24 December 2011

A low Lambourn

My mate Jacques and I fished the Lambourn in Newbury yesterday. This is a very pretty little chalkstream with a good population of Grayling. we fished the Donnington Grove beat, which flows past a golf course so there were a lot balls in the water... I didn't get used to that.

The water was extremely low, really worrying given we're in mid winter and in a drought.

We were looking for grayling and we did find some but they were extremely difficult: maybe because of the low water, maybe because there were huge amounts of stocked browns everywhere. It was difficult to keep the fly clear of stockies in some areas.

Eventually I got a grayling to play ball. He was right against a bed of cress on the bank, nosing about in the silt. We had seen the odd redd, with some wild browns managing to spawn in amongst the stockies so i decided to try a small egg pattern... as the silt cleared from his nose he saw the egg coming downstream at him and he lunged forward and had it!

The river had a good head of wild fish so it made no sense to stock at all, especially some of the leviathans we saw charging up and down the river freaking out the wild trout and grayling.

a bit surreal but a good day anyway...

8 October 2011

Drake film awards 2011

You have to watch this selection of movies from the Drake awards, they are all brilliant!

3 October 2011

The Wylye Monster

The River Wylye is spectacular and the seven and a bit miles under the custodianship of The Wilton Fly Fishing Club must be the best of the best. I have fished the club waters 3 times in 3 years: twice mid winter for grayling and then last Friday, 30 September, to experience the river in the warmer months. On each occasion I have been the guest of Tom Davis, River Manager for the club and Director of the Wessex Chalk Stream and Rivers Trust.

I left home in rural Kent early and met Tom at his house at nine in the morning and already the thermometer was nudging twenty degrees. When we got to the water Tom wanted to position me on a shady beat in the hope shaded fish would be more active given the heat and low water. As it turns out I never got as far as the shade…

The beat Tom suggested was not only attractive due to the shade but also because a few weeks earlier Adrian, the River Keeper, had seen something remarkable from the bridge at the bottom of the beat: Adrian had noticed a grayling lying perpendicular to the current in the tail of the pool. Fish don’t hold at right angles to the current. A moment later he realized why the fish was in this strange position. The grayling was in the jaws of a very large Brown Trout. He thought it probably weighed at least four pounds (the trout, not the grayling). When Tom told me this story I was quite amazed, could the Wylye have browns big enough to predate on adult grayling?!

Tom advised I enter the river immediately below the bridge and work my way up and into the shade. Off I went. I rigged up while keeping out of sight of the water and slipped into the river below the bridge. I worked upstream very slowly. There was no shortage of grayling willing to inhale my #18 tungsten bead biot nymph suspended under a small emerger. Sight fishing to grayling within four or five meters of my feet was so absorbing I had moved only about 50 meters in an hour and a half, still in the pool that flows under the bridge. I got to a slightly deeper hole in the pool with a lot of aquatic weed waving in the current about a meter below the surface.

What was that in front of the weed? I caught a glimpse of a fishy flank, a very long flank. Then I saw the fish. It was truly massive. Was it a salmon? Must be. I thought I’d better not disturb it. Salmon numbers are growing in a poor state in the Avon drainage and I didn’t want to agitate the fish, already probably stressed from the low water level. I started to take a step forward to work around the fish quietly when the sun caught the fish’s flank again: I thought “that’s no salmon, that’s a %^&$£@ brown trout!”. With my heart pounding in my ears I shifted back downstream a step or two. I drifted the tiny nymph past the fish’s nose three times with the fish completely ignoring it. “OK, time to go big” I thought. Did I mention my tippet was of 7X? That’s a 2.4lb breaking strain. I decided to stay with the thin tippet; the four weight Hardy Zenith should be quite capable of absorbing any shocks and protecting the tippet. That’s assuming I can get the fish to eat a fly. I tied on my extended body Mayfly nymph (imitating the big E. danica nymph).

I was fishing a twenty foot leader and with the fish a few meters from me I flicked the duo rig (emerger dry still part of the rig) a few meters ahead of the fish with barely any flyline out of the tip of my rod. Luckily I was right on target with the fly sinking fast enough to make contact with the fish’s mouth shortly. It was around this point where everything went into slow motion. The fish opened its mouth and slowly closed it on my nymph. The fish at the fly! I lifted the rod tip, quite slowly I recall. When I saw the fly just peaking out the side of the fish’s mouth I breathed a sigh of relief because the tippet wasn’t going to be working against the fish’s teeth: A profound bit of luck second only to having spotted the fish without spooking it. The fish swam toward the far bank and the game was on. It never ran far nor managed to bore into weed or mud. The rod allowed me to maintain remarkable pressure considering the very thin tippet. I moved into the pool, waist deep, to avoid the fish getting into some reeds. I am six foot ten inches tall, the pool was deeper than I thought! As I got to waist depth the fish turned and swam at my groin at full speed. I emptied my lungs as my left family jewel took the brunt of the blow!

After about fifteen minutes I landed the fish in a net that was hopelessly too small. One of those delicate things designed to cradle typical wild brownies and grayling. It flopped out twice without breaking the tippet or ejecting the fly (more luck). I moved the fish quickly to the safety of some grass on the bank where I could measure and photograph. It measured somewhere between 28 and 29 inches. It was difficult to keep the fish still while measuring. I moved quickly and then focused on reviving the fish. After about ten minutes of gentle resuscitation in the shallows coupled to more photographs of the fish in the water it was off into the depths, slowly but confidently.

And then reality sank in and a broad smile spread across my face and my heart slowed to normal as I imagined meeting Tom at the rendezvous point in 45 minutes and saying “remember that large brown you mentioned…?”.

Thanks Tom. Any spare guest tickets going?

The Wilton Club do a magnificent job of managing this piece of the Wylye and fish like this are clear evidence of what a wild fishery can produce if done properly.

17 September 2011

Extended body CDC upright adult

I've been playing around with this pattern for a while now. It presents very gently on the water,is extremely buoyant without the need for floatant treatments and seems to be very effective. Even though the body is of CDC it is remarkably robust: I fished this LDO/BWO version (#14) on a small Welsh stream last Spring and it was still in tact after a dozen sharp-toothed wild brownies.

so how do I tie it?

I like to use light wire emerger hooks, maximum gape, minimum shank.

First you select a large CDC feather, appropriately coloured for the abdomen. Hold the feather by the tip and stroke the fibres toward the butt. The fibres at the tip become the tail fibres. Tie the feather in such that you have the right abdomen length to match the natural. Trim the centre of the tip, leaving 1-3 tail fibres on either side.

Tie in a length of Tiemco Aero wing or other buoyant wining material, angled three quarters backward.

Using a split thread technique create a dubbing loop of long CDC fibres to match the legs and wing colours of the natural. I have used one natural and one olive feather here.

Trim the wing to about abdomen length. Trim the underside and neaten, just a little, it works better when a little untidy.

I tie them to imitate a range of uprights from the big E. Danica in #10's through to little #16's. I've not tried smaller, yet.

Have fun and let me know how you go.

edit: I couldn't resist trying this pattern on a smaller hook, so here's an LDO/BWO on a #18 Varivas 2200...

15 September 2011

Thoughts on my Hardy Zenith 9' 4wt

I've always had good use of a quick actioned 9' 4wt rod: initially for larger streams and rivers and occasionally for stillwaters. I was really excited about getting my hands on a 4wt Zenith after casting 10 and 12 wt prototypes back in February with Steve Peterson, marketing manager at Hardy. I cast the 12 wt for 30mins, backing out the tip on every cast and it felt like a 10wt!! the 10 felt lighter and more effective than my 8wt Loomis GLX which has been my favourite saltwater stick for over 10 years... not an easy rod to beat.

I've had my 4wt Zenith for most of the summer but hardly fished it because I've been "in the shrubbery" with my 3 and 2 wts in the little streams around Kent. So with a full 6 days of fishing on the huge San River in Poland last week I got an opportunity to really play with this new rod.

so how was it?

I loved it! yes i know everyone is saying that about the Sintrix range... but I put the media hype and other (very positive) opinions aside and just focussed on fishing with the thing.

It is very light and very responsive. all without being too stiff. it loaded long and short casts equally well and with flawless leader turnover, which is impressive considering on most days I was fishing 18 - 24 foot leaders, sometimes in duo manner, normally to 6 or 7X.

I caught some good grayling and browns and always felt the rod had the sensitivity to allow me to "give the fish some Welly" without compromising the tippett.

I would very much like to see a 10 or even 11ft version for a 3wt line. this would make me very happy indeed!

Well done to Howard Croston and the whole Hardy team, an exceptional bit of tackle!

14 September 2011

Polish Grayling!

I was on the River San in Poland last week with a great bunch of guys. Thanks Jeremy and Wojtek!

biggest grayling and most challenging river fishing I have ever done, I will definitely be back.

see the album on the right of this page for more photos.

looking forward to autumn!

4 June 2011

my biggest grayling?

a few weeks ago Garth, Jacques and I spent a few days on the upper Wye in Wales. We got some good grayling and browns in spite of the very low river. The low clear conditions made for careful approaches and thin tippets... nothing wrong with that!

One evening, around 8pm, as the pub was calling, Garth and I spotted a steady riser: the fish was about 10 yards away, downstream, in about 6 inches of water over gravel. It was my turn... after about 20 or 30 drifts the fish ate my #16 CDC emerger. I think it was my biggest grayling, pushing 2lbs. now note that the fish might look smaller in the picture because I am 6'10" with big hands so all fish look small in my hands, really :-)

the fish jumped as Garth took the pic...