Photograph by Steve Barnett

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Walk on by...?

That might be OK for Dionne Warwick but you can miss out on some astonishing opportunites if you forget yourself and wander by water that at first glance would not be worth your effort.  In a healthy river there are very few places where there will be no fish.  Some tiny pockets will only hold small fish but it is a source of constant surprise just how often there will be exceptions to that "rule".  Yesterday I was a privileged guest on a section of my mother river a few miles upstream from my usual haunts.  It was a very stimulating and pleasant change.  The tuning in process naturally takes longer on an unfamiliar water.  The senses are heightened as it is now even more important to practice the three basic principles before I can become a resident and not merely a marauding visitor.

It worked.  It always does.  Mine host ensured I had free reign and generously let me fish as and where I pleased at the pace to suit myself.  The result was a delightful time.  Here is one shot of one of the many, many interesting spots that all held fish and rewarded a few extra moments of contemplation and observation with closer contemplation of the wild brown trout and wild rainbow trout that the Derbyshire Wye is justly celebrated for.  It would have been very easy to just walk on by so many of these places.  Frankly I believe most folk do on this section, as it is something of a military training assault course.  It was worth the perspiration!

Back on home water, here is a fish that I have seen many anglers wander past never even imagining that such a large specimen could be found happily holding a constant station, day-in-day-out, in such a shallow pocket of water.  Look closely.  Can you can see why this is such a prized position for the fish?

Regular Rod

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Project Fish...

... or how to use up a lot of fishing time!

This season's Drake festivities, even though a little more perfunctory than is usual, still unveiled the whereabouts of some stunning fish.  Those of you who spent some formative years of your angling career fishing for the so-called "coarse" fishes (a silly English term referring to fishes without an adipose fin) may have found yourselves involved in "specimen" hunting.  It's a phase most of us have to go through when only a very large example of each specie is deemed worthy of our attention.  Eventually, many of us move on to simpler goals.  My goals these days are to fish as often as I may and enjoy whatever happens. 


This year I espied some extraordinary grayling in the Derbyshire Wye.  Bigger than any I have caught in Derbyshire and nearly as big as "specimens" I caught as a younger man in North Yorkshire.  So maybe a little time will be expended, spent, invested, wasted... (Whatever!)  in pursuit of these splendid creatures.  I had a little try a few days ago and immediately caught some lovely grayling from the shoal headed up by the monsters I was after.  I failed with the bigger fish but had some exciting moments with the fine, yet smaller, fish that were in the sentry positions downstream of them. 

This one shot off down river as if it was starring in a bone fishing film!  On netting, it was clear that this was a lucky fish!  Can you see the scar on its side level with the pelvic fin?  That fish had escaped from the saw toothed bill of another imported alien that has no natural enemies within our shores and so reaches plague proportions quite easily and quickly...

Project fish?  Well I will have another try or two I'm sure, but without any extreme efforts.  I finished with ultra-cult a long time ago.  More frequent moments of Joy and Contemplation are my ambitions these days.

Regular Rod

Tuesday 14 June 2011


Here's a little patch of river Heaven.  The stretch here is mainly shaded.  Where the sun can consistently get to the bottom of the river and, where the water has enough briskness of flow, here we find the water crowfoot, or water buttercup, Ranunculus fluitans. See how it flourishes where the sun can get in and right next to it the shaded water has almost no sign of this brilliant plant.  Herein live freshwater shrimp, ephemerid nymphs, other invertebrates and, of course, trout! 

The fronds speed up the flow locally, like so many little hose pipe jets, which in turn keeps the gravel a perfect substrate for spawning trout, grayling and brook lampreys, by clearing it of silt.  On the wild trout fisheries, where no stocking of farm bred fish takes place, the river keepers concentrate on improving and maintaining water quality.  Part of that work consists in coppicing trees to get a mosaic of sunlight on the river bed so there are more places to suit this valuable water "weed" and so in turn create more places for invertebrates, fish and their eggs.  It's a wonderful chain that starts with sunlight and finishes with very happy anglers...

Regular Rod

Friday 10 June 2011

Easy pools and hard ones

Both can get you swearing under your breath.  The easy pools get taken for granted and you snag up behind you on a grass seed head.  The hard ones, well they are just plain hard!

Here are two pools to consider...

This is an easy pool by an island where the river is turning sharp left as we face it.  There are some drag conditions to take into account but basically if you keep the back cast up high you can expect some success if you haven't frightened the fish.  But don't take places like this for granted or you will get caught up and the Recording Angel will be adding to the list...

Here's another on the same river...

This is hard.  Not so much a letter box more a keyhole but the fly must be placed under those white flower heads of the elder bush on the other bank because that's where the fish are in that run.  It's no good going upstream round the other side of the tree on your right here because you may as well have thrown yourself in for the way the fish would clear off!  The wind will of course be blasting downstream at you to add to your trials.  But don't swear too much.  Expect it to be hard and plan the cast accordingly.  Fitting the line through the keyhole up the middle of the river and with that slightly longer tippet on your leader the wind will turn it under the flower heads and you have a chance!  It matters not one jot whether the fish is a big or little one, catch here and you can be justly proud of yourself and if you do swear in amazement, the Recording Angel will probably join in with you and note down that you did b***dy well!

Regular Rod

Tuesday 7 June 2011

How many hidy holes?

There are four here!

Click to enlarge the image

Three for the fish and one for me...

Regular Rod

Sunday 5 June 2011

James Ogden Day - Remembering a Genius

Today was James Ogden Day.  On June 5th 1865 he proved to the Duke of Rutland's Steward (Robert Nesfield) that his artificial floating flies would "kill during the Drake".  From then on the rule was made, for the first time anywhere in the world, that on the Haddon Estate single artificial floating fly only was to be used, making the very first dry fly only fishery. 

Ogden was a brilliant innovator and astute business man.  As well as creating the first flies designed specifically to float, he created the Invicta, introduced a creel strengthened so that a man could sit on it to fish and so keep low and out of sight from the fish, devised and sold folding landing nets that could not tangle and (my favourite) he introduced the idea of using a short fly rod, instead of the customary 11ft to 16ft rods that were normal for fly fishing in those days. 

Today I used one of his rods from 1880, it is 8ft long in built cane and is called a "Multum in Parvo" roughly meaning "much in little".  The first fish today was a nice little brown trout that Ogden would have been familiar with.  The second he would not have been familiar with.  It was a wild rainbow trout that had the 130 year old cane hooped over for a few hectic moments.

All in all, James Ogden Day turned out to be a cracking day for fly fishing and his old rod (and reel) were a joy to use.  (Well the rod was, the reel was terrible...)

Regular Rod

Friday 3 June 2011


So many places are missed by anglers walking past them taking the view that they are unfishable.  Sometimes you have to spot the letter box so you can post your line through with a careful bit of casting.  Next time you see an "impossible" place, give it a moment or two of careful reconnaissance and thought.  See if you can spot a letter box that you might just fit your cast through.

Here's one from Monday's joyous day by the Derbyshire Wye.  The line needed to go under the branch at the top of the picture and over the stalks and stems coming up into the middle of the picture.  It was worth it.

Regular Rod