Monday, 31 October 2016

Moving On.

Well, after neglecting this little blog for a couple of years (shame, shame, I know) I've gotten the urge to write again. However, I felt a new start was in order, so rather than plodding on here, I've decided to start a new blog >>here<<. If you've read anything on here and found it to be of some interest, I'd be grateful if you could take a peek over at the new blog. New posts coming soon!... Probably!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


A blustery opening day scene - the photo really doesn't do justice to the way the wind was howling.

Yup, wind. That pretty much sums up opening day on Ullswater last Saturday.

I arrived at the lake later than I had planned due to some irritating bus-based issues - not the glittering start to the season I'd been hoping for, standing around in the middle of Penrith waiting for a bus that it seemed was never coming, looking quite the gormless twat in my chest waders.

When I did arrive at Pooley Bridge, conditions seemed reasonable - not the glorious sunshine and mild temperatures we had been experiencing for the preceding week, but not freezing and only a slight breeze. You'd imagine, then, that I was shocked to be almost bowled over by the wind as I trudging up the lake shore not 10 minutes later? Not in the slightest.

I learned quickly last year that Ullswater has its own micro climate. Whatever the wind is like five minutes from the lake shore, rest assured that something five times that speed is howling through the valley to blow your hat off. Mercifully there was no rain, but I found myself casting directly into an eye-watering gale (thankfully with a ledgered worm - being made to fly fish in those conditions is a fate I wouldn't wish upon even a Lancastrian) struggling to keep in contact with my gear. My rod rest was rendered useless as any attempt I made to set the rod down at any angle led to it being blown over in a matter of seconds, so I found myself holding the rod with the tip low, feeling on the line for any signs of life.

Much to my surprise it was only a matter of minutes before there was a stab at the line and I connected with something that put a decent hoop in my rod. I bustled the fish to the surface as quickly as I could so as not to fall foul of the many snags on the marginal shelf, and soon it was thrashing through the shallows towards me - a pretty Ullswater brownie of 13 inches or so - typical of the lake with its dark spots and buttery flanks, and noticeably plumper than its counterparts had been this time last year, presumably due to the mild winter.

A wild Ullswater brown trout to kick off the 2014 season (this one was kept for the pot).

That was to be the only fish of my first foray of the season, and I won't deny that I spend more of the next couple of hours sheltering from the wind behind old stumps and chain-smoking than seriously fishing, but it didn't really matter. I'd opened the season with a fish. Here's hoping it'll be the first of many this year, and not my last from moody Ullswater. I must find some perch, too. A two pounder would do...

Monday, 24 February 2014

Less than three weeks...

...until the trout season opens here in Cumbria, which for me means two things:
  1. Freezing my gentleman sausage off at the side of Ullswater, swearing like a navvy as my rizzla and backy blow away in the wind.
  2. Hopefully landing a few more of these handsome chaps...

While the weather will most likely be brutal in the early part of the season, April and May will hopefully produce a few special mornings, just as they did last year...

Whatever the weather, I intend to make the most of my time on Ullswater this spring. Come June I should have graduated from University, and I'll most likely have to move wherever the Forestry industry will have me, so it could well be the last chance I'll get to wet a line here.

The season back in Yorkshire doesn't kick off for a month yet (March 25th). Opening day on the Wharfe can be a pretty disappointing affair, starting with high hopes which tend to be deflated fast - cold water and sporadic hatches which draw no attention from the semi-comatose brownies are par for the course. If I connect with anything I consider the day a success. The Aire can often be a little better, enjoying warmer water, maybe due to a generally steadier flow (not to mention the many sewage works), but sport is still slow until maybe the second week in April.

Early season snow made things even more trying than usual on the Wharfe last year.

This is all irrelevant this year though, as it's unlikely I'll get on either river until May. Surely I should be relieved... so why do I feel my heart break a little every time I think about it?

At the end of the day, passing my degree is more important. That's what I keep telling myself anyway.

So, now to bury my head in a textbook again for the time being. I'll be back in a few weeks, though, probably with a ripping yarn about blanking and frostbite. I can hardly wait!


Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Floodwater Grayling.

I doubt many UK anglers would have cause to disagree with me saying that the weather so far this winter has been shit, even by the standards of our drizzle-blighted little island.

It's as if winter hasn't even arrived yet. Temperatures remain warm at around 5-7 degrees most days, and with the unseasonal mildness has come endless rain and a howling, bone-rattling wind. The rivers rise and fall at an alarming rate and always seem to be carrying colour, and the lack of any lengthy periods of cold weather and frost has left the grayling dispersed far wider than is normal for the time of year.

The weather patterns have been particularly frustrating for me as, having not wet a line since September, I was rather hoping to spend as much time chasing the 'ladies' of the Wharfe as possible in the short window I had back home. Well, it appears that was not to be! Every time in the last week or two I've so much as picked up a float and looked at it, all the rivers in the area have burst their banks simultaneously. I would've probably seen the funny side of it normally, but in the back of my mind lurked the awful thought that I might not fish until April should I miss this window - not an easy pill to swallow for a fish-head. So, driven to near panic by that prospect I was determined to hit the river on Saturday come hell or high water, or suffer a mental breakdown (something I could really do without in my final Uni year).

Boils and swirls in a normally calm pool.

I'd like to give some epic rendition of how I battled the elements like Captain Ahab, roaring defiantly at the heavens as I battered every inch of water to oblivion in search of my prize... but in all honesty it really wasn't that bad. In fact is was absolutely fine. There was of course a nasty wind and constant drizzle, interspersed by the odd bit of 'proper rain' - nothing a good pair of waterproofs couldn't handle. The real issue was the extra foot or two of water the river was carrying. Still, trotting with worms has landed me fish in worse conditions, so I rigged up my centrepin setup (with a loafer float capable of carrying plenty of shot to get the bait down to the bottom) still fairly confident of at least tempting a fish.

Float rod sporting the centrepin reel... I should really put a little more effort into my photographs.

The current was pushing hard in a number of normally sedate 'banker' swims, which made life awkward as I struggled to find creases and back eddies where the grayling could be sheltering. Nevertheless, I managed to search out a welcome fish in the first twenty minutes. It had been sitting tight to the bank where a young willow trunk bowed abruptly outwards, creating a narrow channel of slack water, and accepted my worm gladly once I managed a successful trot downstream without being pulled into the main flow. Predictably, that's exactly where the unsuspecting fish decided to bolt, and I was subjected to the agonising process of having to gradually ease it upstream against the weight of the current before it could be steered into the net. Anyone who has fished for grayling will know just how much pressure they can put on a hook hold, using their huge dorsals to catch the current. Multiple hook pulls are par for the course, but in this case I was lucky, and after summarily admiring the fish's pewter flanks and stately sail-like fin it was slipped back to relocate its refuge.

Relief: first contact for almost four months.

Celebratory tea and fag time! Pressure off, blank avoided. I carried on fishing the run for another half hour with no further interest before moving on. I searched a number of other swims for the next couple of hours with no reward other than snags, lost gear and one fine branch - not the best of the year, but not far off (well, if you're going to come into contact with river-junk now and then you might as well make a game of it). Stumped for ideas I headed back to the original spot and fed a handful of chopped worms before trying again. After a few trots down the float dipped again and I hooked into another fish which held its own, stubbornly hugging the bottom for a while before yielding - a better grayling around the pound mark. Not a monster by any standards but a worthy catch, and good enough for me.

A respectable example of Thymallus thymallus.

This success was followed by a series of missed bobs,dips and stolen baits - odd considering the river's seething hoards of minnows tend to vanish through the colder months, and shoals of small coarse fish such as dace and roach are notable in the upper Wharfe by their absence. I changed to a smaller piece of worm and was immediately rewarded with what turned out to be a tiny grayling skittering along the surface towards me. Another slightly larger one around six inches was swung to hand within a couple of casts. Perhaps this wasn't the stamp of fish I was looking for, but it's certainly an encouraging sign for the future of the river that the juveniles are present.

It would seem there were quite a few of these tiny fellas present. Embarrassing to catch, encouraging to see.

The nabbing, pecking bites ceased as abruptly as they had started, leading me to think something was afoot. Sure enough, ten minutes later the next disappearance of the float was followed by an eruption of spray as an out of season brownie launched itself all over the swim in its manic attempts to shake the hook. Not a bad fish at around a pound and in excellent condition for the time of year, it was slipped back with the minimum of fuss so as to cause minimum disruption to its off-season relaxation. Whilst it would have been a very welcome fish in September, trout are a downright nuisance to the winter grayling angler. Once they sniff out loose bait or detect feeding activity they can move in quickly and often muscle out the more reserved grayling. Add to this their no-holds-barred maniacal efforts to escape once hooked, and they can soon clear a pool of any fish with an ounce of common sense if not swiftly subdued. Having contemplated on this, after a few more token casts I decided to quit while I was ahead. After all, it hadn't been a bad few hours sport. Enough to cure the cabin fever at least.

I'm still faced with the fact that I probably won't be able to wet a line now until springtime, but a few hours chasing ladies was a perfect antidote to the stress of the last few months. Hopefully the memory will be enough to drag me through the even worse months to come!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Minor revamp, plus a spot of rainbow chasing.

Well it's been a long while since I've posted on here, and not for the first time. I've been rather busy with the combined burdens of Uni work and a new job, so I've barely been fishing at all, let alone had the time or motivation to write on here. But here I am now, and as you might have noticed if you're a regular on my blog I've made a couple of minor cosmetic tweaks. I've also changed the title - 'Yorkshire Fly Novice' always sounded a tad clunky to me... 'Yorkshire Fly Fisher' is much slicker, don't you think?

Housekeeping aside, I did manage to sneak in a couple of evening sessions on a small stillwater recently. The weather's been bright and hot, making the sport fairly tough going. Dry flies have brought me fairly consistent sport, though - anything small and black really seems to be okay at the moment, picking off fish head-and-tailing after emerging midges. When that hasn't worked, bullying a response out of them with a G&H sedge has rarely failed. Here's a couple of nice blues from last Tuesday:

It's been kind of nice to fish stillwaters for a change. I suppose it's kind of like setting aside your copy of the Telegraph and picking up a tabloid... you don't take it seriously, but it can be good fun now and then. I should be back on flowing water for the first time in an age tomorrow though. My piking pal Tom's been having some good results on the Aire recently, so I must go scope it out. I can have a stab at the grayling now, too! Watch this space for further developments... there will be further developments this time, I promise!

Tight lines,

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Another Aire Trip (and video).

Well, I had another quick trip to the Aire yesterday morning. The fish there are definitely more active than they are on the Wharfe at the moment, but bumping nymphs along the bottom with frozen hands it still felt more like a November Grayling session than spring trout fishing. Things seem to be on the up though, although we're still lagging a few weeks behind normal spring conditions. A couple of fish came to the net - two brownies around the 3/4lb mark - it's a wonderful feeling to get my string pulled again!
I got enough headcam footage to cobble together a small video - hope you like it. My casting/general technique is a touch rusty after a long off season as you can probably tell... please be gentle!

Tight lines,

Sunday, 7 April 2013

At last!

Well, here it is! My first trout of the Yorkshire season, taken on a heavy copperhead nymph from a deep, fast run in the River Aire. Unbelievably relieving to finally get some points on the board as I was beginning to question the small amount of ability I possess. The fish came after a plump out of season grayling - much more solid and stocky looking than its counterparts in the Wharfe. I'm certainly looking forward to fishing for them when they come into season. My pal Tom managed his first trout on the fly too, so smiles all round!

It's easy to wax lyrical about any fish when you've grafted so much to catch it, but this brownie really did put on a pretty spectacular show. I was fishing my nymph below an indicator, watching for any stops and stutters in its run, but on this occasion the line fully slammed tight and the fish launched itself from the water, proceeding to do so five or so more times during the course of the scrap. Heart stopping stuff, and I wish I'd caught it on my headcam but unfortunately it was sitting in my fly vest pocket at the time! Stupid boy... I might sneak in an hour or two tomorrow morning though, so I'll be sure not to make the same mistake then!

Anyway, the pressure's off now, and I can get back to enjoying my fishing fully! If you want a look at the nymph, it's one sold by Stuart Minnikin of Yorkshire Dales Fly Fishing in his online fly shop. Looks a simple tie but bloody deadly, so if you want you can see it plus a bunch of other cracking patterns here.

Tight lines for now,