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;

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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.

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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.

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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.

First Brown Trout of the Season

A strong cold wind gusted and swirled downstream enough to make my eyes water.  In between the heavy but brief rain showers with occasional clattering hail, there were all to brief periods of that beautiful intense  sunlight that highlights the fields and trees in startling vivid spring colour and clarity.

My wife had announced that she was away for the weekend visiting our daughter and grandchildren,  so I was a free man,  Friday to Sunday for fishing –  how good is that ?  Unfortunately it coincided with the BBC’s weather forecaster announcing that this weather pattern was settling in until the end of the month.   Just perfect for my first days fishing I griped.   I didn’t have to go fishing, my wife asked  me to replace the fence around the vegetable garden to keep the rabbits out, – ‘….any time in the next two weeks would be fine…’ she’d called across the yard to me as I loaded my fishing gear in the car.  For a nanosecond I juggled between the two options, fishing won.

I’d have to use a nymph endeavouring to cast a  dry fly on a #5 weight  9’ leader and 3’ of tippet upstream  into this wind is a fools errand, besides,  I had a new Hanak Nymphing 10’ 3# rod I bought in December, from their UK agent, John Emerson of Unique Flies, so come hell or high water, this was going to be its christening.   I chose the three meadows reaches,  very pretty at the end of April early May when wild Irises in yellow and blue peer through the bankside rushes.  The rod was everything I wanted it to be, and despite the wind, I was  able to flick a single nymphs on a long leader quite precisely into specific holes and riffle holes exactly as I wanted, I drew a deep breath and complimented myself.

A satisfying number of small trout under 11” prevented  me from becoming obsessed with the cold water leaking  through my waders and into my crutch.  I moved quickly further along as a number of out of season small grayling found the GRHE particularly attractive.

At one point there were waves coming downstream, which stopped instantly the wind dropped, causing the flat surface to have a  ‘brushed feathering’ effect.  A twitch of the leader and then a momentary steadying, and I lifted into a very lively wild brownie that  made me completely disregard my now cold and sopping wet crutch  inside my waders.

Minutes later, fishing left handed from the TRB to counteract the wind and to prevent disturbing where I wanted to fish,  I had another from the foot of the riffle just over the bright golden gravel.

I brought it gently onto the waters edge bright green vegetation and slipped the nymph out of the scissors, dropping it behind me in the water.

Two clicks with my £15 ebay camera on ‘muppet’ setting,  and then he decided enough was enough,   and with a flick of the tail,   splashed and slipped through the weeds back into the river.  I saw him seemingly sulkily slide into half a metre of water between two rocks and hold his position,  possibly  contemplating what the hell it was he’d just eaten  to cause such an unusual experience, and resolving not to eat one of those kind of nymphs again, I’m quite sure that I saw the words  ‘from now on I’m sticking to Gammarus’,  encapsulated in a bubble of air he emitted before disappearing into deeper water.

Picking the rod up to begin to sorting out the line, I was intending  to move upstream a short distance, but the nymph that casually tossed  behind me only a couple of minutes earlier , had been taken by the current, no more than about15 – 18 feet downstream, just the length of the  leader and a little line extending  from the rod tip.  Possibly, because of  the movement of my boots in the shallows, I’d  disturbed some invertebrates, but as I was passing line between my fingers feeling for the beginning of the leader to examine the nymph, there was a noticeable tightening that became  positive live resistance, and then I was half handlining, trying to get my rod into a manageable position whilst a good fish used the midstream current to slice line away between my fingers.

A sturdy and healthy grayling eventually thrashed and twisted onto the surface.   My chest pack was still wide open, camera precariously balanced on the top, my landing net  had caught in bankside vegetation  retractible retaining cable stretching  at full length,  suddenly released and with some velocity hit me in the back of the head.  Talk about Muldoons Picnic, I grabbed the camera, and took another couple of clicks of the grayling as I pulled it towards me.

If I can, I try to avoid handling fish wherever possible,  however, sometimes , particularly with grayling under 12” this isn’t possible because they continue to flex and contort themselves  right up until the moment you release them.  I removed the hook whilst holding him steady in the current, a few moments recovering and he kicked and slid sideways and forward into the deep pools.

The wet crutch, increasing wind,  and more frequent hail stones made me review my days choices, and I felt that it was quite unreasonable for me to have not put the rabbit fence up.  No complaints, this junkie had had his couple of hours fix and could now temporarily return to civilised society with those not addicted, or  needing to, as John Geirach put it, ‘stand in a river waving a stick’.

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. .