Monday, 30 August 2010
Next time you go fishing, just ignore those little symbols on the forecast. Reality check: they can't predict the weather. The Met Office may as well try stroking crystals, consult the dead or go through some tea leaves. A beter solution is just to be prepared and remain philiosophical, as was the case for trip to Hawkridge Reservoir.
Does poor weather make for any fishing better than blistering heat? Often not and high winds make it harder to present flies properly. Even so, amongst the waves there was the occasional sign of activity. Having expected lures and the dreaded (but useful) blob to be the most realistic way of buying a take or two, the reverse proved accurate. No pulls on the bright stuff, so using as long a leader as I dared, on went the buzzers and crunchers. After an initially dead two hours a fish moved within casting range, the fly line quickly drawing away as a cruncher was taken on the drop.
It was real a baptism of fire for Seb Nowosiad- high winds and a choppy boat do not make ideal conditions for a first serious crack at fly fishing. At one point we simply had to get on land and shelter as the rain pelted down. As we soldiered on some signs were positive, however, such as odd rises and grebes working the edges for fry. Bizarely the weather then turned fairly pleasant and in the early evening calm I could finally get away with a 20ft leader and present my nymphs more convincingly to the odd feeding trout.
The shallow far end also looked more alive with a few sporadic insects coming off and two more rainbows arrived, one to a smallish buzzer and the last and best at two and a half pounds on the cruncher. Hard work, but worth persisting.
Otherwise it was my pleasure to take a fellow angler out for a first taste of wild river fishing. Water levels were too high in many places so we resorted to the high ground and clearer conditions of Dartmoor, now fishable on the Westcountry Angling Passport (www.westcountryangling.com) for £10 a day.
The moor is simply beautiful and what a place to cast for trout. Alec Bellington took three wild brownies after a few pointers, each one possessing that raw cut beauty unique to these moorland trout. The areas of stream where the flow is concentrated and rushes through a little "bottleneck" were especially tempting. Did you ever see a trout as dark as this?:
Monday, 23 August 2010
A slightly different way to tackle some Culm trout lately, I sometimes like to swap the fly rod for an ultra light lure outfit. I'm certainly not one to get sniffy about methods- indeed, light lure fishing has quite a lot in common with fly fishing: it's just as visual, just as mobile and often just as much fun.
Out came some favourite small lures from Finland for this one- almost immediately a baby sized rapala skitterpop cast under a tree was absolutely battered by a brownie around the 16" mark! Until I saw the gold sides and black spots I could have sworn this one was a pike, such was the ferocity of the lunge. Incidentally, like EA bailiff Nick Maye, I've never encountered a single pike on any of the streamier sections of the Culm.
With the water levels quite low it was a case of fish congregating in the pools on this occasion. A little trout coloured countdown was met with hungry jaws on the edges of these deeper sections, once again no subtlety involved whatsoever. Presumably not a great place to be a baby trout round these parts! I added another two trout to around a pound and a half, but strangely no chub, before calling it a wrap. I'm not about to trade in my river fly rods, but this is exciting stuff nonetheless. For anyone who fancies it though, I would strongly advise debarbing trebles- these trout pulverise a small lure.
Thursday, 19 August 2010
It really puzzles me sometimes why fly angling for some species is seen as a method for eccentrics only. Take chub for example- are they naturally feeding on pellets and maggots? In reality they feed on many of the prey items our fly boxes try to cater for. Even so, it was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I approached the Stour yesterday- a maiden voyage to this fine chub river with a tough reputation.
It took a while to find what I was looking for; funny how we look through websites, forums and printed media and then discover that reality is another thing altogether. I found lots of mullet near Davis tackle shop on the Stour, but it was only higher up on the river I started to salivate. I spent a happy couple of hours by the weir on Throop beat 2 admiring some huge chub, one of which took a look at a large dry fly before swimming nonchalantly away. The roach and perch were thankfully more obliging, with several cute fish taking small nymphs.
Moving onto streamier, shallower water though, I soon wished I'd moved earlier- plenty of chub were holding up in the well oxygenated runs. Christ on a bike are they spooky though! The first group of fish located saw me first- but a few yards on and I saw a couple more, this time well upstream where I could cast without being so easily detected. My black hopper was taken in a beefy swirl and I was playing a nice chub, just a scrape under three pounds.
More chances were taken and missed, another fair chub along with it's baby brother, perhaps the smallest specimen ever landed and there was even an exciting but fruitless encounter with some barbel. Under a deep bank further along I saw a pike grab a roach and slink off, little silver scales fluttering behind. Back in the shallows the dace were also there in numbers and provided further distraction on this beautiful and varied river. Besides the lovely chub and dace however, a less sweet reminder of this wild place was a wasp sting on my right ankle, which has now puffed up to comic book proportions. Eeek! Actually, I'd rather think about those chub.
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
With the expectation of cooler times just round the corner, August has been a busy month of grabbing a few hours wherever possible on the river. A switch from the canal to the Exe in search of carp was a must, if only to capture the beauty of this mixed rural and urban looking venue in its prime.
No giants came our way on this occasion, but a hard battling common carp took off with my legered tiger nut during an early morning raid. Plenty of other commotion was heard too, albeit not from carp but mainly leaping salmon.
A wholly daintier part of the river system, the little mill stream (above) near the Tally Ho Inn, has been the other story, where I've returned to fish for the many dace and small chub here. A perch was perhaps the least expected surprise on a pheasant tail nymph, besides lots of pretty, fast biting stream fish. Lots of bites also missed- the dace give rapid hits on little dries and wets, a little black f-fly especially good fun for shoals of rising fish. A great way to spend a Sunday morning- and also test the reflexes!
The oppurtunity was also there to gather some little beasties from the stream for pictures. Hard to do whilst wading in a river, so I took a little container with a few critters for some "homework". Disaster nearly struck when my brother drove off with my container still placed on the roof of his car! Oh well- I got them back, a little shaken up perhaps, but the pictures didn't come out too badly. Here's a freshwater shrimp:
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Part of the joy of fishing is the fact that we can take it as seriously or light heartedly as we please. I'm a firm believer in variety, if only for the sake of that element forgotten by too many of todays die hards; simple, straightforward pleasure.
My continuing battle against the carp of Exeter Canal has been anything but straightforward fun however, more a process of mozzie bites, lost sleep and self examination. All the more satisfying to catch another fish therefore, this time a nice solid mirror carp.
Over the course of several sessions I'm finally getting to that stage where things run smoothly- from loading the car to having everything where I want it for the night ahead. Set ups keep improving, if only because I can't bear the thought of leaving baits weeded up or poorly presented all night long. Again, tiger nuts have been my first choice to avoid bream, popped up to stay weed free and well buried inside solid pva bags. Nothing is fool proof however, and after a screaming run at around 4 30am, I was turning the air blue as the fizzing reel got in a right mess and jammed solid with trapped line. Improvisation was needed- and fast- so I played the fish fly rod style, like some kind of demented Bob Church. After some serious heaving about and more expletives the fish was bundled into the net. Phew!
On a lighter note I've been doing short sessions with a fly rod for carp and also rudd, lately on Tiverton Canal. What a sheer joy these beautiful fish are. In contrast to the slog of carping, travelling light with just a rod, net, a few flies and leaders affords a true sense of freedom. It's generally a cast and move operation, trying to carefully cherry pick basking rudd. Little buzzers and hares ear variants have been good so far; sometimes you get a take, sometimes the rudd just turn away or just ignore the fly altogether. Either way, it's all excellent fun and a half pound rudd kicks quite beautifully on an ultra light trout wand.
Monday, 9 August 2010
Having not boat fished at sea since a very drab day in the Bristol Channel about three years ago, what a refreshing change a trip from Lyme Regis made. Aboard the Ameretto 2 (www.ameretto2.com) , we were hopeful for a good day on local reefs. The bream fishing here can be excellent- as I soon discovered.
Fishing squid and mackerel baits, we were quickly into bites and beautiful, broad sided bream. With my last bream a sample of about one ounce from a pier, I was awe struck with the quality of these cute beasties. For some reason they remind you of perch- whether it's that spiny dorsal fin or the jagging, head shaking fight, or indeed the barred sides. Many of the fish were in the two pound class- as you can see from Seb Nowosiad's beautiful sample here:
Whilst sea bream were a new challenge however, I was in good hands to learn a trick or two with those on board. You're only as good as your skipper and I was impressed by Steve Sweet's set up and willingness to make that extra effort- utilising groundbait was a real bonus, which he released via a weighted mesh bag or a giant bait dropper:
Does this help? You bet it does! About ten minutes after this was dispersed the rod tips got more suspicious taps than a morse code convention, with more chunky bream thumping on the lines.
One man who took a real haul of fish was John Gilmore, who had his set up spot on: the species responds well to colourful beads and I was also interested to note his use of small circle hooks. John doesn't strike, but simply tightened into the fish. And what a gentleman- he happily let others into his productive corner when the rest of us were struggling. His own set up was a fairly light blank- terrific fun:
Besides the bream we also got great variety in the form of mackerel, dogfish, poor cod, a solitary pollack, a scad and even a poor cod. First prize for oddities goes to John's starfish however- for some reason it didn't go for the bait but was just cuddling his lead. Ahhh!
Some uninvited guests also turned up in the form of gulls- multiplying rapidly at the end of the day as we gutted and beheaded the keepers. Talk about a scrum! One old, dead scruffy old gull also kept landing on the cabin roof. He got shooed away several times but the cheeky bugger kept coming back.
So, to cut a long story short, we enjoyed calm seas, rod jolting action, good banter and fish by the bucket load. In fact, for anyone who fancies a bucket load of bream or indeed a crack at autumn bass afloat, Steve is well worth a call: 01279 445949/ 07836 591084.
Baked bream for tea was a further bonus- I did mine with soy, honey and fresh ginger. Delicious! Not to mention an excellent bargaining token with the fairer sex when you get home a little late and tired.
Thursday, 5 August 2010
Summer is rapidly sailing by and whilst fishing should be about relaxation and escape, there's still so much to do before autumn. I'm my own worst enemy in this regard, with more plans and little schemes and daydreams than I can ever fulfil. Hence this last week has been a case of cramming in plenty of miles and little adventures. Night sessions seemed a good idea in the heat, but in spite of hitting beautiful Bossington in North Devon (above) on a promising evening with Seb Nowosiad, we struggled to capture anything except some scenic pictures.
Curiously fired up by this failure, a day of lure and fly fishing was a must for midweek. I made an early start and a long walk with Ian Nadin at Dawlish after bass as we fished hard and tried to pretend we weren't standing half a mile from shelter in a downpour. Although pickings were slim it was great to see Ian take his first ever bass on a lure- not big, but a beautiful little fish.
It was a day of surprises both good and ill: on a stroll in Dawlish we were amazed to see a healthy head of cracking brown trout slap bang in the middle of the town- not that you can fish for them. Less welcome was a nasty crunch as I got too close to the edge of a country road- hard to describe in clean language what happened to the tyre. With a fresh one on though, we had a couple of hours of frustrating fun on the Exe at Countess Weir and I managed a typical tidal mullet on baited spinner. With so many follows and nips arriving, Ian was unlucky not to grab one himself.
Finally it was then time for a well earned pint closer to the City centre and, naturally, a few casts with lures in the company of Rob Darby. We knew it was a day of unexpected twists when he offered to buy a round of drinks- and so it continued on the distinctly urban Exe where amidst the usual tiddly perch Rob tempted an absolute cracker on a spinner, at least a pound and a half, perhaps two at a guestimate. And to quote the classic man himself- "I think I look quite sexy in a sort of balding 1970's way":
Otherwise, I've been working at one of my other vices- the one I tie flies with. And whilst it can be fiddly, I'm enjoying photographing some favourite patterns too. The real secret weapon for bass has been the "Pony Puncher" (!)a sandeel pattern made with holographic fibres and icelandic pony hair. This stuff is superbly mobile and makes a good sillhoette:
A few alternatives don't hurt however, including brighter colours for different conditions. For some strange reason, chartreuse is another good bass colour:
Finally, we have a couple of favourite stillwater patterns: a Bibio, which works well on the moors, plus a Hotspot Spider- in contrast to its bushy neighbour less is definitely more with these beautifully mobile traditionals.
For those who can't be fussed with tying flies, do keep an eye on the site because I'll be expanding the flies soon and can always tie 'em for you!