On the Fly

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One of the benefits of writing a column for The News is the feedback I receive from readers. Recently I received an inquiry from an angler regarding what constitutes a legal fly when fishing in Eastern Canada so I thought it might be useful to review what is legal and what is not.

Flies, hooks and fly fishing are all defined in the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Maritime Provinces Fisheries Regulations. They define a hook as a single, double or treble hook with or without barbs on one shank or shaft. Fly fishing, which is the only legal sport fishing method for Atlantic salmon in Eastern Canada, is defined as angling by the use of an artificial fly or flies that are attached to a line or to a leader. And finally, an artificial fly is defined as a single hook, or double hook, or two single hooks dressed with materials likely to attract fish, and to which no weight, spinning device, or natural bait is attached.

So, for Atlantic salmon fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia or New Brunswick you must use an artificial fly which has no weight attached. Weight would include things such as cone heads, bead heads, lead wire and so on. It also means that tube flies which use aluminum or brass tubes are not legal for salmon fishing. Plastic tubes appear to be legal at the present time. While these types of weighted flies are not legal for fly fishing for salmon they are legal when fly fishing for trout during the regular season on waters which are not scheduled for fly fishing only.

While I enjoy experimenting with new fly tying techniques and materials I am also a big fan of tradition so I don’t have a problem limiting my Atlantic salmon fishing to single or double hooks. Now the big question is, which fly to use? Every angler runs this question through their mind as they stand at the edge of the river and prepare for their first cast. While fly fishing is often considered to be a complicated method of fishing, the selection of which fly to use is also often viewed as equally difficult. Actually fly fishing can be easily mastered with the correct equipment, and some practice, and fly selection doesn't have to be that mysterious.

As anglers, we are always looking for a fly pattern which the fish will attack as soon as it hits the water. For that purpose we often carry half a dozen fly boxes jammed full of every conceivable fly pattern available. In reality, if you select a fly which is appropriate for the water conditions, and present it to the fish correctly, then any fly can be as effective as another. For most fishing trips I carry a small selection of flies which I have caught fish on in the past and, hopefully, with some luck, will catch fish again.


Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County. 

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