Wylye trout 2014 – first preparations

Isn't this the most alluring Mayfly Emerger you've ever seen ? - Not mine, I've copied and adapted it from an American fly tyer.

Isn’t this the most alluring Mayfly Emerger you’ve ever seen ? – you almost want to bite on it yourself don’t you.  I’ve taken the design from an American fly tyer, scaled and slightly changed components to suit what we can get here, – can’t wait to try it out, roll on May 2014

Am I suffering from some form of insensitive lunacy ? – I’m sat in my fly tying room in Somerset.  Outside it looks as if the end of the world is nigh, – 70mph winds driving rain and sleet sideways across the meadows; trees on many of the side roads to the village are down, and it seems that it hasn’t been properly light for four days.  The Somerset Levels have been flooded since Christmas, where residents have been unable to live in their homes for seven weeks now, further East towards London,  Old Father Thames is flooding his Home Counties neighbours,  David Cameron is on TV wearing wellies standing by a fire engine,  and what is it that I am doing ? – I’m sat tying size #18 and #20 small delicate olive upwing flies, larger emergers, and #14 and #16 buggy nymphs, in readiness for the Summer ! ! –  as I tie, I have an  image loop running through my head, when describing to anyone the River Wylye, clichés are unavoidable.  A classic gently flowing chalkstream, it is mid summer,  countless Swallows and Swifts swoop in to either drink or take flies from the bright babbling ripples, distorting and mixing the colours of wafting bright green melding with the glow of golden gravels.  Currently it is over the banks into the fields for some distance.  I think I need treatment.

I wind a badger hackle parachute,tie in and crinkle, a few fine deer hairs to create the impression of delicate legs, catch in the tips of a couple of CDC feathers and curve them over towards the eye, the side wisps splay out so beguilingly as it curves, one of my essential ‘trigger’ points on emergers;

DSC04657

I’m planning my attack on the river as if it is some kind of warfare, which I think is how I see it, I envisage myself as a sniper.

The tail and schuck are deliberately this colour, if you've ever picked any out while fishing, you'll know what I mean to represent, these are a few wisps of Emu.  The abdomen is tied with a single Turkey biot.

The tail and schuck are deliberately this colour, if you’ve ever picked any out while fishing, you’ll know what I mean to represent, these are a few wisps of Emu. The abdomen is tied with a single Turkey biot.

The Wylye’s lower reaches, and carriers near the stables are my prime areas.  I do most of my fishing here, main river, sluices and ancient hatches, much of this area is akin to jungle warfare, fewer but larger fish, which even spook at cloud movement or if the sun suddenly peeps out.  If I fail here, as I often do, then I’m off to that overhanging willow just above the railway bridge where last summer, from less than four metres away, close in at the margins, a trouts very large head, appeared directly in front of me, under the overhanging fronds,-  slowly, timing its rise to synchronise the gulping down of a hatching, twitching  floundering  ED, – then sinking out of sight, all one smooth continuous movement leaving neither ripple nor splash.  No one would believe me if I told them of the heart stopping  fish like this one that I’ve seen on every reach of this part of the Wylye.   Emergers I’ve tied like these are for him.

DSC04674B

Further upstream from Wilton, there is a narrow arched stone bridge, where a muscular brooding brute of a trout appearing to be in excess of 18” holds to one side of an archway.  I’ve watched him several times for the duration of eating a sandwich and drinking a coffee, – he never moves more than a foot either side, holding just out of the main current.  I’ve begun to think of him as my ‘training fish’.  This is the fish that spurs me into trying to improve my fishing skills, trying to perfect an underhand cast up inside the arch, trying to achieve for the fly to land as close to the inside edge where water meets stone as possible, so that as it comes back towards me, emerging from under the arch with no drag or hint of an unnatural movement  hoping to entice him into making that short open mouthed move before the current swings it away downstream.  I really don’t want to anthropomorphise, but this fish exudes brooding malevolence.  I’ll have him, I just want to have that few seconds of adrenalin fuelled fear as I feel his weight, the fast deep head shaking runs as he attempts to dominate the angle of my rod and test my tippet and knots.  I just want to put my fingers round those shoulders, feel the prick of those needle teeth as I remove the fly, and I want that special lingering moments of looking down, holding him in the current waiting for the kick away – for this fish, it is one of these emergers or maybe this new nymph that will give me that experience this coming season.

DSC04635

Further upstream from this stone bridge is a series of carriers, where a heart  stopping sulky  20” fish resides,  in a narrow piece of water with overgrown banks that you could almost stride across.  He’s hard up against a big Hawthorn root stock that extends out into the water.  This is a one cast fish, no one ever, within half a day will have a second cast at this fish.  Last season I chose to walk and stalk this one fish three or four times.  Only once did I rise him, Just the once, he closely inspected my fly, matching his drift with the fly and current, then I’m sure he sneered at me, hidden amongst the reeds and nettles, before sinking away below the ranunculus.   He’s a real canny one, seemingly tolerating the presence of four or five smaller fish that hang around, a couple of metres behind him.  They are his warning signal;  if anything disturbs them, they shoot upstream towards and past him, then he’s gone in a blink, leaving a very slight swirl of silt drifting and settling in the current.

The poly yarn fibres mixed with tail filaments are to represent the schuck, you can just see the three tail filaments amongst them.  Quite often I colour them with a brown permanent marker.

The poly yarn fibres mixed with tail filaments are to represent the schuck, you can just see the three tail filaments amongst them. Quite often I colour the poly yarn with a brown permanent marker.

Summer 2014 will mark an epoch in the catching of large trout.  I wish, – and yet it is precisely this kind of lunacy, more charitably described as an over developed sense of optimism, –  that makes us  fly fishermen, an unswerving belief that everything will improve and we’ll have better luck tomorrow.

Advertisements

Be careful what you wish for………

DSCF4215
Lest it should slip your minds…..This is what we’re here for
P1030436

A passion for this beautiful, enigmatic and bloody frustrating Chalk Stream.

And why I’m here writing this blog

DSCN3939We’re all involved in trying to catch wild brown trout and grayling, but just stick with me, in this, it is my first returning post, I’ll weave it through not only with references to English Literature, Shakespeare, and modern poets, but also classic philosophy and existentialism – bear with me.
Now, don’t get on my case – I’ve had all your messages. I’m very sorry that I’ve been away, I’ve not just been ignoring the responsibility of writing, (I have been writing other things) my lack of posting was something that was nagging away at every peaceful moment; my absence is probably best explained that after fifty years of fly fishing I found myself unprepared, unceremoniously at something of a cross roads in my fly fishing life, it was a situation that I’d not quite thought through – it wasn’t a crisis, I hadn’t lost my mojo, I was just standing there, rod in hand looking around in bewilderment.

DSCF4420

Did you ever as a child, have the fantasy of being locked in a sweet shop or chocolate factory, able to eat as much as you want without any limits or parental disapproval ?. Well, that was how I found myself. I was fishing regularly through the summer of 2012, but the previous twelve months hadn’t been good. Some very close friends, since childhood either shuffled off their mortal coil, or were gone in the blink of an eye with no warning. Immediate family were blighted with devastating long term illness. An extensively planned fishing holiday was cancelled at three weeks’ notice.
I found myself going through a 21st century equivalent of Hamlets soliloquy, and W. H. Davies poem, Leisure, (‘what is life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’). An English Grammar School Education of the sixties came to the fore, and I was transported to a dusty dull classroom in Manchester, where a fearsome master stood, imbuing it with a deathly silence no one dare break, making us read and understand the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, some of which I now recalled, discovering it had relevance, ‘ find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration’
During 2012, a financial opportunity arose that would enable me to retire, earlier than many hard working people are able to do. The culmination of all these matters coming together meant that I embraced it without too much hesitation. The opportunity of being able to fish, any day, any time, for as long as I wanted was suddenly available to me. After gorging myself for a month without ever breaking my rod down, I stopped dead in my tracks. This endless availability that I’d always dreamed of through my business life was altering the mood of my fishing. It dawned on me that part of the pleasure of fishing, is the looking forward, the anticipation, the planning. Without the structure of a working life, every day becomes the same; I’d find myself travelling to the river just because I could, but without a plan of which reach to fish, or how to fish, that I could do this, ad infinitum, hit me right between the eyes. Trust me on this, – it is a shock.
P1030424

How incredibly, and possibly undeservedly lucky I was, for there really isn’t a better place to be than having good health, sat on the banks of an English Chalk stream, on a summers day, just sitting, watching and listening.

DSCF4251

I kind of got through it, I have been fishing over the past year, but I’ve become far more discerning. I’ve spent much time writing more articles, tying more flies – lots, Shrimps, tubes, templedogs, hairwings for Salmon and Sea Trout, emergers, duns and nymphs for my beautifully cunning wild brownies, and a range of succulent grubby weighted nymphs for the graceful alluring grey and lilac flanked beauties of the Wylye.

sharks-caddis-larva

During all of this, I’ve had plenty of time contemplating what constitutes a good day, and it doesn’t always involve big fish, lots of fish or exotic locations. Keep coming by, – as way of an apology, I’ll post my secret fly for 2014 in the next week or so.

How to catch a wild brown trout – contrast and compare !

I spent a few days in a darkened room recovering after my recent day when fishing on a beautiful stock trout fishery.   A few people made contact to chastise, berate,or abuse me for my attitude to stocked brownies, much was presumptious because they didn’t know me and probably never would.   A brave few tried to explain to me that stock trout were more difficult to catch, and fishing for them was an enigmatic and complex challenge (!) – but overwhelmingly, more people were in agreement with my observations to a lesser or greater extent.

Upon recovery, I ventured out onto the river in between the gales and incessant rain.  I went to a stretch that doesn’t seem as popular with club members, and yet it has yielded some significantly good fish in recent seasons.  The renovation and flow improvement work of recent past couple of seasons has partially matured, and there is half a mile or so of quite variable fishing.  Very deep, unwadeable slow pools, fast shallow riffles over large cobbly stones

whilst on each side there is head high vegetation, thick patches of nettles, genuine thistles, and beautiful greeny purple teasels amongst the variety of other meadow flora up to the waters edge where a metre or more of rushes overtake and provide a serried bariier right along the bankings, growing through soft ground, residual silts and shallow water.  In this picture, you can  just about see the rings,  mid picture, that have been left by a good sized trout, he moved only in a small area, just below the surface, sweeping and mopping up the emerging mayflies,  mostly without hardly breaking the surface, taking them with delicate sips.  The approach was going to be quite difficult, the rushes at the waters edge are rooted deceptively in deep muds dropping quickly into waist deep water.   Getting behind the head height rushes wasn’t the problem, but there is no solid foothold, just the mud and shallow water that would quickly, easily, give out a pressure warning rippling bow wave that would put him down and away.  An upstream twitch wiggling lob of a cast getting surplus line onto the water, and onto the side nearest to me essential, to give five or possibly ten seconds of drag and suspicion free presentation of my emerger.  Before I’d arrived at this point, I’d already lower down the reach, spooked three or four similar  sized trout when making my first cast.  As with those, this was a one cast chance, then I’d have to move up a short distance and begin watching again.

I crab like wriggled and crawled through the undergrowth to the edge of the where the solidity gave way to sloppy wet, this was the difficult bit.  Raising to a raised crouching, casting position took a minute.  I began giggling thinking I must have looked like someone practicing Tai Chi in a bog.  Peering through the rushes, I could just about see him snootily sorting the ones he’d take and those that would be untouched to float downstream and maybe fly.  With a whispering silent prayer I made my cast, instantly looking down to ensure I’d not made a compensatory warning ripple.  Emerger a couple of yards upstream of the trout, then suddenly he switched to his left, and with his nose right under the emerger, gently emitted an air bubble and it disappeared.  I tightened and felt the fast moving weight.  You know when you’ve hooked a good trout.  It goes wherever it wants and you just keep it tight…ish, trying to coax it away from any obstructions and giving an impression of exerting your authority.   As I’d hooked it,  I’d stood fully up, step plunging into the water causing disturbance which I thought would force it upstream into the shallower riffle.  During a short delectable thrill of the fish’s plunges and powerful runs, (not without an underlying  fear of loss)  I don’t think I breathed until I had him coming towards the net.  A couple of last moment plunges and in the net he toppled.

Cheapo camera out of vest pocket, trembling wet slimed fingers, couldn’t remember how to focus it, two pictures with the wrist cord in front of the lens ! – (couldn’t be bothered slipping it on my wrist, concerned about time and returning the fish, thats how I came to drop the last expensive one in the river) and then I was cradling him and feeding my eyes on his immediate camouflage as I submerged him and waited for his break for freedom.  My holding hand could only partially encircle his solid powerful girth.

He didn’t hang about, after five or ten seconds and he robustly lunged away and into the depths.  I guesstimated his weight about three to three and half pounds, (sounds better than 1.5kg) and for his length on the Sturdy Scale this fish should have been much lighter, so the extra weight possibly comes from gorging in the past couple of weeks on Mayflies.

Compared to my previous fishing day, this was a deeply satisfying catch, even if it had been a much smaller fish.  I’d actually had to observe, think, calculate the possibilities, present the appropriate fly, in difficult circumstances to a fish that would have melted away if he’d been momentarily aware of anything in his surroundings being untoward.   Its a fairly safe bet, and I offer my apologies now for the unavoidable characterisation, not one of the chortling chaps who had nonchalantly strolled along the manicured bank of the stocked fishery, waving an expensive rod at the river, occasionally calling to each other, would have caught even the most suicidal of fingerling trout on this river.

Again, to quote one of Bob Wyatts beautiful analogies. (And I hope this doesn’t bring a law suit from his publishers)….. ‘Just to make worthwhile the inevitable indignant comments of elitism and snobbery or differerences of taste, stocked trout fisheries are so badly off plumb, that it isn’t trout fishing at all, it just looks like trout fishing.  Its similar to going out to for a romantic dinner with a woman who you have found to be attractive and interesting, one who you have chatted, wooed and charmed over a period of time before inviting out, against the option of hiring a hooker by the hour.   There may be superficial similarities, and a certain amount of fun may be involved, in one case its a possibility, in the other its an absolute certainty, but the distinction is very important, and its not only a matter of taste.’

Back to the fly tying and crawling through nettles, – I know my place, its the River Wylye, a sinously beautiful but challenging chalk stream populated by some of the most ‘ornery’ and difficult wild trout, some uncatchable, in the South of England.   It isn’t for the faint hearted, nor those with mental image of creels of fat buttery trout, Masochists only need apply.

Flies for the coming Season

Each winter I find myself busy tying new patterns and adapting others, that I’ve seen on other Blogs or in the media.  Currently trying to cut down the new patterns so that a complete box for a season on a Chalkstream is less than two dozen, or, in my case, between forty to sixty patterns ! At the moment I’m intent on having a box full of new Mayfly patterns from nymph through to spinners.

Its a very personal thing tying flies, alone with your own thoughts, background music or radio, intensely focused on the tip of the vice, the hook and the way the pattern is forming in front of you.  I think it should be used as a new dieting method, because I’ve noticed that while I’m doing it, I don’t snack or even have a beer.

The Nymphs are easy to assimilate, this one, is the ever popular Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, it is an easy one to tie, and one that I’ve found to be a deadly pattern, and has taken in the past season or so, superb Grayling and Trout throughout the season.   

 It is one that I’ve copied from Dave Wiltshire, its well worth spending some time looking on his blog, http://www.riverflybox.co.uk/grhenymph.html  for for tying instructions on this and some others of his beautiful patterns.  

Other nymphs will have to be, Pheasant Tail Nymph, Peeping Caddis, Grey Goose, and maybe another half dozen Czech style nymphs with Tungsten bead heads, and a few floating nymphs which on the day when the fish are being ‘picky’ have been a day saver for me.  

Emergers become a little more complex, the universal Klinkhammercould cover most scenarios if I have them in four different thorax colours, mostly I tie them on a size #16.   I’ll also have Caddis Emergers in three or four patterns, essential for those exquisite hot, almost thundery Summer evenings, when, just as the light fades, – larger Trout become less cautious and begin to feed, slashing at them hungrily even if they are dragging in the current, which can be the trigger for them to attack them.   It is during this twilight into darkness, when you often can only guess where your fly is on the water and you instinctively lift into a fish rather than see a specific take.  I try to use the sky reflection in order to be able to assess where my fly is, but more of this in a later posting.   

Mayfly family are crucial for June through to mid August.  Nymph, Emerger, Dun and Spinner, I have some killer patterns for all of these with the trigger points essential to draw fish up.  The patterns have been so successful for me that you have to turn your back on the water when you tie them on otherwise the fish will leap out of the river and take them from your fingers!  I’ll be showing step by steps on detached bodies that are durable and don’t get shredded on the first Trouts teeth.

Here are the basic flies I think I need, there will be more variation later.  If you have any ideas or think any crucial ones have been omitted, please let me know and if I agree I’ll include them and a tying pattern.

Beacon Beige – Grey Duster – Daddy Long Legs – F Fly – Olive CDC Emerger – CDC Sedge – Pale Olive Mayfly – Parachute Adams – Klinkhammer – Mayfly Family – Caddis in CDC and Elk Hair – ParaAdams – SplitWing Olive – Blue Winged Olive – Yellow Duster – Black Gnat – Hawthorn – F Fly – Elk Wing Caddis: 

I’m a fly fisherman and a fly tyer,  but I’ve realised that to properly illustrate this BLOG, I’m going to have to get to grips with some basic photography skills, so bear with me a short while, over the next week or so,  I might be changing some of the pictures as I go through a learning curve, – tolerate the existing ones for the moment.

Let me know if you feel that I’m missing out on a good fish taking fly, I’d be pleased to include it. .