Photograph by Steve Barnett

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Happy 239th Birthday!

Wishing a great 4th of July to all of you in the USA. 

(Especially if you are going to include some fishing in your celebrations...)

Regular Rod

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

16th June 2015

No dry fly content at all in this post.  Today is when your faithful blogger likes to do a little bit of coarse fishing ("coarse" is a silly name we English give to fish without an adipose fin).  This morning I went back to basics to recall some of the joys of my first day fishing properly with a rod and a reel on the 16th June 1956.  The intention was to take some bread and a few compost worms to a little pond, set up tackle from the 1950's (apart from a modern, fish-friendly, landing net), fish as my Grandad taught me and try to catch a roach and a perch.

At 03.50 the light was just enough to set up the tackle.  A few morsels of white bread were torn from a slice and gently tossed in, near the reeds.  The float, home-made of course like Grandad used to make from a feather quill, was set to water depth with a plummet.  The hook was baited with a flake of the bread then a gentle cast was swung out, so the float settled close to the reeds.  In seconds it disappeared and a bream was soon skimming its way to the net.  Out again with fresh bread flake and away went the float.  This time a roach...  Out again...  The process carried on for a couple of happy hours with the catch alternating between bream and roach.

The bread was substituted by a red worm.  I really did like the idea of catching a little stripy perch...

No perch! 

Plenty of bream and roach and then, just before it was time to go, there was an almighty S-U-C-K just a yard in front of my feet.  Although startled my eye was quick enough to see a mirror carp sinking away out of sight for a moment and then up it came again to repeat the loud S-U-C-K as it slurped another piece of bread crust that I had carelessly allowed to fall on the water in front of me.

In came the float and end tackle.  The shots were moved up out of the way.  A piece of crust the size of a postage stamp was quickly put on the hook.  The line was reeled in short and the crust was floated on the water, right under the rod top.

Up came the carp.  It examined the crust and sank down out of sight again.  It came back!  With another loud S-U-C-K it made the mistake I was looking for...  A few minutes later, after some strong, reel-screaming runs that hooped the ancient cane rod over into a very satisfying arc, it was safely in the long-handled landing net.  Quite a treat and a completely unexpected reward.

Nostalgia can be sickly sweet but this morning it didn't seem to be out of place.  Grandad is still owed a massive debt of gratitude for the introduction to angling with all its mysteries and joys...

Regular Rod

Thursday, 28 May 2015


Dan is this year's winner of the Wild Trout Trust auction lot for a day in Duck Holds Wood.  He was hoping that he might be able to catch one of the Wild Rainbow Trout, for which the Derbyshire Wye is justly famous.    Suffice it to say he was successful and with good reason.  Apart from a ridiculous hat that might have been designed to scare fish away, he was stealthy, observant and careful with his fishing.  His casting was good and seemed to get better as the day went on.

Here are a few snaps of Dan's day...

His first Wild Rainbow Trout.  Note the happy smile!
Here's Dan dealing with drag.  WHAT A HAT!
Dan smiling again...  WHAT A HAT!
This was a particularly satisfying fish to catch.  The picture below shows why...
"X" marks the spot where Dan had to land his fly!  Right in amongst the tangled woody debris...
Dan and a Wild Brown trout caught in the pool called "Selfridges Window".  Note the smile...  and HAT!

It was good to be out today.  Mayflies were being taken.  Fish were prepared to rise.  The rain stopped.  I had the good company of a guest who "got it" with regard to Duck Holds Wood and the river that curls its way through it.  Going home time came rather suddenly, we both wondered where the time had gone to, which is a sure sign we were having fun!

Regular Rod

Sunday, 24 May 2015

"Are we nearly there yet?"

Any child taken by car to somewhere exciting knows this question (and its variants).  Surely, we have all asked it?  Going dry fly fishing in Derbyshire, at this time, has something of the same feeling to it.  "Are we nearly there yet?"  If you'd asked me this any time up to today I would have had to answer "Not yet!"  The summer is not yet truly upon us.  The Hawthorn flies are still around and figuring a la Carte. The Blue Winged Olives are appearing now in sufficient numbers to interest the odd hungry trout but not in numbers to get the whole river full of fish awake to them.  The Drake are showing but in singleton appearances and yes the trout will eat one occasionally.  All of this is encouraging but there has been that definite feeling that we were NOT nearly there yet. 

Faithful Assistant (Henry) in Amongst the Campion and Forget-Me-Nots
Today we rounded a corner.  Flowers are certainly bringing their beauty to the banks, the surrounding woods and the meadows. 
Head needs to be no higher than this.  Kneel or sit down
However, marginal plants are still short and only the low kneeling or sitting angler has any decent chance of real success.  Anything other than this stealthy approach leads to bow waves and fish leaving their equivalent to "Footprints in the Sands of Time..."

Nevertheless, your faithful correspondent (and his small black assistant), by putting the three basic principles to work, was able to enjoy a very decent afternoon's Sport.  Hiding and sitting stealthily behind what little cover there was, observing carefully and making sure that the fly was going to be cast where the fish were, all added up to some satisfying successes.  It is all very encouraging.

A few snaps might help explain...

Hair Winged Mayfly after a Fish and before Drying back to Condition

Typical Wild Rainbow Trout from the Derbyshire Wye

On the Way to Freedom (nearly there)

Free At Last!
So are we really nearly there?  Where and when is summer coming?  When can we expect the furious festivities with the Drake?  After today I'd say any day now.  We ARE "nearly there"!

Regular Rod

Friday, 8 May 2015

Proper Keepering...

A fishing friend, Glen Pointon, has the legend "Living the Dream" running through his entire being.  Just like the legend "BLACKPOOL" is to be found all the way through pink sticks of rock from that famous seaside place, noted for fresh air and fun.  

Look at his blog and you will see that he pursues his dream proactively...

Your faithful blogger's dream is pursued in a more leisurely fashion.  It is a simple dream, that where the river and its inhabitants come first, we all win.  Duck Holds Wood and the short length of the Derbyshire Wye that it straddles, is a place where that dream has been lived for some years now.  On assuming the tenancy, long sessions of wandering with Warren, the Head River Keeper, by the water and through the land, at the same time incorporating hours of serious thought and intense conversation, led to various decisions about the management of this very special place.

Hawthorn a year away from laying perhaps?
Duck Holds Wood was to be a gently exploited fishery, with light fishing pressure and an even lighter hand on the management side.  An early piece of major work was the planting of Hawthorn and Blackthorn to grow into hedges.  These would provide habitat and make corridors for small birds, mammals and reptiles to move around under cover.  Today these are healthy avenues of bushes, rather than hedgerows, that in a year or so can be "laid" to create the hedgerows.  They are already contributing, on a grand scale, to the increase in life within Duck Holds Wood.  The Hawthorn flies today were making the most of early pollen supplies in the tiny hawthorn flowers.  The numbers of Hawthorn flies in, on, around and over the Hawthorn bushes were beyond any ever experienced by either Warren or yours truly.  These flies will of course be important to the fish (and fly fishers) but their bounteous presence will also be much exploited by the swallows and other insectivorous birds.  Have a peep at these snaps to get an idea of how prolific the Hawthorn flies have been...

Not the Luftwaffe over London but Hawthorn Flies over Hawthorn in Duck Holds Wood
A thriving Hawthorn Fly complete with a patch of pollen on the top of the thorax
Another policy for Duck Holds Wood is that woody debris (both large and small) usually belongs in the river and not on a bonfire.  This has led to more and more places for fish to escape to when the Cormorants and Goosanders raid and to more places where individual fish can hold station, in relative safety, to feed on the dainty victuals the Mother river brings to them by day and by night.  Here are some snaps showing the potential of small and large woody debris.  Imagine the cover created once the leaves are out!

Small Woody Debris left by winter floods already sprouting leaves that will provide cover for fish
Large Woody Debris - An entire Willow Tree laid across the whole of this photograph

The upstream end of that Large Woody Debris in the photograph above this one...
Over the years the old poplar plantation, which formed Duck Holds Wood initially, is being felled by the winter and spring gales.  This has opened up a new opportunity to add another type of habitat to this dream place.  We can create meadows in the cleared spaces.  Maybe in a few more years it will be possible to report on them and their contribution, if any, to the life in and around Duck Holds Wood.

Guess who will be deploying Charles Cotton's Black Fly shortly...

Regular Rod

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Work in Progress?

It's still early in the season.  The cream of the dry fly fishing is yet to come.  Our evening rises at present remain perfunctory and the Sherry Spinner is definitely not the cause of any festivities by trout, or angler, just yet.  Nevertheless, this year has been remarkable in that, at certain places on your correspondent's Mother river, there have been very busy evening rises!

The flies being taken with alacrity by the trout are definitely midges, creamy bodied midges...

No problem!  Surely just put on a suitably coloured Aphid pattern or a traditional midge like a Sturdy's Fancy of appropriate size?  Maybe and then again, maybe not.

That pink thing is your faithful blogger's little finger nail to give you some idea of the fly's size

The label on the net is 1⅞ inches wide
This evening the American expression "skunked" sprang to mind.  Not a complete disaster, five fish, like the beauty above, were tricked into eating the tiny Sturdy's Fancy but hundreds refused it!

Some years ago similar happenings used to occur with returns of Sherry Spinners.  Yes some would fall for the well known spinner patterns but hundreds would NOT!  Over time a pattern was devised that turned the tables and is now virtually infallible during any spinner return involving small spinners (14 down to 18).  This is the PPS and the improved variant of it.

It looks like a fresh pattern is needed for these early season evenings after midge eating trout.

So, work will be soon be in progress as a fresh attempt is made to arrive at a midge pattern that will turn the tables again and make evenings like this evening less of a lottery where luck is more important than any other attribute.

Regular Rod

Friday, 10 April 2015

"A Couple of Hours"

Ten years ago we moved house to live by the river.  This evening's happenings illustrate why it was a good idea.

After a day spent in the home office, with telephone pressed to the ear for most of the time, a complete change was very much needed to maintain sanity.

Living by the river meant it was just a few minutes of preparation and a brisk saunter about a mile from the garden door to put your faithful correspondent and his faithful companion amongst a favourite, evening-time haunt.  This section of the river is currently devoid of cover.  The sedges, fleur-de-lis, willow herb, meadow sweet, red campion and other marginal plants, which we usually hide behind are still only inches from the ground, if even showing at all yet.  Low sunshine meant that, before crawling into casting position, observation had to be carried out from afar.  Well afar enough to prevent a big fat shadow scaring all the fish away.  It also meant that there would have to be some whistling to get Henry to turn back and not cast his shadow on the water either...

The first wild rainbow trout of the season was tricked by a size 14 Double Badger and a hurried photograph was made using the mobile phone as the camera proper had been forgotten (should have used the check list).  Please accept the humblest of apologies for the blurry image but a snap seemed only proper for the first of the season and rushing led to incompetence!

Double Badger may have worked but the treat this evening was seeing the several Grannom flies coming off the water.  One or two slower examples were being snaffled by the fish, so a Non-Descript Sedge made with pale buff deer hair wing and similar coloured hackle, instead of the usual darker wing and red hackle, was swapped for the Double Badger.  Bingo! 

So, whilst his pal was occupied watching, waiting and occasionally catching, Henry went off working on his own behalf.  He just wants to please and so he set about searching for quarry in the flotsam on winter's high water mark.  Here he is with his haul of three tennis balls...

The summer is coming fast now.  It will not be long before the evening sport will last until nearly midnight.  Tonight it was not easy but it was a great way to spend "A Couple of Hours".

Regular Rod

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Opening Day 2015 was Wet and Windy

Some days it does us good to find things are not dead easy.  Today your blogger had the benefit of such a day and it is true the spirits are heightened.  The river is over its banks and in one or two places Henry ended up swimming where he and his pal usually walk dry foot.  His enthusiasm was undiminished and when the first (tiny) fish was caught he quickly resumed his policy of trying to help...

Wading is NOT Allowed!
Glides that are normally smooth were raging torrents today.  Places where fish hold station during summer water levels were empty.  It was more important than ever to find the fish before it would be possible to fish where the fish are so careful observation was paramount.  Being stealthy may not have been quite so vital today but keeping low and hidden was still worthwhile, as the fish are still there and fear is still easily spread by any fish under the bank to the others, so the usual efforts were made to avoid letting the fish know of the angler's presence.

Tread Carefully!
In between rain and hail showers there were brief periods of bright, warm sunshine and it was in those spells that the flies arrived at the surface and the rise forms gave the fish away.  These being fish that had been invisible until they took flies.  The flies were guessed as Large Dark Olives so a biggish (14) Double Badger was deployed, which proved acceptable to the fish that did rise and visible to the angler.

Macro setting on the camera for such a little fish.  Small maybe but very welcome and my word!  How beautiful it is..

It's good to be back...

Regular Rod

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Order out of Chaos?

Not for the first time your faithful blogger finds himself completely unready for the upcoming new season.  Fly boxes are in a state of chaotic paucity.  A rod, broken last August, has not yet been sent for repair.  The faithful over-trousers are on their last legs (forgive the pun).  The 47 year old fishing bag has developed holes through which items fall silently into the long grass...

There is less than a week to go before the trout season begins in these parts.  What is to be done that can ensure all is ready enough for the great day?
A few flies are needed, that’s for sure.  What is the absolute minimum of selection that needs to be in the box?  Back to basics, matching the hatch at this time of year is predictable and simple.  Flies that put in their appearances now, include: The Large Dark Olive; the Blue Winged Olive; the Reed Smuts; and Midges.  Good patterns to mimic the first two types of flies will be the Grey Duster, Double Badger and Kite’s Imperial.  The task is to ensure that the right sizes are available.  The Large Dark Olive is well matched to a normal size 12 or 14, the Blue Winged Olive to a 14 or 16.  The little flies like Midges and Reed Smuts are well represented by Sturdy’s Fancy and by the Aphid (dressed with grey or black bodies instead of the summertime’s more usual green).  If the weather is particularly inclement then the Iron Blue Dun can be expected to put in an appearance.  Fortunately, discipline dictates that there are always a few suitable fakes in the box.  Not having a suitable fake when the fish are locked onto these little flies with their customary alacrity spells doom and despair for the angler's spirits.  So there is always a stash of these important fakes in one of more of the boxes.

Tying a minimum of five in each pattern and size, one for the tippet, one for the fish (anyone can make a mistake), one for the trees (more mistakes), one for the box and one for the angler who comes by and says “My Word!  You are doing well!  What fly are you using?” simple arithmetic dictates that forty flies need to be tied over the next few evenings.  That will sort out the early season deficiencies in the fly box.  There will need to be work at the vice for later in the season!

The trousers will need to be mended, (your blogger can do that).  Then they will need to be washed and treated with Nikwax.  This task can be delegated to someone who understands how the washing machine works...

The broken rod, a priceless Mosquito, originally built by Colin Young of Redditch for Partridge of the same place,  cannot be repaired in time for the season start.  It will have to join the queue at Fine CaneRods for Gary Marshall to work his magic on.  This could take as much as a year, he is in great demand and rightfully so.  Opening day will see me use a different rod that will certainly still be fashioned in exquisite built cane and will still be a delight to wield. 

In a fit of prescience your correspondent bought a replacement bag from eBay some time ago.  It is the same as the original, but the strap is a few inches shorter so it feels strange at the moment.  The feeling will go once the new position on the hip has been gotten used to.

Everything else, like tippet material, floatant and so on can be bought at this late juncture from my local tackle shop.

Peter, the proprietor of the Bakewell Fly Fishing Shop, takes a well earned break amongst his own brand of "Ordered Chaos"

Order out of chaos WILL ensue.  Opening Day will be wonderful.  It is ordained thus!




Regular Rod

Friday, 20 March 2015


You'll have to click and look hard at this one.  Can you spot it in the sky?  It was amazing to feel how cold it got and to hear the birds starting the dawn chorus all over again!  At 09:30 today the river looked even more mysterious than usual...
Click for a closer look
11 more days to go.  Henry and his pal will be very glad when All Fools' Day is upon us once more!

Regular Rod

Friday, 27 February 2015


Reconnaissance is a good use, maybe even the best use, of the dry fly angler's time during the next month.  Wander and wonder with a good pal, carry a camera and enjoy watching the river come alive.  Spy out where the river will be different from last season, the winter floods will have done much of their work by now.  Work out where the fish are, ready for your early season visits.  Observe and note where you may find some early cover before the leaves return, so you can be stealthy on the day.
Wander and wonder with a good pal...

(For those who maintain an interest in traditional photography this was made using a Yashica Mat 124G loaded with ILFORD HP5 Plus, which was developed in OBSIDIAN AQUA.)

Regular Rod