Friday, 10 March 2017

Warming up nicely

As the title says it’s warming up nicely.  Which as the central heating suffered a catastrophic failure a few weeks ageo  is actually a very good thing. Then the February short very mild spell was a bit of a false dawn and the amorous frogs appearing in the pond disappeared just as quick  as they were definitely a couple of weeks or so early in their noisy nuptials. Things are starting to happen though. These are often some of the first flies to appear around here . Just two more weeks to go. then there will be something decent to write about...

But I do love these days of lengthening hours and the rising sense of piscatorial anticipation that comes with it.  February was the month of fishing club bills landing on the mat, of annual general meetings and particularly my local clubs AGM and annual duck dinner.  A great night of renewing friendships, banter, fishing stories (some tall and some real) and reminiscences.  Also as club chairman an evening when I can pretend I know what I am talking about.  All topped off with the annual fund raising raffle. 

last month also saw me attend for the first time the annual BFFI (British fly fair international) a grand gathering of fly fishing and fly tying businesses wares and a tiers row of over 50 fly tiers from all over the place giving live demonstrations.  I spent a good few hours there and quite a lot of money on fur feather and tools.  Tools wise after watching Swiss Mark Petitjean demonstrating his CDC magic tools and having the chance to talk to him I bought the magic tool clips etc.   Once I get to grips with them I am hoping it will increase the range of CDC patterns I tie, (Initial results are promising).  Also this season I intend to fish a lot more for salmon and sea trout than ever before and have joined another syndicate to pursue that, so suitable materials and hooks had to be purchased.  It was great to be able to actually get your hands on the stuff you’re buying instead of the usual internet experience that so much materials buying has become.

I remember with fondness when a local fishing and shooting shop (now long gone) where I used to buy all my tying stuff. A couple of times a year they used to get in a huge box of cock capes pretty much direct from India, local anglers all tried to get there first to sort through them and select the most promising capes. This was long before the internet and before genetic capes appeared here.  Thinking back to the tiny selection of materials I managed with back in the 70s and 80s it’s amazing how things have developed.  I remember that for quite a few years all my tools and equipment managed to fit in a box the size of a couple of shoe boxes.  Now I seem to occupy a fair amount of a room and the shoe boxes have turned into a roll top desk and cupboards full to the brim.

Recently I had a bit of a tackle check and overhaul before the season starts.   How an earth I have managed to collect so much gear is beyond me.  Dozens of rods and myriads of fly boxes.  After a big sort out I seem to have 6 fly boxes holding probably a 1000 flies and whats the betting on my first trip I wont be able to find the fly I want. So a very late new years resolution is to thin it out the rods and reels .  Trouble is after creating a spread sheet cataloguing all the rods and reels I can find a reason to keep every one of them. Yet I probably only used a quarter of them last year. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Its getting to that time again.....

Activity on this blog over that last few months has been pretty dreadful,  I am rather afraid that the general malaise caused by my lack of piscatorial activity has resulted in bugger all of any substance been added to the blog.  Its not that I haven't been thinking about fishing, after all in my idle hours I think about little else ,  the planning of trips , renewing and adding new club memberships.  It is on my mind often.

However at last I am starting to get organised for the forthcoming year ,a pair of Sims waders that are only a couple of seasons old which have all the water tightness of a pair of crutch less tights ( not that I have ever worn any) have now been dispatched to Diver Dave who has reported leaky seams and pinholes but very repairable,  I have been stepping up my tying of various shrimp patterns for upcoming Cuba trip and I am waiting on responses to my application to a different fishing club for migratory fish just to mix things up a bit this year.  In a weeks time I am heading down into the midlands to the British Fly fair.  An event I have been planning to visit for a few years but haven't managed it before.  I will return with even more fly tying paraphernalia to add to the large collection of thread ,fur and feather lurking in my fly tying desk. I will be searching out stuff for salmon and sea trout flies.  Retail therapy my wife calls it.

The season certainly cant come soon enough its been a winter beset by bad news .  Both at a personal level and in the wider theatre every facet of the things we as anglers hold precious.  I listen and read with dismay the ongoing tragedy which is the Scottish salmon farming industry with the state supported polluting of the coastal waters with huge quantities of toxins to support a badly run salmon farming industry that does untold damage to migratory fish.  In Wales the tragic pollution of the Teifi. Our precious rivers seem under attack on every level.

In the last year I have seen a friends fishing business forced to close due to flood damage but also due to the shift to Internet shopping and also to the widespread increase in cut price stores selling a range of fishing gear.  A factor that was significant in the loss of my friends business but it also occurred to me another added pressure on the rivers ,  I was in such a shop at the weekend to buy some motoring stuff. As I passed the fishing display I noticed an eastern European man with two grown up sons eyeing up a heavy spinning rod set up .  Rod , reel line and spinners hooks and stuff £25 . Now I have in the last season or two had cause to move on many such people who illegally fish our river. I am the chairman and will challenge those I know to be poaching.  I couldn't help overhearing the purchase at the till.  In a nutshell...

Polish gent. .Broken English. Can I fish anywhere with this ?
Young Shop assistant ... Ye sir you will be fine with that ..

Purchase made and of he went.. Now I am stood there thinking was he asking about the capability of the rod or seeking approval of his fishing location.  Now if that same question had been asked by Polish gent in my old friends shop or at one of the few genuine tackle dealers around I am sure the answer would be different.  Proper advice would have been given. Now I accept that such advice could also be ignored but at least an effort would have been made . Next time I stop such a guy down the river and he says I was told I can fish here by the tackle shop it will make me think....

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Saving blushes and a Tups indespensibles

I had a day on the river on Tuesday my last for 2016 , Two words could describe the few hours fishing, cold and hard.   Strangely I was unable to find many Grayling only two small fish came to hand.  There was a couple of out of season brown trout and three large Rainbow trout left over from the summer stocking.   I am afraid they didnt make it back into the river.  In my opinion rainbows have no business in our Northern streams, In an effort to keep the blog losely about fishing I would say that once again It was the french leader method that accounted for the fish.  A superb method for close range fishing with extreme delicacy during the low and clear conditions we are faced with.
The day had so far given me very little to really smile about and I returned to my car through a field where there is a small group of rams,   As I walked along the bank a couple of walkers approached from the opposite direction,  Two ladies in their fifties. This is the conversation that followed:

Ladies ,  Good afternoon can I ask are you a local, was enquired of me in a refined voice,
Me ,  Good afternoon , Aye I am local, I live just over the hill.
Ladies , Oh thats good can you tell me what type of sheep those are ? are they swaledale
Me Well I am afraid I dont know what breed they are but I think swaledales have black faces
Ladies Oh it was the lovely horns they have that interested us.  they look so pretty
Me ah well ladies you see they are all Tups
Ladies Tups ? I have never heard of  Tups Sheep.
Me No you misunderstand they are Tups , er  Rams
Ladies No they cant be all rams they would fight.
Me , Well they dont fight because there are no ewes to fight  over ,
Ladies No no i am sure they cant be they have udders for their lambs .
Me er Actually they arent udders you know .
Ladies of course they are what else can they be pointing at the large coconut sized scrotums
Me in an effort to avoid blushes they are their indespensibles
Ladies . Their what ??
Me Ladies they are their testicles  ,,,,

As I watched their eyes look towards the rams with renewed insight Inwardly smiling as I viewed the coconut sized indespensibles and looked to see the two ladies scuttling of down the bank.  One of the rams caame up to me I think he enjoyed the conversation as much as I did.  For the record this was the best Grayling of the day . The Tup gave me far more amusement.
Anyway the year is virtually over but the blog will be back next year.  I will be fishing the Yorkshire Ure again , I will also be in Cuba in the spring.  Hoping that a couple of weeks in the sun chasing bonefish will help me over my 60th birthday .  Happy new year to you all..

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Four hours fly fishing Three times a week after meals .....

During the last couple of weeks and as a result of the short days and cold temperatures on more than one occasion my mind has drifted back to the summers long warm evenings.  A rising fish, gentle waters and soft birdsong are quite a therapeutic combination.  Such times on the river leave me relaxed and fulfilled. My wife refers to my fly fishing as prozac without prescription.  Its certainly always helped me to keep lifes stresses at bay.  

This last week i have become aware of the latest trendy complaint apparantly its called "Nature deficit disorder" Theres a link to the article here 
Now I am puzzled as to why something as simple needs an apparantly scientific explanation. I for one know that not been able to stand in a river fairly regularly brings on a very serious condition. I have always just thought of it as the "Shack nasties" . Symptons vary but moodiness , lack of appetite and  irritability are all possibilities.  There is only one cure of course.  There are partial treatments . For me fly tying is the most effective .  But that seems to have only limited benefit. No when it comes right down to it getting in a river is the only cure.

This last weekend for instance , feeling shit with man flu developing I knew that a couple of hours with a rod in my hand would despite the cold temperatures make me feel better.  Wife wasnt happy about it but with her parting words of ..."you wont get any sympathy of meee..." fading away I set of down my local beck.  This bit of the river is indeed local if I had a mind I could walk it in ten minutes.  Today I took the car to the bottom end of the section and met up with friend and we went looking for Grayling.  Now there are Grayling in the river .  But there isnt many and they often dont want to play ball. Sunday they didnt want to play at all .   A couple of out of season brownies was all I could manage but it did what I wanted it to do.  Fresh air, the feel of cold water. Autumn sunshine and even a barn owl floating along the river bank.  For at least an hour or two I felt human again.  

As I get older I get increasingly frustrated by so called modern discoveries.  The above disorder been typical.  I have always known that for me not enough fishing time is essential to remaining happy and contented. However come the day when a trip to the doctor will result in Ah yes Sir you are suffering from NDD and results in a prescription such as " 4 hours fly fishing three times a week after meals " I will be the first to admit that yes science really is making progress ...

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Anton and the Ure Chalk and Cheese

I was visiting relatives down south a few weekends ago and as I have in the past I met up with my good friend Peter , he of the old walks and fishes blog.  It is an excellent friendship which results in shared days fishing for him on my wonderful freestone rivers when he visits the grim north where I reside and for me copping a day on a posh chalkstream when I join him down south.  Of late Pete has been bemoaning the lack of variation of chalk stream fishing and to some extent I can relate to his malady.  The rivers are of course beautiful,  they are well manicured and also well stocked, actually too well stocked .  We are now well past the end of the trout season and there was trout in the small river of biblical proportions left over from the summer .  I had one on for a while until a combination of giving slack line and letting it get into the weed enabled it to be released.  There was no way it was going to be landed I estimated it at between 5 and 6 pounds.

Adding fish that size to a small chalkstream from my point of view is all wrong,  but sadly it is a policy that is driven by the financial pressures of providing expensive fishing that will result in a guaranteed catch of a substantial fish.  I guess the logic is the more expensive and exclusive the fishing the bigger the fish should be.  I guess it is exactly the result from the stocking policies that we see in more and more rivers across the country.   The surroundings really are idylic ,  the water is as  the old saying goes say clear as gin and twice the price. We were only a short distance from Stockbridge , signs for the Houghton water on the test were not far away ,  I was treading the banks that the good and great had trod in the past names like Skues and Halford had probably fished these very waters

However away from my petty moaning and whining , I had a lovely day .  Despite the fact that the river was very low there has been little or no rain in the area virtually all summer and the stream was running about a foot below normal levels.  very big grayling were there to be seen but were less easily captured . Despite trying nymphs down to size 24 drifted past their nose they didn't want to know.  I fished the morning until lunch mainly with the dry fly,  the shallow water and thick weed combined with fish that were rising occasionally was a combination that given I was on a posh chalk stream it seemed like the right thing to do.  My host and I met up shortly after lunch .  he had started at the downstream end and I started about half way up .  For the afternoon we would swap over so we had both had undisturbed water to start.  In the afternoon I fished French leader and a tiny nymph .  I was covering deeper slower water with no surface activity. The switch brought marginally more fish but generally of a smaller size,  but I was covering water Pete had already fished through.  French leader fishing is no doubt an effective method but I have two problems with it.  Firstly its hard work lots of "casting" and secondly .  Well its not really fly fishing is it? .  No fly line , no gratification on even a fishless day from making a well formed cast. 

Since giving up my membership last year of the Yorkshire stream  this is the first time I have been on a chalkstream.  The sight fishing was great the size of the fish a little OTT. Especially the brownies that were loitering ,  but have to say that given my choice if  I had to fish just one river to the end of my days it would be a northern free stone spate stream. Yes Ill take a golden bellied red spotted wild fish from a northern stream over any fat chalk stream trout.  There is no doubt that the mystique and history around chalk streams produces an itch that has to be scratched , Combined  with the works of Halford and Skues it produces rivers with a certain aura.  But the Northern rivers especially the dales rivers have their own history .  Edmonds and Lee , Stewart  et al have just as significant a part in English trout fishing. .

As northern freestone rivers go the Ure up in Wenslydale (The dale of the cheese fame and the only Dale not named after its river ) is one of my personal favourites and it was here just a week after fishing the chalk that I went chasing grayling again,  the river was just fining down after a recent rise , again so typical of the spate streams where the levels can rise and fall within a week , unlike the chalkstreams where the aquifer fed streams provide a constant environment.  The day was less than ideal . A salmon angler was the only other angler out apart from myself and my guest Peter ( a different one ) We both caught fish Peter seemed to be attracting the Brownies that day. I found a few Grayling although it was only a brief lunchtime hatch the betrayed their position in the river. 

Not sure if I will get back in the Dales before next summer , I tend to stick to my local rivers the Derwent and Yorkshire Dove during the winter.  But I will be happy to visit it again in the spring .  Something special about fishing here in the spring with a team of spiders.

As I was leaving the river I glimpsed down stream through the trees.  That day and at that moment was really the day when I realised that Autumn was really upon us.