Upstream Flyfishing

May 2011:

Getting to the Point

The hook you choose is a pretty important factor in your fishing success. There are many hundreds of designs available, and that’s no accident. A lot of research goes into the shape and even the materials used for hooks, depending on their intended purpose. I’m not going to write a book about hook design here, but rather share a few thoughts that I believe are worth thinking about.

Hook Terminology

Most relevant, in my opinion, is the correlation between barbs and points. If we’re talking barbed hooks, a short distance between the point and barb makes sense. You want the point to penetrate as quickly as possible to get the barb to bite. The point has less of a role to play once the barb is set; it’s then up to the barb to keep the hook in place. Even a small barb does a great job of keeping a hook in, as those of us who have had a hook in a finger can attest!
But what happens when we choose to fish barbless? First off, it’s a great idea to do so. Barbless hooks are quicker and easier to remove without damaging fish, and effective release is enhanced. Thing is, you don’t want the fish to release itself during the fight!

Typical European Long-Point Barbless

With barbless hooks the point plays a role in keeping the fish on. Here, you don’t want a short point. You’ll notice that many European barbless hooks have long, curved points – this is not a cultural thing. It is a design feature that enhances fish holding ability and stems from a long-standing tradition of fishing barbless.
Many of these designs also feature a curved point for the same reason. Smaller fish, especially, have a way of shaking themselves off straight-point hooks, whereas curved-point hooks tend to stay in.

Short-Point Barbed Hook

Next up is the so-called gape of the hook – the space between the point and the shank. Different flies call for different gapes, but in all cases rather go for more than for less. A lot of bulk in the body of the fly can close the gape to the extent that hooking ability is diminished – not good!
Lastly, we should all carry a fine hook hone and get in the habit of checking our hooks regularly for sharpness. Barb or no barb, short point or long; a dull hook is just not going to get the job done!

A Jig hook - one of the examples of modern speciality hooks
A well-tied fly, leaving sufficient hook gape for good hook-ups

Tying your own!

Tying your own flies is more rewarding and less complicated than you might think if you haven’t tried it. More rewarding in that it “completes” the fly fishing process by adding an initial process before even packing the car for a trip. (No fly is tied without a mental picture of a pair of fish jaws closing over it.) That, in itself, is pretty exciting!

Less complicated? People don’t believe me when I tell them this, but all flies are tied using a combination of relatively simple techniques. Sure, some flies require quite a few of these techniques strung together, but on their own each one is about as complicated as brushing your teeth.

Saving money is, unfortunately, not a good incentive to start tying – you’ll save no more than a few cents per fly. The flip side of this coin is that you’ll be able to customize your fly box to your individual preference – no more being limited to what’s commercially available. Cutom tyers will do this for you, of course, but you’ll still be fishing with someone else’s preferences on the end of your line.

What’s needed to get going?

The Apex vise by Anvil

Firstly, a good vice (or vise, if you’re American.) Buy the best you can afford, because a good vice will last you a lifetime whilst a poor one will frustrate the living daylights out of you – trust me, I went down the long road! It doesn’t have to be a true rotary – rotary vices are nice for advanced tying, but many advanced tyers never even use this feature. Few vices on the SA market can compete with Anvil’s Apex when it comes to a great starter vice. Less than a grand gives you a piece of equipment that your grand-kids will still be able to use.

Anvil's Atlas True Rotary

If you want to go rotary, consider Anvil’s Atlas at about R1500 or the SA made JVice at about R3500.

Aside from a vice, a sharp pair of fine-point scissors, preferably serrated, and a good bobbin holder are pretty much all you need to get going. The rest can be accumulated over time. And believe me, you will accumulate!

Anvil Long Reach Fine Point

Not a day will pass without seeing an arbitrary piece of foam and wondering how to incorporate it into a new fly. And you’ll never again look at roadkill in quite the same way…


Accessorizing is not just for girls. Sure, they can show us a thing or three in this department, but the average fly fisherman is no slouch when it comes to collecting add-ons!
Some of the stuff out there seems to be made to catch the fisherman, but a number of tools and accessories are very handy; even essential.
Have a look at some of these cool accessories from Streamworks – an American brand that offers great functionality at very realistic prices!

Mini Nipper

The Mini Nipper weighs nothing, doesn’t flash and cuts through nylon like the proverbial hot knife throught butter. Hang one on a lanyard for instant accessibility, or on a zinger if you’re not a lanyard fan.

Another of the Streamworks add-ons, the Zinger Plus, is a nifty little gadget that functions as a zinger retractor but also incorporates a measuring tape. No more guessing about the length of a good fish or the size of an Elandspad mayfly!

Zinger Plus

Fishing for toothy predators like tigerfish and elf can be painful, but even in this regard Streamworks offers some valuable accessories.

Most of us use standard forceps when trout fishing and they’re extremely useful, but these smaller tools are just not up to large flies and gaping, tooth-lined jaws.

The stainless steel fish grip offers a secure hold on your quarry, while the Big Game forceps will get the fly out without risking your fingers.

Besides keeping yourself out of harms way, the fish also benefit greatly from correct use of the correct tools. Few things do more damage than dropping a squirming fish or taking forever to get the hook out just because you don’t have the right tool for the job!

Streamworks Power Jaw Forceps
Big Game Forceps
Fish Grip

Flyday Guest Feature

Tying with Ian Wallace

Ian Wallace must be one of South Africa’s most talented and prolific fly tyers. He does so on a semi-commercial scale for “beer money,” and judging by the number of flies he turns out he must be a very thirsty man!

Over to Ian:

” In this fast paced world of ours we are always looking for things to speed up our fly tying, so we can spend more time on the water slowing down.

The answer is now available in South Africa at Upstream fly fishing in Cape Town it is Clear Cure Goo, which is a UV curing epoxy and silicone. It comes in 3 viscosities at the moment thick, thin and flexible.

This is the answer for those of us who don’t like working with epoxy and silicone because it is messy takes a long time to cure and we are always wasting so much especially with epoxy, mix some up and it starts drying before we have used all of it.

The most beneficial attributes of this product is that there is no long curing and drying times, you apply the product to the fly and cure it within seconds using a UV torch. So bodies and heads can be built up within seconds. After each addition of Goo it will remain slightly tacky, this is to enable you to build on the first layer, you can keep adding layers until you are happy with the fly. Clear Cure Goo also cures completely clear. It also does not take much practise to master tying with Clear Cure Goo and is suitable for the master and novice tiers alike.

 Some of the flies that used to take a long time to tie can now be completed in minutes. These include the surf candy, clouser minnow and a brush fly.

 These are the three flies I will show in this FLYDAY.”

 Surf Candy


Hook: Any standard shank salt water hook in sizes 1-2/0

Thread: Danville Mono Thread

Body: Silver tinsel or body braid colour of choice.

Wing: White super hair, Mirror image, SF blend

Over wing: Olive super hair, Mirror image or SF Blend

Lateral Line: Fish Scale

Eyes: Flat stick on eyes in the size you prefer

Body and Head: Clear cure Goo Thick

Clouser minnow


Hook: Any standard shank salt water hook or stinger hook for tigers

Thread: Fluro Orange 3/0

Eyes: Black dumbbells to match the hook size in this fly it is a number 1 hook I used 5.5 mm Dumbbells

Body: Salt water flash coated with Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails

Bottom wing: White Buck tail

Middle wing: Herring Back SF Blend

Flash: Chartreuse crystal flash

Top Wing: Royal Blue Buck Tail

Head: Clear cure Goo Thin, I am using the thin one so once I have applied the goo, I can rotated the vice and then it will easily cover the whole head and the gaps between the eyes.

Brush Fly


Hook: Standard shank salt water hook size depending on the bait fish you will be emanating.

Thread: Danville 3/0 Olive

Tail: SF Blend Peacock topped with SF Midnight blitz

Weight: .020 Lead wire

Body: Fishient streamer brush, Peacock colour

Eyes: Stick on 6mm

Head: Clear cure goo Flexible I am using the flexible one so you will not lose any of the movement in the brush, but it will still protect the eyes and head.

Here are a few more of Ian’s Clear Cure Goo creations:

Tuesday Tackle Talk

Choose The Right Reel!

Choosing a reel is a lot like choosing a car – to get to the right answer you must first ask the right questions. The bit that can get confusing is that the right answer for me might not be the right answer for you, or anyone else!

Therefore, instead of giving you all the answers that work for me, I’ll dedicate this blog entry to the questions that got me those answers in the first place – maybe they’ll do the same for you.

Once you’ve decided on your overall budget, use the following guidelines to decide on your choice of reel.

Redington Rise - Great Performance at a Great Price!

First off, how important is the reel for your kind of fishing?

Don’t get fooled into believing that the reel is just a line storage device. That may be true for a few applications, but there are many more where the right reel plays a critical role! It goes without saying that a good reel is vital when venturing offshore or going after GT’s, but even on the smallest trout stream the reel has a job to do.

When wet-wading the Smalblaar, you’ll appreciate a reel which offers quick line pickup and holds the line in such a way that it doesn’t coil up too tightly. You’d probably want to steer clear of too much flash, and needless to say the physical weight should not detract from the overall feel of your outfit.

Sage 4230: Amazing Features, Amazing Looks, Amazingly Light!

Already there’s a lot more to consider than just line storage!

The more important the role of the reel, the bigger the proportion of the overall budget should go towards it. Think about it – on a heavy-duty saltwater setup the reel often makes up 50% of the value, sometimes more. On a light stream outfit, the figure is closer to 30%.
Next, ask yourself how important the brand and cosmetics are for you. Personally, I get a lot of pleasure from pleasing aesthetics, and a good-looking outfit adds value for me over and above mere functionality. Thinking about it and coming up with an honest answer that works for you will go a long way towards avoiding buyers’ remorse!

Remember, too, that some brands come with more comprehensive after-sales service than others. Factor this in when considering brand relevance.

A Tough Reel for a Tough Job - The Abel Super 12 is THE reel for big GT's

Having got those two questions out of the way, now you can decide on functionalities: arbour design, silent or click spool rotation, physical weight, line – and backing capacity, drag construction and all those other variables that are often treated as the only considerations.

In other words, don’t pay more for a 3-weight trout reel only because you’re told it has a great drag system, and then find out later that you should have spent the money on a better line. And don’t underspend on a 12-weight reel and be sorry afterwards when equipment failure costs you a huge fish and ruins your trip!

It’s Flyday!

Local is Lekker – Blog entry by Mark Krige

So what’s a flyday?

Well, it’s that one day in the week when we dedicate our blog to anything and everything to do with flies. We’ll look at old flies, new flies, tying techniques, materials and how to use them, fly patterns and how to fish them. We’ll do step-by-step tying sequences and even feature some of our home-grown fly tying gurus.

So a Flyday, simply put, is a celebration of the little bit of art that we tie to the end of our tippet.

To kick off this series, here’s a quick look at a small selection of truly South African flies – locally developed patterns that have proven themselves to the extent that they are now found in almost every fly shop in our country and in many of our fly boxes. These flies are more than just fads – they’re here to stay and in some cases have spawned entire families of derivatives and variations.

The Walker’s Killer gets a mention, but the question of its origins remains only partly answered. Is it a truly South African fly, or a copy of New Zealand’s Killwell # 1? Whatever the case may be, this fly was for a long time SA’s favourite fish-taker. And it still works! The fly got its name from Lionel Walker, who is partly credited with its design and certainly linked to its popularity.

A Klipspringer DDD ready to be munched!

The DDD is 100% home-grown, even though it shares some design similarities with international patterns. This fly, like many others, underwent some development until it reached its current form. Best tied using Klipspringer hair, its rough-and-tumble appearance has fooled many trout in streams and stillwaters locally and abroad. Our thanks to Tom Sutcliffe for this brilliant fly.



A bushy Zak. Tie them sparser for slow water.

Another of Dr Tom’s designs – the Zak nymph – uses a tying technique that is so far removed from the mainstream that this fly cannot be likened to anything that preceeded it. Like the DDD, a good Zak looks like it was chewed by a stray dog just before being run over by a bus. Its inherent bugginess has fooled fish for me as far afield as Poland, and I’m sure it will continue to do so the world over.

A RAB derivative using squirrel tail fiber legs

Here in the Western Cape, no list of local flies is complete without mentioning Tony Biggs’ RAB. This wonderful fly has spawned so many variations that it’s sometimes hard to see the resemblance to the original, but all share the big-yet-dainty, buggy-yet-sparse impression that makes this style so deadly. You can’t fish a RAB wrong, but the fly seems at its best over broken water, where it dances on tip-toes over the current. Trout love RABs!







Do you know of any interesting and/or deadly local patterns that you feel should be featured in our Flyday blog? Please let us know! Email

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