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Fishing With The Fly by Charles F. Orvis

Updated on January 26, 2012

"Fishing With The Fly" The Book That Help Launch the Orvis Fly Fishing Empire

This is a wonderful old book first published in 1883. The picture at the left is the original cover which is included in this ebook. An ebook is short or slang for electronic book also called a digital book.

This is a pdf file which stands for Portable Document Format. You will need a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to open and read this book. With pdf files it is easy to search, print, enlarge text and share with friends and family. It also is compatible with many hand held readers.

The book has 379 pages (including blank pages) 15 color plates of the flies collected or tied by Charles Orvis showing approximately 140 files and variations, 2 color pictures of jumping trout and 24 stories by noted anglers of the time.

The story featured below titled "Suggestions" was taken from the book and the pictures shown below are also from the book.

Suggestions by Charles F. Orvis

Sample Story from Book

During my long intercourse with the angling fraternity, I have always found its members very ready to receive and impart suggestions, in the most friendly manner. It appears to me that those who are devoted to "the gentle art," are especially good-natured; and while very many have their own peculiar ideas as to this or that, yet they are always willing and anxious to hear the opinions of others. Believing this, I am prompted to make a few suggestions, in regard to fly fishing for trout, and the tackle used for that purpose; and. if I differ from any, which will be very likely, I trust that what appears erroneous will be regarded charitably; and if I shall be so fortunate as to make any suggestions that will add to the enjoyment of any " brother of the Angle," I shall be content.

The rod, of course, is of the first importance in an outfit, as very much depends on its perfection. For ordinary fly-fishing for trout, a rod from ten to twelve feet in length will be found most convenient.

I use a ten-foot rod, and find it meets all my requirements. It is well to let your rod have weight enough to have some " back-bone " in it; very light and very limber rods are objectionable, because with them one cannot cast well against, or across the wind; and it is impossible to hook your fish with any certainty, especially with a long line out, or to handle one properly when hooked.

A very limber rod will not re-act quickly enough, nor strongly enough to lift the line and fix the hook firmly; because, when the upward motion is made, in the act of striking, the point of the rod first goes down; and, unless it is as stiff as it will do to have it and cast well, it will not re-act until the fish has found out his mistake and rejected the fraud.

Rods ten to twelve feet long should weigh from seven and one-half to ten and one-half ounces, depending on the material and weight of mountings, size of hand piece, etc. Many, perhaps, would say, that eight to ten ounces, for a single-handed fly-rod, is too heavy; that such rods would prove tiresome to handle. Much depends on how the rod hangs. If a ten-ounce rod is properly balanced, it will be no harder work to use it than a poorly balanced seven-ounce rod—in fact, not as fatiguing. Some men can handle an eleven-foot rod with the same ease that another could one that was a foot shorter. Hence, the rod should be adapted to the person who is to use it.

For material for fly-rods, bamboo ranks first, lance wood next; after mentioning these, there is not much to say. Green-heart is too uncertain. Paddle wood is very fine, but as yet, extremely difficult to obtain in any quantity.

The balance, or " hang," of a rod is of the greatest importance. Let it be never so well made otherwise, if not properly balanced it will be worthless.

The elasticity should be uniform, from tip to near the hand; a true taper will not give this, because the ferules interfere with the uniform spring of the rod. For this reason a little enlargement between the ferules should be made, to compensate for the non-elasticity of the metal. These enlargements cannot be located by measurements, as much depends on the material and the length of the joint.

Spliced rods can be made nearer a true taper, for obvious reasons; although there is no doubt that a spliced rod is stronger and much more perfect in casting qualities, yet they require such care to preserve the delicate ends of the splice, and are so troublesome in many ways, that few will use them.

The details of rod-making having been so often told, I do not purpose making any suggestions on that subject, but will say that, in order to make a good fly-rod, the maker ought to know how to handle it, when finished.

I believe in a very narrow reel, and use one that is only one-half inch between outside plates. As both outside and spool plates are perforated, my line never mildews or gets tender. Hence, it is unnecessary to take the line off to dry it, as should be done when solid reel plates are used.

With such a reel my line never tangles. If your reel be narrow between plates, and large in circumference, it will take up line rapidly, and obviate the use of a multiplier, which is objectionable for fly fishing. A light click is desirable, just strong enough to hold the handle and keep the line from over-running. More friction is of no use, and may cause you the loss of many fish.

Experience satisfies me that you should use your reel on the under side of your rod, with handle towards the right—because the weight of the reel so placed holds the rod in proper position without your giving it a thought, and your right hand finds the reel handle without trouble; because your reel is thus entirely out of the way of your arm; because with the rod always in proper position, your left hand finds the line every time, to draw it from the reel when wanted for a longer cast; because with the reel on the under side the rod is always exactly balanced, and you will not have to grasp it with anywhere near the force required with the reel on the upper side. And you can make your casts with ease and lay out your flies gently and more accurately than you could with the firmer grip needful to be kept on the rod with the reel in the latter position, and because, without constant attention, your reel is never on the upper side of the rod to any certainty, but anywhere and everywhere. Keep your reels well oiled.

Enameled, or water proof, braided silk, tapered, American fly-lines, are the best made for fly-fishing. It is important that the size of the line should be adapted to the rod. A heavy line on a very light rod would be bad. A very light line on a heavy rod would be worse. No. 3 or E, and No. 4 or F, are the two best sizes. I find many are inclined to use too light lines, supposing the lighter the line the less trouble there will be in casting it. This, I think, is an error.

It is impossible to cast well against or across the wind, with a very light line; and very light lines do not "lay out" as easily or accurately as heavier ones.

Leaders, or casting lines, I like rather heavy, proportionate to the line. To use a very light leader on a No. 4 line is not well; for what is the leader but a continuation of the line? Therefore it should approximate the size of the line, that there may be no sudden change in size where the leader begins, in order that the flies shall keep ahead, where they belong.

Experience satisfies me that you should use your reel on the under side of your rod, with handle towards the right—because the weight of the reel so placed holds the rod in proper position without your giving it a thought, and your right hand finds the reel handle without trouble; because your reel is thus entirely out of the way of your arm; because with the rod always in proper position, your left hand finds the line every time, to draw it from the reel when wanted for a longer cast; because with the reel on the under side the rod is always exactly balanced, and you will not have to grasp it with anywhere near the force required with the reel on the upper side. And you can make your casts with ease and lay out your flies gently and more accurately than you could with the firmer grip needful to be kept on the rod with the reel in the latter position, and because, without constant attention, your reel is never on the upper side of the rod to any certainty, but anywhere and everywhere. Keep your reels well oiled.

Enameled, or water proof, braided silk, tapered, American fly-lines, are the best made for fly-fishing. It is important that the size of the line should be adapted to the rod. A heavy line on a very light rod would be bad. A very light line on a heavy rod would be worse. No. 3 or E, and No. 4 or F, are the two best sizes. I find many are inclined to use too light lines, supposing the lighter the line the less trouble there will be in casting it. This, I think, is an error.

It is impossible to cast well against or across the wind, with a very light line; and very light lines do not "lay out" as easily or accurately as heavier ones.

Leaders, or casting lines, I like rather heavy, proportionate to the line. To use a very light leader on a No. 4 line is not well; for what is the leader but a continuation of the line? Therefore it should approximate the size of the line, that there may be no sudden change in size where the leader begins, in order that the flies shall keep ahead, where they belong.

Leaders should be made with loops at proper intervals, to which the flies are to be attached. Leaders with such loops will last at least twice as long as those without them.

Three flies are generally used; perhaps two are just as good. But I use three and often find the increased number to work well, as presenting a greater variety to the fickle notions of the many trout, and it is best to take all the chances.

The first dropper loop should be about thirty inches from the stretcher, or tail-fly. Second dropper, twenty-four inches above first dropper—depending somewhat on the length of the leader. Let the flies be as far apart as I have indicated. A greater distance is not objectionable—a lesser is.

Leaders should be tapered and made of the best quality of round gut. " Mist colored " or stained leaders are, by many, thought to be better than the clear white gut; but I must say I never have been able to see that they are, or that there is any difference, practically. There is no great objection to the colored leaders, and I use them myself usually. I will not undertake to settle the much-discussed question. Either plain or colored are good enough, if properly made and from good gut.

Always let your leader lie in the water awhile before commencing to cast, that the gut may soften—or you may lose your leader, fish and temper, and blame some one because you think you have been cheated, when no one was in fault but yourself in your haste. When you have finished fishing, wind your leader around your hat, and the next time you use it, it will not look like a cork-screw, and bother you half an hour in casting.

To one who has not acquired the art of fishing with the fly, let me suggest that a day or two with an expert will save much time and trouble. There are many little things that cannot well be described, and would take a long time to find out by experience, that can be learned very quickly when seen. It is not easy to tell one exactly how to fish with the fly.

I remember well my first trout; I remember as well, the first fine rod and tackle I ever saw, and the genial old gentleman who handled them. I had thought I knew how to fish with the fly; but when I saw my old friend step into the stream and make a cast, I just wound that line of mine around the "pole" I had supposed was about right, and I followed an artist. (I never used that "pole" again.) I devoted my time that afternoon to what to me was a revelation, and the quiet, cordial way in which the old gentleman accepted my admiration, and the pleasure he evidently took in lending to me a rod until I could get one, is one of the pleasant things I shall always retain in memory.

To really enjoy fly-fishing one must be able to cast at least fairly well; to cast a very long line is not at all important—to cast easily and gently is. Fifty to sixty feet is all that is necessary for practical purposes; the great majority of trout are taken within forty feet.

It is not easy to tell one how to cast. The art must be acquired by practice. As I have said, much can be learned by observing an expert. There is one great mistake made by most beginners; i.e., far too much strength is used. Let me suggest to the novice to begin with the line about the length of the rod; learn to lay that out gently, and as you take your flies off the water, do it with a quick movement, decreasing the motion until your rod is at an angle of not quite 45 degrees behind you, this angle to be varied according to circumstances which cannot be foreseen. Then the rod must come to a short pause, just long enough to allow the line and leader time to straighten out fairly, no more. Then the forward motion must be made with a degree of force and quickness in proportion to the length of line you have out, decreasing the force until the rod is about horizontal; do not bring your rod to a sudden stop, or your line and your flies will come down with a splash and all in a heap; but lay your line out gently, my friend, and your flies will fall like snowflakes. It is not muscle but " gentle art " that is required. "Take it easy" and keep trying.

In an open space, from a boat for instance, take your flies very nearly straight off the water; never dropping the point of your rod much to the right, as this leaves your line on the water and makes it hard to lift. Take your flies up with a quick movement, nearly vertical, and wait for them to straighten and cast again directly towards the point to which you wish them to go.

After you have acquired the skill to cast straight before you will be time enough for you to practice side casts, under casts, etc., that you will have to use where there are obstacles before and behind you. The same movements to cast and retrieve your lines, will apply under all circumstances, whether in open water or on streams overhung with trees, or fringed with bushes. Much vexatious catching of flies may be avoided by not being too eager, and by not using too long a line. Let me add—just before your flies touch the water, draw back your rod slightly and gently; this will straighten the line, and your flies will fall exactly where you want them.

Cast your flies so that they fall as lightly as possible, with your leader extended to its full length; then draw your flies in the direction you wish, being careful not to draw them too far, or you will have trouble in retrieving your line for another cast. "With your rod too perpendicular you cannot lift your line quickly enough to carry it back with sufficient force to straighten it out, and your next cast will be a failure. There is also much danger of breaking your rod. Usually you will get your rise just an instant after your flies touch the water, or before you have drawn them more than a little distance. It is better to cast often and draw your flies back just far enough so that you can easily lift your line for another cast. Moreover, with your rod too perpendicular it is not easy to hook your fish; so cast often and cover all parts of the pool.

I think most skilful fly-fishers draw their flies with a slightly tremulous motion, to make the flies imitate the struggles of an insect, and I believe it to be a good method. It certainly is not objectionable, and you will find it can be done without thought; the habit once formed and it will be difficult for you to draw your flies otherwise.

The instant you see a rise at one of your flies, strike quickly, but not too strongly, nor with a long pull, but with a short, sharp motion, not too strong or long enough to raise even a small fish from the water, but just enough to drive the hook firmly in. This may be done by an upward and inward motion, or a side motion, as circumstances may dictate. A slight turn of the wrist is often all that is required; but if you have a long line out, you will have to use your arm and more force. Your fish hooked, keep him well in hand; don't give him any more line than is necessary. "When he is determined to run, let him do so; but keep your fingers on the line and put all the strain on him you safely can, increasing the strain the further he goes. Turn him as soon as possible, and the instant you have done so, begin to reel him in. When he runs again, repeat the dose and get his head out of the water a little as soon as you dare. This exhausts him quickly. Don't raise him too far out of the water, or in his struggles he will break loose.

Should a fish try to run under the boat, reel up until your line is no longer than your rod, or nearly so, then firmly guide him around the end—remembering always " it is skill against brute force."

Just for Fun - Intermission - 35 Second Clip of Some Old Drive In Intermission Film

In stream fishing, always wade if you can. When fishing from a boat never stand up if you can help it, but learn to cast sitting down. It is just as easy if you once learn how. On streams it is better to wade, because your feet produce no jar for you cannot well raise them out of the water, and dare not often. And for various reasons a person alarms the fish less in wading than in fishing from the bank.

Fish down stream always if possible. Yon can, in so doing, look over the pools and approach them to the best advantage. It is easier to wade with the current, and as you cast your flies you can let them float naturally for just an instant, without their being drawn under the surface. This instant is the time that, in a great majority of cases, you get your rise. Every one who has fished much with a fly knows how often he has whipped every inch of a pool and failed to get a rise where he was sure his flies could be seen from any part of it, and at last, when he placed his flies in one particular spot, his hopes were realized in an instant.

Why did not the trout rise before? Because he waited until his food came to him.

In streams, especially, trout usually rise an instant after the flies touch the water, and I believe that trout in streams commonly wait for their food to come to them, and do not often dart out from where they are lying to any great distance, but wait until the fly comes nearly or quite over them, and then rise to the surface and take the fly with a snap and instantly turn head down to regain the position they had left. In doing this they often turn a somersault and throw themselves out of the water; as they go over, their tails come down on the water with a splash, which some persons think is intentionally done to strike the fly or insect in order to kill or injure it and then afterwards capture it. Such persons fail to see the trout's head at all, for very often it barely comes to the surface, but the quick motion to go down throws the tail up and over-hence the error, as I consider it. Any one who will take the trouble to throw houseflies to trout in an aquarium, will never again think trout strike their prey with their tails.

The kinds of flies to be used vary with the locality, stream, state and stage of the water, weather, etc. The fly that pleased the fancy of the trout today-tomorrow perhaps in the same stream and under the same conditions, as far as any one could see, would fail. The only way is to keep trying until the one is found that does please. Don't change too often, but give each "cast " a fair trial.

I do not believe in certain flies for certain months in the year. I have stood up to my knees in snow and taken trout, in mid-winter, with the same flies I had used in mid-summer. In low, clear water, especially in streams, small flies should be used. In higher water, larger flies are better, as a rule. When the water is high-as early in the season-larger and brighter-colored flies may be used to more advantage. Later, when the water is low and clear, smaller flies and more sober colors are best. I believe, however, that rules for the choice of flies have a great many exceptions, and the best rule I know of, is to keep trying different kinds and sizes until successful.

It is often said, "there is no need of so great a variety of flies." I do not think this is true. Doubtless there are many styles that might well be dispensed with, but one never knows which to discard, and no man can tell him, for the very flies one man would say were worthless, another would consider the best-and prove it, plainly, by the success he had had with that very fly. So it is well to be provided with many kinds and sizes. I have learned of the merits of so many different kinds of flies that I sometimes think nearly all are good-at some time or under some circumstances. There is much doubt in my mind as to the necessity of having the artificial flies like the insects that are near or on the water. One of the best flies that has ever been known-the Coachman-does not in the least resemble any known insect, I believe-and but few of the many patterns made imitate anything in nature. The Cowdung fly, another one of the most "taking" flies - does very much resemble the natural fly of that name-but I never saw or heard of their being on or near the water.

Early in the season, while the weather is yet cold, the middle of the day is usually quite as good, and I think the best time for fly-fishing. Later, in warm weather, the evening is the best, and often the last two hours of a pleasant day are worth all the rest of it.

Generally speaking, a gentle southerly breeze is the most favorable wind; yet I have had splendid sport during a strong northeasterly wind, but not often.

In conclusion, be patient and persevering, move quietly, step lightly, keep as much out of sight of the fish as possible, and remember, trout are not feeding all the time. Perhaps during the last hour before dark you may fill your basket, that has been nearly empty since noon. Don't give up as long as you can see -or even after-and you may when about to despair take some fine large fish.

Unless one can enjoy himself fishing with the fly, even when his efforts are un-rewarded, he loses much real pleasure. More than half the intense enjoyment of fly fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease of life secured thereby, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard and done.

End

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    • profile image

      bamboofly15 6 years ago

      nice lens.. if your a big fan of fishing you should have this Bamboo Fly Rods

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 6 years ago

      really like this lens and will feature on my angling posters lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hmmm, looks like my comment didn't come through when I rated this, I've noticed that has been happening a bit lately when I get a message that I have a comment and it doesn't make it. Anyway, I loved this and it got me remembering how I used to love sitting and watching as my Mom made hundreds of flies. I agree totally with you, fishing is more than catching fish and an opportunity to enjoy the beauty all around, feel the sun and the breeze and just drink in nature.

    • BlueDunDan profile image
      Author

      BlueDunDan 6 years ago

      @VoodooRULEs: Thank you VoodooRULEs, I do appreciate your complement!

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      VoodooRULEs 6 years ago

      What a great lens! Thank you! I appreciate the detailed history you provided. I really liked this.

    • BlueDunDan profile image
      Author

      BlueDunDan 6 years ago

      @OhMe: Hi OhMe...I'm sure your son would love it. I'm a fly fisherman myself and I have enjoy this book thoroughly.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      My son would love this since he is an avid fly fisherman. I may be returning here.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great informative lens and I love fishing.