Saturday, 25 August 2012
Catching On & Catching Up
At last, for a few days at least, summer has been more than just a word. Clear, settled conditions have led to some exciting fly fishing. When it gets truly balmy, I'm always surprised by the sheer number of species that will hug the uppermost layers of the water. The Grand Western Canal has been littered with roach and rudd (above), but even fish like bream and pike are seen sunbathing. The rudd are still my favourite for summer strolls, and while I'm still lacking the giant of the canal this year it's impossible to feel disappointed when plenty of rudd in the pound to pound and a half mark accept a fly so willingly. Once again, spider patterns have been the best of all, as was the case with this 1lb 5oz fish: Another great pleasure is in leading others towards new discoveries, whether through the pages of "Flyfishing for Coarse Fish" or with guiding days. My last guest, David Goodlad from Kent, had a terrific two day fly safari. Despite entering completely new territory, he had five species in total. Spotting takes was tricky at first and so I advised a switch to small dry flies- a good move as it turned out, with this chunky roach rising almost trout like: Day two was a fresh twist too, hitting the so called "fast stretch" of the River Tone. This is ideal territory for fly fishing, with a great head of chub and plenty of back casting room. A Pink Shrimp or Hare's Ear suspended just under a decent sized klinkhamer was aimed into various likely looking runs and creases, resulting in some full-blooded takes and a serious bend in Dave's five weight. This was exciting stuff- especially when flies could be aimed just where we'd spotted a chub make a meaty rise for a real insect moments earlier. A shame really that the summer is rapidly running out, just as things look more encouraging. Fearing the weather wouldn't hold I've spent the last days hurtling across the land from the Wye to the Stour to make the most of it. The Stour was still running a bit high, but with decent clarity and rising fish I enjoyed plenty of bites. It can be busy on Throop- but not if you wade into the sort of shallow, weedy, pacy swims that the bait anglers avoid. Dace were the main target on this occasion, a species so few anglers make any fuss about. With really light tackle I find them a refreshing challenge. The takes are "blink and you'll miss it" at the surface, and they do give a nice twisting fight. I had one or two better dace along with the midgets, but fancy that a much bigger one might be possible to those who conquer deeper water and tougher swims. I had a good crack at the Tidal Stour to attempt this, finding more than I bargained for. Several times I saw a little flounder in the margins- and then became totally distracted by a shoal of gudgeon, who themselves seemed driven to distraction by a Czech Nymph. Each time they'd follow the fly as it sank; a twitch would generally see them scatter, while a gentle lift of just an inch or two and one of the whiskery buggers would gobble the thing up! I took two in this fashion, in between admiring a stalking heron on the far bank, and a half pound perch which nearly grounded itself chasing bleak in the stony shallows. Ironically, I caught more chub fishing for these dace than I did on my last Stour day targeting them deliberately- and I can't emphasise enough just how perfect fly fishing is as a method for the species. You can cast exceptionally gently for those fish hugging shallow water, mimicking exactly the food they expect to find whether that means a freshwater shrimp or a drowning insect. I had several net-sized fish on both dry flies and nymphs: Last but not least I must mention the Wye. Perhaps it serves me right for leaving so long a gap between blogs that one entry becomes a bloody essay! The river near Hereford was rising sadly- and by the time I'd had a couple of chub on the fly, any further plans at dace or barbel were getting quite literally muddied. Feeder fishing is not my favourite tactic, but a heavy feeder and a smelly bait definitely works for barbel: It was also good to catch up with Bob James on the bank. He still aims to clear his name surrounding the mud slinging earlier this season. It seems that the maxim "innocent until proven guilty" doesn't apply to todays internet forums. Whatever the outcome, I can only speak positively about an angler prepared to offer friendship and support to an emerging writer for little personal gain. As for his philosophy on river fishing, I can't think of anyone whose ideas are more consistently enlightening or thought-provoking. It's always a nice problem for a writer when you look through your notes and think "bloody hell, how do I fit all of the interesting bits into a few hundred words?!"