1 December 2014

Co2ld Waters- Flyfishing brands speaking out about climate change

"Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act"- Albert Einstein.

We Flyfishers spend more time in amongst river systems than any other group, so we see the trends.  

We flyfishers must speak up about Climate Change. Go to http://co2ldwaters.org/  to see major flyfishing brands speaking out.

I've always been impressed by Yvon Chouinard the founder of Patagonia. He is a no nonsense guy that does a lot of good. Once again he steps up, this time along with other major flyfishing brands including Rio and Orvis.

28 September 2014

Last day of the season on the Darent

I was supposed to be hosting a Wild Trout Trust raffle winner on the river today and when he didn't turn up I had a few last casts in my favourite glides and riffles. 45 mins, 4 lovely fish! Until next season then...

19 September 2014

Atlantic Salmon, Brown Trout, Grayling- 3 salmonids, 5 days

First it was the salmon:

Mark working down "Hudley Bank" (I think) on Chesters Beat

It started last week Wednesday evening when I caught up with the rest of the crew at the cottage in Humshaugh on the North Tyne in Northumberland. Early the next morning I stepped into the river with a 14 foot 9 weight Double Handed fly rod. I was going after salmon with a fly for the first time in my 35 years of flyfishing...

my first salmon- a 14lb cock fish
the #12 Bann Special Shrimp did the business
Simon, Mark, Seth and Gary all nudged me in the right direction, explaining the fundamentals of taking lies, swings and other bits of apparently important technique... well it worked! The guys told me to tie lots of Bann Special Shrimps (BSS) in sizes 6-16 and they were spot on: the #12 did the trick.

The Bann Special Shrimp
1 fish in 2 and a half days of intense focus is apparently not bad given the low water conditions. We got 20 fish in total including sea trout to 9lbs and salmon to 18.

The salmon and sea trout populations of the Tyne have rocketed back from near annihilation after sewage works and chemical polluters in the lower estaurine stretch of the river in Newcastle were forced to behave due to new clean water laws a few decades ago. We fished patterns as small as 16's. I am amazed these huge predators will eat flies this small (and nothing else sometimes)... there is so much to learn about migratory salmonids.

Simon with a 4lb sea trout that became dinner

Then it was the high country Brown Trout:

The River Tees just below Cauldron Snout (highest waterfall in England?)... loaded with hungry wild browns
On Saturday afternoon, after a large fry up, I said good bye to the salmon crew, climbed in the Landy and drove up to the top of the Penines: camping and fishing far off the beaten track on the upper Tees.

the camping spot
It took some work to find a spot to hide the Landy and pitch tent but eventually I found somewhere sandwiched between reserve, reservoir and Ministry of Defence training ground.  It was a bit of a hike from my tent (which got hidden away at dawn) down Cauldron Snout to the Tees, but it was worth it!

Little, aggressive, Tees brownies.... no push overs though!
I caught a lot of fish, probably 50-100 in a day, but only when I got in the groove, working drifts into the lip of the current at the tail of the tiny pocket water or in currents passing bigger boulders.

Lunch of pork pie and ale went down bloody well after hours of hunched over stalking.
A magical combination!

the Red Grouse were everywhere, with their shrill "go back go back go back" call

The obligatory selfie :-)

And finally the grayling:

not a monster, but rewarding nonetheless
On Monday morning, after a few nights of solitude in the mountains I dropped down out of the Pennines and into Cumbria where I met my friend Jeremy Lucas in Appleby for a day on the River Eden. Jeremy put me onto 2 beats both of which produced trout and grayling. It was hard work with the river low and slow. Fish were showing and perfect drifts with #18-20 dries convinced them...

The first fish of this journey weighed 14lbs, the last one weighed 1.4lbs.... weird.

the last fish of my journey, 10 times smaller than the first fish
What an amazing week on the road, 5 full days of fishing.
We should all be taking these journeys regularly!

26 June 2014

Norwegian Grayling... another world!

I've just returned from a week of outstanding grayling fishing on the mighty River Trysil in Norway with a great bunch of guys. The visual flashbacks to intense hatches with masses of rising fish are still coming fast and thick and hopefully will take a long time to recede!
A panoramic of a huge riffle and rapid on the Trysil

Back in February, when I was demo'ing at the British Fly Fair International I bumped into my Norwegian friend Ole Bjerke who used to be with Mustad and Partridge in the hook trade. Amongst other things Ole is now building up Gamefish.no to raise the profile of some of Norway's lesser known inland fishing. I've wanted to fish Norway for years and this was a perfect opportunity for me to access the right intelligence... so I asked Ole to tell me which river and which week would provide the best grayling fishing in Norway. A week later he emailed me the answer. Simply as that. I got a group of 5 of us together and off we went.

Blown away by the river on arrival! Anders the landowner, in the cap, shows us the 6 kms of river available to us.

Heptagenia Sulphurea- The Yellow Mayfly... the fish loved them!
I won't go into the detail of insect life and what hatches we experienced, you're welcome to contact me for that info: But I will mention that insect life is very healthy with significant diversity and population sizes and I've not seen such intense hatches of BWO's or Yellow Mayfly (Heptagenia Sulphurea) anywhere, ever and with fish so intently focussed on them.

Ephemerella Aurivilli and the imitation... the fish liked them too!

The Trysil River is huge, 80 meters across on average and with serious flows, just low enough for us to wade given the late snowmelt this spring. It was extremely clear. I watched grayling moving to dries like they were in an aquarium. The river is largely untouched other than a hydroelectric plant with a fish passage which is due an upgrade. Grayling populations are very strong and seem to be most dense in key areas with a lower density sprinkling of individuals in pretty much all habitat types. My favourite type of water for grayling is shallow, broad glides at the tails of pools.... and we found it in spades.

Shallow glides heaving with insects and rising grayling. An opportunity to produce cross-and-down drifts, one of my favourite techniques to reach distant fish I cannot wade to.
There are also a few brown trout about, we expect there are more we just need to figure them out. There are a few small lakes in the woods that are connected to the river by small streams, big enough for trout to run. Each lake has a population of highly adjusted trout that had us mesmerised...
John Grindle got this magnificently marked trout from one of the little woodland lakes.
One of the little lakes hidden in the woods, connect to the Trysil by a small stream, home to wily brownies!

We caught the majority of our fish on dries. Fly patterns most successful for me were the plume tip (an amazingly dependable producer in any BWO and LDO hatch anywhere in the world it seems) and a range of imitative emergers for the yellows and aurivilli. I had a great session one afternoon bugging in fast deep water with a huge single jig fly which produced 4 big grayling, but the dry fly was supreme.

My take on the Plume Tip... the pattern that produced the majority of my fish

One of the yellow may imitations I used to target the rising grayling in these hatches

We were fishing on Anders Nyhuus' land, this is a large area of woodland managed for lumber production through sensitive management of indigenous species (pine and spruce) and natural processes. More information on the fishing is here. Anders keeps the numbers down. There were 5 of us and we were the only people allowed to fish his 6km stretch of the river for the whole week. The fish experience effectively no pressure at all. We moved quickly and fished pretty hard and didn't manage to fish every piece of the river, although we visited each area for long enough earlier in the week so we could plan to focus on water that seemed most productive in the conditions (sunny, warm and lots of insects hatching). We experienced very few mosquitoes and biting black fly.... probably because we had regular winds.

The accommodation is a very comfortable log cabin which is appropriately rustic (although subtly well equipped, particularly in the kitchen) and it's very comfortable.

We caught a lot of fish, probably 150 at least. The grayling averaged 25-30cms at a guess. The biggest were around 40cms. There are bigger ones!
A larger than average Trysil grayling

The river flows through dense pine and spruce forest. Walking through it to reach the water is a magical experience. It really sets you up for some serious fishing.
One of the rare browns we encountered in the river... there must be more and bigger ones, we need to figure them out!

I have a rule, I'll never return to a river before I get through my list of those rivers I've yet to visit. To fish the Trysil again, at Vestsjoberget, I am breaking that rule.

classic glide water on a large scale in a pristine environment...

Thank you Ole and Anders.... you made me a very happy fishermen... see you next year!

8 March 2014

The LDO Compara Plume Tip Emerger

It's a hybrid, the love child of a few patterns: the answer to all ills, for this spring at least...

The LDO Comparadun Plume Tip Emerger (I know, it's a mouthful)

This pattern is the love child of a few olive imitations that have worked very well for me for some time. I was looking at my fly tying to do list for the spring recently and saw "LDO and BWO adult". Rather than leaping into tying the patterns that worked well last season I said to myself, "Slow down, relax, think about the objective here, maybe there is an opportunity to evolve and create something better.":  So I did and there was. 

I like adults that ride low in the water, almost like emergers in posture. In fact, I probably prefer emergers over true "dries" when imitating uprights (or mayflies as they're known outside the UK).

I have combined what I believe are the "best of" triggers from a few patterns which when combined could make for an amazing olive or BWO (or any upright) emerger. We will know in a few weeks time when the season opens on the chalkstream down the road.

And the triggers are:
  • The tails shout "Baetis"
  • The abdominal gills say "yes, I'm the real thing!"
  • The comparadun hackle gives the right impression of legs (not pin pricks but fibres lying horizontal).
  • The plume tip announces itself to fish as it floats downstream "emerging upright coming through!"

The pattern:

Hook: Grip 14711 #10 (for the LDO imitation you need a big enough hook to include the nymph's abdomen and the sub imago's thorax and head)
Tail: 3 fibres of Golden pheasant tippet dyed olive 
Abdomen: Olive turkey biot with an underbody of thread
Thorax: Olive flash/natural dubbing blend. I like Hemingways Beaver Dub
Hackle: Dirty brown cock cape (I have used a "Photo dyed" cape from Chevron Hackle in this one)
Wing: 2 small wild mallard CDC plumes paired 

The patterns that led to this?

The Olive Biot emerger:
The Olive biot emerger (based on Mike Mercer's Trigger Nymph)

 The Compara LDO emerger:

The Compara LDO Emerger (a pattern I fused together out of previous ideas some years ago)

The Plume Tip Variant:

The Plume Tip Variant (not sure who "invented" this pattern but my friend Jeremy Lucas showed it to me in Poland a few years ago. I tie it with a CDC tail rather than the original Coq De Leon)