Tuesday, December 30, 2008

First Pike on the fly

Below is a photo of my first fly caught Pike - it was 15lbs (approx.7kgs) and was certainly one of the highlights of my 2007 season.

I thoroughly enjoyed the outing and had one more that season when I was fortunate enough to get 5 fish but none as large as that first one.

I didn't manage to get a Pike outing in 2008 but it is certainly something I would love to do more of given the time and money to buy the gear necesary.

You can never say never but if I do get into it, it will not be in the near future as finances will not allow it at the moment - I think my main and only purchases in 2009 will be another trip to Lough Corrib in Ireland and a Salmon licence - it was my 50th year in 2008 and having given in to an urge I've had for some time now (I decided to start Salmon fishing again after many years away from it), my present from my wife was a new Salmon fly rod.
So it could be a busy time at the vice for me - tying for the new Trout season, tying for Corrib and now I'll need some Salmon flies.

Tomorrow is the last day of 2008 and I'm going to see it out with a day for the Grayling - I hope it's not as cold as it was today - it was still -6 mid morning and didn't get above freezing all day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jack Frost returns

I woke up today to find the frost had returned - everything was white, so I decided to delay my outing until lunchtime.

The banks stayed frozen all day and with the river looking lifeless I set up with the bugs but sport was slow today and I didn't get a touch for the first hour, then a good grayling came to the pink bug on the point.

Sport remained slow and another hour of trying different areas and depths passed before I took my next fish, a trout, again to the pink bug.
I decided to give the flats a go with the indicator and this got me two more grayling before the light was lost.
The reason for it being so slow? - I'm not sure, it could have been the sudden drop in temperature after it has been so mild, I have had this before in similar conditions - I don't think they are shoaling up yet (even though they can be hard to locate on a big river like the Eden when they do) as the three grayling I caught today were well apart and usually if you hit a shoal one fish almost always leads to more.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lost weekends

So far December has been a complete loss as far as Grayling outings are concerned, the river has been up every weekend, snow melt brought it up the first weekend and rain in the latter half of weeks two and three meant those weekends were lost also.

My last outing was a short affair at the end of November - it was during the cold spell, the day started and stayed bitterly cold with a severe frost and a freezing mist hanging over the river.

I'd decided not to bother but by lunchtime temptation had got the better of me so I loaded my gear into the van - that was after thawing my wading boots - they were frozen stiff after being in the garage all night.
I don't know if you've heard the saying 'More skins than an onion' but that was me today - my neoprene waders are leeking so it was out with the gortex ones and to make up for the lack of insulation 4mm of neoprene provides, I had a few layers on - two pairs of thermal longjohns, a pair of thick fleece pants, two pairs of socks, thermal vest and two fleece shirts - I could hardly move !

I got to the river at 2 o'clock, so it would be a short session as it would be dark by 4.30 - it was too cold for anything longer anyway.
The start couldn't have been better with fish 2nd, 3rd and 4th casts, all coming to a pink bug - pink works really well for me at this time of year.
These fish all came on the hang - which was surprising as I expected them to be deep in the cold and lifeless conditions, the rest of my catch didn't disappoint with all coming when the flies were at their deepest - takes were gentle with only the slightest movement indicating a take but all fought well.
It was too cold to get my hands wet so they were played to within reach as quickly as possible then gripping the barbless fly, the fish were shaken off and all swam off without any problem.

So my last outing was very cold and very short, and now after a few lost weekends I'm desperate to get out again - looking at the river and the weather forecast it looks like it's this weekend.

Merry Christmas and many tight lines in 2009 to you all

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's a big river down here

I decided to give the lower Eden a look today, maybe not the best idea - it was bitterly cold with a quite severe upstream wind which would make fishing a touch uncomfortable as you don't get a lot of shelter down here.

The river looked dead - no flylife about and consequently no sign of any surface activity. It was too cold to mess about with too many changes so I decided the best idea was to zip up tight to keep the wind out, get the bugs on, stick with them and search.

The Eden is a big river down here and those not used to it may find it quite intimidating, but like any other large expanse of water you just need to break it down into likely fish holding areas, then fish what you can and where you can as efficiently as possible.

One method that is becoming quite popular down here is to suspend your bugs below a bite indicator - I know some are against bite indicators and say it's float fishing and not fly fishing - although it's not a method I use a lot as I find it a bit boring I have nothing against anyone that does employ it as on some days, especially in the depths of winter, the indicator can be the difference between success and failure, it can also be a very effective way of searching large and sometimes inaccessible areas of water like we have here on the lower river.

Sport was slow today and as usual with sub-surface fishing depth was crucial , constantly changing weight to suit water velocity and depth did produce a few Grayling with most takes coming when the bugs were bouncing bottom - I did have to resort to the indicator in some areas.
The fish remain in excellent condition and definitely seem to punching above their weight so far this winter.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

First Outing

We managed our first outing of the winter on the Eden this weekend and were rewarded with eighteen fish between us and a few missed and lost.
The river was relatively low and clear, and with no sign of any surface activity we both set up with bugs - the starting method was short line or Czech nymphing.
I nearly had the perfect start with a fish second cast but it dropped off as I brought it to the net, this was quickly followed by a 15 3/4" (39cm) grayling, then another dropped - three chances in the first six casts, the fish in excellent condition and fighting hard - this had the makings of a good day.

We saw our first trickle of olives at about 1230 and the odd fish started to show an interest in them, sport on the bugs had slowed and I was contemplating a change to a team of spiders when Andrew beat me to it, so I decided to persevere with the bugs as I was still picking up the odd fish.

Andrews change was justified when he took a fish on a Greenwell's spider and rose two others before they started to ignore the spiders - a quick change to a dry fly produced a missed take.
Fish continued to rise sporadically throughout the afternoon but on closer inspection we found that there was midge on/in the surface and after watching several olives float downstream untouched we decided that the grayling were more than likely on these.

I continued to take fish on the bugs right up until dark, although since early afternoon when we first saw fish rising, they did seem to want the bug higher in the water with most fish coming to the top dropper as the team swung downstream and began to lift.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Back at last

Well I suppose I should get the moaning out of the way first - what a disaster the last four months have been from a fishing point of view - first, my wife broke her ankle and couldn't work or drive, then we moved house and my line provider took eight weeks, many phone calls from me and a complaint to Ofcom to transfer my old number - so consiquently, I've hardly done any fishing and have just recently got back online.

But now things are getting back to normal and I've built up a serious amount of brownie points, I think, not sure if the other half will agree though but that will be put to the test as soon as river levels allow (see below - the River Eden at the weekend) as I've got big plans for the Grayling this winter.

The Eden in the fields downstream of the M6 motorway bridge at Carlisle

The forecast for the week isn't too bad and hopefully we'll be out at the weekend, so I'm busy replenishing my bug stocks

I did manage an outing on the Eden the weekend before last with a couple of clients (Christian and John) - it was their first ever outing on a river and the Grayling didn't let me down - fishing a mixture of bugs and spiders they caught five Grayling to 14 inches and missed others

Christian into a fish

Two happy Grayling fishers

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lough Corrib

I'm sorry that there's been such a gap since my last post but I've been trying to catch up since my first visit to Lough Corrib in County Galway, Ireland.

At nearly 42,000 acres Corrib is vast and although tempted to go it alone, we decided to book the services of local guide Larry Macarthy of Corrib Angling ( http://www.corribangling.com/)
Larry's vast Knowledge of the lough proved invaluable - on the first day he took us to the southern end of the lough where he said that there were some big fish - how right he was, he suggested that we start with a team of buzzers (apparently buzzers account for a lot of big fish)and I had a fantastic start to the week with a magnificent brown trout of approximately five and a half pounds on our first drift.

The next two days were windy and wet at times, more condusive to pulling wets and fishing dries, so that's what we did and we got fish - mainly small ones with the odd better fish of approximately a pound to pound and a half.
The second best fish of the week for our party came on day 2 - a two and a half pound fish was caught on a dapped natural mayfly by Tim Rowley - we collected naturals on some of the many islands that we stopped on for lunch.

Although we managed to collect good numbers of naturals on the islands we didn't see good numbers on the water and locals reported that sport was slow because the fish weren't on the Mayfly yet .

On day four the wind was up and down and during a flat period we witnessed a shoal of fish cruising around picking midge from the surface but they never really got within casting range - long casting did produce offers but all were missed.
We witnessed the potential of this great lough when a trout that must have been very close to double figures launched itself clear of the water in front of us.
We stayed on the lough late on day four in the hope that we may get an evening rise, something that the boys said was worth witnessing when large trout can be seen working areas picking off midge and sometimes picked off with a carefully placed dry - unfortunately the temperature dropped and the rise did not occur.

Day five brought windy weather and mainly small fish to pulled wets.

For anyone thinking about a visit I would definitely recommend it, but if it's your first time I would also recommend you book a guide, although it is a beautiful lough, is it also a potentially dangerous lough with large areas of shallows and some very large rocks close to the surface to catch you unawares.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Plans based on weather forecasts

You'd think with the technology available today that weather forecasters might get it right on a regular basis - but if you're like me and are constantly checking the forecast on the television and various websites with a view to a fishing outing, then it's quite obvious that they are pretty useless on occasions.
Take this weekend for example, I had a fairly good idea earlier in the week that I wouldn't be working on Friday so I started to check the forecast out to plan a couple of outings - one on Ullswater and one on the river.
The forecast for Friday was for a bright start with light winds in the morning, clouding over with the possibility of rain in the late afternoon - not very good for the lake so we went to the river.
What we got was a cloudy start, quite windy with showers, heavy at times, clearing skies late afternoon and a sunny cloudless end to the day - not quite what was forecast.
We had a decent day on the river, there were a few Large Dark Olives coming off and the odd fish rising, we stuck to the dry fly all day and did quite well.

The forecast for Saturday was originally light rain spreading from the west and hanging over us for most of the day which later changed to a cloudy start with light winds, then for the afternoon, stronger winds, gusty at times and rain, then heavy rain for Sunday - Saturday sounded perfect for the lake, so we were sorted.
What we actually got was light wind and mainly cloudy in the morning with long spells of sunshine and varying winds in the afternoon, wind direction remained south, south easterly all day, not quite sure how that's going to bring rain from the west, and it didn't - not a drop all day.
Despite the conditions we had quite a good day, we caught from a number of drifts in the morning, had a very slow afternoon while it was sunny, then had a good finish to the day when we started to get a bit of cloud cover and the sun started to drop.
Whilst on the subject of the lake, contrary to what some may report - two pound fish are not regularly caught - I first fished Ullswater thirty six years ago and after drifting away to concentrate on rivers and reservoirs for a while, came back to it and have fished it regularly for the last fourteen years and I have only taken one fish over two pounds (pictured below and quickly released after being photographed) and very rarely hear of any being caught - no more than two or three in the last three seasons.
I would estimate the average size to be about twelve ounces (up on what it was some years ago), a fish of fourteen to fifteen inches is a very good fish for the lake and a two pounder is a fish of a lifetime.

Although the lake is quite large, the majority of it is very deep and the actual fishing area is relatively small, and in my experience it will not stand a lot of boat pressure with areas going 'off' for some time after a boat has been through.
Like most wild brown trout fisheries you need cloud and wind, if it's flat calm or the sun is shining - go fish a river somewhere.

Back to the weather - as I write this at 1630 on Sunday afternoon we still haven't had a drop of rain this weekend, not that I want any but as a fisherman trying to plan a day out on river or lake based on the forecast, it would be nice if they were a bit more reliable.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Out at last

I'd thought or at least hoped that going self employed would give me the freedom to get out on river more but so far it's had the opposite effect - I'm usually on the river more in the first week of the season than I've been in the six weeks since the start of this one !

I managed an afternoon session on the Eamont at Yanwath Hall today - there was the odd Olive on the wing but none on the water and no fish rising so I started with my favourite method - the upstream nymph

The River Eamont at Yanwath

I like nothing better than working my way upstream searching as I go with a pair of weighted nymphs and watching for the line to stop or dart forward as a fish takes - my first of the day was a small ten and a half incher, then my best of the session, a seventeen inch beauty followed soon after - it was in great condition for this time of year and fought really hard jumping three or four times before it was subdued and brought to the net for a quick photo before being released.

I was using my new Sage ZXL today and have been really impressed with the way it performs when playing good fish in fast water, I've found I can stand my ground and really play them hard (without fear of a break off) to get them under control without having to chase them downstream, as I have with previous outfits.
My next fish was fifteen and a half inches and like the last, it fought like a tiger jumping repeatedly before coming under control for another photo and quick release.

The Eamont produced some really good fish last season - the best on Penrith Anglers waters was a 4lbs 5ozs. specimen taken on a dry fly and a number of fish around the 3lbs mark were reported - judging by the quality of today's fish, this season may be the same, my fourth and last fish of the day also came to the nymph - another hard fighting beauty measuring sixteen inches.
A very heavy and prolonged shower of rain at about six o'clock convinced me it was time to call it a day.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Last Cast

River Eamont - 22nd March

A bitterly cold northerly wind and wintry showers made an afternoon session with a client on the Eamont a bit uncomfortable at times - Ullswater is still pretty full so the river was at a good level and carrying a touch of colour.

We hit the water at 12.30 just as the wind eased and a trickle of Large Dark Olives (Baetis Rhodani) came sailing down the river - enough to encourage a rise, you would think, but not today, apart from two oncers the fish were keeping their heads down. Nevertheless a few speculative casts with the dry was worth a go but it was soon obvious that the dry wasn't going to produce so a nymph was added - 'The duo' can be a good searching method giving the fish the option of dry or nymph.

We had just started to work our way up a really fishy looking riffle when we were interrupted by eight canoeists so there was no point in carrying on and we moved upstream to another run where I hoped the fish would have had time to settle after the canoes had been through.

A change to two nymphs and a BB splitshot (a nymph fisher should never be without his splitshot) to help them reach the required depth produced a take but it was off in seconds.
The rest of the afternoon was slow - the river seemed dead and I began to think that the conditions had beaten us, but a change to a pair of nymphs fished upstream produced the goods.

A lovely Brown Trout weighing 2 lbs 4 ozs. came to a weighted Pheasant Tail nymph on what was literally the last cast of the day.

I always think that if you have the methods you will always have a chance - no matter when you go to the river and whatever the conditions - we tried a variety of techniques throughout the afternoon - dry fly, duo, north country spiders (down and across), czech nymph or as I prefer to call it, short line nymph, upstream nymph and were eventually rewarded with a good fish in very difficult conditions.

So, you may ask, why so many changes in such a short session ?

  • Dry Fly - our arrival coincided with a hatch of olives, two trout rose and the amount of olive duns on the water was increasing so there was a chance that more fish may be looking to the surface
  • Duo - no more fish rose so maybe the fish were on the emerging nymph, so the combination of a nymph and a dry gives the fish two options as the hatch increases
  • Czech or short line nymph - we moved to another area, a fastish run, the fish were very unlikely to be in the head at this time of year but could be in the deeper mid section, so we had to look at depth required and water velocity. To fish this area effectively required two weighted nymphs plus a BB splitshot fished on a short line to minimise drag and to fish at the right depth and speed - one fish hooked and lost
  • North country spiders, down and across - We moved to an area of water that could best be described as 'flats', a relatively broad expanse of water with even pace and depth - the fish could be anywhere on the flats at this time and a good way to search the area is with a team of flies consisting of a pair of spiders on the droppers and a nymph on the point fished down and across or maybe across and down would be a more appropriate term
  • Upstream nymph - after fishing the spider/nymph combination down the flats with no response from the fish but still convinced that there had to be fish in the area we had to conclude that the fish may be lying deeper and as this area of flats did not really lend itself to short line nymph then the right method would be to work our way back upstream fishing an area of what seemed to be a slightly deeper channel with a pair of weighted nymphs - result: a 2lb 4ozs. Brown Trout

So in my opinion, to be consistently successful Trout hunters we have to be prepared to change methods depending on water types and changing conditions encountered throughout our fishing sessions.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Glorious 15th

My first outing of the 2008 Trout season – it was a calm and damp start to the day, the choice was the swollen rivers Eden or Eamont, a high but maybe just fishable Petteril or Ullswater - I had a few jobs to do in Penrith so I opted for the lake.
I got up there at about 11.30 to find the lake virtually flat with just a slight ripple here and there - a waste of time in my view, but, I was there so I decided to see if the boat had overwintered okay.
As I was checking the boat the wind picked up and was soon a moderate north to north - easterly, so I was on the water by 12.45 and after dropping a fish third cast, I was netting my first trout of the season by 12.55 - it came to my Glister Muddler on the top dropper.
It was great to be out on the lake again - I know I miss some potentially good sport on the rivers but I do struggle to tear myself away from it between now and the end of June given favourable conditions.
Sport was slow and the fish were lean - only to expected for the time of year, but I'm not complaining, I did okay for the first day of the season, there was a time when I wouldn't have dreamt of being on the lake this early in the year.
Apart from the fish I caught and moved to my flies, I only saw one fish rise and there was little in the way of fly on the water – I saw one midge fly past my nose and that was it.
I met one other boat and saw two others - the occupants of the boat I met had only one fish between them for the day and reported sport was slow.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Fishing will always come first

I got up this morning to find we had some decent weather at last - a beautiful springlike day.
I did a few jobs to keep the better half sweet and then it was decision time - Newcastle were playing Aston Villa on Sky TV, so should I stay at home and watch a load of overpaid primma donna's prancing about a field or should I give in to temptation and hit the river.
Not a lot to consider really - I was on the River Eden just after one o'clock for an afternoon session for the Grayling.

Even though it was a warmer day than we've had recently I didn't expect any activity at the surface so it was on with the bugs and a spot of Czech nymphing.
They didn't let me down - third cast I dropped a fish and two casts later I was into the first of the day - a 43cm (17") Grayling to an Orange bug on the point.
Judging by the scale samples I've taken in the past, a fish of this size would probably be about three year old (a third winter fish) - Eden Grayling tend to be fast growing and three year olds are usually in the 38 - 45 cm bracket - my best measured Eden fish was 49cm (19 1/4") and weighed 2lbs 14ozs.
The Eden has produced some very good fish in the 40 - 47cm (16" - 18") range over the years but the downside of fast growth is short lifespan and we have yet to find a fish over four years old.
My second fish came soon after the first, quickly followed by a third and one dropped in between - all coming to the pink shrimp on the top dropper, these were 28 - 30cm fish.
Another one came to the pink shrimp in the next pool down plus a few tentative tugs when the flies were on the hang and that was it.

The Flies for the day - The Orange bug and Pink shrimp

In 2007 the Eden Grayling population definitely seemed to be on the increase again, we've been in a bit of a trough for a while so hopefully this is the start of a peak period, which we haven't really seen since the late 90's - long may it last.

Not that there was ever any doubt as fishing will always come first but my decision was confirmed when I got home to discover that Newcastle had produced another poor performance and suffered a 4 - 1 defeat.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Ullswaters

I think I've started every post so far with a negative, so why spoil the habit, I'm sure there'll be plenty of positives once the season starts - yesterdays local news confirmed what I suspected, that is, January's rainfall was twice the average for this time - how depressing.

On the tying front I've got my stillwater box well stocked with my Ullswater flies.

The Ullswater series started about 14 years ago, I wasn't into naming flies then, so it was just, my palmered hare's ear. The fly was so successful for myself and my good friend, Andrew Dixon that he said I should give it a name - as it was tied for the lake it had to be 'The Ullswater'.
Since then I have added - The Golden Ullswater, Silver Ullswater, Olive Ullswater, Orange Ullswater plus muddler versions of them all and the Golden Slipper (Originally tied for, and very successful on the peat stained water of Keilder reservoir)
The Original is still my top fly every season but the others aren't far behind and the golden version nearly pipped it last year.
The olive version and the Golden Slipper come into their own once the Mayfly (Ephemera Danica) time starts but are always worth a go if the others aren't producing.
As most lake or loch fishermen will tell you, it's not just Rainbows that want the flies moving and creating a wake, sometimes the Brownies love it too and this is when the muddlers shine - you don't always need a good wave either, I remember having a great day with a size 10 Olive Ullswater muddler, in a very light ripple it was part of a three fly cast and the fish picked it out every time.

The Ullswaters do work elsewhere, Andrew had success with them in Sweden while practicing for the World Championships (he has been a member of the England team for some years now) and they have worked for me on other wild trout fisheries I have tried.
Once word of them got out, they became quite popular with local anglers and are now sold by John Norris of Penrith.

One of the things I love about fly tying is that it gives you the freedom to experiment and I certainly do that - I am always trying different patterns or variants of traditionals on both river and stillwater, to me, that's what it's all about - it adds to the challenge and enjoyment of this great sport.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The right footprint

Even though the horrendous weather and subsequent waters have meant an enforced break in my Grayling fishing since the week before Christmas, I'm going to try to stick to my guns and have my annual break which usually starts at the beginning of February and runs until the 15th March (unless out with clients) - this gives me the chance to catch up on some fly-tying and means I really look forward to the start of the Trout season.

At the moment, I'm reading (for the second time), 'A Modern Dry-Fly Code' by Vincent C. Marinaro - for anyone who hasn't read it, it is an excellent book.
When it was first published in 1950 it was described as being far ahead of it's time.
In chapter three Marinaro describes what the trout sees, it's window of vision and the importance of the 'footprint' - the impression that the fly makes on the surface of the water and seen by the fish in the mirror before it reaches the window .
He also believed that Dun imitations should be winged - the footprint alerts the fish to the fact that a fly is approaching and the wing is the first indication that it is entering the window.

I guess this could be why, on occasions, we have seen fish move some distance for the fly - the footprint is seen in the mirror and the fish goes to it rather than waiting for it to enter the window or it moves off line to intercept a fly that would otherwise miss the window.

A Large Dark Olive Dun (Baetis Rhodani)

In my opinion the footprint is not always that important when fishing our northern freestone rivers. For example, when fishing the dry in riffles, this water tends to be faster, more turbulent and shallower - trout in this type of water are closer to the surface therefore their window is smaller and they will not get time for a good inspection of the faster moving fly, and they are usually not so fussy about what you chuck at them.
As the riffle slows and deepens into the pool then this is where we should, on occasions, think of the impression our fly is making in or on the surface. Here the fish may be lying deeper, it's window is larger and it gets a good view of the mirror around that window, and anything that is piercing or creating a footprint on that mirror.

So when I'm tying my dries, I try to cover whatever the fish may be on - emergers, drowned or crippled duns and a variety of duns in the hope that on any given day one of them will create 'The right footprint'

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Versatility brings success

So much for getting out early in the New Year, I had to cancel a days fishing on the 2nd after checking the River Eden on New Years day and finding it dirty and rising and reading just over four foot on the gauge at Langwathby

Then plans were changed again on the 5th after rain on the 4th brought the river over the gauge which meant it was five foot plus, and dirty, and definitely not going to fish.

With the busy lives we all lead nowadays we can't always go fishing when we want to or when conditions are perfect, so in my opinion, to be a successful Trout and Grayling hunter you need to be versatile and be prepared to fish whatever the situation demands.

This means that you can no longer decide before you leave the house 'today I will be mainly fishing the dry fly' which you probably could have done some years ago when hatches were better and there were more fish in the rivers, although we do tend to look back through rose tinted glasses - from my recollections, going back some 30 odd years, it wasn't always great, although they were more regular and predictable than today, there were days when there was no hatch and apparently no fish in the river.

Hatches can still be relatively good on occasions and you may be surprised at how many fish are in the river when they are really 'up and at them', but we aren't always able to be on the water at the right time, so, to be successful you need to be able, and prepared, to fish spiders (upstream and down), upstream nymph, czech nymph, duo or New Zealand dropper, and streamers if necessary.

We will still have our favourite methods, my personal favourite has always and probably will always be the upstream nymph - I have always found it a very enjoyable method and there aren't many occasions when it doesn't produce results.

When it comes to the perfect rod for the versatile fly fisher, I think a 5 weight takes some beating, it's a good all round weight that will cope with most methods.