Sandbagged!

Sandbagged!
Photograph by Steve Barnett

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Busy Day

It was another chopping and changing day for your correspondent and his pal, Henry.


The Hawthorn flies seem to have finished their honeymoons for the year and most dry fly anglers hereabouts will be willing the Drake to begin theirs as soon as possible.



No Drake yet but lots of flies around of a variety of species.  This is what made the day a busy one, and added a certain something to the proceedings. The first few fish came to a size 14 Double Badger, which was chosen because there were no fish rising "four to the minute" with their attentions fixed on a specific fly.  The Double Badger makes a good fake for many different real flies and looks to be a decent mouthful.  Anyway it was working.



Then the fish started to rise more frequently and it quickly became clear that they were choosing something specific from the buffet bar near their sky.  What was it?  Aphids!  But not green ones.  Fat little, dark brown creatures that had gorged on sap to the point when Gravity took them from the leaves in the canopy.


On with a size 20 Sturdy's Fancy and the next fish was the biggest of the day! A fine brown trout with all fabulous colours that Lathkill Brown Trout are so famous for.

After a few more fish it all went quiet.  The Double Badger went back on to continue its coaxing duties.  Henry and Regular Rod continued to wander up stream, picking pockets as we went...

Mid-afternoon saw the first flotilla of duns sail by.  Untouched for a good ten minutes.  Then it started.  What a sight!  Fly choice was easy.  The slight backward angle of the Blue Winged Olive's wings is very distinctive.


Chop off the Double Badger and change to a Kite's Imperial and choose your fish!


This river is always a bit of a test for the angler.  Here the water is so clear the fish can see you from quite a distance.  Creeping about is the only way to earn any real success.  Scare a fish on the mother river, the Derbyshire Wye, and you put down all the fish in that pool.  Scare one on the Lathkill and the effect can spread over 100 yards!  These banks may be mown a little bit but the river has lots of cover so careful casting is required.  The back cast has to be watched as much as the forward cast.  Failure to take this precaution will get your fly stolen by that precious, fish-holding, cover.

Very soon the Drake will be on the menu.  On some days the fly will go on at the start of the fishing and only come off when packing up.  Meanwhile, I reckon we may well be occupied by another week or so of chopping and changing!




Regular Rod

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Minimalism anyone?

Now past the usual allotted span, your faithful correspondent lays claim to still having the enthusiasm of youth.  It must be so, as events today surely prove?  In the rush and hastiness to get tackled up and down river to begin fishing this day, the old Brady shoulder bag was left behind on the garden table! 


Fortunately the Kite's Imperial, chosen simply because the day was so bright and sunny, had been tied on AND... anointed!  This proved to be of vital import when, after a couple of miles wandering down river to sit by the tail pool of Ogden Island on Derbyshire's River Wye, the bag was reached for and found to not be over the shoulder where it usually is.  Calamity!  I've never fished one of those "One Fly Only All Day" competitions and I don't believe I'd do very well in one if I did.  Ooh!  Careful now, the floatant is at home, as are the scissors, leader material, fly boxes and other apparatus.  Lose the fly and, although there are many in your hat band, they are not ready to repel water!  Now dashing off like that must go to show that the youthful enthusiasm for our "Great Sport" is still there...  Or does it only show that advancing years have rendered this angler.... forgetful?


Henry!  Don't sit on the landing net!  We will need it soon!
The choice of fly was a good guess.  Sport was not brisk but it was still to be had by sitting quietly, observing carefully and letting the fish show us where they are.  


See!  I told you we would be needing that net!
At one point the fly was broken off in some trailing vines of ivy, dangling just a bit too low for the attempted side cast. Happily it was possible to lasso the fly with the tip ring and recover it to hand and retie it onto the, now slightly shorter, tippet.  




A bonus was watching a Big Momma Grayling on her redd.  The snaps aren't very good.  Laziness led to the 'phone being the only camera to hand. 
  

The mother river this year is in amazing condition.  Clear, higher than usual, teeming with life and ready to give her presents to those ready to receive them. 

Maybe a copy of the check list needs printing off again and pinning to the garden door to be read just before stepping out onto the riverside footpath?

Best wishes to you all.


Regular Rod


Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Alert! Alert! Urgent! Urgent!



For the next three weeks, if you are fishing in the North Country rivers of Great Britain, you are very likely to need some suitable fakes of the Grannom.  May I please suggest you get back to the vice and tie a few if you have not yet done so?  

On Monday I was vexed to see that I only had one in my fly box and one in my hat band.  

"Cobblers' kids are always barefoot!"  

Hence this URGENT public service message!


Regular Rod

Monday, 1 April 2019

Change of plans...





Henry and your faithful correspondent spent some of this last Winter in reconnaissance.  The changes to the river within its upper reaches (nearer to home than down towards the confluence) were all cheerfully observed and committed to memory.  The snowdrops were marvelled at.  The newly scoured gravel beds were smiled upon.  The large woody debris, much of which had been relocated by the floods, was observed with satisfaction.  In the mind's eye, of the dry fly angler, a scheme for making the most of Opening Day was pictured, with prospective ambush points already planned.

What actually happened was somewhat different.

The angler overlaid!  

This All Fools' Day the plan was to open the season on the Mother river in and around the places already reconnoitred.  This river has more anglers to fish it than the tributary waters usually chosen for a Regular Rod's opening day.  Being at least two hours later than intended, space would likely be at a premium.  The decision to change plans was an easy one to make... 

Dog, tackle and angler were therefore loaded into the motor car and a short drive to a parking space at the top end of the lower beat was followed by some furious threading of line and speedy tying on of a Double Badger.  The walk down to the bottom of the beat, on the right bank, was a brisk one.  The walk was just enough to get the brain in gear and fully into waterside resident mode again.

Back to basics, we had not done any reconnaissance down this end of the river.  No fond imaginings had prepared us for where to set to for some fishing.  

So what did your blogger do?  

He sat down and hid from the fish, observed the water and fished where he saw the fish were.  That's what he did!  

It was not completely straightforward.  Very few fish were to be seen rising (normal for this early in the season).  


The first fly was invisible in the lighting conditions so that was changed from a Double Badger to a Red Hackle.  Visibility problems over and done with and the fly now cast more accurately had the first fish coming to the net, much to Henry's delight and his Dad's relief.  Blanking on opening day is horrible.


Sport was, as expected, slow but satisfying.  It was good to say "Hello!" to so many anglers today.  It was good to watch Henry working the marginal flotsam to gather up lost tennis balls together with a yellow racing duck!  (No doubt from last summer's charity plastic duck race through Bakewell).


Reconnaissance is a great tool for the dry fly angler, but sometimes it has to be done there and then, rather than in advance!

Have a great season everyone...



Regular Rod




Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Happy Christmas and A Good New Year to You All

A few winters ago, 5 minutes after this exposure (made with the 8x10 view camera), the blizzard came so thick the river was invisible from this viewpoint!

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Trout are not Carp

Do be quick and careful with the trout please.

In the 1950s a chap, who many years later would be a pal of mine, used to transport carp around in the boot of his car.  They were simply wrapped in wet moss and sacking.  They all survived well.  Today, watch a TV programme about carp fishing and you will see them out of water for several minutes, while the cameras are put to work.  They then go back with no ill effects.

Trout cannot bear more than very few seconds out of water, especially big ones after a tough and long fight with an angler.  The best policy for such trout is to simply return them straight from the net with no delay for photographs at all.  We can get away with a quick snap if we have everything ready before taking the trout out of the water.  Net the fish, remove the fly, put net and fish back in the water, ready the camera, lift net and fish out and make the snap then put the net back in the water, lower it and let the fish swim out to freedom and oxygen.

If you don't.  If the fish is posed with for several photographs then tragedy like this can happen.

 
 
Alive this would have been a little bit over 10lbs., dead it can never make another Angler's day...
Sorry for the lecture folks, it's just a reminder that these fellows are not as strong as some of the other types of fish we are lucky enough to catch.

Enjoy what is left of the season.


Best wishes




Regular Rod

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Happy Birthday USA

Happy 4th of July to all.

Unsure of the traditional celebrations over there, but surely a few hours by a stream wouldn't be out of place?  Whatever you choose to do, enjoy yourselves.






Regular Rod

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Watch this Video please...

It's best to go directly to YouTube and watch it full screen.

https://youtu.be/2kLAsQf9Jic




This is the only limestone spring fed river in the British Isles.  The upper river, about two miles of it, dries up every summer due to historic industrial activity that still makes the upper river a death trap for everything that moved into it during the winter and spring.  Fish rescues only catch some of the trout and nothing rescues the millions of invertebrates that die when the river dries up.




Regular Rod

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Delayed Action

2018 will be remembered for its persistence in reverting back to winter after every brief spell of sun! 

It brings to mind the old music hall joke about the English summer: "Oh we had a wonderful summer last year.  Unfortunately I missed it...  I was shaving at the time."

Here we are, almost a month into the season and the wind is cold, the sky is leaden and the flies are showing themselves only in little flurries of activity.  Today the Lathkill, that beautiful, limestone spring-fed tributary of the Derbyshire Wye, was calling.  This winter the keepers had worked very hard on giving this beat its pentennial "haircut" so a natural curiosity to see what things were like was only to be expected.
Click it to see it bigger.  See how there are none of the yellow Lesser Celandine flowers opened up.
Yet here we are with Lady's Smock, blooming well, supported by the grasses around it.
The river looks amazing.  There has been so much rain this year that the flow, which usually chuckles along, today was steaming through like a mountain torrent.  The fly line had to be managed at break neck speed to maintain contact with the fly.  The river may be high and swift but the water is as clear as gin.  Too much caution therefore could not be exercised in the approach.  Crawling into position was still vital.

There were some Large Dark Olives skittering about on the surface, dragged hither and thither by the erratic breezes.  Not one was being eaten.  Very occasionally a singleton Grannom would appear and, in one or two cases, these were eaten... with alacrity!  On with the Fresh Grannom then onto the knees and a careful sneak into position. 
He really is behaving himself here.  Just behind me there is a pheasant and I've told him "Stay!"
Waiting and watching was frustrating for Henry but he behaved himself and refrained from distraction so that his pal could concentrate on the quarry.  The first fish was a brown trout typical of this water, dotted to perfection and with bright red rays to the lower edge of her tail.  This strip of red was augmented by the red adipose fin giving the impression of redness all over, although buttery yellow was the predominant colour really.

All were brown trout except for one wild rainbow trout that zoomed all over the pool twice before being tricked into the net.  Henry was very relieved to see it there (so was I)...

The "haircut" has been a success.  Casting here is now quite easy yet the fish still have their overhangs and other cover to lurk in.  It's a beautiful place and, even though we are still under the cold hand of a late winter, there is Sport to be had, if we turn up to fish.
Fresh Grannom
The Grannom is really over now, so don't waste time tying any up for this year.  Just makes sure you have some for April 2019!

On St. George's day there were Hawthorn flies about, which meant they were two days early, St. Mark's day is when they are supposed to appear.  Next week they will be around so Charles Cotton's Black Fly will most likely be the best bet, especially if we finally get a bit of sunshine...






Regular Rod

Sunday, 1 April 2018

All Fool's Day 2018...

...  fell on Easter Day this year!

The rain had been so heavy that the Club's breakfast morning in the Baden Powell Fishing Hut was cancelled.  30 motor cars stuck in the mud would have been dreadful, not to mention the wrath of the tenant farmer for the destruction of his pasture land!


Instead it was breakfast at home and then out to a lovely tributary of the mother river.  This little river is a pure limestone spring-fed river, the only one in England.  As you can see from these snaps, the water is as clear as gin.  The trout can see you from a distance.  Stealth is even more vital here than it is on the mother river, the Derbyshire Wye.  Scare a trout on the Wye and you ruin your chances in that pool for quite a while.  Scare a trout in this tributary and you can ruin your chances for a hundred yards or more and for an even longer time. These trout are beautiful, well fed creatures with gold and red bejewelled skins.  They make it worth the angler's while to be very careful and very stealthy in the approach.

Henry was delighted to be helping with the fishing again and seemed to know in advance exactly where we were going to sit.  He did move over to let your correspondent get in position but only after hissed instructions to "Budge Up!".


The plan was to stop fishing once six had been caught (and released).  It was a good plan, which kept us on the move, catching only one fish at each place we decided to fish.  The first fish was caught by prospecting with a likely fly, the Double Badger.  The Double Badger works well when Large Dark Olives are on the water and as these flies were expected to show up at any time, the Double Badger was put on (and kept on).


The Large Dark Olives duly appeared shortly after the second fish was returned.  This made finding and catching the last four a lot easier...


This trout was the fifth caught.  It had a large leech on it, which was removed immediately, after all, one good turn deserves another!  A healed hole was evident on its right upper body just below and in front of the dorsal fin.  The heron will have missed a meal a few months ago and this trout will get to pass on its survivor genes to its progeny, if it can keep out of harm's way until Christmas!  The markings are very distinct so an ID photograph was made.  It will be easy to recognise if caught again.

It would have been easy to give All Fool's Day a miss but this happy angler was glad that the effort was made.  The reward was better than any chocolate egg could ever be!


Did you all celebrate Easter this year with a spot of fishing?




Regular Rod




Tuesday, 27 March 2018

"Anticipation is ...

the greater part of pleasure" according to Angela Carter, and I guess she was right. 

Certainly the members of the Peacock Fly Fishing Club have plenty to anticipate this year.  The annual pre-season meeting got underway last night in the restaurant at Haddon Hall and it was packed!  



More than sixty of us turned up to get our membership cards and this year's first newsletter.  Bodies and souls were kept together with a variety of fresh cut sandwiches and chips (chips in England are French Fries in America). 



Our popular, and highly innovative, river keepers held everyone's keen attention with their thoughtfully worked out agenda.  The subjects of which included:
  • phosphate stripping,
  • invasive non native species and their effect on water clarity,
  • our glorious osprey and the efforts made to help him make Haddon his marital home,
  • the availability of emergency fly fishing supplies in the Baden Powell Fishing Hut, which will be managed via an honesty box,
  • the opening day breakfast to be prepared and held therein and...
  • the news of more coarse fishing water available to members at the little lake by Youlgrave! 


This water is a marvellous venue to take a beginner for their first fishing trip.  Your faithful correspondent had the pleasure a couple of years ago to take a very good friend who had been trying for years, without success, to get her river keeper husband to teach her some of our Gentle Art... 
 

Here she is having some great success using a garden cane rod with home-made bird quill float and enjoying every moment of it too!


Lift Bite!
A Bream
All Fools' Day is this Sunday.  The weather forecast is poor.  Who cares?  Not me!  Enjoy your season dear reader, remember Woody Allen reckons that 80% of success is turning up...






Regular Rod

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Needle Knot

The stats indicate that the most popular post of this blog is the one explaining how to make leaders for dry fly fishing. 
That post includes the line drawing that shows how to make the needle knot to attach the fly line but there was no picture of the finished knot.  So here you are.
 
 
  
 
Still pretty neat...

 
Regular Rod

Friday, 25 August 2017

Chopping and Changing

Today we went to Duck Holds Wood.  Sometimes this dry fly fishing can be hard work.  Hard work in that a fair bit of chopping and changing was needed for fish to be tricked into making that mistake we all want them to make.  The first pool had the occasional rise showing.  The water was boisterous so a very visible fly was chosen, the Nondescript Sedge.  It was probably the right fly as there were lots of sedge flies over and on the water.  After a couple of fish it was time to move.  The method had really been more of an exploratory bit of prospecting as the rises were nowhere near four to the minute, the usual signature of confident fish feeding at the surface. 

One of the steady risers that seemed to be eating midges and fell for the Sturdy's Fancy
The next pool up is a lovely gliding bit of water that is actually full of snags.  Here the fish were rising very confidently to something small.  No olives were showing so midge was guessed as the main course for this dainty remove.  On with a Sturdy's Fancy, your blogger has given up on the attempts to devise the perfect midge and now reverts to this fly, or else a tiny Grey Duster or even an Aphid but tied with a black body.  The Sturdy's Fancy proved to be ideal and a few more fish came to the net, much to Henry's delight (and mine).

A happy chappy!


Moving upriver, the fish were back to occasional rises in a lovely run by a veritable thatch of willow.  The tiny fly was ignored.  This time a Double Badger was deployed as there was no real sedge fly activity but the Double Badger hints at so many different types of fly and the fish often fall for it.  So it was here.  This is a lovely pool but it took me four seasons of visits before I ever caught anything here.  The fish were there to be seen but catching them was harder than it should have been.  Now, with a bit of thinking, it is usual to catch at least one fish here.


Sturdy's Fancy on a favourite rod, the Wilson International, a very traditional English Dry Fly Rod

So it went on, here a gliding pool with fish rising steadily, on with the Sturdy's Fancy.  There some boisterous water with fish either not showing or only rising occasionally, on with the Double Badger.  This was the way, swapping between these two flies and replacing the tippet when it became too short for the work in hand.  It's not really hard work but it could easily have remained undone to the detriment of our prospects today.  Today wasn't one of those, "Try every fly in the box!" days, only three flies were needed.  This wasn't haphazard.  It was necessary because, along these three delightful furlongs, fish behaviour varied today according to the type of water they were living in.


You will be aware that your faithful correspondent hesitates to make photographs of fish these days, preferring to get them back into the river as quickly and as gently as possible.  This trout although not much more than 10 inches long came from a very tricky spot, a place for a boss fish.  A photo ID of it could prove useful in future years.  Those markings will be very easy to recognise.

Of course, on another day, the fish will be all feeding in the same manner over the whole river and dry fly fishing becomes dead easy again with no need for all this chopping and changing at all!



(Click on the pictures for a closer look.)

Regular Rod