Anglers have sought out many inventions in tackle. Life is not long enough for us to be able to use more than a small portion of these, and it seems to me that the object of writing about tackle to-day should be to lessen and not to increase the amount, which we think it necessary to carry with us. This is what strikes me when I reflect upon the enormous variety of flies described in books and displayed in tackle shops; and upon the consequent difficulty of making a selection for the outfit for an angling holiday: one cannot buy up the whole stock of salmon and sea trout flies, but as the eye dwells upon the patterns of flies, almost each in turn seems so attractive as to be indispensable. How often have I gone into a tackle shop to make provision for a spell of fishing in Scotland, and entered it with fairly distinct ideas of the limits, both in number and variety of flies that were wanted; and how often have these limits expanded and at last dissolved altogether under the genial influence of the display of flies upon the counter. The number of seemingly indispensable patterns increases as the sheets of flies are spread before me; so too does the number of seemingly indispensable sizes of each pattern, and at last I emerge, exhausted by the struggle of selection, alarmed at the amount of my purchases or my order, and yet uneasy for fear it should not be large enough and I have omitted the one thing needful after all.
Now assuming for the moment that there ever is such a thing amongst salmon and sea trout flies as the one thing needful, it is true that the larger the collection of flies in the angler's box or boxes, the more chance is there of this one thing being included: but, on the other hand, it is also true that the very large extent of choice in his boxes diminishes the angler's chance of selecting the right thing at any given moment. After much trouble I have therefore come to the conclusion, that we lose more than we gain by carrying about a large stock of fancy flies, and by this I mean that we lose not only in purse, but in number of fish. I have come to believe that in all kinds of fly fishing we get most success on the whole by concentrating our attention upon a few patterns of proved merit and persisting with them, and my advice to every young angler is to get confidence in a few patterns by experience, as quickly as he can, and to stick to these. He must at first use the experience of others to put him on likely tracks, but that confidence, which is half the inspiration of good fishing, must be gained at first hand. Being convinced therefore that the object should be to exclude patterns of flies rather than to include them, and to lead us to concentrate upon a few varieties only in the virtue of which we thoroughly believe, let me give the results of my own experience, for what they are worth.
Of salmon-flies I will give four patterns.
Jock Scott, as the best all-round fly, excellent for all seasons, weathers and waters in Great Britain, and to be used of all sizes. I believe the Jock Scott to be the best blend of colour that has ever been invented for a salmon fly.
A large size for high-coloured water, and a very small size in low water and bright weather.
First-rate in summer, if used of a small medium, or very small size in clear water.
The Torish, tied with a yellow and not a blue hackle. This is an excellent fly in spring, and as regards size, I have found it most successful on a No. 6/0 Limerick hook, which corresponds to a No. 16 or 17 size of hook in the new scale. With a box of these four patterns, tied of, say, five different sizes varying from No. 8 up to No. 18 (new scale) Limerick hooks, I should feel perfectly content, as far as salmon flies were concerned, on the banks of any British water at any season. Perhaps a few flies of a larger size than No. 18 should be added for exceptional occasions. I agree, however, with the views which are so well expressed by Sir Herbert Maxwell with regard to salmon flies in his delightful book on salmon fishing, and am prepared to admit that there may be many other sets of four patterns of equal virtue. But the accidents of personal success have led me to fix upon these four, and therefore i give them in the belief that, though other patterns may succeed as well, none will do better. For sea trout let me take the following :
I have found no better fly than this, when a river is in good order after a spate. A good size is one tied on No. 8 Pennell-eyed, Limerick hook, and this is the form in which i use it; its merits are not confined to sea trout, for in one day on a single-handed rod, while fishing for sea trout, i once landed five grilse, weighing altogether 28 1/2 pounds, on this fly. i do not think it has the same virtue in smaller sizes when the water is low and clear.
This fly is not so good as the former in highly coloured water, but is most excellent and reliable in clear water; the size may be varied from No. 4 to No. 8.
Succeeds in the same sizes and under the same conditions as the preceding pattern.