Friday 12 December 2014

Reflections and thanks.....

The last month has seen my fishing activities grind to a complete halt , so anything truly fishing related  to write about is absent but there has been a sad event that certainly relates to my love of fly fishing.

In the last few months I have learnt of a teacher of mine who has sadly left us. My woodwork and craft teacher from when I was at boarding school at age 11. He was called Brian Guy, Brig to those who knew him,  looking back he was one of the most influential people in my younger days. He was also the first person I ever saw catch a fish on a fly. As a kid we used to bait fish in the river whiske near Thirsk.  One day whilst we were float fishing he was fly fishing. I can still picture him kneeling on the bank and casting to a pod of circling chub I was even trusted with the net to land one .  The fly was a very simple black gnat. The act of deception amazed me then as much as it still does now .  It truly was a inspirational moment in my life.  He was also a real guiding light at a time when things were not going well for me,  I think at the time the escape fishing offered was one of the few things that helped.  Sadly now he has gone and also sadly has the stream .  I have returned once to that river bank in the nearly half century since I watched him there, the clear water and streamer weeds and the shoals of roach and chub have been replaced with a fetid muddy channel that seemed totally bereft of life.  I would have liked to be able to return there and try to emulate that act of deception but sadly like Brig the river of my childhood has sadly departed.

 He was a guy who was capable of really surprising you  he had a great love of fishing and yet 10 or more years after I left school I met him at a reunion I asked him if he still fly fished, I find his answer as surprising now after another 20 or 30 years have passed as I did then , he said he loved to cast a fly and loved to rise a trout but he felt a deep sadness for the fish once he had hooked it . It was a conundrum that deeply troubled him. He was a remarkable man. If you can read this Brig thanks for everything not least for casting that fly and lighting that spark all those years ago.  There was a memorial service for him recently in Hawes in the Yorkshire dales, sadly I could not get there but the day it was on I sat for an hour and tied a few black gnats and one summer evening next year they will rise a trout for Brig.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Itchen grayling

Recently I was away down south and was lucky enough to receive an invite from my friend Peter ( he of walks and fishes blog) to fish a beat of the Itchen with him. Although I am now fishing a chalk stream on a regular basis the Itchen is one of those hallowed southern streams that carry a certain mystique.  So it was an opportunity to be seized  .  I arrived at three minutes past the appointed meeting up time due to the hideous southern traffic,  something  I was not happy about as to quote Norman Maclean " there's three things we're never late for: church, work and fishing" and personally I think fishing is by far the most important.  Being late for fishing is something I regard as pretty bad manners.  Peter however was oblivious to my late arrival. 

After a quick hello it was rig up and of fishing , Autumn days are pretty short affairs and time shouldnt be wasted on over indulgent pleasantries. After a quick demo from Pete on his tried and trusted rigs . I was away and fishing after 3 casts bingo fish number one .  I started with a two hook rig a size 16 bead head on point and a size 18 gammarus pattern on the dropper. It became apparent pretty quickly that I was picking up all the fish on the point fly and as the river obviously carried a very large head of fish I ditched the dropper shortly after starting,  

The top fish was pretty typical of the better fish I caught with perhaps 5 or 6 like that coming to hand the rest were smaller with a couple of tiny rainbows and a couple of very chunky OOS native brownies also throwing themselves in to the mix.  It is astonishing how many fish were in that length of river , some of the grayling were pretty big too with a few that looked around two pound. Sadly none of those decided to play ball. 

The river is very very pretty and even though it is into November the warm Autumn meant the trees still carried more than a hint of green.  The sunshine encouraged a hatch of olives and soon they were been intercepted by fish. So of went the nymph and on with the dry , catching a few on a dry was an unexpected bonus for me .  A short heavy shower killed the hatch and drove me back to the decent fishing hut where I found Peter also heading for cover. After the shower the rise disappeared so it was back on the nymph and another good few fish finished the day until we called it a day a little after three. 

The beat has two small fishing huts . I figure that this one doesnt see a lot of use. Not quite what I would expect from a posh southern chalk stream. I must say the beat did not appear to be over manicured there was plenty of weed and overhanging branches and plenty of stuff growing in the bank sides too. In fact as nice a stretch of river as I have seen for a while. 

One thing i did notice, the grayling seemed to be less steely in appearance than my local spate stream fish.  But they did seem to like the same bugs I use up north.  Personally my thoughts are with grayling they are pretty catholic with their tastes but I do think they get wary of seeing the same things,  I rarely use brass beads for that reason. I reckon i finished the day with about thirty fish . I probably could have caught a few more if I had stuck with the nymph instead of playing with the dry for an hour or so,  but fishing is about more than just catching ,,,

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Grayling Party time but with a gatecrasher.....

This last month I have been out on my local rivers enjoying the start of another Grayling season. Although I have caught a few during the summer and the season for them runs right from June I dont feel as if the party starts till the end of September when the Trout season finishes,  This weekend was typical grayling season weather ,  Windy and very Autumnal with the river surface covered in leaves and even the odd branch floating by.  But at least things got going I  had probably a dozen grayling with nothing bigger than half a pound.  Caught way to many trout , I cant remember a year when the brownies were still as active as they are now . A result of the mild Autumn.  As for the grayling whenever I catch one I am always reminded what a very beautiful fish they are..

One gatecrasher at the partywas this rainbow,  at around 2lbs it certainly gave a good account of itself on the 3wt,  these things cause a mix of opinions on the river in my local club. They are stocked and some members enjoy catching them and enjoy the fact that it technically extends the trout season for an extra month.  Certainly this last month has seen them rising freely but most of the anglers on the river seem to be after grayling so its a bit of a mixed blessing .  As for me well I have my own views and unlike the Grayling this didnt go back in the river...

Incidentally my first grayling trip on the local beck resulted in a totally trout catch with the fish feeding hard , apart from just one fish that as a coarse species was legally captured .  It pleased me in one way that my nymphing skills have been sufficiently improved this season I actually saw the take.  Perhaps not a huge speciman but certainly my biggest of the season.

The recent rains have refreshed my local beck just a shame its done it once the trout season has finished.  The bottom OOS brownie is typical of what the beck holds with wildies to a pound and a half a real possibility. With a smattering of grayling for good measure.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Man, Rod line and fish .......

I have just returned from a short Trip to Rome , Four days in a very swish hotel, I know it was swish because a Gin and Tonic was 18 euros and we got complimentary slippers. The hotel was just around the back of the Pantheon.  A building that was constructed by the Emperor Hadrian in around 100 AD built on the site of an earlier structure from 27 BC built by some bloke called Marcus Agrippa ( what a great name) .  I wont bore you with the history lesson but its amazing to me that the building has been in constant use for the past 2000 years and is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world .  Something that has been around since the time of Christ and under constant use has to be pretty special.  It was also very beautiful, the internal frescoes were stunning.

Anyway that aside, apart from the sights and sounds ( and food) we had a visit to the Vatican city and after seeing the Sistene Chapel which I found spoiled by the crowds and the Gallery of maps which to me was the stunning highlight. Tucked away in one of the museums of the Vatican I came across this. It is the Jonah Sarcophagus carved in the third century ...I was instantly drawn to the image . This small figure with a fishing rod in his hand is not really mentioned but a little research online considers that the extreme right hand on the tableau may be a reference to the afterlife , Paradise if you like ,  Well looking at the figure fishing with a couple of fish looking to show interest and a bird in front of him suggesting fly tying materials arent out of the question then whos to argue against it being paradise. I for one strongly beleive that for once the historians may be bang on. 

I find it odd that after seeing the Vatican and the Pantheon and Coliseum this one little image is the thing that made a lasting impression. True thousands of years since the carving but still not so very far away from how we fish today it seemed to embody the very essence of fishing  ... Simply Man , rod line and fish . Paradise....

And a picture of the Pantheon , by moonlight no less.  A stunning structure ......

And the Vatican Gallery of maps ....

Monday 25 August 2014

August apathy

It occurred to me last week that its a week or three since I wet a line.  Strange thing is I dont mind at all. Work has been busy and what with family stuff casting a fly just hasnt really been on my priority list.  Granted there has been a real water shortage and the rivers have been to their bones, but that wouldnt stop me in April or May, then I would fish in a flood or a dried up river bed. But now? well that urgency of early season has gone and that perfection of the May and June evening rise has past.  For now its like I take a breath mid year and think about times ahead.  My hunger sated by the spring and early summer plenty.  I sit back and enjoy a break like having a drink of wine and contemplating the port and stilton after stuffing yourself with a sirloin....

Now, I am looking forward to those fit and hungry September trout that so often seem to anticipate that the privations of winter are approaching by feeding like kids in a sweet shop.  Also my mind starts to stray towards the Grayling a fish that inhabits all but one of the rivers I fish and allows me to extend my fishing season right through the winter.  Although I must confess that injured and arthritic knees tend to keep me out of the water during the deep cold of January and February.  During those months the dark nights are spent in frenetic fly tying sessions refilling boxes and overhauling tackle.

Just as an aside the two photos above are from two rivers within 20 miles of each other from most recent trips, at the top a wolds chalk stream . Clear, alkaline stuffed with food and a constant flow year round. Below a typical small north Yorkshire spate stream.  Take a look at the two fish below . 

Two fish of about the same size, both native brownies One from the chalk stream , fat deep bellied and small finned , below from the spate stream richly coloured big finned long and lean. Tough little trout from a tough place to live .  Amazing how one species can be so diverse ...

Anyway as for now well a day off recently allowed me a trip the Ure,  That lovely Dales river that I have neglected this year, partly due the kid with new toy syndrome of having new rivers this year and partly as it has been on its bones for a large part of the year.  Sadly though the day ended up as a total cock up . After taking a couple of hours to drive to the Dales due to just about every tractor and trailer in the county been on the road I arrived to find a river higher than expected and one that was rising fast, I stayed long enough to have a sarnie and ponder the options during that time I stuck a stick in the bank and it confirmed that the river was going up smartish.  It appears a sudden shower up the valley had dumped a load of fresh rain in it and the river was now heading up and colouring up fast and to be honest I just didnt fancy it .  So back in the car and heading  east .  I was soon diverted due to a traffic accident and found myself heading south down the A1. So with clenched teeth and a steely determination to get some fishing in I headed towards the Yorkshire wolds the Sat Nav gave the picture...80 ish miles and best part of two hours. Arriving early afternoon I wondered why I just didnt go there to start with. Gin clear water and rising fish.  The recent weed cutting disturbance had died down my happiness was restored. . So the story of the day best part of 200 miles driven , two rivers visited 4 hours fishing , a few good fish on the bank and sanity restored .  But only just...

Thursday 24 July 2014

This will shift em of the beach...

There is something about July that's wasted on me. Everyone else seems to love it. I look out of my office window I see people playing on the beach , I go out for a lunchtime sarnie and cant walk on the pavement because of the smiling holiday makers . Me I hate the crowds. I guess having an office with a sea view in a tourist town is asking for trouble but in February with a big North sea storm running the view is pretty special.  But at the moment the only place I can get parked is in the office car park and when I do the Herring gulls shit on it with stuff  like avian paint stripper.

As for the weather its to hot and dry, the rivers are to low and the roads are to crowded.  I guess theres two possibilities , the first is that I am just a misery the second is I don't like hot weather.  the reality ?  a combination of both.   Meanwhile here in a July heatwave the only place I feel comfy is when I am stood in a river.

The first two weeks of July were pretty quiet fishing wise , too much work and to little time meant office time went up and fishing time disappeared.  Last weekend I had Sunday evening on Foston beck a belting short session as much for the fishing as for managing to get myself whacked four times by the same electric fence.  Pretty stupid I know but its amazing the choices that you can convince yourself are sensible when you can see a big rising fish.  Wiggling through a gap between a water level fence and underneath an electric wire at a cattle watering place to get a shot at it seemed sensible until the hooked fish shot back towards me and autopilot took over my arm shot up in the air furiously retrieving line and holding the rod high only for my elbow to come in contact with the electric fence, that shock made me straighten up sharpish only for the back of my head to feel the next jolt.  The fish was landed though and after its release I collapsed back on the bank.  Laughing to myself and wondering what my wife would say if she saw me.

The river looks gorgeous but the shot below shows it now needs a weed cut,  I managed to extricate a hooked fish from in the middle of that lot but I don't like bullying the fish that hard and its a strategy with a risk of a snapped leader.

Yesterday evening I decided that despite low river levels and muddy water following recent thunderstorms I would have an evening session straight after work.  On the way to the Derwent I passed a couple of members cars fishing in one valley and ended up at what is usually the most popular parking spot on the river and one I tend to avoid but there was for once an absence of other anglers ,  as I was getting kitted up the river keeper arrived and told me there was a party of three or four upstream and a couple downstream so there I stopped.

The river was still pretty coloured but low , strange conditions but there was a few rising fish and amazingly those that were rising seemed to like my choice of fly , a small cdc stonefly pattern and all of them stuck ,  All of the risers were small wild fish apart for a small stockie I am not one for numbers but I think I ended up with half a dozen, at one point in the evening I was startled to feel a whack on the back of my head . This came from a racing pigeon with a sparrow hawk in hot pursuit .  The shock of avoiding it and not me sent the poor pigeon of course and it splash landed in the river luckily it managed to flap its way out onto a tree root where it stopped for a considerable period presumably waiting till the coast was clear of sparrow hawks. Here he is looking relieved.

Well the tourists wont want to hear this but we sure could do with some rain , I am going to stop short of a prayer as readers of this blog may recall a few years ago I prayed for rain and it did , in fact it didn't stop for months and we had the wettest summer on record. So just a little rain , at night would be good so as not to piss of the tourists too much ,  My long departed Grandad had a similar view on life to me, and in the summer if we had a heavy daytime downpour he would have a little glint in his eye and simply say " this will shift em of the beach..."


Friday 4 July 2014

Tis grim up North, just joking....

As someone who is extremely proud of his own Yorkshire roots and the areas heritage and beauty it came as no surprise to me that Yorkshire. That area of the world  known to us locals simply as gods country has just been voted by the lonely planet guide as third in its top ten places in the world to visit.

So as well as been an English county that won more medals than many countries at the last Olympics and having countryside that is as scenic as anything you could wish for .  Fishing wise we have beautiful freestone rivers and stunning chalk streams with pristine native brownies and grayling. This weekend we have even got the tour de france .  So next time you read that England is just about London , dont you beleive it.. and as we always say with our tongues firmly in our cheeks its grim up north....

Thursday 3 July 2014

Wheres the water gone...

Over the last few days I became ware of major construction works on our local beck.  Now not only do I fish on it and serve on the club committee.  I do the invertebrate monitoring on it for the river fly partnership. I even walk the dog by its banks on almost a daily basis.  I also make my living in the same industry as a freelance estimator. So you could definitely say I have an interest in what was going on.  So donning my hard hat hi vis and wellies I called in for a chat .  It was all positives really.  Well set up site , proper induction , a foreman that knew his job.

I liked how the scheme was organised the damming of the higher weir avoided the need for over pumping and expensive sheet piling or the like. As in a lot of things a low tech solution is usually best.

I it was also good to find some guys on site from a ecological outfit rescuing the native crayfish and moving trapped fish to below the bottom weir. It was very good to see the numbers of crayfish that they were finding  too.  There were also eels and lamprey been rescued and moved.

The works are to repair the weir at the bottom of the pool.  Part of the weir is to be rebuilt and part pressure grouted .  Grouting in water courses is a risky business but after seeing their set up I have confidence that all will be well. I will keep having a poke about though.  Not a fishing post I know but its nice to have a positive experience when works like that are carried out on something important to you.

Friday 27 June 2014

June a mixed story.....

June and September for me are the absolute cream of the fly fishing calender.  Even with a  cold spring the weather in June is pretty much without fail a time of plenty.  This year I would give it a mixed review.  The mayfly whilst giving me a good evening on the Yorkshire Dove failed to deliver a really top event.  That evening also gave me an opportunity to once again forget my camera.  I really do think age is catching up with me.

The second week in June saw me north of the border in Scotland me and my long suffering wife rented a cottage near lockerbie the place of that terrible air line disaster of many years ago.  It was also very near to the Annan a river I have long wanted to wet a line on.  The day we arrived we were treated to a full 24 hours of at times torrential rain which proceeded to bugger the river for the first half of the week.  If I had been wanting to fish for sea trout I dare say I would have welcomed it , but I was after the native brownies. This is a river that has fish of very large proportions and I was looking forward to getting amongst them.

On Thursday I arrived at the river to find it still a little up but running clear. But with few fish rising the only things on the wings seemed to be fairly large stone flies an empty shuck here against a size 12 shows they were a meaty snack. I ended up with a decent catch on both the well chewed nymph below and some CDC f flies.  The top fish was about the average of a few fish caught.  I was briefly attached to a very large fish that jumped like a rainbow and by its silvery appearance I would guess was a sea trout,  one jump managed to detach the hook from it ,  I wont try to guess its weight the memory is still painfull.  

The next couple of trips were evening affairs, after dinner sorties to the Yorkshire Derwent which is about 10 minutes from my house, it has become my short session fishery of choice. Perfect for filling in those early summer evenings and not having a long trek home afterwards.   A strange couple of sessions with just about every form of ephemeroptera hatching. Each small glide or pool seemed to have something different on the menu , the fish below engulfed the mayfly in its gob after bow waving about 2ft up the fast water as soon as the fly touched down . But no other fish showed an interest in mayfly at all. The fly of choice seemed to be a tiny size 22 job.  

The river looks damn fine right now , a perfect example of a northern spate stream .  Its called the river Derwent but this high up its watercourse it is smaller than many watercourse around here called becks. Just gos to show the joys of the English language. 

I read recently on that most excellent blog " North Country Angler " that he fished a small stream and caught brownies that looked like the ones he saw in the older books.  Well I must agree, to me the couple of fish below whilst small are to coin  a phrase "perfectly formed" and look just as a brownie should look. 

Piscine perfection in every sense of the word.  Although small I don`t beleive I will ever tire of catching fish like this .  The chap at the bottom still has my size 22 stuck in his lip.  You know I used to be concerned about the hook hold such tiny things give but the more I fish them the more I realise that with sensible tackle  ( soft rod and long tippet ) they are just fine and allow you to put on plenty of pressure with even large fish.

A recent addition has been a threader box .  This is a cheapo one of ebay with some of the C and F threaders on it ,  This was its first outing and for this fisherman with crap close vision I can not overstate how much easier the changing of a size 22 in fading light has now become , the box is filling up fast . 

This is my generic small fly , not a proper pattern but a dunn or grizzle hackle,  Coq de leon tails and dubbed body in olive green ,  black and grey dun gives me a fly for aphids which can be a killer anytime now, a small black job and something that works as a general small olive pattern.  I will also be adding some tiny cdc F Flies and some Terrys specks , again from NCAs blog .  As thats twice I have praised his blog thats it for the year a Yorkshire man can not be overly generous when dishing praise out to someone from the wrong side of the Pennines.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Fathers day

One of the aspects of fishing that I have started to appreciate more and more over the last few years is that of variation , particularly when it comes to the rivers I fish .   For very many years I fished small spate streams and fished them pretty poorly at that.  Over the last few years I have been fortunate in gaining access to a number of different rivers that offer some real variation in challenges and opportunities.

As I have previously posted .The latest stream I have got access too is Foston Beck.  I was there at the weekend, Fathers day to be precise . I fished the top end of the water .  A mile or so of water that seems to alter in mood by the yard.  But a single element of it remains constant that of the water clarity. Now to any readers who fish this type of water then I beg forgiveness for stating what to them is the bleeding obvious. But  I am still at the discovery stage and finding it strange to be able to see the fish even in several feet of water ,  at the weekend fly life seemed a little sparse and rising fish were few . The initial flush of stock fish seemed to have been thinned out and the fish in evidence were the wild fish generally smaller and well spread out ,  I am starting to get the hang of spotting them now in between the beds of weeds or tucked in tight under them sometimes the edge of a fin is all that betrays them.  

Targeting these fish is fascinating if you combine a cautious approach with the right angle of approach you can get remarkably close to them .  Close enough to watch your nymph drift past their nose even.  In fact it does make me consider how hit and miss my spate stream fishing is and the importance of effectively covering the water ,  I put a nymph past the fish above on about 12 occasions before it took .  Probably 8 of those passes were, it appeared to me target wise bang on the money but it obviously didnt look right to the fish. The fish was on a clear gravel patch perhaps no wider than a foot and a half and was on the fin taking nymphs that were funneled down to it .  You can see the patch right in the centre of the shot below , shaped a bit like a witches hat.  Perhaps the fishes obviously well fed rotund appearance is a clue to its fussy eating .  The stream is certainly an ample larder.

The other highlight of the day was a glimpse of a water vole and the other notable wildlife events were the constant irritation of brave female mallards brooding chicks being disturbed by me and shooting up the centre of the stream flapping about and giving their broken wing display and promptly sending every fish straight under the weeds. 

The deep weed beds whilst looking pretty certainly make dry fly presentation tricky the currents generated by the weed beds certainly do make for some complex currents hitting the surface and the fly skates about all over. Not sure how many fish I caught but enough to consider the day as a rewarding day.
Apologies for the poor photos my preparation for the day included charging my camera battery which I then left at home in the charger.  On the day I had to use my phone...

Monday 2 June 2014

The evening rise

We have all fished in that delicious time of day when the daytime just seems to leak away and as the colours of the river change from their rich vibrancy into the monotones of night time there is a window when, just sometimes every fish in the river seems to start to feed.  Yesterday was such a time.

Although the river was still high and somewhat coloured my brief after dinner trip to the river was rewarded with an enthusiastic response from the piscine inhabitants .  Initially when I arrived at the river I was surprised to see a few other anglers around but most were leaving the bank rather than just starting to fish . I soon sussed that a short stretch upstream of me was pretty much  untouched and would keep me amused for a few hours . On this type of stream a couple of hundred yards of stream can keep me occupied for 2 to 3 hours.  There is so much variation and so many potential lies to fish the stream properly is pretty slow going.  I am constantly amazed as to how fast some anglers seem to fish through a length of river.

Although this stretch may appear pretty mundane but it is full of rocks and pots with the fish lying right across the stream and also tight into the bank.  

The little native brownies are all dark and heavily spotted ,  They are all plump and well fed and everyone was returned no the worst for the experience,  They rise freely and are great for sharpening ones reflexes,  On here a 12 inch fish is a very good one. On the evening all the fish came to a F Fly emerger size 18.  In under 3 hours I had about 25 or 30.

Before I started fishing I stood and chatted for 15 minutes with a fellow angler and club secretary this pre start conversation among other things endorsed my opinion that  we believed very many anglers waste too many opportunities waiting for those perfect conditions that all to often fail to meet expectations. Last  night just showed that. the river was too high and too mucky, the temp was to low and the wind was cool and downstream.  But apparently for an hour or so the fish thought conditions perfect.

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

One of my favourite Artists from the 70s was Ian Drury and the blockheads .And after a long driving session a few days ago when I explored m...