Sunday, 31 March 2013

Time to start tying my own...

The current extent of my fly tying gear: a crap vice, substandard tools, thread, a handful of beads and  some scraps of pheasant tail. A few purchases in order then...

Over the last few months I've been finding it harder and harder to justify to myself why I don't tie my own flies. It really doesn't make any sense, and I suppose I've finally come to accept it's down to laziness and/or a lack of willing to learn - not traits I want to transfer into the rest of my fishing, that's for sure!

The advantages of tying your own are undeniable once you get the hang of it. You can create flies for any situation whenever you need them, you can make tweaks to the style/weight etc. of patterns rather than being stuck with the 'get what you're given' approach of big fly dealers (some professional fly dressers are excellent though), and most importantly from my perspective, you can create more flies for less cash.

One of my rare, hamfisted attempts at a nymph. Some practice needed!

So, no more excuses. Time to start learning. I've purchased a few bits and bats to bulk out my currently rather sorry looking tying armoury, and hopefully they'll be with me later in the week. I figured I'd start off with some pheasant tail nymphs and other weighted patterns since they come across as the most straightforward river flies to knock up, plus a large amount of my fishing at the moment involves shortline nymphing and duo techniques, so the more choices I put in my box the better. Once I've got the hang of that, I'll start tinkering with the more fiddly wets and dries.

I'll keep you all posted with how things go!


Reverb: Fly Fishing and Punk Collide (a film review, inexplicably masquerading as musings about music, emotions and growing up...)

Outside of the world of fly fishing I suppose that I'm something of a - and I really hate to use the expression - 'music fan'. Ugh, just the sight of the phrase on the screen in front of me makes me feel bilious for a plethora of reasons far too petty and off-topic to grumble about here, but nevertheless it's the simplest way of putting it. Let's just summarise the potential book's worth of drivel (I really could babble for hours, but this is hardly the place or the audience) by saying I likes me a bit o' music. My sphere of interest encompasses anything from classical to ska, metal to celtic and, in some extreme cases, dubstep. From a fairly young age though I've been particularly taken with punk music - something about the whole 'young, stupid and pissed off about... well, we're not too sure' vibe always appealed to me on a level that other genres never quite managed. It can be angry, aggressive, erratic, but at the same time retains a carefree, youthful energy which is perhaps lacking in my staple diet of death and thrash metal. Punk never gets too serious, and when you're a kid (hark the wisdom of the man of nineteen summers) what is there to be serious about? Nothing. To be honest, if, as I nose my way out of the nursery stream into the raging torrent of adult life, I ever start to take things too seriously, if I lose that feeling of inner punk, It'll feel like I've gone very wrong somewhere down the line.
"Yeah yeah, you're a punk fan, we get it. Now stop being such a tooth-aching sycophant and get to the point."
Apologies, reader, but it's a genuinely emotive subject for me! You'll sooner see me getting dewy eyed listening to a favourite album rediscovered in a forgotten attic box than over the predictable 'reunited against all the odds' scene you see at the end of every film ever. My girlfriend has pointed out to me on a number of occasions that I can be an insensitive git to be with in the cinema, as it happens. But yes, sorry, my point...

Pegboy, formed in Chicago in the early 90s, have grown to become a favourite band of mine since I stumbled across them on one of my regular trawls through the darkest recesses of Youtube a year or two ago. I've also been a follower for some time of a chap called Robert Thompson, who runs the site Third Year Fly Fisher. He used to put up monthly blog-type videos of his fishing exploits interspersed with nice compilations of footage. In the last couple of years though he's started making longer films, good ones at that. So, imagine my surprise when the trailer below popped up!

"Reverb" fly fishing trailer - Youtube
(sorry I couldn't embed the vid to make it easier - Blogger decided I could have anything, just not this)

Yep, it would appear Pegboy (or at least half of Pegboy plus their pal Herb from Rights Of The Accused) are fly fishers. Fate? Well I don't believe in that crap, but a happy coincidence at least. I emailed Robert and asked about getting hold of a copy. I was given a price, and it was in the post the next day. It arrived surprisingly quickly actually - only a week, which from the States isn't bad.

So, how was it? Well, for me? Fantastic, but that could be the 'music fan' (again... just no) in me talking. It's really a documentary about the band tied together by fly fishing, but there's plenty there to please the angling eye, with wonderful shots of small stream brown and brook trout fishing. Reverb is actually only an extra on the DVD of Robert's film 'Heart of The Driftless' which takes a more full on, and again excellent look at the same streams in the Driftless area in the upper American Midwest, and even if the whole punk thing doesn't float your boat, HOTD is worth the price all on its own.

What really struck a chord with me in Reverb, though, more than the fishing, more than the music, was actually seeing Larry and Joe now as forty-somethings looking back on their career. Quite a shock at first when you're used to the angry young guys from the music videos. The fact was though, as much as time had passed and they'd changed as people, the spark was still there. As soon as they jump up on stage the youth bursts back out, and so it does when they're together chasing trout. This brings me full circle, back to my thoughts at the start of this post - a post which has turned out to be a hell of a lot longer than I was expecting, might I add! Punk spirit. Never take anything too seriously, never lose your playful side. In a little over a month I turn twenty. I can hear your laughter, but shit, twenty! Somehow for the first time it just feels like a proper number, no more messing about. Double that and you're forty. Presuming I make it to forty, where will I be? Life gets more serious the older you get. The miserable bastards on the trains at rush hour are testament to that. Will my inner punk be squashed out of me by taxes, bills and bairns? So long as I keep a fly rod close at hand and a good river nearby, I think it'll survive. As I've said, it's all about not taking things too seriously, and as much as you can concentrate hard with fishing - apply all your wit to it, hone your skills - you can never start to take it too seriously. Where would the fun in that be? No matter what happens, even if I have to sell all my CDs to pay the rent, I'll always be able to keep the inner punk hidden away in there somewhere, and let him loose to swear at tangled leaders and curse fly-snatching branches.

Play me out, guys!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Staying Positive.

Ullswater can be a stunning place, as this February snap shows...
The Cumbrian trout season opened last Friday, and true to form when I arrived on the banks of Ullswater (sort of my local when I'm up here) at around 7 a.m. I was met with a mixture of sleet, rain and a howling wind... yeah. Not ideal. But March is an unpredictable time of year and you simply have to make the best of the conditions you're faced with. At least that's the way I rationalised it in my head as I rigged up my rod, gritting my teeth in the icy spring air. A legered worm was the method for the day - the fly seemed pointless given the conditions, and really I only planned to fish a couple of hours to appease the gods of the water. I punched my bait out hard to reach deeper water, set the rod down and began my long, chilly vigil.

Come opening day, conditions weren't so pleasant - I took this shot during a rare break in the wind and sleet.
The depressing thing about fishing a long ribbon lake like Ullswater in bad weather is that you can see the next squall or snow flurry coming from upwind about 5 minutes before it hits you. It's useful in the sense that it gives you time to wrap up and prepare, but it taints even the sunniest spell with a sense of futility as all too soon you see the next wall of black cloud bearing down on you. In normal circumstances this just adds to the drama of the place, but on a cold, biteless March morning it saps one's morale at a rate that cannot be stemmed even by the liberal application of tea, whisky and cigarettes. Today was certainly one of those days, and it wasn't long before I grew weary of the site of my stubbornly static rod tip. I couldn't believe when I checked the time that it was barely past 8 a.m.. A bus was due shortly and I was sorely tempted to catch it, but I talked myself around - a couple more hours, make the trip worth it at least. Stay positive. Rebait, recast, keep hoping. Stay positive. Turn your back to the wind (and was that hail now?). Pull down the hat. Turn up the collar. And for God's sake, stay positive.

Still time dragged on in this manner as I refused to accept the likelihood of an opening day blank. Surely there had to be something out there looking for a spot of breakfast? I was sure the wind had eased off, and perhaps the temperature had risen a couple of degrees, but maybe that was the contents of my now empty hip flask talking. Still, I could have sworn that I had a rattle on my rod tip just as this change  in conditions was coming about... hmm, perhaps not. I tightened the line and waited. A few minutes passed, then all at once the tip sprang abruptly straight and I struck into a definite solid resistance. Not a leviathan, but after the dismal start to the day, the pulsing of the rod as the trout finned determinedly out in the deeps felt positively miraculous. Soon it was on the bank - a stunning opening day brownie, slim from the winter but wonderfully marked and fin-perfect.

Against the odds: the first of the season.
After performing the necessary (I do like to keep the odd fish, and the first takeable fish of the year tends to find its way to my pan) and stowing the prize safely in my bag I checked my watch - half past nine. Time for another fish before my next bus, maybe? I hooked up a new worm and sent another prospecting cast over the ledge. This time the bait had barely settled before I had another thumping bite, and soon another sprightly, golden trout lay on the bank. Funny what can happen when you force yourself to be positive...

The fruits of a positive mental attitude: a brace of opening day Ullswater trout.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Winter Grayling Fishing (Early February)

I originally meant to post about this trip last month, but once again a combination of mounting University work, trying to think of a dissertation proposal and general laziness set me back. Nevertheless, here I am now, and here's the lowdown...

At the start of February I popped home for my girlfriend's birthday, and having squirmed my way back into the good books I managed to cadge a lift down to the River Wharfe for a  morning chasing ladies, also providing me with a chance to test out my new Contour Roam 2 headcam. There had been a substantial amount of rain, so I opted for the age old Yorkshire tactic of trotted worm. The weather was dire and I'd been expecting to take a bit of a whipping, but to my surprise and delight I had a day of days with 11 gorgeous Grayling up to around a pound and a half. Not bad for a flying two or three hour session! Below are some photos from the day, plus some video footage I shot with the new headcam, hope you enjoy it!

New gadget: the Contour headcam. Takes a wee while to stop feeling self conscious about having it  strapped to the side of your head!

On target with one of the first ladies of the session...

... But bumping into a few of these chaps was unavoidable.

Posing for the camera...

Not all of them were so cooperative!

A decent fish  to finish.

Tight lines,