Tuesday, 18 May 2010
Catching on the classics
As Summer kicks in certain fishing traditions just beg to be revisited. In my case it just wouldn't be summer without afternoons spent catching trout on dry flies and roach on hempseed.
Timing a visit to the river with rising fish is perhaps the more fickle exercise of the two, but I liked EA bailiff Nick Maye's confidence as we headed for a stretch of the Culm. A forgotten gem of a trout river, the Culm has made a healthy recovery in recent years, from a state where the water could literally appear in a different colour each week from industrial dyes in the water, to it's present rude health and even the odd salmon and barbel. As well as getting the inside story from Nick though, I was keen to try the classic "Beacon Beige" fly which originates from the Culm itself:
The original is a fairly well hackled affair, as you can see, which uses Plymouth barred Rock hackle and stripped peacock. All very nice- but I was also keen to try one or two more modern twists (or "bastardised beiges" as you might call them!). Mine use beige Turkey Biot for that classic segemented effect with less fuss:
We had some sport on the dry fly at fairly regular intervals through the afternoon, but in spite of my tinkerings I must confess the trout preferred the higher riding and bushier classic pattern this time around. My modern dressings took a couple of small fish then, but sooner or later I had to eat humble pie and pinch a couple of traditionals off Nick, much to his amusement. One juicy rise saw battle drawn with a cracking brownie at one stage which I was gutted to lose after a long fight. Hooking a Culm beast of his own, Nick made no mistake later in the day though and landed this beautiful specimen. Outstanding stuff!:
Above all, the Culm is just a beautiful river and I can't remember the last time I made so many "last casts", the trout deciding to rise again each time I announced "I'd better go... I'm already in enough trouble."
Otherwise my efforts have been for roach on hempseed; another method which truly epitomises the pleasure of summer fishing for me. Milemead lakes proved fruitful with a cracking net of fish, with plenty of skimmers and hybrids also taking a liking to a grain of hemp. The feeding pattern was important on this one- whilst I would usually feed small amounts like clockwork, the fish seemed to be charging about too much and so it was case of bigger helpings a little less often.
The bites are simply classic when you hit a rhythm and give the swim time to settle- slow, deliberate, decisive pulls. It's not strictly a specimen method I guess, just a lovely way to catch a healthy stamp of roach. I didn't find any of the real giants of Milemead, but took a good staple size up to 1lb 2oz. Like with the fly fishing, it was nice to see traditional method still winning out- I had toyed with the idea of fishing pellets for these quality roach, but what would Mr Crabtree say to this sort of blasphemy?
The writing continues to be rewarding, with a real bumper month too- especially proud to be part of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying's 20th Anniversary Edition, although I would urge all those who enjoy Bellbrook Valley to have a look at the Mayfly feature in Total Flyfisher. Sadly I'll be away for the annual Mayfly fest- but very much looking forward to some laid back living and fishing for purer pleasure for a while out in Finland, where I have this daft idea that I';m going to catch zander on a fly rod. But that's another story... here's wishing everyone some great summer fishing.