Friday 31 August 2012

“A year for the fish, but not the fishermen”

I will save my thoughts on the season as a whole when we get to October. Perhaps the persitamt rainfall will give us a spectaculare back end to the season, targetting healthy brown trout that have survived the Summer floods and turbo-charged grayling that should be in fine condition. I read the Salisbury & District AC report today and this season was summed up really nicely: “A year for the fish, but not the fishermen”.

We have needed this rain. I can remember saying back in March and April that to address the low flows we needed months of rain. It seems we got it too and as I write, the chalkstreams are looking fuller and healthier than I can remember. Many of my local streams are running high and, although they clear quickly, they have taken a battering. I wonder what cost the consistently high water and constant flooding will have on fish stocks? It is great to see that silt has been washed clear of many gravel beds which gives the spawning redds a chance as we head into the Autumn. Sure, the forecast is for some better weather this weekend, but we but a stone;s throw away from the leaves changing colour the leaves starting to drop - a time of year I love.

However, perhaps the days of hot July and August weather has all but gone. I think back and seem to be able to recall better weather in September and October for many years. My hope is now that, with the rainfall we have received, that we get a decent winter - rain when it is expected and some cold, winter weather. Whatever the remainder of the season holds, I for onethink it would be good to see some stable weather.

Last week saw some significant rainfall which left me cancelling and postponing guided sessions again. Unable to get to the chalk, any fishing has been confined to stillwater and some super fit rainbows saved the day.

A pristine rainbow; great fun on a 4 weight

Between the rainy days, we were treated to some stunning interludes. It's scenes like this that remind me how fortunate I am to live in the West Country:

Blagdon lake, alongside the Mendip Hills

This month is a Blue Moon, and we are being treated to some very bright nights. Not great for sea trout, but certainly spectacular:

So, whilst the fingers are crossed for a good end to the season, I have started to think about targetting some grayling. Bugs are being tied and the boxes replenished as I have some exciting days fishing coming up. The Wylye, the Bourne and some small chalk streams in deepest Dorset are calling and I look forward to making the most of this Summer's watery offering!

I took a bike ride this evening, and checked out my 'info' water. I never fish this small stream, but it gives me an idea of what the main river will be like. Being just down the road, it is a useful way of checking to see if the river will be worth a visit. It is clearin nicely after the recent rainfall, although it remains high.

More to my suprise, was the damage that the last push of flood water had on the bank. This bankside damage may look untidy and messy, but it is the degradiation and shallowing of the banks that concerns me, not to mention the silt as a consequence further down stream.

Time for a settled period of weather please. I shalln't hold my breath,


Tuesday 28 August 2012

Blagdon in the wind and rain

Bank holiday Monday was going to be a wash out according to the forecast. After a cracking lunch, the idea of venturing out on Blagdon was questionnable, but it was well worth it. I was to be in fine company too as I was meeting with Alex and Charles Jardine. Also we had the pleasure of fishing with Malcolm Fisher whose knowledge of Blagdon is second to none.

Alex makes first contact, watched on by myself & Chales

The forecast was right, but buffered by the Mendip Hills, we were able to fish quiet comfortably through the wind and the rain. There was sport for all of us, and some very fine rainbow trout showed too. At times a little but picky, they were stunning sport on a 4 weight outfit...

A stunning (sometimes moody) landscape; stunning whatever the weather


Friday 24 August 2012

Swapping places

I nipped back out for the last hour before dark, aiming to fish the same pool I had fished earlier in the day. Dace had occupied a prime run and I found it strange. It looked the prefect trout lie and I was sure there must be some nice fish lying amonst the crease between fast and slow water. In addition, I had made some further adjustments to my nymphing indicators and wanted to give it a go.

 The river looked perfect and, although light was disappearing fast, I  was confident. There were no quick takes from the tiny coarse fish experience earlier in the day - perhaps a better trout had moved into position, swapping places with the Dace? After half a dozen casts, the indicator gently frew forwards and the rod was met with a healthy bend. The bottom? But suddently a downstream run and the sound of the reel suggested a feisty trout had picked up the nymphs. Now with all thing relative, I was using a 9'6" 1 weight rod with a 0.10mm tippet... so even a 12" was going to be huge fun. And what a fight, twisting and turning and running off the reel. A delight.

A healthy, fin perfect fish drew up to the net. I was well pleased.

On a 1 weight rod and size 20 nymph

A few more casts followed, but I had assumed that would be it. However, two further fish followed and gave fantastic sport on the super light tackle. What a cracking evening's fishing.

A beautiful wild brown fell to nymph tied in a jig hook

Plus, the new indicator set up seems to be working well. More soon.


Thursday 23 August 2012

Always worth making the effort

So August bank holiday is almost upon us and that can only mean one thing: rain! The forecast is for a band of rain to come through the South West some time over the weekend. Undoubtedly that will knock many of the rivers out for a few days. This seems to be the ongoing story this Summer.

It seems that Autumn may be creeping up on us. Strange, as I was still waiting for the Summer.

The rain a few days ago had brought the rivers up, but levels were good today and there was a healthy colour to the water. Any more and it I think it would have been time to turn back home. However, it looked reasonable and as I was making some adjustments to my French Leader set up ( preparing for the Autumn & Winter), it seemed ideal territory to throw a few nymphs.

Now French Nymphing is becoming more widely used... and it has its uses. With such long leaders and no fly line to speak of, presentation is really good and it is a super-stealthy approach too - not spooking fish with the fly line. Playing around with some different indicators too can be quite interesting. More on this soon, but a spiral indicator was the first choice today. I reviewed one a while back here: Hends Spiral Indicators.

The sensitivity is amazing and it is worth rtying out a few to see just how improved the detection of subtle takes really can be. As I pitched a size 18 and 20 nymph up the first few runs, it looked promising. However it was not an expected trout or grayling that pinched the first fly, but a small dace. This was followed by fish after fish, and their size was increasing each few casts. OK, not what we usually came for, but when testing out a new system, ideal to be picking up these lightning fast takes. I will report more on this technique in the future.

So after, I thought I'd switch lines and leaders and go in search of any rising trout in the deeper, slower pools. Very little was stirring and as I decided to wander back to the car, I saw a solid rise downstream. Now there was no way this was accessible on my side of the river and there was no easy access point as the river is deep in this section. To remain concealed and get a good cast in, it would mean walking back downstream, giving the fish a wide berth and walking back up the other side. I was in too minds, but the lure of what appeared to be a good fish was too great, so off I went.

A careful approach is the key to success: keeping low and off the sky line as I approached where I had seen the fish, I was willing to see it rise again so I could pin point its position. I waited - nothing... Until eventually a sip from the surface gave a fish's position away. I was pretty sure it was the same fish. Again, it's worth waiting to be sure they are on station and feeding confidently.

Eventually, I made a tricky cast through the tree canopy with a CDC Emerger and to my delight a fish rose immediately to the fly. Suffice to say, it was a beautiful small-stream brown trout... worth the extra effort to get in position:

More soon, after the deluge.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Calling the small stuff

Despite the warm reprise, I am certain that shifting  pressure has made it hard to find any consistent sport, especially with the dry fly. This is mainly due to the fact that there has been very little fly life to speak of.  Therefore, when lucky enough to find a fish on station, it is essential to approach with stealth, identify what they are feeding upon and then ensure good match and presentation.

I have been finding that a small elk hair sedge pattern works well, but last night, despite a considerable gathering of spinners above the water, it was a para-aphid in a size 24 that winkled out a few fish. Fished on a long leader, a bright orange wing post helps you to identify the path of the fly, especially through the foam lines - an ideal place for fish to sit and target their food, travelling over head.

A lovely, leopard printed brown trout is returned

A clearing stream

The river is clear, but still and good 12" above usual

A small fish on a #1 rod

I like to tie my para-aphids on a Varivas 2200BL-B hook:

A size 24 para-aphid; works as a gnat / ant imitation too
Fish of all sizes are tempted!

Now off to tie some clousers in preparation for some bass fishing... from #24 to #2!


Saturday 11 August 2012

As if the diversity of chalkstreams was ever in doubt, my fishing buddy sloped of for a spot of trotting further down the river on a tidal stretch. Not fly fishing, perhaps, by what beautiful fish caught trotting with a centrepin:

A super result!


Friday 10 August 2012

Secret Streams

Exploring new water is exciting. Over the last few days I have had the opportunity to explore some tiny chalk streams. In some cases, these little rivers are so narrow, you could step across them. Others and wider but very shallow. All are crystal clear and full of trout that are very willing to take a fly.

However, unlike some of the trout that inhabit small, freestone streams, these fish do not need to salvage every feeding opportunity. Theses streams are so rich in fly life  that they can afford to be that little bit more picky. Matching the hatch is important and, as ever, presentation is vital for success. These fish may not be huge (although there are some larger than average specimens), but what they lack in size, they make up in quality. These are prime, healthy fish that pull hard and leap when hooked. They are fantastic sport on a #1 rod which is exactly what I tackled them with.
A tiny, unfished chalkstream

A fast run, no more than 2' wide... and full of fish!

The sort of hidden pools that produced some dace as well as trout

Making a cast acorss a smooth glide. Fish were feeding on olives despite the wind.

A small nymph brought success in lively pool

Crystal clear waters


Thursday 9 August 2012

The River Frome

Covering a rise in the fast water of a pool's tail

You just cannot trust the weather! We have had so much (needed) rain over the past few months that rivers are flowing at full capacity - and often over. It is refreshing to see the streams in full flow, however it has made for a very difficult season of fly fishing. I was looking forward to tackling a couple of different beats of the River Frome this year in Dorset and had high hopes. We have had a good amount of rain again over the last few days and when I first arrived at a private beat of this magnificent chalkstream, I was bowled over by the amount of water. Pushing through like a steam train, but very clear, it was obvious that fishing could be quite tricky. The lack of fly life also would compound the challenge. However, when offered the chance to fish this beautiful water, who can complain. It is beautiful.

On the first evening, we were able to target some sedge feeding fish. Whilst we covered a good amount of ground to find the fish, they did not disappoint and it wasn't long before fish started to make the most of a moderate gathering of sedge. Indeed, there were some solid fish amongst them and some real 'gulpy' rises. Fishing right into the darkness gave the best of the sport.

A better fish comes to the net on  private section of the River Frome

I was also looking forward to fishing with John Aplin (Casterbridge Fisheries) the following evening. This beautiful beat of the river holds somehuge brown trout and some magnificent grayling. Indeed a recent fish of over 4lb was landed - and there are reports of others. I met John in the early evening and whetted the appetite looking at pictures of some huge fish whilst drinking coffee. A great start to the evening.

The wind was brisk and fly life was limited - and as a result so where the rising fish. Covering a few moving fish, it was again a sedge that started the success. and whilst these wild fish were not the leviathans we had drooled over earlier, they were beautiful and hard fighting fish. It's an absorbing place. I managed to spend at least 45 minutes over a 2lb+ brown. With it sitting deep, I moved it several times to the fly, but it was not to be. It could be different on another night.

A wild fish from John's 'Home Beat'

The beautiful river Frome. Some huge fish were feeding just above the Ranunculus.

A beautiful river and some stunning wild fish. I will be returning very soon.


Wednesday 8 August 2012

I am just back from a few days away, exploring the River Frome and some tiny chalkstreams. Some of these water ways are incredibly small - you can step over them in places. But they are running very clear and I was blown away by the sheer numbers of fish even an apparent trickle of water can hold. These are rich streams indeed, full of food - and hence, full of trout & grayling. More on this in future blog posts.

I am delighted to see that the River Fly Box blog has reached 200 registered followers from all over the world. I also know that there are even more un-registered people that drop in and see what's going on. When originally launched, I had no idea how popular the blog would be.

So can I take this opportunity to say and massive thanks for all the support and for reading my contributions.


Wednesday 1 August 2012

Bead Headed, Quill Nymph

A little taster of some recent nymphs to be added to the box. Simple in design, they sport a Tungsten bead from Funky Fly Tying.