Monday, December 28, 2009

Be Careful what you wish for !

I'm sure that like me, you sometimes hope that you will pursue this great sport forever or maybe intend that when the day comes your ashes are scattered on a favourite stretch of river or lake in the hope that you can spend eternity in your favourite spot - well maybe you should think again...

As the great G.E.M. Skues reminds us in his tale about Mr Theodore Castwell (below) - maybe we should be careful what we wish for !

Mr. Theodore Castwell, having devoted a long, strenuous and not unenjoyable life to hunting to their doom innumerable salmon, trout, and grayling in many quarters of the globe, and having gained much credit among his fellows for his many ingenious improvements in rods, flies, and tackle employed for that end, in the fullness of time died and was taken to his own place.
St. Peter looked up from a draft balance sheet at the entry of the attendant angel.
"A gentleman giving the name of Castwell. Says he is a fisherman, your Holiness, and has 'Fly Fishers' Club, London' on his card."
"Hm-hm," says St. Peter. "Fetch me the ledger with his account."
St. Peter perused it.
"Hm-hm," said St. Peter. "Show him in."
Mr. Castwell entered cheerfully and offered a cordial right hand to St. Peter.
"As a brother of the angle-" he began. "Hm-hm," said St. Peter. "I have been looking at your account from below."
"I am sure I shall not appeal to you in vain for special consideration in connection with the quarters to be assigned to me here."
"Hm-hm," said St. Peter.
"Well, I've seen worse accounts," said St. Peter.
"What sort of quarters would you like?"
"Do you think you could manage something in the way of a country cottage of the Test Valley type, with modern conveniences and, say, three quarters of a mile of one of those pleasant chalk streams, clear as crystal, which proceed from out the throne, attached?"
"Why, yes," said St. Peter. "I think we can manage that for you. Then what about your gear? You must have left your fly rods and tackle down below. I see you prefer a light split cane of nine foot or so, with appropriate fittings. I will indent upon the Works Department for what you require, including a supply of flies. I think you will approve of our dresser's productions. Then you will want a keeper to attend you."

"Thanks awfully, your Holiness," said Mr. Castwell. "That will be first-rate. To tell you the truth, from the Revelations I read, I was inclined to fear that I might
be just a teeny-weeny bit bored in heaven."
"In h-hm-hm," said St. Peter, checking himself.

It was not long before Mr. Castwell found himself alongside an enchantingly beautiful clear chalk stream, some fifteen yards wide, swarming with fine trout feeding greedily: and presently the attendant angel assigned to him had handed him the daintiest, most exquisite, light split-cane rod conceivable – perfectly balanced with the reel and line-with a beautifully damped tapered cast of incredible fineness and strength, and a box of flies of such marvelous tying as to be almost mistakable for the natural insects they were to simulate.
Mr. Castwell scooped up a natural fly from the water, matched it perfectly from the fly box, and knelt down to cast to a riser putting up just under a tussock ten yards or so above him. The fly lit like gossamer, six inches above the last ring; and next moment the rod was making the curve of beauty. Presently, after an exciting battle, the keeper netted out a beauty of about two and a half pounds.
"Heavens," cried Mr. Castwell. "This is something like."
"I am sure his Holiness will be pleased to hear it," said the keeper.
Mr. Castwell prepared to move upstream to the next riser when he noticed that another trout had taken up the position of that which he had just landed, and was rising. "Just look at that," he said, dropping instantaneously to his knee and drawing off some line. A moment later an accurate fly fell just above the neb of the fish, and instantly Mr. Castwell engaged in battle with another lusty fish. All went well, and presently the landing net received its two and a half pounds.
"A very pretty brace;' said Mr. Castwell, preparing to move on to the next string of busy nebs which he had observed putting up around the bend. As he approached the tussock, however, he became aware that the place from which he had just extracted so satisfactory a brace was already occupied by another busy feeder.
"Well, I'm damned," said Mr. Castwell. "Do you see that?" "Yes, sir," said the keeper.
The chance of extracting three successive trout from the same spot was too attractive to be forgone, and once more Mr. Castwell knelt down and delivered a perfect cast to the spot. Instantly it was accepted and battle was joined. All held, and presently a third gleaming trout joined his brethren in the creel.
Mr.Castwell turned joyfully to approach the next riser round the bend.Judge, however, his surprise to find that once more the pit beneath thetussock was occupied by a rising trout, apparently of much the samesize as the others.
"Heavens," exclaimed Mr. Castwell. "Was there ever anything like it?"
"No, sir," said the keeper.
"Look here," said he to the keeper. "I think I really must give this chap a miss and pass on to the`next."
"Sorry, it can't be done, sir. His Holiness would not like it."
"Well, if that's really so," said Mr. Castwell, and knelt rather reluctantly to his task.

Several hours later he was still casting to the same tussock.
"How long is this confounded rise going to last?" inquired Mr. Castwell. "I suppose it will stop soon."
"No, sir," said the keeper.
"What, isn't there a slack hour in the afternoon?"
"No afternoon, sir."
"What? Then what about the evening rise?"
"No evening rise, sir," said the keeper.
"Well, I shall knock off now. I must have had about thirty brace from that corner." "Beg pardon, sir, but his Holiness would not like that."
"What?" said Mr. Castwell. "Mayn't I even stop At night?"
"No night here, sir," said the keeper.
"Then do you mean that I have got to go on catching these damned two-and-a-half pounders at this corner forever and ever?"
The keeper nodded.
"Hell!" said Mr. Castwell.
"Yes," said his keeper.

Acknowledgement: Mr. Theodore Castwell is an excerpt from Fisherman's Bounty, by Nick Lyons, published in 1970 by Crown. In the Acknowledgments he credits the source as "taken from Sidelines, Sidelights, and Reflections by G.E.M. Skues. Copyright 1947 by G.E.M. Skues." The original story appears in that book, (first edition) on page 347 as "Some Letter," with the notation "Fly-Fishers' Club Journal, vol. 19, No. 73. Spring, 1930.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cold snap slows sport

The cold weather that we've had recently certainly seems to have slowed things down, not killed it... but fish have been hard to come by on my last few outings.

And now it seems that I may have the same problem as last years Christmas break when I intended to to put in some serious fishing time - last year it was rain and a high river that stopped me, this year its snow and ice with the river up and coloured after overnight rain and a slight thaw at the weekend

Grayling have been hard to locate when I have been out, they appear to be hugging the bottom with most taking when the bugs are at their deepest - bright coloured flies attracting the most interest, no matter what the water clarity.

I've sometimes wondered if I should save myself the trouble of freezing in the cold water and just head out for the last hour of daylight as my hard work during the bulk of the day has brought little reward - then as daylight fades the fish have came on and sport has been hectic in the fading light.

Friday, November 20, 2009

100mm ! make that nearer 300mm

Well, the forecasters underestimated slightly - instead of the 100mm forecast on Wednesday, some areas of Cumbria received over 300mm of rain

As you can imagine, the effects of all this rain were devastating, with the areas around Cockermouth, Keswick and the west of the county worst hit - 100's were evacuated from their homes and bridges washed away in the worst floods since 2005.

The flood defences built around Carlisle since the 2005 floods appear to have kept the flood water out of the city which I would imagine is a massive relief to the residents that were flooded out last time

Flood banks keeping the water out of Carlisle

Stoneyholme Golf Course

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Never Say Never ?

Never say never...... well apart from this coming weekend because we won't be fishing around here - after 100mm plus of rain last night the rivers in this part of the country are in the fields and with another 100mm forecast for tomorrow I wouldn't like to think what sort of a state we'll be in on Friday.

The pictures below were taken at the end of October 2008 but if I'd had my camera today the shots would have been the same.

On a positive note.... I did manage an outing on the Eden last weekend - A call to the Environment Agencies Rivercall service last Saturday stated the river level was o.75m above summer level and falling - a touch high, I thought. Another call on the Sunday gave it at o.5m and falling so I decided to go for it.

The river at Penrith was still a touch coloured but worth a go - my philosophy in these conditions is 'give them something they can see' so on went a bright pink bug on the point, bright orange in the middle and bright yellow on the top dropper plus BB shot 150mm up from the point to ensure it was bouncing bottom.

Unfortunately no pictures from the day - my camera was playing up - but sport was good considering the conditions, my first fish was a 17" (43cm) Grayling to the pink, followed, two casts later, by a 16.5" (42cm) one to the orange.
Six more followed, all to the pink - so it turned out a good session in a water that I would have said wasn't worth fishing a few years ago and some still do, I had the river to myself today - It just shows, you can never say never.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Salmon fishing again

For some time now I've had an itch that's needed scratching and that itch was salmon fishing, so this year after a sixteen year break, I decided to do something about it and get back into it.

My Trout fishing has suffered badly but I thoroughly enjoyed the season - and didn't do too badly considering that by all accounts this year has been very poor for Salmon on the Eden, I caught two, a 7 1/2 lb Cock on the fly and a 15-16lb Hen on the spinner (shown below), the Hen was caught after the 10th September when all Eden Hen Salmon must be returned to the river

The damp weather continues, curtailing any hopes of getting out for the Grayling - I've only managed one outing so far this winter, the river has been out of sorts for the last two weekends and prospects for the coming weekend are not good, with yet another band of rain and strong winds heading in from the West on Friday - How Depressing !

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Our green and pleasant land

We fishermen certainly are a lucky bunch, we often have the privilege of fishing some great rivers in truly spectacular surroundings - of which there is no shortage here in North Cumbria, with the beautiful valleys of Eden, Eamont and Lowther on our doorstep as well as the Northern lakes/waters of Ullswater, Derwentwater, Haweswater and many more.
Its just a shame that my meagre photographic efforts can't really do them justice.

On Thursday I had planned a day on the Eden for a client (Tim) but heavy showers the day before had brought it and it's main tributary the Eamont up with colour and unfishable, so a quick change to Plan B saw us on the River Lowther - always a good bet if the others are out of sorts, it's waters held back by Wet Sleddale dam at it's head and often the last to flood, if at all.

The Lowther's a beautiful little river and usually a favourite of the dry fly aficionado, but today, with a cool downstream wind there was little sign of any fly life or rising fish so we resorted to spiders in the few runs that I thought may hold fish and we continued to ring the changes throughout the day trying upstream nymph, dries and 'The duo' - but other than a couple of small fish and a few half-hearted offers sport was slow.

Saturday saw me on Ullswater, with a strong-ish Southerly breeze and good cloud cover sport looked promising but as with a few of my outings on the lake this season - the fish forgot to read the script. Or maybe I expect too much sometimes as I did get fish albeit between long periods of inactivity.

I was hoping to see Mayfly and fish on them, as they're usually here by now, so I started with the Olive Ullswater muddler on the top dropper. Nature seems to be a touch behind this year and there was no sign of the Mayfly, not even any discarded shucks in the surface but the muddler still scored well, pulling some quality Ullswater fish to the surface, although not all made contact with the fly.

Sunday saw me on the Eden for a short evening session. The upstream nymph produced a few good fish (including the fifteen incher below) before a rise started at about 20.30, which prompted a change to the spiders fished down and across, a touch lazy maybe but easier than straining to spot a dry in the failing light.
Olives, Yellow May Dun and small sedge were on the wing so I tried a combination of Waterhen Bloa, Partridge and Yellow and Hares Ear nymph with all three producing in a rise than lasted forty minutes before the river 'switched off'.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A rough ride on Ullswater

We didn't get the heavy rain that was forecast for today (Monday) but we certainly got the wind, with a strong South - South Westerly blasting down the lake for most of the day.
The pictures don't really do it justice, with quite a large swell it got a bit hairy at times, the local Yacht club had an outing with a circuit set up but they weren't out long, it was either a short race or they were blown off - I suspect the latter.

Reports from some of the regulars have been a bit disappointing lately with either poor sport or only small fish (6-8 inches) encountered, more akin to June fishing when the small fish provide the bulk of the sport as the warming upper layers of the lake seem to push the more average 12 inchers into deeper cooler water.
In my opinion, by June stratification of the lake has taken place and the upper layer, the epilimnion, has warmed to the extent where it is not comfortable for the larger fish to remain in this zone, even though this is where the bulk of their food is as this is where we get the greatest light penetration and all the benefits that it brings, plant growth etc. - the larger fish still have to feed though and they still come into this zone, they just get a bit more selective with their feeding times.

I did catch and move fish on my first drifts but as reported there were none above 8 inches - these came to 'The Ullswater' on the top dropper.

After a lunch break in one of the few calm areas I could find, I decided it was time to brave the elements with a team of Muddlers stripped through the waves.

It wasn't comfortable fishing with strong winds and frequent gusts making casting difficult but the muddlers, an 'Ullswater Muddler' and a 'Glister Muddler' did produce a few fish although it was still a bit slow for the time of year - another couple of weeks should see the arrival of the Mayfly (Ephemera Danica) and hopefully an improvement in sport.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grannom and best to date

The good weather (maybe not so good for us fishermen at a time when we should be getting some of our best daytime sport) is certainly suiting the Grannom (Brachycentrus Subnubilus), they were coming off in their thousands today - I'd of liked to be about when this lot started egg-laying.

Another sunny, cloudless day meant that I decided to delay my visit to the river until teatime for an evening session.
A few Grannom had hit the water but the egg-layers were not out in force - there was the odd one on the flats producing sporadic rises from a few Grayling, but as they are out of season at the moment and no sign of any Brownies showing an interest, I decided to concentrate on the runs and riffles with my favourite method - the upstream nymph.

My first fish of the evening was this beauty, at 20.5 inches and weighing two pounds fifteen ounces it is my best of the season so far.
After a quick measure, weigh and photos it was safely returned.
A few more came to the nymph - mainly Grayling, before a sparse hatch of olives at about 8pm and a few rising trout prompted a change to the spiders. The rise was short and sweet, only lasting about half an hour, but a few more fish were caught, missed and dropped before all went quiet.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Photos from A.A.P.G.A.I. Open Day

Here are some shots from the A.A.P.G.A.I. open day that I mentioned in the piece that I did on the 29th March.

As I mentioned then - for anyone interested in going down the instructor route, I would definitely recommend a visit to an A.A.P.G.A.I. event, it will give you an idea of what is required to attain the necessary standard and the opportunity to mix with, and see some of the countries top fly casters in action.

Everyone is very friendly and extremely helpful - for information about the association and future events check out their website

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Good sport in wild weather

It turned out to be a wild day for our first outing of the year on Ullswater, the weather forecasters were nearly spot on - showers early in the day, 13 - 15 mph (and a bit more as it turned out) south westerly winds, gusting to 25 mph, remaining cloudy but brightening up towards teatime.

Prospects looked good and we couldn't have had a better start, hitting fish on the first drift, my first of the year on my old favourite 'The Ullswater' on the top dropper.
Normally at this time of the year I tend to stay out of the rough water as the fish seem to favour the calmer areas, but not today, the fish were in the waves and that's where we spent most of the day.
It was like being on a bucking bronco at times as we rode the waves in the strong winds, the boat was moving fast and the fishing frantic - casting was difficult with the strong tailing wind and the retrieve had to be fast to maintain contact with the flies.

Some areas were and had to be avoided as it was just too wild, it's not worth taking too many risks - I never use a drogue on the lake, especially in these conditions, if you got it wrapped around one of the many protruding rocks you could be in big trouble, and I always wear a lifejacket.

We motored south after lunch but initially couldn't and wouldn't go beyond Schelly Neb - the 'White Horses' were charging down the lake and it was just too wild but the wind had calmed by the third look so we risked going a bit further south for pastures new and were rewarded with a few more fish.
Most fish came at the surface, pulled up by flies like, The Ullswater, Glister Muddler, Zulu and Ullswater Muddler.

We did have quite lengthy lulls in sport throughout the day, but were more than satisfied with our lot considering the time of year and conditions.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

29th March - River Eamont and A.A.P.G.A.I. assessment

So much for my plans of a first outing of the season on Ullswater - as soon as I woke this morning I was at the window to see what the weather was like - a touch of frost, a cloudless sunny day and not a breath of wind, definitely no good for the lake.

I had to have my weekly outing somewhere but anywhere would be tough in these conditions, I opted for the River Eamont and I was right - it was tough going.

I was late to the river, an accident reduced the motorway to one lane and I got stuck in the tailback.
When I eventually got to Yanwath I set up with a pair of nymphs as I wasn't expecting much in the way of surface activity, there were a few Large darks coming off the water throughout the afternoon but I didn't see one fish move to any of them so I stuck with the nymphs.
Searching all the likely looking spots and areas that have produced for me in the past was proving fruitless, I'd virtually resigned myself to a blank on what I knew would be a tough outing when a change to a copper beaded nymph produced the goods - a rather slim but welcome fourteen inch brownie was quickly photographed and returned.

That was my only chance of the afternoon, I fished on for a while before calling it a day, happy that my hard work had been rewarded.

It was nice to get out today as I've hardly fished since Christmas - I'd signed up to do my AAPGAI (Association of Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructors) advanced assessment in March and have spent as much time as possible over the last three months practicing my casting and doing the necesary studying for the assessment.

I'm very pleased and proud to say that I passed the assessment and am now a full member of this exceptional association.

For anyone interested in going down the instructor route I would definitely recommend that they go along to one of AAPGAI's open events, it will give you an idea of the standard required and the opportunity to meet, and watch some of the countries top casters in action (plus you couldn't meet a friendlier bunch) - this spring's event was held at Woodall Farm near Cockermouth where we were treat to some outstanding double and single handed casting demonstrations from John Legg, Lee Cummings, Tony Reilly and others, plus a fly tying demonstration by Gary Champion.

For updates on AAPGAI events check out their website

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Glorious 15th

50 years old and I still look forward to the 15th March like a child looking forward to Christmas, it's a feeling I don't think I'll ever lose.

We were on the water by 10.30 this morning, I'd set up to fish a single nymph on a tapered leader giving me the option for a quick change to the dry if I came across a rising fish.
Large Dark Olives were hatching sporadically by 11am and the odd fish was rising to them, a change to an Olive Comparadun produced no respone so I soon changed to my 'old faithful' the Klinkhammer and rose, and lost a fish straight away before taking my first of the new season, a nice 14 inch brownie.
The Klink scored twice more before lunch but only one came to the net and just as things were looking good for an afternoon on the dries, the sun came out and put an end to that, the hatch of olives petered out and we never saw another for the rest of the day - large darks have never been real sun lovers.

With not a rising fish in sight, the afternoon was dedicated to the upstream nymph and another five fish took a liking to it, the best, a nice but relatively thin 16 incher - I'm not complaining though, a seven fish opening day is a great start.

I won't get out next weekend but hopefully the weather will be suitable the weekend after for me to get excited about my first outing of the new season on Ullswater.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Time for a break

We had about four inches (100mm) of snow in Carlisle this morning and there was no way that I was getting to my job in the country, so I took the dog for a walk along the Eden to get a few photos and to let him have a run in the snow.
He was like an excited little kid - running all over the place.

We got caught in a few heavy snow showers, but it was beautiful down by the river and great to be out.

I guess when all this snow melts the river will be up again, but that will be nothing fresh, it's been up most weekends so far this year due to either rain or snow and I haven't been out since the beginning of the month.
I usually have a break in February so that I look forward to the trout season more, but I'd decided to bring it forward this year as I have plenty to do to prepare the the new season - flies to tie, leaders to make.
I've always liked making my own leaders, it gives me the option of different tapers for different applications - to aid leader turnover when using the dry fly or the nymph, or if it's calm or windy. Different lengths for different situations - longer for a large river or on the flats, shorter for small streams or fast turbulent water where more control is required which is not always possible with longer leaders.
I made my first tapered leaders some time around the mid 80's and they were based on Charles Ritz's formulas in his book 'A Fly Fishers Life', and this was where I first came across the 'Perfection loop' which I still use today for all my loop to loop leader connections.
Looking back at this excellent book I can't remember why I stopped using Ritz's leaders, I'll have to make some up again and have a play with them, most of my leaders today are based on George Harvey's formula's which are a mix of stiff and soft nylon, and that could be the reason that I changed - the stiffer Ritz leader is very accurate, lays out straight even in the wind and maybe I may have thought at the time, a touch severe for the dry fly where the Harvey leader with it's softer tippet lays out in soft curves giving a better presentation of the dry fly.
I think, maybe it's time I tried the Ritz leader again, I like the the sound of it and there are other ways of avoiding drag with the various presentation casts that we have at our disposal.

No matter which formula you follow, most are based on the 60/20/20 rule advocated by Ritz which is 60% strength or butt section, 20% taper and 20% tippet although I have heard of double taper leaders which are 40/20/40 but have never tried them, for anyone interested in making their own leaders is worth a look.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Last day of 2008

The cold weather continued into the last day of the year - the temperature held at -2.5 degrees C all day, but we're hardy souls in the North West, so we decided to brave the elements and finish the year off with a day on the river.

It promised to be hard going today - our hands were freezing just setting up - we thawed out over the warm air vents in the car before venturing into the water and giving it a go.
With the water so cold the fish were likely to be deep so the method for the day was short nymphing and a team of bugs, wet line travelling through the rings was kept to a minimum as it just resulted in ice ups - I once read somewhere that vaseline on the rings prevents this but I've yet to try it.
It can sometimes be like looking for a needle in a haystack trying to locate fish on a large river at this time of year but we were fortunate today and hit on them straight away - we couldn't have asked for a better end to the year with consistent sport throughout the day, most fish came to the bugs on the hang, in fact after a while it became a case of hang and hold, the takes were very gentle and you had to watch for any movement of the line as it swung downstream and came to a stop below - the activity helped us to withstand the freezing water but I still had to get out regularly for warm-ups and a wander to get the blood circulating.

That's another year over, - where's it gone ? it's quite frightening how quickly they seem to pass nowadays - I didn't manage as many outings as previous years, what with my wife breaking her ankle and not working, and driving for four and a half months, and we moved house - hopefully I'll make up for it in 2009.

Best wishes and a prosperous new year to all (and of course - Many tight lines!)