Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pegged Beads (And My Turmoil About Them)

This is a sensitive subject—the fly-fishing version of bringing up politics at a mixed family barbecue, or religion at the pub. The pegged egg. If you have no idea what I am talking about (congratulations!) you need not read any farther. Go about your day…and the rest of your enjoyable fishing life. But, if you know exactly what I am talking about, well…you most likely have an opinion on the subject. Probably a fairly strong, well-entrenched opinion. For those not in the know and not following my advise to look away…here is the low down. “Pegging an egg” is taking a plastic bead the size and color of a trout or salmon egg, threading it onto your leader and pegging it into place with a sliver of wooden toothpick—then tying on a bare hook. The idea is that the fish eats the “egg” and the act of setting the hook dislodges the pegged bead and slides the bare hook into the mouth of the fish…or at least the vicinity of the mouth. Spawning trout and salmon have a wicked desire to eat eggs, so this method is unbelievably effective. Although, it could be argued (and is by many) that this is just a creative way to “floss” spawning fish…or is just a thinly veiled form of snagging—often in the face and eye of the fish. Is it not snagging? Let me ask this: if you are drifting a two-fly dry/dropper rig and a trout rises to the dry, but misses it…and you hook the trout in the belly with the dropper nymph (this happens all the time)…is this not an accidentally snagged fish? Is this not the same thing? Or is the bare hook hanging menacingly behind the bead a very deliberate attempt to snag a fish? If so, should it be legal?

A close friend of mine claims there is no difference between a plastic bead threaded onto fishing line and a more conventional “fly” tied with some synthetic materials. I badly want to disagree with him…but I honestly don’t know the answer. I once won an argument in a fly shop with none other than legendary fly tier AK Best about a similar topic. He put forth the notion that something tied using anything other than natural fur and feather was not a true “fly”. My reply was simple—you tie on nothing but bone hooks, then…right? Nope? Metal hooks? OK, then… So, what is the definition of a fly? Does it have to be tied by hand? Does it have to have thread? When does it cross realms into the world of “lures”? Again…I honestly do not have the answer. There is a sea of grey and many animated opinions on the subject. But, one thing I do know for sure…if a classically-tied Jock Scott is on one end of the argument, the pegged egg is certainly on the exact opposite. And, if you peg beads on the river and feel you are still fly fishing…you have made a very clear personal statement declaring that the act of fly fishing has absolutely nothing to do with what you have tied to the end of your leader. The only remaining question is; if you skewer a night crawler onto a treble hook and heave it into a trout stream…with a fly rod…is that still considered fly fishing? Or is it actually bait fishing? Is it the rod in your hand or the object at the end of your line that defines you as a fly fisherman? Is a man fly fishing if he is using a spinning rod with a clear casting bubble and a fly? No, right? Again…is it the rod in your hand or the object at the end of your line that defines you as a fly fisherman? Or is it both?

Post Publish Analysis

As I predicted, this story has generated a lot of discussion. Perfect. I wanted all of us (as fishermen) to think about this topic and have an intelligent conversation about it. It is important and very topical. There are several states intending to ban the practice very soon. The argument has gone on here in blog form as well as Facebook, and in the fly shop and at home... I have spoken to many hard-core bead peggers, as well as some of the more respected fly designers in the world...and some of the Old Guard fly fishermen. The conversations seemed to gravitate to three different topics, the first two being: What constitutes a fly? And, what constitutes a fly rod? It became apparent early that most fishermen considered fly fishing something that must be done with a fly rod at one end and a fly at the other—but then, semantics entered the ring! The argument about what a fly rod is, well, that one was fairly easy. Most fishermen are willing to agree on a fairly broad description of what a fly rod is. The difference between a fly and a lure? Now that generated some debate. The general consensus was that if it is tied, it is a fly…molded or formed (i.e. glue gun egg) then it was considered a lure. Half of each? Generally accepted as a fly—benefit of the doubt, I guess? But, the ONLY fishermen who thought a plastic bead was a fly was…well, no one. The retort I got from the Bead Fishermen was sort of defensive. Some attempted to put a plastic bead into the same category as a fly that incorporates a touch of foam or synthetic flash—a logic I have a hard time following, even in my open-minded state. This logic kind of insinuates that an eight-inch jointed Rapala could be called a fly—WTF? So, the conclusion (for now) is that bead pegging is not fly fishing! OK. Not that big of deal. Most of us have spent a portion of our fishing life as a “conventional gear” fisherman already anyway. Most state fishing regulations are exactly the same for both styles. No Bait—Flies & Artificial Lures Only. Artificial lures…I guess that’s you guys, Beaders. Again, no big deal!

Then the conversation got heated. The third question everyone migrated to was: Is it snagging? This one sort of makes the fist two questions a bit moot, don’t ya think? The self-proclaimed Beaders in the room did some very odd, but creative mental gymnastics to separate what they were doing from the illegal act of “snagging”—frantic semantic scrambling is a better way to put it. The argument degenerated/evolved into one party offering up hypothetical scenarios and the other party attempting to categorize it as Snagging, Foul Hooking (apparently the accidental form of the deliberate act of Snagging) and Fair Practice. If you are fishing a two-fly dry/dropper rig and a trout rises to the dry, but misses it…and you hook the trout in the belly with the dropper nymph? Unanimously…Foul Hooked. Now, let us say you are fishing Gunnison Canyon during the big stonefly hatch. Your rig is a big #6 Soffa Pillow dry…with the hook clipped off! Presumably to make it look more natural on the surface of the water. And you have somehow rigged a bare treble hook a foot or so behind it. When a 20 inch brown trout takes the dry fly the fisherman yanks back…. OK, ya getting the point?

My own conclusion is logical and unarguably simple. If you fool a fish into willingly taking your disguised hook into its mouth…you are “angling”. If you force a hook into a fish…you are “snagging”. If you purposely distance the hook away from the “lure” object in which you are fishing (be it two feet or two inches)…and then pull the hook into the fish once it has taken the “lure’…then you are still snagging fish. I guess most laws have just not caught up with our conniving technology…

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