Monday, 20 June 2011
Fishing is the greatest pastime of all when it comes to following up a million mysterious leads. There simply aren't enough days in the year to follow up on every hunch you have or water you'd like to explore. However, I like to have a bloody good go! There is so much more fishing out there than you ever read about. If anything, the growth of blogging and web articles have heralded a more varied and open version of the sport, rather than mainstream articles which often confuse catching big fish with interesting fishing. In the midst of the copy I provide magazines, my own blog represents possibly my least polished writing- but you will find some of the more interesting subplots and smaller stones turned over.
This week I got back to some bass in the esteemed company of David Pilkington and Ben Garnett. For David it was a welcome day off from his guiding- for Ben it seemed like something of a field trip. For those who don't know my brother, Ben is very much a "wild fish in wild places" angler and is a dedicated natural scientist. A fanatic. This is the reprobate who culled the brighter coloured goldfish in my folks' pond because they "weren't natural enough". You couldn't say the same about bass in a million years.
With dodgy weather ruling out the open coast, we headed for an estuary mark. David has been increasingly drawn to bass for the past few seasons, which provide another angle to his guiding. Conditions were wretchedly windy, but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm and several gutsy school bass came our way- some of them more like Kindergarten than school bass! Just to get the line out and catch something seemed like a result on a day better suited to kite surfing. Nevertheless, for anyone looking to explore bass on the fly I wouldn't hesitate to give Dave a call (see the Arundell Arms link on my site, or google it). I can't give away our specific location, but if anyone can put you on the bass, it's Dave.
In the meantime I continue to be fascinated by our canals. Bigger adventures are all well and good, but I just love the diversity of species and methods on these little waters. Joining me for a very early Sunday service on the Taunton to Bridgwater canal was Seb Nowosiad. We fished flies, lures and baits at different times to enjoy a really varied day of sport. I also like these places simply because they are so beautiful. With rows of tall trees and pretty, lily dotted water you could easily think you were in rural France- until the bloody rain sets in.
Not easy fishing on this occasion, but a different possibility at every turn. I had roach and rudd on the fly, Seb had perch, pike and a terrific 3lb plus chub on a lure. We saw several others, which were amazingly spooky- nevertheless, they are clearly catchable provided you don't scare them first.
Sunday, 12 June 2011
I always love a quiet hour or two at the vice tying some flies. Lately it has felt more like a week or two of solid work however, with some 60 or more patterns on the go for both a book project and also material for an American magazine feature on "The Perfect 10 British Trout Flies"- a great honour if something of a nightmare narrowing down centuries of great flies into a mere ten classics! So where do we start? Those who have never tied a fly of any kind might take heart from the Black & Peacock- which consists of thread, peacock herl and black hen... and that's it! Bloody good for trout but also useful for coarse fish:
I also have a liking for traditional stalwarts, and for anyone suspicious of passing angling fads, the March Brown has been catching trout for some 500 years!
Turning out flies to a publishable standard is always a great challenge. With a quality macro lens (Nikons are used for micro surgery, such is their quality!) every little fault shows up. The messier results fill my fly boxes- only the best go to the publishers! It's a bit like a ruthless modelling audition- you pick and preen the best little buggers to look spot on... and the slightly fat or scruffy ones are asked to leave. After several attempts, here is my version of Richard Walker's classic Hanningfield Lure- it was designed for trout, but Walker found it even deadlier for perch, the jointed effect giving it extra wiggle:
The range of flies and materials is truly vast. This week I've used everything from partridge feathers to strips cut from a Doritos packet in this little buzzer:
The fussy flies can drive you to madness, which is why I always welcome some meaty predator patterns into the mix. And who says pike flies can't be pretty (before they get bitten, obviously!). Here are a pair of poppers, I paint the bodies by hand:
June has thus been a mixed blessing with all the rain I guess- at least you don't feel like you're missing much by spending hours tying up flies when outdoors looks less than appetising. For those less than keen on tying their own flies I am always willing to consider any requirements you may have too. And unlike the shops with their imports I can always produce patterns for less fashonable species- from roach and rudd, to perch and zander.
Sunday, 5 June 2011
What brilliant summer fish rudd are. Sadly less widespread these days, in part due to fisheries and clubs that insist on chopping back all forms of vegetation, their pursuit is always an adventure. In the past weeks I've walked many miles in search of visible fish, skirting little ponds and walking the banks of rural canals. And worth every step. These fish will gamely take a fly and the warmer the weather gets, the more they seem willing to rise to dry flies. Part of the thrill is the sheer lack of any track record- the few anglers with any interest fish with bait for them.
If anything, fly fishing seems more selective than maggots or bread, which get clobbered by the tiddlers before that chunky mother has even taken notice. Finding clear water in which you can target specific fish is often the real battle. Boat traffic is bad news and with the better fish seeming quite spread out I'm getting used to making early starts and really covering the banks. It's a bit like cooking a special dish; several key ingredients have to be in place, but when it all comes together it's a right bloody treat. Forget muddy water and bite indicators- nothing beats tricking visible fish in clear water. Roach have been active too, and the real surprise is just how aggressive the fish have been of late. The same creatures that were cagey buggers in the cooler months will now really hammer a fly. A little while back I was catching on tiny, size 16 and 18 buzzers and spiders. Yesterday a size 10 seemed better, with the fish chasing and hitting a dark nymph with an almost predatory verve. Best fish of a thrilling session was this 1lb 9oz roach- or is it a roach/rudd hybrid? Perhaps somebody can tell me- internet research tends to yield a pretty haywire bag of truths, half truths and pure fiction!
The other great aspect of the week has been fishing in good company. I was due to fish for tench with Ian Nadin, but with these fish spawning we quickly switched to silver fish and he managed roach, rudd, perch and even a skimmer, all on his first fly rod session for silver fish. Also travelling light with me has been Russ Hilton. On a piece of breadflake he took the shock catch of the week with a cracking chub of 3lb 7oz! We'd seen little chublets before on the Taunton to Bridgwater canal but this was a genuine surprise. The grin was even wider because I managed to miss it two hours before on the fly, a hasty strike pulling my hopper straight out of its gob!