Thursday, 30 December 2010

It was a rather misty day on the River Test at Wherwell today. Fishing was with Peter Anderson, Vince and Tony. Starting the day with small nymphs we worked our way upstream, pitching the nymphs through all the likely looking runs. With a niggling breeze pushing downstream, it took a little while to find the fish in a feeding mood. Eventually we located a few fish - and there were some substantial grayling amongst them including a couple over the 2lb mark. With a hatch of Pale Wateries and Large Dark olives beginning to show, it was an out of season trout taking a partidge and orange on the dropper that gave me the first hook up of the day. It wasn't long before the first of the grayling found its way to hand. With a larger shrimp pattern on the point and a spider on the dropper, the fish were a little more willing to take the fly. Perhaps the wind had eased because sighting and targetting fish was the way forward.

One on a pale beige shrimp:

Lunchtime seemed to creep up on us - it's amazing just how much time can be absorbed trying to tempt fish you can see to take your offering. On the way back to the car park, we bumped into Charles Jardine who was fishing in a French Nymph style - long leader, tiny nymphs and pin point precision casting.

Lunch was a short affair as we wanted to get out and tackle some of the lower beats. This was skinnier water and a few fish were persuaded by the spider again. Further, a CDC & Elk on a dropper produced a fantastic rise and a nice fish too.

The furled leader worked well in the latter part of the day, presenting small nymphs and spiders upstream with super turnover and indication. The hot orange tip section is so highly visible and shows every subtle movement of flies and the takes.

We returned to take a chance at those better grayling before it became dark. The temperature had dropped and the day was becoming a little darker as the light faded and the mist began to return.

It was Vince that made the final contact of the day with a lovely grayling taking his own small GRHE variant. Well done! That was the last cast - a fitting end.

Vince puts the net under his last fish of the day:

So that's this year's fishing account closed. It's been a great year all round. My thanks to those I have had the pleasure to fish, cast and chatter about all things angling with this year. I hope we do it all over again next year, but even bigger and better! Roll on 2011.

Happy new year!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Grayling are beautiful fish, extending the fly fisher's callender and offering a real challenge too. At times they are willing to let you wade amongst them, snaffling up any fly that happens to pass by. The next day they can be really spooky, tolerating little in the way of disturbance or, indeed, anything that appears to be against the norm. They can mouth and reject a fly in seconds I am certain they take and refuse nymphs and bugs far more readily than we are aware. If they are willing to move to a dry fly, they can ascend and return in split seconds leaving you bewildered that there was even a rise.

Now, return to the nymphs. You'll read lots about grayling coming to heavy bugs, often brightly coloured and fished as a team. True. However, when they are a little more suspicious, it is the thinking angler that will be successful, choosing to adapt their fly choice and aim for something a little more imitattive. The Pheasant Tail nymph takes some beating under these circumstances. But even then, a little colour can help add a little something extra. Here's an example of the PTN tied with a red hotspot - just holographic tinsel tied behind the thorax. Another dimension to the fly box; improved chances of success:

Hook: Partridge BIN #14
Thread: Powersilk, 10/0 olive
Tail & abdomen: PT fibres
Thorax: Rabbit
Hot-spot: holographic tinsel, red
Wing buds: PT fibres
Legs: Tips of the PT fibres from the wing buds


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

I did start to wonder if the more sensible option should be to cancel my planned trip due to the extra layer of snow we had been dealt on Monday. However, when I reached the Kennet, it was a truly magical experience. Barn Owls were flying in search of food during the day and a pair of red kites were circling above. Superb sights at anytime of the year, but in a wintery-wonderland, it was something special - albeit the fishing was VERY hard.

The day's success was always going to be decided by whether the fish could be found. The water was low - especially with so much being locked up on the ground. So it off to the deeper runs with a short line and heavy bug; a lighter S-Loop nymph on the dropper.

One for the dropper:

Dropping the bugs through a likely looking run:

It was hard to find them. The odd nudge of the indicator suggested there was life down there. But it was only small fish willing to put in an appearance.

Infact, it was strangely out-of-season trout that were easier to find - I spotted the odd lunker holding mid-stream.

Despite switching between the short line technique and the duo, the bigger grayling proved somewhat elusive, it was good to be out and a pleasure to practice technique amongst such stunning surroundings.

I have been using furled leaders in recent weeks and have been kindly made some to my exact specifications. The turnover is superb and the sensitivity of them hard to beat. In conjuction with a 10' 4" #3 rod, every twist and turn ot eh nymphs could be felt. The furled leader, with a 12" hi-vis section, allowed me to monitor exactly how the flies were behaving.

I have added black markers throughout the leader so it is visible in all lights. Every movement is clearly visible:
So sensitive is the leader, it reminds of a swing-tip in coarse fishing - only even more responsive to takes. I'll give more details soon about the leaders I've been experimenting with.

This was my last session on the river before Christmas. I hope there are more grayling to report before the new year!

A welcome stop to grab a warming coffee:
Enjoy your festive weekend.


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Despite the Arctic-like conditions we are facing again, grayling will still take a thoughtfully presented fly. The fish will certainly be more tightly shouled, with the better fish taking up the prime lies and smaller fish jostling for position. Getting a fly to these larger fish can be a little more luck than judgement at times.

Here's a pattern which can persuade a take, especially in very clear water. A very slim profile, with very little dubbing ensures the fly is streamlined enough to cut through the water. Two tungsten beads give the the ballast - and on a #14, my preference is for a 2mm and 2.5mm bead slotted together. Note that the second bead is tied on in 'reverse' so that the counter-sunk base sits over the first bead.

The hooks are Partridge YK4G #14


Friday, 17 December 2010

New venue, new dates and a new time of year. I am delighted to have been invited onto Fly Tyer's row again in 2011.

More details here: British Fly Fair International 2011


Saturday, 11 December 2010

I spent the first part of the week at the lower end of the Wye Valley. Take a look at the ice rafts making their way down stream.


Sunday, 5 December 2010

Whilst I had to cancel Saturday's planned trip, I have just made some fresh arrangements to get out and tackle the grayling amongst these cold and wintery conditions. Reports soon!

Walking today saw a frozen Chew Valley Lake in all its glory:


Sunday, 28 November 2010

Friday, 26 November 2010

Uffe's Killer

Superb fly tyer, real ale connoisseur and good guy, Sweden's Ulf Hagstrom has just had an article published by Hatches Magazine. It includes a tutorial for tying the Uffe's Killer.

This fly looks simply great and has a awesome profile. Changing its size allows you to match all of the up-wing duns you'll find on our waters.

Enjoy the article here: Uffe's Killer - Hatches Magazine

Nice work Ulf.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

In the pink

Pink is a great attracter for Grayling and I have regularly found pink flies to out-fish more sombre patterns - Sometimes in coloured water, but also in crystal clear but very cold water.

Here's a version of the tungsten back shrimps, bringing a splash of colour to pattern:

These shrimp imitations fish 'upside down':

Hook: Partridge YK4G #16
Thread: Moser Powersilk 10/0, olive
Underbody: Hare's mask, light
Legs: Grey squirrel
Ballast: Tungsten shrimp back, pink


Saturday, 20 November 2010

Fast, deep water calls for heavy flies, especially when targetting grayling. As the temperatures start to decrease, the need to get down to the fish increases. I enjoy fishing heavy bugs. OK, it's not summer-evening dryfly fishing, but trundling (sometimes dredging!) bugs through the flows and watching the leader hesitate as the flies are picked up can be alot of fun. Further, it can be very, very effective.

Over the last couple of seasons I have been using tungsten backed shrimps for some of my fishing. Whilst they are not suitable for every situation, they allow you to get deep with a very suggestive imitation. Even a small fly packs the weight - and the larger versions - well they are nothing short of a depth charge. Kick sample the rivers and streams you fish and you'll find the average freshwater shrimp (Gammarus Pulex) is actually pretty small. Therefore, these heavy weight shrimp backs have a place in any river fisher's fly box; especially those early season and grayling fishers.

Hook: Partridge YK4G
Thread; Moser Powersilk 10/0, olive
Legs: Grey squirrel
Ballast: Tungsten shrimp backs.

These are also well worth a swim with pink or olive tungsten backs.


Saturday, 13 November 2010

Whilst a sparsely dressed paradun is my preference for those fish taking duns, I am increasingly carrying traditionally hackled patterns and finding success with them when all else fails. Further, some sort of wing seems to be essential and playing around with the colour, size and material allows you to explore the effectiveness of this style of dressing.

Possibly my favourite, a CDC wing can tied without a hackle, but for faster, more boisterous water, the addition of a hackle is useful:

A Poly-yarn loop wing has also served me well this year:

The wing here is tied using 'DNA' in olive. This is the same material used for the spinner wings in the previous post. Tied in and looped through the hackle, this is a useful version for those flies that are riding the surface waiting for wings to dry:

A short session at the vice allows a few variation to be produced. When tyying several patterns in a session, it's a good idea to keep them ordered in a compartment box before adding them to the main fly boxes:


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Sunken Spinner

Fished in the surface or allowed to sink, sparkling wings can be very attractive when imitating spinners:

If the fly sinks, or you choose to fish it wet, make sure the first few feet of the the leader beynd the fly line a lightly greased. Any twitch or hesitation should be met with a lift.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Little Avon with BIG potential.

As a youngster, there was a river I used to peer into and watch the trout feeding below a bridge. A couple of decades on, and I finally fished it... but with a fly rod in search of grayling. My thanks to my host, Peter Anderson for his kind invitation to sample an absolute jewel of a stream in South Gloucestershire.

We started the day with a quick look at the water. Nicely coloured and at a good level, prospects were good. It was pretty mild, but there was a brisk breeze. Peter kindly let me fish the first beat, and with a couple of casts, trundling a cased caddis through the runs, I connected with a fish.

A couple more takes followed, although keeping on the hook was somewhat easier said than done. The fish were very forgiving of our presence and even with the shorter rod, short lne nymphing was perfectly possible. Despite some fantastic looking water though, the fish were not fully playing the game. We were having to scratch a little.

Perfect to look at, this run suprisingly didn't deliver:

We split for the latter half of the day, and I picked my way through some lovely looking water, this time with the 10' #4 rod. This gave me the perfect control. A few fish obliged; changing to two flies helped: a cased caddis and a shrimp pattern.

Look at the tail (paddle!) on this beauty:

After a few more takes (and a few more lost fish...) I found a few rising grayling. With initially little sign of fly activity, it was a #20 CDC Shuttlecock that brought the fish up - and some great rises too, watching the fish appear from the depths and assault the fly!

It soon becamce apparent that there were a few spinners about - checking the spiders' webs can be a superb way of identifying the hatches.

A crumpled Pale Watery spinner. Note the length of the tails:

Pale Watery (Baetis Fuscatis spinners were evident. However, these spinners crawl down into the water to lay there eggs, meaning a well presented spider pattern is often what is called for. However, perhaps for another day.

Peter had caught some superb fish and certainly knows his way around this little stream. And what potential it has.

Some handsome grayling for Peter:

A good sized, out-of-season Brown for Peter, carefully released in the water: