Saturday, 25 August 2012
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?!"
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
After a brief but unsuccessful try for crucians on the fly at Tiverton AA's Little Yeo Fishery on the journey home last week, I decided to return with more conventional tackle. I'd been hoping to spend a morning with my Dad for a while, since we hadn't fished together in ages. Rather than attempt something way too serious for a Sunday morning, we decided to go tiddler bashing and pretend it was 1991 all over again, a time we'd get up early to fish cute little ponds for just about anything that was willing to pull a float under. It's strange, but in the midst of an era when many of us are keen to catch PB's and get deadly serious, I often find the opposite hankering- a desire to feel like a kid again and return to a world where happiness was dropping a bait by some lillies and feeling a crucian carp juddering on the line. I like fishing with my old man. He still favours a wicker creel over products with names like "specialist accessory system". He knows more about the ingredients of a decent sandwich than modern baits. He might not have taught me how to become a world champion angler, but he definitely taught me to enjoy fishing- a lesson that is the same whether you're three or thirty three. I'm not sure I know anyone else who gets so much fun out of a few hours on the bank- and that is never truer than when the fish are cute and the bites plentiful. It didn't seem to matter what we threw at them and we even snared a few using little pieces of ginger cake. One or two oddities also joined the party, like this golden tench: In the end we were supremely lucky with the weather- thunder on the horizon, downpour in Tiverton, but we seemed to be in a little oasis of sunshine. My new pole got a great work out, even if I only needed to use the top 4 all morning, for scores of pretty crucians, along with the odd roach, skimmer and tench. The best bait for hitting bites seemed to be worm section though- perhaps the crucians take this just a little more emphatically? They were like peas in a pod too, not big but very scrappy on light gear. Favourite quote of the day: "They must all be related- it's like Tiverton down there!" A very welcome day then, because even fishing can become like work rather than play if you're not careful. Other than my first books, the other vital bit of development for me this year is the process of taking my coaching badges. Having guided for a while now, I really wanted to make it official and get the certificate, which is pretty much vital if you want to take kids as well as adults fishing. Even if you've worked for years with youngsters, you simply have to get the right qualification- I believe it will be CRB check number seven if not eight in my professional career!!! On the concluding day of the course, everyone had to perform a live session, which was good fun. One of my giant soft pike came to good use with an exercise on landing and fish care- but perhaps the funniest and most original demo belonged to John Clare, who did a night fishing lesson by blindfolding his student, a hapless Simon Gurney!: And on a final note, those of you with Sky Sports might want to tune in on Friday evening. After a successful day's filming, I'll be in the studio with Keith Arthur to discuss some of the finer points of catching coarse fish on the fly- and hopefully also get a word in about the new DVD which is available on my own site as well as Amazon now. Really looking forward to this. Here's a skimmer, taken on a little bead head shrimp during a practise session on the Bridgwater to Taunton Canal: