Photograph by Steve Barnett

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Change is in the air!

Summer is changing and the late fishing angler has already noticed "the nights are drawing in"!

The Mother river has been hard of late.  The only chance of Sport has been to either fish very early and very late, or, if you must fish in the daytime, to creep very carefully into awkward little places to trick a nice brown trout or two lurking under overhanging branches and foliage right under the bank.  The unusually high water and therefore stronger and more manifold mid-river currents have conspired to make casting into such hidy holes on the opposite banks a very hit and miss affair.  In effect we have had to concentrate on fish right under our noses at the nearside banks.  So short casting was the main tactic, just to be doing something in the daytime until the evenings.

Now it has changed.  The fly life is becoming busy in the daytime again and Sport is a lot easier to obtain.  After work, the angler nipping out for a couple of hours has found 8.30 pm was about the time the spinners would return and the fish lock onto them.  This weekend saw the change occur.  The spinners are coming back at least an hour sooner, in fact it is now probably a couple of hours in advance of what it was 10 days ago.  The downside of this is our Sport is finishing earlier too...

The other indicator of the march of time in the season is the increasing number of fine grayling prepared to rise from the very bottom of the river to take flies, both real and fake...

Last night on the Town water, the spinners and fish were already busy when Henry and I turned out to just grab an hour or so of the tuning in (or grounding the earth lead) that fishing can bestow on the lucky angler.

We were lucky last night with plenty of fine trout and grayling eating the spinners.  We were also lucky that we didn't miss the opportunity because, instead of finishing at 10.30 pm it was all over by 9.20!  Lesson learnt.  Your faithful blogger will be starting his evening forays a lot earlier and will soon simply be fishing right through the day and the hours of Sport on those days will be getting less and less spread out. 

There are only 61 days of trout season left!

Regular Rod

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A Lucky Fish but an Ethical Quandary

This Wednesday it was after 8.30 pm when Henry and his faithful servant managed to get out, rushing, with little time, the little pocket camera was left behind in error.  Luckily the mobile 'phone was not forgotten.

Note the pan bottomed big landing net, another carry-over from coarse fishing
This brown trout was the second fish we caught.  The grayling prior to this was photographed so badly with the 'phone that it would be an insult to you all to put it on here.  This picture of the brownie is not much better either but worth a look all the same...

I'm sure it is a fish I caught a year ago at this same place.  It was in a bad way with a dirty great big hole just in front of its dorsal fin. At just under ten inches long it was a (lucky) victim of an assault by a heron.  Nevertheless it was feeding well on spinners or else it wouldn't have been caught.  Nature has endowed fish with the ability to recover from injury but it is by no means a foregone conclusion that recovery and survival is a certainty.  Here's where an ethical question rears its ugly head...

What to do with a naturally injured fish?

1 ~ Do we say to ourselves "Oh it is likely to suffer and die slowly so put it out of its misery" and then kill it cleanly?

2 ~ Or, do we simply release it to let Nature take its course, on the very noble principle of don't intervene?

3 ~ Or, do we intervene?  Do we try to give that fish a slightly better chance of full recovery by a little rapid, riverside, First Aid?

The answer to the first question, for me, has to be a resounding "No!" when fishing Catch & Release.  Even a bleeding fish gets released under the principle that it might make it if you let it go and we can be sure it won't make it if we hit it on the head!

But what about options 2 and 3?

Confession time, I'm too soft hearted to not intervene.  I'm one of the daft beggars that rescues flies from raindrop bombing, gets bitten and kicked when pulling a sheep out of a bog it has sunken into, puts food out for the birds, grows plants that butterflies can feed on.  I intervene.

There is a product, obtainable from coarse fishing shops, that carp anglers use to medicate wounds on the carp they capture.  It's called Medicarp Ultra and if applied to a wound on a fish it cures to make an antiseptic, protective film and speeds up the healing process.  It comes in a little bottle and you just drip a drop onto the wound and then carefully release the fish.

Maybe our lucky brownie would have recovered fully anyway, but now a good three inches longer than at our last meeting, I like to think that the intervention helped a little in the trout's efforts to regain lost energy and time spent in repairs rather than growth.

Is intervention a good thing?  Is it even acceptable?  Don't shoot me if I've got it wrong though...

Regular Rod

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Deo Gratias...

One of the nastiest, stomach knotting feelings is when you lose a fly... IN A FISH!  (We all do it occasionally don't we?)  The discomfort comes from a pricked conscience.  Each of us knows without doubt that we have just done harm, the very last thing any true angler wants.

The obverse of this coin is when you catch a fish and on removing your fly you find there is another, which you remove and joyfully release the fish knowing it is going back better off than it was prior to your success just now.  The feeling is one of relief on those occasions when you look closely at the fly to see - Lo and Behold!  It is your fly that you lost in that fish on a previous occasion.

Here's what was found tonight in a rather large brown trout.  The one with no tippet attached and algae on the wings and tail is one your faithful blogger lost last week - with much chagrin!  Emotions were at the other end of the See-Saw this evening when, after releasing the now unencumbered fish, it was possible to examine and confirm that this was indeed the very same lost fly.  The guilt pangs are now well and truly reversed...Deo Gratias

Regular Rod

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Blondes - preferred by gentlemen?

An evening of fun with a blonde is not a bad thing, usually.  If the blonde is a bit glittery, evening might be the only time that fun is to be had.  Here's one of my blondes.  As you can see she is a bit on the shiny side even though this snap was taken long after sunset.

It's a Hardy Phantom Hollokona of 8ft in length.  One of the most accurate casting rods you are ever likely to come across.  The rod builders, from the days when Hardy built their own rods at Alnwick in Northumberland, really knew their trade very well.  My only niggle is that it is too shiny and so I only use it for evening and night fishing.

Henry came along and we had a fine time on the river Lathkill, or Dakin, a little, limestone spring-fed tributary of my Mother river, the Derbyshire Wye.

Arrived at 19:00 the spinners were already busy so the PPS was put to good use again.

Some lovely Wild Rainbow Trout (WRT) were mixed in with the famous Wild Brown Trout of this gin clear river.  Both species were found in good numbers and in good condition.  It was even possible to get a snap of a fish being released, which until tonight I have signally failed so to do...

Here's a WRT on the wet meshes of the net and...

Here is the same fish on its way back to freedom, hurray!  (Forgive the quality it was getting a little dark by now.)

Several fine trout of both species succumbed to the charms of the PPS.  This one was so fine, to carry on would have been an anti-climax. Your faithful blogger was hungry and so was his faithful friend.  Going home, leaving a river full of rising fish is a good thing to do.  It was one of those nights when you wonder "How on Earth do all the fish fit in?" - a much nicer puzzle than wondering "Where have all the fish got to?"

If you think your river is short of fish you could do a lot worse than to start fishing in the evening and if your rod is a bit too blonde or shiny for best effect in the daylight it won't matter in the fading light as there will be no sun to glint on it.

Instead of packing up as the sun sinks, stay out there whilst the fish reveal themselves to you and, instead of dinner on your return home, make do with supper!

Regular Rod

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Fainting Fit...

In Victorian times, whenever a situation was becoming burdensome to a lady, it was quite acceptable for her to have a touch of the vapours, swoon and "faint". This would immediately bring the awkward situation to an end and simultaneously win her the prize of being the centre of everyone's concern for her well being.

Here's another puzzle, this was from last night's short session with the PPS after the spinner eaters and it was solved by "fainting"...

Across the river is a slack current, the head of which is nicely protected by a willow's branches. Therein a trout was eating spinners with impunity.  Between the trout and the angler is a strong current that whisks the line away promptly and so drags the fly away from the feeding trout.  Throwing a snaky line has no effect as the current is so swift the whole lot gets dragged in less than two seconds.

The remedy was to get opposite the feeding fish and cast the line with what would normally be excessive forward force, abruptly stopping the line so it falls into a swoon and faints into a pile of leader and tippet.  The line is dragged away instantly as before, but the leader and tippet, if long enough, are straightened out taking just sufficient time for the fly to have drifted at the speed of the slack current for a few moments and to trick the trout into rising for it.

The trout was just behind where that willow shoot is diagonally going down into the water.  Getting the line to swoon and faint into a pile here was not easy as the overhanging willow stems meant that the line had to be cast with a sideways, chopping action to get under the willow and it needed to be done with quite a bit of force to make sure that, when the line was abruptly stopped, the leader and tippet would still fall in that vital pile, even though it was not being delivered vertically, which is usually much easier to do.

The reward was a lot of satisfaction and a smallish, but lovely wild brown trout whose headquarters really should have been impregnable.  Forgive the bleached out photo as the flash went off and it would not have been kind to mess this trout about anymore with another snap...

Is there ever such a thing as an uncatchable trout?

Regular Rod

Friday, 13 July 2012

Friday the 13th

Lucky for some.  Too busy with work and then Choir to get out on the only sunny day for ages yesterday, today was back to rain so, being stir crazy for some fishing on my mother river, it was a case of to Hell with it and get out tonight, get wet and fish for a couple of hours after half past seven and a quick supper.

The rain kept on but the flies were about and, braving the risk of bombardment, the spinners were busy with their vital mission.  The fish were glad of that and so was the angler.  Regulars on the Derbyshire Wye are familiar with the blistering power of the Wild Rainbow Trout that breed here.  Tonight one trout at first had me convinced I was into one of these famous fish.
I was wrong.  This brown trout was so strong, and fought so fast and so furiously that it deceived me completely until near the end of the struggle when it showed itself for the first time.  To add to the perfection, on netting the fish, the little barbless fly (a Poly Prop Sherry) simply fell out.  It was possible to take a quick snap and release this lovely fish without so much as laying a finger on it.  This Friday the 13th proved to be most certainly a lucky day, alright then - lucky evening, and a happy day/evening too for your faithful blogger...

Regular Rod

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Spring-fed saviour!

Most of you will be aware that we English like to discuss our weather.  It's a safe topic of conversation when strangers, or only slight acquaintances, meet.  We nearly always agree with each other about the weather.  Believe me, you would not find it hard to meet folk in England today who would agree that the weather has been unseasonally wet!

The river outside my garden door is once more the colour of oxtail soup.  I wanted to fish for fish I could see this afternoon so used the car to drive a few miles to a local river that is almost entirely spring-fed.  The car was chosen instead of the bike because Henry wanted to come and I wanted him to be there too.  He cannot ride on the bicycle so the car it was...

We met Warren just before we started.  Henry was made to sit and wait before he was allowed to run to Warren for a cuddle and some love.  I'm hoping that these constant tests of Henry's obedience will help him to behave well on the shoots this coming winter.  His enthusiasm and affection are awe inspiring but they have to be channelled safely.  So far so good.

Wandering down the path (this is the path!) to the lower end of the beat it was evident the river was high!  There was water everywhere but it was still clear. Clear enough for fish to see the flies and clear enough for the angler to see and choose the fish he wanted to try and catch. 

A big version of the Nondescript Sedge (NDS) was chosen to start proceedings, as it was easy for both fish and angler to see.  This is the very fly and if you look closely you will see that the trouts' teeth have already cut the tying thread rib and it won't be long before this fly is defunct.

It proved effective.  Several lovely wild brown trout decided to eat it, starting with this fine example...

...who lives in this violent lasher to the outfall weir of an old dam built during the Industrial Revolution to power the workings of a Cupola Furnace that was used to burn the local limestone to make quicklime.

Right in the middle of this picture just under that overhanging dead stalk from last year's nettles is where the fly was taken.  A classic example of why dry fly casting sometimes has to be controllable and accurate at extreme CLOSE range.

Working our way upstream, a few more of these lovely wild brown trout came to the net having been tempted by the NDS.

One day I'll get a nice shot of a trout swimming away from the net having been safely released... 

Footprints left by trout that are too quick for my feeble timing of the shutter are all I seem to get at the moment.  Here's one to illustrate the frustrating problem!

As we reached the top of the beat our arrival coincided with a change on the water.  The trout were feeding much more frequently and it was clear by their "head-dorsal fin-tail" rises that they were eating spinners.  Looking against the light, the sky was getting crowded by dancing spinners, so off with the NDS ...

...and on with the Poly Prop Sherry (PPS)

This quickly led to more lovely wild brown trout coming to the net and Lo and Behold!  Henry understood to sit and NOT try to retrieve these prey.  I think he is learning some patience at last.

It was getting a bit too easy and this is a small river where restraint should always be at the forefront of the angler's mind, so we packed up.  I collected about a pound of gooseberries from a couple of feral gooseberry bushes on the way back to the car and that was going to be that.

The mobile 'phone went, with the news that a couple of friends from Hampshire were actually fishing on the next beat up from me.  An opportunity not to be missed!  "Let's go and see them Henry!"  A few minutes later and we were shaking hands (and agreeing on the weather)!

A few more minutes later and I was taking a snap of  a very happy, if moist, angler engaged in a successful battle...

They had to go early, to attend a singing concert in Haddon Hall, which I thought was a pity as the very best fishing time was just getting underway, but it was explained to me that, sometimes, sacrifices have to be made for the sake of family harmony.  A point, which this Englishman believes is like the weather, we can all agree upon it.

Regular Rod

Friday, 6 July 2012

No Fishing! Browned off...


Ah well!  We need the water after two years of drought.  I refuse to complain or feel resentment at the extra water we are getting through my favourite river, even though its colour means no fishing here for now. 

It will settle down in a few days and Henry and I can add some further purpose to our time by the water.

Regular Rod

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Space - the final frontier...

Here's a nice puzzle from this evening's Sport (between bouts with the hundreds of horseflies that are proving hungry and determined right now).

 A fish was feeding under the far arched branch of willow in this picture.  Over the water leading up to this feeding station there are two more claw-like, arched branches of willow. 

The remedy was to get up close and kneel here under the middle arch so that all the middle obstruction was directly overhead.. 

Then side cast with the line a foot or so above the surface so it would pass under the lower arch on the back cast....

...and pass under the upper arch to the feeding fish on the forward cast. 

The middle arch was simply ignored as the kneeling position right under it meant that as long as the cast was passing under the rear and front arches it was bound to clear the middle arch. 

Getting close and hiding in the margin under that middle arch meant, in effect, there were only two obstructions to beware of during the cast.  Of course the middle arch became a nuisance when playing the fish so side strain was used to get the fish into a netting position downstream and away from the danger of tangling the rod top in the willow twigs of the middle arch.

Now we are into summer, the thick and high margins make it as easy as it gets for the angler preferring to hide, up close and personal to the fish.  Hiding like this can solve many of the problems that make long casts to feeding fish in these awkward spots at best impractical, at worst impossible.  Just because it is hot it does not make it okay to eschew the overtrousers.  You will need them for these types of spots where kneeling or sitting in the margin is vital to your success.  (They also keep the horseflies from biting your legs!)

Oh! I almost forgot...

Wishing a very happy Fourth of July to all of you in the USA!

Regular Rod

Monday, 2 July 2012

Learning the hard way...

...that fly fishing for salmon is very different from dry fly fishing for trout!

A week away from home was pleasantly spent on the waters of the river Dee in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. 

The accommodation was amazing!

We had three beats to fish: Dess (a big, glorious place); Woodend (delightful with a long channel that meanders from one side of the river to the other); and the Cairnton water (where A H E Wood invented fishing for salmon with the floating fly line).


There is sadly little to tell from my own fishing, being unable to stay connected to a salmon for more than a few seconds all week, but my colleagues and friends all caught either salmon or sea trout during the week.  Guess what your faithful blogger caught?


Yes, trout made light of my flies no matter what size I swung around in the Dee's powerful currents.  A photograph was made of the first trout as a reminder that small fish will eat quite big items of food.  Well they do judging by the size of the fly this one attacked, a two inch aluminium tubed affair of squirrel tail dyed ultramarine blue.

So it went on.  Trouts of tiny and moderate size seemed only too keen to be caught by this Sassenach. The 15ft Sage "flagpole" was even forced into a bend by one plucky two pounder, which was caught on the Wednesday night.  It was shaped with a very rounded cross section, reminiscent of a mackerel.

The salmon, on the whole, steered clear except for one at the tail of a pool called "Russel" on the Cairnton beat, which took a Tosh on a size 12 low water double, set off back down river for the thick end of twenty yards, rolled on the surface so I could see it was probably into double figures and then just seemed to let go.  The line fell slack and I kept my comments limited so that I would not burst into tears.  Later in the week, on the same beat, in the middle of a pool called "Ferroch" the fly was being held for a few seconds on the dangle with the end of the fly line about two feet from the left bank there was a sudden screech from the reel then a silent pause only broken by my saying out loud "Don't Strike!" and then another slightly longer screech then nothing.  All had gone slack and I "knew" that this holiday was going to have me watterlicked as far as migratory fish were concerned.

To tell the truth I fished on in as focused a manner as possible, only finishing on the Saturday night at 23:50 to both give it a full go and ensure I did not, inadvertantly, fish on the Sabbath...

Regular Rod's Manifesto for Catching a Salmon on a Double Handed Fly Rod (Eventually)
I learned a lot (the hard way).  Next year will be better for me.  I will go for more casting lessons and practice the art until proficient.  I will tie more flies in the variety of sizes needed to cover all water heights and conditions.  I will equip myself with a variety of floating, intermediate and sinking lines and leaders.  I will not quit.

Now it is time to get back to Dry Fly Fishing, where I can still kid myself that I understand what is going on....

Regular Rod