Saturday, 31 December 2011

Late December Update: New Youtube channel and the weather's crap!

'Ey up interwebs!
With the excesses of Christmas out of the way (other than tomorrow night's more than likely alcohol-heavy celebrations) I thought it'd be as good a time as any to pop in with some news and a roundup of the last week or two.
First of all, I've now set up a Youtube channel to accompany all of the bloggy business. There isn't a great deal on it as of yet, but when the new trout season comes along in March I should be starting to post one or two short videos (hopefully of improving quality as I get the hang of shooting/editing) to add a bit of life and interest to the page. There's a link to the channel now in the blog sidebar on the right, or you can follow the link below:

So, with that out of the way, onto important meteorological matters. If you've peeked out from behind the curtains at all over the last week or two, if you live in my area at least, you'll probably have realised that the weather - as it usually does when I get some time off to actually go fishing - is playing silly buggers again! There hasn't been a period of consistant, settled weather for what seems like an age, with every likely looking day being sabotaged either by wind or rain. I haven't even considered fishing the Wharfe, as river levels have been up and down like a yo-yo, and the two short, fishless sessions I've had on the Aire both ended with me sheltering in slacks and eddies whilst the river rapidly rose without warning.
Yesterday's doomed session with the old man on the Aire and Calder Navigation after roach was perhaps the lumpy icing atop a rather suspect smelling cake though. The weather forecast had predicted an improvement in the weather - a few showers here and there perhaps, but the howling gale of the night before was set to blow itself out by mid morning. We even believed this when we arrived in mild, overcast conditions, with only the occasional sharp gust adding to the otherwise steady breeze. However, things rapidly took a nosedive with showers becoming colder, heavier and more frequent, and the wind building to the point where, when the unrelenting gale finally battered us into surrender at about half past three, it was a fight just to stay on my feet on the way back to the car. Between the three of us who were there, one sorry looking perch of about an ounce was all that was landed all day!... You had to laugh, really.
In the eternal words of one E. Blackadder, 'My life is strewn with cowpats from the Devil's own satanic herd'.

Tight lines all, and best wishes for the new year ;).

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Another grayling trip: photos!

Hey up! Just thought I'd post up a few piccies I had kicking around from another grayling session I had on the Wharfe around the end of November, this time on the fly (yippee!). It was pretty damn chilly, but czech nymphing only produced out of season brownies, whilst a change to spiders fished just under the surface produced a couple of examples of the required species! Not a fantastic trip but a bit of action, and on the fly which is all the better.
I should be home for Christmas shortly, but the weather here in Cumbria is horrific. The Eamont and Lowther are both bursting their banks, and conditions in Yorkshire don't sound a lot better, so I doubt I'll be up to much fishing unless I can get on the Aire for a bash at some chub. Fingers crossed though!

Out of season brownie on a czech nymph.

And another - wrong season mate!
Possibly the smallest grayling I've ever caught?

A better one to finish.

P.S. sorry about the stupid photo formatting! Can't get it to work.. if anyone knows how to sort that out please let me know!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Back on the Wharfe at last! - 10th November.

Looking at the Wharfe for the first time in two months - a welcome return!

So, this week is the first time since September that I’ve had any appreciable length of time back in good old Yorkshire. I’ve been stranded in Penrith studying my forestry course, and consequently I missed out on the entire last month of the Wharfe trout season, not to mention October – my favourite month of the grayling season! In fact now that I think of it, the last time I’d even so much as set eyes on the river was way back in August, so naturally when I realised I had a reading week in which to nip home, my first thoughts weren’t of the piles of paper that needed filing or assignments in urgent need of drafting (they’re all still waiting as I write!), but of reacquainting myself properly with the river, and hopefully a few of its finned inhabitants, so yesterday morning I gathered together some gear, filled a flask and headed out into an overcast November morning.

When I reached the bankside, I was taken aback by just how much the river had changed since my previous visit. The green of summer had been replaced by the reds, browns and golds of autumn, and the great swathes of Himalayan Balsam which had towered over the footpaths were now little more than a collection of withered, anaemic stems slumped on the ground. There was a tad more water around than usual, which was carrying a tinge of colour, and I was fairly confident that with a crafty application of maggots I should be able to winkle out a fish or two.

The river carrying extra water and a tiny tinge of colour - to be expected with the time of year.

Larch (Britain's only deciduous conifer) in its striking autumn finery: things had changed since the summer!

This sycamore was displaying a range of colours too..

I found a slow, deep bend, proceeded to set up with a simple block end feeder and began to fish. I opted for bait rather than fly simply because in the colder months, standing all day up to your unmentionables in ice cold water, trying to keep your eyes trained like a hawk on your leader, watching for practically imperceptible movements, is... well, frankly the mere thought of it makes my brain hurt! However, soon I was kicking myself for my decision, as a fish were rising all over the river, and were doing so all day whilst my rod tip remained motionless! Sod’s law strikes me another monumental blow to the plums. Interestingly, whilst I sat in wait, a number of large fish flopped around the pool – rogue Salmon perhaps? I saw one last October so it’s not entirely impossible, and if they are there and breeding then all the better in my opinion. It was very pleasant indeed to sit and watch nature’s goings on whilst hoping for a bite. A kingfisher flitted its way downstream past me and then back up again, and a dipper hopped about here and there, searching the far bank shallows for food. I had one sharp knock which failed to develop into a real offer, but other than that nothing was doing whatsoever, and after a fruitless couple of hours I concluded that a hot cup of tea and a move to new pastures was in order.

The first swim of the day - fish were rising and salmon were moving, but the grayling were having none of it.

Watching the wildlife is one of the great pleasures in angling, but overfed, over confident mallards can be a royal pain in the behind!

A short walk downstream brought me to an outfall pipe flowing into the river... not the most picturesque of locations you might say, but I was confident that there would be fish lying in wait in the run below the pipe, and so I switched to a stick float setup (much more aesthetically pleasing to watch a float anyway) and began to trot the swim along the fringe of the foam line being produced by the outfall. After about five minutes my float zipped away and I connected briefly to a decent fish before we parted ways and my rig went sailing gracefully into the branches of the sycamore behind me. Bugger. No matter, as after a military style retrieval operation and some tedious untangling, I threw in a few free offerings before dropping in again. After a short while my float dipped under once more – success! Well, perhaps not depending on how you look at it, as a sprightly out of season brownie began cartwheeling around the pool in front of me. It was soon subdued, and after a brief lecture about seasonal boundaries I slipped it back. Not what I was after, but good to make a catch in order to simply keep my blood pumping!

An outfall into the river - not the prettiest spot but it draws in fish.

Swapping to the stick float.

A healthy brownie - would have been very welcome in the season!

Considering the disturbance the trout had made, I thought it best to move on once again, and so following another quick cuppa I shifted downstream to where I could see a number of fish nosing the surface. Some time passed with no response, and the temperature began to drop noticeably as the sun began rapidly to dim in the sky. Hands were starting to freeze now, and my sense of optimism was dwindling, but all at once I was reawakened by a sharp bob of my float. Taken by surprise, I inevitably panicked and struck into nothing, but next run through brought the same response, which this time I was prepared for. For a few moments I was uncertain as to what I had hooked, but then to my relief a silver flank flashed below the surface – no trout this time then! After a brief but tenacious resistance I slid the net under a lovely wee grayling of around 3/4lb. Not a huge fish, but on a chilly evening at the end of a difficult day’s fishing, it was certainly a sight for sore eyes, and I returned it to the water satisfied that my reunion with the Wharfe had been worth the wait.

Success at last with a grayling in the net.

Back it goes...

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Salmon session, River Greta - October 16th

The River Greta running low and clear in mid October - no fish to be found!

Just thought I'd post up a handful of photos I took whilst salmon fishing on the River Greta (Lune tributary) and the Twiss (smaller trib of the Greta) a couple of weeks back. The water had dropped back after rain and was slightly too low for really worthwhile fishing.. subsequently I went without a pull or sighting any fish all day! Nevertheless it was good to be out with a rod in hand (albeit a spinning outfit) since I hadn't been fishing since August.
Best of luck to anyone fishing the last day of the season tomorrow and I hope it produces some bent rods!

Tight lines,

Pictures from the Greta..

An interesting run flowing into a deep narrow pool.

Further downstream as the river begins to widen.

And a couple from the Twiss..

The steep sided Twiss valley in Autumn.

Another view of the Twiss - a fantastic trout beck in the warmer months!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A Day In The Hills - Applecross Peninsula

Scottish gold: a trout from the hills of the Applecross Peninsula.

The Scottish Highlands have been a place dear to my heart ever since I first visited on a family holiday when aged four. The dramatic scenery, the unique culture and history, hills, heather – pick pretty much any cliché you like, I’m invariably taken in by them all. But nowhere I had visited had ever genuinely left me speechless until I was comprehensively silenced by the Applecross Peninsula this August. In fact, on reflection, the vast majority of my week there was spent gawping in every direction, incapable of forming a coherent sentence.

Overlooking Applecross Bay from a hilltop on a beautiful August day.

It really is an area of outstanding natural beauty. The sheltered bay glitters and dances crystal clear in the sunlight, whilst the mountains which frame the bay tower imperiously overhead, and the shadows of Raasay and Skye thrust jaggedly upwards from the sea. Atop the mountains themselves, you can very easily spend the whole day walking without seeing another human being, or hearing a single sound other than the squelch of your boots as you trudge through the peat, and of course the infernal humming of the seething clouds of midges which engulf you if you stand still for so much as a moment to catch your breath (man up – it’s all part of the experience). But what was of most interest to me was the endless small lochs dotted all across the hillsides. Pristine wild waters, rarely fished by anyone, and full of Trout! Naturally I couldn’t miss the chance to fish in such special place, and so with a little help from an OS map I planned an expedition towards the end of the week with the aim of fishing at least 4 different lochs over the course of a day.

A small loch, with the islands of Skye and Raasay in the distance. Who could resist fishing in this kind of scenery?

I rose early on the day of my trip to find a beautiful morning. The sun was out, it was warm, and only the faintest breath of wind blew across the bay. Fantastic weather to have a good walk and take in some scenery... but from a fishing perspective, pretty dire! No matter, after a quick breakfast I set out towards my intended area, first following Bealach Na Bà (the mountain pass which connects Applecross to Lochcarron, formerly a drover’s track, hence the name which means ‘Pass of the Cattle’ in Gaelic) then cutting off up the hill towards my first intended target, Loch An Fheiòr. It wasn’t the easiest of walks through endless and often disorientating peat bogs in baking heat, but the views alone more than made up for it on such a clear day. As for the lochs, I would have happily walked double the distance to reach them. They were charming pieces of water – not ‘shouty’ and over dramatic in the way which bigger lochs can be... they certainly wouldn’t provide the inspiration for some classical masterpiece, but there is something about the total isolation of these peaty, weed fringed pools which captures the imagination – they feel wild in a very real sense which you rarely come across in a nation so hopelessly overcrowded as ours. I suppose if I was to describe anywhere I’ve ever visited as ‘soul restoring’, this would be it.

Following a small burn into the hills.

Looking across the hillside towards the towering presence of Beinn Bhan in the distance.

Loch An Fheiòr - my first target on the day.

The fishing itself became somewhat secondary to the whole experience – just being there was more than enough – but fish I did, and this is an angling blog after all! So, having reached my starting point, I set up my 8’ 4# rod with a 12’ leader, fishing a Bibio on a dropper with the ever reliable Black Pennell sitting in point position and began covering water, making a few searching casts into likely areas before moving on along the bank.

A small selection of traditional wet flies - standard fare for hill loch fishing.

Now, all the accounts I’d previously heard had suggested that hill loch fishing was often easy sport, and usually involved half suicidal brownies in the ‘three-to-the-pound’ class. However, as it turned out on the day in question this was wrong on both counts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that many lochs are indeed full of these willing little trout, but on the day in question with the sun high in the sky and the total lack of wind (along with my casting with more than one fly on the leader looking distinctly questionable) they simply weren’t playing ball! As such, Loch An Fheiòr drew a complete blank, and I was forced to move on to a new target. This next water was much smaller than the previous one, but it was deep, and with a large weed bed at one end looked promising. I changed to a one fly cast so as not to fluff my chances with any silly tangles, and then crept into position.

A small, weedy unnamed loch. Home to some surprisingly large trout.

I watched and waited for a few minutes before making my first cast, and was again struck by the sheer silence all around me. The only sound was that of the frantic wing beats of Dragonflies darting after each other across the water’s surface, which was then joined by the fluid swish of my line through the air as I sent my fly sailing to the edge of the weeds. The moment it landed on the water it produced an instant response, but not the little splash or sharp jag at the hand which I had been expecting – instead there came a slow, relaxed rise as a fish sipped in the fly. I struck, and then again, rather than the short cartwheeling fight of a hand-sized brownie which I was expecting, line was torn from my reel at breakneck speed as an evidently large trout rolled and flashed before boring inexorably towards the middle of the loch! Miraculously, despite crashing directly through the middle of the weed bed, it didn’t become stuck, but continued to put up a ferocious resistance to the very last, as after a long battle I was able to lift him from the water – truly the most magnificent trout I had ever seen, all two and a half pounds of him.

The most magnificent trout I had ever seen, all two and a half pounds of him.

Not even the hordes of midges could dampen my mood!

It was to be the only take of the day, but that didn’t matter – I’d have happily traded a year’s worth of catches for that one fish. The long trudge back through the peat bogs didn’t seem half as bad, and not even the hordes of midges could dampen my mood as I bade farewell to the group of deer flitting away in the other direction across the hills. The only thing which perhaps tainted the experience was the fate of my quarry. I would much rather have seen the fish returned alive, but having given its all in the fight, I could not revive it no matter how I tried, and in the end it was destined to end its days on the dinner table. As much as I relish taking a fish for the pot every now and then, I felt that a wild trout that had managed to attain that size in such a small, isolated loch, deserved to grace the waters of its home for the rest of its days, however long that may have been. Nevertheless, it was one of the most unique and enjoyable day’s fishing of my life, and one I’ll never forget.

Deer on the hills - a fitting end to a memorable day.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Hello again interwebs!
Since it's now been nearly a month since my last post, I thought I'd better just check in briefly with a few bits and bobs. The blog's definitely still up and running, but the fact is for the whole of August I simply haven't done any fishing, and so I've had nothing to report on!

August on the Dales rivers is, if we're totally honest, probably the dullest month of the trout season, or at least it is from my point of view. The problem is nothing much really happens - nothing new to excite and create fresh interest. Numbers of rising fish take a nose dive, there are very few new hatches of fly to exploit, and the general tired feel of late summer seems to send all the fish into a torpor which, from the fly angler's viewpoint, makes fishing something of a chore until early autumn brings with it an injection of new life. Couple this with heavy rain over the last week or two, and the fact that during the summer holiday period any good weather turns Wharfedale into Yorkshire's inland answer to Blackpool, and you can start to see why I haven't been feeling overly motivated. Still, I shall try and do a couple of hours on the river before the end of the week and see what it brings.

In other news, I'm away on holiday this coming Sunday! Starting off with an overnight stop off in the Lake District, which may well involve a quick cast for a Salmon on the River Derwent, then continuing north into Scotland to 'A' Chomraich' - the Applecross Peninsula. There's wild Hill Lochs aplenty and a whole coastline to explore, so expect a report or two on my return!

Tight Lines,

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

High water on the Wharfe: Friday 22nd July

River well up and carrying colour - tricky conditions... especially when you've only brought a 6ft #3 outfit!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Testing (again): Photos...

Another test post, just to see if I can get photos to work for me. If I can it's a small miracle, plus I suppose it'll give an idea of the kind of thing you can expect to see throughout the blog. So, here goes...

wee Wharfe brownie on a PTN

Testing, testing 1-2-3..

Hello out there! Actually, allow me to rephrase that - hello? Anyone there?... If you have by chance stumbled across this page, then I wish you a very warm welcome to my new blog, in which I'll be posting, perhaps not entirely consistantly, but as and when I feel I've got something interesting to share about fish, fishing and all things aquatic (plus probably some completely irrelevant, or at least only loosely based things).  I'll try and post as many photos as possible along with my reports in order to keep things bright and colourful, and I might even start doing a few wee videos to go along with it... I need to get the whole business of editing dialled in before I can head down that road though. So, until my first proper bulletin, I bid you farewell - unless of course something's gone wrong with this post, in which case I'll probably keep trying and retrying until I have a mental breakdown and I'm forced to give it up as a bad job...