Photograph by Steve Barnett

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Please visit Waterfeature...

...and if you watch the video at the top, then read the background to the Kelham Island hydro scheme and wish that the good folk of Sheffield would learn from the terrible consequences of hydro schemes elsewhere and reverse the decision to plough ahead with their own hydro scheme, please vote on the petition at the top right hand side of the blog.  You need not be a citizen of Sheffield to vote. All you need to be is a citizen of the world and care about the life in and around the world's rivers.

...the terrible consequences of hydro schemes elsewhere...

The river Don, a natural salmon river, has suffered about 400 years of abuse.  It is an amazing example of how a river can come back to life if folks stop abusing it.  The saddest aspect of this scheme is that, after a few short years of improvement, the river Don is going to be set back to the impoverished state it was in, when really it should be getting all the help it can to keep on coming fully back to life.

You can give the Don some help by registering and voting your disapproval on

Thank you.

Regular Rod

Monday, 18 June 2012

Oh Happy Days...

...Well happy evenings actually! 

The festivities with the Drake are now, more or less, over and the little Blue Winged Olives have been showing in increasing numbers every day, with a corresponding increase in the activity of their spinners, the Sherry Spinners, well into the gloaming and actual dark.

It is time to put away the boxes of budgerigars and canaries that we have been tempting the Drake munching trout with and get back to "proper" dry fly fishing with little flies.  It was fun with the Drake and fun with the Hawthorn beforehand but now we can look forward to heavily scented and sultry evenings and rows of trout serenely rocking up and then down as they sip in spinner after spinner.  I have to admit I am so very glad of it.

The little Poly Prop Sherry was just what the trout wanted tonight. 

It may be possible to get another evening out of this particular example but the trout's teeth have somewhat modified it from its immaculate beginnings.  No matter it owes me nothing...

Have the trout locked onto spinners in your part of the world yet?

Regular Rod

Saturday, 16 June 2012

A really inconvenient truth!

There is a weed.  A really weedy weed that has stalks as weak as juliennes of cooked carrot.  Bend it and it snaps.  It has no thorns or stings to protect it.  It is only an annual so dies every winter.  It is easily pulled from the ground due to it only putting down shallow roots.  In Great Britain, it is a foreigner, thousands of miles from home, so it is out of its natural habitat.  Yet it is going to wipe out our rivers' populations of native, riparian plants and by so doing kill millions of baby trout every winter unless something is done to prevent it.

What is this weed?  If it is so weak, how can it possibly do so much harm?

It is Himalayan Balsam.  An inconvenient truth is that it has been brought to these shores and allowed to spread into the wild.  Another is that it makes an abundance of seed that will grow in almost any substrate in the most unpromising conditions. 

This example is growing in a tiny pocket of mossy loam on the side of a tree.

It sows its own seed by firing them off with almost the same range as a Diana BB gun.  Flinging seeds across a road, to find new ground to grow in, is no problem to the Himalayan Balsam. 

On this side of a road here is a plant growing in a salt pile.  The salt is placed there because modern cars and modern motorists can't drive properly in the snow.  This plant actually seems to be doing very well on its saline base.  Across the road there are already some seedlings taking hold...

How can such a weedy thing do harm?

It does it by the exuberance of its seed, it's speed at growing above the native plants, the shading of its leaves kills the natives through lack of light and then, come winter, it dies and leaves the earth bare for its seeds to take over more easily.  By dying away and leaving bare soil to be washed into the rivers and streams where it blinds the gravel and suffocates the trout eggs.

What is the remedy?  There are two remedies, one immediate and very effective, the other needs money before we can have it and clear this alien invasive from our shores once and for all.

The immediate remedy is to pull it out of the ground and leave it to die as its roots dry out.  This anyone can do and any angler will find pulling 100 plants is a quick and easy task of only a few minutes.  The time to pull it is right now before it has chance to flower and send its seeds pinging out all around it to maintain its invasion.  Get all the plants out and the following year there will be fewer plants to pull up as the seed will be at least a year old. The year after that there will be even fewer.  Keep this up for five years, the plant is gone and the native plants will re-establish themselves and the bare soil will be covered and protected by roots.  Erosion of the soil will be reduced.  The trout eggs will no longer be killed by suffocation.

The other, permanent remedy does not exist yet.  This needs the chemical industry to develop a selective weedkiller that kills Himalayan Balsam and nothing else.  This would cost a lot, millions probably.  Where should the money come from?  Well anglers for a start.  It's no good expecting anyone else to do it for us.  They won't.  The Environment Agency position is "It's endemic now.  There is nothing to be done about it!"  Wildlife Trusts often have a similar position, sometimes even worse with the silly, "Well the bees like the flowers..." remark, as if native plants are anathema to bees!  Unfortunately the bees tend to bypass native plants to get to the extra sugar content of the Himalayan Balsam flowers and the natives suffer even more.  Maybe if the good folk at the RSPB realised that Himalayan Balsam has a negative effect on native birdlife some money might be made available from its massive reserves?  You can see why the ideal solution will probably never exist.

This carpet of Himalayan Balsam has crowded out all the natives except for a few Red Campion and the hardwood shrubs.  (Though for me the Rhododendron in the foreground can come out and be burned as an alien too!)
Now here's the rub.  The second remedy won't exist and the first remedy may as well not exist.  With a very few, very notable, exceptions, anglers will not pull up 100 plants apiece every time they go-a-fishing.  They expect someone else to do it and anyway most anglers don't care about the presence of Himalayan Balsam!  Why is that?  Well it's for the very same reason they don't join the Angling Trust, the same reason they don't remove litter, the same reason they don't write to their MPs to get bad hydro-power stopped immediately, the same reason they don't report pollution the instant they see it

It's because it doesn't immediately help them catch more fish!


Regular Rod

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The next valley...

... is certainly browned off too.

You would not want to fall in just here just now!

Regular Rod

Friday, 8 June 2012

Browned Off!... an expression the English use to indicate that one is displeased with a situation.  To be "Browned Off" indicates a degree of grumpiness and irritation and so it is with yours truly today.

No fishing today, the rain has kept on and on for hours and the river is up and coloured with run off and ochre from disused mines upstream. 

I had planned a lovely day of mayfly fishing for my guests, good friends from upriver to come down and enjoy the delights of Duck Holds Wood.  It was not to be and we have literally taken a rain check.

Ah well, there will be another day, hopefully soon.  Meanwhile the rain can only be doing the river good.  Better to lose a day or so of fishing than to suffer the horrible droughts we have had in the previous two years...

Regular Rod

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Reasons to be cheerful, part three???

At least seven, rather than three parts to being cheerful yesterday.  This picture post is really an attempt to just begin to explain why fishing on Derbyshire's River Wye is so special.  It is no coincidence that not a single picture of a fish, wishing it was back in the water instead of laid out on the folds of a landing net, is in this mini-series.  Angling, especially angling with the dry fly is NOT just about catching fish, even though it is one of the most effective ways of doing so.  It is surely a communion if the angler is to gain the greatest joy from this noble Sport?

This time of year highlights the point even more so.  Here we are at one of most pleasant times of the English year, our tackle is not cumbersome, we roam freely with only the tiniest of burdens, a light rod, a similarly lightweight landing net, a little bag perhaps with a lightweight raincoat in it, the tackle and the victuals for the day.  The leaves are nearly all fully out covering lots of hidy holes for our quarry.  The fish are at their most secure now with food aplenty drifting into each fish's chosen feeding station.

Here's a cracker to start the day.  Twenty minutes and one nice brown trout after this snap was taken you nearly lost this blogger as he slipped off that little log bridge landing inelegantly astride it.  Henry wondered what the Devil was going on as his best friend struggled to maintain consciousness and regain the ability to breathe, before clambering back onto the bridge to finish crossing to the little island on the right of the snap.  No real harm done.  Personally speaking, procreation has ceased to be a life mission for some time now anyway!

After some productive fiddling about round these little islands, some of which are no longer accessible to the angler as their bridges have been swept away in the winter floods, it was time to wander slowly upriver and send the mayfly over to explore these wonderful hidy holes...

A long chuck that needed to collapse inside this hidy hole so the leader didn't drag the fly for a few seconds, just long enough to convince another brown trout into making the desired mistake.

These two spots among these branches needed the rearmost fish to be caught first and quickly heaved out into the open water to prevent certain disaster then it was time to winkle out the frontmost fish in a similarly rude manner.  These were both wild rainbow trout.

Only a matter of ten yards or so further upriver is a tangle that each year seems to get more and more difficult to deal with.  Not least of the difficulty is actually squeezing into a position where a cast might be made.  It spelt defeat for the angler this year.  Not to worry though as, maybe this next winter it will be altered once again by the floods, especially if a heavy tree is borne down here like a medieval battering ram.  The highlight here was seeing a willow warbler carefully examining under every leaf to find mayflies waiting to become spinners and, having found them, snaffling each one instantly.

Then the rain came a little heavier.  Henry was glad we found shelter under the leaning trunk of an ancient willow.

Calopteryx splendens - the Banded Demoiselle (only this is a boy)
This fellow too was sheltering under a broad blade of grass.  He had cleverly positioned himself vertically to reduce the chances of being bombed by a big raindrop.  Look closely and you can see that he has turned his head to use both eyes to check out the potential threat of this great one-eyed silver monster that was peering at him (in super macro mode). He sat it out and the "threat" went away.

The rain stopped.  Later on, working slowly upriver, through a lovely wood and out into the sunshine, the angler is met by this exquisite run that abounds in rainbow trout mid river, brown trout under the trailing edges of the Ranunculus beds and grayling in the glides.  The light was perfect and just out of sight a woodpecker was drumming on that standing dead tree behind the bushy, healthy looking alder tree in the left middle ground of the picture. 

Yes it was a good day for fishing and a good day for participation in the beauty of being here, where the angler belongs.  Certainly plenty of reasons to be cheerful...

Regular Rod

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

James Ogden Day 2012

Yesterday was the 147th Anniversary of the day that James Ogden demonstrated to the Duke of Rutland's steward, Robert Nesfield, that the floating artificial mayfly would "kill" during the drake.  By way of celebration it is your faithful correspondent's habit of going out with a rod built by James Ogden in the 1880's and attempting to prove that the efficacy of the floating artificial mayfly still applies to the Derbyshire Wye.  You can read about James Ogden in this old newsletter.

Henry came along and was surprisingly well behaved except for his insistence on trying to "help" with the landing of the fish. 

We both like chicken and rice so we shared luncheon more or less 60:40 in my favour!

It was a breezy day and the drake were around in batches.  One moment the river was devoid of drake, suddenly there would be many dozens for five or ten minutes and the fish responded favourably.  Then it would all go quiet for a while until it started again maybe half an hour later.

The mead above "Black Barn" was glorious with wild flowers.  It was worth the walk just to see them.

Here is a fish that was very satisfying to catch and even more satisfying to gaze upon.  Just look at that mayfly filled belly!

Click for a closer look
This crudely joined together image illustrates why the trout was "satisfying to catch".  It came from under the far bank on the extreme right by those laid over dead stalks from last year.  The cast had to be winkled in and out of the "letter box" on the extreme left and swung across the river, whilst yours truly hid behind the alder just visible on the right hand edge of the picture on this bank.

Of course if wading was allowed here it would have been a simple thing to approach from directly below and make the easiest of casts to betray the fish, but then the merit of this "meritocracy" would just disappear making both fish and anglers all the poorer for it.

Regular Rod

Sunday, 3 June 2012

It's a Cold, Cold, Shower...

Remember on St. Mark's day how the Iron Blue Dun was saving the swallows from starvation?

Then in mid-May we had another cold spell and the Iron Blue Dun came to save us all again.

Well here they are again!  The temperature is 8 degrees Celsius and the windchill makes it feel like considerably less.

This time, instead of swallows, we have the house martins to gracefully receive this bounty along with a few struggling Drake. 

It is still worth fishing though.  When is it ever not?

Regular Rod

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Low Down Show Down...

Good, ex-Military, Gore-Tex overtrousers are not expensive and encourage you to take full advantage of their qualities.  It is not an idle boast that a pair of these, used properly, let you catch more fish.

You can sit anywhere, keep your trousers clean and your backside protected from thistles, nettles, ordure and... water!

Regular Rod

Friday, 1 June 2012

Different but the same...

Last year

This year

Same river, same spot, but completely different this time round.  Different weather, different water levels, different flies, but it still produced a fine fish to the Gray Wulff variant and made sure the day, although wet enough to cause a scurrying home to change into some dry clothes and then a scurrying back again, was sufficiently encouraging to keep the angler happily engaged to his pleasant task.

Last year

This year

This spot was a little discouraging in that the nettles had been sprayed, the cover was gone and so were the big fish that used to line up here.  Only smaller fish this year and egotism demands that this was not due to faulty angling but due to the absence this year of the tangled cover that made a letter box cast essential last year.

It was good to be out though and the Drake is getting nicely underway in Derbyshire, as well as in the sunny south of England.  The next few days are anticipated with eagerness... angler, fish and birds alike.

Regular Rod