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....

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