12 November 2012

It's all about love

cheesy and funny and cute... all at once!

5 September 2012

1 September 2012

Striper in the bay

I was in Boston this week on business and took the 8 weight just in case. The tides looked flat for most of the time I'd be in town but thursday evening had a low at 5, giving me a few hours before getting to the airport at 8. Although they have had a very slow August, with the water starting to cool and the bait piling up along the beaches Dave and Vlad invited me to tag along to a gravel bar that should have some fish on it on the rising tide.

About a mile from the car park we rounded the bend and looked down on the area we'd be targeting. Blitz! Birds smashing into the water and fish blasting through the surface.... we waded out onto the bar and Vlad was into a fish on his first cast. I was strapped into an angry striper just a few casts later. For an hour the action was pretty hot.
Vlad connects on his first cast

The fish wanted 2-3 inch long, white patterns fished pretty slowly. I hooked over 10 fish and landed 4 or 5 up to 30 inches between 5:30 and 6:20.

Not a bad way to say goodbye to the Boston area.

walking back...

Dusk over Boston on a warm evening

8 August 2012

Flymage ezine- pretty cool!

stumbled across this ezine last week, very nice content, quite unique.

23 July 2012

Slovenia 2012

Well after lots of prep and tying (and remarkably little new tackle purchasing) I got to Slovenia on 15th July and returned a week later: Starry eyed and still processing what I experienced.

The rivers are beyond comprehension with little exception. The amounts of fish is remarkable (even if you subtract the stocked rainbows which I seldom encountered thankfully).

The fishing was incredible. I don't know how many fish I caught, it will have been hundreds. I stopped counting on day 1 at 27 and that was the least prolific river by a long way. The mix across the whole week was probably 50% grayling, 25% rainbows and 25% browns. I am happy with that ratio and more, big, grayling would not have been a problem either. The vast majority of fish were on small Plume tip CDC emergers, even some of the biggest fish, especially grayling. The big browns and rainbows ate streamers and big stonefly nymphs predominantly.

I love fishing small dries but the scope for streamer fishing to huge fish is magnificent and could have sidetracked me for the whole week.

The fish are beautiful and quite unique in their markings.

We didn't get around to the rivers on the other side of the country that hold the endemic Marble trout, we played to the weather to maximise our fishing. A pity but not a massive one given the amazing fishing we did have. Next time....

I took 2 rods, both Hardy Zeniths, a 9' 4wt and a 10' 3wt. I fished the 10' 3wt exclusively, even for big fish with streamers. This rod is truly incredible and this week of close work in so many different applications only makes me more convinced of my thoughts when I reviewed it in April. Everyone that touched it last week wants one. When you're fishing a long fly rod for long hours you want something that is weightless in your hands but highly responsive, this is the rod to beat.

The Slovenian countryside is dominated by high forested mountains, huge clear rivers and relatively few people (population less than 2 million). While there are few English people about almost all the locals speak good English which was helpful because my Slovenian is very very bad. 

see the photo album here

Thanks to Jeremy and Wojtek for organising an amazing mission into Slovenia!

11 July 2012

UK National Angling survey launched

If you live in the UK and you are an angler please take the survey, it is critical to the conservation of our freshwater and marine environments.

6 July 2012

showing a good friend my new water

I moved to the UK 5 and a bit years ago and this week a good friend from South Africa was passing through on his way back home from some jazz fest in switzerland. I took him onto the Darent to show him how my arse had fallen so squarely in the butter...
The weather was drizzly initially and there was little insect life until after noon: and then the mayfly starting coming off and the fish got a little silly :-)

...and then we went to the pub to eat burgers and drink English Blonde ale.

nice seeing you again Bruce!

20 June 2012

a new shrimp pattern

in my preparation for Slovenia next month I wanted to produce a heavy, realistic and quick to tie shrimp. this is what i came up with...
simple, quick, rough, heavy

It's pretty rough-looking although sufficiently imitative I think. Have you seen  a shrimp "in the drift" or scampering across the substrate of a river? They're pretty rough looking. 

So how do I tie it? 

I start with a pre-leaded hook, the ones in the picture are on a Partridge scud hook that comes with a sausage-shaped lump of lead moulded to the shank.  I use some flat nose pliers to squash the lead thinner so it is narrower and taller. 

Next I wrap plumber's tape around the lead mould to give the thread something to find purchase on and to hide the lead. This is much quicker than wraps of thread and adds little bulk (you want the pattern to stay quite lean so it looks real and cuts through the water).

Then I take a few wraps of any white thread from eye to gape, tie in some latex, scud back or other elastic, clear stuff for a scud back. Now I tie in a small partridge feather by the tip, concave side up. Take thread back to eye and throw in a securing knot. 

Mark the plumber's tape with light coloured pens to taste (I used a sandy/tan/human skin tone on these).

Mark the dorsal side of the underbody with markers to taste, bring the partridge feather forward and tie off. Bring the scud back stuff forward and tie off. More marker on top of the scud back if you want. 

Position the partridge fibres (legs) so they're nicely spaced out.

Cover the the thing in a thin film of Bug Bond and show it the light!

Simple (honestly it takes less than 3 minutes per fly once you're up and running) and imitative. I'm going to need some good imitative patterns in Slovenia after the Worlds took place their last month, those fish are probably still wondering what hit them!

19 June 2012

a fish finder that is driven from your ipad or iphone... what next!?

need a fish finder? there's an app for that!
I spend most of my fishing time standing in small to medium sized rivers wafting flies about so I can't imagine using one of these things. I can see how the coarse and boat fishermen might like one...


18 June 2012

The heavy stuff for slovenia

I focussed on depth charges on Saturday afternoon. Nasty stuff! But I believe there are some deep and fast stretches that hold some large, challenging fish. I'm not really planning on spending my time dredging the river bed. I far prefer the surface action with small dries. But I've decided to be prepared for all eventualities or I could find myself wrong-footed.

Top row: "Egg flies" made up of 4 tungsten beads of tapering sizes and Bug Bond
Bottom row: Steve Thornton's Ammonite nymph, a brilliant heavy nymph and control fly.  I add an "overbody" of Bug Bond because it makes the pattern more robust and it just looks so good!

 Back to #24 midges now, much more my thing!

16 June 2012

Slovenia here we come!

Well done Howard on placing 4th in a difficult draw in the world champs in Slovenia. You can read his great account of the competition and his approach to it here I'll be there in a month's time, can't wait!

8 June 2012

A great video on Coq de Leon and flyfishing in Spain

this is a short video and it reminds me a lot of the week I spent with some friends fishing in the Spanish Pyrenees a few years back...

6 June 2012

Prepping for Slovenia

The tying is in full swing now with only 5 and a bit weeks to go!

Tying everything from little emergers to heavily weighted nymphs for the deep fast water to massive streamers (for the Hucho/Danube salmon)

the trick is to have all the patterns you really need, but not too many!
I love little CDC emergers! This is a stripped peacock quill body with 2 small CDC plume tips as a wing.
.... but the bulk of the focus is on the small dries because I love them most and [I'm hoping] the big grayling will too!

3 June 2012

An amazing afternoon on the Stour

I was the lucky winner of one of the lots in the Wild Trout Trust auction. I bid on a few lots but the Stour was the one I wanted to win the most. I have been interested in visiting the Stour for a few years now after a number of people had told me such good things. The stretch I fished was really only a few meters wide in most places and suited my little 6' 10" 3wt perfectly.

hard fighting, red spotted brownies gulped adult mayfly patterns all afternoon...
I timed it in the hope of hitting the mayfly hatch and boy did luck go my way! I started fishing just after 1pm as the mayfly started coming off. The hatch got heavier and heavier and continued through the afternoon. It slowed a little for about 30 minutes mid afternoon and then the spinners started hitting the water. Duns coming off, spinners laying... it was mayhem. Early on the rises were sharp and powerful and required a stout 4.5lb tippett but by late afternoon most of the takes were extremely slow and subtle. It was almost painful watching the fish sidle up and ever so slowly close their mouths around the natural or my imitation.

a bedraggled Mayfly emerger "Klinkhamer" style.
I tested 3 new adult mayfly patterns. one was a Klinkhamer style, the other 2 extended body things. I constantly changed between the 3 and the "Klinky" version was the clear winner. I was amazed how the frequency of takes shot up when this pattern was on the water. The extended body versions drew interest but not as much and a lot of the takes didn't convert to hook ups because the fish were grabbing the extended body so the hook didn't find purchase.

A little wildy that sucked in the May emerger. 

A lot of the fish were holding in open water but some were tucked into the narrowest, fastest channels in shallow water, hemmed in by ranunculus.

What a day on the water! Text book stuff. One of the best days on the water I can remember in 30 years of hurling flies about. Thanks again Paul and friends, you guys have done an amazing job of rehabilitating this little piece of the Stour.

28 May 2012

The Mayfly have started... but the fish want a midge

Mayfly (E. Danica) nymphal shuck... moments after emergence.
Well the warm water got them out of their muddy little burrows. Shrugging off those fluffy nymphal shucks and heading for the surface to enjoy the English sunshine.

Freshly emerged Mayfly, drying its wings a foot above the water. I'm sure their tails are longer this year! 
But the fish didn't seem to be on the mayfly yet.

They really are a hearty meal for a fish aren't they?
A bit of stripped quill and a single CDC plume on a #20 Varivas 2200 BL.
I got one really good chub on an adult mayfly but the trout were more focussed on an extremely intense hatch of #20 midges. So I threw this little midget at them which did the trick...

22 May 2012

stream side architecture

Stalking fish in a crystal clear chalkstream in spring when there is little bank side cover for the [very tall] angler can consume all of your attention. Staying out of sight is one of my priorities. It's either that or trying to look to the fish like a convincing 6' 10" heron... exactly, not likely. But occasionally when I look up I see the most beautiful scenes, like this viaduct. Sometimes man made stuff can be beautiful and complement the wildlife.

21 May 2012

The Ranunculus are starting to flower

and they are doing brilliantly in the decent flows we've had this spring! I am seeing Ranuncs taking hold in areas I've never seen them before: should make for some brilliant Olive hatches.

The extended body mayfly nymph strikes again...

Extended body mayfly nymph
I've blogged about this pattern a few times. I love it. I don't like large nymph patterns generally because they so rarely imitate a natural. But in the chalk streams we have the grand daddy of mayfly nymphs, the Danica. This pattern is outstanding at getting difficult subsurface feeders to pay attention.

the extended body mayfly nymph performs again!
I was working upstream on The Darent and came across a fish lying in a swift current that flowed through a hole under a tree trunk. The classic brown trout holding spot. A perfect spot to suck in all that food funnelled from the riffle above. I put a few drifts over him with the Olive emerger I'd selected to imitate the sparse Olive hatch that had been bubbling along since I rocked up 30 minutes before. Nothing. Not even a little twist of a pectoral fin. He was pretty close to the stream bottom, tucked away in his hole. So on went the mayfly nymph. On the first drift he slashed and missed, second drift he didn't miss. 

If the fish are moving to the Mayfly nymph does it mean we are going to see the hatch starting in the coming days? We've a high pressure system moving over us this week with temperatures hitting 25 in the South East apparently.... maybe we'll see some Mayfly on the wing...

Here's the pattern recipe:

3 emu fibres
Abdomen: Tan or cream suede chenille with the tip singed by a flame

Tuft of partridge filoplume tied in behind wing case tie in point

Wing case: 
Larger heavily patterned feather from the back of a partridge. I sometimes apply some UV resin to the wing case for extra weight, robustness and appeal.

Smaller neck feather from a partridge tied in after the wing case and pulled over the dubbed thorax.

Tan blended dubbing. If you want to weight the pattern you should wrap tungsten or lead foil/wire around the shank before dubbing the thorax.

Head: After tying down the wing case make 2 turns of thinly dubbed thread over the wing case tie down point and fold the wing case material back, over this dubbed area and tie down. Clip off the excess partridge feather.

13 May 2012

The Hawthorn Hoax

up and discoloured, just what the water table needs!
I nipped out for a few hours on the Darent to marvel at the fantastic flows the rains have brought and of course to see if there were any fish looking up. The wind was up so I decided on a walk through a stretch we call the "hop garden" because it's in woodland and probably a little protected from the wind. We did some major river habitat restoration work in this stretch winter past so this was also an opportunity to ogle at the new upstream deflectors in action, scouring out gravel beds in the high flows.
Clever bird building its nest out on the water away from foxes! but what about otters and voles?

Hawthorn imitation in the choppers :-)
 I had the 9' 4wt Zenith with me. I'm developing serious affection for this rod now, almost to an unhealthy degree. I woke up this morning with mental images of tight loops and accurate casts to rising fish. Do I tell the wife about this in a plea for help (do I want help?) or will she think I'm (even more) weird? I didn't think I'd see any risers so I didn't string up, I just held the 4 sections in my hand and strolled the bank watching. And Murphy's law was invoked, as I thought it would. A riser. Far bank, under a tree. Every 15 or 20 seconds. But to what? 1 or 2 olives are were loitering looking for a mate but nothing enough to produce this rise frequency. What's that crawling up my neck? A hawthorn. Aha! Strung up the rod, went into stalking mode. Made the cast... Caught the willow branch above the fish. Tugged and the fly came free. Another cast, looking good, drifting... Gulp.

Didn't see any more risers. Made no more casts. Smuggly completed my walk and went home for a pint of bitter. My hawthorn pattern is only a few seasons old and has been through a few evolution to the point where I think it will stabilise in this form for some time. It sites quite deeply in the surface and looks suitably in disarray and nonplussed with its situation. The hook is a  Grip 14723BL, one of my favourites
The Micro chenille extended body and black CDC legs/abdomen are the key pieces I think: they produce the right silhouette of "tangled mess" unique to a downed hawthorn.

Hopefully I'll be throwing it at Usk browns with my mate Mark next weekend...

Olives are on!

Last weekend, in amongst the rain, I got lucky. The forecast showed a gap in the rain on Saturday afternoon with a light wind and cloudy skies... Seemed like perfect conditions for a good Hatch of olives, either Large Dark or Blue Winged.

As it turns out both came off in really good numbers. The fish were looking up and eating well-presented emergers and duns. I used my Hardy Zenith 9' 4wt again as I have for almost all my early season outings to the Darent near home this spring. As it bushes over later in the summer I'll probably unsheath the 6'9" 3wt G Series Scott but for now the 4wt Zenith is the right rod. I loved this rod from the outset but it's amazing how it continues to grow on me. Bloody marvellous thing it is!

The patterns that did the damage are pretty simple and tested over quite a few seasons, rivers and continents now although I do like to tweak them from time to time. The latest evolution being a subtle sparkly dubbing for the thorax on the emerger.

The LDO/BWO emerger with glistery thorax dubbing. With both turkey biots and CDC this thing ticks a few of my boxes 

Could be this is based on some sense that the natural has a little sparkle to it but I think it's more likely the "shack nasties" this last winter had me wanting to bling things up a little. Just a little mind you.

The other pattern, a regular of mine is the CDC upwing adult... from #10-18 this thing always work in an upwing hatch or spinner fall. I use CDC fibres for the tail too, because they are surprisingly robust. It takes a good few fish (or casts into trees) to damage the tails.

4 May 2012

A weekend on the chalk streams of Dorset

My mate Jacques and I cracked an invite from John Grindle to fish the Dorchester Fishing Club water last weekend. It's a lengthy drive from my house in the South East so John suggested we fish for 2 days, the second one on John Aplin's incredible mile of the Frome.

Tight casts in the Piddle to magnificent orange-finned brownies
We fished the Piddle on the 1st day because the Frome was still pretty high and a little dirty. The Large Dark Olives were coming off in enough numbers to have the little wild browns looking up and we we managed to get a few in the morning. The afternoon was warm, sunny and still and we worked our butts off to little avail.
Pretty over grown piece of the Piddle, the channel is in there I promise!

So we got off the Piddle a little early, met John Aplin and went to have a walk along his stretch of the Frome... a sneak preview of the water we'd be fishing in the morning. This is classic chalkstream but somehow unique in it's character. A truly beautiful bit of river, full of wild browns and grayling of Jurassic proportion (sorry no pics).

The bottom of John Aplin's piece of the Frome
It's not all manicured bank stuff, a good portion has bank side foliage along it's length and the amount of ranunculus and other aquatic weed is incredible. All that habitat produces huge amounts of fish food. The shrimp, BWO and LDO populations are huge and on day 2 we picked off enough brownies on imitations of emergers and adults to make us think we were fairly competent. No huge browns, but I'm sure they're there.
I ate pork pies and drank chardonnay while Jacques irritated the brownies

At about 3pm Jacques and I split up, we'd been spotting for each other to that point. I moved upstream, he down. I got a few more browns, some of them proving very challenging even on 7X and what I thought were good drifts produced by the Zenith 10' 3wt. And then I saw the behemoth. The largest grayling I'd ever seen. 4lbs? very possibly. I spent about a half hour stalking this thing and there was no way of getting a decent drift to it. Then its mates arrived: 2 more monster grayling. So, there I was staring at 3 massive grayling and no way of getting a drift to them. what did I do? What would you do? I kept staring. Until 6 that evening. Yes, I spent the afternoon just watching these things moving around in a 20metre area but never providing me a drift. I walked away a few times to recompose myself and get a finger hold on my sanity again... and then I went back, sidled up behind one of the 2 trees I had come to know very well through the afternoon, and stared.

The story ends well. While I was mid crisis Jacques was downstream landing 50cms of grayling. yes 50cms. He was a good 600 yards downstream from me. He tells me he screamed his lungs out trying to get me to him to take a picture of this thing: He had left his iphone in the car (who wants to take calls on the river) and the compact camera's batter was flat so he never packed it. Jacques' a pretty solid guy so I've no doubt he got a fish of 50cms and John Aplin estimated it at 4lbs. I think he knows the bigger fish on that beat fairly well and he told us the Frome and Dove grayling are of a sub species that is much heavier for their length than other strains.

Amazing water, available on day ticket and an amazing fish. Thanks to both Johns for their great company too!

15 April 2012

nymphing South African high altitude still waters

I'm on holiday in South africa visiting family, not a fishing holiday but I packed a 4 and 8 weight just in case!

We spent a few days in the Natal Midlands and the guys at Wildfly kindly invited me to fish one of the waters they guide on. I didn't bring any still water tackle or flies but I reckoned the Hardy Zenith 9' 4wt was more than up to the job and I needed a few hours on the water.

I got on the water a little before 7am and saw some large bow waves in the shallows, just what I had hoped for. I also saw some small creatures breaking the surface: putting the 2 observations together I guessed the fish were either chasing small baitfish or emerging insects (although there were no adult insects about except for the occasional caddis). Fishing a dry is always my first choice so I strapped on a CDC caddis and covered a couple've rises. 2 refusals. clearly the fish weren't focussed on emerging caddis. So, option 2, small baitfish. I looked in the nymph box and figured that my extended body Danica nymphs (#8) could pass as a baitfish if I work them with a steady hand twist retrieve in front of the bow waves.

I stalked the margins looking for bow waves, plopped the nymph gently ahead of the bow wave (helped by a 16foot leader tipped with 5X).... twist... twist...twist... bang!

Got 2 fish that way and then the sun was beating down on the water and the fish moved into the depths. I'm not big on blind fishing in still waters so I got back to the family in time for breakfast at 9. 

what a great little stillwater, thanks Gareth, Jan and Juan at Wildfly!

Hopefully I'll be meeting up with some old friends later this week to fish the upper Bushmans river in the Drakensberg for wild brownies and rainbows... I'll let you know how I go. now off to the beach with the family. 

3 April 2012

The Hardy Zenith 10' 3wt- sublime!

I finally got it on the water and it is a remarkable rod!

Last year I fished the Zenith 9' 4wt in Poland (see the post) and I was very impressed. I was fishing with Jeremy Lucas and he and I are both fans of longer rods for superlative dry and subsurface presentation and connectivity: But I've always been a little disappointed by the tip heavy feeling I get when fishing 10 and 11' rods. I told Jeremy how I thought a 10' 3wt Zenith could solve that problem because the ultralight Sintrix thinking could produce a 10' rod that was balanced on the grip, without that heavy tip feeling. It would be a rod that would "feel like it almost floated in your hand". But Hardy hadn't produced a 10' light  line weight Zenith yet and we didn't know if they were going to.

So I got back from Poland and got on the blower to Steve Peterson at Hardy and, well, one thing led to another and the rod was delivered in late January. Along with a new CC 2000 reel. I got the outfit together on the lawn (couldn't wait to get onto water) and it felt magnificent, but that's the lawn and the lawn is no substitute for casting the thing on water, with flies attached, and in anger. The 2 streams I fish around home are both small (one chalk and one silt substrate) and not really suited to a 10' stick: But on Sunday, with the season open, I got onto my stretch of the Darent, the chalkstream, here in Kent. I figured with the bank side foliage still very low after the cold winter the 10' rod would not put me at a disadvantage (by late summer I am normally flicking my 6'10" 3wt in amongst the foliage).

So what was it like?

Howard Croston,  the designer behind the Sintrix range, has once again applied himself with incredible results.

This thing is amazingly light in your hands, there is no tip heaviness whatsoever. Very importantly the rod is not merely a 10' 3wt version of the meatier 9' 4wt. It has been perfectly tuned to the job of a long light rod: It is much slower than the 9' 4. It is a paradox in that it is a crisp yet smooth mid action rod. It doesn't produce that sluggishness you normally get from a mid action rod because it is so light. There is no sense of "heft". Of having to thrust it forward and back. It is smooth, delicate and effortless, and yet not overly fast.

This is not a one trick pony. It is remarkably versatile. A more open loop or very tight, wind-cheating arrow are both equally available to me. I caught myself moving between the 2 and smiling to myself, a lot.

I fished both single dry and duo rigs and the rod effortlessly excelled at both. I was working a 15' leader tapering to 7x and it turned over perfectly, unless I duffed the cast.

I only fished for a an hour or 2 after having taken up a chunk of the morning stringing up extra barbed wire to deal with a poaching problem we had last season. But I had more than enough time with this rod to know I want to fish it a lot more. 

I've got to be in South Africa for 2 weeks and if I take a rod at all it'll probably be salt stuff, so the 10' 3wt will have to stay at home. But late April it's the Frome, then the Usk hopefully, then more on the Darent, then the Wye and then, in July, it's Slovenia, where this little gem is going to put on some serious miles.

I'll let you know how I go.

Once again the Hardy team blow my mind. Well done guys!

1 April 2012

31 March 2012

Season opens tomorrow!

I am really excited about getting on the water tomorrow, even if only for a few hours.
New patterns to take for a swim and, of course, my first session with the new Hardy Zenith 10' 3wt!! 

12 March 2012

patterns for the spring...

I decided it was time to get my act together in preparation for the spring, particularly for specific hatches including various uprights like BWO's and LDO's, Danica and yellow mays... so here's what's shaping up


Danica emerger:

Yellow may emerger:

mainly variations on patterns that have worked for me in previous years with the incorporation of stuff that I think I have evolved over the last year... 

2 March 2012

Sussex FDG

I did a talk at the Sussex Fly dressers Guild last night. We had a lot of fun talking fly pattern design and I demonstrated the Yarn Spider and the Pettis egg.

From Some of my fly patterns

From Some of my fly patterns

I also mentioned the Extended Body CDC upright pattern I've had so much success with over the past few years.

Sussex FDG thanks a lot for a great evening!