Monday, 21 December 2015

In a different light

I've been busy preparing for early season dry-fly action and tying flies for a Wild Trout Trust Auction lot for next year; this will be my first time taking part in the WTT auctions having been inspired by Matt Eastham

Three flies form my early season staple, though of course one is an emerger and the common theme running through these patterns is the use of Pearsall's silk no. 5 yellow. You'll notice two flies aren't yellow but olive; cobblers wax from Funky Fly Tying is by far the best I've used, in my opinion of course, and I have tried Bailey's cobblers too.

You can see on the bobbin how much a difference the wax makes, though the wax is sticky, it's best to apply liberally and take off the excess.

Cul-de-Canon Variant
Cul-de-Canon Variant
JT Olive
JT Olive
Barbour Paraloop Dun
Barbour Paraloop Dun
Barbour Paraloop Dun

Barbour Paraloop Dun

Pearsall's No5 and cobblers wax
Pearsall's silk no.5 yellow with a band of waxed silk ready to use

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Utah Killer Bug Revisited - New Colours

Ok, so this is the article I wrote for Eat, Sleep, Fish E-zine, but there are some new pictures and a video that I haven't revealed before on this blog. Take a look at the new colour variants at the bottom of the post to see what else you can do with the killer bug format.

Killer Bug Box
My killer bug box
I stumbled across an interesting pattern a couple of years ago while doing a bit of research on the Sawyer's Killer Bug - a pattern called the Utah Killer bug. At the time it had only been revealed and talked about on the US Tenkara forums, many even called it their one fly pattern. A blog post I wrote last year is my most read post by several thousand views, I can only assume the UKB is a universally popular fly and rightly so - this is a devastatingly deadly fly. As with Sawyer's bug this is also tied with particular materials; the yarn is Jamiesons of Shetland spindrift wool, the colour Oyster. The original dressing uses pink thread for tying and pink wire for weight. For simplicity I have omitted the thread tying this as I would a Sawyer's Killer bug using just the wire. Tied on a curved grub hook the profile screams shrimp and when wet this fly glows, it is translucent with a fantastic pink hue, it makes a great subtle replacement for the usual gaudy pink grayling bugs.

Superb Male Grayling

Utah Killer Bug Is Well Named

The grayling population in my club river is sparse and localised, as such it is hard to go out for a day and specifically target them. When I do fish for them, the Utah Killer bug catches it's fair share and not just on my limestone club river, it has caught me many fish on Northern freestone rivers, but don't be fooled, this isn't just a fly for grayling as proved by some superb trout caught this year, including a 17" trout from a coarse section of my club river that was captured on film.

To tie my version of the UKB you need only two materials; 0.20mm pink wire and oyster coloured Jamieson's of Shetland Spindrift wool. I have found the best size for this fly is 12, although I do tie them in 14's. The wool can easily be purchased directly from Jamieson's themselves of through fly tying material stockists that sell smaller amounts, personally a whole ball represents much better value for money and you'll have more than enough to last as well as passing some on to friends.

Use a drop of superglue to secure the wire under-body and start wrapping the wire at around the two-thirds point back from the eye.

Wind the wire in touching turns to the eye. Take one long wrap back so the wire is at the one-third point on the hook shank and recommence the touching turns back around the bend. Once you have wrapped a second layer of wire covering the middle section of the shank, make another long wrap to the starting point of the wire and trap down the tag end. Helicopter the tag end off and make another couple of turns of wire and leave; the wire will not unravel. The under-body should appear to taper up from the eye to a thicker middle and taper back down at the end of the body.

Tie in a length of wool starting where the second layer of wire ends - keep hold of the tag end - wrap the wool to the eye, then wind the wool back towards the bend so there are two layers of wool. When you reach the tag end of wool trap it with one or two wraps of wool and cut off the excess. Continue to where the wire has been left and tie off the wool with four or five turns of wire working back towards the eye. Trim the remaining length of wool and cut the wire close; a drop of superglue on the wire will keep it from coming undone.

A quick simple tie and very effective. For more weight wrap a layer or two of adhesive lead and wind a single layer of wire starting at the eye.

Utah Killer Bug - Dry

Utah Killer Bug - Wet

Of course the proof is in the pudding; I wrote earlier about a 17" trout caught on film on the Utah Killer Bug, this fish had refused several flies including some that I consider to be very effective and one that rarely gets declined, the JP Pupa. Tying on the UKB more as a last gasp - not so much a last resort - but I was beginning to despair, thinking it would be long before the trout spooked and taking my chance and the other fish with it. Second cast and the trout tilted up and then shook it head as it tried to eject the fly, the video tells the whole story, from there on this season I started to fish the UKB much more, recently using it as a single fly on the end of a French leader during low summer flows, because it is tied with just copper wire it isn't too heavy to fish during drought conditions.

18 1/2" Coarse Fishery Brown 2lb 13 1/2oz
My biggest fish to date caught on a UKB is a grown-on stocked trout that measured 18 1/2" and weighed 2lb 13 1/2oz, this fish is a few miles down stream of where it was likely stocked and certainly wouldn't have been more than 12" when first stocked. The grayling fishing has been improving since the season started and of late they have far outnumbered trout, sometimes by a big margin; a recent afternoon trip with my friend Tom, saw us catch over thirty fish with grayling making nearly three quarters of the total catch - we both fished a single size 12 UKB on the end of a French leader, my preferred method at the moment.

18 1/2" Coarse Fishery Brown 2lb 13 1/2oz

I implore you to give this fly a go, of course you can experiment with different colour combinations - in fact I have just ordered a few new balls of yarn - the profile of this fly suggests that of a shrimp so think of the colours you tie your shrimp/scud patterns in - I'll be tying up some orange, bright pink, watery olive/grey as well as dark grey versions - you cant get any simpler.

French Leader Brown

Utah Killer Bug magic

Earlier in the year Tom and I talked about using different colours of wool to tie the UKB in, our thoughts were more directed towards grayling and we discussed the sort of colours that would prove useful in our arsenal. Clearly the original fly is simply deadly and I'm not saying these are in anyway an improvement, but it can't hurt to have some variation.

Settling on three new colours, we chose a brighter pink, an orange and a sort of watery olive grey. As with the oyster blend these all change when wet, darkening up with an internal glow, especaially the orange. I have taken before and after shots so you can see what they look like dry and wet, the wire colours chosen best match the hue when the fly is wet, again using 0.20mm coloured copper wire from

Utah Killer Bug - Pink
Jamieson's Shetland yarn Salmon with Supasalmon wire
Utah Killer Bug - Pink (Wet)
Not much of a change when wet but the brighter darker pink could prove useful in coloured water
Utah Killer Bug - Orange
Jamieson's Shetland yarn Buttercup with Light Gold wire
Utah Killer Bug - Orange (Wet)
I believe this will prove to be equally as useful as the oyster coloured original, I love the
translucent glow this yarn provides when wet.
Utah Killer Bug - Shrimp
Trying to find a yarn that looks closely like a shrimp, Jamieson's Shetland yarn Rye looks a better much when looked at with the naked eye rather than under a macro lens, trust me it is a good colour, though perhaps this version may benefit from modification such as a grey flexibody shell back and roughed up underneath to look even more shrimp like. 
Utah Killer Bug - Shrimp (Wet)
Rye when wet, you can see slightly more of the olive tinge that we were looking for, I'm certain this will still catch.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Where Have The Trout Gone

Since the beginning of September there had been a marked change in my fishing. For some reason the trout have been very thin on the ground compared to earlier in the season. Grayling have been present since before their season started and on certain beats their presence has increased significantly more recently; one day when fishing with Tom we had just over thirty fish between us and grayling accounted for a good three quarters of the total. It's not just me that has experienced this, Tom and Steve have both found that trout have been conspicuously absent in the beats they have fished.

One area that has been bucking the trend is the coarse fishery beats lower down the river. Trout aren't especially abundant although they have been making a bigger proportion of numbers. I spent a short afternoon after work in the middle of October after Tom had reported a good number of quality fish.

Arriving at the river I was greeted by superb conditions, recent rain had revitalised the river, giving it a slight tinge and looking like it was later in the year - more winter like. Most of the weed had disappeared leaving a clear bottom and with the increased flow it really looked promising.

Having parked at the top end of the fishery I walked downstream to where I wanted to start. On the way down I kept an eye on the river trying to spot fish as I walked past, and although the clarity wasn't perfect, I was able to spot a good fish holding station over a bright patch of gravel in a shallow pacey run. I made a mental note of its location and continued on my way.

Arriving at the bottom of a relatively long run, I eased into the river and waded across to the far side standing in knee deep water some twenty yards downstream of where I would eventually start fishing. Setting up my eight foot four weight I tackled up fishing the duo (klink&dink) with a copper-bead pheasant tail nymph suspended below my usual Adams Klinkhamer. This set up allowed me to cover both options as I have found that the fish will take both flies, perhaps not always equally, but it is an effective method when used in the right circumstance.

Copperhead PTN
Copper Bead PTN
Adams Klinkhåmer
Adams klinkhamer
I began working toward the run I wanted to fish, the klink dibbed lots as small minnows and grayling attempted to take both fly. I did manage to hook a small grayling on the PTN, it's great to see a healthy number of small grayling; the population appears to be climbing again after a slump in numbers.

I worked up the run and in all honesty I struggled to catch the numbers of fish this part of the river normally yealds. I missed a couple of rises to the klink and a couple more fish came off before I could land them. I was left feeling pretty frustrated although I caught some fish, a trout and three grayling in total, but far fewer than I would normally expect.

Coarse Fishery Brown

Moving upstream I stopped at a short stretch of fast water which is essentially a ford for off-road and farm vehicles. I left after a short while having caught a trout from the top and a grayling on the PTN. I was starting to get somewhere and I can never complain when the dreaded blank is in the distant past. Walking further upstream I bypassed a lot of empty water devoid of fish before reaching the area I had previously spotted the good fish on the way down.

Coarse Fishery Brown

I climbed down the bank probably forty yards below where I thought the fish was and spent fifteen minutes working upstream without a touch. Being aware I had reached the point where I thought the trout was, the klink shot under within seconds after landing and a firm lift saw me attached to something substantial. Very quickly I knew the fish was good, having it cartwheel in front of me repeatedly only confirmed this and it tore off downstream in several long runs, cartwheeling on its way. Thankfully the firm even bottom helped as I tried my best to follow quickly in waist deep water, the fish took me back downstream to at least where I started if not further. I was relieved when I safely secured the fish in the net.

17" Coarse Fishery Brown

17" Coarse Fishery Brown

Allowing the fish to recover in the net as I got the camera switched on and ready, a few pictures where taken and a quick measure before I released it. Another 17" trout this season. it was a different fish to the one I caught on the Utah Killer Bug that was captured on film. I could have happily finished there but there was still more water to fish and it wasn't home time yet.

17" Coarse Fishery Brown

A very brief walk upstream again, I slipped into the river just below a bend, above the bend was the large gravel patch that held a number of very large trout at the beginning of the season. On the way down I had spotted a few fish on the gravel bar as well as a couple of rises slightly downstream from there.

Still using the same set up and flies I worked up towards the bend catching a trout before reaching it. Round the bend and up to the gravel patch I caught a further four trout up to 14", I was really pleased with how many trout I had caught, especially with the relative lack of truttas recently and from a coarse section of the river. I finished the afternoon by having a quick go in the weirpool below a ford a couple of grayling and chub ending my session with variety, a truly great bit of sport.

14" Coarse Fishery Brown

Monday, 12 October 2015

This Is Not The End

A Ladies Shadow
A pewter shadow laying on the bottom
Tom and I fished during the last week of September, we thought we were fishing our last session of the trout season but we have since found out the trout season doesn't end until 30th of October - who knew - I always thought the season ended on the 30th of September, lucky buggers aren't we.

I took Tom to a non-club river in deepest East Anglia. On arrival Tom was amazed by the clarity of the water, I think he doubted me when I told him how clear it is. We sat on a well positioned tree trunk in the margins and tackled up; we both elected to fish the duo with almost identical flies on both our set ups, an Adams klinkhamer and copper beadhead pheasant tail nymph were my selected flies and both of use using 8ft 4# rods. The weather was glorious, the occasional gust downstream hampered things, but it was more a slight irritation than a hindrance.

As Tom was the guest he naturally had first go. We entered the river and approached a narrow run that was below a small pool. Vegetation hung over both banks and overhanging trees behind us meant casts had to be accurate, before long Tom hooked a stout branch and was stuck fast. As we had only just started to fish this run Tom elected to keep the line tight as it lay along the bank. Wading in front of Tom I started to fish my way up, very quickly I caught a trout and by the time we reached Tom's flies I had caught three altogether. Lifting in to one fish that had taken the klink, we were both surprised to find the fish landed was fairly hooked with the nymph, I can only assume I was a whisker away from a double up. Tom had some catching up to do, but not before he left the pool amazed at the sheer number of fish in the short run we had fished through; the clarity of water and disturbance of each fish caught, means you'll not really extract the potential from each bit of the river - well I can't at least.

Ahead of us was quite a long riffle, again a small pool started at the top, this run differed from the one we fished as it was shallower, faster with just a gravel bottom, no weed beds here. Overhead trees were the main obstacle here and trees along the far bank didn't help either - the river was only about twelve yards wide so it was tight. The deeper water lay under the trees across the far bank, trying to flick the flies underneath proved hard and Tom had to reach further up with a longer cast above the over-hanging trees allowed the flies to drift freely underneath. It didn't take many drifts before Tom caught his first fish and thus the day continued as we slowly waded up the river.

Tom's First
Tom's first fish
Resting one pool after a couple of fish had been caught, we found a good number of needle flies crawling over the vegetation, I caught a number for both of us to photograph later. In the same spot were some water forget-me-nots, rather pretty little blue flowers and I have since found out the name is applied to many similar flowers rather than just one species.

Needle Fly
The only picture I managed to take of the needle flies I caught
Forget Me Nots
Water Forget-me-nots
Reaching a part of the river that opens out we were bathed in sunshine, ahead of us the water funneled between beds of ranunculas; a couple of years ago I had a blinding hour here fishing a hatch of small dark olives. This time the spot wasn't full of fish, although we both managed a couple, it was Tom that struck gold hooking and landing by far the biggest fish of the day - 16" long the fish was a little battled scarred but in superb condition. Tom hooked it tight hard against the right-hand bank and it led him around the pool, more than once the trout made our hearts skip as it tried its best to unhook itself. Some underwater pics were taken on Tom's Olympus camera and so good they were, I intend on buying one for the start of next season.

Chalkstream Idyll

Tom's 16" Bruiser

16" Of Chalkstream's Finest

16" Of Chalkstream's Finest

A superb underwater picture, this really shows how clear the water is
We continued fishing our way upstream and the numbers steadily rose, we had gone beyond the point of being able to keep count, I don't know how Danny manages it, I forget after five most of the time. It really has been such a treat this season to be able to fish with company, of course we perhaps don't always extract the maximum potential, but I haven't blanked at all this season - although many occasions a single fish has saved the day.


Faffing around I missed stoat run along a log that lay across the river, clambering over we found the remains of a small bird, maybe we had disturbed it as we progressed up the river. A kingfisher veered off every time is came across us on its travels, seeing wildlife always completes the day and it's amazing what you'll come across when you're discrete and quiet.



A rather strange occurrence, I managed quite a few fish with many more missed on the klink yet Tom didn't rise a single fish to his; both were the same size, although Tom ties on Daiichi klinkhamer whereas I use the Partridge version and only slight differences in the materials used, there clearly was something about my fly that the fish liked. Our bead-head nymphs were virtually identical and were by far the most successful fly of the day.

Adams Klinkhåmer
My Adams klinkhamer, I rarely tie klinks any other way
Copperhead PTN
A simple copper bead-head PTN
We finished the day by checking out a deep pool protected by several logs spanning across the river, we saw a couple of really large fish and left pondering how we would fish the pool, we guessed around twenty fish in this pool which spooked almost immediately, a challenge indeed. I promised Tom we would come back.

That Is A Four Pounder!
The trout to the right is possibly a four pounder