Monday, 28 April 2014

A heavier pheasant tail nymph.

Pheasant Tail
Normal pheasant tail feather
If you tie a PTN as Sawyer intended, you will find the amount of weight you can build in to the fly is limited. Only a certain amount of turns of copper wire can be used before the fly becomes bulky and out of proportion. OK, so I could add a tungsten bead but then that's a different fly.

PTN Brown Wire
Pheasant tail nymph
How do you make a Sawyer's PTN heavier without changing the fundamentals of the fly? Use a heavier wire of course.

Huh? I hear you ask.

Tungsten Wire
Tungsten wire
Tungsten wire, available in 0.089mm diameter, this is the same thickness as the thinnest available copper wires.

Melanistic Pheasant Tail
Melanistic pheasant tail feather
I've tied up some PTN using a melanistic pheasant tail feather. This creates a darker browner fly rather than the usual russet-brown of a normal feather. Tungsten wire is a dark grey colour so blends in discretely. Tied up as I would using copper wire, the tungsten wire PTN is significantly heavier than the standard dressing. I don't have a set of micro scales, but there is a noticeable difference in the hand

Melanistic PTN Tungsten Wire
Melanistic pheasant tail with tungsten wire
Melanistic PTN Brown Wire
Melanistic pheasant tail with brown wire
I would fish this version in much faster and/or deeper areas of river, perhaps it would make a good stalking bug if you're a stillwater type. I guess given the colour of the wire you could use it on any coloured PTN as it should be discreet enough. The only downside....the cost, it's not cheap, but then you don't need a lot of it.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

At the bottom of the garden.

I'm very fortunate so far this season; I'm managing to get out at least once a week and I've explored a few new areas. This afternoon I tried another new area, in fact this is a tributary of my club river, it is purely spring-fed and wouldn't look out of place on Hampshire. On the section we have permission to fish, the brook runs along the bottom of several gardens, it is the just what you would wish to have running at the bottom of your garden.

The first part of the brook flows fast, with good depth as it narrows to under three foot across. I elected to fish my herl, flash & drab klink due to the pace. There was a horrible, squally wind blowing across the river making fly placement difficult, patiently waiting for a break in the wind, saw me get the fly on target after a couple of attempts.

Much to my surprise the klink disappeared in a swirl, a quick tightening of the line hooked the fish; it gave a good account of itself in the pacey flow. The trout was lean but was a good ten inches long and most certainly a wild fish; the brook has never been stocked.

Further upstream I could see a number of fish rising. Most of the them were positioned close in the edge. This section is evenly paced, the surface smooth except for boils caused by beds of ranunculus.
There were a few small up-wings hatching, possibly small spur-wing as they were quite pale; I did see one large dark olive lift off. Several times I saw trout leap clear of the water chasing duns as the left the water.

As I watched the rising fish I changed flies and tied on a pale version, size sixteen Barbour paraloop dun. Again the wind caused me issues, blowing my fly across onto the wrong side of the brook. Again I had to be patient and wait for breaks. I slowly made my way upstream, picking off fish that were rising and others that were unseen. Cursing quite often, many fish failed to connect or stay on for long, but I managed another six fish up to eight inches, with as many, if not more lost.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A numbers game - a bright future ahead.

I fished in an area that marked the start of my fishing season last year. There have been significant changes since then; notably the weather, it is in stark contrast to last year and the river levels are the highest they have been for a number of years. The previous season I didn't start fishing until the middle of May, even with a late start I struggled to find fish. However, as I wasn't alone I wasn't particularly concerned, most people were finding it difficult locating fish, and the blame, lay mostly with the cold spring that gripped the country.

As the season progressed, I fished other areas, concentrating on stretches that proved more productive. I simply forgot about the section that started my season. A full free day gave me the opportunity to revisit; I had a plan. There was a run that has always alluded me, the current sweeps tight against the near bank, cover overhangs the water making it a tricky spot to fish.

On my arrival the plan changed instantly. Someone had been busy over the winter; the whole stretch has had massive habitat improvements; narrowing, islands, brushwood and flow deflectors. With this revelation I headed much further downstream.

I found an inviting set of runs and settled down on top of a trunk laid in the margins. The river ran fast and clear, ranunculus swayed in the current. I took my time setting up, a brisk downstream wind necessitated a short steeply tapered leader. I tied on a klink I made up the previous day; herl, flash and drab. A cream JP pupa with a 2.5mm copper tungsten bead accompanied it underneath.

I caught a small trout within a couple of casts, a tiny trout around three inches. The next cast produced the same and so the day continued with succession of trout falling mostly to the JP pupa, with enough slashing and taking the klink to prove it's worth. Most of the trout were around five inches with the odd fish going bigger. The largest of the day barely measured nine inches.

I lost count relatively quickly. I would say I hooked fifty plus fish and landed over thirty. The one thing that surprised me was the sheer number of small fish I came across. Normally the fish would average ten to twelve inches, never have I caught so many small fish. This got me thinking about last season. I wonder now if the reason there were so few fish to be found was because they simply weren't there. I think the fish I came across were two year old's so they would have been there but too small to catch. I suspect the river has been poached, this may explain the lack of sizable trout; the biomass having been replaced by the numerous smaller fish. If nothing else the future bodes well.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Small stream delight.

This afternoon I fished on my new club river. I decided to fish the very upper-most beat the club has. This far up, the river is virtually untouched by man. Meanders twist tightly, often bringing the river close to touching itself. Mostly it is four to six feet across, often much narrower and widening occasionally on larger pools, there are deep pools on every bend, most holding a fish or two.

Due to the steep banks casting is problematic, bow-and-arrow casting is almost a necessity. Contrary to what most people would think, I actually feel a longer rod would be more beneficial. The need to keep back from the edge being the main requisite, the longer reach - and subsequent increased length from bow-and-arrow casting - help to keep to the angler as far away from the trout. It's a theory that will have to be tested next time.

I spent a couple of hours mostly wondering and looking. I managed to catch a lovely red-spotted wild trout on a bead-head biot nymph. I also have a couple of areas noted for next time, including one that held a cracking fish.

I've never seen so many red spots on a trout before

I also fished another beat after meeting up with a a club member who kindly gave me a box full of magazines and showed me along a beat. Thank you Adrian. I fared substantially better on the second beat. I caught three trout, all on dry-flies. I christened my Barbour paraloop dun which incidentally caught the biggest fish of the day.

There were a small number of upwings emerging throughout the afternoon, surprisingly though they weren't LDOs, they were smaller and paler. On the way back to the car I caught one and took a macro picture. Zooming in to see the hind-wing I can identify it as Centroptilum luteolum - Small spurwing.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Stripping peacock quills using bleach

Peacock quill is universally popular. It creates a great segmented effect, useful for all types of flies, but it especially lends itself to use on imitative patterns.

As always, with something that is great to use, it has a downside. Preparation. There is a way to over come this; pay a company £3-4 for twenty five pre-stripped quills. I don't know about you, but as good as they are, I loath to pay that much for them.

So what do you do if you too don't want to pay for pre-stripped quills.

Watch this video.

Here's some that I've done this afternoon.

Natural peacock eye
Nature's Spirit peacock eye dyed sunburst
As you can see it gives pretty good results. There are a few fibers left; I'm not so bothered by these, they easily come off by pulling the quill through your fingers. And you know you haven't got too far with the bleaching and potentially ruined the feather.

Friday, 4 April 2014

And I thought yesterday was a good day.

Spoilt rotten this week, two afternoons fishing in a row. I went to the section of river I had intended on fishing yesterday; not before popping my head over a few bridges much further upstream, on sections of the river I shall have access to fish from tomorrow.

My first port of call was a bit of a diversion. I visited an area a little upstream of my eventual destination. This is where an outfall flows in to the river directly below a bridge. The outfall does have a constant discharge of water but it's insignificant and doesn't add much to the volume of water flowing down the river.

The "Bridge Pool"
The reason I went here first, is because the pool below the outfall normal holds a few trout. These, are of a size, that would be considered higher than average. Last year, I caught a couple of good fish over two pounds - one of which was pushing three - on dry-flies. Compared to the rest of the urban stretch these fish do rise frequently, they cruise around the pool rising mostly to midges I suspect.

Looking down from the bridge, I could see two trout. One was sat on station at the very edge of the pool in a small funnel of current; the other, was cruising around the pool and crucially it was rising; infrequently but nethertheless still rising.

I sat on a small island and tackled up. From my position I could see the cruising trout clearly. I tied on a size 22 black KlinkhÄmer; the fish I have previously caught here have fell to small black flies. It took a couple of casts before the fish sucked down my fly. Cautious of the fine tippet (0.11mm) and small fly I gently lifted into the fish. However the fish stayed on only for a second or two; I'd clearly not lifted hard enough. I'd blown it!

I knew from experience not to waste further time here, the other trout would have quite likely been spooked too, so I moved downstream. I didn't fish here at all last year, only coming as far down as the outfall pool. In the past, I have caught a reasonable number of fish all the way down, to what I consider the bottom end of the urban section. I have even had a 6lb 2oz chub on bread flake, the river is not much more than fifteen yards across through most of this part.

The small weir pool
I started on a sharp bend. This pool had a tree over hanging but this had since been removed leaving the pool exposed. Easing in downstream, I positioned myself over on the far bank and re-tied my leader. Upstream of the pool is a small weir; the drop is less than six but a weir it is. I anticipated a few fish from this pool, but not off the surface. I tied up a duo rig using a size 16 adams klink and a size 12 JP pupa, this was the only thing I had, that I thought would be heavy enough to get down in the faster flow.

Second fish of the day
It didn't take long before the klink pulled under. Being far down the pool it was a smallish fish that started my day, it was quickly returned. Continuing up I connected with a much bigger fish. It fought well in the strong flow, thankfully it didn't make much of a commotion, leaving me the final part of the pool to fish. As expected the best fish came from the top. This trout leapt all over the place and tore off on a couple of good runs, pulling line of the reel. These fish, in comparison to yesterday, appeared in much better condition than those I caught yesterday.

This fish had an interesting mark on it's nose, it looks like it has been worn away

The run that the 15" fish came from, the current runs down the right hand side

Regurgitated bullhead

Above the weir the river is smoother and even paced. I fished my way up this glide without any success until I reached a faster, poppling run. I caught two trout from this small section; a smaller fish to start with and then a much bigger fish. The bigger fish was a good 15", as I netted it, it regurgitated a half digested fish which by the shape of it was a bullhead. The fish was in fantastic condition with a shovel for a tail, it had given me the hardest fight of the day so far.

Look at the tail
What a corker

I took a break after releasing the last trout. As I watched the river, a fish rose across on the far side in the main push of current. I gave it several attempts but couldn't tempt this fish.

Upstream, was a short length of shallow riffle which I quickly made my way through, before settling at the bottom of another run. Ahead of me lying hard on the bottom of slacker water in the edge, I could see a small shoal of dace. Being mindful not to spook these fish, I cast across the river into the main run of water. I managed only one fish here; I connected with a couple and missed two rises. That was the end of the section, upstream is wide and shallow, holding very few fish.

Almost at the end of my afternoon I decided to head back to where I started, at the outfall pool. Looking again from the bridge both trout were still there. I opted for a different approach and decided to target the fish holding station. I climbed down into the river upstream, slowly creeping through the water under the bridge; I settled the other side of the pool from the trout, immediately in front of the outflow.

Looking at the outflow, I caught the trout on the far right against the wall
It took a couple of casts, to get the fly in the right position. Second drift down I had an almighty slashing rise, of course I fluffed it. Unsure whether I had wrecked my chances, I waited a minute or so before trying again. The flow here is minimal, enough to just keep things moving but plenty slow enough to allow the fly a long drift. A couple more well placed casts saw the fish rise again, a gently and firm lift to the side saw the fish well connected. The trout powered off, pulling hard in the pool it soon left the pool charging across the river in to the main flow. This fish fought really hard and took a good few minutes to get it in.

Heading to the net
Little porker
As I was netting the fish I noticed I had an audience; a couple of young boys were sitting on top of the bridge as asked me about the fish commenting on how big it was and that they'd never seen a fish that big in the river. Being modest I told them there were bigger to be had. A kind chap offered to take my picture which I couldn't turn down. That fish marked the end of the afternoon; it was very plump, much deeper in the body than its length would suggest, I suppose it was just under two pounds. Walking back to the car I was extremely pleased. Two back-to-back afternoons on the river on opening week; I couldn't ask for better.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Thank god it's April; with a silvery surprise.

The trout season officially started on Tuesday. My fishing season officially started today. I've been waiting what seems an age for this week to come round. Luckily my shifts have fallen rather well, giving me back to back afternoons.

I arrived just after one. I had, in my mind, to try an area that I didn't touch at all last year. This part of the river generally runs with more pace and vigour, it looks to have been spared any heavy modification. Running though parkland it is lined with large trees; a tight spot but easily fished with a short rod.

As it happened I stopped off at the very top of the section. Looking at the river it was running clear and with a good push of water. An area that is normally quite shallow - only holding the odd fish - had much more depth, crucially it held actively feeding fish.

Looking upstream, the weir is just around the bend.
I walked along the path to a point below the run. Where I entered the river was shallow and held no fish. Slipping into the water, I made my way across to the opposite bank, my intention was to tackle up slowly whilst observing the water ahead.

I saw a couple of duns hop-skip their way downstream, and with more hope than anything I tied on a Barbour paraloop dun and an OE baetis nymph. As I started fishing it quickly became apparent that my choice of dry-fly was questionable, not because I felt it was the wrong, but because I found it difficult to see drifting down. I tried, but it was no use, I had no confidence not being able to see the fly properly; as I was essentially fishing the duo method I needed to see the dry-fly to register any takes on the nymph.

A quick change to a fluro-pink-posted KlinkhÄmer saw an instant visibility improvement. I added a quilled river Diawl-Bach to the leader as the klink could support another fly. The change brought a needed boost in my effort, I finally felt like I was fishing properly. Unsurprisingly, I then caught a fish. It's amazing what difference a bit of confidence does.

The first was small at around six inches, it fell to the Diawl-Bach. I continued up the run and it wasn't long before the next fish came. This one was bigger at around ten inches; it had the brightest white edges to its ventral and anal fins.

I was now getting to the top of the run which starts as a small weir. I hadn't planned to fish this part but saw no reason not to. A tungsten bead JP caddis pupa was the only fly change, as I needed to get down in the faster, deeper flow.

Working the edge of the current seems, the klink was violently pulled under. I became attached to a leaping silver fish. I instantly thought rainbow, only because I had been told by a local last year that he had caught them although I have never seen nor caught one myself. As I netted the fish I was greated by a bright, silvery trout, not a rainbow certainly, but surely not a sea trout?! The fish was immaculate, if a little hollow. I have never caught a trout that was such a bright silver. I know that the EA, along with other bodies, are working to improve the accessibility of rivers flowing into the wash to migrating sea trout. So it could be possible.

Bright silver; I have never caught a trout in this river that wasn't golden yellow.

Continuing to fish the pool I caught one more trout. This was the biggest by far, a good fifteen inches long and again hollow in the belly. It fought well pulling line of the reel, this along with the last fish fell to the JP pupa.

After a slow, frustrating start, I finished the afternoon happy with my efforts; a little disappointed I didn't catch on a dry, but I only saw two rises and less than a handful of duns. Tomorrow I'll be going where I originally intended to today.

Quilled river Diawl-Bach
JP caddis pupa
OE baetis nymph
Barbour paraloop dun