Friday, 28 June 2013

Shrimping about

After putting some pictures up on the fly forums I was PM'd and asked if I could tie some for somebody. I've sold excess flies before but this is the first time I've tied to order. Although I generally don't get a great deal of time to tie flies it didn't take me too long to knock up the required number.

This fly is a Steve Thornton pattern. I like tying these up although the varnishing is time-consuming and in the future I may invest in some UV cured resin to see how that works. I use this fly mainly as a stalking pattern, but I wouldn't hesitate using it in a small Stillwater. As a rule I tie these up without colour and use various shades of permanent marker to colour just before varnishing. Predominantly I would use a watery olive, grey tones and a subtle pink.

Thornton's Shrimp
The under body is built up with thin strips of adhesive lead foil creating a hump, flatten this laterally and coat with Tip-ex fluid. The body is Virtual Nymph Skin wrapped under high tension to keep the shrimp slim. Tying thread left at the bend is used to tie in the hen hackle that creates the legs, follow the edge of the Nymph Skin to the eye. I use white hackles as they are easy to colour but it would be nice to find a hackle that have some speckles, but I don't suppose it matters to the trout. After colouring apply two or three thin coats of varnish, that gives it a great translucent effect as well as providing a degree of protection. Size wise I tie these on 12 to 16 and I suppose you could go smaller but I don't think there is any need and it would be quite tricky to tie.

As a thought, and something I may try in the future, would be a spun loop of say, squirrel guard hairs or something similar laid along the bottom of the fly, trapped by the thread in the same way as the hen hackle.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Wasn't expecting to pull that out of the river!

I didn't start work until 13:30 today which gave me ample time to put in a few hours on the river this morning. I arrived at just after nine and found the river slightly coloured due to recent rain; luckily it was clear enough to fish.

I started at the same place as last time; the smooth glide above the weir. The trout pictured in my last post was in pretty much exactly the same place. I settled in my usual spot on the side of the weir. Whilst I slowly set my tackle up I saw a few small upwings hatching, possibly small dark olives. I noted the positions of a few fish that were rising regularly. I tied on a size 20 Phd (Peter Hayes dun) on a dropper and a size 20 PTN on the point to cover both options. My target fish failed to rise once and although I covered it several times I couldn't tempt it. I turned my attention to a fish rising further across the river. After a couple of casts I could see the trout follow the dry, hovering below, inspecting it. As the fish failed to take the dry it turned back and took the nymph; I'd like to say I saw it but I didn't, I just saw the dry sail under. A quick lift and it was on. The fish tore up the pool, and soon after I released a plump 10"  trout. Unfortunately it put all the other fish on edge and I couldn't muster another taker.

I then moved down river. I went to a spot that usually has a couple of very sizeable trout in residence that are difficult to tempt. This area is just below a wooden footbridge but the banks are made from concrete edges rising up to a couple of feet above the water level. The main reason this area is difficult is that access is from upstream, it is hard to sneak past the trout to get below them and fishing downstream rarely works. I spied a good-sized fish from the foot bridge and proceeded to make my way underneath and along the concrete edge. I crept beyond the spot where the fish had been stationed and sat in a spot hidden behind some tall grass growing from a crack.

I sat for a while as I had disturbed the intended target but was quite happy to relax and watch the water flow past me. As I sat there I heard an almighty crashing sound, as if someone had dropped a load of things. Immediately after I could hear someone crying for help. After half a minute or so of hearing this is I decided I ought to go and have a look. As I walked back along the bank I could still hear someone calling out but I couldn't see anything. I thought it may have come from one of the gardens that back on to the river and a women with a buggy joined me, she had also heard the calls for help. Neither of us could see anyone and I was about to cross the river as one of the gardens had a tall fence along its boundary and I thought I could be from there.

I tracked back from where I had just walked; it was then that I saw an old man in a mobility scooter in the river. Somehow he had ended up going in backwards and was hanging over the side of the seat dangling above the river. I dumped my tackle and dived down the bank. I got in the water and managed to move the chap back into an upright position. The women with me had been joined by a couple of other people and quickly phoned the emergency services. The bank was steep and covered in nettles; a big concrete block stopped the scooter from going completely in the river. I'd hate to think what could have happened had that not been there, he could have very easily ended up underneath the scooter in the water.

Another fella joined me down the bank side and it turned out he ran a mobility centre; the old chap had only been testing it. Between us we managed to manoeuvre the old man off the scooter and on to the bank. The emergency services were on their way and we were advised not to move him anymore. A couple of Police Officers soon turned up on foot as they had been close by. I explained the situation to them and they summoned for the fire and rescue service. A fire engine arrived and they took over from myself and the scooter owner. Thankfully the old fella wasn't injured and it was relatively easy for the fire crew to haul him up the bank. Once on firm flat ground he was able to get on his feet and people helped him walk to the Paramedics vehicle. Even the air ambulance showed up. 

The whole incident was around forty-five minutes in length. The emergency services thanked me for my quick and prompt actions. I had my details taken by one of the Police Officers as he wanted to pass them on the his Chief Inspector as he felt my actions were worth mentioning.

After it was all dealt with I had about an hour left before I had to leave. I found a few fish rising in a narrow streamy section. My rod is eight and a half feet and was a good foot too long. This part of the river has vertical concrete sides and has a lot of overhanging trees and bushes. I tried to tempt a few fish but the rod length was a major disadvantage; I kept continually hooking vegetation and eventually just disturbed the fish. I gave up; although I wasn't completely defeated as I managed to catch one trout, I had run out of time.

I made my way back to the car and stopped to check on my buddy. He was back on his station. I had a killers bug tied on and had a plan. On my side of the bank is a good-sized sycamore tree, this combined with tall bank side vegetation allowed me to creep down the bank opposite the fish. I pulled off some extra line, extended my arm and lined up for a catapult cast. Plop went the fly about two feet above the trout. It rushed forward and without hesitation took the killer bug. It fought well and probably weighed about a pound and a quarter. I regret not taking a picture and I guess you'll have to take my word for it, but wow what an interesting morning.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


Finding time to fish is a rare and precious commodity for me. Luckily due to my job I do get the odd spare half a day quite regularly, with infrequent full days. Today I finished at lunchtime and took the opportunity to have an afternoons fishing. The weather wasn't going to be particularly great, gusty winds coupled with a high possibility of rain. I have said to myself though, as my time is now limited I will persist and fish in unfavourable conditions; if nothing else just for more experience. I arrived and had a quick scout on a section near where I had parked my car. Although the wind ruffled the surface somewhat, it did occasionally die down to allow the chance to spot fish; this river is a seek and target water. I went back to the car and changed out of my work clothes into my fishing gear. Back to the river I got treated to some sunshine; this turned into a misleading precursor to the day's end. Whilst the sun was out I did manage to spot and take a picture of a sizeable trout laying in a steady glide above a weir.

Upstream of the weir
I wanted to target this fish first as it was close to the weir sill. The river drops about three feet, this allowed me to get extremely close. I sat at the side of the weir with only my head showing above the water level upstream and began setting up. As soon as I had set up, I crawled up to the top of the weir keeping a low profile as this trout was only four or five feet upstream of the sill. I patiently sat watching and I could see the fish chase a couple of grayling away. As I waited for it to return the rain started; just drizzle to begin with and I hoped it wouldn't last long. Whilst it was raining the water surface became too distorted for me to see the fish. I didn't want to cast blindly as I would be sure to spook it; the depth should really be measured in inches and barely covers a foot ruler. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be, the rain got heavier; I first took shelter under some trees trying to avoid getting completely soaked. I eventually moved underneath a footbridge which gave me some respite from the deluge. At that time I was only wearing a thin shower proof jacket over a t-shirt and a slight break in the weather saw me risk a quick dash to the car to change into a more resilient waterproof coat. I'd not made it twenty yards before a flash of lightning quickly followed but the accompanying thunder signalled a torrential downpour. This helped me decide to call it a day, I tried but I felt it was never going to get better and I didn't really want to wave a fly rod around in a thunderstorm. Surprisingly I didn't feel too dejected, at least I had tried and tried in awful weather; maybe if I had finished work half an hour early I could have caught a fish or two.

Monday, 10 June 2013

The conundrum of copper wire colours.

Selection of wires

In my first post I wish to discuss the Pheasant tail nymph, well Sawyer's Pheasant tail nymph, but specifically the wire used in tying Sawyer's PT nymph. I always feel a sense of nostalgia about patterns like this; those that have survived the ages, still as deadly and effective as when first conceived, a true classic. This is a particular favourite of mine and I always carry some in sizes 16 to 20; though I generally only use it for it's intended purpose; targeting sighted fish, rarely fishing blind.

For me Oliver Edwards best demonstrated the correct way to tie the PT nymph in his Essential Skills Sight and Search DVD. I would like to follow the dressing as closely as I can, but I have always found the colour of the copper wire used difficult to find. Described as red coloured wire; the original wire used was enamelled and really best called dark red or even maroon. I can only surmise that Frank Sawyer chose this wire over the normal colour of copper, because it blends in well with the rich russet brown of the pheasant tail fibres. 

PTN - Brown, Wine, Red, Copper
Clockwise from top left: Brown, Wine, Red and Copper
Unfortunately for us today copper wire is rarely enamelled this colour. As much as I would like to track down some I think it would take a lot of effort to find exactly what I want, especially in the right thicknesses. Thankfully the Internet provides a few options. One that I have used is, they have a good choice of both colours and diameters. My preferred size of wire for PT nymphs is 0.10mm. Also available is a 0.09mm microwire from Flybox and x-small (0.10mm) wire from UTC, but the range of colours are smaller. In the past I used to use the x-small UTC wire in wine and that proved satisfactory enough at the time. Since I have found other sources of wire I have explored different colours available although I find it frustrating that the original red enamelled colour isn't available. That said on the website the sample picture for wine colour does looks spot on but on arrival it proved to be a much more lighter, more purple hue and not the illustrated deep red.

Red wire
The colours I have at the moment are two types of red; one is from Flybox the other from, a wine and a mid brown, again from wires. I have tied up four size 16 PT nymphs using ordinary coloured copper, one of the reds along with the wine and brown. Generally when you see Sawyer's PT being tied, most of the time it is with ordinary copper. My only issue with this; and I suppose it really is just me being pedantic, but I find it too glaring, too obvious I guess, maybe it has more to do with the thickness of wire used because in the sample I've tied, it's not particularly noticeable.

PTN Copper
Copper wire
Currently the flies I have in my fly box are tied with red wire, only because at that time it was the only colour I had and I haven't gone through them yet to replace. Of all the colours the red stands out considerably, but I don't find it dazzling and I guess the fish don't either as I have caught both trout and grayling on them. The mid brown blends the most, with the wine and plain copper coming in just behind. The one thing that strikes me most is how unobtrusive the various coloured wires are, except the red, but even then that still doesn't seem unnatural or gaudy.

PTN Brown
Brown wire
So this has me pondering, would Frank Sawyer have used any other colour of wire if he had them available. Does having a little bit of glint and shine from a brighter colour make the fly more or less effective? I know from my experience that the red and wine coloured wires do not hamper the fly what so ever. I also don't honestly think that using the brown would change anything either. I guess that as long as its tied properly, fished correctly and doesn't raise any suspicions, use what you have or what you want. But just for me, don't use thick plain copper wire, it bugs me.

PTN Wine
Wine Wire
PTN 16-20
Selection of PT nymphs sizes 16-20