One of the keys to being a successful fly fisher is the ability to be able to identify the fish’s food source on any given day. One of the most useful tools for this is the marrow spoon.
The tool originated in Victorian times and was, used as the name gives away, to extract the marrow from the bone by inserting it into the centre of the bone then twisting it and then extracting it with the marrow coming out on the spoon section. This marrow was then used to cook with and considered a delicacy at the time.
The first recorded use of the marrow spoon in fly fishing was by famous fly fisher G.E.M. Skues in 1921. Skues realised the importance of discovering the contents of a trout’s stomach when trying to imitate the fish’s natural diet with an artificial fly. The idea suddenly came to him when sat at the dining table with a marrow spoon on it, he realised that this tool was the perfect alternative to carrying out a messy autopsy. He simply slid the spoon down the fishes throat and gave it a couple of turns before removing it to reveal what form of natural food the fish had been eating, then went to his fly box to find the correct fly to imitate this food.
Today this same procedure is used to match the fishes food source to great effect and is one of the easiest ways to make sure you are ‘matching the hatch’.
I find this method is best suited to fish coming from larger waters such as reservoirs where stocked fish have more time to switch over to feeding on natural food sources rather than smaller still waters with a high turnover of fish where they do not get so much of a chance to feed naturally. On small still waters don’t be surprised when spooning a fish to find an empty stomach or even a stomach full of half digested feed pellets. On the other hand a fish that has had time in the water to adapt to natural food can be stuffed full of midge pupae, shrimp, corixa, bait fish and all other manner of fly life, so simply just match what you find from your fly box and your chance of success will be greatly improved.
One point I must stress is that you must dispatch your fish before spooning it and under no circumstances should you spoon a fish you are going to release as the fish will not survive.
On that note if you don’t own a marrow spoon go out and get one this season, you’ll be amazed how it will help you improve your catch rate when you can match the hatch.