Sunday, 21 April 2013

Fly Highs

 photo e3b30df9-7bbb-4dde-883a-9c392aca31e8_zps7d98c76f.jpg 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.  photo 515b694f-686b-48fa-bc29-cc0ba8297389_zps620fcded.jpg I'm also grateful to Charlie Hancock, who has set up the new site at 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.  photo IMG_0023_zpsda349cc3.jpg 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:  photo DSC_0005-4_zps0cc9661c.jpg 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:  photo IMG_0014_zps948216b9.jpg 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:  photo DSC_0049-3_zpsadda9618.jpg 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.  photo DSC_0087_2_zpscb50b0ad.jpg 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.  photo DSC_0193-1_zps7c6d2f29.jpg 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.  photo photo-57_zps4e017531.jpg 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.  photo photo-53_zps7e6cfa2c.jpg 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.  photo photo-56_zps15f6b4ce.jpg photo photo-55_zps69fabb7b.jpg 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."

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Spring Detours

 photo DSC_0441_zps2a8bc51e.jpg Crikey... it's bloody mid April and I'm only just updating this blog. I have to confess, my ramblings here are not always strictly chronological. At best I can offer snapshots from my fishing, written in haste. It's a quandry for a writer. I have to sketch here, rather than steal the thunder of things coming up in the printed press. But at the same time, blogging is great to explore in all the interesting/weird/unscripted parts that escape the confines of your typical magazine article.  photo DSC_0137-1_zps05e46001.jpg One of my strangest recent exploits has been to discover the thrill of fishing in Norway. Ice fishing is absolutely nuts. So vastly different to anything I usually do. Think garden gnome rods, snowmobiles, 1000ft mountain lakes, sod-off big drills and you're only part way there. When you come across a huge sheet of snow, you think someone's bullshitting you when they say "this is it- we're standing in the middle of a lake."  photo DSC_0100_zpsc7643d60.jpg And if the setting is unreal, the fish themselves are little short of a miracle. Arctic char are probably the most incredibly marked fish I've ever seen. Like trout dreamed up by an artist on drugs. Sparkling green and burning orange. Unfeasible somehow. But no more so than drilling through a metre of ice or snacking on a reindeer's heart.  photo DSC_0256_2_zpsa797736d.jpgThe full story gets the Angling Times treatment soon- and I also hope to feature more of my Norwegian host Geir Sivertzen (aka "Dr Hook"), a globe trotting angler and Mustad designer regarded as the world's foremost expert on fishing hooks. For more on Northern Norway and the amazing arctic destination of Skaidi, you could also try, who run guided trips here year round. Ice fishing runs well into May, but the lure and fly fishing on mountain lakes can also be spectacular in summer..  photo DSC_0051-3_zps0c2b3e53.jpg In a funny way, I almost think the fish under ice were hungrier than the ones back home. Things are just warming up, but lately I've been catching on little more than a hook bait. I'm not exactly a weekly visitor in search of carp on commercials- but that said, find one with nicely conditioned fish and using classic tackle is great fun. In fact, I just don't get why these places tend to be stacked with rod pods and shelters these days. Playing "fun sized" carp is great sport on light tackle, but on a 2.5 test curve rod? It's a bit like hunting rabbits with a rocket launcher; pretty messy on the whole, and over very quickly.  photo 8642015189_bcdca0b337_k_zps7b17e8a7.jpg I've also been enjoying testing gear for The Bait Factory. Other than being a "Beer and Ale Consultant", which will never happen, I can't think of many more entertaining field testing areas to be involved with. Various pastes have been especially good- and perhaps the biggest surprise is how well a decent lump of super-potent stuff can work, with no loose feed whatsoever.  photo 8642568799_99197dfc30_k_zps3795c737.jpgI looked like a chain smoker at the end of a trip to South View Farm, but the stuff was dynamite literally dropped within inches of the bank (thanks to photographer Andrew Pym for current carpy pictures).  photo 8642121861_74752a6722_k_zps92bfb339.jpg  photo 8642051843_726bc89f48_k_zps4b126f4a.jpg