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!