Sunday, 21 April 2013
This blog starts with a drum roll as we kick off a brand new site and a unique competition. "Fly For Coarse" is now up and running- a contest that I hope will epitomise the values of a growing community of those tying flies and hatching plans to open up a new fishing landscape. Our ethos is one of fun and creativity. The thrill of the take is more important than the number on the scales. Just ask Matt Hayes, who we're honoured to have on our panel. "I love this competition!" he writes. "Pursuing your favourite species using a completely different technique presents a new adventure... This is the true spirit of angling." We really couldn't have been blessed with a better spokesman. I'm also grateful to Charlie Hancock, who has set up the new site at www.flyforcoarse.com in the midst of running a business and being a new father, and also Alex Garnett for the neat, perchy logo. Do have a look- and get plotting! Anything from a rising dace to a nymph caught barbel could win you a great prize, and appropriately enough another fishing legend, John Bailey, is also involved as a "Fly For Coarse" supporter. I've already heard accounts of some brilliant early action in the contest, including a giant carp lost at the net, whose big lips had sucked in a damsel nymph. My own recent fishing has been more modest, admittedly. I'm slowly building an arsenal of flies however, mixing new experiments in with tried and trusted favourites. Spiders are especially useful all rounders, and those tied on smaller hooks can be deadly for roach, rudd and dace: In all honesty, the canals are still a little cool and coloured. I took a walk on a sunny afternoon with Jo Bliss, my other half, and inevitably a fly rod just happened to leap out of the boot. The roach were rather apathetic still, perhaps reflecting a lack of insect life on our stroll. I tried everything from a gold bead nymph to tiny size 20 buzzers to no avail. Things will pick up soon though, I'm certain- and some cruising rudd were more willing to grab a fly presented in the upper layers. A red bodied spider seemed the best fly in rather coloured water: It has been a fly obsessed few days in fact. Another enjoyable trip was to join Duncan Keir to find out more about his "Kennick Killer", a special UV damsel style lure that really lived up to its' moniker. No surprises as to where we went for a fish. That'll be Kennick Reservoir: Now produced commercially by Devon fly specialists Turrall, this is a must have pattern on the stillwater scene. With a seductive wiggle, smart colour combinations and UV materials, the rainbows needed little encouragement to chase and seize it. I had sporadic joy fishing a team of buzzers, but Duncan had the lion's share of the action, including a much bigger fish that leapt clear of the water twice before shedding the hook. After a long winter, it felt great to be out with the sun on your back again- and there are days when I honestly get as much pleasure from snapping away with the camera as I do fishing. One of the biggest pangs of all I feel over a long winter is for spring fly fishing on a small river however. That first day of sunlight and rising trout in the season is like a cold beer after a ten hour shift. It was especially exciting to head for the upper Culm with Ian Nadin. This prettiest of Devon rivers is a nostalgic place for me, having formed a happy part of my childhood. I've never crept so close to the source however, where the waters narrow and become stonier and faster flowing. This idyllic part of the Culm is available on the Westcountry Angling Passport scheme for a ridiculously good value £5 a day. It was also a happy return for the smallest fly rod I own. Measuring only an inch taller than me at 6'6", it's like fishing with a toy rod and goes bonkers when you hook even a small brownie. We caught more trees than trout for the first hour, and a small gold bead Hare's Ear was the best fly. By the afternoon however, a hatch of small olives erupted right along the river and it all went crazy. By the end of play, trout were rising everywhere; the nymphs were ditched and we had some cracking dry fly sport and over a dozen of the most beautifully marked trout between us. Days like this remind me why I love fishing. A setting to die for, wonderful fish and good company. New corners were explored- and we even coined a new piece of fly fishing slang: to "Thatcher" a cast, i.e. to send the fly too far to the right wing of the river, as in "bloody hell, you really Thatchered that one mate."