Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ullswaters revisited (Part 2)

'The Ullswater'
I wasn't really into naming flies, so when I came up with my first Ullswater
pattern in 1997 my diary entries just show it as 'The Palmered Hare's Ear'.
Mainly because that's what it was: a Hare's Ear tied as a top dropper or 'Bob' fly. It got the obligatory palmered body and - as a lake fisher - I'd always liked the style of dressing used in Kingsmill Moore's series of Bumbles , therefore it was always going to get a softer head or front hackle. I remember thinking about using hen hackle as I'd used this on some of the many traditional patterns that I used to tie, but for me, it had to be Partridge. It was perfect for creating movement or 'Buzz' as I think Mr Moore used to say and it gave some contrast between the head and body hackle. Partridge, in one shade or another, has become synonymous with all the patterns in my 'Ullswater' stable.  
The Palmered Hare's ear proved very successful for me on my regular early to mid-season haunt and it also worked well for friends on other waters, at home and abroad. But - in my opinion - it was always going to work . After all, the ubiquitous Hares ear in all it's guises has probably been around since 'God was a boy' and consistently produced the goods for fishers everywhere.
In 2001, a good friend and regular boat partner at that time suggested that it was long overdue a proper name. It was agreed that as I'd originally tied the fly for my favourite water, it had to be called 'The Ullswater'

'The Olive Ullswater'

As I mentioned in my previous blog, as a fly tier, I can't help fiddling with patterns, so a succession of the inevitable variations soon followed. 'The Olive Ullswater' was first and it proved as successful as the original. In it's first year it actually scored better than the original - but only by one fish. On some outings I'd fish the pair of them, the original on the top dropper, the Olive on the middle and they'd both score. My diary shows that it has worked for me throughout the season but it has been at it's best during Mayfly (Ephermera danica) time. It used to work very well when the Lake Olives (Cloeon simile) were about but I haven't seen a decent hatch of them since 2003.

'The Ullswater Muddler'

'The Olive Ullswater Muddler'
Muddler versions came hot on the heels of the first two and these often produced plenty of offers in a good Ullswater swell. Although they weren't just reserved for pulling through the waves, I remember I once had a tremendous afternoons sport with a size 10 Olive Ullswater muddler fished as a static dry during a mayfly hatch on a near flat calm. 

'The Golden Ullswater'

'The Silver Ullswater'
Gold and Silver bodied versions came next. They both got a good workout when I first tied them and they proved a worthy addition to my lake box. On some days gold would score better, on others it would be silver. I've never quite sussed out why that is, it's the same with my nymphs on the river. I like beadhead nymphs - especially for trout - and my box was always dominated by gold beaded nymphs, not a massive range of patterns, just various weights and sizes. Gold always served me well but I guess the tinkerer in me meant that silver and copper beads were inevitably added. They've been interesting additions, some days the fish won't look at a gold beaded nymph but they'll have a copper or silver beaded one or they won't have silver or gold but will have copper and so on. I just put it down to water clarity or light conditions, or a combination of the two. I look for a pattern and some days there is, and I've a fair idea of when to use what, but, as often happens in fishing, some days patterns and theories go out of the window.They just won't do and accept what experience tells you they should do and accept. That's all part of the fun though. I suppose what it does show is that you can't make too many assumptions especially when fishing sub-surface. If the fish aren't taking, it doesn't always mean that they aren't there or they're not interested. It may just mean that you have to ring the changes and offer them something else.

'The Red Ullswater'

The most recent addition to the Ullswater series was 'The Red Ullswater' I think this one stemmed from my liking for 'The Zulu'. With it's red tag, the Zulu would often pull fish when nothing else was working, it was always my 'go to' fly when the fishing was slow. Another good old fly for me was the Soldier Palmer, so I guess 'The Red Ullswater' started life as a sort of Zulu stroke Soldier Palmer variant.
I know, I'm bound to be biased - it's my fly - but for me, this works better than the Zulu ever did. In it's first year it was hardly ever off my cast. I tried other flies. Some days I went out determined not to use it. I'd rig up with a team of my old favourites, but after a few non-productive drifts the 'red' went on and fish started to come. I don't know what it was that year, we'd had a lot of rain, water temperatures were low and the fish were keeping their heads down. Maybe, like the Zulu before it, this was the only fly to pull them up.
In the years since the Red Ullswater dominated for the season, the rest have come good again. I don't really have a favourite, I'll fish what I think the conditions warrant and if any part of the team doesn't work then there's plenty of very able replacements sitting in my box of Ullswaters....

N.B. For anyone interested in any of the Ullswaters, they are available at John Norris of Penrith or I can personally tie them to order, email me for details and a quote. I am hoping to have a Fly Shop on my website shortly, where a selection of my most effective river and lake flies will be available.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ullswaters revisited (Part 1)

I've already mentioned my series of Ullswater flies on this blog. It was back in 2008 and as I'm busy tying a batch for the new season, I thought I'd give them another mention.
Looking back in my diaries to see exactly when I first tied these flies, I was reminded of how poor I've been at keeping them updated. I first started keeping a diary of my fishing exploits in 1982 and managed to keep it up to date until mid 1990 and then, for reasons I don't recall, I just stopped.
Starting again in 1994, I did do slightly better and kept it going for nearly 15 years. I think this time, the mistake was probably deciding to start doing my diary on the computer. I thought it would be easier and quicker, but I was wrong. Finding time to sit down at the computer was always a struggle and from 2006 to 2009 the time between updates got longer. I began to forget the details of each outing and I eventually stopped doing them. I still managed to update my catch records on an Excel sheet that I came up with, but that was easy, you just put a number in the appropriate box and clicked save.
It's a shame really as a diary is very handy if you're thinking of a session at a particular venue and you wonder how you've done on previous visits. They're great reminders of what you did when and where, hatches, conditions etc. 
I'm going to have to try to start again this year - be a bit more disciplined
- and keep my entries up to date. It won't be easy, once the season really kicks off I'll either be busy guiding (I hope) or getting out to fish for myself as often as I can. Then everything else tends to get forgotten about.

So, back to the reason that I was looking in my diaries. I thought I'd start by telling you the tale of how one of my very successful stillwater patterns got it's name.

It's funny how the memory plays tricks, I was sure that 'The Ullswater'  (more about that in part 2) came along before 'The Slipper' but I was wrong - by about 3 years. I think 'The Slipper' started life in one of my diary 'gap years' possibly 1992 or 93. 
Like many fly tyers, I often have a tendency to tinker with patterns, even with tried and tested ones. I just can't help it, always looking to add that little something that might make the fly more appealing to the fish.
'The Slipper' was designed to be an Invicta variant. The wing of hen Pheasant tail was replaced with Elk hair, the Golden Pheasant crest tail replaced with orange cock hackle fibres and the Blue Jay hackle scrapped.

It got it's first outing on Ladybower reservoir. Penrith Anglers had entered a team in the 'Benson and Hedges' competition - a competition sponsored by a cigarette manufacturer, you wouldn't see that today. The qualifier was to be fished on Rutland, but I think it was decided to have a team get together beforehand. I shared the boat with our team captain and in two drifts from the middle of the main basin to the corner of the dam I'd taken my limit and every fish came to 'The Slipper'.

The fly was named on our trip to Rutland. We had a practice day before our heat of the Benson and Hedges competition, and that night - after we'd all had a drink or two - one team member suggested that I had a secret pattern that I wasn't sharing with the rest of the team. I explained that this wasn't the case, I'd tried it, it didn't work, so it went back in the box. Of course, he didn't believe me, but, he eventually gave in and staggered off to bed. The three of us that remained in the bar had a laugh about it and decided, between us, to christen the fly 'The Golden Slipper' The reason being - if I remember rightly - was that said member often wore a pair of slippers when he fished from the boat. I don't know why, I never liked to ask.
I do remember the first time I saw the slippers, it was when we shared a boat at Sweethope Lough, but rather than ask, I just thought he'd maybe forgotten his boots or something. Anyway, he was a lovely fellow and I never told him where we got the name from, although he may have guessed.

My first diary entry for 'The Golden Slipper' was in a heat of The Keilder Pairs on 22/5/94 when my fishing partner and I won the heat, I was top bag with 12 fish and they all came to my new fly. It continued to work well on Keilder for many years after, the only change I made was to replace the orange fibred tail with one of peach glo-brite (no.8) which I think improved it's attraction in the reservoirs peaty waters. 
The name was shortened to 'The Slipper' a few years ago and although I rarely fish the reservoirs nowadays, it has proved a very effective attractor for wild trout. Especially during a Mayfly hatch on Ullswater, either stripped through a wave or fished as a static dry when fish are picking off the duns of this large upwing. 

Ullswaters Revisited (Part 2) to follow shortly....