Thursday, 4 August 2022

Fascination of Vintage gear and a little fishing report...

 I am a member of a couple of online forums and have been for very many years and it has be apparent that there is a growing interest in the use of Bamboo rods  and silk lines .  But also an increasing interest in the use of vintage gear ,  The bamboo rods that I own are primarily recent builds but I also own an old Fosters and a South bend 290 with two tips , it was built around 1950 So actually older than me .  Lovely rod and it is still as straight as a die and casts beautifully. Also I acquired it recently for a little over £200 so great value ( Cane shouldn`t cost the earth )   it is also actually a pretty useful rod, one river I fish is very open and plastic 3 and 4 wt lines get blown about something wicked , that rod is designed for a 5 /6 wt,  I use a silk DT5.5 on it . It has a similar line diameter to a 4 wt and deals with the wind with much less effort.  So when its blowing that is what I pick up.  As the rod is a 7ft 6 inch its at home on most of my local streams .  Even though its a 5/6 even modest fish still put a nice bend in it.  

I came across an interesting article about this very subject today here is a link to it, It was one of those reads where I found myself nodding and smiling agreement to myself , I just thought I would pass it along. Also there are cane bargains to be had I noticed a unused and mint MR Zhu 7ft 4 wt with two tips went for £120 on ebay the other day , They are a very fishable rod and a great way to experience that first cane buzz.

This year I have come across a number of guys fishing cane / bamboo and also a few last year but I am struggling to recall any similar experiences over the previous 10 years. A good friend has a couple of "modern " bamboo rods and I recently came across a guy fishing A fosters cane rod that belonged to his Grandfather,  I don`t foresee that cane will overtake carbon ,  but there is for sure a growing minority of anglers that are tiring perhaps looking for something different out of the game, 

 I am not saying that I only fish bamboo now , my last trip was on a very low Yorkshire stream where I explored the upper and more overgrown stretches and for that day my weapon of choice was an Orvis Superfine touch 6ft 2 wt, which to those who are not acquainted with them is delightful full flex range of rods that are probably among the sweetest that Orvis produced , sadly  long since discontinued.

The run below was interesting , a difficult back cast and I was sinking into the mud at a fair rate as I cast and landed this fish first cast, my cast was a good one ( amazing for me ) I landed the fly about 4 inches from the far bank where the tiny patch of grass is next to the briars.  I didn`t see a rise but there had to be a fish there its just a perfect lie. the fish came up and nailed it instantly happy days as it was the best fish of a tough day which had the little two weight well hooped over.  

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Summer time blues and a whiter shade of pale

Apparently we are in the longest period of hot dry weather for 50 years sadly this means that all the local rivers are struggling and consequently of late fishing has ended up being a late afternoon and evening activity. This was the other evening and as I approached the path up through the woods it struck me how perfect the light was . At the risk of sounding poetic the air had that very heavy quality long hot days bring,  If there had been even the hint of a cloud in the sky I would have anticipated a thunder storm.  The late afternoon sunshine picked out the blue flowers and there was a real glow about the scene ,  I loitered for a minute to try and capture the mood but sadly my photo doesn`t do it justice.  I wasn`t in a rush as I knew that any fish activity was probably an hour away. 

Incidentally I have recently bought another bamboo rod , a nice little 6ft 9inch Jim Becker from the USA . It occurs to me that this year I have fished with Bamboo a lot more often than Carbon. I haven't actually been able to define to myself why I have taken to bamboo as much as I have.  I have a fine selection of high quality carbon fly rods.  They are lighter than cane, more powerful than cane and I guess when you consider all logical and factual ways to measure things then they are superior .  But the bamboo just manages to leave me with a broader smile.  My evening trip out was to put this new rod  through its paces its only its second time out and me and the rod are already blood brothers as the first time out included a puncture wound on my right hand that meant constantly washing blood of the handle was required.  I have to say that the finish on the rod is superb apart from in certain lights there is slight red staining now. 

These were typical of the trout that came in the last hour or so of surface activity,  earlier even nymphs had failed to tempt anything but as the light levels and temperature both dropped the first risers appeared in the faster water,  these both took little f flies.

The previous Sunday I was fortunate to have received an invite from a friend to fish the Driffield West beck Chalk Stream ,  The water is 100% spring fed and this allows for water at a constant temperature and the PH is very beneficial to plant life and aquatic bugs ( fish food) the clarity and the unbroken sunshine on the day meant that the fish were to put it lightly , spooky.  There were also very few rising fish ,  The fish I caught were all caught on nymphs which in itself was fascinating as you cast to fish you can see, and actually watch the fish take the nymph.  Sometimes the fish moved slightly or you saw a flash of white as the mouth was opened or even just a flare of the gills , sight fishing is a different game to the nymph fishing on the rough streams I usually do.  For this fishing the bamboo stayed at home and a light 9ft 6 inch 3 wt managed the water more easily. 

I ended up with four trout , nothing huge and all stock fish there are no photos as after scrapping hard they  would have not appreciated hot hands in near 30 degrees temperature ,  The one fish I did waste time over was this grayling in the picture below ,  my friend who knows the river said the water there was about 6ft deep and the fish was on the bottom.  We both estimated it at 3lb plus I tried tempting it with nymphs of all shapes and sizes and actually managed to drop one on its head at one point.  It was completely indifferent to my feeble attempts at deception.   What did surprise me was when a trout darted in and took the nymph it darted around the pool and splashed on the surface above the grayling and almost colliding with it at one point.  The grayling barely stirred I expected it to disappear . 

When I bought the Jim Becker bamboo I was going through the usual ritual of swapping lines about on to a suitable reel, I seem to have a lot more lines than reels and at times it is a reel pain ( notice the spelling ) .  Also many of the reels I have are large arbour jobs for the Carbon rods.  So have been getting a small collection of reels together to suit the bamboo rods , traditional pattern ones and as I was having a browse on the interweb I came across Marryat reels I have been aware of them for years and always fancied what I considered a very pretty reel anyway as I did a quick search on ebay and the like I came across this one which was been sold by a Classical fishing tackle house it is from the estate of the Late Gary Brooker he of Procol Harum and "Whiter Shade of Pale " fame,  The price wasn`t much more than a reel without any interesting history and it is a nice early made in Japan model and has the Gehrkes plate on the back which only the early ones had and I am afraid I couldn`t resist it .  As a long time fan of Whiter Shades in particular , a song that was released when I was going through an episode of a challenging childhood which meant I was largely away from home for a few years with fishing as a constant comfort . this and a couple of other songs and Artists bring back many memories. So it has a found a good home and it certainly will be fished.  Certainly his collection seemed to be of someone who enjoyed fishing and bought what he liked and it was fished not just displayed.  

From a Whiter Shade of Pale :

We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
The crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
The waiter brought a tray

I guess not many people know that he actually recorded a song about fishing , apparently he was in the states for a couple of weeks steelhead fishing and managed one on the last day so went back to his accommodation and hit the beer and wrote the song below . A perfectly logical conclusion if you ask me. Anyway his reel will be going fishing with me pretty often now I hope he would have approved of the use I will put it to. he obviously appreciated bamboo rods as there were plenty in his collection. I have left the backing on the reel I certainly wont take it of, so Imagine that me fishing with backing by Gary Brooker....

The search is over, the battle done
The fish is beaten, the angler's won
But simple stories make longer tales
No consolation if he had failed
Through wind and desert, Blackberry Hole
Coyote and rattler had made him old
No it ain't easy, it's on the borderline
Between health and madness, the way he bides his time
Fin to fin in every log-jam
This is where they lie
The Deschutes is hot, the bottom's black
They're eye-to-eye
My oh my what fun to be on your own
Down foaming rapids into the deep black hole
Through thorns and rockslides for to reach his goal
And golden chances, he let them slip away
Or was he waiting for the Judgement Day?
They really nailed 'em on the deadline
This is where they lie
Where the water's fast, the current's strong, their eye-to-eye
My oh my what fun to be on your own
But on the thirteenth morning when the sun was high
He tricked that steelhead and saw the line go tight
Two spirits fighting, two creatures bold
Bad luck and trouble had finally lost their hold
Fin to fin in every log-jam
This is where they lie
The Deschutes is hot, the bottom's black
They're eye-to-eye
I see why he spend his time on his own

Monday, 13 June 2022

Old mans Cane?

 Recently on Facebook there was an interesting link to a piece by Simon Cooper.

Saying why do we pretend cane fly rods are any good.? I am sure that the post was targeted at getting a reaction but it does ask a sensible question ,  After all whey would we use craftsmanship and feel rather than technology and the latest space age tech. Why would we not take advantage of progress?  I think the answer has to be for me because sometimes they are best,  for sure carbon fibre does indeed provide a wonderful material for fly rods I have several, actually many  , but there are a few reasons why I still love the bamboo. The judgment is not one based on science and pure performance rather the it is down to qualitative and not quantitative factors. For example as much as I have a nice powerful and comfortable German car that will cruise all day long at the limit and do everything I want if I had a lottery win at some point I would find a nice classic sports car to have a run round the country lanes on a warm summers evening. I suppose I could have indulged in something like it now but truth is I like fly rods a lot more than cars ,well  its a similar analogy for cane rods they do the same as carbon but I think in a more leisurely and classy way ,  by the way I am new to cane its only the last 6 or 7 years when I have started to gain the habit ,  

Practically for cane  small stream rods 7ft 6 inch and less seems to me the sweet spot for getting the most out of the material. The little extra weight of cane to some extent works the rod its self, roll casting is a dream with a silk line and close range casting is easy . Lets be honest how many times have you met people with short modern carbon rods who are having to  overline the rods to get the thing to load at short ranges ,  That is where Cane works best. 

This is by usual standards on my streams a nice open pool but you are constantly surrounded by trees usually with a high bank behind you and nothing is manicured there are lots of things waiting to grab the fly .  The rod is a six foot three weight and the silk line is perfect ,  roll casting and tight loops when required come easily. Also forget the rods did I mention stealth?. Stealth doesn`t come easy for me. A little overweight, well over 60 and someone who spends most days behind a desk.  But if you aren`t stealthy the fish will not play ball.  

Below is a typical problem the fish will be at the tail of the faster water around the corner to the right ,  trouble is when you get to that little archway its a left handed roll cast to fish only 15 ft away. The silk line doesn`t cause so much surface disturbance as plastic and is perfect for the job  .  

Another thing now I admit that cane can be broken ,  I actually had one of the tips replaced after slipping on the bank and landing on this very rod a few years ago ,  Chas the builder told me I was a clumsy fellow , I think it was fellow I am sure it began with an F, anyway he ordered me a new tip from Chapmans ,  but by and large i find that cane is no more breakable with sensible use.  In fact if you clatter a branch on the back cast I would say cane is more robust than carbon . 

The result of my crap looking left handed roll cast was this little chap.  Not saying I couldnt have caught it with a carbon rod but wouldn`t have done it with as much class, I guess what I am trying to say with all of this is ok if you fish the ressies or big lakes and wide open rivers you will stick with Carbon and wouldn`t argue.  When I fish the Ure its Carbon all the way , but at the moment only because my longest cane is 7ft 6 inch .  

The picture below tells no other story than this pool normally produces a fish or two if you are lucky. If you can extract a fish near the downstream end of the tree roots and hustle it away quietly you can sometimes get another right at the upstream end ,  On that day I hooked a small fish at the bottom and it shook the hook as it cartwheeled up the run.  I would call it a pool but size wise its more like a bath tub. 

To really appreciate Cane I think you need to fly fish a while , probably 20 years plus.  Perhaps slow down a bit and get rid of all that youthful energy and the need to catch more and bigger fish.  Then start to enjoy the finer things in life.  These days I drink less wine but I drink finer wine there is I am sure a link there ,  Perhaps I need to ditch the plastic cool box and get a wicker hamper and a proper picnic set as well perhaps some nice preserves and cured meats  now instead of the crisps and sandwiches.  I don`t think I could do the full Peter Arfield and actually dress period style. So I shall continue to look as elegant as an unopened Arab Dustbin to quote the great Spike Milligan.  Seriously if you are fishing small streams try a cane rod.  You wont regret it...

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Summer starts here and bamboo days on small streams


Its been a tough April.  Very low levels, cold water and cold winds combined with little insect life has meant that catching trout has been hard work.  The grayling which are out of season have been rising freely and feeding well whilst the trout have been hiding ,  The last few days have seen the temperatures rising. This weekend as it is now May I thought I would mark the occasion by going to a local favourite stream armed with bamboo and silk .  I apologise for using the American "Bamboo " rather than the traditional English term "cane " It is not because I have been reading to much Gierach it as a survivor of the English boarding schools system enough to say I have several painful memories of the Cane. So for me " Bamboo " it is.  I am not a die hard bamboo fan as most of my fishing is done with Carbon rods .  But over the last few years the appeal of the traditional Bamboo and silk has grown on me.  

The growing appeal is not linked to any romantic notion of returning to times gone by .  It is I think more a reflection of my interaction with  the river . It may be all in my head but when you play a fish on a silk lane and cane rod the feeling of connection is more intense the lack of stretch in the line and the flex of the cane gives a different experience .  It is also a very efficient method of fishing .  The silk line I was using above was a 3wt which I can confirm floated nicely for all of the four or five hours fishing .  its diameter was thinner than that of the 2 wt plastic line I used a few days before .  It casts beautifully with very tight loops and roll casts better than any plastic line .   Fishing Bamboo makes you slow down your cast , force one and it will protest .  But work with it and it will do everything that modern materials will do , granted a little slower and also a little costlier .  Although decent cane rods can be obtained for less than the cost of expensive carbon and silk lines are dependent on the brand can be obtained for less than £100 .  The truth is for me If you love the places you fish and you are happy with the size of fish you catch then the only way to improve things is to change the way you fish and therefore the quality of the experience .  For me that has meant that sometimes when the intent is to fish dries and perhaps tiny nymphs on a warm summer day then make a Bamboo rod and silk line your companion.  

When I started this blog many years ago it was started so that a relative could follow my exploits but these days it has become a journal ,  blogs have fallen largely from favour they have been replaced by the instant gratification of FB and instagram. This blog has matured now and there have been times I have considered ditching it but I am already looking back on the posts I made some years ago. I know that some years hence I will look at this post and remember that one moment when the river , the weather and the fish all aligned with me to give one of those special moments when everything is perfect.  A rising fish , a decent cast a perfect take followed by some airborn acrobatics to signal the start of summer and the perfect result.

Monday, 25 April 2022

First on a Dry...


I am not sure why the above annual headline is so important to me but I guess its pretty simple really ,  I have always been and always will be a fan of dry fly fishing .  not for any snobbish reasons but simply there is something fascinating to see that moment of the take.  It is that wonderfully visual moment when your deception has been successful. As a small boy before I tasted fly fishing for trout it was always the float that was my chosen method.  On rivers trotting a float effectively is a true art when done properly,  like fly fishing it is also obviously a very visual form of fishing and one also that teaches you an understanding of watercraft and reading currents and understanding the importance of drag . There are so many similarities with fly fishing. Looking back It is 50 years since I took up my first fly rod I am afraid that since then the coarse fishing has gradually slipped away and is now simply a whim or a walk down memory lane as my recent trip with my late fathers gear in the recent blog post.

So there we are,  my first brown trout on a dry of the season on a day when there was low cold water very little fly life and a nasty cold wind. Truth is I was convinced I would not do any good on the waters surface, but I think the river just took pity on me and provided me with one small but beautifully marked rising fish that took my seals fur bodied F Fly and allowed me a moment to admire its perfection.  On the day I also managed to catch two larger but stocked fish , well they weren`t getting a photo, This river produces the most beautifully marked brown trout . The one on the front banner of the blog was from this very section of river,  that is not the largest Brown Trout I have ever caught but every time I look at the picture I recall how perfect that particular fish was .  So far this season has been very strange, the second day of the season was as warm as a summers day and when I visited the river I was greeted by many rising fish ,  trouble is they were all out of season grayling ,  since then I have caught many grayling and few trout, so it was great today to catch no grayling and just brown trout...

The signs of Spring are now well established this tiny island hosted a swan every year when I last fished this section of the river which is actually around ten years ago .  I was amused to thumb back through the catch return back and see my reports still there from all that time ago.  As I stood to take the photo below I recall that many years ago I was sat there having a doze and break and became aware of an agitated buzzing ,  my hearing is pretty poor and it took a while to register that I was sat on the hole to a very large wasps nest . I moved carefully and slowly and managed to avoid stings .  Moving slowly was something I learned as a coarse angler when digging out nests for wasp grubs . I also remember how effective dry cleaning fluid aerosols were as a first line of defence. 

The river is looking pristine at the moment although the signs from the feeder streams are showing low flows already. Without some serious rain in the next few months it will be a very low river indeed by mid summer.

The smell of wild Garlic was pretty overpowering as I walked through it making my way upstream.  It is one of those evocative things that gives a strong sense of time and place ,  it also makes a damn fine soup with a suitable chicken stock. 

long time readers of the blog will recognise this view ,  it hasn`t changed it is still a beautiful river.