Wednesday 29 February 2012

More on North Country spiders or soft hackled flies

As readers to this blog will have read last season saw my introduction to fishing spiders or soft hackled flies as they say in the USA a term that I think is more apt than spiders but more of that later . Last season my first fishing spiders, I tied and fished the Partridge and Orange the Snipe and Purple and the Waterhen Bloa. These were my team of three.  The flies are a cinch to tie and of those I tried the Waterhen Bloa proved to be the most successful.

This winter I have obtained and read the works of  T E Pritt, Edmonds and Lee and Stewart.  Also the more recent Roger Fogg which I found excellent . All in order to better understand the method and to a lesser extent expand the patterns at my disposal.  I have also explored the internet for resources.  I can also recomend watching the the Oliver Edwards series of DVDs . I found them excellent and I am sure helped me to early success. I think when you can appreciate the difference between across and down and down and across and you realise an escalator isnt something you find in Marks and Spencers then you are well on the way..





So what have I learnt so far?, well like all branches and styles of  the sport there is as in most forms of fly fishing a fair amount of dogma. I have read interminable internet discussons regarding the correct thread for a partridge and Orange, and the correct number of turns of thread on the body and turns of hackle for that perfect style. the choice of hook alone seems to cause more discussion than I could have thought possible.  I am sure that such worries werent on the mind of the likes of Stewart and Pritt. I am also pretty sure the fish couldnt give a fig.

 Although there are some anglers who have stuck with the style for years it is now to some extent enjoying  a renaissance .  As for literature the old works can still teach us a great deal and are still a major source of knowledge ,   Stewart in particular is excellent, his approach is very different to what I imagined.  He talks of stealth and natural presentation and has tactical understanding that would not be out of place in todays publications. There is an article in the current FFand FT that talks in the same terms it just gos to show that in the fundamentals theres nowt new in the world.


To many readers who may be proficient with spiders this is an obvious comment but one of the keys to the success of these spider patterns is the mobility of the hackle materials. The feathers of the game birds used have a softness and open structure not found in cock and even hen hackles. Hence my reference in the first few lines to soft hackle flies been a more apt description . The waterhen and partridge hackles  have a mobility and translucency that beautifully mimics the drowned or crippled delicate dun wings .  The more robust hackles of the woodcock and grouse are perfect for sedges and stoneflies.  Combine this with the bodies of silk with sometimes the meanest of dubbing which have a lovely translucency when wet, dress this on a light hook and you have a very effective combination.

When you combine this with a high level of control in the presentation which the close range and  dead drift gives it makes for a very effective technique.  This is not the cast at 45% downstream and let the flies whizz round approach that so often is thought of as downstream wet fly .  I think that this is every bit as immitative as the upstream dry.  Incidentally fishing spiders upstream is a variation I am yet to try but I can imagine it to be extremely effective. So we are presenting an accurate imitation of the drowned or emerging fly at the speed of the current in or beneath the surface what could be better?, I for one am a convert and spiders will now have a permanent place in my kit.  I just have to learn more and get better at using them.


My selection of spiders so far is the Greenwells , Partridge and Orange , Waterhen Bloa, Grouse and Green and Grouse and Red ,  Woodcock and red , Snipe and Purple , Black Spider , March brown and some copper bead  Endricks.  Still room for a couple more patterns so any suggestions welcome...Only another month or so to wait now and I will be able to try them in the river....

Monday 27 February 2012

like casting pearls before swine

I was approached recently to take an angler on the river for a day he is a friend of a family member .  He has for the last few years fished artificial stillwaters but decided that he would like to tackle rivers.  I had explained that Grayling in winter were a different deal to stillwater rainbows , but he was not to be dissuaded . Now Saturday was actually a nice day there were a few LDOs hatching and the odd fish was rising .  On arrival seeing the clear water and winter sunshine my mood brightened and I though that we were in for a good day.   However as I looked over the bridge I heard in my ear " bloody hell is that it" my heart sank  how could that lovely Yorkshire stream be so described.  This was a proper river at least 6 yards wide , I dread to think what his reaction would have been to some of the becks that I fish.....
Another Yorkshire stream........

I quickly learnt several things , firstly he couldnt cast unless had an airfield sized area behind him for a backcast.  He couldnt accept that flies dont have to look like christmas tree baubles.  He couldnt spot a take that didnt actually wrench the rod out of his hand.  and when we did eventually tempt a nice little grayling which was about a pound and therefore a decent fish for the river he asked when we were going to catch a big un...

All the shortcomings of his angling could be forgiven but what really wound me up was the complete and utter lack of appreciation for the surroundings and the fish.  Pointing out a kingfisher was greeted with a grunt.  The beauty of the cock graylings dorsal gained a blank stare.  The LDOs and crayfish we saw  received not a flicker of enthusiasm.....It was all "when will get a big un"....

I have learnt several lessons...Firstly never take angling guests unless you know them personally .  Secondly some stillwater anglers are a completely seperate soulless species.  Third never assume because people have caught fish that they can cast well. Fourth If you love a river dont share it with anyone who might not appreciate its beauty and lastly search their flyboxes if you find christmas decorations make your excuses . 

However it did make me realise that as bad as my casting is there are worst out there...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Sunday 19 February 2012

Riverfly Monitoring and Fishing benefits.

Just finished doing the monitoring on the two sites on our local beck.  This is something fairly new for me and can see it paying dividends in my fishing .This is a stream that I have known for very many years but even after two months I am getting a far greater understanding of what is in the beck and therefore what I should imitate.  For example I had not appreciated how many caseless caddis the river holds as the more visible cased variety had been more apparent.


A nymph that I thought I would see a lot more of in the stream  but has only put in an appearence with two individuals so far is the heptagenid  nymph.  This fellow appeared this month.  A lovely tasty mouthful for a trout .  But outnumbered 50 to 1 by the Baetis nymphs ....




I even took the net and tray and had a quick sampling session on another river I fish I couldnt beleive the numbers of a smallish tube cased caddis I found ,  I now have an artifical planned for them.  I can see the net is going to get a permanent place in the car boot..

Friday 10 February 2012

A cold nights reflection and a river runs through it…

Outside the first real snow of the winter was coming down and I was sitting in front of the log burning stove with my Labrador dog Ruby laid in front of me her backside getting singed by the fire, In one hand I had a glass of malt whisky and my pipe was in the other. The pipe contained a rather nice blend that the local tobacconist refers to as his Christmas pudding mix the aroma is rich fruity with a hint of spice. I find that this is the perfect combination of inactions for perfect pondering, it must be without the distraction of Phone/ TV/ Radio and is something that you appreciate more with years. Anyway last night amongst my thoughts I was considering how life contains certain special defining moments, in particular my fishing moments which have usually involved rivers.

I had just written the cheque to my angling club on the Ure and got to thinking about the first time I saw that river, I was 11 it was the swinging sixties and I was already hooked on fishing. To me back then fishing meant a 7ft spinning rod 10lb line a size 10 hook and worms for the chub in the river whiske near the boarding school I was residing at. But on a field trip to Masham I remember watching a bloke fly fishing , It was the first time I ever saw someone actually wading in a river fly fishing . A teacher at our school did fly fish and had seen him catch chub on little black gnats, but I was enthralled as I watched that angler catch a trout in that fast flowing rocky river, it seemed almost magical and certainly sowed a seed which although it lay dormant for a long time now is blossoming nicely. As nearly half a lifetime down the line I am that angler and have often wondered when watching kids on the bank if seeing me will plant the same dream in them. I hope so.


The first fish I ever caught on fly was a 13” Brown trout . It was on a Tups indispensable and to my shame it was caught by allowing the fly to drift downstream under the leaves of the overhanging bush where the trout was rising, a trotted fly you could say. In my defence I was about 13 and had received no guidance in the craft and my casting was at best terrible. These days the dry fly downstream bit bothers me less and less . The fact that I killed it and cooked it bothers me more and more. But to this day I can still close my eyes and watch that rising fish again and to this day I still marvel at the fact that the little tag of fur and feather at the end of the line can cast such a magical spell. That one event more than any other drove my passion for the dry fly.

A few weeks after this capture I was stood on the bank waving the fly rod about when an old guy from the village asked what I was doing , my response ” I am fly fishing “ delivered with all the attitude of someone filled with teenage hormones. His response was short and to the point , Nay Lad thees not fly fishing thee is just lashing t`watter . But then he said "if thou does want to learn to fly fish meet me here tomorrow and Ill teach thee"….The lessons continued all summer and by the Autumn I was set on the right route. Now my teacher Bill who was the local undertaker and appeared to be about 50 but I learnt later was in fact around 80 at the time will be long gone. But if you can read this Bill.. Thanks mate…Thanks…

So there we are some of the most formative events in my life and it does show that as the book says the river runs through it. Now wheres another log...

Trout bum or mildly eccentric ?

 This year I am starting the process of getting into retirement.  I think initially it will be a day a week less work and then over the next...