Photograph by Steve Barnett

Tuesday, 31 May 2011


This picture is just a quick snap to illustrate the tell-tale mark of a true wild rainbow trout in the Derbyshire Wye.  It's that candle flame orange on the very top edge the dorsal fin (click the image and click again for a closer look).  Any rainbow trout in the Derbyshire Wye without this mark has a question mark over its origin...

This creature is a Yellow May Dun. A female, she has a drop of water at the tail end of her body because I hadn't the heart to let her stay stranded in the surface film after a rain drop had bombed her flat. She is drying off on my finger before getting on her way to take her chances. In forty two years of dry fly fishing I have never seen a fish eat one of these. Have any of you good folk ever seen fish eat a Yellow May Dun?

Regular Rod

Sunday, 22 May 2011

"Fish where the fish are!"

On this theme, which really should become a natural part of any angler's strategy, at the risk of boring you with repetition here is another example of putting that principle to work.

Here is a lovely tangle made by the river keepers when they put faggot bundles into the left side of the river, planted fleur-de-lys (flag iris) to consolidate the bank and so made some extra habitat, with a good flow bringing a constant stream of food to the fish that decide to take up home within its secret intricacies.  The tiny fish can live securely in the little gaps between the twigs and branches in the faggots, whilst the bigger fish can hang out a little further (and so get the first pickings of the food) but instantly disappear under the faggot bundles at the first sign of danger from above.

So here is a great spot to "Fish where the fish are".  The faggots here are made of live willow and willow being so tenacious of life has made roots and sent out shoots afresh with new leaves.  Eventually this area will be canopied by overhanging willow fronds and so become even more attractive to the fish.

Attractive to the fish usually means a little bit harder casting and fishing for the dry fly angler, but what delightful rewards await the one who is prepared to risk all by sending the fly over to visit the home of Mr or Mrs Trout!

Not the biggest trout in the river but just look at its fantastic condition!  That constant food source, which can be partaken of with very little expended energy, has been well used and so may it continue.  River keepers eh?

Regular Rod

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Detecting in the dark...

One advantage of living by the side of a river is that you can get out at all times of night and day to "see what is going on".  This evening is no exception.  The river is not alive with rising fish as it can so often be.  However, there were still plenty of rises to look at and to puzzle over as to what the fish were eating.  This is a useful exercise in that it helps you to understand what is happening on similar occasions when you are there with a fly rod in your hand.

I watched some rises very near to the bank I was on and first impressions were that there were at least four fish rising very close to each other.  This should make you ponder straight away.  Trout dislike each other and will only tolerate each other, when feeding, if there is a very large amount of easily consumed food around.  Might this be a pod of grayling, which are shoal fish and enjoy each other's company?  Well it is unlikely, as grayling usually rise from near the bottom of the river to the fly and then they go back down again, to rise again a few moments later if they are in a feeding mood. 

These rises were being made at a rate of about 15 to the minute.  That's a lot!  They could not be made by grayling.  The rises were different from the spinner rises in that the fish was hanging in the water at a steep angle that made the neb, when observed from downriver, appear like a triangle or wedge shape.  In this rather dark photograph (it is night time after all) you can see that there has already been one rise immediately in front of this second rise, where the camera has luckily caught the neb above the surface for a moment.

Now this seemingly crowded bit of water raised my curiosity so I sneaked up river until I was level with the rises.  What a surprise!  All the rises were being made by one trout!  It was not still for more than a second at any time.  Left, forward, right, drop back, forward, forward again, to the right, to the left, drop back, drop back some more, sip, sip, sip every time.  The trout made each rise from directly under the midge it was about to eat.  It spent its time just under the surface and tipped up at the angle you might just be able to make out in this even darker photograph. 

Could I detect it was eating midges from the rise forms?  Not really, it was a slight clue but could easily have been aphids, reed smuts, or some other fly.  No I only know it was eating midges because when I got really close it was possible to see the midges on the surface and watch them being sipped away by this very active wild rainbow trout.  But, next time I see rises like that, I will be trying an attempt at a fake midge and carefully checking just how many fish I am going to be trying to cast to.

Regular Rod

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Rises to spinners...

You may recall last year, when this blog started, we discussed how to spot the rise forms of fish potentially feeding on spinners. 

Click and click again on the image for a closer look
Last night, as it started to go dark, I came upon a trout rising to spinners very assiduously and under a high bank near enough to attempt a photograph.  The image is noisy owing to the low light levels, but hopefully you can see the start of the elongated ring of the rise form, just made by the head and dorsal fin and shortly to be augmented by the mark made by the tail, that dark triangle just behind the rise form, breaking the surface as the trout levels itself a few inches down, in readiness for the next fly on the conveyor belt.

No I didn’t catch it.  I didn’t even fish for it.  Sometimes it seems wrong to intrude on such a much deserved meal.

Regular Rod

Friday, 6 May 2011

Prepare for later this season...

It may still seem a while away yet but before you know it high summer will be here.  The grass will be taller and seed heads will begin to appear, cow parsley will be in flower.  Then it will be time to watch out for another crop of terrestrial insects that have crash landings on the water.  The soldier beetles will be with us.  There is unlikely to be a furious flurry of activity with these in the way that trout behave when the Hawthorn flies are all around us (as they still are right now).  Instead the soldier beetle casualties are more likely to be quietly engulfed in the back eddies and the edges to slack water.  As such, the fake of the soldier beetle makes a great ambush fly, which you deploy whilst laid face down to carefully watch a big brown trout perambulating his bailiwick.  Every now and then up will tilt the trout to take a morsel.  You gauge where and when to place your fly and, as the trout comes round on his serene progress, your fake is too good to leave behind.  Up tilts the trout and the rest is down to you.
There is a circa two thousand year old fly pattern that makes an excellent fake of the soldier beetle.  It works as a caricature rather than an exact imitation but is seems to have all the stimuli necessary to convince the trout that it is indeed another of the nutritious beetles.

It is called the Red Hackle and it is a simple and fast fly to tie.  You can have a dozen ready in twenty minutes or less so put a little time aside and make sure you have a few in readiness for the return of the soldier beetles.

You need red knitting wool (I use scarlet wool), natural red cock hackles, black thread and some hooks about size 12 or 10.

Put the hook in the vice as shewn.  Run on a short bed of thread at the front of the hook

Tie in the cock hackle as shewn with six turns of thread.  Snip off the waste hackle stalk.


Teeze out a small ball of red wool from a strand of the knitting wool and dub this onto the thread in a long thin sausage of wool.

Wind the body tightly down to the bend of the hook.  If the amount of wool is guessed correctly it will all be used up when you reach the bend.  Let the thread dangle here under the weight of the bobbin holder.

Take the hackle point in the hackle pliers and wind four to six tight, touching turns up to the start of the body.  Then carry on winding down to the hook bend in open, spiralled ribbing turns.  Tie in the hackle with a couple of tight , touching turns and then rib the body with the tying thread and wind the thread quickly  through the front part of the hackle.  Make a bold head with your whip finish and varnish it well.  Use the waste hackle point to clear the varnish out of the hook eye whilst it is still wet.

Voila!  The Red Hackle.

You can use this fly on fast rapids too.  It shows up well and is another good "bring 'em up" fly.   This might possibly be because it looks a good mouthful and so worth the effort of rising?

Regular Rod

Monday, 2 May 2011

Tip from the Treatyse

Here is some of the oldest advice ever given in angling (click it twice to get it full size):

See that second tip?  "Also look that ye shadow not the water as much as ye may.  For it is that thing that will soon fraye the fish.  And if a fish be afraid he will not bite long after."

The first tip has the answer when you are on the west bank and the sun is setting behind you.  "or else behind a bush that the fish see you not..."

It is surprising what you can get away with if you take some simple precautions.  Here's a modern day version of following this medieval advice.  Sneaking in using the tree to shield the angler from view, then sliding down under the tree to make a completely undetected approach to the fish rising in the run below the (west) bank.

Regular Rod