Saturday, 30 April 2011

Catch & release, or not?

As I was looking trough some pictures I took along the water, the last couple of years, I came across this one, and it made me think.

This picture was taken a couple of years back, when I was still convinced that you had to fish for pike with lures and stuff like that (luckily I tried it on the fly one day).
Either way, ‘once upon a time in Belgium’, I came across this very sympathetic guy, when I was walking along the water. He was standing up to his ankles in the water, although his shoes and trousers were not designed for it. 

Then he landed this pike in a much to small net, with a rod I thought would break any second. And the moment he lay down the net on the ground, and saw his 7cm Rapala (with two treble hooks) disappeared into the mouth of the pike, he started to pull the mouth of the pike open with his fingers. Of course I intervened, and to make a long story short, I had to cut both of the treble hooks into pieces with my pliers to save the pike (the main reason why I never use treble hooks anymore) and it swam off very lively, which made us both feel good. I gave him two new treble hooks, and he started right away asking what kind of material and tools he needed to fish and unhook pike safely. Because, next to the euphoria of catching a beautiful fish, his immediate concern was to put it back as quickly as possible.
Now, this is a good story, which gives me hope for the next generation of fishermen, but unfortunately this kind of event is very rare.

‘Once upon another time in Belgium’, I came across this very sympathetic older guy when I was walking along the water, who was drilling a 96 cm pike, and I landed the pike in my net. But the moment I put the net on the ground, he pulled a rock out of the ground and smashed the pike’s head in.
When I asked him why he killed it, he said that he would take it home and take a picture (for his collection), show the pike to his neighbour (who’s also a fisherman), and then throw the pike in the garbage, because ‘still water pike’ tastes like mud (because of the low oxygen level). Besides that, this was his favourite place to fish for roach, so any pike was unwelcome in this area.
I can guarantee you that I used my most colourful vocabulary to say how stupid he was, but he just looked at me as if I came from another planet. This is a phenomenon I’ve witnessed with a lot of older fishermen, and it’s very hard to get people think differently about pike.

Its obvious that I promote ‘catch and release’ for pike in Belgium. I put all of them back, big or small. And there’s hope, I heard (from a reliable person) that the laws concerning pike will be changed next year. The pike season will be two months longer, but every pike caught (no mater what size) has to be retuned into the water immediately, for the next five years.



But what about other species?

When I was in the Belgian Ardennes the last time, I caught trout almost every day. But in the 12 days I was there, I only took these two with me for diner (32 and 28 cm). I like to eat a trout from time to time, and it’s ridiculous to buy them in the supermarket if you can get them fresh out of the water. But it did make me think about it.

On this part of the river Semois, you can only catch trout in springtime and you’re only allowed to fly-fish. And hundreds of kilos of fish are put into the river (like you see on the picture), so that people are able to catch them.
So it’s more like folklore, because most of the guys over there are barbel fishermen, and only touch a fly rod in springtime to catch and kill trout, to fill their freezer, and make their wife happy, which compensates for the expenses of their barbel fishing, the rest of the year (I think).

All this got me very conflicted. Every trout I caught and put back into the river was almost certainly killed by the next fisherman who came along. So did I put them back with hopes that they would get away and reproduce, or to give the next guy a nice barbeque?
The only reason that there is still trout to be caught, is by all the money people pay for their permit (which is used to buy and release fish), but the same people kill every one of them as well. So do you have to make people pay to fish for trout and send them to the supermarket to be able to eat one?

I struggled with that question for a couple of days, and then I had a visitor. This 12 year old boy heard that I tied my own flies, and one evening he arrived at my tent with his bicycle. I will never forget his first words: “Hi” he said, “I’m Kylian, and I’ve been fishing all my life”.
I was immediately charmed by the kid, and we had some long talks about fishing every evening for about a week (because every evening he arrived at my tent with all kinds of questions).

Anyway, at a certain moment he said something like this to me: “It’s not fair, because all those older guys fish with big and expensive rods, catch all the trout and kill them all. And then they wonder why young people don’t fly-fish. The few ones that I do catch, I measure them and only take the reasonable sized ones at home. They have to put smaller sized fish in the Semois, which everyone is obligated to put back into the water. This way they can reproduce and give us youngsters a chance to learn how to fish.”
I don’t know if these were his words (I think his older brother is teaching him), but it did make me feel pretty stupid, because he hit the nail on the head! Use the money to build up an ecosystem that’s good for both fish and fishermen.
Of course, an other big problem in Belgium is the fact that there is no supervision. In all those years I’ve fished there, I’ve been checked just one time!

I really hope there are more Kylians in the world, because they are the next generation and they can make a difference! 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Music for the soul

No matter what certain people say, fly-fishing is not the only good thing for the soul in the world. Let’s say that on a scale from 1 to 10, fly-fishing is 11. But for me, music, is at least 10 as well.
When I’m fishing though, the last thing on my mind is music, because the sound of nature is the best soundtrack at that moment. But any other time, I barely do anything without music.
Whether it’s Billie Holliday to wake up and check my mail, or Metallica to drive my car (although it’s Booker T and the MG’s at the moment), Rage Against The Machine to clean up the place, Marvin Gaye while I’m cooking (I can’t help it, I like to sing when I’m fixing a meal), or some old school reggae like Burning Spear to take a shower (an early Miles Davis works great too).
I pretty much described my day here, except for one thing.
Tonight I went to the third concert in 12 days, and each of them was memorable. Three different styles of music on three different locations, but I left three times with a big smile on my face.

The first was the “Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar”, which was a genuine Balkan party.

This is Marko playing his trumpet like an AK47.


The second was “Intergalactic Lovers”, the new stars in the Belgian rock scene.

This is Lara Chedraoui, the girl behind it all.


And last but not least, tonight we went just across the border to France (which is only a 45 minute drive) to see James Blake.
Some call him a prophet in today’s music, others say it’s just a hype, but I can guarantee you that I saw an artist at work that is certainly worth following the next couple of years, because this kind of talent is very rare. The combination of very slow and very low beats that make your trousers look like your national flag in a tornado, in combination with a 60’s golden soul voice is unseen before, and a joy to witness.

And thanks to my good friend Ruth for taking these pictures, all the laughs and great moments!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

New Flymage Magazine


It seems that I’ve missed the launching of the new Flymage Magazine (other ezines send a mail when they have a new issue out).

Either way, it looks great again and worth checking out. Click on the picture or check it out with some other great ezines on the right.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Pike on stamps 2

A while ago, I did a first post of a hobby within my hobby, which is collecting pike on stamps. There are only very few of them in the world, so they are very hard to find. I‘ve only found ten different ones so far. The first six, you can see when you click the label stamps (on the bottom of this post or with the other labels on the right).
And these are the four new ones I’ve found since that last post.

So little by little, it’s starting to look like a collection. If there is anyone out there who can help me with finding some more, please send me a mail, and maybe we can work something out.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Pike Flies, the Baltic way

If you start searching on the internet for pike flies, sooner or later you’ll end up somewhere in the Baltic. Which is understandable, because there are a lot of great fly fishermen over there, and they’re not so narrow minded as a lot of other fly fishermen in the rest of Europe.
And there is this one pattern that you’ll find with a lot of those guys.
I think it all started with a pattern Niklaus Bauer tied, called ‘the Hoover’ (but don’t shoot me if I’m wrong). Anyway, you see (more or less) the same pattern coming back by (just to name two big shots) Ulf Hagström and Simon Graham. And they catch a lot of pike on that fly, so I figured, if it works over there, why wouldn’t it work over here. So I’ve been experimenting a bit, and finally came up with this pattern, which I like a lot.

All these flies are about 15 cm long, tied on a Gamakatsu Worm 36, size 5/0, and they’re all tied the same way (just different colours).

- I started with some flash material (full length of the tail).
- then some Yak Hair.
- chenille
- Yak Hair (but shorter than the previous)
- chenille
- bucktail
- flash material (but shorter than the previous)
- chenille
- bucktail
- marabou (2x)
- some of Rich Johnson’s Realistic Flyz Eyez
- Epoxy for the head

The reason I use chenille and bucktail, is simply to have more volume with a lot less material, and to give the marabou a nice pulsating action while retrieving. Usually I don’t like marabou for pike flies, sure it looks great when dry, but once it gets wet, it just sticks together and doesn’t give a lot of action. But with some bucktail underneath, that’s a whole other story.

Materials used:

- flash:  cosmic pink Vampire Flash FX
- yak hair: white
- chenille: pink
- bucktail: white and pink
- marabou: pearl and pink


- flash:  light green Polar Flash
- yak hair: white and chartreuse
- chenille: chartreuse
- bucktail: white and chartreuse
- marabou: pearl and chartreuse


- flash:  light green and light yellow Polar Flash
- yak hair: yellow and chartreuse
- chenille: chartreuse
- bucktail: yellow and chartreuse
- marabou: yellow and chartreuse


 - flash:  copper/green Polar Flash and dark green Flashabou (from TOF)
- yak hair: red and black
- chenille: red
- bucktail: red and grey
- marabou: Bordeaux and anthracite 

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Pike flies

After all those trout flies, it felt really good to tie something ‘big’ again. I can’t help it, but when it comes to fly tying, pike flies still give me the most pleasure and satisfaction.


If you visit my blog regularly, then you’ve seen a lot of these flies already. In the past, I’ve received a lot of questions concerning the head of this fly. And there are two reasons why most people don’t want to start tying flies like this. One, I mostly use polypropylene fibre, which for most people is a little hard to get, or you have to use EP Fibre (which is the same thing but a lot more expensive). Two, the amount of work that you have to put into them.

So, I made these heads a little different (and easier). I used a brass wire dubbing brush with white Mirror Image (from H2O Products), blended with the same flash material I used in the tail (which is Polar Flash), and coloured it afterwards with Prismacolor and regular permanent markers.

Due to the conical shape I make with tying thread underneath the head, I can use a bigger amount of brass wire to make the head. So this fly will sink immediately. I’m already making the same pattern with a deer hair head, to make a floating diver, but that will be for a next post…

Thursday, 14 April 2011

“Les 2 Eaux”, Bohan part 2

All those years that I went to Bohan, I always focused on the Semois river (in Belgium and in France).
But there are a lot of these little waters that flow out into the Semois, with a lot of trout in them.


But this is the kind of sign you often encounter: “Peche Interdite”, which is French, and literally translated, it means: “Fishing Prohibited”.

But there are other signs as well…

Like this one: “Fishing reserved”
This means that the rights to fish here are owned by sometimes a hotel, or in this case by a fishing club. You just need an extra permit and you’re on your way.

But of course, there are other rules and laws to follow again (typically Belgian).
In this water (until the grand opening in June), you’re already aloud to fish in every way you want to, and enter the water (unlike the Semois), but you’re only aloud to fish in the weekend and on holydays.

Also, I quickly discovered that I’ll be totally on my own to learn how to fish there. It seems that I’m the only person on this water who’s fly-fishing.
I’ve met six other fisherman so far, and they all said the same thing: “ you’re crazy!” (or at least something in that area).


I have to admit that the first weekend, I almost thought they were right. But of course, I came totally unprepared.

There are a few open spaces like you see on these pictures…


But most of the time, it looks like this.

The lightest rod I had with me was a 9’ 4# (way to long). So I didn’t catch a single fish the first weekend, and I lost a lot of flies.

Due to the hard winter (they hadn’t seen this amount of snow in a very long time), lots of trees just collapsed under the weight, and the forest is a real devastation in the whole region.

Here the electricity cables were still on the ground. The sign on the right says 15000 volt. So this was not my favourite place to fish.

So I ordered a new rod at the local shop (they didn’t have a rod in stock that I liked for these conditions).
And on Friday (just in time for the weekend), this brand new JMC Image 7’ 3-4# arrived.
I’m already convinced that I’m going to have a great time with this little rod this year. I was able to cast almost anywhere I wanted to (and I lost only a few flies).

But I only fished dry flies and terrestrials, which was a bit to soon, so again, no fish.

But then, I had a Shakespearian moment!

“to fish a streamer, or not to fish a streamer?”

So I fished a streamer and missed two trout in half an hour!

The next day, I went back for a couple of hours, and this ‘classic’ Mini Zonker did the trick. I landed three small trout (about 17, 20 and 24 cm). Unfortunately my camera was in my car again, about a kilometre away, which is a shame because these trout were very different from those in the Semois. Different colours and very beautifully spotted. So those will be for next time (in a couple of weeks).

But one thing is certain. No matter how crazy they think I am, fly-fishing does work, and I’ll be doing it a lot more in that water this season. The fun (and the skills) can only get better!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Ezine update

Since I’ve been away for a while, I’m a bit late with the new issues of a couple of free ezines. But it’s better late than never, so here they are. Click on any image, or check them out with the other ezines on the right.

The new ‘This is Fly’

The new ‘Fly Fishers Inc’

And I’ve added a great (big) one, called ‘Pool 32 Mag’

Man, that felt good! (Bohan part 1)

I’m back, and I can’t even describe how good it felt to be out there fishing for 12 days in one of the most beautiful regions we still have left here in Belgium!
I’ve fished (and tied) a lot (and I did a lot of thinking as well), so more posts will follow.
So for now, let’s just start with the beginning.

This was my home for the last 12 days. I know, not so many people can say that their car is bigger than their home, but that will change, because I’m already looking out for a bigger tent, especially since I’ve booked a place on this camping site for the whole season (which also means that I’ll be going there a lot more this year!).


And as you can see, I practically had the whole place to myself (which is the best way to go camping, if you ask me).

The first weekend, I had these neighbours though. This was a course for living and cooking outdoors, and to teach the basics of canoeing. I spent some time with them before and after the course, and they were really great people. You can find more about their survival and outdoor courses (mostly in Norway, Lapland and Canada) on .

You can also find a youtube film on their site of a canoe trip they did on the river Semois (which is the river I’m fishing in) from a couple of years ago.

But, of course, I took some pictures myself.

But fishing is the main reason I’m going over there, and it was very difficult, which often makes fishing even more fun (if you have the time to experiment).

I only took a few pictures of the trout I caught. One, because most of the fish I catch never even leave the water to unhook them. Two, because all of the trout were between 24 and 30 cm (with one exception of 32 cm), which are not exactly specimens worth taking pictures of. And three, I always arrived by the water with all the fishing equipment I needed, but mostly left my camera either in my car or in my tent.

I took a picture of this one though, to show all of the leeches it had on the tail and fins (click on the picture to enlarge). This indicates that the fish were still very near the bottom (some even had a lot more leeches, and sometimes even inside their mouth).

So it all came down to nymphs and wet flies. And I must say that at the moment (you are only aloud to fish from the bank of the river), that’s not my favourite way of fishing.

The last five days I was there, there were these huge hatches in the evening of the Grannom
(a small sedge), but you just didn’t see any fish rise (no trout, no chub, nothing), so fishing a dry fly was out of the question too.


Luckily, I came prepared. I had enough material with me to experiment. And since I’m mainly a predatory angler,
I focused on streamers (which is a lot more active way of fishing from the bank of the river).


So at night, my tent became my small tying room.
The only restriction was the fact that the hook had to be less than 2 cm long (another one of those strange fishing laws at the beginning of the season).

So after a lot of tying and fishing, these two became my favourites. In fact, the last couple of days, I only fished with these two, and both of them at the same time (the white one on the tip, and the orange one on a dropper).

I’ve used rabbit zonker (orange/tan) and muskrat (white). And both have a 3,8 mm tungsten in the head.


But the real adventurous fishing was in this little water. But that will be for a next post…