Photograph by Steve Barnett

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Approaching some more...

So you have carefully positioned yourself somewhere downstream where you can watch and wait awhile.  You have enjoyed some of the wildlife in and around the river.  Maybe watched a little fry like the one pictured earlier?  Sometimes this can be heartbreaking.  I was once watching a little tiny troutlet minding his own business, intercepting the occasional food item.  When, from under a fist-sized stone, without any warning and so suddenly it made me jump, a Bullhead darted foward to engulf my little friend in one gulp! The bullhead quickly disappeared, back under the stone from whence it had launched its deadly, Monkfish-like, attack. 

If the bigger fish showed themselves no doubt you were able to enjoy some Sport with them, but now you decide it is time to start working your way upstream.  Go slowly.  Stop a lot and keep soaking it all in.  Look around for those fish that will turn you into stone if they see you.  Keep low when near the water.  As you approach a new run, or pool, or riffle, or eddy remember to watch out for those fish in the edge.  It does no harm to stop and sit down cross legged on a rock in the water's edge or loll on the grass and do a mini-watch and wait as if starting all over again.  Take your time to enjoy the pageant as it unfolds before you.

Here is a picture (click it twice to get it as big as possible) taken whilst on a mini-watch.  If anything the view point is too high as I held the camera up to get a better sight of what was going on..  It is hard to see but there are at least two rises happening as the picture was taken.  They are on the right of the faster water in  mid-stream.  The thing is, I had already seen two very decent fish rising in the fast water but was faced with another of those sentry-on-guard adventures that we looked at together last summer.  If the writing is too small under the picture by the way, just do Ctrl and + until it is big enough for you to read it easily.

So staying sat down we catch the nearer fish then the next one and this allows us chance to fish for the fish in the fast water.  All this is done on your waterproofed backside.  Do get into the habit of fishing whilst sitting down.  It sends some folk into a shocked state when they see you doing this but they start doing it too when they see your success rate.  I was once asked to fish a spot for a photograph for a magazine.  We were on the Derbyshire Wye together.  I crept into position and fished.  After a few moments my writer friend came over and said "You will have to stand up for the photograph!"  "Why?"  "You look as if you are Coarse Fishing!"  This got me laughing so much he saw the funny side of things, abandoned that photographic opportunity and later found a composition that was much better and yes, I was sitting, huddled up in the hemp agrimony and the figwort and hidden from the fish.  If you are a Coarse angler please do not forget your hard learned habits of concealment just because you are now dry fly fishing.

Those nice fish in the fast water?  Well I managed one of them.  It was not particularly big but it is probably the most beautiful brown trout in the world, well my little world anyway.  Here it is.  Who says, "Only rainbow trout have spots on their tails?" 

Do you recognise this trout's exquisite markings on its sides?  They form the front cover of the 'EXPERT' information booklet that comes with each 'EXPERT' Dry Fly Line...

We'll experiment with flies next time.  Oh, in the meantime, if you have any observations or questions to put, don't hesitate to use the comment facility.  You will get my undivided attention!

Regular Rod

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Anonymous (well it was Stephen really) said:

"I fully understand the value of thorough reconnaissance, but like a lot of anglers I have to travel a fair distance to follow my sport. How long do I wait before I go searching for the Trout when they are not rising and what tactics do you use to do so?"

The real answer to the first part of this very reasonable question is: "It all depends..."

It depends on: what time of year it is; what time of day you are starting; the nature of the water you are fishing; and what you can see already now you are there.

At the beginning and end of the season the best of the fishing day is usually compressed into a short time of about three or four hours in the centre of the daylight hours.  This is variable though, as weather conditions can change and a sudden warm spell occur that can extend the day until dark as flies and fish make the most of these special occasions, but generally you will be doing most of your fishing in that central part of these shorter days.  So if you have arrived at the at the waterside by 11:00 you will be waiting a short time and if no rises are evident within half an hour you would do well to, slowly, go-a-hunting, working your way upstream until you find either rising fish or see a fish on station that looks like it might come up to your artificial.

In high summer the dry fly fishing day is more complicated but we are blessed with more hours of opportunity.  Complicated in that it starts and stops and starts again and stops and starts again...

Get there before dawn and you will very likely find that there are fish rising.  These have probably been feeding all night.  You would start fishing immediately in these circumstances, but an hour or so after dawn everything goes quiet.  This has prompted me to think that when we say, at around 08:30 or so, "We are too early!" we are kidding ourselves.  We are actually too late, for the first activity of the day that is.

At the "normal" time of starting, mid-morning, you will probably have to wait a while before any serious hatch, and consequent rise, gets under way.  To answer part of your question, your own mood should determine how long you are prepared to watch and wait. 

For the second part of your question, you can have a perfectly reasonable and productive time searching for fish that are on station, not yet rising but might be tempted by a fake of a terrestrial (particularly in the weeks after the Hawthorn Fly has been on the river).  Fish seem to seize these quickly, as terrestrials on the water are opportunities that can easily be missed.  Hence the often violent takes that a terrestrial, such as a Charles Cotton's Black Fly can induce. 

Usually brown trout will be found lurking in the edges under the canopy of bankside vegetation, whilst if you are fishing the Derbyshire Wye you will have the added bonus of Wild Rainbow Trout that hang around in mid-river amongst the fronds of Ranunculus fluitans.  Either of these will respond to the inducement of a bushy fly representing a terrestrial.  Three of my favourites for this job are: of course the Charles Cotton's Black Fly; the Double Badger; Nondescript Sedge; and the Red Hackle (to be shown on this blog in future)

The Sedge fly is a fly associated with the evenings but they do put in appearances at other times too. 

If you are starting your day of dry fly fishing later in the day, you may be latching onto a rise that is already underway.  Now you must try and determine what flies the fish are eating.  You don't have to be very scientific or detailed about all this.  There is no real need to know the exact species and sex of the flies that are on the menu.  All you need to be sure of is, "Of the flies that are around right now, which are being eaten by the trout you would now like to catch?"

Having determined the answer as best you can, you now consider the colour, shape and size of those flies, look in your box and choose one that is pretty much similar to the real ones.  At this time of day your fish will very likely be eating olives.  These are little upwinged flies that stand on the water with their wings up high and when they do fly they look like tiny ballerinas as they waft themselves to tree cover to wait until they are ready to eclode as adults. 

A good fly, amongst many others, to represent olives is the Grey Duster.

The day can switch off for a little while during high summer in the late afternoon or early evening.  The hatching flies stop hatching and the adult flies are not yet ready to return to the river to lay their eggs.  If the flies included the Blue Winged Olive (BWO) you can expect some activity later on as their adult females, the Sherry Spinners, return to the river to lay their eggs and finally die, ending up on the water, cruciform as spent spinners.  These returns of spinner often lead to what many regard as the cream of dry fly fishing.  You can read about some tactics here and the flies here.

This has turned out to be a long answer to a shortish pair of questions, please do forgive me.  There is no firm answer, but I hope these ramblings will give you a starting point or two.  Angling is unpredictable.  Dry Fly Fishing is even more so.  That's why we love it, I think...

Regular Rod

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Approach

In our migration from stillwaters to dry fly fishing on rivers and streams we now come to the most important part of the move.  It concerns what is going on in our heads.  Let's start with: "Why do we go fishing?"  To which the simple answer is because we love it.  We get joy from it.  So let's concentrate on that.

When we go to a stillwater we more or less start fishing as soon as we get to the water.  Dry fly fishing is immediately different.  If we arrive in the morning it may be some time before we start to "fish" simply because there appears to be nothing happening.  No flies are out so no fish are rising, sometimes it looks like there is not a fish in the river...

Fear not dear angler.  They are there and soon all will be revealed but for now we can start tuning in to our surroundings.  This we do by finding some vantage point where we can sit and take it all in.  Look around you. 

What flowers are there?  In the early season you can gain some insight into what the day's weather is going to be like by looking at flowers like the Lesser Celandine.  If it has its petals wide open flat to the ground you can bet on four or more hours of dry weather.
Look in the water.  Again in the early season you can gain reassurance that all is well with the river by spotting individual small fry, each of which has already taken charge of its own tiny territory.  These troutlets behave just like their full grown counterparts; hanging in the flow, darting up, down and sideways to intercept microscopic organisms even now with all the grace that makes a trout so desirable to us.

This observation is not a waste of your time.  It is part of your conditioning.  If you are to gain the maximum pleasure from your dry fly fishing I truly believe it helps you if you become so familiar with your surroundings and all that is going on, that you gain the residential status referred to in an earlier post.  This relaxed but thorough observation helps you to be more than just a visitor and it gets you ready for when, in an hour or two, the flies will be on the water and the rises will start. 

When you do get there early, waste no time, go to the water, walk down river to the place you fancy starting.  Get sat down somewhere where you can watch and start taking it all in.  This is the start to your approach.  Worry not about catching fish.  As a resident you will have success anyway, you will see so many more opportunities because of your tuning in, but the bonus is that you will enjoy your dry fly fishing to the utmost and will come again.  Next time we will actually start catching fish.

You can practice becoming a resident instead of a mere visitor right now, in the close season, by going for river walks and trying this reconnaissance out for yourself.

Regular Rod

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Titchy bits of tackle... complete your dry fly arsenal.

So far in this imaginary migration from still waters to dry fly fishing on rivers and streams we have considered your clothing and how it will help you be successful whilst remaining comfortable on most days.  We have nearly considered all the tackle requirements, some of which can almost certainly come from your still water gear, at least to get you started.  There remains a few small items that are usually carried in the pockets of either your clothes or your fishing bag... 

You will need some dry flies.  Therefore you will need something to keep them in.  There is a lot to be said for boxes that let the flies have a bit of room and not crush their hackles. BUT... there are modern dry flies that don't use spiky cock hack les and these can perhaps be best stored in boxes with slotted foam in them to grip the hooks and keep the flies all in neat rows.  Expensive boxes are not essential.  In fact, for large dry flies, like mayflies, spacious tins like those originally for strong mints are difficult to beat.

To the right of the top picture above you will see some bottles and some brown, raggy looking material.  These are the potions and remedies for keeping your flies afloat and in good presentable condition.  The brown stuff is Amadou and is my favourite material for drying flies out.  You simply squeeze the fly in the Amadou and every bit of water is pulled out of the fly making it like new again.  The alternative is to use one of the dessicant powders and follow the instructions on the container.  Before fishing, you use one of the floatants to "proof" your fly against the water.  This proofing is never permanent, in despite of the claims, so you just have to keep repeating the anointing process throughout the fishing day.  It is something we all get used to.

The forceps and scissors can come from your other fishing tackle.  The function is universal so there is no need to buy fresh ones, unless you really want to. 

Some monofilament may need to be acquired in addition to your regular still water stock.  Simply make sure you have a stock of the gauges described in the earlier post about leaders and tippets.

Well that just about covers the tackle.  There now remains one of the most interesting parts of the migration from still water fly fishing to dry fly fishing in rivers and streams.  That is the Approach and we will start on that next time.

Regular Rod