Photograph by Steve Barnett

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