Photograph by Steve Barnett

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Those Three Basic Principles Again (and Again)

Today was a beautiful sunny one with just enough occasional cloud cover and breezes to prevent your faithful blogger and his dog from overheating.  We walked downriver for a mile or so with the intention of fishing our way slowly back up and eventually home for tea.

Our first interlude was to be on the delightful Ogden Island where the careful approach nearly always leads to success.  It is more difficult these days to get to the bottom of this mini-beat as the path round the back and away from the fish is no more.  We now have to carefully hide ourselves as we pass by right next to where we intend to fish on the return leg upstream.

Having reached the bottom end it was a case of "Observing", "Being Stealthy" and then "Fishing Where the Fish Are".  The policy worked well, of course it always does and some fine sport was had as soon as the Hair Wing Mayfly had been removed and a fake of the small olives that were being eaten was carefully tied on. 

A sunny day, with olives on the fishes' menu, inspires your blogger to choose the Kite's Imperial (Variant) over the equally excellent Grey Duster (preferred on dull days) and it was certainly sunny enough today.

The fish rose steadily and it was a small matter to catch one from each pool on the way back up to the little footbridge and back to the main river 

One particular run was too difficult for a mere Regular Rod as the clawing fingers of overhanging alder just would not allow the line and fly to get under.  Fair enough!  Someone, with more ability, will reach those fish one day and merit will be rewarded.  That is how it should be on a river.  Many are called but few are chosen...

After Ogden Island it was a matter of walking in as straight a line as possible down past Elliott Holme Wood to enjoy that lovely tangle shewn in a previous post.

On the way there, a couple of anglers were hard at it!  Standing over the fish and casting repeatedly is not a good plan on this river...  One chap came over to exchange pleasantries.  He had fished this water for fifty years and averred that it seemed harder these days, but it was probably old age that had something to do with it.  My reply was that it certainly gets harder to creep and crawl as each year passes.  The hint was there but probably missed.  Frankly, I cannot catch any fish at all if they are aware of my presence.  Those three basic principles are the only way to earn satisfaction and success.

So please, do hide yourself, observe what the fish are feeding on, and fish where the fish are!  You will never regret it...

It will soon be time for festivities with the Drake.  Plenty around today but only one was observed being eaten!

Regular Rod

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Last Fish

This story is true and I'm only telling it now because of a recent, poignant post about getting old, from a blogger whom I respect...  

Some years ago now, I met a very nice old chap, George and over time we became friends.  He was a wonderful old man who fought in WWII for King and Country, in tanks, and became a judge in civilian life until he retired.    I learned from him that he used to love going fly fishing but lamented that his legs were no good on rough ground so he had given up his beloved sport.  I knew a place where the river bank was as smooth as a garden lawn and the fish were abundant.  So I persuaded him to come with me for a few hours.

On the Autumn day appointed we arrived and there were fish rising nicely.  He managed well leaning on his walking stick with his left hand and casting with his right.  Through the morning many fish came to his fly but he was out of practice and couldn't connect with them.  At luncheon I apologised that he had not yet managed to catch a fish.  He wouldn't have any of that.  "Goodness me, I haven't seen a river for three years.  This place is glorious.  It's a joy to be here regardless of catching any fish!"

After our meal I took him upriver to another spot where he wouldn't be able to wander but he could stand behind a thick hazel bush unseen by the trout and make his cast.  First cast a fish seized his fly and my pal connected well.  I was delighted (and relieved) to land it for him. 

Just then another friend arrived with a new camera and was in time to photograph us with the trout.  "Do you want to keep him George?"  "No!  Put him back please."  So back went the trout and we went back home.

With his confidence boosted, George agreed that we should make another trip the following year. 

It was not to be.  That winter George was victim to a stroke.  He worked hard at getting back to normal.  He was a pretty strong cruciverbalist.  He lost none of his skill.  His faculties were in order but his body was not completely his to control anymore.  All that summer, fishing trips together were joyfully planned and anticipated and then sadly cancelled.  George was summoned from this sublunary abode before he could fish again.  That trout in the picture was his last fish.

Please miss no opportunities to enjoy doing the things you love...

Regular Rod

Seasonal Changeability

We are experiencing a slow start to what we euphemistically call "Spring" round here.  Each day seems to give us moments of promising sunshine, but for the majority of the daytime the cold winds and mainly heavy clouds have kept things dull and cold for anyone not wearing some insulating layers.  It has had an effect on the flies and on the fish.  There is good sport to be had all the same if you stay alert to the changes throughout the day, as well as hanging around as dusk approaches because even in cold conditions some flies will be there and sometimes the fish are happy to feed on into dark.

This Saturday your blogger and Henry his pal took a casual couple of miles down to Duck Holds Wood.  There had been hawthorn flies in abundance over the previous two weeks but on this Saturday morning there were very few to be seen and none were crashing onto the water.  Nevertheless, trout seem to be aware by now that black flies on the surface make good meals but these flies have to be grabbed quickly as they have a tendency to recover their powers of flight and get away so... they hit them and they hit them quite hard.  So a Charles Cotton's Black Fly was put to the test.  The technique was to simply sit down next to the river where it was possible to watch the feed lanes for rises or signs of fish. 

"What's happening?" Henry seems to say when, after a few minutes sitting, there are still no casts being made.  All is forgiven though as soon as he sees the rod arching over into its battle curve...

After a few hours it was time to start fishing our way up river back to Bakewell and home.  As we went along things changed.  For a start the light became quite dull.  The wind changed to NNE.  It was strong and cold.  Then in the feed lanes there were rises.  Closer examination confirmed that there were flies appearing, the fish were keen on them and so were the swifts, swallows and sand martins!  Sure enough they were that little foul weather friend of birds and fish, the Iron Blue Dun.  Now do you remember me saying that you must have a suitable fake for these when they put in an appearance or the chances of success will be greatly reduced?  I was sure I had some in my box but couldn't find them.  I hadn't stocked up before coming out!  Fortunately there was a battered example in the hat band and the fish didn't seem to mind its less than perfect condition.  So, as the cold breezes did their worst, the change was made and the sport continued nicely for another hour or so, before it really was time to go home.

On the way back, seeing Henry among the King Cups (sometimes called "Marsh Marigolds") was too good a photo opportunity to miss.  Roll on summertime.

Click the pictures if you want a closer look.

Regular Rod

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Flood Giveth And the Flood Taketh Away

Remember this wonderful thatch from last year?  A brilliant hidey hole given by the flood.

Well here it is after the most recent flood...

The Flood Taketh Away...  Ah well, not every thing turns out the way we expect, but look here, just a few yards upstream!

The Flood Giveth!!!  An entire alder tree complete with root ball and a little of the promontory that it used to stand on!  Every single pocket behind this amazing gift of Nature has a trout in it.  This large woody debris has delivered half a dozen or more little feed lanes and the fish love it. 

Throughout the beat the fish also loved the Grannom, for about three hours, today.  It was a joy to witness and the Fresh Grannom proved most acceptable to the rising fish. 

Even battered and a little torn the fly kept convincing them that it was another of the flies they were feeding on.  It was a boost to the ego that the fly worked so well.

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with Henry and his love of working.  He was his usual self today bringing me a fine collection of balls that The Flood Giveth.  Imagine the astonishment of your blogger when Henry arrived carrying a very dirty neoprene pouch with the legend "HARDY" on it and a loaded fly reel inside it of the same brand!

The Flood had certainly Taken Away for some unfortunate fly fisher!  One can only imagine the horror and disappointment of losing such a treasure.  Never mind, thanks to Henry it can now be returned to its rightful owner.  If this pouch contains your reel, simply drop me an email and let's get it back to you.

Who's a clever boy then?

At this part of the season, it is worth going out for the two hours before and the two hours after noon.  Just keep your eyes open for the Grannom, they only have a short season...

Regular Rod

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Opening Day - Peacock Fly Fishing Club - Haddon Estate - Derbyshire - England...

A solitary sport like fly fishing means we may hardly ever meet our fellows, let's face it, not everyone wants to meet others whilst actually fishing.  The Peacock Fly Fishing Club invited all members to meet for an opening day breakfast at the Baden Powell Fishing Hut, which is perfectly placed on the right bank of the river Derwent in the Haddon Estate.  It was a chance for us to meet and wish each other well.  Henry was happy to help in disposing a little of the splendid breakfast and your faithful, although absent of late, blogger was very happy to beat Henry to the bacon, egg and black pudding.  It was comforting to be so well set up for the first few quiet hours of the new season, on a favourite tributary of the mother river, the Derbyshire Wye.

The Haddon Estate is a wonderful thing.  Nothing in this world is perfect but much of the way this place is run is very near perfection.  It's almost ancient history now how the river keeper, with the blessing of the owner, revolutionised the fishery as the first commercial operation to rely entirely on wild fish to satisfy its anglers.  The project worked amazingly well and, as an angler here since 1969, your blogger can vouch that there are now many more fish, in a greater variety of sizes and the biggest are now very big indeed, with a few gaining such ascendancy that they weigh in the teens of pounds and match Henry for length if not girth.  There are other excellences about this estate that maybe do not get the headlines that the fishery earns.  How about this?

Snake's Head Fritillary

Snake's Head Fritillary
This delicate, vulnerable, wild flower is now rare.  England has lost 97% of its wild flower meadows since 1948.  Once common enough to be collected and sold in Covent Garden, in the wild, Snakes Head Fritillaries now only occur where the landowner has neither drained the meadows, nor fertilised them, nor changed them into monoculture silage and haylage fields.  These places are few and far between.  Haddon Estate is one of them.  Imagine the delight of finding these this morning, on the walk down to the bottom of the beat.  What a great way to start the season.

The fishing wasn't an anti-climax either.  Here's the first.

First of 2017

Tenth of 2017
Above is the tenth.  The photograph does not do it justice.  A beautiful "red" trout, typical of this stream. Any fish after this would certainly have been an anti-climax so the decision was made to head for home and tea.

The water had been as clear as gin.  The wind kept the angler honest.  The flies were abundant during any spell of sunshine and the fish were happy to eat them on the surface.  Days like today remind me how lucky I am to be an angler...

Here's a little puzzle.  In this picture, notice the tree is potentially a hazard whilst casting, especially on a day of breezes.  It's no good settling in down river to make a long cast upriver, as there is a chute of fast water here on the right.  That fast current will whip your fly line down in no time and your fly will be a helpless water skier, frightening all the fish in the vicinity.  The remedy is simply to sneak in to the tree and sit next to its trunk on the upstream side.  You won't tangle in the tree because you will side cast under the branches and you are far enough away from the fast water to keep your fly line nicely under control.

Fritillaries in the meadow, King Cups in the margins, Henry in everywhere and everything...

Here's wishing you all a wonderful 2017 fishing season.

Regular Rod

Sunday, 1 January 2017

January 2017? My Word How Time Flies...

Winter is a quiet time of year for the dry fly fisher in the Northern Hemisphere.  You may recall from earlier posts that your time now is best spent on securing some fishing for yourselves to enjoy when the season starts again.  Other worthwhile investments in your time include stocking your fly box in readiness and (a particular favourite) reconnaissance.
A typical Henry Haul from the river.  It even includes a Duck (yellow plastic duck that is)
Henry enjoys reconnaissance too.  He enjoys his winters working on shooting days and it must be admitted your blogger enjoys these days out together too.  On non-shooting days Henry continues to work when we nosey round the riverside.  His instincts are to always be investigating and retrieving things he believes may be of interest to me.

Well here’s hoping you all enjoy great success on your fishing forays through 2017.  It is not a New Year’s Resolution, but more blog posts can be expected through this year than of late.

Happy New Year to you all. 

Regular Rod

Monday, 4 July 2016

Happy Fourth of July!

240 years old, that's a lot of candles.  Here's hoping all the readers of this blog in America have a grand day and celebrate with some dry fly fishing if you can...

Regular Rod

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Sixtieth Anniversary - A Quiet Celebration

Sixty years ago to this very day, your faithful blogger was taken fishing for the first time with a "proper" rod and reel, instead of a stickleback net, or a garden cane, cotton and bent pin. 

The method was float fishing and the bait was maggots and worms.  The quarry were "coarse" fish.  "Coarse" is a silly name we English give to fish without adipose fins.  There is nothing "coarse" about these fish.  They include some of the most beautiful fish on the planet.

The young tyro was being introduced to the art of angling by his paternal grandfather and the method was known in those days as "Sheffield Style".  "Sheffield Style" means fishing with very fine line, tiny hooks and floats that need very little shot to cock them.    Coarse anglers had distinguishable, regional styles of fishing in those days and you can find out more of this phenomenon by reading the book "Fishing. British Sports Past and Present" by Bernard Venables, Published by B T Batsford Ltd, in 1953.

Today I was the lucky guest of a very good friend on a private estate lake and the method used was exactly as it had been on 16th June 1956.  Grandad would have been familiar with every aspect.  He would have certainly been familiar with HIS Speedia centre pin reel that was being put to use on this special occasion...

All went well.  The first fish was a roach, the next seven were perch, the ninth was a rudd and two more perch finished the day nicely.  The landing net was needed for just one fish, exactly as it had been sixty years earlier.  The net would have been unfamiliar to Grandad as modern knitted pan bottomed nets had yet to be invented in 1956.

It was a good day, in despite of the rain, and it was a pleasant change to be watching a float instead of a dry fly.  A change is said to be as good as a rest, in this instance it was much better than a rest!

Regular Rod

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Mayfly - Time and Place

These first (poor quality) video snippets are of female adult mayflies returning to the river Lathkill (a very important tributary  of the Derbyshire Wye) to lay their eggs.  They are doing this from 4:00 pm onwards...

This second pair of (poor quality) video snippets are from the Derbyshire Wye the day after.  They are of male adult mayflies dancing to attract mates.  Most of the females are yet to have their eggs fertilised.  The main egg laying activity for the mayflies on this river begins at least an hour later.

Do you remember this post from My 2012?  On that day things started much earlier on Hampshire's river Anton...

Get to know your river and it's own timekeeping.  Over the years such knowledge will pay you back handsomely, again and again.

Regular Rod

Thursday, 2 June 2016


Arrived at the water and begun fishing, the rewards of our glorious sport soon became manifest.  The fish had taken a second remove at their dining by almost instantly changing over to snaffling newly appeared Iron Blue Dun, in preference to the Drake which were still fluttering about.  One wild brown trout had such a remarkably coloured adipose fin that a photograph just had to be made for a memento, before moving on.

Sport was brisk with a fish being caught at every station attempted.  Wondering over the little bridge that links the right bank onto Ogden Island and making for a favourite place to peep through a gap in the fleur-de-lys in the search for rising trout, something was noticed that meant fishing would have to stop for half an hour or so. 

Duty called!

Some of you may be aware that the British Isles are infested with Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS).  Among the foremost of these is Himalayan Balsam.  You may recall this previous blogpost about it. We anglers have a duty to prevent this stuff spreading.  We can do this by ensuring we don't become vectors of its seeds AND by pulling it up when and where we find it.  It is our DUTY.

Here are the plants growing.

Here they are after pulling and being left with roots exposed for the sun to kill them.

If you find Himalayan Balsam where you fish, do yourself a favour by pulling as much as you can before it flowers and starts pinging seeds all over.  One plant can have several hundred "children" so do your Duty, please...


Friday, 27 May 2016

Gaining Leave To Fish

If you ever get the chance to become a tenant or even an owner of some nice fishing water, it is highly recommended that you find the money somehow and take it on.  Today in Duck Holds Wood, only three furlongs long but big and meandering so you never feel restricted, being alone with Henry was especially joyful.

The dry fly fishing here is very good.  Monsters are rare but the numbers of "lesser" fish are such that, now May is with us properly, one couldn't imagine failing to catch a few nice wild brown and wild rainbow trout.  Whilst setting up the rod a drake landed on Henry's head for an instant.  Your blogger took the hint and put on a Hair Winged Mayfly (HWM) to begin proceedings.

Seated on a silted gravel bed, peering contre jour up river at the Bridge Weir Pool it was clear that mayflies were coming off the water and some were being eaten by the trout.  First cast proved the fly was a good choice and here was this year's first fish on the mayfly for your faithful correspondent.

Not a monster but perfect nonetheless and a joy to behold.  Henry was his usual concerned self that the fish had "escaped" mysteriously after it had clearly been safely trapped in the net.  "How and why does this happen every time?" he must wonder...

The only "skills" needed today were stealth, some quiet, contemplative observation and a few careful casts to "where the fish are". 

There was one fish, however, that defied all attempts to trick it.  Its lair was so well protected by clawing fingers of vegetation that every cast missed completely or was momentarily caught up in the twigs above.  Never mind, it was great to see a boss fish in a boss place.  Next time I will remember the camera and a polarizing filter.  The telephone, although remarkable for a 'phone, is just not as capable as a good camera would have been,

Don't let anything get in the way of your fishing in the next four or five weeks!

Regular Rod

Thursday, 12 May 2016

This Year for 12th May Think 20th April...

The season really is three weeks behind its usual self for development.  Fly life is still at April proportions. All is not lost though.  We still manage to trick a fish or two in most Aprils so there is sport to be enjoyed although not yet at the volume we normally expect in the second week of May.

Today was almost perfect for your faithful blogger.  The morning was spent cycling with a good friend and the afternoon was spent dry fly fishing with another good friend, Henry.

Hawthorn flies are around and in the brisk winds, some are being ditched in the drink and the trout are waking up to these shiny black victuals. 

One spot that is always worth a look had been visited already this day.  Judging by the footprints I believe the angler had stood up to fish.  So... it seemed worth trying the place again but fishing it as you would expect. 

The sun was ready to cast a shadow just where it was not wanted so stealth was used to creep unseen by the fish into position and SIT DOWN.  The rises were observed and so it was a simple matter to fish where the fish are and catch a couple.

A lovely day all round and it will get better over the next couple of weeks.  The season will catch up with itself.  It always does.

Don't forget to click the pictures if you would like a closer look.

Regular Rod

Monday, 18 April 2016

"Please keep us posted if you see any spawning action"

"Will do!" was my reply. 

Jack Perks the wildlife photographer and underwater movie maker wants to feature grayling spawning.  The river keepers on Haddon Estate are keen to help him so Warren sent me an email "Please keep us posted if you see any spawning action".  The request is a massive compliment, paying tribute to the time your faithful blogger spends (invests!) beside the local rivers.  Anyway the swollen head must have settled back down to normal size by this morning as the fishing hat still fitted it...

Today, being Sunday, a visit to the undisturbed private waters of the Derbyshire Wye in Duck Holds Wood seemed like a good idea.  Henry came along.  He hasn't been there since September but he knew exactly where we were and where we often stop together to trick a fish or two.  If we were moving he'd go a little way in front and then sit patiently waiting until his angler arrived to sit with him.  He's almost a four legged fishing guide!

Patiently Waiting!

Impatiently Watching! 
A fish had just risen by that trailing branch and his angler has not caught it yet...
The new attempt at the "Fresh Grannom" was put to good use as the Grannom fortnight is still with us although it will surely be over by next Sunday.  The first cast brought a very fine brown trout, bathed in gold, to the fly, but your correspondent was unready and failed to set the hook.  The trout did not make the same mistake twice!  A couple of small wild rainbow trout were early visitors to the landing net but from then on it was a wild brown trout day, as it should be so early in the season.
A Rise!

Did You See That?  There WAS a rise!
At the place where there used to be the old Duck Hold, from which this wooded fishery gets its name, there is a well scoured, long fall of bright gravel.  On this gravel the grayling were very busy.  Careful not to risk disturbing them, a quick 'phone call to Warren brought him round to confirm this was "spawning action" and they were indeed grayling.  Jack Perks will be invited over very soon.
Oh do you want me to move for a photograph of the Grayling Redd?

Okay!  I'll move then...
After Warren left us, the rest of the day was spent fishing and walking our way back up river to Bakewell, where dinner was waiting...

Regular Rod

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Learning About the Grannom

What a bonus this fly is in a cold April!  Your blogger is not as well acquainted with the Grannom as he is with the other flies of the Derbyshire rivers.  Whenever it has been the trigger for spectacular sport in the past this was as a most fortunate guest of pals on the Yorkshire rivers during their "Grannom Fortnights" in Aprils past.  It is just possible to count on the fingers of both hands how many of those weeks have been enjoyed by your faithful correspondent up on those boisterous free-stone rivers.  The Grannom has hardly figured on the mother river the Derbyshire Wye...

That is until recent years, which have seen this fly appearing on the Derwent and the Wye in greater and greater numbers and the fish have noticed!  Historically on the Derbyshire Wye's lower reaches the Grannom was of no direct import to the dry fly angler because the season didn't begin until May 15th.  The Grannom is over and done with by the end of April.

It's a fly that actually changes colour as it flies away from the water.  It emerges with quite a green body and with dun coloured wings.  Catch one on the surface and you will see.  Catch one a few minutes later when it is on land and the green has turned to an ashy tan and the wings are a cold dark brown.  Copy the later fly and cast it at fish taking freshly emerged Grannom and you will fluke a fish or two.  This is what your blogger used to do as the Double Badger was pressed into service when the Grannom had been identified ON LAND...

It was only after scooping one out of the water, by trapping it in the hairs on the back of the hand, that the colour difference was noted.  A loud and clear signal to get back to the vice and prepare something more like the newly emerged colouring.

You are already aware that your blogger prefers a ragged style of fly for fakes of the sedge (caddis) flies.  The anatomy of the Nondescript Sedge (NDS) was therefore chosen as the basis for the fresh attempt at a fresh fake of the Fresh Grannom.

Here is the Step-By-Step for tying the "Fresh Grannom".

Pinch out three equal amounts of Highland Green, Green Olive and Lime Green DRF dubbing (this is Seal's Fur but not essential)
Mingle them together thoroughly
Collect the rest of the materials: Thick Black Thread; Size 14 LS Hooks; Dun Cock Hackles; Deer Hair; the mingled Green Dubbing.
Start at the bend and run on a bed of the thread to the point where the front of the body will be.
Dub on sufficient dubbing to make the body
Wind on the body down to the bend as shewn and rib it through to the front with open ribbing turns of the thread.  Carry on with the thread to make a bed for the wing to adhere to.

Tear off enough Deer Hair to make a straggly wing and tie it in with three tight turns.  Trim the wing roots to a taper.
Using the brush in the cap of some Sally Hansen Hard As Nails nail polish, stipple a good dollop into the trimmed roots of the wing and wind the thread tightly to the front just behind the eye.

Strip off the waste fibres at the root end of a Dun Cock Hackle and, with the concave side towards you, tie it in tightly into the still moist nail polish (or tying cement) finishing at the base of the wing.
Wind the hackle 6 to 8 turns back to the base of the wing.  Catch it in with the thread and quickly wind the thread through the hackle back to the very front of the fly just behind the hook eye.   Tweak off both waste ends of the hackle.  Make a whip finish and lacquer the head, remembering to clear the eye before it dries.  Voila!  The "Fresh Grannom"!

So far, during a hatch of Grannom, it seems to be working better than my browner fakes used to do.  The results are better than the flukes experienced before.

I hope it works for you too!

Regular Rod