Monday, 31 December 2012

Finding the Silver Lining: Blown out rivers and new friends.

Plumping for Pike: With the rivers out of action, the coarse fishing gear has been brought out.

Aquatically speaking, the last few months of 2012 have been very predictable indeed, if only in a somewhat roundabout and convoluted sense of the word. If it's not been raining (I think the rainy season in both Yorkshire and Cumbria started around the year 1500 and has just trundled on since) it's either been snowing, freezing or blowing a gale - often a combination of the three. Many of the Cumbrian lakes have spent days entombed in ice, and if there was a period of settled conditions, you could bet your house, children, and the contents of your vintage caviar cellar that the day you planned to string up your rod the rivers would rise two feet and hold nothing but the prospect of dead sheep and sanitary towels. On the few occasions I've been able to walk the banks of my beloved Wharfe and assess the state of affairs, it has been like meeting an old friend after many years apart and realising you no longer have anything in common. Long, sedate pools which come alive in the balmy summer evenings with the oily head-and-tail rises of glorious, uncatchable leviathans now boil and surge with an alien malice. The gently poppling, sun-dappled riffles of my memory now snarl, tearing away at the vulnerable banks, whilst on a bad day, bouldered rapids can now take on the guise of the middle reaches of the Zambezi. When the waters finally drop (hopefully some time before March - I have plans, you know) and the old friend and I once more find some common ground, there's a good chance that they'll have undergone a serious facelift. Whether a happy improvement or otherwise is impossible to predict, but either way it'll take some getting used to.

Nevertheless, whilst in my angling life I increasingly find myself attempting to navigate a small boat up a river of excrement with no means of propulsion, it's not all bad, is it? Those four blokes on horseback didn't pop round to engineer the destruction of our entire civilisation, I've not bickered with my girlfriend any more than usual, there are still a couple of pubs where I can get a pint of decent ale for under three quid, and the price of Lambert & Butler hasn't rocketed too dramatically. Besides, all this water has washed me away towards places I've rarely fished with any conviction since my early teens, and landed me fortuitously on the bank beside and equally mad keen worm drowner of a similar age to myself - Tom, master pike catcher.

I found Tom, or rather he found me, through my video based messing around on Youtube (here's a link incase you're interested). He too dabbles in video making, and after realising we lived about ten minutes apart, he got in touch with me about having a session together and the possibility of shooting a few videos. I liked the idea and we got chatting. The conversation was easy, and we agreed to have a session the next time I was home.
So, around came Christmas once again, and I returned to Bradford with a head full of lecture notes it didn't want to process and the prospect of January exams looming over me as they still do now - writing your blog seems so much more exciting when there's something else you should be doing, doesn't it? But now, for the first time since early November, fishing was on the cards. I spoke to Tom and we both agreed the rivers were 'nae use to man nor beast', to use the Northern lingo, and that given the current weather patterns our best bet was to target some pike in the local canal, where Tom and a few other anglers had been braving the weather and had banked a number of double figure fish, including a chunky fifteen pounder for Tom himself.
"Sounds good" I said, "Let's do it". And so last Sunday, in a wind that could have toppled statues, I found myself hunkered down on the canal towpath before first light, pitching a dead roach as close to the moored boats as I dared. Tom seemed confident we would hit a few fish before long as he baited two rods with sprats, fiddled with his bite alarms, then went about the business of attempting to catch some of the smaller locals to sacrifice in the name of Esox. When his pal Dave arrived in his van a while after us, however, he seemed rather more sceptical. In fact, as the wind began to howl harder and harder, I distinctly remember his reaction being along the lines of 'why the bloody hell would you bother fishing on a day like this?'. Somewhere in the back of my head I felt he had a point. Nevertheless, I took heart in Tom's buoyant optimism and went to aid him in his livebait quest. He'd been struggling up to this point with a lot of missed bites, so I suggested the operation perhaps needed a fly fisher's more delicate touch. Sure enough, Tom handed me the rod and first cast, after a deft flick tight to the flaking bow of an old barge, I successfully shepherded a small, flashing roach to hand. I offered it to Tom who immediately swapped one of his ledgered sprats for the little fish, whose day was going from bad to worse, recast and waited in poised expectancy. Five minutes passed before the alarm let out a single bleep followed by a gentle wiggling of the rod tip. I was about to suggest it might just be the livebait working rather than a more sinister presence when the rod hooped round and Tom locked into the first fish of the day. It stayed deep at first, shaking its head furiously and doing its best to dive into the sanctuary of the boats, but soon enough it broke surface in a shower of spray and was drawn reluctantly over the waiting net; a solid fish of around six pounds. Not a monster, but as Tom unhooked it (it was mercifully benign on the bank) I had to pause for a moment to take in its perfect torpedo-like form - pike of all sizes have a certain gravitas about them which other fish do not with their crocodilian features and huge fins. They are pure predatory perfection. We slipped him back and he paused briefly to collect himself before rocketing back to his lair.

Tom, getting into the festive spirit, displays the first of the day: a solid six pounder.

After the excitement, with the rods reset with deadbaits for the time being, we settled down for a quick cup of tea, and I took the chance to muse briefly on my surroundings. It was very surreal, after spending the last few seasons mainly on Yorkshire's pretty trout streams, never too far from the public but always with a degree of peace and quiet, surrounded by nature, to find myself casting a line in such an urban setting. Even on the stretches of canal I usually fish, a short walk will find you in relatively rural surroundings, but here I felt boxed in and almost on show, with the concrete towpath backing straight onto a housing block, a hotel and flats looming on the opposite bank, and a road bridge rumbling on my left. Yet somehow, perhaps due to the rare social aspect on the day (fishing is almost always a solitary pastime for me) along with the obvious pikey potential of the area,  I felt rather comfortable perched on my stool, watching my bright float riding on the ripples, smoking and chatting about the prospects for the coming hours.

The Pike float rides tantalisingly on the ripples...

My pleasant reverie was broken abruptly by a shout from down the bank, and I turned to see Dave's rod buckled in two as he tussled with an evidently substantial fish. We reached him in time to see the fish boil on the surface before surging away strongly again. A few tense minutes followed before a semblance of control was gained and Tom was able to bundle the fish into the net. On the mat it looked impressive - heavy set and very deep indeed. We were all rather surprised when it only weighed 11lb 8oz. Still, a good fish for a canal, and its tiger-like fins and marbled flanks were a sight to behold.

The business end of the 11 pounder as Dave does the honours with the hooks.

So, two fish on the bank, and I was the only one left sitting on a blank - no matter! Plenty of time yet. I went back to my spot, switched to a fresh bait, then went back to the serious business of hunting livebaits. Soon both myself and Tom had livebaits fishing by the barges - a roach for me and a little skimmer bream for him. We were now both fishing running ledger rigs, as although the aesthetic quality of watching a pike float suddenly spring to life and plunge beneath the surface is undeniable, given the unrelenting gale, a tethered bait was evidently the more practical choice on the day. Predictably though it was Tom's bait which was snapped up almost instantly, and I was soon helping him hoist ashore a small feisty jack pike around the three to four pound mark, which he soon followed with another of similar stamp. With the light fading, I was beginning to wonder if I would be returning home with the shame of a blank hanging over me. Spurred on my the urge to avoid this, I moved my bait along to a small gap between two boats, a perfect ambush spot. I set everything up, tightened down and waited. What seemed like an age went by, and I was pondering the idea of a recast when a faint twitch gradually developed into an all-out run. I lurched upon the rod and lifted into a bucking, solid resistance. It came to the surface quickly and was evidently not large, but the hook hold looked tenuous, so I ushered it as quickly and carefully as possible into the net, and lifted out a glorious, beautiful, miraculous blank saving fish
One of a pair of smaller fish for Tom.

A brilliant, blank saving four pounder for me!

After that relief, we decided to head for home, but agreed to meet up again after Christmas. On boxing day we did just that, this time adopting a more roving approach with float fished livebaits. We had a good day, with four fish for me and three for tom. The only issue was that none of the fish weighed over three pounds! Still, better than no fish at all, and it's all good fun. We've agreed to meet up again after the new year. Hopefully we'll winkle out a couple of the big girls!
Here's some video I shot on out first day. Rough stuff as usual but hopefully you enjoy it!

So you see, though the weather continues to be about as welcome as a bag of grapeshot to the nads, I've discovered a silver lining behind the endless clouds, finding a new ally in my addiction, and getting a chance to play with the predators for the first time in rather too long. Best of all, Tom's keen to learn more of the art of the fly, so that should lead to a few forays in the spring... if the rivers ever decide to stop their quest to turn the entire Humber basin into an inland sea, that is.

Happy New Year, folks! And tight lines for 2013!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Late Autumn Update..

Late autumn, early winter... whichever way you look at it, it's been a long old stretch since I posted here, and even longer since I posted anything truly fly fishing related.
Well, sorry to disappoint you readers (if any of you are still there!) but you'll just have to wait a bit longer. I haven't wielded a fly rod in anger since the start of September when a friend and I went on a wee jaunt to Angle Tarn in Patterdale before starting a new university year. It was an achingly beautiful place but the weather was horrid - a total blowout with gales ripping down the length of the tarn. Casting was nigh on impossible, and although I did get a few snatching takes from little wildies, I failed to get anything to stick.
After that, university work, an inability to get home and fish the Wharfe and some shit Cumbrian weather conspired against me, so the trout season of 2012 - something of a mixed bag - ended without another chuck.

Cracking view over Angle Tarn, Patterdale. Shame about the fishing..

Battered and blown away in the fells - not a great day to be camping! 

 Since then I didn't fish at all until earlier this month when I managed to find the time to dust off the trotting gear and snatch a couple of quick sessions back on the Wharfe. It was a mixed bag really, with a lot of lost fish including some very nice grayling - very frustrating, but that often seems to be the case when trotting in fast water, especially when ladies are the quarry. Increased pressure from the force of water when trying to tease fish upstream often leads to a lot of hook pulls.
Nevertheless, I did manage to close the net over a few unwitting victims. Some were the ever present and unavoidable out of season trout, eternally eager to snaffle maggots. A few more delicate fellows were fooled though - beautiful grayling, including one male specimen in particularly fine fettle, his blood red dorsal and silvery flanks iridescent in the steely November light.

A couple of autumn grayling from the Wharfe.

Along with these I also tempted a belting chub from a deep pool under the shade of a willow as the light faded. The bite was tentative - an inscrutable dip of the float as it idled past a tangle of roots. I lifted gently, expecting the frantic head-bumping tussle of a small grayling or trout, but instead there immediately appeared a substantial boil on the surface and my rod buckled under a strong, ponderous pulling. Instinctively I loosened off my drag as the fish charged deeper before beginning to sulk, slowly circling on the bottom. Due to my light tackle there was no way I could bully the fish, so instead I patiently applied steady pressure, and after a few minutes the fish seemed to begin to see my side of the argument, slowly emerging for the depths and allowing me a glimpse of its brassy flank before diving, sending my clutch into squeals once more. Despite this continued vigour I knew I was in the end game, and soon he was sliding over my net. I laid the fish down in the net and breathed a little sigh of relief as I realised just how tenuous the hook hold had been, with just the tiniest of nicks in the chub's rubbery top lip. I held him up to the late sun and admired him - around 3 and a half pounds. Not a monster, but a lovely fish to end a day.

An unexpected, splendid chub.

I shot some video of my second session of the weekend (including the chub) so there's a wee linky to that below!

So, what's the plan for the coming weeks? Well, I just mail ordered a nice big sack of worms and some groundbait in the hope of getting out for a spot of perching on Ullswater before the weather becomes too bitter - depending on how that goes, expect a post or two on here. As to when I'll be hitting some Yorkshire waters again, best estimates would suggest some time around Christmas when I get some time off from my studies. Ideally I'll be able to hit a few grayling on the bugs, but depending on the weather it might have to be some more trotting, or perhaps a spot of deadbaiting after a big canal pike.
Also, I'm in the process of looking for a headcam set up, ideally by next trout season at least so I can get some nice first-person shots of my various piscatorial farces.
Whatever happens, I'll be sure to chuck a post or two about it on here when time allows.

Until then, tight lines!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Monday, 27 August 2012

Wet, wet, wet: rain induced ramblings on fly tying, noisy music and the worm.

A typical view out of my window this summer...

As usual throughout this summer, the rain is pounding against my window as I write this update. Will it never end? The Wharfe, and most other Dales rivers with it, have been up and down like yo-yos all through August, and particularly for the last couple of weeks, fly fishing opportunities have been very scarce indeed.

Perhaps if I were to be more philosophical about the whole business I would find a few beneficial aspects of the wet weather. For one, the trout should be clean of Argulus (river lice), making for a healthier fish population. Last season with all the low water it brought, I caught many fish which were plastered in these unpleasant little parasites, whilst this year I've only spotted one on a fish. Also another good point (and for me this is a big one) is that the rocks on the river bed are not as heavily coated in the cursed green slime which made wading last year akin to negotiating a field of bowling balls slathered in Vaseline. Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, all the extra water will have been allowing migratory fish to run the Ouse system far more easily this year. The Ure has been recording good salmon numbers all season, and hopefully this will have translated itself into a better run on the Wharfe too this year. Certainly the back end could be interesting. Hush hush though, we don't want them getting dragged out and knocked on the head. Now, where's my box of tube flies...
Anyway, despite all these concessions, to the close minded brownie basher - and yes, as much as I hate to say it I suppose that's what I am these days - floods are a royal pain in the arse. Many anglers would settle down to tie some flies in preparation for the next weather window, but despite seeing how that's a good way to keep your mind occupied, it just doesn't do it for me. I'm bad at fly tying, and I only dabble when I'm seriously low on nymphs and streamers. I find that for many experienced tiers, the act of dressing a hook becomes more of a means to itself than an endeavour to catch more fish. To those that enjoy it, fair enough, and I respect the skill and finesse it requires, for it is a trait I can appreciate but will never possess... not with these sausage fingers. Personally though, I'd much rather pay someone else to do a far better job than I would, save myself some time, and get on with the infinitely more important business of showing those pesky trout and grayling who's boss (it's them of course, but sometimes I like to kid myself otherwise when I catch one by fluke). I should probably try harder to be enthusiastic about the tying though, then I wouldn't be at such a loss for what to do at times like this!

Simple streamers - pretty much my only fly tying venture.

So, how have I been occupying myself? Well, in the same way I always do when there's no fishing on offer. Stupid amounts of press ups, unhealthy amounts of smoking, and scouring the internet for new music to damage my eardrums with. In the process of this, something caught my eye (well, ears) which I wouldn't normally touch with a bargepole, that being the work of a fairly low-key German dubstep producer going by the name of Nilow. Usually, bar a couple of exceptions, I despise this kind of thing which in general brings to mind images of a fax machine being roughly taken from behind by a bull elephant in Musth. Nilow's remixes though give off a much more chilled vibe which clicks with me. The track below in particular pleased me, and is a strong candidate to get slotted into one of my Youtube videos in future I think.

Other than that, it's mainly been the usual mixture of hemorrhage inducing hardcore and death metal. Whitechapel's new album in particular has been getting a lot of airtime. If you don't know who they are, the track below explains their whole sound in a nutshell rather eloquently.

If at this point you're still reading and haven't quite switched off, wahey! Time for fishing talk! As I said at the start, with all the water, fly fishing's been a non starter for the majority of this month. The sessions that I have squeezed in I've already blogged about on here. However, I have managed to have a couple of evening sessions on a rather swollen River Wharfe with the worm last week. I've probably been over my thoughts about this often controversial (amongst the snootier members of the fly fishing community at least) method on this blog before, so I don't intend to go into the ins and outs of it today. In short, it's a method I enjoy fishing now and then and the conditions suit, and the rate of deep hookings I find is no different to that when using the fly. As with my fly fishing, the majority of what I catch goes back unharmed.
Morality/tradition/any other bollocks aside, fishing has been tricky even with the worm, as the river has been so high on occasions that it's been hard to find any sheltered areas to fish. Most of the trout I've winkled out have come from deep back eddies under my own bank in the last hour before dark. Rather exciting it's been too, feeling the lead bump around on the bottom, waiting for bites which could be anything from a gentle pluck on the line to an arm wrenching tug on the rod tip. The best fish I've managed came on Thursday night as I worked my way through some calm water beneath a old fallen tree. I flicked the length of line required out into midstream, then carefully guided the bait round until it settled directly under the bank about 10 yards below me. I waited a couple of minutes... nothing. Confident of a take though, I placed my rod in a rest and awaited a result. It didn't take long, as after around five minutes the rod tip jagged round and I found myself connected to a hard fighting brownie which I had to work hard to stop diving into a jungle of snags on a number of occasions. Eventually I managed to coax it thrashing to the surface and over the net - a pristine, solid wild brownie of around a pound and a half. Not a bad fish in anyone's book.

A pristine Wharfe Brown Trout on the worm in fading light.

Beyond this, what do the next few weeks hold? I'll be returning to Penrith soon, but until then I'll be attempting to make the most of the rest of my available days on the Wharfe, maybe pulling a few streamers in search of a big predatory brown to round off the season. Then, once up in Cumbria there's a hiking trip with a spot of hill tarn fishing on the cards. Whatever happens, expect a blog update about it soon!

Tight lines,

Friday, 17 August 2012

Good Morning, August 14th.

I decided to take another trip down the Wharfe on tuesday morning. River levels were good, it was warm, the wind was low and there was a moderate blanket of cloud cover - not bad conditions then!

I started by working my way downstream with a team of spiders, but to my surprise after an hour I had failed to conjure up so much as a tweak. A few fish were rising in a foam lane, so that encouraged me to take the initiative and change my setup. I tied a length of finer tippet to the end of my leader and to that attached a well ginked Klinkhamer Special. I slowly waded into a better casting position, being careful not to spook my quarry. The first cast provoked an instant response, but predictably I missed it completely. Another rise came on the second cast. This time, brief contact was made before the line went slack... much swearing and gnashing of teeth. I haven't fished the dries so often this season, and when I have my hook up rate has been rather poor, and the more fish I miss, the worse I'm taking it!

With the pool most likely spooked I crept out of the water and sat on the bank. There I lit a cigarette (stop, Eric, for god's sake), watched and waited to see if the fish would continue their feeding. Sure enough, within 15 minutes there was sipping and slurping aplenty once again, so after degreasing my leader I re-entered the fray. A few casts went unnoticed before I got my third rise of the day. No mistake this time, and after a short tussle a very welcome Grayling slid over the net.

First of the day.

After that first success, I moved downstream and picked up another lady to the dry from a difficult patch of slow water which has always been one of my sticky spots - lots of risers but painfully shy and spooky, so I was rather pleased to have tempted a fish from the spot. Another move after this brought a third Grayling along with a decent Trout which led me on a merry dance on my light leader before it finally capitulated.

Another lady...

... and a reasonable Trout!

With my first Brownie of the day slipped safely back, I moved on to some 'busier' riffles and swapped to nymphing tactics. Fishing through every inch of water on a short line, I soon got a confident take from a powerful fish which stayed deep, kicking in the fast current. Eventually a flash on the surface proved it to be yet another Grayling, and a good one at that. When it was finally in the net after a long tussle, I estimated the decidedly chunky specimen to be getting on for a pound and a half - not a fish to be sniffed at in my book! The sport picked up from there, with a number of Trout succumbing to the charms of the nymph. Usually, fast water nymphing on the Ilkley stretch produces fish in the 6 to 8 inch class, but though I had a couple of these, I was pleased to catch a string of better Trout in the 10 to 12 inch bracket, all of which fought admirably and were returned unharmed.

A good Grayling.

Normally the average stamp...

... but the river was being more generous!

I finished with 6 Brownies and 4 Grayling. My best day numbers-wise this season on the Wharfe, my best average size and my most successful day of the season on the dry fly. Suffice to say I went home a happy bunny! Shame the weather's turned again now.

Tight lines,

Sunday, 12 August 2012

New video now live!

Well, the rain's battering against my window this afternoon and once again summer's skulked off to hide god knows where. The predictable reversion to type on behalf of the weather reminded me that I had a spot of editing of footage left to do from my session on a flooded River Wharfe last week.
So without further ado here is the result - a roughly shot piece as usual, but you get a bit more of an idea of what I was up to. Hoping to sort myself a headcam for the start of next season which should lead to some better 'live action' videos!

Tight lines,

Friday, 10 August 2012

A Nymph Does The Trick: Morning Session, August 10th.

Fast riffle on the Wharfe. Good nymph water.

Had a short session on the Wharfe at Ilkley again this morning. Last time I went down a couple of nights ago the river had been stuffed to the brim with paddlers and pissheads alike which didn't make for the most relaxing of sessions! My lesson learned from this experience, I caught the first train and was on the river bank before 7. Bright conditions made the fish in the slower glides very spooky indeed, so I opted to concentrate my efforts fishing through the deeper holes and swift riffles with nymphs. Sure enough, this did the trick and I was soon being entertained by a stream of scrappy brownies. Some came off of course, but I ended with 7 fish to hand, most of which were in the 6 to 8 inch bracket (fairly standard for the stretch) along with a couple of a better stamp.

A couple of the pretty brownies that fell to the charms of a Mary Copperhead this morning.

The highlight was a solid fish of around 11 or 12" from a deep, narrow bottleneck at the head of a wider glide. I pitched the fly into the area on a short line and tracked it back towards me. It slowed momentarily as it hit a crease in the current, then the indicator plunged under and I lifted into a fish which dived downstream, using the fast flow against me. Eventually, rod hooped over, I managed to ease him back upstream of me then flip him off balance back down into my waiting net. A beautiful fish and a lovely one to conclude my quick trip. As the sun rose higher in the sky and the temperature soared, sport tailed off, so by 10:00am I was heading home in search of breakfast.

Best of the day!

Oh by the way, somehow I've ended up on Twitter now (God help me) so if you're on that whole shabang then feel free to follow me here.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Hitting it Wrong: Fishing a Flooded River Wharfe.

There's been a serious lack of fly fishing in my life of late, in fact I think the last time I picked up the fluffing gear (until last week) was some time in mid-June... that's a long stint for me to go without my fix. But since summer has been refusing to show its face other than in occasional fleeting glimpses and river levels have remained high, I've had no option other than to content myself with occasional forays after coarse fish in my club lake - a beautiful, clear, lily fringed sheet of water abounding with sparkling roach, bristling perch and the occasional imperious carp cruising between the weed beds. Such sport is an interesting diversion of course, but it's just not the same as the kick one gets when hooking into a good fish on the fly - a mere cannabis to fly fishing's infinitely more potent heroin.

Perch on a pretty, lily covered pool: nice, yes, but it ain't no fly fishing!

So, on Saturday evening having crossed the Wharfe on the way to visit the girlfriend I decided that something needed to change. The river looked in reasonable fettle for the first time in quite a while, and as such I decided to launch an attack the following morning. Thunderstorms were forecast, but weren't due to hit Ilkley until around lunchtime, so there was still a window of opportunity for some early sport - what could be better? Well, as it turned out a number of things (white water rafting in particular springs to mind). I arrived early to find the river having taken on the colour of a strong cup of cocoa and as high as I've seen it all year - a wormer's water, and me decked out in my thigh waders and armed with a poxy 8' fly rod, suddenly felt somewhat daunted by the task of having to find fish in such conditions.
Swollen river... dry fly anyone?..

I walked the banks in search of some reasonable water out of the main thundering torrent, eventually coming to some borderline passable slack water tight to the near bank. Here I set up with a heavy nymph and set to the task of working my way carefully through every inch of calm water and every possible eddy and lie where fish could be seeking refuge from the main current. I must have spent at least two hours moving from place to place doing this, but in my head I knew that my efforts were futile. It wasn't so much the height of the water that was the problem, but the colour which was just too much. When stood in about two feet of water I had to squint very hard just to see the outline of my feet on the bottom - goodness knows what it was like for the fish living down there, suffice to say I would have had to bang them on the nose with my fly to provoke any sort of response. Certainly it was more of a day to be using something that the fish could sniff out, as proved by another angler fishing maggot feeder who was picking off a steady stream of small brownies.
Heavy nymphs seemed like the only option..
After a time I was on the verge of calling it quits, completely clueless as to what to do to change my luck, and with my mood severely darkened by dropping my pack of cigarettes in the water. I stripped a bright streamer for a while without putting much thought or effort into it, then found myself wandering aimlessly back along the bank feeling resigned to defeat until I came to a small side-stream running off from the main river. It was at that point that a light seemed to immediately flick on in my head. I had passed by this little water many times before, but never had it crossed my mind to fish it. Normally it was a mere leak, home only to darting masses of minnows and sticklebacks, but today it had filled up and was poppling along rather nicely. Perhaps a few fish had moved into this temporary sanctuary to feed in peace - it was worth a shot at any rate, and so I removed the heavy setup and tied on a smaller lighter nymph, then began to fight my way upstream on my hands and knees through the jungle of willow, brambles and balsam. The tight, overgrown nature of the stream meant that when I reached my first likely looking riffle the only way I could deliver the fly to the desired spot was with the help of a nifty 'bow and arrow' cast. The line pinged upstream and the fly pitched nicely at the head of the pool maybe a couple of rod lengths above me. As I followed the nymph back towards me the indicator stuttered, I lifted and was briefly connected to a small splashy trout before the line went slack. Damn. Out went the nymph again in the same spot, and after a couple of runs through the indicator dipped once more and a lively brownie came cartwheeling and thrashing into my waiting net. I admired it briefly then slipped it back and took a moment to sit down on the bank, revelling in the relief of not having been 'watterlicked'.

Creeping up the overgrown little sidestream.

The most welcome fish in the world - a hard earned brownie to a Mary Copperhead nymph.

As I moved further into the interior, I could hear rumbles of thunder in the distance and ominous black clouds were looming ever closer behind me, but for now I ignored them as the immediate weather remained warm and virtually windless. I came to an area where the stream ran very deep and slow, the bottom an impossible entanglement of sunken tree roots. I found a place to perch and waited. Sure enough, within a few minutes I had seen several rises, one of which had the slow, confident air of a very hefty fish. I removed my nymph and added a section of fine .11mm tippet to the end of my leader, tied on a tan klinkhamer pattern and degreased everything thoroughly. The cast was flicked onto the water and I didn't have to wait long before I got a solid take. Unfortunately it was far from the goliath swirl of a big trout that I'd been hoping for. Instead what I got was the fast, sudden sip of a six incher which skittered around the pool briefly before I brought it to hand. A diminutive but beautifully marked specimen - better than nothing I suppose, and a brace of fish somehow always feels infinitely better than catching just the one. Still, I couldn't help but feel that the greedy wee blighter had cheated me out of a shot at something far more dramatic!

A wee fly-snatcher!

After a few stern, scalding words, micro-trout was popped back to grow to a more respectable size. No sooner had he darted off back into his hidey-hole than the first spots of rain began to fall hard on the water in front of me, bringing with them flashes of lightning and the roar of thunder overhead. Suddenly I began to feel very concious of the fact that I was now holding 8 feet of perfect electrical conductor in my hand. I tackled down hastily as the storm intensified and hot footed it back to the footbridge on the main river, where I sought shelter and watched the river rise before my eyes until the worst had passed. Then I squelched my way back to the train station like a drowned rat to go home and hopefully dry off. Unfortunately the weather in Bradford had been even worse than in Ilkley, and I arrived home to find a great deal of my fishing tackle along with the freezer floating around in 4 feet of water in the cellar. So my afternoon was perhaps even wetter, spent rescuing rods from the murk and bailing out with buckets. All this despite living on top of a hill near no waterways - unbelievable! The British summertime, 'character building' and defying logic since time immemorial.

Coming home to a flooded cellar - not what I had in mind! The video below shows just how heavily it was raining at the river, too!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Stick Float Fishing on the Wharfe.

Firstly, before I embark on yet another non-fly fishing based post, please accept my sincerest apologies. I’m sure that you’re all clamouring for some bug-wafting action, but I simply haven’t had cause to bring the gear out! The weather recently has been frankly appalling around here. Rain... just so much rain. Every time the rivers have looked like being at a decent height for the fly, more rain has arrived and ruined everything. That being so, the angling addict has no choice but to diversify into other branches of our rich and varied sport. Why refuse yourself the joy of a catch just because your preferred method is off the cards?

So, with my excuses made, here’s the deal. Last Tuesday the Wharfe was fining down after yet another biblical downpour. There was still a touch of extra colour to the water but it was most certainly fishable, in fact when I arrived at my starting point and began to feed a few maggots, swirls and boils under the surface confirmed that fish were certainly on the feed and ready for the taking.

I only fished for a few hours with my light stick float tackle, but it made for a pleasant, laid back session with plenty of fish brought to the bank. Unfortunately most of these were of no great size, but on a delicate float rod and 2lb line they still provided lively sport. I was hoping for grayling and chub, but although I managed one small lady, almost all of my offerings were snapped up by voracious brownies – not what I was looking for, but they still fought well and went back safely, with the best fish maybe just touching the pound mark. A few fish were lost, which I assumed were probably more grayling. A disadvantage of the species’ downturned mouth is that they do seem to come unbuttoned more often than trout, but if you came out on top in every scuffle with your fishy foe, it wouldn’t be so fun!

All in all, a reasonable session... hopefully I can get back on the fly soon though!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Sunday, 10 June 2012

High Water: Time for the 'Garden Fly'.

High and murky.
The weather over the last week has been, from the trout angler's perspective, frustrating. In fact, the whole season has been so far. First there's no water at all, and now far too much! Still, at least it'll be giving the gravel a flush and ridding it of all the horrible green slim which makes wading so hairy in periods of drought. The problem has been that every time the rivers look like dropping, another system blows over and sends them up to their bank again, so yesterday, as expected, the Wharfe was still high and brown, with all manner of god knows what being carried downstream.

What's a guy to do? Well, if an angler is willing to abandon the aesthetics of the fly in favour of something altogether more practical, there's still fish to be caught. During this flood periods, trout will gather along with all manner of fish in the slacks and back eddies, feasting on a banquet of slugs, catepillars, worms and whatever else is washed into the river. So, the intrepid trout botherer must match the hatch. This found me in my garden yesterday morning, hastily digging up as many worms as I could before my mother (not a sympathiser with the angler's plight) discovered what I was doing to her beloved lawn. I then took my time in getting the rest of my gear together, allowing myself several cups of tea and a lengthy breakfast before eventually leaving to catch the train at about 11 o'clock. I was in no rush the reach the bank, for the longer the river had to drop, the better.

By the time I arrived at the river, thanks to one of Northern Rail's daily cock ups, it was well past lunchtime, and the river in front of me was in a far worse state than I had initially envisaged. In most places it was tearing past, and there was water in places I'd never seen water before. The bank behind me wash strewn with debris, and the vegetation had obviously been steamrollered by the current over the previous days. This could be tricky - I would have to pick my spots carefully and fish well. The set up could not have been more straight forward. 5lb line straight through, with a single swan shot pinched about a foot above a size 6 hook baited with a juicy lobworm. Tentatively I began to place searching casts here and there. Many fly anglers would have you believe worming is a mindless 'chuck it and chance it' technique... the fact is most of these people have either never done it or not done it properly! Worming can be a highly enjoyable and thoroughly absorbing way of fishing. You feel every bump and scrape of the bait as you twitch it through the swim, and the rap-rap-rap at the fingers when a fish strikes can be utterly electrifying.

A nice trout to the garden fly!
After a while, halfway through an interesting looking crease in the current, the line halted. I waited a second before twitching the bait to move it along, at which point the rod unexpectedly sprang briefly into life before the line again went slack. Well, there was a chance today then. I moved along in search of new spots to fish -  not easy with so much water about, but there were enough likely places to focus my mind. I came to a deep, steady area beneath an overhanging willow and proceeded to work my worm through. Nothing after a  few minutes, but I was convinced there was a fish to be had, so I set my rod in the rest, lit a cigarette and waited for things to develop. After a while, a twitch.. hmm... a sharp jag on the rod tip - that's the one! I lifted into a strong, satisfying resistance, then the rod sprang straight again. Bugger. I wound in to find the battered, mangled remnants of my worm, but nothing else amiss. I quickly sharpened the hook just to be sure, then made another move to a deep area with a strong crease in the current. I flicked my bait in, and immediately the rod wrenched downwards. A brisk fight followed before a plump brownie around the pound mark surrendered to the net. This was soon followed by another fish of about the same size further upstream after I put my rod in the rest and left the worm fishing under the near bank. Not a bad result for a short session in tricky conditions! Interestingly the mouths of both fish were stuffed with caterpillars, presumable washed in from low hanging trees.

A fine brace of Wharfe trout - a reasonable reward on a tricky day.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

We Need A Montage (small stream video).

Just thought I'd share this short video I knocked together of my River Doe trip earlier in the week. I'm no editing whizz and it's a bit rough around the edges but it gives you an idea of the place and my day. Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Small Stream Fun

I had a very pleasant afternoon today on the River Doe, a beautiful limestone beck in North Yorkshire. It was a nice change on this tight, intimate water to bring out my 6foot brook rod, which always makes for an entertaining time battling fish of all sizes. I concentrated most of my efforts on fishing my way through the fast pocket water with a Mary Copperhead nymph presented 'New Zealand Style' underneath a size 14 Klinkhammer. Plenty of fish came to hand throughout the session, mostly to the nymph but with a good number of lively trout exploding to the dry fly too. Beautiful trout they were too - perfectly shaped, fully finned, wild golden gems. It's a tenner for a day ticket - if you're in the Ingleton area I strongly suggest you give it a crack. A ticket also entitles you to fish the Doe's sister river, the Twiss, along with a stretch of the River Greta. There's also a chance of a seatrout given some water - that'd be nice eh!

The brownies of the Doe are true wild gems.

Looking downstream on the Doe.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Canal: Day Two.

Had some time to kill again today (come to think of it, I always have far too much time to kill... why I don't fish more often I have no idea), so went back down to the canal for a couple more hours between 5 and 7pm to see what it would produce. Opted this time for a smaller red spotted mepps spinner. It was absorbing trying out different retrieves to see what would produce follows and takes. No perch today, but two Jack pike came out to play. The first, one of the smallest pike I've ever laid eyes on, took the spinner right in at the bank with extraordinary agression but was comprehensively outgunned by my gear! Slipped him back, then soon had another more solid hit in a tight spot underneath an overhanging bush. A lively little fight was had before a second, better fish was in the net. It was still only around the pound and a half mark, maybe two at a push, but there's a lot of pike in that size bracket in the canal and they're a good laugh. Besides, at least my catches are getting bigger... I might be up to five pounders by November!

My snappy little micro-pike... dare I say 'would make a good deadbait'?

Streamlined predator.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Canal Perch Today

Grabbed a couple of hours on my local stretch of canal today just to do a bit of spinning. It was relatively uneventful, but still a relaxing way to spend a little time, and along with a few follows from Jack Pike, I did manage to bank this pretty Perch. Not big, but a reasonable reward for a low effort session. Roach and bream were still spawning as they had been last week when I was targeting them on the fly (see here for more!). Also I spotted a thumper of a carp lurking in some margin weed - very broad across the back and must have been well into double figures! I may return tomorrow depending on weather and time constraints... watch this space.
Perfect predator in minature.

Big mouth for a wee fella!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

A Yorkshire Scorcher (In which Eric embraces the traditional North Country style... and wishes he'd brought a drink).

Wednesday was hot. Bloody hot. In fact, pottering around the house, unpacking various bits and bats from university, I was convinced I’d have been far more comfortable in a Turkish prison cell. I mean, Christ! What was the weather doing? Only a week ago it had felt more like February than May, and now all of a sudden Bradford had decided to become its own scorched little enclave of the Middle East. So far since my return from Cumbria I had managed to avoid doing very much at all, sheltering from the sun like a hermit. But evidently this heatwave wasn’t going away any time soon... and there’s only so many episodes of Loose Women you can sit through, pondering why men are (apparently) such bastards on so many levels before you realise you really ought to get some fresh air to cleanse yourself of gender-based guilt. Time to dig the gear out.

Thursday was, if anything, hotter than Wednesday, and by the time I was stood on the banks of the Wharfe at Ilkley at 8 in the morning, the temperature must have already been pushing well into the dreaded 20s. Not a cloud was in sight, no wind, and the river was very low indeed – not ideal! But hey, at least I wasn’t gawking at Jeremy Kyle for the fourth day in a row. I wandered for a while and tried to decide what could be done to produce some sport in these conditions. Very few fish were rising and there was little sign of fly activity – even if there had been, dry fly fishing on days like this is frustrating at best. Fish deep with heavy nymphs then? Well, that would probably have been a prudent move, but in all honesty it’s a technique I’ve grown rather weary of, having been my ‘go to’ tactic for rivers for a couple of years now, and it certainly wasn’t something I wanted to spend a whole day doing. Something else then, but what? I flicked through my fly box in search of inspiration, and my eyes were drawn towards a row of wisps of inconsequence in one corner – ah, spiders.

I’ve never had much confidence in spiders. Of the few I do own, only the black spider has taken trips out of the box with any level of frequency, and even then only to be fished upstream as an emerger style pattern, and never used in the ‘traditional’ way. The few times that I had done the whole North Country thing properly, the results had been poor and left me unconvinced. Nothing about it grabbed me in any way, and I would invariably find myself caving in and reverting to more familiar techniques in an all too short space of time – I suppose it never worked because I never gave it the time, and of course I never gave it the time because it never worked... something of a vicious cycle, and such things are hard to break. But today was different; today I would buck the trend of my rigid angling ways and embrace this as a new way of fishing. Somehow, it seemed the right thing to do... or perhaps I had a touch of sunstroke.

So, having tied up a two fly leader (three’s a little excessive don’t you think?... Okay so maybe I just get tangled every five casts and can’t be arsed) with a snipe and purple in point position and a partridge and orange on the dropper, I stepped into the river, sending frisky minnows skittering away in every direction. The wading was diabolical, with all the rocks being coated in a layer of green slime in these low conditions, but I just about managed to stay on my feet and make it to a reasonable position to make a start from, working my way slowly through areas of fast water and the dark, shaded areas beneath far bank trees where I felt the fish might be sheltering. After about ten minutes of this, a rather over ambitious cast towards a tight spot resulted in me losing my point fly to a low hanging branch. A sign, surely! No, thought I – plod on, give it time. And that’s exactly what I did. On went a new fly, a black pattern with a small wing this time, and I continued my slow journey downstream. Things began to happen – first a sharp pluck, then next cast a firmer pull which resulted in a small, lively fish throwing itself clear of the water before throwing the hook. Maybe there was something to this after all. A little further downstream came another pull. No mistake on my part this time, and the first pretty little brownie of the day came to hand, having confidently seized the partridge and orange on my dropper. Only around 5 inches in length, but it gave me confidence, and I slipped him back safe in the knowledge that I now had a new weapon to add to my armoury of piscatorial warfare.

A few more small fish followed (along with a brief, ill-fated altercation with a better trout) before I reached a point where the river slows down to an almost total standstill. Here I alighted from the river to walk downstream to the next suitable area. God, it was hot! When I’d been absorbed in fishing, and more importantly catching, I hadn’t noticed it as much, but now I was out on dry land I could feel my neck and arms frying and my clothes sticking to me. Ugh, and in my rush to leave the house that morning I hadn’t even thought to pack a drink. Great. The river bank was also starting to get rather busy with people enjoying the weather now – Wharfedale seems to turn into a scaled down version of Blackpool at the first hint of sunshine, so I decided another hour or so would be worthwhile, then I would make my escape before the crowds of ‘had owt mate?’ folk, well meaning as many of them are, made a safe backcast impossible.

I found an enticing looking vein of dark, swift water overshadowed by ash trees and began to work my way gradually through it on a short line. Suddenly this method was becoming rather appealing. It had a relaxed, leisurely air about it, but it was not dull. It was somehow focused, yet not rushed. And sharp rapping tug of the takes was electrifying. Speaking of which, halfway down this deep channel my line slammed tight and I lifted a bucking, thumping rod into a fish which I immediately and very happily realised was not one of the eager five inchers I’d been catching all morning. In such fast water, a stiffly contested scrap followed, in which I was sure the hook would pull at any given moment. Thankfully it did not, and soon I was holding up a lovely trout of around twelve inches, much to the appreciation of a rather tipsy looking bloke perched clutching a can of lager on the bank behind me. I slipped him back and was rather chuffed – having the faith to persevere with a new method had brought me sport on a day that had started with my hopes at rock bottom. And with that I packed up and headed for the station, spurred on by the prospect of a cold can of coke and a glorious air conditioned train ride. Hey, maybe I’d even be home in time for Jeremy Kyle...
A golden reward on a scorching Yorkshire day.