.

Another question I am often asked is "What are your views on Catch and Release"? These are emotive words in angling circles among game and saltwater anglers. Surely this is the only way forward if the children of tomorrow are to have the chance of seeing and perhaps catching a wild fish. I am not saying release all wild fish. If the river or the ocean can sustain the taking of the odd fish for the table, then that's perhaps the sign of a healthy water. What we must never do is take a dark coloured salmon. I am also told they taste terrible, also it's an offence. Before killing a fish for the table we must ask these questions Do we need the fish? Can the ocean or the river sustain the harvesting of the species?

Each fish killed is one less to be caught by another angler, one less fish to spawn. Should that fish be a large one for its species, not only will that fish have more eggs, the gene pool will be a better quality and the reproductive capability of good spawning is further depleted.
Throughout the world, fresh and saltwater fisheries are under pressure-not just from over fishing but from pollution, water abstraction, intensive grazing, forestry and the dumping of rubbish by industry, agriculture and the general public. Countries in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres continue to treat the world's rivers, seas and oceans as dumping grounds.

Through the action of Man, the world's sports fisheries are no longer the rich resource they once were. The remaining sporting fish that swim in our inland or coastal waters are far too valuable to be killed.
Each year on my local rivers, The Ribble, Lune and Hodder, I witness the sickening sight of gravid salmon being killed, displayed to all and sundry as if to say What a clever angler I am who has just killed this salmon. The carcass is then dumped into the boot of the car. At home they gut the fish, where upon hundreds of young salmon in the form of eggs will roll all over the kitchen table. Surely today we must ensure that wild fish are for catch and release, While stocked or farm-reared fish are for the table.

Many of those opposed to catch and release will tell you that released fish won't survive, a view often expressed by the salmon angler who feels the fish should be displayed on a silver salver to show off to the other hotel guests. He or she is really saying: 'I want everyone to know what a great fish catcher I am' If your desire is to kill fish, then the still water angling scene with it's put and take stocked rainbow trout fishery is for you. Not the wild fish of our rivers, lochs, lakes and sea; the sporting angler should harvest just an occasional fish, then only when the stocks are adequate to allow it.

If a fish is not released there is no chance of its survival. In Canada and the United States of America it has been proven that released fish have an 85% chance of successfully spawning. We need look no further than the Miramichi River in New Brunswick where there is a catch and release regime. Where once the salmon were threatened with extinction there are now plenty and it is possible to have a small harvest of ten cock grilse a season per angler. It is interesting to note, though that most Miramichi anglers return most of what they can legally take rarely retaining more than one fish a season.
Oregon and Washington anglers in search of steelhead and wild trout realised that r their sport was in danger through diminishing fish stocks. The problem was caused by the felling of vast areas of old-growth forest. Causing streams to get silted up, waters were warmed to a level unsuitable for the survival of fry. Gradually, fish numbers dwindled to danger level.

Organisations such as Oregon Trout, Trout Unlimited and The Umpqua Steamboater's realised something had to be done. They created stream enhancement program's, encouraged the loggers and cattle men to leave a riparian buffer zone, and then practised catch and release. The Fish and Game department were also involved, and soon it was decreed that all wild fish should be returned and only stocked fish could be killed. All stocked fish had the adipose fin clipped so that they could easily be recognised. Over the past three years the steelhead fishing out there has been very good I know because I have experienced it. The Deschutes is having a great run of steelhead for the past 15 years. Many anglers have been able to catch and release their first steelhead. Recently I was on the North Umpqua surrounded by some old growth forest and I could see plenty of bright chrome steelhead.

To practice catch and release we must follow some very simple rules. Number one is to use barbless hooks. There can be no justification for today's anglers fishing with anything but barbless, I don't believe I have ever lost a fish because my hook was barbless. Oh yes, I lose fish but invariably because I do something silly. Like letting the fish get into a snag. Tarpon are great jumpers and head shakers, on most occasions I still keep attached to my tarpon using barbless hooks.
Fish should never be touched with dry hands, squeezed in the stomach area; nor must they be landed in knotted nets, which are illegal. All nets should be of a soft material, Unless the fish is very big one I don't think a net should be used. Eighty-five percent of the fish I catch are released without being handled. It's easy: bring the fish close to hand, slide your fingers down the leader and remove the barbless hook.

Many anglers today are finding their sport in saltwater with fly fishing tackle. One fish reigns supreme the bass, Dicentrarchus labrax. Sadly too many of these slow-growing fish are being killed. It's not only the Spanish French and British trawlers that are decimating bass stocks. While fishing in Morecambe Bay I witnessed two persons (I refuse to call them anglers) catch some fifteen good bass of between five and nine pounds. They killed every single one. I asked them the question. "Why are you killing all those fine fish?" They answered "Because we sell them" These people were not anglers but fishmongers.
When I tried to talk some sense into them, all I got in return was verbal abuse. Such greed is destroying an excellent sport fish, for despite excellent initiatives to protect immature fish in several nurseries areas around the coast, bass are still very much threatened. All of us who fish for bass should be members of Bass Anglers Sportsfishing Society Telephone secretary Simon Everett 01889-566796 E-mail They are doing a great job, in fact it was through BASS that we have a ban on pairs trawling. Then we have the gill netters who's nets are often left unattended for several days, not only destroying the fish stocks, but crabs and sea birds. Perhaps the only answer for the survival of this species is a strict catch and release policy enforced by law with the penalty on conviction, not a fine but a custodial sentence and the banning of all gill nets. Thankfully today one cannot use live or dead sand eels Ammodytidae as bait in any of the 34 Nursery areas around the England and Wales coastline for all or part of the year. Check out the law for your area before fishing.

You can use an imitation on a fly rod The best pattern I know of is Popovic's Candy Eel. Sadly the nets men can work the nursery areas. I have written to my MP Nigel Evans who considers I have raised some serious concerns and my letters has been passed on to John Prescott MP at the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions and Ben Bradshaw MP. I would ask all caring anglers to write too there Member of Parliament so we can make sure nursery areas protect the bass stocks and where netting is banned. In the United States anglers and politicians worked together and many restrictions have been put on the nets men. Today there is magnificent fishing for striped bass, redfish, seatrout, jacks, lady fish, etc. This quality fishing is bringing in millions of dollars from the tourist/anglers both in the United States and from Europe. Please let me have your views

Another question I am often asked is what fly fishing rod should I choose for still water and river fishing. A difficult question to answer, there is NO one rod that will suit all waters. From my experience over many years of fly fishing on rivers and still waters big and small throughout the world. My choice would be a 9 foot 6 weight Thomas and Thomas Helix.

An often asked question - Is, if you could only have one fly what would it be. - Answer - A Black and Peacock spider on hook sizes 10's - 14's. This pattern can be fished wet or dry. It will take trout and grayling and will often cause the downfall of a big fish when everything else fails. On both rivers and still waters fish will eat this fly and the tying for this pattern is very simple. John Robbers in his New illustrated Dictionary of Trout Flies published by Unwind paperbacks gives the following dressing for the Black and Peacock - Body Bronze peacock hurl tied fat and tapering to the rear Hackle Long-fibre black hen sparsely tied.

Ron Smith writes Martin, If you had a 1000-00 to spend on a fly fishing holiday where would you go. Now that's a difficult choice. Bonefish in the Bahamas, would be my first choice. I would stay at Moxey's Bonefish lodge at Mangrove Cay on Andros Island where the fishing company and wildlife experience are excellent. Fishing Florida's Indian river or Mosquito Lagoon, would be another choice for redfish, sea trout, snook, tarpon, flounders, barracuda, jack crevale. Take an 8, 9 and 10 weight rods and tropical floating lines. Call in to the tackle store collect a fishing license a few flies then head for the flats Mosquito Lagoon, Banana river, Indian river or just drive down highway 95 and stop off where it takes your fancy your certain to find some good fishing. A good centre to base yourself is Titusville on the Space coast its perfect for the angler and the family who don't fish. I can highly recommend the Best Western Space Shuttle Inn. E-mail Also its close to Disney World Sea World Cyprus Gardens and all the other places of interest. Don't forget to visit the Space centre The local anglers are friendly and helpful and the fly fishing can be excellent.

Fishing for grayling, trout, seatrout, salmon, perch and pike in Sweden would be another choice high on my list. All 6 species can be taken on surface fished flies. If I was to visit Sweden it would be between the months of June and August. The latter month is probably the best time to get away from mosquitoes. Having said that even in June mosquitoes are not such a problem. If you want further information on fishing holidays in Sweden you can E-mail
Should you have any question please E-mail me

Martin James Fishing