Photograph by Steve Barnett

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Needle Knot

The stats indicate that the most popular post of this blog is the one explaining how to make leaders for dry fly fishing. 
That post includes the line drawing that shows how to make the needle knot to attach the fly line but there was no picture of the finished knot.  So here you are.
Still pretty neat...

Regular Rod

Friday 25 August 2017

Chopping and Changing

Today we went to Duck Holds Wood.  Sometimes this dry fly fishing can be hard work.  Hard work in that a fair bit of chopping and changing was needed for fish to be tricked into making that mistake we all want them to make.  The first pool had the occasional rise showing.  The water was boisterous so a very visible fly was chosen, the Nondescript Sedge.  It was probably the right fly as there were lots of sedge flies over and on the water.  After a couple of fish it was time to move.  The method had really been more of an exploratory bit of prospecting as the rises were nowhere near four to the minute, the usual signature of confident fish feeding at the surface. 

One of the steady risers that seemed to be eating midges and fell for the Sturdy's Fancy
The next pool up is a lovely gliding bit of water that is actually full of snags.  Here the fish were rising very confidently to something small.  No olives were showing so midge was guessed as the main course for this dainty remove.  On with a Sturdy's Fancy, your blogger has given up on the attempts to devise the perfect midge and now reverts to this fly, or else a tiny Grey Duster or even an Aphid but tied with a black body.  The Sturdy's Fancy proved to be ideal and a few more fish came to the net, much to Henry's delight (and mine).

A happy chappy!

Moving upriver, the fish were back to occasional rises in a lovely run by a veritable thatch of willow.  The tiny fly was ignored.  This time a Double Badger was deployed as there was no real sedge fly activity but the Double Badger hints at so many different types of fly and the fish often fall for it.  So it was here.  This is a lovely pool but it took me four seasons of visits before I ever caught anything here.  The fish were there to be seen but catching them was harder than it should have been.  Now, with a bit of thinking, it is usual to catch at least one fish here.

Sturdy's Fancy on a favourite rod, the Wilson International, a very traditional English Dry Fly Rod

So it went on, here a gliding pool with fish rising steadily, on with the Sturdy's Fancy.  There some boisterous water with fish either not showing or only rising occasionally, on with the Double Badger.  This was the way, swapping between these two flies and replacing the tippet when it became too short for the work in hand.  It's not really hard work but it could easily have remained undone to the detriment of our prospects today.  Today wasn't one of those, "Try every fly in the box!" days, only three flies were needed.  This wasn't haphazard.  It was necessary because, along these three delightful furlongs, fish behaviour varied today according to the type of water they were living in.

You will be aware that your faithful correspondent hesitates to make photographs of fish these days, preferring to get them back into the river as quickly and as gently as possible.  This trout although not much more than 10 inches long came from a very tricky spot, a place for a boss fish.  A photo ID of it could prove useful in future years.  Those markings will be very easy to recognise.

Of course, on another day, the fish will be all feeding in the same manner over the whole river and dry fly fishing becomes dead easy again with no need for all this chopping and changing at all!

(Click on the pictures for a closer look.)

Regular Rod

Wednesday 9 August 2017

As Good as a Rest?

The prospect of fishing a private estate lake for some of our native coarse fish raises the spirits to heights of joy and excited anticipation.  This was the treat for today thanks to a good pal, Alisdair.  We raked our swims and fed in some samples of the intended hook baits.  Worms and bread for the lucky guest, with cockles being Alisdair's choice.

His first fish was a Tench that took some landing as it had charged through the weeds, collecting an additional payload that made netting the fish akin to some new aspect of gymnastics to be displayed at the next Olympics...
First Fish of the Day (Cockle for bait)

There is something very lovely about a Tench no matter what size it is.  Maybe it's that ruby red eye?
A Jewel of an eye and a Jewel of a Reel (Alisdair is a very stylish angler)

Here's another one that fell for one of Alisdair's cockles.

Your blogger fished in the way he first fished back in 1956, which turned out to be a good policy.  The rod, an unrestored Edgar Sealey Octopus Float Caster De-Luxe, was mated to the Speedia centrepin reel that used to be Grandad's. A home-made antenna float was set up to move up or down by any displacement of the number 6 shot fixed two inches from the size 8 hook.  Bait to begin was worm.  Close in to the water lilies was the place to be...
Don't you just love water lilies in a lake? (Click the Picture for a Closer Look)

Worms proved attractive to the Perch and, being perfectly happy to catch Perch for a while, your blogger kept on using worms.  Then suddenly a different fish put a bit of a bend in the rod.  It was a Rudd.  All the while the worms had been deployed, some small samples of pinched bread were being fed in.  Here was a Rudd.  To catch Rudd instead of Perch all that was necessary was to change over to bread flake for bait.  So it proved, lots of Rudd.  The bait was increased in size to encourage the bigger fish to take it.  This worked well, with the landing net being required for several of these lovely fish.  Then suddenly...  The float sailed away, the hook was set and then the reel was screaming!  No Rudd this, sure enough it was a Tench.  A small Tench but very strong and blessed with the big paddle-like fins that reveal it to be a male.

Change is said to be as good as a rest but your faithful correspondent fished pretty hard today, using up an entire small white loaf in the process.  Guess who, after his tea, fell asleep exhausted, but very happy. 

Regular Rod

Friday 4 August 2017

Tributary Trials and Triumphs

Today was a lovely day.  Early on, the odd drop of rain for sure, but mainly dry, blue skies with fluffy clouds and a gentle breeze to keep the angler comfortable.  Perfect for Henry to stretch himself after his brief, post operative, enforced reduction in his activities.  By Gum!  He did enjoy himself being the mighty hunter as we moved from one fish ambushing point to another.

We were on the lowest beat of a favourite tributary to the mother river.  It is a gin-clear, limestone spring-fed river that runs over bright gravel.  The fish are feisty in this section.  You can get an idea of how feisty some of them can be by the name of this corner run...  "Hook Straighten Bend"  (Say it out loud quickly...)

Hook Straighten Bend!
Within less than half an hour of starting, your Blogger managed to get the fly caught in one of the overhanging tree branches on the opposite bank.  On this bank there is a fallen tree with root ball on the bank and shattered trunk on the river bed.  It looked like it might make a useful means of reaching the fly, and retrieving it, before it became a bat trap this evening.

Not Safe to Walk On!
 Oh Dear!  It's at least a couple of years since your correspondent last fell in.  The tree proved a slippery platform and, even with landing net handle as a walking cane, gravity won.  Fortunately the trajectory into the water was straight down and angler remained upright throughout the incident.  With water up well past the knees it seemed pointless to just get out without achieving the original object of the mission.  Fly was recovered even if dignity was not.  Of course all the fish were, by now, elsewhere...

Wellingtons tipped out, trousers and socks removed and wrung out, expletives at a minimum, the angler restored himself to his personal comforts as best he could in the circumstances.  Another, undisturbed ambush point was sought and the day's sport continued.  We even found a rather splendid feather from a heron, perfect for Kite's Imperial.

It's hard work on this little river.  The fish are impossible to catch if they know you are there.  It really is a matter of approaching on hands and knees and sitting, or at least kneeling, to fish.  Time flies when you are enjoying yourself, even when somewhat damp.  Operations were ceased at a Baker's Dozen and home to tea around 19:00.  We had a great time. 

What Next Dad?
Henry is back in his high spirits again and, because of that, so is your faithful blogger.

Regular Rod

Tuesday 1 August 2017

"I want to tie flies, what materials do I need?"

If only your faithful correspondent had a £ for every time he has been asked that, or a similar question... 

The correct answer of course is, "It depends..."

The flies used in this blog are all simple to tie, because this blogger is not what you'd describe as a "skilful fly dresser".  They all work well, because there is no point in making flies and carrying them about if they don't!

This little table below might prove helpful to anyone starting out to make themselves their own version of the "Derbyshire Fly Box".  Readers from around the world have been very kind in reporting that, on their rivers, these flies do still work and often working very well indeed.  It may also make a good starting point for a newcomer to dressing their own flies.

 Click it for a closer view.

Of course you will need some hooks and the tools

(Oops!! I've also forgotten to add the materials in for the wings of the PPSG Poly Prop Spent Gnat... Sorry!)

Regular Rod

Tuesday 4 July 2017

Independence and Influence from the USA

First of all, a Happy Fourth of July to you readers in America!  It is customary for your faithful blogger to wish you all well on this day each year and this year is no exception. 

Today is a good day to acknowledge how, in less than 100 years after your independence, American know how and improvements in materials had already influenced fly fishing in general and dry fly fishing in particular here in Great Britain.  It was two way traffic though, because the new materials led to changes in rod design here that wended their way back to the USA where they were then developed even further on both sides of the Atlantic, to the benefit of dry fly fishers everywhere.

"What the Devil is Regular Rod on about?" you may wonder.

You may recall mention in these posts of James Ogden, a Victorian fly fisher and entrepreneur who set up in business in the 1840's to supply his floating flies by mail order.  His business grew and by the 1860's he was supplying much more than his flies.  By then he had trade links with manufacturers and suppliers of materials from around the world including the USA.  Of particular note were the new silk fly lines that were available from makers in several different countries.  Most of these lines had an inbuilt flaw due to the manufacturing process.  They had little bits of silk sticking out along their entire length due to the sections of silk each having a start and an end.  This was not a big deal to anglers at the time because for centuries they had used and many still did use, lines made of lengths of horse hair, which had the same problem of bits sticking out.  The style of casting a line then was to lay the line out in one go using a long rod, a boy may have an eleven or twelve foot rod and a man's may be as long as eighteen feet although rods of sixteen feet were more commonly seen.  It worked.  Fish were caught.  The pleasures of angling were enjoyed.  So why worry?

The art of selling sometimes relies on helping folk realise that they actually do need what you have and that a new way may be better for them.  James Ogden did this for fly fishers.  He imported his silk fly lines from America and these lines were dressed with a tough coating that sealed in all those sticking out ends of silk.  They were smooth.  Unlike the other lines they would pass through the rod rings (guides) very easily and didn't jam up.  Some anglers discovered that it was possible to extend the cast by shooting these smooth running lines through the rings.  James Ogden noticed this and realised that a long rod was unnecessary if you used the "shooting a line" technique.  So he introduced a range of short rods, some only eight feet long, under the name "Multum in Parvo" ("Much in Little"). 

American idea of six sides, English made rod, American FISH!
The combination of the smooth American fly lines and a rod of around eight feet became the rig to have.  It was a small step from the first Multum in Parvo rods of solid timbers such as Greenheart and Blue Mahoe to the beautiful built cane versions of the 1880's, which were in turn based on the American idea of using six strips of cane, built to make hexagonal section rods.  The influence of the Multum in Parvo rod stretched back to the USA and nearly all single handed fly rods became "short".  In the middle of the next century this influence was to come back over the Atlantic with Lee Wulffe (Joan Wulffe too) and Lefty Kreh demonstrating that very long casts were possible with even shorter rods (only six feet long), thanks to their double haul casting techniques.

Below are a few snippets from an Ogden catalogue of the period.  It would seem fly lines have always been pricey items.  6/6 in labour content in those days would be £183.10 today ($236.80) !!!

Well here is at least one dry fly fisher who is very glad of the American influence on our Sport, wishing you all another "Happy Fourth of July"!

Regular Rod

Monday 3 July 2017

High Summer Puzzle

Yesterday was a lovely day.  A short bike ride in the morning to get the legs buzzing, luncheon with family and then downriver in the afternoon and staying on for the evening rise with Henry.  It was hard going in the heat as there are no connecting "rides" mown into the very long grass in the top meadows, so we walked briskly down river by the waterside, scaring the fish as we travelled.  Never mind, by the time we turned to work our way back up river the fish would be calm again and feeding in earnest.


"There!  Did you hear that?"

We had some fine Sport in Elliott Holme Wood.  Your blogger with fish eating midges. Henry hearing pheasants (but, in obedience to his friend, not going after them).

"Sneak in here Dad!"

He knew that a pause by the run above Elliott Holme would be likely and kindly waited for me to sneak in on hands and knees as usual...

Experiments in the past with attempts at making the perfect fake midge have all so far ended with the Scottish verdict "not proven".  The conclusion being it might be better to simply carry a choice of tiny Sturdy's Fancy and Grey Duster flies instead of the new experimentals... So a small Sturdy's Fancy was deployed and the grayling and wild rainbow trout conveniently tried to eat it. 

Sturdy's Fancy - A "midge" on a "Mosquito" (the rod's name)

The grayling seemed to follow the fly for a yard or two before taking it and the fly had to be correctly placed on the conveyor belt before they would begin to follow it.  On the other hand, the rainbow trout would move almost as much as a yard to intercept it and an almost sloppy cast would do.  Quite distinctive differences in the way the two species behaved.

The sun went below the horizon just as we reached a pool where we face into the west.  This is a very convenient position to be in during an evening rise, as the water reflects the colour of the sky and the fly can be seen quite well even though it is going dark.  The rise forms were now clearly the oval shape of fish feeding on spinners so the Poly Prop Sherry (PPS) was put into service with a fresh length of tippet just in case the older length had picked up any damage, such as abrasion, during the previous few hours.


At last we found brown trout.  Much appreciated as the wild rainbow trout and grayling are, some brown trout make the day perfect.

Here is the puzzle though.  During the day not a single Blue Winged Olive dun had been seen.  The fly on the menu was midge. 

So where did all the adult female Blue Winged Olives (the Sherry Spinners) come from?

Where were the duns in the daytime?

The answer is that the bulk of the duns round here. in high summer, seem to hatch at two or three in the morning.  Those Sherry Spinners are the adults from at least the previous night.  It will change again as the summer ends but right now, if you see a dun flying about in the heat of the day it is unlikely to be a Blue Winged Olive.

(As ever just click on a picture for a closer look...)

Regular Rod

Thursday 18 May 2017

Those Three Basic Principles Again (and Again)

Today was a beautiful sunny one with just enough occasional cloud cover and breezes to prevent your faithful blogger and his dog from overheating.  We walked downriver for a mile or so with the intention of fishing our way slowly back up and eventually home for tea.

Our first interlude was to be on the delightful Ogden Island where the careful approach nearly always leads to success.  It is more difficult these days to get to the bottom of this mini-beat as the path round the back and away from the fish is no more.  We now have to carefully hide ourselves as we pass by right next to where we intend to fish on the return leg upstream.

Having reached the bottom end it was a case of "Observing", "Being Stealthy" and then "Fishing Where the Fish Are".  The policy worked well, of course it always does and some fine sport was had as soon as the Hair Wing Mayfly had been removed and a fake of the small olives that were being eaten was carefully tied on. 

A sunny day, with olives on the fishes' menu, inspires your blogger to choose the Kite's Imperial (Variant) over the equally excellent Grey Duster (preferred on dull days) and it was certainly sunny enough today.

The fish rose steadily and it was a small matter to catch one from each pool on the way back up to the little footbridge and back to the main river 

One particular run was too difficult for a mere Regular Rod as the clawing fingers of overhanging alder just would not allow the line and fly to get under.  Fair enough!  Someone, with more ability, will reach those fish one day and merit will be rewarded.  That is how it should be on a river.  Many are called but few are chosen...

After Ogden Island it was a matter of walking in as straight a line as possible down past Elliott Holme Wood to enjoy that lovely tangle shewn in a previous post.

On the way there, a couple of anglers were hard at it!  Standing over the fish and casting repeatedly is not a good plan on this river...  One chap came over to exchange pleasantries.  He had fished this water for fifty years and averred that it seemed harder these days, but it was probably old age that had something to do with it.  My reply was that it certainly gets harder to creep and crawl as each year passes.  The hint was there but probably missed.  Frankly, I cannot catch any fish at all if they are aware of my presence.  Those three basic principles are the only way to earn satisfaction and success.

So please, do hide yourself, observe what the fish are feeding on, and fish where the fish are!  You will never regret it...

It will soon be time for festivities with the Drake.  Plenty around today but only one was observed being eaten!

Regular Rod

Monday 8 May 2017

The Last Fish

This story is true and I'm only telling it now because of a recent, poignant post about getting old, from a blogger whom I respect...  

Some years ago now, I met a very nice old chap, George and over time we became friends.  He was a wonderful old man who fought in WWII for King and Country, in tanks, and became a judge in civilian life until he retired.    I learned from him that he used to love going fly fishing but lamented that his legs were no good on rough ground so he had given up his beloved sport.  I knew a place where the river bank was as smooth as a garden lawn and the fish were abundant.  So I persuaded him to come with me for a few hours.

On the Autumn day appointed we arrived and there were fish rising nicely.  He managed well leaning on his walking stick with his left hand and casting with his right.  Through the morning many fish came to his fly but he was out of practice and couldn't connect with them.  At luncheon I apologised that he had not yet managed to catch a fish.  He wouldn't have any of that.  "Goodness me, I haven't seen a river for three years.  This place is glorious.  It's a joy to be here regardless of catching any fish!"

After our meal I took him upriver to another spot where he wouldn't be able to wander but he could stand behind a thick hazel bush unseen by the trout and make his cast.  First cast a fish seized his fly and my pal connected well.  I was delighted (and relieved) to land it for him. 

Just then another friend arrived with a new camera and was in time to photograph us with the trout.  "Do you want to keep him George?"  "No!  Put him back please."  So back went the trout and we went back home.

With his confidence boosted, George agreed that we should make another trip the following year. 

It was not to be.  That winter George was victim to a stroke.  He worked hard at getting back to normal.  He was a pretty strong cruciverbalist.  He lost none of his skill.  His faculties were in order but his body was not completely his to control anymore.  All that summer, fishing trips together were joyfully planned and anticipated and then sadly cancelled.  George was summoned from this sublunary abode before he could fish again.  That trout in the picture was his last fish.

Please miss no opportunities to enjoy doing the things you love...

Regular Rod

Seasonal Changeability

We are experiencing a slow start to what we euphemistically call "Spring" round here.  Each day seems to give us moments of promising sunshine, but for the majority of the daytime the cold winds and mainly heavy clouds have kept things dull and cold for anyone not wearing some insulating layers.  It has had an effect on the flies and on the fish.  There is good sport to be had all the same if you stay alert to the changes throughout the day, as well as hanging around as dusk approaches because even in cold conditions some flies will be there and sometimes the fish are happy to feed on into dark.

This Saturday your blogger and Henry his pal took a casual couple of miles down to Duck Holds Wood.  There had been hawthorn flies in abundance over the previous two weeks but on this Saturday morning there were very few to be seen and none were crashing onto the water.  Nevertheless, trout seem to be aware by now that black flies on the surface make good meals but these flies have to be grabbed quickly as they have a tendency to recover their powers of flight and get away so... they hit them and they hit them quite hard.  So a Charles Cotton's Black Fly was put to the test.  The technique was to simply sit down next to the river where it was possible to watch the feed lanes for rises or signs of fish. 

"What's happening?" Henry seems to say when, after a few minutes sitting, there are still no casts being made.  All is forgiven though as soon as he sees the rod arching over into its battle curve...

After a few hours it was time to start fishing our way up river back to Bakewell and home.  As we went along things changed.  For a start the light became quite dull.  The wind changed to NNE.  It was strong and cold.  Then in the feed lanes there were rises.  Closer examination confirmed that there were flies appearing, the fish were keen on them and so were the swifts, swallows and sand martins!  Sure enough they were that little foul weather friend of birds and fish, the Iron Blue Dun.  Now do you remember me saying that you must have a suitable fake for these when they put in an appearance or the chances of success will be greatly reduced?  I was sure I had some in my box but couldn't find them.  I hadn't stocked up before coming out!  Fortunately there was a battered example in the hat band and the fish didn't seem to mind its less than perfect condition.  So, as the cold breezes did their worst, the change was made and the sport continued nicely for another hour or so, before it really was time to go home.

On the way back, seeing Henry among the King Cups (sometimes called "Marsh Marigolds") was too good a photo opportunity to miss.  Roll on summertime.

Click the pictures if you want a closer look.

Regular Rod