Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Fly Fish with Mel: Lord of the Flies

The Fly

The fly is the business end of any fly fishing outfit; the bait with which we fly anglers employ in the hope of enticing a fish to partake of an artificial meal.

A fly is also a work of art. A masterpiece lovingly crafted with the same patience and care as that of any painter or sculptor. A thing of beauty to some; a hideous sight to others; but always a tasty morsel to a fish.

A fly is a hook dressed with all manners of feathers and fur; of materials natural or synthetic. A hook dressed so that it may imitate or suggest the form of an insect or creature; terrestrial or aquatic.

To catch a fish is a delight but to catch a fish with a fly you just tied last night, that's truly ecstasy.

For, to tie a fly is not difficult but to tie a fly that catches fish consistently, requires more than luck.

The key to success lies in the skill of observation.

Question, Question, Question!

That is what a fly angler and a fly tier has to consistently do.

What are the fish feeding on?

What types of vegetation are around the lake?

What species of fish am I targeting?

Are there flying insects above the water?

What season is it?

What colours are the insects that are flying in the air?

Are there nymphs on the bottom?

And the ultimate question: "What the heck is the other guy using to catch that biggy?"

With each answer, you come closer to tying the fly that will 'match the hatch'.

Now after you decided on what fly to tie, you painstakingly prepare the hooks, the materials and yourself.

Yourself, you ask?

A chef prepares a meal with all his heart, with all his love, for those who chooses to savour his culinary delights. So will you not do the same, preparing a meal for the fish that you love so dear?

So with the hook de-barbed and placed on the vise, you tie on the thread and feathers and dress the fly.

You admire the beauty of the fly. Its perfect shape, its beautiful proportions, a masterpiece. But will it satisfy the discerning eyes of the fish?

You go to bed with anxiety in your heart.

You open your eyes and it's still dark. You look at your watch. It's 5.30am. But it's time to get ready.

You get up and turn to see the flies sitting handsomely in your open fly box. "Will they work today", you ask? Only time and the fish will tell. You wash up and get ready.

You arrive at the water's edge. The sun's still lazing beneath the horizon. You can see the water's surface still gleaming in the moonlight but you hear no sounds except that of the crickets'.

As the sun creeps up, revealing the swirling mist on the water's surface, it also reveals the first sign on movement beneath the water. You hear an audible slurp and turn to see concentric rings of ripples emanate from where a few moments ago, a fish had sucked in a fly.

You open your fly box and look at the fly you've just tied. "Will it work?" You tie it onto your tippet, the question still ringing in your mind. You drop the fly as you wave your magic wand. As the rod scythes through the air forwards and back, the fly gracefully trails as if it were alive, flying in a gentle figure of eight. Stopping your rod forward, the fly o'ertakes the rod tip to fall gently near where you last saw the disturbance in the water.

The water is still so you slowly impart a little movement to your fly and drag it slowly back towards you a quarter inch at a time. You twitch, you pause. You twitch, you pause. The surrounding sudden goes silent.

Even the crickets seemed to have quietened. The silence is deafening. A sudden bulge and your fly is rocked by waves, bobbing violently. A fish has just swirled next to your fly. Your grip tightens around the rod and the fly line. A long moment of silence and you strip your fly in.

Raising your rod again and casting the fly out, you aim it a little to the right of your last cast. You let the fly drop and wait for the resulting ripples to die down. You then start twitch and pause routine. You focus on the fly and watch the waters surrounding it.

You strip the line and the fly makes a small 'V' wake. a few feet away, you notice a small bulge start to grow and move towards your fly. The bow wake reaches your fly and in an instant, the fly is gone. In its place an enormous splash of water. The line comes taut in your hand. You lift the rod tip and set the hook. The fish feels the resistance and powers off to deeper waters. You make your stand with Rod raised and line tightened. You feel a headshake from the fish and then limp. The hook got dislodge.

As you calmly reel you line back, the disappointment is lost in a sheepish smile as you hear the words in your head

"It works."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Fly Fish with Mel: To Fish or Not to Fish? That is the question...

While going through the chapters of 'Rod Rage', a book by Rhea Topping, I came across a poem that sums up what fly fishing embodies. I hope that by reading the poem, you'll get to appreciate the unexpressed reasons why each of us, in the fraternity of the long rodders, chose this as our recreation.

Out Fishing

A feller isn't thinking mean,
Out fishing,
His thoughts are mostly good and clean,
Out fishing,
He doesn't mock his fellow men,
Or harbour any grudges then;
A feller's at his finest when,
Out fishing,
The rich are comrades to the poor,
Out fishing,
All are brothers of a common lure,
Out fishing,
The urchin with his pin and string,
Can chum with millionaire and king;
Vain pride is a forgotten thing,
Out fishing,
A fella gets a chance to dream,
Out Fishing.
He learns the beauties of the stream out fishing.
And he can wash his soul in air
That isn't foul with selfish care,
And relish plain and simple fare
Out fishing,
A fella has no time for hate,
Out fishing,
he isn't eager to be great
Out fishing,
He isn't thinking thoughts of self,
But he's always just himself,
Out fishing.
[A] feller's glad to be a friend, out fishing.
[A] helping hand he'll always lend, out fishing.
The brotherhood of rod and line
An'sky and stream is always fine;
Men come real close to God's design, out fishing.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Fly Fish with Mel: Back to Counting...

The Friends

There is a uniqueness to the strange relationship between fly anglers.

Though fly fishing is largely a solitary sport, as dictated by the need for a huge casting area,
the community rarely fishes alone.

There is solitude in fly fishing, but there is never loneliness.

With the right companions, any day out fishing is a great day; with or without fish.

There is an inexplicable sense of serenity watching a friend wading in the water, rhythmically waving a long rod and then laying the line forward of him.

At times, in fact most of the time, it is more enjoyable watching a friend fish than to be fishing oneself.

For, what fun is there? If, there is no one to witness the landing of a dream fish; or to bear the tale of the one that got away; or to mock each other's tomfoolery.

There will always be dangers and adventures to be shared.

Walking along the stream, listening to a symphony of birds, cicadas, crickets and denizens of the forest, a conversation wanders with no boundaries. At peace with nature and with each other, one can recount the fishing of days past or that which is to come.

Of life's bitterness or the sweetness of success. Or one can remain in silence, relishing the quiet company without the need to speak.

As with all great gatherings, it is never complete without good food and drinks. Be it a gourmet spread or simple fare, a vintage pour or a home brew. After a day's fishing, regardless the result, it will always end on a high note when the grub's abounding and the tap's flowing.

There will never be lacking laughter and joy at the end of a fly angler's trip.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Fly Fish with Mel: Pre-Holiday Celebrations

Mother Nature seemed to be in one of her foul moods; her brooding anger enshrouded the skies with a blanket of gray.

Yet, it was not enough to deter O'l Lenny and myself from setting off on our pre-National Day fishing escapade.

By the time we hit the water's edge, our dear Lady showed signs of relenting, with pockets of blue peeking through her moody veil.

Finding ourselves each a comfortable roost on the precariously sloping rocks, the assembly of our rods was done in solitude. Before us, the water surface rippled in fear as each heavy breath of the simmering matron blew over it.

Opening my fly box, my sight fell on a large orange fly.

The Branchu, with its wing of white Mallard Flank and a tail of Golden Pheasant tippets extending majestically from a slender body of orange SLF dubbing looked to me the perfect fly to start the session. Wrapped gingerly around, a collar of soft Matuka hackle pulsates enticingly as the fly swims through the water, a succulent morsel that no fish, in its right mind, would pass up.

Tying on the fly; and with gentle strokes, Len and I painted the sky with our rods as our lines traced the movement, reaching out further with each swing. Our choreographed synchronization seemed to have help Mother Nature aussage her anger when we saw her gleaming smile reflecting off the water in the distance.

With a final arc forward, my rod laid the line softly across the water; my fly not fifty feet from me. I counted the seconds as I waited for the fly to dive to the depths where I hoped to find my quarry. One second, two second, three second...with a purposeful and moderate motion, I stripped the line to work the fly. Darting forward and then fluttering down slowly, the Branchu worked its magic. Strip, pause, strip, pause, strip, stuck! Not another snagged fly...but before I could pull another inch of line in, it shot forward burning my left index finger. No sooner had I released my line to drop onto the floor did it become taut to the reel.

The length of my 9ft, 4-wt Coho rod bowed towards the unseen foe. Soon, I could see the end of my line start to rise towards the surface and then, a silver bullet broke through the surface and shot out of the water. Her beautiful , streamlined body writhed and twisted in mid-air, trying to dislodge the fly from the corner of her upturned mouth. Unglamourous, yet spectacularly, the Tarpon (Megalops cyprinoides) re-entered the water and immediately powered out away from me.

Alas, the give and take relationship we had was not to last. With a last wave of her tail goodbye, we parted ways leaving me with nothing but a broken leader and sunken heart. How cruel short-term relationships can be. However, I am sure that we had a good thing going and she did choose to keep my fly as a momento of the short yet breath-taking time we shared.

Leonard, was not having much luck with the ladies but was able to hitch himself up with a couple of minors. The Cichlids did give a good account of themselves giving Lenny some fun on his 6-wt rod.

It wasn't long before the real girls showed up. Turning up, dressed to the nines, the Peacock Bass (Cichla Monoculus) were literally lining up in front of me waving their tails sexily, as they cat-walked up and down the rock wall.

Switching to an equally sexy, if not more provocative, white Woolly Bugger, I started to turn my charm on them.

At first, they were shy and kept their distance but with my fly dangling in front of them, the ladies were soon warmed up, literally climbing over each other just to scoff my offering.

It was pure fishing ecstacy.

In just under two hours of fishing, I had landed ten of these stunning beauties.

Too soon, it was time to go and leave this immensely beautiful stretch of water and go back to the realities of life.

Au revoir, mes chéris. À bientôt.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Fly Fish with Mel: Still Counting...

The Location

Location. Location. Location

Fishing is all about location. Find the right location and there you'll find the fish. But then again, It's not just about the fishing, is it?

From the sun-drenched beaches of Maldives

to the virgin forests of Kelantan, fishing has brought me places.

Getting there is half the fun. It may sound like a philosophical excuse for a lousy angler but so what if we end up not getting fish? Being there is part of the fun.

Not forgetting the food. You get to savour some of the most exotic foods.


Even if it was in our own backyard, fishing reveals a side of Singapore that most of us do not get to see. Drains, rivers, streams, hidden coves and the list goes on. Did you know that there is a certain helicopter landing pad that's a gay haunt?! See what I mean?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Fly Fish with Mel: How do I enjoy fishing thee? Let me count the ways.

Why is there all this competition to outfish the person next to you?
"I caught more fish than you!" So, am I a better fisherman?

Is fishing really just all about catching fish?

To me, fishing, or should I be more specific; fly fishing, is more than's a total experience.

The time of day, the location, the friends, the cast, the fly and finally, the fish. Each of these constitutes the total experience of fly fishing.

"How?", you may ask.

Let me count the ways...

The Time of Day

At what hour do I fish? Usually before the break of day and then around dusk. It is during these two periods that fish are most actively feeding. It is also the time when nature puts on her most magnificent show.

"From her purple slumber, she slowly stirs as her warm, orange yolk climbs slowly up towards the brightening sky, casting a golden hue on everything; from the water surface to the glistening leaves in the morning dew.

The warm rays meet the cool morning air, forming swirling clouds of mist, hovering over the calm, still waters.

The cacophony of insects slowly gives way to the audible slurps and tail slaps of the fish just beneath the surface of the water.

Tiny concentric rings grow and reach out from the source of the disturbance to touch the surrounding land, only to slowly disappear into the vastness of the water body.

I am ready to cast."