Friday, 13 March 2015

Zen , and the art of upstream spiders

I walked along a section of my local beck the other day , its a section I have not fished for a couple of seasons , in fact I think the last time was the first day of the season a couple of years ago.  Its a heavily treed section that suffers badly later in the season from low flows and shade  But it contains a large head of small eager brownies and now as I can see the trout season approaching like a long awaited sunrise after an arctic winter it is  just the ticket for an opening day venue.  Early on in the year its an attractive series of runs and pools . Later in the year the series of falls dry out and there is very little movement.

Here is a photo of the stretch in mid july during the dog days of summer. It always beats me where the fish hide when those months of low water strike.

The first trip will be as usual both a celebration of things getting going again but also a bit of a trip down memory lane. I usually rake out an old Bruce and Walker, a rod that I have had for twenty odd  years and the only rod I have ever worn out, well when I say I wore it out I had to have the handle rebuilt as I had worn holes in the cork. That was not due to poor quality , quite the contrary it was built superbly but I simply wore it out. Back then for very many years I only had one rod.  It was used for small streams , large rivers and even still water fishing . If I was going fly fishing it was the rod I took.   Nymphs , dries and anything else . If it was too long I have been known to just take the two sections apart and cast the top one. If it was to short I held it at arms length.  When I look at all the rods I possess now and there is more than a few I wonder how it happened. How did I manage to convince myself I need such a range of rods when for very many years I managed very well with that one rod? it was so well used it became an extension of me allowing me to not even think about  anything apart from the fly at the business end.  Line choice wasn't an issue as the rod is rated 3 to 5 weight.  In fact if today someone told me I had to just use one rod for the rest of time it would be that one. Even with all the fancy stuff I have in the rack.

Anyway you might say I am just been soft but I like to hang on to something of the past and using that rod and fishing familiar water on the first day of the season provides a certain continuity to things.  Just as the  method I will utilise is a nod to the past. As although I will be hoping for rising fish I am pretty sure a team of spiders fished upstream will probably find me the fish. That old rod is perfect for spiders its full soft action is great for close range fishing. In fact it has all the qualities that new manufacturers seem to be rediscovering for river fishing.  Incidentally I have learnt over the last few seasons that the method of upstream spiders is very effective for small streams , you the reader might be shaking your head at this and muttering didnt he know that well despite fishing a stream thats had fly anglers on it for nigh on 140 years and most of that time they would be fishing spiders its been a new one on me for the last few years, I have learnt it aint easy and it really requires becoming one with things and getting into that  zone .  Fishing with that rod certainly wont harm that. Neither incidentally will getting into the beck about half a mile below where I will be expecting action . It gives me time to work the wrinkles out of an arm that hasn't cast in months and to get into the rhythm that the method requires. I have  learnt that concentration is everything you have to more than just look you have to see the leader in the water checking for movement and at the same time you have to look for a sudden flash of a turning fish or a boil under the surface at first I found it bloody hard. I would say its a bit like learning to drive a car lots to do and a few places to watch all at the same time and until it becomes automatic your no bloody good at it.   Incidentally  I have occasionally wondered if there really is a sort of hunters sixth sense that we still have. Hugh Falkus mentions it in one of his books and other anglers have spoke of it.  I know in my coarse fishing days sometimes you would suddenly  be aware that something was about to happen . Perhaps its just the moment when your senses become truly in tune with your surroundings but at times when fishing my senses would sharpen and I knew a take would follow.  Coincidence ? well perhaps but I am not sure.   Fishing the upstream spider has proven to be a bit like that I have found myself tightening into a fish and thinking I am not really sure why I lifted the rod.  Perhaps a half hidden flash of silver did lodge in my brain but the tired old eyes didn't actually see it.  Perhaps there is more than a hint of zen around all this , Certainly I have always thought meditation and fishing share many things . Perhaps I should take the tenkara rod and sit cross legged on the bank for half an hour of meditation before entering the water.

“The more you look, the more you see.” 
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Monday, 9 March 2015

Back to it...

This year I am way behind with things.  Jobs around the house, work everything. My crumby start to the year has left me playing catch up.  Work has come first and now I am back on course with that. Now jobs around the house have been prioritised; Two categories; more urgent than fishing preparation and not .  After careful thought the more urgent list has become quite short and dealt with quickly, its worth saying that the shortness of the list was the matter of some discussion between myself and my good lady.

Most years my fly fishing preparation starts with fly tying which usually starts straight after christmas and the vast majority of my fly tying is done in January , February and March. Fly tying whilst been enjoyable is not the fascination to me that so many fellow fly anglers enjoy.  I tie flies because I am largely disappointed in what you can buy.  CDC flies seem to be very difficult to get and any fly other than a size 14 or 16 was hard to buy when I started tying.  My tying is best described as fit for purpose ,  the flies catch fish but wouldn`t win a prize.   I suppose I should put more of my flies up on the site it may persuade those who either don`t tie there own or who have tried and failed to realise that the flies often shown on the net as superb examples are no better catcher of fish than those with scruffy hackles, untidy heads and lumpy dubbing.  Something my own examples demonstrate to perfection.

Years ago I bought a copy of Oliver Edwards fly tyers masterclass and I set myself the task of creating the mohican mayfly .  After countless hours and I mean countless I produced half a dozen passable examples. The mayfly hatch that year was heavy and the fly worked a treat but my old faithfull packing foam special as below worked just as well and lasted longer.  Also I was a lot more likely to risk that tricky under the bushes cast to dislodge a good fish when the fly hadnt cost me hours of effort and many cups of coffee.  Now I am sure that under certain circumstances that mohican mayfly would perhaps fool a fish my simple pattern wouldn`t but in my world of percentages I will stick with something simple.

For the interested amongst you this is the pattern I have used a year or two. The foam body makes the fly just about unsinkable , the fly is dead simple tails are black micro fibbet or PT fibres if you dont have microfibbets ( paint brush fibres also work well) the body is that really thin packing foam you get around electrical items. I cut it into 2mm strips and wind it on ,  the ribbing is black floss . Hackle is of course a badger hackle. The hook is a size 12 longshank from a packet I have gained over the years their age betrayed by the fact they are in a small wax paper packet and the size of the hook barb which I have flattened with pliers. 

Anyway I will continue through March and hopefully restock the boxes before April which is trout season around here.  I may even show a few more of my efforts to inspire the struggling amongst you and to amuse the more accomplished.....