In my previous blog post I shared a sequence of photographs showing a trout feeding on nymphs, and suggested that an imitation presented in the film might be a good tactic for catching him. It was. After I snapped those pictures, my companion crept into casting position, drifted a small nymph near to the fish and caught it. All told it was a classic episode, one enhanced by the knowledge that we were following in the one-hundred-year-old footsteps of an angling giant: G.E.M. Skues.
Who was G.E.M. Skues? For a number of years now, that’s exactly the question I’ve been posing to fishermen of all sorts, but especially those of a younger generation. It’s a bit of an experiment to see in what touch we remain with our angling past. According to my rather unscientific poll, turns out not much, certainly nothing resembling so much as close.
Yes, some fishermen have heard the name Skues. Fewer are the number aware that Skues was responsible for much (most?) of modern nymph-fishing theory. Fewer yet are those familiar with his writings on the subject. More regrettably yet, at least to me, is the even smaller number that have actually read Skues.
You don’t have to maintain an interest in history to catch trout. I know that. And you don’t have to be versed in it to be a great fisherman. But I think that in failing to learn something of the roots of our sport, lacking that understanding about the very origins of the techniques we use today, a real pleasure goes missing. It’s a pleasure not easily explained (by me, at least), but it’s there nonetheless. When we’re cognizant of how we got to here from there, we gain a valuable perspective on this sport, one frequently lacking in today’s “look-what-I-just-invented” angling world.
So I recommend and encourage reading Skues. (My younger friends balk here, equating my suggestion with homework and other drudgery. Don’t be dissuaded by similar thinking.) Skues is a fine writer with a penetrating insight, and his lessons continue to hold sway when it comes to catching trout. And let’s not forget he’s writing about the sport we love, which makes him all the more interesting to begin with.
If I may suggest a title to start with, try Nymph Fishing for Chalk Stream Trout. You might have to look around to find a copy, but I think you’ll be glad you did.
Shown above is an English chalkstream, the Test near Wherwell, and a Test brown trout, taken on a nymph.