Photograph by Steve Barnett

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

That Little Foul Weather Friend...

... The Iron Blue Dun

is certainly a good friend to the trout, but today it was also saving the lives of a quite large flock of swallows who, arrived from Egypt in the last couple of weeks, found themselves today in cold, heavy rain and no flies at altitude at all.  Energy had to be found and was to be found this afternoon, when the rain was at its heaviest on the river and the wind at its strongest and coldest.  The Iron Blue Duns put in their welcome appearance and the swallows competed, successfully, with the trout for these dainty morsels.

You can just make out one of the trout rises behind and to the right of the swallow in the middle.  As ever, click the picture for a closer view. 

This river is going to fish its head off in a big way when the low pressure moves away and the sun gets back to warming things up again.

Regular Rod

Sunday, 22 April 2012

More Brown Water...

The motivations for going out to fish even when conditions are not as good as we'd like them to be are varied.  Ego might make us want to prove, even if only to ourselves, that we can catch fish no matter what the conditions are.  Maybe we have only got a limited opportunity to fish the river and we have journeyed long and far to get here so the last thing we want to do is give up and go home.  Or else it might be that we are fed up of things getting in the way of having an hour or two on the water and so we will fish, right now, no matter what and if we catch nowt then so be it!

Even when things are not ideal, the dry fly angler can still find Sport, although it will be less abundant.  Abundance or short commons it matters not when the mood is: "I've got to fish and I'm bloody well going to..."

Yesterday my Mother river, the Derbyshire Wye, was running high and still on the coloured side, but not as thick as it has been lately.  The very welcome rain has percolated into the water table and coupled with the usual surface run off, this combination has raised the water to a pleasing traditional early season level.  This in direct contrast to the two previous seasons when the river opened for trout fishing with water levels more typical of high and late summer.  The picture below illustrates this. 

The dark water over rocks and vegetation in the lower left foreground is where I sat this time last year to cast up into the two currents that funnel into the neck of this bend.  No chance to sit down there right now.  It really will be summer before I can hide there, below the skyline, sitting crosslegged like a cub scout by a campfire.

The tactic for the three, post-meridian hours was simply to look for where there might be fish rising.  Flies were out in plenty so it was a case of looking for where the fish would be prepared to feed on them.  The breezy conditions and low angled sun made getting the artificial onto the right spot, controlling its drift and seeing it just a little harder than usual.  The flies were Large Dark Olives with some smaller olives that I think were Olive Uprights by their paler grey wings. No matter, the Grey Duster on a size 14 hook proved itself to be ideal for the job.

This spot that you might have seen in an earlier post had a few fish lined up and rising well.

Just to the left of this picture is the place the angler needs to be.  There is a snag though.  The ground is not firm.  In fact it is a bog!  Last season an angler stood there for too long and he had to be towed out with a rope under his armpits as he had not realised how deep he was sinking.  He was in past his waist by the time he realised he needed help.  Mobile 'phones can be a blessing!

In a bid to encourage anglers not to engage in their own, similar episodes the keepers have laid brash of alder branches over the dodgy area.  I thought the brash might be just what I needed...

It was.  By treading as lightly and as quickly as I could I reached the brash and...


Perfect!  The brash wasn't sinking, it supported my weight, my head was below the skyline and the fish did not stop rising.  The only time I was at risk was when I had to stand briefly to reach over the reed mace stems to net the fishes.  After releasing each fish, the trick was to sit down immediately and work the feet up and out of the sink holes they had started to make.  Then attend to fly drying etc. in readiness for the next cast.

The reward was two or three brown trout, and another couple of wild rainbow trout, (one of which I just had to snap for a keepsake, it was so lovely) and then an out of season grayling came to the net.  I regarded this as a sign from above to move on in a timely fashion.  Easy fishing, even if it lasts only a few minutes, can easily lead to a lack of restraint.

I wandered on up river, fishing my way home. 

There was an attempt at the big rainbow trout that was rising the other day in the eddy by the side of the dirty water (I was on the opposite bank from where I took this photograph the other day) but as he took the fly my line was dragged into the branches of the little bush on the left of this picture, which impeded the strike and the Grey Duster was lost in the roots of this important little bush.  Important because without the bush's roots there would be no little promontory and no wonderful eddy here.  A fresh fly on and another attempt at a brown trout rising an inch from the bank proved more successful.  I was just thinking of packing up when a very good friend appeared on the opposite bank, with his dog Purdy, who just happens to be Henry's half sister (they had the same mother).  So packing up was the right thing as we had some catching up to do and home-made biscuits and tea to consume back at the house.

On reflection, a number of small things added up to success, in despite of the less than ideal conditions...

Reconnaissance through the winter had indicated where to look for rising fish during breezy, rainy, high and coloured water conditions.

The waterproof overtrousers let me stay low by sitting down to fish.

By deciding to fish no matter what, I just so happened to be there at the right time.

The Grey Duster, on the right sized hook, is a brilliant fake of the Large Dark Olive.

Regular Rod

Monday, 16 April 2012

Trugg in the Town!

Not Elysian fields by any means, but when the crowds of visitors have gone home the Sport in Bakewell can be a pleasant diversion for the last hour or so of the fishing day.  One of the many advantages of living right next to the Derbyshire Wye includes coming across a Brother of the Angle, who might even be glad to see me!

Mick Martin (Trugg) is a familiar sight on the river and as well as being a Brother of the Angle, he is also a Brother of the Blogosphere.  He was pleased to see me tonight as he was attached to a fine rainbow trout, which had decided it wanted to be elsewhere.  He was just engaged in negotiations with this fish so far as getting it to come back upstream after it had taken a short trip down river on the wrong side of one of the bridge supports.  The rod, a rather lightweight little toothpick in blonde, built-cane, was being sorely tested.  Negotiations had reach a standstill.  The fish wouldn't come up river anymore and Mick wouldn't let it go back down river.  Stalemate?  It was a pleasure to pick up Mick's long handled landing net and reach down behind his fish and gently envelop it in the soft meshes.

Mick had come prepared to protect any fish he caught in this hard paved area, his unhooking mat ensured the trout had as comfortable a time as is possible out of water.  Whilst he attended to hook removal, I took the opportunity of snatching a couple of pictures for myself and one more for Mick with his own camera.  The rainbow was gently lowered back where it lived and in a few moments was back in mid-river.

After exchanging a few pleasantries we parted, each of us with a happy smile and frame of mind.  One of the best things I did EVER was move house to the side of this lovely river.  One of the best things I did TODAY was pop out of the door for a few minutes and come across Mick...

Regular Rod

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Fish in the Eddies - a Tactic for Dirty Water

After rain or snow melt that has been sufficient to cause run off to get into the river the water goes the colour of oxtail soup and the fish get out of the main currents into places where they can shelter.  Even in such conditions fish do feed.  Today it was possible to see fish eating some very tiny reed smuts that drifted over the trouts' hidey holes, proving that there is not a lot wrong with trouts' eyesights.

There were also some olives drifting along on the surface and these were being carried on the seams of the currents.  Where the seam of current passes a protruding feature like the base of a tree or a croy or groin the result is an eddy.  The seam of quicker water turns the slower water round and round forming the eddy that behaves like a wheel being spun round.  In this picture below a trout had chosen a fantastic place to hold station away from the main current, which is flowing from left to right just here and mop up the olives as they drift upriver on the surface right in the edge carried in the eddy.  The fish is facing downriver into the direction of the current in this eddy, which in this case is flowing from right to left...

The best place for the angler to hide and make his cast here would be upriver facing downstream but actually upcurrent.  The branches and twigs of those two alder saplings will present the angler with a problem casting.  That's bad enough but the most difficult part of the approach here is to do so without being seen.  Another aspect that works against the angler here is that with the fish rising so near to the bank it would be easy to miss that they are actually there.

To have the best chance here, those three principles of: fishing where the fish are; being observant and; being stealthy must all be adhered to with alacrity!

Here's another eddy from today.  The discoloured water is flowing from left to right over on the opposite bank and, when the current hits our bank on the right, most of the water is turned to the downriver side.  However, the rest of the water gets turned along the upstream edge of this bank and so starts a "big wheel keeps on turning" eddy.  Right in the near side here the fish were rising to flies being carried upriver, another fine opportunity for the dry fly angler, even though first glance at the water would have a lot of people giving up and going home before they started.

Being observant, particularly in the edges of eddies, gives you chance to find and fish where the fish are.  All you have to remember whilst doing this is to be as stealthy as you can be.  It's a lot better than going home without giving yourself a chance of having at least some Sport...

Regular Rod

Friday, 6 April 2012

All Fool's Day 2012

Opening day was hard this year.  A week earlier and there were flies everywhere in the unseasonally warm weather.  Come opening day and the temperature had fallen by 15 degrees (Celsius).  The bright sunshine simply served to make things awkward for the angler as the slightest movement was noticed by the fish.  At one stage I was actually giving myself a severe dressing down for clumsiness.  I'd simply been too keen to cast.  My excuse was that as it was Palm Sunday I had been unable to get to the river until just after one o'clock and I would have to leave at four to let me get cleaned up and over to Chesterfield in time to sing Evensong under the inside of that famous crooked spire. 

Practicing what I preach soon had things a little more under control and the nearly three hours afforded a little Sport, one fish was all I wanted for the first day of the season - just so I would not be "watterlicked" (in the USA I believe the expression is "skunked"). 

Sitting and watching the river paid dividends as one or two Large Dark Olives put in an appearance and so I changed fly from the old stand-by Double Badger to a Kite's Imperial on a size 14 hook.  All I needed then was a rising fish.  By four o'clock I'd found three rising fish and succeeded with two of them.  So happiness was the inevitable result.

During my sneakings about, which were incredibly difficult to do without scaring the fish, I found a couple of wonderful strongholds, each with its owner on station but both just about impregnable.

Have a peep at this spot.  An old cobble weir immediately downstream of the holding station.  Lots of food channelled to the waiting brown trout.  Cast from downstream and the leader will immediately be dragged over the little weir.  Upstream there is a bush so trotting a dry fly down to the fish is also not a proposition. 

A dead stalk is right over the spot where a close approach would find the cast landing and with no cover for the angler at this time of the year the trout would see me and be gone.  The most sensible thing to do was take a picture or two, doff the hat in congratulation to the fish and move on upstream to continue the search...

Moving upstream I came across this lovely brown trout under all these branches.  Later this year there will be leaves on the branches and maybe a chance for the angler to lurk without detection and get a cast in there...

On uploading and processing the pictures imagine the surprise of finding that the fish seemed to be keeping company with what looks like a medieval statue of a Saint in a monk's habit!  Can you spot it in the gravel?

Regular Rod

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Today saw the opening of a new style of fly fishing outfitters, the Game Angling Consultancy in Derby

The premises from the outside are simple and unpretentious.  A great boon was being able to park right outside the door, not a yellow line or meter beater to be seen!

Inside, Tony Spacey, the proprietor, has had the industrial unit transformed into what can only be described as an emporium with an atmosphere like a friendly Mayfair club where it just so happens you can examine and buy high quality fly fishing gear and materials. 

Tony is determined that if a client comes in through the door she or he will not be disappointed due to a lack of stock. 

He wants his clients to be able to sit and have a coffee or glass of something in comfort, have a natter, tie a fly or two at the bench, and of course buy some special item, even if it is something that is not generally available. 

Some of the special things that caught your faithful correspondent's eye included: all the range of Veniard's threads (and most of the other materials); the range of Lamson fly reels (engineered to perfection); and the range of Temple Fork Outfitter's fly rods (amazing build quality). 

Roll on pay day!

Regular Rod

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Ha!  That got you looking...  It's fantastic to look at your river bed as closely as you can at this time of year.  I've just come in from a wander around and everywhere you look on the Derbyshire Wye at the moment there seems to be a lot of wonderful sex going on.  The Wye's unique wild rainbow trout are still spawning, the grayling have just started, the brook lampreys have just started too...
A bit like a Jackson Pollocks painting but you can just make out the shadowy figure of a female grayling over her redd
Two whoppers!
Back in the 1960's we were not allowed to be on the river until all this was over.  We used to miss all the trout breeding activities.  No watching the brown trout as we were off the river from November 15th and so missed their Christmas parties.  The rainbow trout, grayling and brook lampreys we never saw on the redds because the river didn't open until May 15th.  Now things are different.  The trout season, these days, starts on April 1st (All-Fools' Day) and although trout are out of season from October 7th we are now allowed to fish for the grayling until January 7th.  What a boon!  We need miss nothing.  We can watch and take great comfort that all is well on this river, which hereabouts relies entirely on wild fish for its wonderful dry fly fishing.

Such freedom, permitted by the extended fishing season, could be dangerous to the fish if we were to wade about when all this vital spawning activity is taking place.  Fortunately wading is not allowed on here and this has been the way for over 150 years!  We have to be very cautious if we need to paddle a tiny bit to release a fish safely.  We might not tread on a trout or grayling redd in so doing as they keep away from the banks and all their attendant dangers, but the lampreys are a different matter.  They are small creatures that usually dwell in the silt but at this time of the year come out to make their own redds and spawn in gravel where they can find it, preferably away from the toothy trout who would find their protein very handy.  So if you are going to get in the edge, take a good look first, making sure you won't be a home wrecker!  Better to try and release your fish whilst you stay on dry land, at least for the next 6 or 7 weeks...

Regular Rod

Monday, 2 April 2012

Fly Box

Just a quick post giving an image of what passes for the contents of my fly boxes these days...

The links to the recipes are in the panel on the right.  Just scroll down and click the ones you want.

There will be a brief post later this week about the rather difficult opening day your faithful correspondent experienced on the 2012 All-Fools'-Day...

Regular Rod


Hugh kindly posted a link in his comment about the Double Badger (middle fly on the top row above) and its efficacy when put to good use in New Mexico.  Here's the picture of his friend's Rainbow Trout caught in the San Juan river.  I wonder just how far afield some of these Derbyshire Flies can bring good results?