Thursday 29 November 2018

Bugger me its nearly Christmas again

Well readers its here again , its nearly Christmas and the headlong rush to stuffing our faces with turkey has begun, once again we have spotted a household down the lane that has managed to demonstrate both bad taste and a total lack of respect for the calendar at the same time by having illuminated reindeer on the lawn outside their house in November .  Its not that I am a misery as despite what my long suffering wife says I am generally of moderately cheery disposition .  But we seem to get our senses bombarded by one event after the other once the nights draw in .  Halloween , Bonfire night ,  Trick or treat . that hideous Black Friday  made even worse by the fact that it starts the previous Saturday and finishes more than a week later so its actually black ten days  .  Next the carol singers will descend in droves. soon two lines of " We wish you a merry Christmas"  followed rapidly by a row of outstretched hands .  I think this year I will place a humbug in each outstretched mitt.  I wonder if grubby teenagers understand irony . Anyway enough of this jollity.

This year I have excelled I have completed my Christmas shopping already to avoid the rush and having to mingle with Christmas shoppers.  I have, I think managed to put together a suitable selection of "surprises "  for the good lady .  by surprises I mean real ones and not the ones that magically arrive in the bottom of my wardrobe that she has carefully selected for me to wrap so she can act all surprised on Christmas day .  No I mean real surprises. Of course I am running the risk of that killer of all statements " Oh darling its lovely do you still have the receipt" .  But after more than 30 years I am starting to understand her tastes and I reckon I am on  a winner.  I confess along the way I have made mistakes my gift of a a griddle pan in the early years of marriage still holds painful memories, an experience that I learned much from.  This year we have both "discussed not spending as much this year and agreed that we get no surprises for each other " will if she thinks I am falling for that old chestnut she has another think coming.

Its been a pretty grim year fishing wise ,  the hottest and driest summer for nearly 50 years has seen rivers dry up and runs of migratory fish almost go completely .  A high spot was getting into a very small fishing club on a delightful river not far away .  Its a small river , delightfully unspoilt and full of wild brownies .  The waiting list is around 9 years ( took me a few months short of that ) a duration due in equal parts to the standard of fishing , its annual cost and people who only leave for the saddest of all reasons.

 The little club that I am chairman of and supposedly run , well that I pretend to run while the secretary does bloody everything has seen a poor year because of the lack of water but our membership is pretty solid .  Interestingly  we are noticing a trend from prospective members that are looking for wild fish rather than larger stockies,  a definite greater interest in quality over quantity .  There is a simple formulae that I think some clubs fail to recognise .  Heavy stocking costs money which leads to high subscription costs and that leads to low membership. I think high membership costs also encourage over zealous land agents to ramp up rent prices .  I really beleive that some clubs that do not change their model they will run out of customers.

Finally in the last few months we have a couple of new fly fishing magazines , an on the shelf glossy and the other a subscription only job that on first impression appears to very good.  Called " fly Culture " its a very good read .  It is also a potential present idea for one of my two sons.  It may well replace that old and much appreciated classic the Orvis voucher.  The fly culture is a good idea . The traditional "how to " or "look at what I`ve caught"   column really have run their course .  Brand new radical fly patterns that are in fact old classics with a different colour thread really do become rather tedious.  The idea of a magazine looking at the culture of fly fishing is a good idea,  the challenge I guess will be keeping the writing standard high. I wish the team luck.

Which brings me rather smartly on to the whole point of the post which is to confess that I have felt for some time that this ere blog feels to me rather old aged ,  I have greatly enjoyed the writing of it.  But cant help feeling that its all become a bit flabby and unexciting , A lot like the writer .   The blog will continue but will change hopefully for the positive .  I will endeavour to serve up more fulfilling dishes however there may be a considerable period between courses .  Anyway unless something startling happens between now and Christmas have a bloody good Christmas ,

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Remembrance of a fishing companion

Sorry dear Blog readers I am going to be serious for a moment.  As we are nearly at remembrance day and it is 100 years since the end of the war to end all wars. I will give thoughts to  the family members who fell and particularly my Grandfather on my Mums side . WW1 veteran Born January 1899 joined up at 17 lying about his age  just in time for  the Somme and then at Passchendaele with the Northumberland Fusiliers.  He was the perfect Grandfather.  Always willing to tell me about the war always full of the tales Grandfathers should have.  Although his tale telling was usually when we were out side the house often in the Greenhouse. Grandma didn't approve of him filling my young head with war stories so usually when I visited them after a few minutes it would be "come outside lad there`s stuff in the greenhouse I want you to see" That's when he was in his territory the house was Grandmas .  Big guy in every sense 6ft tall which in them days was unusual.

He was very proud of been a crack shot in the war paid 6d a week extra ( about two and a half pence in today's money)  .  He was a devil with cards and told me loads of time about him fleecing his army mates of their money.  He never gave an inch when playing cards with me either guess he thought I should learn the hard way. I do wish i had been older when I knew him there are questions I would love to have asked him with a more mature head.  He had a elder brother who died at the Somme. Also on my Dads side of the family there were two victims of the war Sydney who is buried in Belgium and won the MM.  Visiting his grave a few years ago was a sobering experience .  There was another brother who until recently I was not aware of he was invalided back to England in the war after been gassed , He died after a couple of months .  What a terrible waste it was.  I bet they would have all had made good grandfathers given the chance .

As can be seen in the picture he was a keen sea angler to .  I remember with immense fondness our trips together as much for his company as for the fishing .  I remember a day we were fishing on the sea front at Scarborough . That rod Lent against the railing and the lead weight about 40 yds out firmly anchored on the bottom .  Along come three Blokes on holiday.  "Doing any good mate "  was said to Grandad , had a few came his cheery response , "Wheres your float Gramps " quickly followed . Now knowing Grandad wouldn't like the term Gramps I wondered what his response was , "That's it out there lads" was his response as he pointed to a Crab pot buoy about 400 yds away .  Giving me a sideways glance and wink.  What happened next was unexpected as Unfortunately the three blokes proceeded to lean on the railings to watch his float for activity.  After about ten minutes I couldn't resist a cheeky "isn't it time you checked your bait Grandad " the result was another glance and a friendly scowl.  Eventually the three lost interest when they had moved away he bust out laughing I thought they were never going to go he said .  Its worth adding we should never complain about modern rods and reels . I still have the rod and reel in the picture . It weighs a ton. and casting a 8 oz lead weight with that gear is I can tell you difficult and is it some risk to your hands and knuckles as that 8 inch Scarborough reel has no brakes.  No doubt our generation has had it easy in lots of ways.  

Monday 15 October 2018

Signs of Change

Well that's another Trout season over.  The fish below was my last fish of the season .  A decent enough stock fish that  has been in the river a while .  I am sure I will be catching a few more by accident when Grayling fishing but they won't be photographed for posterity. I try and release them without taking them out of the water .  Despite the low water its been a decent season with a lot of fish on the bank.  But that's the trout season done it always passes far to quickly.

The little ladies  below are however another story .  We are very lucky in that most of our local rivers hold decent stocks of Grayling.  This little one is my first deliberate catch of the season . I have had a few already this  year but this is the first since the end of the trout season.   I think as a species in some ways  I appreciate them more than trout .  A beautiful native species that provide great sport  right through the winter .  The only down side for me is that really nymph fishing is the way to go for these.  They do rise but they are predominately bottom feeders .  But in terms of there ability to extend my fly fishing season right through till the new year the are superb.  This one fell to a little pink nymph fished short line a rods length away 

 The signs of Autumn are starting to show in plenty now , the mushrooms are showing in the grass at the edge of the lane where I walk the dog on a morning ,and the woods are full of all varieties of fungi, Wish I knew more about them generally I love the taste of mushrooms and wish I had the knowledge to forage some wild ones . I'm OK with the occasional chicken of the woods which is hard to mistake , but as for the rest I am pretty clueless.

I have been looking forward to the last weekend for ages ,  there is a friendly competition run in the Yorkshire dales .  Organised by the Dales river trust and the salmon and trout association for Sunday . Well as might be expected following the driest summer for 25 years the weather decided to change just in time to cause the competition to be cancelled for the second time in its over 50 yr history.  Sods law at its finest ,  as the website screen shot below shows the river went from summer low to a 2 metre spate in less than a day. Anglers well and truly blown of the water.  The salmon anglers on the river will be loving that big lift of water but it ruined my day for sure,  Another really annoying fact as well is that my local Salmon river missed all the rain and remained on its bones.  

Monday 24 September 2018

A couple of strangers

 In the last week we have had a fair bit of rain.  Now that isn't a complaint ,   on the contrary we are in desperate need .  Rivers are on their bones and the reservoirs are revealing long abandoned villages , its been a very long dry summer.  However this Saturday despite the recent rain I went to my local river .  The view from the bridge was well.. Brown.  Yep the river was carrying a lot of colour .  But as normal I was faced with a simple dilemma , fish or go home . So in the end no real decision to be made .  I got into my waders and as I got ready a couple of dog walkers appeared .  Now I knew the walkers in question it was the VET and his wife who have looked after my Choccy Labrador for the last 11 years ,  we had a chat , mainly how he couldn't understand why I would be fly fishing in such a  swollen muddy river . Now I could have explained about the pleasure of the challenge and how it presents a different set of circumstances ,  in the end I made light of it and pointed out the alternative was watching TV,

Despite looking like this I was into fish pretty quickly and the river cleared markedly in the few hours I fished ,  There was odd fish rising as it stood there and the final few fish came to a dry.   Just shows doesn't it that I could have easily turned round but poor conditions or not I still had a great few hours.

Anyway starting of downstream ,  I had Grayling on my mind ,  I guess I should make a confession in such coloured water there is a "fly" that is particularly effective .  It is and I hesitate to confess the dreaded squirmy worm in bright red , a shameful creation of soft latex and a heavy bead .  50 years ago I would have been shot by the keeper for even owning such an abomination .  Shame forbids me from putting a picture up here but if you google squirmy worm you will get the idea.  Anyway the fish above took it with confidence.

The day started well, a few small wild fish then a thumping great stocked rainbow that I lost at the net .  Probably my fault as I had to bully it hard to keep it out of the tree roots.  Then a biggish stocked brown trout that was rising to something small in a crease under some willows I was pleased with the cast it deserved a fish,  The fish that in the end was nearly the last of the day was a surprise ,  A Chub a fish that I haven't caught for a few years on this river .  Would love to see more of them,  they are a strong fish that I am pretty sure would grow bigger in the streams than the native browns ,  they even rise to the fly and watching them take a black gnat is my earliest fly fishing memory .  I have always viewed a Rainbow and brownie and a Grayling as a triple on this stream.  I guess that I will have to rethink that as a Grayling a Brown trout and a Chub .  Its going to be tough to replicate .

As an aside last week a colleague asked me to identify a fish that someone had photographed acting strangely in the Ouse right in the centre of York.  I was pleased to able to help but it struck me as sad that the only evidence thats visible of the runs of salmon that go up the river through the city was a diseased fish .  This one showed the unmistakable signs of UDN . Probably made worse by the low water and high water temperatures this year .  Sad that such a beautiful fish as a the bar of silver that is an Atlantic salmon can be should end up like that .  I saw a lot of this that year .   I guess this year I just haven't been on the river enough to see them.  The river that I fish for Salmon and Sea trout has remained desperately low all year.

Sunday 9 September 2018

Strange stuff falling from the sky....

I have been having a think and I reckon that its a year since I last fished in the rain and you know what,? I bloody enjoyed it . I enjoyed that feeling of rain trickling down my neck , I enjoyed the fact that there was no risers and the fish I had came to the nymph.  I enjoyed that major irritation of a raindrop getting on my hearing aid , ( other wearers will sympathise ) .   It also reminded me that doesnt the rain make a lovely plooping noise when it hits the water surface. There wasnt enough rain to do a lot of good for the shrunken streams but hopefully the showers signalled a change in the climate and we may yet get some respite from this long hot dry summer...

The rainy day meant i spent a little extra time just walking along the bank and checking out the stream. remember this is a new stream to me this year and the very low conditions means that those under water features are very visible right now.  The day was in many ways a welcome change I have just returned from two weeks on the Greek island of Rhodes .  Most days saw mid thirties temperatures , some days up to 40 the change is lovely , seeing some green grass and feeling a little chilled was great. Eventually we will get some proper rain and  then I will be back on this stream when it is at a winter level with Grayling in mind.

For now the trout were still up for playing .  Although I must confess that I was hoping for a Grayling when I ran a nymph down through the deep run under the trees.  The little pink bead head nymph probably gives that away .  Although the next few months signal the tail end of the trout season .  With some significant rain there is a still a chance of Sea Trout and Salmon and the cream of the Grayling fishing is still to come. Lots to look forward to.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Down to its bones

The picture although clearly not a fish is something that I was very pleased to see.  This Sunday I ventured up the headwaters of a local river although as the pictures show the river is struggling for water and the quantities of rising fish were pretty low. The rivers are generally struggling, which is as to be expected given the long hot and dry summer.  levels of in river invertebrates are very low ,  however in the fields and woods on the banks the insects are thriving.. 

As you see the river is way below its normal levels.  long stretches are barely flowing and only the long deep pools are holding decent volumes of water .  Luckily there are many of these deep slow pools where fish can hold up..

This stretch is usually a continuous riffle about six inches deep ,  as you can see its just about dry now.

There was less rising fish than I would expect .  The level of invertebrates in the water must be having an effect on hatch levels .  However the high number of terrestrials will be offering an alternative food source .

One thing I noted during the day was the number of ladybirds that were visible ,  now that means to me that there are certainly big numbers of Aphids on the trees.   Certainly leaves on the trees are quite sticky from the residue the aphids leave behind. 

The days catches were less than I would expect at the time of year but as the fish were bunched up in the deep holding pools the long stretches of previously " pocket water " were now pretty much devoid of fish .  You can see on the photo below where the usual summer level of the pool is .  We need rain and fast...

Monday 23 July 2018

Dog Days

Rain please bring rain..... Many years ago on this blog I made the above plea.   To my amusement and  the astonishment of my readers .  It rained , and it rained , continuing to do so for a couple of months.  Until the rivers were bank high and the lakes over topping... So God if your listening again ,  just a little less this time .  Ideally a good steady week of rain to start with, nothing to heavy you understand we don't want to have flash floods .  Oh and maybe if you held of another week because the farmers haven't quite got the grain in yet.  So after the first week of steady rain we could do with another good rain that lasts 48 hours maybe once every ten days .  That would bring the sea trout and salmon up the rivers nicely .  So to be clear this needs to start at the beginning of August .  Yes I know its the start of the kids summer holidays but we don't want the little darlings getting sun burnt do we?.  Guess I am been pretty picky but on the of chance that someone upstairs is listening it would be nice to have the right amount..Anyway where was I .. Oh yes Dog days

The fishing of late has been challenging ,  the local spate streams are on their bones .  So low in fact that I am getting concerned about oxygen levels .  Apart from last Saturday the only river related activity in the last couple of weeks was down my little local stream on a work party .  Basically trying to gently manipulate the stream to form some deeper pockets for two reasons ,  firstly to give the descending smolts a bit extra depth of water to live in until a spate takes them out to sea.  Also to create a few holding pockets for the Autumn Sea trout coming upstream.

Work parties are a very contentious subject with most clubs.   Fortunately we have a hardcore of members whom are very generous with their time for them.  Last weeks was fairly hastily arranged but resulted in seven members turning up.  Unusually including myself, the group included age spans from  under 20 to nearly 80.  They are good natured and friendly affairs and always enjoyable.  Grown men messing about in a river on a warm summer evening what could be better . 

This Saturday evening I decided I had to get back on the water back on the little chalk stream which although running lower now has its size constrained by the rapidly growing lush vegetation so keeping a decent depth, I was on the river for about 7.30 ,  my first hour or twos  fishing was pretty frustrating.  Careful stalks and then slipping silently into the river were undone time after time by two families of swans and the same of mallards Noisily protesting and or flapping their way up stream .  Silently slipping into a river is something I struggle with more than ever these days then to be thwarted by irate waterfowl on four or five occasions was doubly galling . It was getting tedious but planning ahead I had saved a couple of favourite long stretches undisturbed till the light was going.... 

On these bright days its only when the light goes that the fishing comes alive .  A seemingly barren stretch transforms into a scene of fish rising everywhere as the hatch starts and the trout emerge from cover .  Apart from the BWO there are plenty of sedges the trout sit tight against the reeds gorging on the sedges as they emerge .

The fish here are very lively this one jumped and cartwheeled like a rainbow .  In an hour I hooked probably eight and landed three .  The deep weed and thick rushes means fish must be held hard , several failed as hook holds pulled .  The 4lb tippet and soft tipped rod meant no breaks but several made it into the weed never to re emerge 

Apart from the ducks , swans and a barn owl which was hunting up and down the river my only company was the combine harvester in the adjacent field he was still there as I drove away in the dark. Dog days of summer for sure but that last hour oh my is something else...

Saturday 30 June 2018

Brown Trout colours and spots

A constant fascination for me is the variation of colours that the Brown trout in the local streams exhibit, even within a single stream the colours can vary from pool to pool.  The range of colours fascinate me as do the reasons for it. Not sure that I am really very interested in a scientific explanation  but my experience tells me that the more alkaline and richer in invertebrate the river then the fish are lighter with less vivid and smaller are the red spots. But I stand to be told otherwise.  The first two pictures show a trout caught from my local river last Sunday

The adipose fins of many show the most vivid colours .  This dark fish was caught from a small pool that is quite heavily shaded .  Perhaps partly the reason why the fish was generally dark?.  All the fish on the post whilst being from three separate rivers are all from within a circle of twenty miles diameter. The issue of age of the fish is a difficult one as in this stream the fish don't grow large  12 inches is a good fish 14 inches a potential seasons best .  I do get the impression that the darker fish are more mature . 

This fish below was caught from the same stream no more than 100 yds away.  It was an an area however of sand and gravel rather than the rocky pool the first fish was .

This fish was caught in the same river about a couple of miles upstream 

The fish was from a very small stream a few miles inland ,  better water quality and certainly less acidic , the stream rises as a spring out of limestone but does carry a lot of surface run of as well. The fish there tend to be a bit heavier and lighter coloured with smaller red spots although you do come across the odd darker fish, also the water  does have good invertebrate hatches .

The last is from a local chalk stream .  Whilst been a very rich stream it is not a large river with few deep pools and the fish whilst been fairly prolific do often reach substantial sizes .  Fish generally have smaller and fewer red spots.  

One interesting fact from the Wild trout trust website."Brown trout are one of the most genetically diverse vertebrates known. There is far more genetic variation present across British populations of wild brown trout than between any populations in the entire human race".  So it seems to me that you have possible genetic variations as well as local responses to habitat and water quality.  Also on a lighter note. " All fishermen know that trout get progressively larger after they have been caught!"

Thursday 21 June 2018

Fathers Day

Fathers day this year was pretty good.   Lunch was the last of the frozen sea trout from last year . Herbs , lemon and capers with just a touch of white wine....( Dont take many but do kill a very few every year ) 

Then after lunch down to the local river .  The mayfly were still about together with decent numbers of various different olives. 
Lots of small wildies came to hand from the shallow riffles where the broken water was well oxygenated 

Had three from this little pool .  When I arrived there was a kingfisher on that fallen tree.  It just screams Trout doesnt it 

Our little wild brownies are perfect and put up a great scrap on the three weight . I had  not used this rod for ages ,  I think I had forgotten how much I love fishing it .
R L Winston B2T 8ft 3 wt .  Perfect for small streams . 

I love these small Yorkshire streams , so picturesque so peaceful...Great day....

Tuesday 5 June 2018

In full swing

Up here in the north of the UK the “ Mayfly” generally hatch in the first two weeks of June ,   As we are a couple of weeks behind the seasons down where the southern chalkstreams flow . Well I am pleased to say that it is that time of year again and the mayfly hatch is in full swing and this year it looks like being a good hatch .  Some years the hatch is almost non existent or over so fast the fish do not get into feeding on them .   Last Friday after work I got to one of the local streams to find clouds of spinners doing their amazing dance and big fat ladies like this out in good numbers .  The trout were certainly taking them with enthusiasm.  There is something pretty special about a warm summer evening on a wild stream with mayflies hatching.

The stream is only small and runs across farmland .  and its pretty unkempt and even better its not stocked, it has a good head of wild brownies and a decent grayling population.  The extent of vegetaion around the river , in the river and even blocking the river makes for fascinating fishing and also gives plenty of fish holding lies.  Getting the fish out of them is an altogether different problem.

The mayfly pattern I use is dead simple and I have put it up on the blog once before so I won't bore you with it .  basically a simple variation of an ethafoam body mayfly .  All my flies fulfil a simple rule. easy and quick to tie,  I lose a lot to bankside trees. 

This picture is pretty typical  of the stream although there are also some pools that would over top my chesties if I was to show to much bravado . Its a lovely little stream and I have fished it for quite some years . Long time blog readers may well recognise it .  Its a very small club that controls it it is perfect .

That was Friday night but on Sunday I had arranged to visit Foston beck again ,  I had offered a day to a friend and also had just discovered that weed cutting is about to start.  That will destroy the fishing for a week or so and therefore the opportunity needed taking .  This season the little chalk stream has fished wonderfully . The wet winter has filled up the aquifers and it is running at a sublime level.  The weed is growing fast but I reckon that the cut could have waited a week or two.

The Wild brownies here are pretty but in a much more subdued way than the spate river fish I catch so often ,  more silver and less vivid spots mark them apart .  But also and by comparison the stream is stocked and the stockies whilst been bigger do not possess the same glorius colours.   

This is such a pretty stream though with thick ranunculas beds and heavy reed growth at the sides .  Also and unlike most chalk streams wading is allowed and in many places is an absolute requirement due to the overgrown nature of the stream.  It is this overgrown nature that is much of the attraction to me . I have fished some of the legendary southern chalk streams and for instance the Itchen whilst fascinating did not inspire me .  Mown banks and pristine trimmed Bankside vegetation is a little sterile for my rough stream Northern upbringing . 

Pretty isn't it....No mayfly though they don't like the hard bottom....

Thursday 17 May 2018

Savour every day like its your last

There is no doubt that if ever I was given the chance of starting again in life then becoming a fly fisherman is one thing that would not be changed .  I am hard pushed to think of anything other than my family which has given me such pleasure during my life .  It isn't always easy and doesn't always bring you the success that you want but it is always gratifying .  I wrote a piece recently in Fly fishing and Fly tying magazine taking a humorous look at growing old and fly fishing ,  one of the serious points in the writing was how the pleasure gained from fishing has become more holistic as I get older .  The pleasure coming more and more from the whole experience ,  the catch whilst important is not the be all and end all .  

The places that I am privileged to fish are in themselves places of true beauty .  Peace, tranquillity and nature combine to provide me with a place where the everyday stresses are banished .  I know I am fortunate that the corner of the country where I live is a little less congested and a lot less unspoilt than so many parts of the UK .  But for many of us when we are fishing the "place " where we are has little to do with the physical surroundings .  

I visited my Dad the other evening as I do a few times a week.  He is nearly 90 and due to ill health is in a nursing home .  My interest in angling was stirred by him and also encouraged .  Sadly he is increasingly frail and struggling with Alzheimer's. Recently we chatted about fishing and it saddens him that he can not recall so many of the incidents I remind him of from when we fished together .  He said to me "Savour every day like its your last" You will never know when your last days fishing could be and you damn well will want to remember it.  A sobering thought but I guess none of us knows what lurks around the corner. 

Dad was a coarse fisherman , his favoured quarry was the roach and I think he always thought I had betrayed my roots by becoming a "posh" fly fisherman .   I have to say that there is nothing coarse about fishing for Roach its a fish that demands a high level of skill and delicate tackle.  He always loved fishing in rivers , he went to a commercial still water once many years ago that day he caught the biggest roach he had every caught and also the biggest perch but he never wanted to go to one again . There was no wildlife and it was like fishing in a bloody goldfish bowl was his considered opinion.  I showed him the picture above , ( ipads are great for that ) and I was pleased to say that he did say it was a river he could enjoy .   He also asked if the bluebells were out last week and was there plenty of wildlife around the stream.  I guess old Dad understands about the holistic thing as well.  

Why Bamboo? because its its a joy, thats why! and they are effective....

 After pretty much a lifetime of fishing and being a fly fisherman for 54 years now I have learned a bit about fly fishing ,  mainly I have ...