Two Quickies

I want to post these two tidbits on landing fish, or not landing them. Here are two examples of what not to do.

On May 12th I was at the Wayne Harpster property on Spruce Creek for the annual On-The-Fly event. It’s a fund-raiser for Center County Youth Services Bureau. I’ve been invited a number of times over the years, to do some demo tying, and make a donation of flies, and I always enjoy it. I have a few pics I took that I will post in a few days. I’m still busy tying flies.

When I got there it was nearly lunch time, so I went through the fine food catered chow line and sat at an outdoor picnic table. Several anglers on one of the teams came and sat down. One talked how he’d lost several large trout on one of the morning beats. One of his teammates asked, “What were you using?”

“A Wooly Bugger,” was the reply.

What size tippet were you using?” his friend inquired.

“5x,” came the reply.

“5x!” His friend exclaimed. My sentiments exactly. I already knew why he lost the fish.

“Well, it was a small bugger,” he answered in defense. And I thought to myself immediately, a “small” wooly bugger would be a #12, and even with that size hook, you don’t fish a bugger on 5x. Remember to apply the ‘Rule of Threes,’ “Hook size divided by three equals tippet size.” On a #12 bugger that would equal out to 4x, but with buggers and they way fish strike them, better drop to 3x. And on that private section of Spruce Creek where stocked trout sometimes are four and five pounders, yeah…go with 3x.

The other story took place last year on Big Pine Creek, right of the bank of the Hotel Manor in Slate Run. It was a warm, very bright day, and I was waiting for some friends who managed to elude me up there, not intentionally, there’s no cell signal anywhere, so that explains that. The middle of the day, nothing was going on, so I decided to go to the Manor and enjoy myself. I ordered a Bloody Mary, then another…and later on…another. Then I smoked a cigar. And had another Bloody Mary. And an other cigar. I mean, hey, like four hours had passed. In the evening several anglers lined up fishing, wading in from the west bank. Still nothing was rising but one angler managed to hook a large trout right behind the hotel. And then here’s his mistake. He was in the water, and instead of heading immediately to the bank, he stayed in the water and followed the fish downstream. His drag was probably set too light, but I told my waitress who had come by to chat, “That’s guy is gonna lose that fish.”

“How can you tell?” she asked.

I explained why. He should have moved to the bank to follow the fish, which he could have done, and faster, if necessary, and at least keep even with the trout. But also from shore he could have applied pressure to bring that trout out of the middle of the creek into slower water nearer the shore. The ending might have been different. And referring to story No. 1, I don’t know what size tippet / fly he was using. He lost the fish. So there you are…

19 comments on “Two Quickies

  1. Kelly L. says:

    I like that rule of the hook divided by 3. Never heard of that before. You learn something new everyday! Thanks again!! 🙂

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hey Kelly, and Darrell;
      The “Rule of Threes” is something I picked up when I was assistant instructor with Cathy Beck in their Fly Fishing Schools…something simple, and I always remembered it. Before that though, somewhere along the line I learned the basic equation regarding tippet size to hook eye diameter. A great disparity between wire diameter and tippet diameter creates this problem – you can tie a clinch or whatever type of knot you want, but if the tippet size is too small in proportion to the hook wire, then physics enters in and whenever that is put to the stress test of a fish strike and the anglers stiff hook-setting reaction – well, how many time have you pulled in nothing but the little squiggly end on the tippet? Where your knot came untied…
      Glad you found a tidbit you could use guys! 🙂 I have an experience from fishing a couple years ago with a lot of photos that I have been wanting to post here for some time, and there is more tippet decision drama in that article, yet to be written. Thanks for your comments!

      • flydressersguild says:

        I have only fished reservoirs here in the UK and always made my leader form 9′ of 8lb stepped to 9′ of 6lb because any lighter often meant lost fish.

        This year I was meant to be fishing the Usk in Wales – my first time ever on a river – and was introduced to pre-made tapered leaders for the first time too, a whole new ballgame!!!!

        Unfortunately I didn’t get to fish because the river was too high and chocolate brown but on a small stillwater I showed the welsh how do do it 😉

        Can’t wait to see the photos you have lined up for us:)

        Tight Lines


      • Don Bastian says:

        Hi Darrell;
        “Store-bought” tapered leaders are nice, but as George Harvey said, they are all designed pretty much to “cast and lay out straight because that’s what customers want.” I’m always lengthening these leaders with additional material to add more small-diameter leader to get better drag-free drifts. Or I cut them back, than make my own front portion more or less to Harvey’s specs. Glad you showed those foreigners how to catch fish! 😉

  2. Scott Rice says:

    Hi Don,

    Trust all is well and getting better for you. I would like another one of your Sulphur selections. My last order was for #14 and I now want size #18 & #16. Scott Rice

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Scott;
      Thank you for the inquiry on the Sulfur Selections…sure you can enter an order. I’d be happy to do that for you! I’m still a little backed up on my orders though, but I’ll fit you in. 😉 I’ll send you an e-mail…thanks for the comment!

  3. Hi Don

    I too have never heard of the Rule regarding tippet size! Just goes to show that one can learn something new every day!!! 😀

  4. Bill says:

    Both excellent suggestions, DB. I have been guilty of the “too small” tippet syndrome once in a while myself, and have lost enough nice fish that you’d think I’d know better by now. It’s far better to take the time to re-rig one’s terminal tackle when switching to wet flies or streamers after casting Size #18 dries on 6X.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hey Bill;
      I was also writing from the experience of being “too lazy” to change to a larger tippet for a bugger, and like you, I have hooked and lost enough nice fish to know better. 😉 But not so much lately, meaning the last decade or so…thanks for your comment!

      • Bill says:

        Looks like tippet size is determined by (# of drinks + # of cigars smoked) ÷ # of hours elapsed since last serious fishing took place.

      • Don Bastian says:

        Well, maybe, but the last serious fishing was just the night before. I hammered ’em on Spring Creek with a Sulfur Dun and my Floating Caddis / Mayfly “Sulfur” Emerger, took most of the fish on the emerger… but I do like your analogy Bill. Thanks for the comment and touch of dry levity! 🙂 Plus I forgot to mention the attractiveness of the female table staff at The Manor Hotel, that sort of held me in place, including the one who kept an eye on me and made sure my glass didn’t get empty. After the first drink, we made an “arrangement” – I asked her, as she took care of her outdoor tables to keep an eye on my drink, and that when it got to about 1/4 full, that she could bring me another one. 😉 Which she did…!

  5. Jon Andrew says:

    I like your style. When it gets slow – adjourn to the bar for a cocktail or four!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hey Jon;
      I was inspired to go for a Bloody Mary(s) after seeing a bottle of Bloody Mary mix in the Slate Run Store, and bought it, but then I couldn’t wait til I got home. 😉 That was an enjoyable and memorable afternoon, spent lazing the day away. Besides, I justified it because I’d just had a couple house guests for two days, teaching fly tying, fishing, cooking, etc., and I was literally “on” for about 15 hours each day to be the proper host. So the “rest” was well-deserved. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Jon Andrew says:

    Also, meant to mention that my girlfriend constantly complains about the size of my tippet. I’ll try to improve on that.

  7. Murray Buck says:

    Ahhhhh, I learned something today….thanks!

  8. Bob Margulis says:

    Nice piece and based upon comments clearly educational. As my first love is steelheading in the NW I’ll share a technique that I have transferred to all my river fishing when fighting a larger fish. Get downstream (even a little) of the fish and put pressure on it by keeping your rod low and to the side. It forces the fishes upper body to be crosscurrent and uses energy that results in landing more large fish and sooner. As always, make sure the fish is recovered before release.
    Love the blog–keep up the great work.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Bob;
      Nice of you to comment! I learned about side pressure twenty some years ago; Gary Borger presented a session when I worked for Cathy and Barry Beck. Gary took a rod, and had each student securely grasp the leader and move their arm side-to-side as a fish would, while he moved from vertical to horizontal pressure with the rod. The difference was unbelievable!
      I use that all the time, even on ten-inch trout, because as you noted, you get ’em in a lot faster. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, and I appreciate the comments on my blog! Thank you!

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