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

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Books that every fisherman should have. Part 1

This book has been my favourite for the past few years.   Within its covers, there is a wealth of intelligent observation, which he complements by analysing some of the unproven myths that many of us have generally accepted and passed onto each other over the years.   Unafraid of challenging head on established dogma, Wyatt is able to pepper his American(but he’s Canadian) style phraseology with original dry humour and wit.  I enjoy his forensic dismantling of fishing scenarios that I’ve also encountered and I’ve employed some of his tactics successfully.  Of particular interest is the rationale for design and use of the Deer Hair Emerger.  Good fly pictures, disappointed that many more are in Black and White.  A must have book.

You cannot consider yourself to be a serious tyer of flies without this book close to hand.  And in turning the pages, you quickly become aware of the limitations of your tying skills.  Expensive, undoubtedly, and some of its explanations are atypically American worded, so you have to re read them to fully understand, but the excellent step by step pictures on every  technique imaginable, – and there are more than you’d ever beleive existed.  This book provides you with the details of how to set about tying any kind of flies, for any kind of fishing destination in the world.  Should I ever be washed up on a Desert Island, then this is the book that I’d want, together with a huge chest of materials and tools, to be washed up on the shore beside me.  Enough content to keep you absorbed for years.

A fishing life we'd all aspire to

An almost romantic love of living alongside a Chalkstream he’s blessed with fishing, the subtext of which is an enviable, much sought after lifestyle.  An easy raconteur who’s accounts of everyday and special day encounters with his river, fish, and the characters that formed part of the fishing fortunate on this picturesque and famous river.  Maybe a book for the nostalgics, but delightfully littered in margins and headings with pencil drawings of flies and scenes of the chapter and month of the year. 

I doubt if there are many fly tyers who do not have this handy pocket sized book somewhere close to hand when they are tying.  In parts it is a little difficult to follow in the structure of its layout.  Whilst highly informative, whenever I refer back to it, I always find myself wishing that  that some of the photographs and illustrations had been better and larger, there is an amateur feel to them, but I think this was probably dictated by publishing costs, and also prevented by its chosen format.  It is a text book that steers the populist side of entomology.   Possibly ‘the’ reference source for fly identification prior to fly tying in the UK, not always easy to find and follow individual stages of fly life, but I wouldn’t be without it even if the spine of it has been cracking and pages coming loose since I first purchased it.   

This book can destroy your sanity. It should be read only if you’re absolutely satisfied with living in the UK doing your everyday fishing.   To the less secure, this book will have you reaching for luggage bags and a variety of rods whilst googling the places he fishes.  A successful writer and film producter who has too much talent to call upon, evidenced here as an accomplished writer able to evoke a sense of his younger days with some excellent fishing destinations.   His ability to use the English language in such a subtle and yet powerful way is a master class of communication.  If you have only one book token, – this is the book.

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.