Monday, 21 March 2016

In Limbo

High Riser
No need to hold the fin up
It's that time of year again, no mans land, the coarse season has ended and the start of the trout season is two weeks away in my part of the country. I ended the coarse season last Sunday having a final crack at the grayling and I certainly wasn't alone, there were many reports of people making the most of the fine weather and fined down rivers.

The winter season has been chaotic, each week brought a new storm or two from the Atlantic and certain parts of the country were left devastated by severe and prolonged flooding. I guess it was fortunate that I was otherwise preoccupied for three months and although I managed the occasional trip none were on my club rivers, which have been a perpetual chocolate milkshake all winter, only the river levels varied.

Back to last Sunday, the 13th. Steve and I journeyed up north to Sheffield to fish the River Don, this was our first trip back there since the end of September and the river conditions were in stark contrast to last year. We were greeted by a full but clear river - if you discount the dark peaty colour of course - this did make wading precarious, in fact there were times when I genuinely thought I was going to end up swimming; this was the first time I felt panicky and unsure and made me question why I didn't put in the studs that were provided with a pair of new wading boots I bought. A lesson learned for next time.

White Bead Melanistic PTN
White Bead-head Pheasant Tail Nymph
A short walk down took us to just past the point where we started before. Setting up at the tail of a tantalising pool that lay at the end of a long run that flowed against a wall, Steve chose to set up a klink and dink as he only had his 8' 4# Hardy Zenith, I set up the Lexa with a Hends Camou French leader, this allowed us to cover most options. For the first time in a very long time three flies graced my leader; something that was mentioned to me a while ago had stuck in my head, this combined with the fact I have never fished with spiders led me to tie on a Pearly Butt Bloa on the top dropper. Initially I tied a squirmy wormy style fly with a 3mm tungsten bead and a white bead-head PTN on the middle dropper, I chose these because of the colour of the water and in fairness they showed up really well - even at depth - however, the squirmy came off quite quickly, but only because a slight flaw with they way I had tied them meant the bead slid down to the bend. This was replaced with a pink bead biot nymph and the fly selection didn't change after that.

Pink Bead Biot Nymph
Pink Bead-head Biot Nymph
Just as we were finishing setting up a coarse angler set up at the top of the pool, we don't think he saw us and as he had settled and started fishing in rather quick fashion we clambered up the back and walked upstream past him. I started by fishing a deep hole without success and I recalled that I didn't catch anything there last time either. Walking a little further upstream we noted that the river had drastically changed, a S-bend had been replaced with a straight section, no doubt by some substantial flooding throughout the winter.

Steve's First Fish
I love seeing the Lexa bent round
Passing the rod to Steve as I stripped off a couple of layers - a precarious attempt to cross the river had warmed me up - he started at the bottom of a long run; it was this area where Steve had filmed me landing a 15" trout. It didn't take long for him to catch our intended quarry, a small grayling that took the middle dropper and meant he wouldn't be blanking today. I didn't feel under any pressure just yet and told him to carry on, I was still faffing on the bank.

First Grayling Of The Day
Steve's first fish of the day
As Steve continued upstream he concentrated on the deeper water against the far bank, this left quite a bit of water on the inside and with Steve's approval I started to search the shallower, slower section of river. Keeping a low profile by crouching I maintained a short lead of a couple of yards fanning casts across the nearside half of the river. After around ten minutes of relatively slow progress the klink sunk out of view, lifting into the fish I was met with a substantial amount of resistance, a large shape twisted and turned in the shallower water, this immediately led me to believe I had hooked a grayling. Very quickly I knew I was wrong, the fish powered off across the river into the main flow, this really tested the 0.15mm tippet and it didn't take long for it to point itself downstream taking me with it. Thankfully it stopped in a small back eddy, I stood and watched as it tried several times to rub the fly off of the end of its nose. I'll have to admit, the trout was in charge, I couldn't get its head up and every time I tried to persist it to my way of thinking it would just surge off somewhere else. Eventually the fish began to tire, standing in a strong flow with an uneven bottom made things difficult for me, I ended up unclipping the lanyard to my net and tossing it to Steve who was downstream of the trout. At the second attempt of trying to lift the trouts head up Steve scooped my hard earned prize, in the bottom of the net lay a truly buttered beauty with the most intense red spots I'd ever seen.

It Was Supposed To Grayling Fishing
Deep intense red spots
A good few minutes rest in the bottom of the net allowed the fish enough time to recover. Steve had some lightweight scales and we quickly weighed the fish whilst still in the net, this gave us a figure of 2lb 12oz, the net weighed 10oz after the trout was released. A few quick snaps and the trout steadied itself as it was released into the flow. First fish of the day, 2lb 2oz and 17" long, but no one had told this fish it was five days early.

It Was Supposed To Grayling Fishing
You cannot grumble catching fish like this, even if they're only just out of season
Continuing upstream fishing the remainder of the run, our drifts were not interrupted. The next pool up was wider still, this allowed us to fish side by side dissecting half of the river each. We used our own set-ups and very quickly I caught a grayling, we then proceeded to have a fantastic fifteen minutes of catching; together we caught ten fish, a mixture of trout and grayling and all fell to nymphs. What did stand out was that we could only catch when fishing a small area ahead of us and only the bottom third, nothing in the edges or the top end of the pool. Twice Steve and I simultaneously caught and played fish together which gave us some amusement. We left the pool feeling jubilant and hopeful this was a sign of things to come, but alas it turned out to be a false start and we carried on the day fishing and making our way upstream.

Double Up
Double up - one of each - notice the colour of the beads
Plenty Of Trout

Sprats are the future
We weren't alone on the river and it was no surprise, the weather was glorious if slightly fresh and much to our surprise the trio we had to keep leap-frogging were also fly fishing, however we observed they didn't deviate much from a downstream and across approach and I couldn't say whether they had any success.

Barbour Paraloop Dun
Barbour Paraloop Dun - the dark version
Garyling On A Barbour Paraloop Dun
Dark version Barbour Dun doing what it does best, representing LDO's
Pink = Trout
One of Steve's last fish
Pearly Butt Waterhen Bloa
Pearly Butt Bloa - tied a little too long but lesson learned
The highlights of the day were two grayling that I fooled on a Pearly Butt Bloa and a Barbour Paraloop Dun. The take that registered on the indicator when the spider was taken was so animated and aggressive, I have never seen an indicator move so much before. The grayling that took the Barbour Dun is the first fish I have landed on a dry fly this year, it's not that I'm a purist but I do love surface action and it was a welcome change from dredging the depths with tungsten. We finished with over twenty fish between us, the ratio leaning towards me and there was a good mix of species with neither one dominating. Something we noticed with regards to which species took which fly, was that most of the trout were caught on pink bead-head nymphs with the grayling mostly taking the white bead-head nymphs. What was also interesting is that my pink bead nymph was on the point and would have been fishing much deeper than Steve's which would have fished quite high in the water owing to the method he was fishing. This does replicate similar results when I fished with Tom in September on the same river, very interesting indeed.

Pretty Lady
My first spider caught fish
All that remains is a short wait for the trout season to start in East Anglia, bring it on!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

It's been a while

It's fair to say things have been pretty quiet on the fishing front for me, I don't think I was prepared for how disruptive changing jobs as well as having a newborn would be. I'm certain a balance has now been reached as I have settled into a routine and begun to find time to tie flies and even a trip or two fishing recently.

As mentioned in the last blog post I have been tying dry-flies for the Wild Trout Trust annual auction, these are now finished and the box is complete and ready to go. Of course calling the selection early season dry flies is stretching it a little as I have included the devastatingly effective Adams Klinkhamer, which in certain parts of the UK fall foul of a dry-fly only rule and a variation of Gwilym Hughes' Cul-de-Canon which is another emerger pattern.

So now that the box is finished, what is included:

WTT Auction Early Season Dry Fly Box

Barbour Paraloop Dun
10 size 14 Barbour Paraloop Duns in dark variation
JT Olive
10 size 16 JT Olive
Cul-de-Canon Variant
10 Size 12 Cul-de-Canon variant
10 size 14 Jingler
March Brown Jingler
10 Size 12 March Brown Jingler
Adams Klinkhamer
10 Adams Klinkhamer - 5 size 12, 5 size 14
Along with the box of flies I am also offering a days fishing guided by me on my club rivers; you can see the illustrated catalogue on the Wild Trout Trust website here, lots 32 and 247.

Winter Serenity On The Dove
Tom Changing flies
Tom and I took a trip to Dovedale in the middle of January, perfect conditions greeted us, it even felt like winter after recent snowfall. I have always found the Dove a fickle temptress, this was only the third time I had fished the river, luckily I saved myself from a blank again as did Tom.

A real winters day
Tom took a few black and white pictures
We both caught trout and grayling although our ratios were opposite, Tom catching three trout and one grayling, I caught one trout and four grayling. One of those grayling was around a pound and a half and gave a very good account of itself which Tom caught on film, unfortunately as usually happens with grayling it slipped out of my hands as I was measuring it so there is no trophy shot.

I also managed a short afternoon on the town stretch I fish, the river was well coloured but fishable and the trout agreed as that was all I could catch, all three of them; I could not find the coarse fish or grayling that day.

More recently I visited this years British Fly Fair International at Stafford, a mob of four of us went to spend our hard earned dosh and take in all the excellent flies being constructed on Fly Tiers row. I didn't quite manage to fulfill my shopping list and came home with a sum of unspent money, but Tom and I did go halves on a couple of superb Whiting Coq de Leon saddles in medium pardo and ginger pardo. I also picked up a new partridge skin from Cookshill along with a chickabou pelt from Chevron Hackle. Picking up a few extra spools of silk from the Langleys stand, a superb bright yellow was pointed out to me as being the colour for the Partridge and Yellow spider so naturally I bought a spool and I have of course tied with it.

Grey Partridge
The highest quality, as you'd expect from Cookshill
Partridge and Yellow
Partridge and Yellow - rather pleased with these
I'm hoping in the near future to really start knuckling down and tying streamers, I have a few sculpins which I have shown previously but I really want to get on with some baitfish patterns, having struggled to find hooks that are made small enough for my needs I found some Sakuma 410 in sizes four and six from the Funky Fly Tying stand; ideally I would like the find hooks similar to these in sizes eight and ten to satisfy my needs.

Chickabou Bugger
Brahma Bugger using the Chevron Chickabou complete skin
Coq de Leon - Medium Pardo, Ginger Pardo
Medium and ginger pardo Whiting Coq de Leon saddle
Quilled Coq de Leon Dry Fly
A generic hackled dry-fly using CDL for wings and tail, the hackle is a cree sent to me by Hugh Rosen
Quilled Coq de Leon Dry Fly

More recently I took part in a little social gathering on the Dove at Dovedale. I met Steve on the way and we traveled together and Tom drove with Eliot. We met up with Mike Johnson, Jon Kerr and their companion Lester. We spit up a little and made our way up and down the river in small groups spending time fishing likely runs and pools. Meeting up at one, Jon pulled out his Kelly Kettle and set about boiling some water for a much earned hot drink. Only Steve didn't join us for lunch, he had yet to score and was determined not to blank.

Get The Kettle On
At the watering hole
Pink Always Works
Pink shrimps = grayling
Eliot Dredging A Run
Eliot working through a likely run
Pink Bead Biot Nymph
Pink bead-head nymph
The biggest fish went to Tom, indecently it was also his first and by the end of the day we had all caught fish, grayling predominantly but also a number of trout. No particular type of water favoured either species and fish were caught in some surprisingly shallow fast runs as well and deeper slower water. I caught fish on pink shrimps and small tungsten bead head nymphs and my final tally was ten - seven grayling, three trout. I was hoping to catch a fabled dry-fly caught winter fish as there were a number of olives seen coming off and a member of the party saw a rise late morning but that was all, I will have to wait a little while longer before I catch off the top again.

Tom's biggest fish of the day
Pink bead-head nymph caught for both Tom and myself
Pink Shrimp
Skinny pink shrimp caught me several fish
Dovedale Bathed In Sunshine
Our view of lower Dovedale, the sun greeting us as we made our way back to the cars