Thursday, 30 September 2010

A little bit smug

Today I had to pass some time while our truck was having a service and timing belt replaced so we had a drive to Burton upon Trent to my favourite tackle shop. The shop is called Mullarkeys and I can not speak highly enough of the service that I always get from the staff there, specially Roy and Dan, they are both very knowledgeable and nothing is too much trouble for them. I picked up a few sundries for my ever growing fly tying kit, then spent a couple of hours general shopping.
The weather was dry, bright and warm and as soon as I was able, I put on my waders, picked up my rod and waistcoat for a couple more hours fishing the Blithe. For about an hour nothing was happening despite every attempt to raise some interest. I began to think that maybe it was too bright, too warm, or any other excuse that I could think of. Then, about 2:30 pm a six inch grayling very gently took an olive shrimp pattern that I had just put on. For the next forty minutes it was back to square one, nothing, not even a sighting of any fish. I began changing flies and fishing each one for about ten minutes or so, I knew that fish were here, they always are. While fishing a caddis style nymph a small perch gently tugged at it, let go and took it again. Several flies and half hour later a second perch took a swamped daddy long legs pattern.
Hard work, I thought for three small fish, but what was very rewarding was the fact that all fish were caught on patterns that I had tied myself, I had tried commercially tied flies, but not one came up with the goods, I wonder why, the commercial flies certainly looked good and they have caught fish in the past. Who knows? But I couldn't help feeling a just little bit smug.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Low water on the Blithe

The summer months have been a little busy for me, when it comes to blogging that is, but I have had opportunity to go fishing here and there. Whilst in Wales during August and September, I caught my share of brown trout but the majority were quite small. I have to say that the fishing was not easy, the water levels were low and the fish elusive. Unfortunately, now that I have a little more spare time, the trout season is drawing to a close. It was with this in mind that I began to read up a little more on Grayling, I caught a few small ones last winter and I knew that they can provide good sport. I looked at recommended fly patterns and fishing techniques and decided to tie some flies specially for them myself. Of course, I had just about none of the recommended fur or feather to duplicate the patterns so I just tied some with the materials that I had. I suppose that I tied about thirty in total, some nymphs, some dry's and some not so good. This was one of my attempts at a "klinkhammer" style fly. It may not be a very good likeness but it fooled a nice twelve inch grayling on it's first cast onto the water. That was on Monday, one of two fish, the other being a chub which took a "red tag". Both fish were taken in low water at the tail of a deep pool on the Blithe in Staffordshire. The sky was heavily overcast with little or no wind and a temperature of around 14 degrees Celsius. Both takes were very aggressive and shocked me somewhat. I only really fish small rivers and streams and I am often surprised with the size of the fish that they can hold. I am told that Grayling make good eating but I returned this fish as quickly as I could. On Tuesday I went out again, same river, same weather, same time of day 1pm. to 3pm. Of course I tied on the same fly, nothing, not a sign of a fish. I cast upstream and downstream but could raise no interest. After about half an hour I changed my fly for something that would fish a bit deeper, a gold head caddis. I think that I put the bead on the wrong way round but my second 12 inch grayling of the week didn't seem too bothered. It was snatched up from the bottom in some light streamer type weed, cautiously I played the fish until it tired enough to bring over my net. Unfortunately, when tying this fly I forgot to flatten the barb on the hook and it took me longer than I would have liked to remove it from the fish. I have read that grayling can die easily if not returned to the water quickly so I held it facing upstream until it recovered and swam away. I flattened the barb immediately before fishing the fly again. No more fish for the rest of the session despite the fact that I tracked up and down the river searching every likely looking spot.
Again today I went fishing, I tried a number of flies and tactics, but nothing, the nearest that I got to a fish was the sighting of a good sized chub but I think that he saw me from the very clear water and moved away into deeper faster water. Then, the rain came and unlike fish, I am not too fond of cold water running down my back so it was back to the truck to dry out and write up my pleasures.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A natural progression

For one reason or another I have not been able to get out fishing for a week or two, but that is not to say that I don't think about it. If you read my lifestyle blog The Vagabond Trail you will know that I make small leather goods, and recently out of necessity I have begun tying my own flies. It seemed a natural progression that I attempt
to marry the two hobbies in some way, I had some new flies but no space in my fly box. After some thought and a couple of hours, I had made this. There may be room for improvement but it did help to satisfy the need to be with my fishing gear. Inside the pouch, I fixed a piece of high density, closed cell foam, in which to secure the hooks.

All that I need now is the opportunity to put it to a practical test.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Fly fishermen, help me please.

Several days ago we moved from our temporary location in North Wales to a new location in Shropshire. We set up our motor home on a working farm in the heart of this rural county and it was a complete but pleasant surprise to find a small stream ran through the bottom of the field. At the first opportunity I had to take a closer look at this hidden little gem and see if it had anything to offer a novice fly fisherman. I could see that when in spate, this was a very dangerous stretch of water, the banks and water way were strewn with mature fallen trees and limbs. In places the bank was scoured by the flow of water into 8ft sheer walls and there was evidence of much flooding in adjacent fields, but the water was crystal clear with a clean gravel bottom and the depth was anything from a few inches to dark black holes of uncertain depth. In the mid afternoon I spoke with the farmer and quizzed him about the possibility of fishing the stream, to my delight he said it would be fine but the fish were only small, around 6 or 7 inches. "I don't mind that" I told him and he continued to point out the extent of his land in order that I did not trespass.

Several hours later I walked the stretch of water, looking for any "good" spots. I saw no fish and I found nothing that stood out from the rest, but the entire length was full of potential lies. Waist coat on and armed with my 7ft rod and net I climbed over the railings of the eight foot wide road bridge and down onto the bank. I crept no more than ten paces to the first old tree, tucked myself in close to the 3ft trunk and flicked the leader, with a self tied pheasant tail nymph into the water in front of the root. Before I had time to think, my rod was bent around the tree trunk in a tight curve, I had to stand on the wet, mossy roots and push the rod away from me because I was frightened that the rod would get broken on the tree. With my heart thumping, for several minutes I teased and cajoled this fish away from the roots, upstream a little into a small pool of shallow water to the right of the tree and drew it over my net. What a lovely fish, the richest golden brown with red spots that seemed to glow like LED's. As I released it into the upstream flow, I realised that I was trembling with excitement. Fantastic.

Staying in this location for several days, you can imagine that I just had to "fill my boots" and the next day I made my way down stream a little to the first likely looking spot. This time, a fallen bow with much debris dammed upstream against it. I flicked a couple of rod lengths of line down stream with a dry large dark olive fly attached and just as I stopped it, inches short of the debris there was a silvery flash followed by a deep splosh. I cast a second time and in exactly the same spot a repeat performance, but this time my rod bent over as the fish went deep. I knew immediately that this fish was considerably bigger than the last and I began to think that my light tippet was going to fail. For about 30 seconds I tried to persuade this beauty out into slower water then as quickly as it took the fly, it was gone. For the next fifteen minutes I tried to tempt this fish, but of course it was not having any. I really wanted this heavyweight so I changed the fly for a gold ribbed hairs ear, I let it go under the dam of debris and slowly stripped some line, WHACK it hit me again, I could not believe this and once more the battle was on. Again I failed to land the fish, expecting to find the fly missing, but no, it had shed the hook once more. Wounded, I left the river desperate to return. During the course of the next two days I hooked two more good sized fish and failed to land either, on one occasion when the fish shed the hook the fly and line was catapulted up into some low branches for me to untangle.

The reason I ask for help is of course, why did I loose these three fish, after many seconds of tussling and setting the hook quite hard on the third occasion? My flies were on barbed hooks of about size 16. Clearly my technique is not right, should I be using larger hooks for these sizeable fish? Or should I be giving some line and letting the fish run? I didn't give line because of the roots and debris in the water which I am sure would have broken the leader. Please can anyone help, I couldn't cope with such trauma again. Sadly, we have had to leave this site for the time being and at the farmers request I am not at liberty to give the location, he was as surprised as I at the size of the fish in this water that was barely no more than a brook.

A little background information

Over the years, I have tried to get enthusiastic about fishing but I have never really caught the bug. I have coarse fished canals, rivers and lakes and tried shore fishing the sea and despite my love of the outdoors angling just never really hit the spot, I think, I found it too static with long periods of inactivity. There was however, one form of fishing that I longed to try; fly fishing small rivers. It always seemed to me, that it required much skill and stealth and whenever I have been lucky enough to spend a few minutes watching a fly fisherman it has always woken the "Huckleberry Finn" in me. On odd occasions, I would ask anglers that I knew, about fly fishing, I was always told that it was both expensive and difficult.
A couple of years into retirement, and well down the Vagabond Trail we were parked up in Wales, next to a small river, the Afon Dwyfach. I soon learned that it contained trout and once more my interest was awakened. My friend, Andy, a sea fisherman, who was with us gave me much encouragement to give it a go, but of course, we had no fly tackle. A week or so later, whilst mooching around a large car boot sale I bought a fly rod for a fiver and a few days later I picked up a second hand reel and line for a tenner. Well it turns out, that the rod is a 9ft6in #9 and the line was intermediate and not really the ideal set up for my intended use. However, I taught myself to cast with it and tried using it for mackerel before going out and buying some kit that would fish small rivers and streams a little better. So, I now own a couple of 7ft and 7ft 6in #4 weight rods and lines that I put to use as often as possible.
Because of our lifestyle, I meet very few, if any, fly fishermen and so I have to learn everything from books and the Internet etc. never really getting the chance of any friendly tuition. So my progress has been somewhat slow, but to date, I have never been out fishing and returned to the truck wishing that I hadn't bothered.


I have a blog called The Vagabond Trail which is about our life in general. Since taking up fly fishing in May 2009 my interest in the sport has grown, more of my days are spent fishing and I did not want The Vagabond Trail to become a blog about fishing, with that in mind, I decided to keep a seperate blog about my fly fishing experiences and frustrations. So here goes..............