Photograph by Steve Barnett

Wednesday 31 December 2014

Happy New Year to Everyone!

There is a thaw going on outside.  The water is rising a little and yet staying clear as crystal. 

It all bodes well for 2015 round here.  Here's hoping you all enjoy your own 2015 and that there is plenty of water to keep your rivers healthy.

Best wishes

Regular Rod

Friday 26 September 2014

Easy Way to Autumnal Success

There are a few days left of the trout season and we now have the bonus of some very easy grayling fishing to keep us delighted right up the end. 
The low water conditions, whilst a source of concern, present the careful fisher with some easy access to places that are normally just that bit too hard to fish from the bank. 

It is a favourite ploy of your faithful correspondent to go out on the dry gravel and silt beds and sit cross legged for a while until the fish are relaxed and rising again.
 Here is one such place where being that bit closer renders the task of managing drag just that bit easier and more effective.  The trick being to raise the rod so a minimum of line is on the water and that minimum is kept under control by lots of little sideways, partial, roll casts.  Once you are used to this, it becomes second nature and easy to make these mends without moving the fly unnaturally.  Here you catch grayling in Autumn, brown trout in Summer and wild rainbow trout any time at all...

The pan net with its fine mesh makes releasing fish easy and safe for them.
It does present a problem for my assistant, Henry.  "Where did THAT one go?"

On my Mother river the fly life is amazing even now, but though there are many olives, sedges, yellow sallies, needle flies and willow flies to eat, it is equally amazing how the fish can become preoccupied with little smuts and midges.  There is only one policy really worth trying at times like these and that is the old "match the hatch" plan.  This means you need to have a range of suitable fakes at your disposal and you must keep watching carefully to be aware of the removes at the fishes', now all day, mealtime.

Olives: Grey Duster; Kite's Imperial, Pheasant Tail and Tup's Indispensable (Variant) are my favourites.

Sedges:  Nondescript Sedge and Double Badger are all I use.

Yellow Sallies:  Double Badger does the trick

Needle and Willow Flies:  If the Double Badger isn't working I resort to Phil White's excellent fake that uses a single turkey or goose biot for the wing.  You know when these are on the menu because you can hardly see the flies that the fish are rising to but they will be visible on you as they crawl on your hands, neck and face.  Try not to crush them when you remove them from your person.

Smuts and Midges:  Tiny Grey Dusters work as do the Aphids, but the best of all, especially for grayling, is the Sturdy's Fancy.

Links to the recipes are on the right hand panel of this page.

Make the most of the next few days.  The close season is a long drawn out affair that sends most of us a little potty by Spring...

Regular Rod

Saturday 30 August 2014

Quick Fix

The season is now truly in its closing stages.  Being there is paramount.  Observation is even more important now as it is easy to miss some subtle changes...

Not all spinners are those of the Blue Winged Olive, our staple fly on English fly fishing rivers and streams.  There was your faithful correspondent sat by a quiet glide.  The fish were certainly feeding on spinners.  The rise forms confirmed the fact.  A lunker of a Wild Rainbow Trout was on station and rising confidently with nose. dorsal fin and tail breaking the surface in succession to make the elongated rise form that announces the spinner eater at dinner.  The fly (PPS) was presented and drifted over in what was surely the ideal place and timing. 

No interest in the fake was shown whatsoever. 

The lunker carried on rising most definitely to spinners.

Hmm...  What to do?  My PPS is surely infallible?  Can the fly be wrong?  So sitting and staying hidden to watch, the flies on the surface were too far away to see clearly so look in the sky...

Strange?  No flies in the sky!  But these are spinners being eaten!!!  Then a fly was spotted.  It was on the gravel next to me.  Carrot orange body, shiny wings, two long tails not three, certainly a spinner, I believe of one of the Pale Watery flies.  It then folded its wings closed over its back, crawled onto a stalk of fleur de lys and went down under the water.  Maybe after laying its eggs this type of spinner drifts back up to the surface to die?  The PPS was pretty good for colour but the wings were far too big.  A quick snip with the scissors shortened the wings and seemed to make the fly look about right. 

Try again...

This time the fly was accepted without hesitation or fuss.

It was good to watch the fish cruise back to its place and it was good to feel satisfied that those few moments of observational pause had reaped such reward.


Be There and Watch Carefully...

Oh and bring your scissors.  You might need them for that Quick Fix!

Regular Rod

Friday 29 August 2014

2 Willows Old and New

This is still relevant to dry fly fishing.  Willows, particularly Crack Willow, Salix fragilis, is a native to the British Isles and, as such, life around these parts has evolved to take advantage of its bounty.  The result is that many hundreds of species rely on the Willow for food and shelter.  Your faithful blogger also relies on the willow for the extra joy its beauty can bestow on the riverside scene.  One of the lovelier aspects of these willows is the way some of them reach out across the water in the quest for light.  Shaded on the land side, some young willows are forced to grow outwards over the river reaching for the sun.  As they get older they also get heavier and that makes some of them lean over even more making beautiful arches over and by the river. 
An arch in miniature

So heavy it broke under its own weight but it has stayed attached

This one got too heavy, broke off and was carried away during a winter storm
2 Willows Old and New in the one picture
There in the distance is a big, old, dark and heavy willow arch, but look here in the left foreground...  A young willow is already leaning over the river in its quest for sunlight.  A couple of hundred years from now it will likely be just like that big, old, dark and heavy example.  Ready to come down into the river and make it's final contribution to the health of the river, by causing the gravel to be scoured and cleaned thanks to a diverted water flow and so making perfect habitat... Maybe for spawning trout or grayling?

Regular Rod

Monday 25 August 2014

Youngster Fishing

Here's a youngster, fishing in the Town water.  There are scores of people nearby but the abundance of fish has led to bravery being rewarded and, as nothing nasty has happened, the Town is now part of the territory.

Regular Rod

Saturday 16 August 2014

Easy 400 year old solution to 2,000 year old problem!

Now the Evening Shadows Closing is happening before the spinners have got even halfway through their return to the water, we need to fish on into the night.  The problem is, as it has been since the time of the Macedonians, how to see the fly?

Facing West
 Last night, facing west, the rises were easy to watch but the PPS was virtually invisible and many fish were being missed.  Something had to be done and done quick as it was getting darker by the minute.  A gamble was made.  Change the fly to something that will show up in silhouette on the silver reflection of the western sky.  So Charles Cotton came to the rescue with his Black Fly as described in the fifth edition of the Complete Angler of 1674...

Yes the fly looks nothing like a spinner.  Yes the rises were not as confident to this black confection as they usually are to the PPS.  Nevertheless, some were prepared to eat it and the rewards were all the more satisfying. 

"You've let another escape again Dad!"

Anglers have struggled with the lack of visibility since the dawn of our ancient Sport.  Here was an easy way they surely must have overcome the problem.  It's one in the eye for one of my favourite maxims though...

"Match the Hatch!"

Regular Rod

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Fiddling about with casts...

Yesterday evening started well enough.  Here a line of trout were rising nicely but in an awkward place round to the left of this picture with this fine overhanging branch of alder forcing a sort of hatchet action to the cast to swing the fly, leader and line around and under the "obstruction".  (Not an obstruction at all, but a valuable piece of cover that encourages the trout to line up and feed here...)

Fine, no problem then? 

Err...  Not quite!

There was a small matter of the back cast. 

Earlier in the day your faithful blogger was witness to a couple of anglers in the recreation ground trying a couple of new rods from the Orvis shop.  One thing stood out.  Neither angler turned his head to watch what the line was doing on the back cast.  Now that's alright on a casting platform or wading in a big river, but how very much easier it would be to get the timing right and to avoid catching up on the bankside herbage if they would get into the habit of watching the fly line on the back cast as well as on the forward cast, turning the head to make sure of seeing everything that is going on and everything that is likely to get in the way.

One or two things to get in the way here.  That cast up river, over to the left and under the overhanging cover would have been just about impossible, certainly very lucky if achieved at all, with no turning of the head and close scrutiny of exactly where the line was going and what it was doing.

Last night the river was very kind to your faithful blogger.  This season the river is lower than usual and some places where the flow was just right in previous years for the fish to line up for the evening return of the Sherry Spinners might now hold few if any fish.  Now you and I know full well that the fish cannot just vanish.  They live here so they must be somewhere.  The trick is to go right back to basics and start afresh.  No matter how well a water is known to the angler there is often something new to learn about it...

So it proved to be at a favourite spot a little further down river. 

Sitting cross legged on a dry silt bed and watching a pool that has often been covered in the oval rises that indicate trout eating spent spinners, it became clear that, although there were a few fish around and one or two were prepared to take the fly in error, things were different from previous years.  Much has changed anyway as the additional large woody debris in the river has altered a number of pools, so it was with an open mind that the decision was made to leave this "favourite spot" and wander off, searching for "new" places where those Wye wild rainbow and wild brown trout had toddled off to.

Please accept my sincere apologies for the poor (camera shake) quality of this photograph but it does show how very interesting are the questions the river can ask of you.  The current nearest to us is very quick and powerful. Over on the other side the flow is even but slower.  It just so happens that the dark shaded line at the edge of the opposite current is where a fair number of trout were lined up to make the most of the spinners.  Great numbers of these were arriving on the surface conveyor belt, dead and dying and packed with calories!  How to cope?  You will recall that in a previous blogpost we had a similar situation.  In that instance, as well as extending the leader to make it fail to turn over, we cast well up current with a little extra power on the forward cast, so that the failed turnover of the leader let the fly fall down in the slack water opposite and drifted without drag for several seconds until the line and leader in the fast current came down and overtook the slower drifting fly.

Here we need something different.  The trees on the bank dictate that we cannot go downstream to cast up in a similar way to the previous example.  We are bang opposite our quarry so need another way to get some loose leader in a pile over on the other side of this fast current.  The answer is to cast with slightly higher than usual line speed and to abruptly stop the line in mid-air so the over-long cast is bounced back and the fly, tippet and leader land in a pile in that slower current.  The fly then drifts for just enough time to convince the trout that the fly (Poly Prop Sherry "PPS") is a real Sherry Spinner and the mistake we need is made!

It wasn't easy.  Several flies were lost in the vegetation.  Nevertheless, it was viable and a place where I have never caught a fish before turned out to be, potentially, a new "favourite spot".

Wandering back up river towards home the fish were diligently feeding on Sherry Spinners.  The flat water above Black Barn was a joy to behold with rises everywhere.  One last cast, kneeling behind the sedges, produced a beautiful brown trout that would have rendered anything else an anti-climax.  I couldn't see the fly anymore and anyway there is something so right about leaving the trout still feeding in earnest and packing in the calories.  Therefore, at only a few minutes past ten, it was time for home.

The nights are closing in fast now so make the most of these sultry evenings.  The season has only sixty three days left!

Regular Rod

Monday 28 July 2014


If a person, or a club, or a syndicate, has or obtains fishing rights, does this simply mean that the water is to be policed to keep it from being fished by unauthorised folk?  Or are there responsibilities and duties that come with the privilege of "ownership"?  Unless there are stipulations in the deeds or in the lease, there is next to nothing forcing the lucky possessors of the fishing rights to do the right thing by the water and its inhabitants.  Confront a club committee with the idea that they should be taking steps to ensure professional keepering of their waters and you will usually be told that the members would never countenance the necessary increase in fees to pay for such services.  This is surely because anglers, certainly in the UK, have become used to paying very little for the right to fish.  To make any change, which would lead to their rivers being looked after in the way they (the rivers) deserve, first needs a general change of mind and attitude towards the cost of fishing. 

Will this ever happen in my lifetime?  Maybe it will in one or two exceptional places...

While I'm waiting I think I'll just make sure I patronise only those places where my money goes into the upkeep of the waters by professional, dedicated, river keepers.  An amateur cop in the form of a bailiff is NOT taking on the real obligations implied with ownership and leasehold of fishing rights.

What do you think?  Is this how to make sure waters are managed in as sustainable a manner as possible?  Is keepering nothing but a relic of feudal times?  How can our rivers all be made as they should be if not by full-time, dedicated, professional keepering?

Regular Rod

Sunday 6 July 2014

Simple Fixes

Here's a couple of situations of which similar ones you will very likely come across whilst dry fly fishing.

The first one is DRAG!

Here is about the most simple example and the fix is also simple.  Fancy casting is not needed when all there is to consider is one very strong and fast current under your bank and next to a weaker and slower current further across.  The pictures show it better than I can write it:

As usual the "X" marks the spot where the fish are.

The remedy was very simple.  All that was needed was an extra long tippet on the end of the leader to make the distance between the fly and the fly line just over 6 yards.  Make the cast to land well upstream and to make sure the leader fails to turn over put a little bit too much force in the forward cast.  The fly lands over in front of the fish and the leader lands in a rough pile, upstream, partly in the stronger current and partly in the weaker current.  This gives you a few extra drag-free moments of your fly drifting dead stick over the trout.  Usually the trout will eat the fly and then your sweeping strike takes up all the slack line and sets the hook!

The second little puzzle was about obstructions...  Again it was very easy to fix.

In the past it was normal to creep up to this run and, while almost laying down, cast across to the fish rising in that line of bubbles in the feed lane.  This winter we had some extra powerful storms that left trees and bits of trees in the river.  One of these has ended up right between us and the fish, lots of twigs and small branches waiting to claw our line out of the air and break our hearts in the process.

How to fix it?  Break the, usually desirable, habit of sitting or kneeling or laying down to cast.  Move a few yards down stream and this time stand(!) to cast, at an angle, a little further up than before and so reach the fish.  It is possible to get away with standing in this instance by virtue of being further away from the fish and also by hiding behind the leaves of the alder growing conveniently just where we can get a clear cast to our chosen quarry.

It was a hot sunny day yesterday afternoon and rising fish were at a premium.  Plenty there but they needed finding and opportunities like these two just couldn't be wasted.  Certainly not with a task master like Henry, grumbling whenever there seems to be nothing happening.  He likes action and lots of it!

Regular Rod

Friday 4 July 2014

Happy Fourth of July

... to all of you in the USA.  Have a great time, especially if you are going fishing!

Regular Rod

Saturday 28 June 2014

A Wet Fly Interlude...

Right up to the last minute this year, it was doubtful whether your faithful blogger was going to be able to again join Dave Wallace's party on it's annual visit to the Dee in Aberdeenshire.  After the best part of a week in hospital with a tube in the left arm and some dedicated nursing there was just a week to try and recover enough to withstand the rigours of flinging a big wet fly about, all day every day for a week.  The snag was it all depended on the results of some final tests.  Fortunately the all clear was given with the doctor's proviso not to overdo things and to rest every hour or so for a while.

It turns out that the Dee, this year, is proving hard but ignorance is bliss and your correspondent simply assumed it is always difficult to find a salmon prepared to take your fly.  Anyway luck favours the lucky and now the ambition to catch a salmon on a double handed rod with a self-tied fly (a Tosh on a size 12 low water debarbed double) has definitely been achieved. 

This is not a sea trout!

Now it is time to get back to some dry fly fishing with little flies on a little river and to look forward to next year's wet fly trip to the Dee...

Regular Rod

Monday 16 June 2014

16th June 2014

My paternal Grandad took me fishing for the first time on 16th June 1956.  He was a traditional Sheffield style angler and that is how he taught me to fish.  A veteran from the Royal Flying Corps in WWI, he's long gone now but I'll never forget him, just as long as I can manage to commemorate this anniversary with a few hours by a quiet lake, bait being bread flake alternated with crust and, to finish the day, some worms...

Alisdair is a good friend.  He knows full well how important this ceremonial trip is to me.  He kindly took care of the permission and the transport to this private estate lake in Derbyshire.  Here he is with a nice Rudd heaving away at his 1970s ABU rod and reel.  He chose to fish in 1970s mode.  I used everything from the 1950s.  Glass for Alisdair, hollow built cane for me.  We began a few minutes after four o'clock this morning and at half past seven we were done for the day.  Alisdair to get to work.  Your faithful blogger to continue his slow convalescence at home.

All I wanted was a little Perch and maybe a little Rudd.  Instead I was treated to several hard charging Tench, plenty of Rudd, most of which needed the landing net and to finish the morning's pleasures a load of Perch on worms presented literally just under the rod top.

One of the "hard charging" Tench.  Grandad used to wax lyrical about the ruby eye of the Tench...
If okay by Wednesday, yours truly will be packing the salmon fly gear for the annual visit to the Dee in Aberdeenshire.  If not then someone else will have to take my place this year whilst I continue my enforced inactivity at home.

Regular Rod

Monday 9 June 2014

Reasons to be cheerful...

Do you ever have one of those days when you are simply very happy?  Euphoric? When you have that "It feels good to be alive!" feeling? 

Yesterday was a day like that for your faithful correspondent.

Out with the dog, by the water, the Drake in full swing, the river alive, the fish to be seen feeding everywhere, the sun shining in between summer showers, flies in abundance, wild trout in abundance, wild flowers in abundance, it was simply perfect and after several days of being forcibly held from it, being there was extra special.

Some nice trout were caught and gently returned.  Here are some samples:

There was more to it than that though.  There were many other lovely things making the day so enjoyable.  The total was greater than the sum of the parts.  Certainly these were among the parts in this happy calculation:

These are the flowers of Sweet Rocket (Hesperis matronalis).  As you can see they come in the regular mauve-ish pink and also in the less common white. 

There were many, many reasons to be cheerful yesterday, certainly one of them is impossible to show you...  The flowers of Sweet Rocket make a most exquisite scent and on a humid afternoon the air is heavy with it.  That smell, if not the trigger for the feelings of euphoria, was certainly an all pervading component in "the sum of the parts".

Falling asleep that night, the last thing passing through the mind on its way to sleep was not dancing Mayfly Spinners, nor was it rising trout, nor curved and creaking cane.  In fact it was not a vision at all.  No, it was the heavy scent of Sweet Rocket and I recommend a good sniff at it whenever you get chance!

Regular Rod

Sunday 1 June 2014

"Natural" Selection...

Mayfly time, on a dry fly only water, is very important to the angler who would like to try for one of the really big trout.  Even if the quest is unsuccessful, there is still a great deal of fact to find out about the way things are going in the river.  Of course you could simply ask the Environment Agency to come and find out by electro-fishing the water, but that is a nasty shortcut and I believe is not altogether safe for the fish.  Anyway it is much more exciting to find out for yourself with nothing more than the fair means permitted and at your disposal on the fishery.

Your faithful blogger's Mother river is the Derbyshire Wye, particularly in its lower reaches.  The rules have always been very simple: no wading and dry fly only.  In 2004 the management policy of the river was changed and changed for the better as events since have proven.  Stocking with farmed fish ceased and another rule was added to the other two - Catch and Release!  The view being that at least for some years it is best if all fish were returned so that the larger fish, which were traditionally killed for the table, would get chance to pass on their genes by being allowed to breed.

The effect was almost immediate, certainly by the end of the second season there were many more trout and grayling in the river than had previously been the case and... there was a greater variety of sizes!

Now, ten years on, it would appear that the size of the fish at the top of the food chain is getting bigger, much, much bigger...

Arrived at the water and seeing a rise to a Drake (traditional Derbyshire speak for the sub imago of the mayfly Ephemera danica, sometimes the less common Ephemera vulgata) and having already tied on an EBM a cast was made. 

A mistake and a thoughtless one too!  The poor little trout was not much more than 5 or 6 times longer than the fly...

An immediate decision was made to leave all trout alone until it was certain that the cast was being made to those of good size, ten inches at least.  This meant that the tactic had to be to search out the bigger fish.  A few minutes watching the water led to the conclusion that all the best fish were in the edges and under overhanging branches and other vegetation.

Places like these, just upstream of those yellow Fleur De Lys on the opposite bank.
The number of casts made in the day were constrained by the difficulties encountered when trying to get the fly under the alder, willow, hawthorn and such.  This turned out to be the best way, watching, waiting, looking for LITTLE rises to the Drake, the big splashy rises were the signature of small fish and so were ignored.  Some splendid fish were brought to the net.  Some fish were impregnable though.  Just look at these two pictures:

What you can see here is a feeder stream coming in near the top left of the picture.  See those bubbles and the crease in the main river flow?  This version will be easier to see what was happening:

There is a flow coming in from the feeder stream and it is being pushed to our left by the small woody debris at the mouth of the feeder.  The main current  coming directly from our left catches this feeder current and turns it down river.  Some of this flow is turned by the body of "still" water this side of the woody debris and so the whole of this is turned to make an eddy.  To add to the structure there is a degree of aerial cover afforded by the over hanging alder branch and its twigs and leaves.  There are at least ten fish feeding in this interesting place.  The largest of which I believe is the one downstream and under that alder on the right of the picture.  How many did I catch?  Not a one!  Controlling the drag was a puzzle that beat me soundly.  I love places like this and the trout that live there.  They make the river a true meritocracy and I'm sure someone better than me will have success here at some time in the future.

Onwards and upwards to further overhanging alder and hawthorn (and no, I will not illustrate the place for selfish reasons that will become obvious in a moment) and a beautiful brown trout of just under eighteen inches took my fly, which by now had been changed to a PPSG as there was a good return of spinner from just before two o'clock that the fish were seeming to prefer over the Drake.


That blue grey dot behind the eye and the three dots like a partial paw mark above the pectoral fin will make sure she is easily recognised again...
The trout reacted in the way decent sized brown trout often do, she bore down and deep and made for the roots by her station on the opposite bank from me.  Then suddenly at great speed she ran up river.  Side strain turned her towards me then even more suddenly she was airborne!  Then she skittered across the water towards me!   As she came near it was evident what caused this "illogical" action.  There was another brown trout beneath her that was simply enormous!!!  I'd guess it at the thick end of a yard long, easily as long as my arm anyway and "built" with it too.  The water was clear enough for me to see it very well, it was bulky as well as long, which says to me that it was in good condition and thriving.  It only turned away when my net was placed in the water...

This is the second very big trout I've seen in the last two seasons (ignoring the Town fish) and the other one was only a matter of 100 yards upriver from this monster.

I believe it is due to managing the river for wild fish only and the catch and release policy that we are now about to benefit from some very exciting developments.  Of course I will be back and watching carefully, even if I never catch the giant, knowing that it is there is very satisfying.

Regular Rod

Saturday 24 May 2014

Victim Support?

Here's a fish that at first glance is not in great condition and to be avoided by any angler as we don't want to catch sickly fish.  However, this is an exception that proves the rule.  The poor condition is due to this fish having difficulty in feeding (I believe so anyway).  Why can it not sustain itself?  It was once a fine brown trout now it is losing condition before its time.  What has gone wrong?  Check out just in front of that pectoral fin.  Can you see that pale beige line coming from the corner of the mouth?  It's fishing line!  It's been there a long time judging by the algae growing on it...

I want to catch this poor fish and take the hook out of its mouth, remove the impediment completely and let this fish have a go at regaining its condition through the summer.  Can I catch it?  Not unless I find it feeding at the surface first...

Regular Rod