Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Covid and the Art of Fly fishing

 

Fly fishing its a Holistic thing...A few thoughts 

One of the books I remember the most from my teenage years was " Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance " it was a book looking at metaphysics and quality and if you choose to read it will explain why its linked to my blog title and the post in a number of ways. It`s  a book well worth reading.

Anyway this year I have been fortunate that I have  been affected a lot less adversely than many people ,but lets be honest all in all its been a year unlike no other . To many people have suffered and died  and it has brought out the best in many people and also the worst in others. I don`t know how others feel about this but it has also heightened the awareness of how fortunate we are as fly fishers to have something at our disposal which allows us to escape .  





Just as an aside I run my own business and have a office in a small business centre . For some weeks the office across the corridor has been vacant and I saw a lady in there the other day , she has taken the lease. After a brief conversation I asked what her business involved , she answered she is a Holistic therapist , now I wouldn`t say I am a total sceptic but my eyebrows perhaps raised a little . When I think about therapy I have always considered fly fishing excellent for mental well being. Mental well being is something which has challenged so many in society this year and I believe the years challenges have sought many to seek something different . The fly fishing club I help to run has seen a large increase in those seeking to join and we now have the longest waiting list for many years. This is something that other clubs are reporting .

After meeting the lady.  I googled Holistic "Holistic is an adjective that describes things related to the idea that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In other words, that the entirety of something must be considered instead of just considering its parts. This philosophy is called holism, and that's where the word holistic comes from."



I also then Googled fly fishing "Fly fishing is an angling method that uses a light-weight lure—called an artificial fly—to catch fish. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line. The light weight requires casting techniques significantly different from other forms of casting. The flies may resemble natural invertebrates, baitfish, or other food "... 

As someone who has fly fished for fifty years now personally the definition of Holistic defines better what fly fishing is to me than the Wiki definition of fly fishing which doesn`t get close really .  As I have got older and fished for longer like many people the experience has changed I, like many went through the "must catch more fish " then "must catch bigger fish" and then "Must catch more bigger fish of species X" . These days its about the whole experience , the Surroundings , the wildlife the degree of perfection in the fish,  I find myself resenting stocked fish as if they are intruding in an otherwise perfect world.  I am even changing how I choose to fish. 



This year I have found myself rediscovering the joy of bamboo and silk . After getting a cane rod made some years ago it was only this year when I put a silk line on it that I really felt it work for me.  I have since added a couple more and am currently starting to build another cane rod from a blank . Its a given that I will never split the cane myself of weave my own silk line ,but I don`t make my own hooks and yet the pleasure of catching on flies I tie myself is a constant joy.  So I will see where the holistic Journey ends don`t expect to find me sitting next to the stream , legs crossed and humming gently but I must confess I seem to find more time these days to just sit on the bank and lean back against a tree and smile at my own good fortune. I can thoroughly recommend it.  I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a healthy and holistic new year. See you on the river bank...

Monday, 12 October 2020

CDC Floatants which work best ...my thoughts on a few

A few weeks ago I managed to leave behind my normal CDC floatant when I went out fishing .  I have been using Miracle float for the last couple of years and have been happy with it apart from the cost and the difficulty of buying it .  Anyway I resorted to my red mucilin tippet floatant which I had with me and just made my finger ends greasy by the merest touch of it then worked the CDC between thumb and forefinger . I was astonished by how well it worked as well as anything I have tried, that prompted me to have a bit of an experiment . Over the last few years I have used red mucilin on tippets. Dilly Wax on hackles and miracle float on CDC and have been happy enough .  



Up front and Just to Clarify that all these were purchased by myself and are a bit of a random selection obviously favouring those that market themselves as CDC products. .  I have tried to get a decent representative sample of whats on the market .  


Its difficult to do a meaningful test on this sort of stuff but this is how I had a go and the conclusions I came to.

The first test was to simply see how long the flies would stay afloat with a single dressing . The two top right were the benchmark both just untreated CDC .  The one without the label is my bottle of miracle float I have been using for quite a while . I repeated this with different new flies including a batch of my home tied fuller dressed ones and the results were very largely the same .  As can be seen the products were by : Loon , Gulff, Veniards , Hends ,Guideline, Miracle Float and Trout hunter ,Dilly Wax and red Mucilin



So the tray with treated flies and a couple of untreated flies .  The f fly without liquid floatant but with the Silca powder treatment worked very well at the first time of treatment 



The two untreated CDC sunk first one sank within a couple of minutes the second at 4.5 minutes , which itself was pleasing as it showed that to some extent the products all worked .  Just as a note in a effort to get identical flies I prevailed upon my mate Richard who is the proprietor of https://www.barbless-flies.co.uk/ who kindly supplied me with them in the interests of Science , I tie my own and very few are identical and I wanted to have new flies for each trial .  The remaining flies all stayed afloat apart from the Loon treated one and after 20 minutes I started tapping the end of the tray I figured this would cause similar disturbance for each fly .  the level of tapping was increased and any further sinkers was noted with the times.  I repeated the test several times the results were remarkably similar .  



The results were as follows: 
The ice cube tray test demonstrated the following :  Flies were just floated without agitation to start with all the treated flies were similar and remained afloat . I allowed them to stay there untouched for 20 minutes . Then I agitated the flies increasingly hard until eventually resorted to pushing them below the surface.
When the periods of agitation were over all but one treated flies still floated each fly was then in turn pushed below the surface .  The flies that kept popping back to the top the best were the Guideline , Miracle float . red Mucilin and Silicon powder , However when the test was repeated with flies that were dried and retreated with floatant the floatability was not as good even for the Silicon powder only .  However when the treated and dried flies were dusted with Silicon all the results were as good as using a new fly with liquid floatant.




Okay so the test report is a bit rambling , but after checking the above results with a bit of riverside checking over the last month or two  this is my conclusion.. 

 1, With CDC floatant its all about getting the amount you use correct, this is influenced by lots of things , Consistency of the product , The thinner ones were harder to apply correctly, the key is having a greasiness between your fingers and then massaging the feathers if there is a real wetness then you have to much , I found the Trout hunter , Gulff , Veniards and Loon Lochsa were on the thin side . The Gulff Nozzle was well designed and helped. The loon nozzle dispensed to much to easily. The Hends and Guideline were good but a little to stiff , after they spent a few minutes in the fridge they were very hard to dispense ,  not ideal for cold days .

2, The best and easier in the field for me are the Miracle float and the red Mucilin which surprised me but to me performed as well as anything as long as the user has a feel for the right amount to use , which is the key to using any of them successfully .

3. Once you have your fly treated initially the key to success is not treating the CDC with more floatant but it is to dry it with Amadou or kitchen roll. ( The bamboo kitchen roll  stuff is best ) or use the elastic band twang trick. just dry and the apply silicon powder to the fly I have caught up to a dozen fish on the same fly by just washing of the fly and going through the process. Doing this test has reinforced what I had been doing for years and it appears that treated flies once drowned and dried seem to retain a slight stickiness which enables the Silicon to stick to the CDC fibres . They work better than flies that had not been treated .

4 .  So my recommendation would be to use either red mucilin , miracle float or guideline. But indeed most of them work but some are just a hell of a lot easier to apply correctly.  Each perform slightly better as temperature varies ,.  Personally I shall use the red mucilin. The other treatments may well end up in the Christmas raffle at my local club.

So.... A new fly should be treated with floatant then after a few casts or when it is drowned,  dried and have Silicon powder applied .  I think that reapplying floatant is counter productive ,  If you have never used any CDC treatements before most will work but the Miracle float and guideline are a good consistency to allow the right amount to be dispensed easily.  If you are used to CDC then I think any will work although a few of the thinner ones were impossible for me to apply correctly ..




This is CDC that has been treated with floatant then fished and dried and had powder re applied 



CDC fly with Silicon powder which clearly clings to flies that have been treated and dried. This is after a few fish and a lot of fishing. 



Underneath Untreated CDC fibres 




I am sure people will read and disagree,  but the key is like a lot of things its not what you use but how you use it.  Incidentally I have been using Silicon powder from the internet for years just filling up the old bottle . If you want to know what I buy then feel free to PM me .....


Monday, 28 September 2020

Small Stream Grayling



 

So it looks like the Trout season is done and dusted for the year .   There have been no monsters but a few good ones well good ones for the streams I fish.  The late start due to Covid didnt help matters much . then the August drought slowed things up . Amongst other things that are new to me this season  I have brought the cane rods out of storage in particular one I had built a few years ago and didnt really bond with it.  Getting the right line for the rod has brought it alive and have enjoyed the feel of a fish on cane rod and casting a silk line and am now looking forward to next season  and getting used to the feel of cane and silk and hopefully getting to understand what I want, then I plan to invest invest in a bespoke rod.  Cant help but worry that I need to go through the learning curve again.  The last ten or 15 years years has seen so many carbon rods come and go as I worked out what was right for me .  I dont want to make the expensive mistake with cane and have the wrong thing built.




Anyway the truth is although the trout season finishes next week apart from potential sea trout in my local stream during October thats my trout fishing finished for the winter. its likely I wont do much sea trout fishing as my enthusiasm for chucking metal about or spinning as the afficionado would call it.  I know its effective but i really struggle to be enthusiastic about it.   Although I confess that I have been known to put a hildibrandt spoon on a fly rod , now shame on you the crowd yell take him out and flog him jeer the fly only crowd.  But it is legal and it is very effective and I can sort of kid myself that at least I caught on a fly rod it also lets me dibble a lure in the places the guys with the Mepps tend to walk past.

This year I have joined a new club well actually two and will look forward to them again next year . I have enjoyed not catching more than the very occasional stocked fish and have loved the wild fish that populate the streams .  So looking forwards now  the door to the trout season has virtually closed as this weekend has been a mixture of a blowout and a washout as the storms hit fairly hard in these parts  So the little chap below is likely to be my last Trout of 2020. The aphid pattern in his mouth and the fallen leaves on the water tell their own story. 




So it looks like the end of the trout season for 2020 will be remembered for me by the quality of the grayling I have caught in the last couple of weeks , it also heightens my level of optimism for the next months . All the rivers I fish have Grayling but there are two particularly ,  one would seem to have a particularly healthy population  of fish that run to decent but not exceptional size the other seems to have very low population but with some real clunkers that show up from time to time .  the one at the top is an example. Variations on this theme have been doing well for this year .  Or a silver beaded version .  Size 16 and 18. 



Despite what you read or some experts would have you believe a 2lb Grayling is a very very special fish I fished for many years before I found one, a 3 lber is a fish of a lifetime and certainly something that will probably evade me  and anything over a pound and a half is a real specimen.  I think that sadly Social media and magazine reporting has given many an unrealistic view of what fish they could reasonably expect to catch to some extent with Grayling and most definitely with trout .  This then drives pressure on clubs and other fisheries to stock,  As I said in my last post it surely cannot be coincidence that the two rivers that I fish that are completely un stocked are the ones that consistently deliver the better fish .  



Saturday, 19 September 2020

Summer is leaving Autumn is coming...

 

Catching this fellow at the weekend reminded me that the Trout season is nearly over .  Due to Covid  the Season has been the shortest one ever.   But what there has been has been of good quality .  My little North Yorkshire Streams have been in fine form for the majority of the season .  With a short period in August when the streams became very very low and the fishing dipped a little . But the quality of the fish has throughout been superb. 



This stream has produced some wonderful Brown trout . Pristine and wild they are a pleasure to briefly hold.  For the first time in many years I can say that the number of stocked fish I have caught has been less than the fingers on one hand. That alone has given me immense pleasure. I have over the years fished nearly all the Vale of York streams ,  It surely cannot be a coincidence that the un stocked ones have a greater fish population and also better average native  fish size .  





this is an example of what a proper wildie should look like and on a two or three weight rod they are great fun this was out of a stream that is only about 3 - 4 yards wide...


This was my best trout at the weekend . They are still rising freely .  They do not give themselves up though , they are very skittish and careful wading and casting are the key.  



So as we move towards the end of September its goodbye from the trout and hello to the Grayling.. 



Although not the biggest this sis the stamp of fish that I encounter all the time .. It is going to be a good winter 




Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Small Streams, Cane rods and pretty fish


How can i add much to these photos.   This was my Saturday . I had intended to fish elsewhere but a farmer working noisily , together with cattle in the stream put me of and I gravitated back to one of my favourites .  Despite the very low conditions and very spooky trout I managed a few 


Its been a while since I had taken the cane rod out for an outing .  Forgotten how nice it feels with a fish on the end. 



Pretty fish on a pretty stream , simple pleasures 


Its normally 6 inches deeper than this . On a small stream thats a lot...I spooked a lot more than I landed ... a hell of a lot more .


 First time out for the new reel .  It balances the cane very nicely ...perfectly you could say 



 Something very soothing about moving water....



Monday, 3 August 2020

Yorkshire Day. The river Ure, Flyfishing and Yorkshire Trout and Grayling


Yesterday was "Yorkshire Day"  .  A day to celebrate our County and its heritage and Beauty .   By coincidence I had planned a day of fishing .  To the river Ure in Wenslydale.  A more Yorkshire fishing destination is hard to imagine .  I had invited a friend along for the day .  Part of the fun of membership of Fly fishing clubs or syndicates is that it gives you the opportunity of sharing days with friends .  Apart from good company  on the day the cries of lapwings , curlews and the occasional buzzard overhead added to the scenery.  As for fishing conditions , well low water , bright sun and a cold downstream wind made fishing challenging .


We both were hoping for dry fly fishing but on the day the conditions told us"Nymph" . But after a bit of fruitless Nymphing in the faster runs I switched to a duo .My fist decent fish was a Grayling which came up and hammered the Klinkhammer.  After that we both pretty much reverted to dries occasionally casting to the sparse visible rising fish but mainly casting to likely lies and holding places .  here is my Guest for the day happily exploring the Skinny water 


My first few fish were dwarfed by a pretty average Cuban Cigar this was the first decent fish to show .   On a dry fly despite both of trying nymphs extensively all fish came of the top  despite there been very little evidence of rising fish .  It was a case of putting a fly where you thought a fish should be .


Apart from a couple of little wildies the other trout that showed up was this one and one a good bit bigger .  Pretty sure that despite the colours this was a stocked fish .  Pulled well though and was welcome on a pretty slow tough day. 


I suppose the winner on the day was Wenslydale . Tremendous scenery a beautiful river and the sounds of Curlews , lapwings and Oyster catchers , even a kingfisher put in an appearance.  On the day we sort of ended honours even I had six trout and two Grayling ,  my guest did the opposite with six grayling and 2 trout. He has a well deserved reputation of been able to sniff out a grayling in a puddle. 


Sunday, 19 July 2020

Chalk and Cheese


The title is an old saying popular in the English language and it refers to things which are totally different ,  It  also links the two places I have fished this week rather nicely .  Not having had any significant time of work since Christmas I decided this week to have three days of.  Wednesday I planned to fish the Ure .  A beautiful Yorkshire Dales river flowing through Wenslydale .  Interestingly Wenslydale is the only one of the Yorkshire Dales which is not named after the river that flows through it ,  it is named after the town that is shares its name with .  It also shares its name with a famous cheese , Wenslydale is a delightful crumbly pleasure recently made famous by that cartoon series Wallace and grommit.   The chalk half of the saying is relevant because of the delightful Chalk stream that I was invited to fish on during Friday .  The Yorkshire Wolds are a series of rolling chalk hills that are host to a few Spring fed streams of extraordinary clarity and richness ,  it was the Driffield West beck that a Friend invited me for a day ,  but first was the Ure this was one of the first areas we explored my companion is there exploring the faster water.


The river was at a reasonable summer level,  and was running that nice colour which can either be said to resemble cold tea or a fine Yorkshire beer depending on how you like to describe it.



For once this yours truly pictured mid stream and rather smartly photographed which would indicate that the casting style is somewhere near decent ,  Also perhaps confirming that photos can be very misleading .





The Ure is a largish freestone river famous for its trout and Grayling , it is one of the birthplaces of Spider ( Soft hackle ) fishing ,  It is also infamous for its ability to rise with terrifying speed should heavy rain fall at the head of the valley. On the day I shared the day with a good friend who made the journey over there at the same time ,  As far as the fishing went the least said the better the highlight of the day was in the end the scenery and the sound of curlews , My Companion had the better of it , My tally was a few small brownies most came in the last hour or two of a long day .  My companion had both a a decent trout and a nice Grayling as well as other bits ,  On Friday it was a different story the fish gods shone on me . aided by some canny guiding this was the result.






This next  picture gives an idea of both the size and the extraordinary clarity of the stream .




Fridays trip ending up being a totally different day ,  the day was blessed on a number of counts ,  the weather was kind , the Wolds streams can be a trifle windy ,  Or more accurately a gentle summers breeze down at sea level at my home can turn into a wind that bends trees over up on the wolds .  The fish were there in profusion and for a change Lady Luck was smiling on me .  But more importantly my host as well as being a damm fine angler is extremely knowledgable about the stream.   I was guided skilfully to where the hotspots were .  Fish of prodigious proportions were there to be seen .  Even accompanied by a native guide many were spooked .





My first five minutes casting was rubbish ,  well more rubbish than my usual casting is ,  but after that I improved from awful to passable and settled into the day .  In the end I managed a good few fish the best two were carefully weighed at 3lb 3 oz and 2lb 12oz. The 2lb 12 was a stunning fish but avoided the camera , after been carefully weighed in the net as I went to hold it up a last thrash of the tail sent it sailing back into the river .  ah well such is life.  It was in the end a stunning day finished of by the last half an hour trying to tempt some large resident chub and Grayling a in a large deep pool.  The late afternoon sunshine beating down on our back was the signal that the day was done .  A memorable day with great company.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

A little stream and Blue winged olives .



When it all comes down to it ,  as a fly fisherman who loves small streams I guess it does not get any better than a summers evening on a pretty stream with rising fish .  When you analyse it all there are really only a couple of months maybe three at best when the evening rise has a chance to develop properly .  This year apart from Covid lockdown we have had a strange year ,  months of unbroken sunshine which followed a very wet winter , then after the recent hot spell the last few days has seen heavy downpours with rivers rising several metres almost overnight .   Anyway last Friday after viewing the weekend weather report which was for thunderstorms starting that evening and getting worse over the weekend  I decided to risk the weather.  The rivers were fairly settled and it was very warm and sticky. I decided on stretch of river based on how near I could park my Jimny if I had to exit quickly in case of downpours. 


Not big but from a tricky lie and on a dry , it will do nicely 


 I love this stream pretty wild and challenging  but a lovely place to be .  It has a good head of fish to 



It was nice to see rising fish almost immediately ,  not huge numbers but enough to promise an interesting evening ,  there were BWO coming of and so choice of fly was easy .  A size 18 fly fly with a dubbed seals fur body.  Well seals fur and artificial dubbing , I find just seals fur a pain to dub on small flies.  but mixed with some artificial dubbing it works much better.


My only company were these sheep.  They were very curious .  





This is the F Fly pattern I use this is a size 18 .  Love the spikiness of seals fur.  Body dubbing colour varies orange , olive and black are all good depending on whats hatching ,  also plain black thread body and stripped quills ,  It is a hell of a pattern



After a dodgy first 10 minutes when I caught a tree and two clumps of Grass I got into my stride. the fish were rising well but were very spooky ,  generally you only got one cast and in the very tight surroundings you have to get pretty close often roll casts between bushes were the answer ,  but you tend to do a lot of improvised casts , also you seem to spend more time checking behind your arm than aiming at the fish ,  which is why roll and spey casts are so useful as least you can keep the line in front of you.



 Lots around this size were caught ,  The bigger ones were hiding .


My car was well populated with resting fish food when I got back to it .


The highlight of the evening was the fact that the Grayling were rising to dries to . Sadly the best one of the evening was the best one I nearly had after shaking the hook and saying goodbye.  When I got back to the car it was covered in Flies, Mainly BWO but also a few Sedges and I think Olive Uprights .  I drove home after best part of four hours fishing ,  saw a few rain drops and heard the odd rumble of thunder but very little wet stuff. Only three or four miles into my Journey and roads were awash so not just a good night it had been a lucky one .  


Monday, 8 June 2020

First trip of the Season on the River Seven..( and the third )...


This post is a bit late coming .  But its here now   I am fishing a new stream this year ,  the little Lower Yorkshire Seven.  I decided that I would spend opening day ( the post covid lock down one ) not the real one on the river . So on a cold day in mid may we ventured forth.  Myself and a companion to a very low stream on a very cold day .   Amazingly we did pretty well in the few hours fishing I finished with seven pretty little wild browns.


two from the first day ,  For those technical souls amongst you size 18 CDC IOBO was the winner on the day 




I followed the trip up a week later with a return visit .  The day was much brighter and warmer sadly the river was even lower but in the few hours managed a dozen fish .  Should have been more but missed a good few .  Mayfly were hatching but the fish were not really taking them.






The river is delightful , quiet unspoilt away from both crowds and dog walkers .  Interesting varied water with a suitable number of long flats. Short rapids and everything in between to require varied approaches ,  requiring at varying times either a machette or the wading skills of a ninja assassin.



The fish are pretty and up to a suitable size to put a bend in a two or three weight . little wildies can create quite a fuss when they realise they are hooked.  This was the best of the day..




In places the casting is a bit tight .  Not impossible I might add but tight enough to be interesting and keep you coming back . Yes  I am going to enjoy it here....No I didnt catch the one I was after .  Fluffed the roll cast and spooked the bugger...


Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Normal Service restored ( well nearly )




So things are gradually returning to normal, or should I say things are settling into the new normal .   There is this new thing called Social Distancing . Well its new to some folk .  Personally have never been a lover of crowds and given that casting a fly on a secluded stream  is probably near  the polar opposite of being in a crowd . Anyway apart from that  given how Society normally works there are some pretty fundamental changes to how we live heading our way.  In a lot of ways not a bad thing I guess . 
 Anyway this last week or so has seen me get back to my local streams a couple of times ,  The streams are very very low . We have had no rain of any consequence now for several months .  But at last we are allowed out to play . The rivers although low are full of lovely free rising trout.  Even Grayling appear to be free rising at the moment . 


 I always feel immensely privileged when I fish my local streams . We still have several that are relatively unspoilt and no longer stocked .  Sadly there are still many clubs and syndicates that stock quite heavily. This impacts on both the Native Trout and also the Grayling . It is also becoming more apparent  that it impacts on peoples desire to fish them .  The club that I am Chairman of has seen a noticable change in what people are looking for. .Increasingly people are enquiring if the club waters are stocked or wild , with a preference for the latter .Also do they contain Grayling . I really believe that there are enough put and take fisheries stuffed with willing stockies and people are looking for something a bit different .  Quality over Quantity I suspect.



Anyway for now the sun is shining the rivers are buzzing the Mayfly are starting to hatch and I have a trip planned for the weekend to one of the Classic Dales rivers. So for now all is well with the world .


Well a little bit of a late addendum .  The weekend trip to the Dales didnt happen due to the ultra low water levels there . Also hearing some bad reports of the area been overun by visitors .  So as the Mayfly were starting to do there stuff and the local streams are always quiet it was another weekend spent locally.   So the pictures below are all from a couple of trips on another local stream. 
 

Just to confirm what I said about the Grayling I was surprised to catch this on a dry fly the other day . Out of season as well. The fish was lifted very briefly from the stream and I could not resist a photo and to briefly reflect on what a beautiful fish they are .  Interestingly on both these local streams the Grayling grow to a better size than the native browns do. 



In places the fishing is very tight . Roll casts and short rods are the name of the Game .


The fish are small but free rising and fight harder than there size would have you expect.



On this stream and those like it this is may favourite outfit .  A very light 7ft 3 wt . 


The lack of any rain for many months have left the streams very low ...


And left them very clear.....