Friday, 8 July 2011


Play has put paid to prose in recent weeks as fine weather has encouraged rods to wave, lines to loop and leaders to unfurl fly to up and feeding trout.

I was reminded of this fact last night whilst standing on the banks of the Wharfe at Kilnsey under ashen skies, the rain palpable and river raring. For once on this occasion I was not fishing, but having being in that neck of the woods earlier in the day on business it seemed foolish not to reward a hard days graft with a pint, grub and leisurely ramble along the part of the water kept by the local angling club of which I am unfortunately not a member!

As I pushed my way through the long grass on the right bank peering into the tea stained torrent running through a leafy avenue of lush vegetation and trees in their mid summer finery, the sky lit up with lightning which was quickly followed by the inexorable roll of thunder. This occurrence in a way caused my mind to kick back to the “Private Fishing No Footpath” sign that I’d selectively turned a blind eye to when first setting off from the pub, the rain that had threatened to fall for so long started to drop in large dollops and it gave the surface of once mirror like pools lively new character.   

As I contemplated this change and my surreptitious infringement of a hallowed angling haven a second bolt of lightning flashed overhead, closer this time, but like an electric leader in the atmosphere etching the surroundings against the sullen skyline. The frequency of the lightning and the increasing transparency of my shirt finally gave me reason to turn on my heels and head back the way in which I came. In fact if truth be told I felt somewhat barmy at having stayed out in the prevailing conditions for so long and at the same time incredibly buoyant from the experience of it all!   

So there we have it, I have many great tales to tell and new experiences to relate from these past few weeks, fortunately I didn’t have to ride the lightning to find the inspiration this time around but last night certainly was enough to give me a friendly jolt back in the direction of the keyboard. Be prepared and watch this space for future posts throughout July!         

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Castaways Curse

Kilnsey Park is a small, friendly, well marketed 2 acre fly fishery that lies some eleven and a half miles to the north of Skipton in the central stretch of Wharfedale. It is regularly stocked all year round with a good head of hard fighting rainbow and brown trout that come in various different weights and sizes making it a bit of a Mecca for moneyed sightseers, fly fishers of all abilities and persuasions, and finally in miserable weather conditions the bearer of the Kilnsey Curse, me.

Now do not let the last part put you off from visiting Kilnsey Park as I do not walk the banks in a ragged robe partially engulfed in fog, wielding the rod of doom with carrion crows to act as my harbingers! In truth my disposition upon arrival is quite the opposite, for I look forward to the promise of an easy days fishing casting everything from the close natural imitation to last years Christmas decorations at these preference free partisans.

You may well be saying at this point words to the effect of hang on so where the hell has this idea of a curse come from? Well allow me to enlighten you affliction free anglers as to my watery woes! Fishing at Kilnsey should in simple terms (as far as plans go) really boil down to a no brain day of stocky bashing with a ridiculous number of fish to each rod come close of play, save in the instances where I am concerned!   

It seems that Robert Burns was very right when he wrote “The best laid schemes o’ mice an men, Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!” for however infrequently I incorporate a visit to this Stillwater into my fishy plans it seems that the day somehow succumbs to a plethora of problems that I rarely experience at any other time when I am out and about fly fishing.

Having never harboured a superstition or Calvinistic belief in my life I am a bit stuck as to how I should set about breaking this curse! Perhaps I need to go and have a word with the two blokes who sit at the table in the cafĂ© in the funny get up chanting over the cutlery and condiments on hand, or perhaps you just need to finish reading this yourself and get up there to see what all the fuss is about, I swear it’s something in the water, possibly the size of the fish…

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Braid Virtues

Lines, lines, lines, sometimes I get to feeling like a teacher tasked with the duty of checking the repetitive dross set for misbehaving prepubescent students when it comes to the inches reserved for tackle reviews in the fishing press. Pardon any rod related puns but tackle talk really does get a caning!

Flash in the pan rant over with, I thought that it would be an interesting exercise to redress the balance a little in this respect and extol the virtues of the often unsung understudy to the flyline we know as backing. Other than sitting on the reel underneath the line, lessening the effects of coiled memory and waiting for the moment when “that” fish will eventually strip your line into the no mans land between earth and sky that we generally refer to as the horizon, you would be forgiven for thinking that it could not serve any other purpose.

Whoa there! Tighten that drag and apply the brakes, I have a couple of suggestions for those near spent spools of high visibility gaudiness languishing in that dust covered box of odds and sods we all keep somewhere…

First and foremost conditions on our northern spate rivers often make sight fishing with a nymph whilst wading difficult, and I know that many anglers in these circumstances (me included) tend to pay more attention to what the tip of the line is doing in its travel downstream on the current whilst the nymph braves its way through the sub surface depths.

Tackle trekkies on the other hand who frequently know better than us when it comes to upstream nymphing are our enlightened counterparts in the fluff chucking world who prefer subscribing to the use of indicator yarns, foam bungs and thingamabobbers to signal a take, the whole process of which (to philistines such as myself) seems costly and rather like tossing hand grenades in upstream with a foot of monofilament and fly attached to the pin for all of the subtlety it employs!  

Ok hands in the air, I’m not the biggest fan of this last technique, it’s just an opinion I hold and not a judgement, if it works it works we can save the debate on float fishing for another day, but surely in these austere times it would be far simpler and cheaper to trade in the technology for a tag end of backing? I mean if it works well as an indicator in European leader to hand methods surely it can have the desired effect in an everyday run of the mill rig? Think of it as throwing the fuse cord and not the fireworks, the only explosion you really want is when the fish takes the fly and not when float hits the water, sorry I meant “indicator”!

Changing tack from the virtues of using backing as an indicator I feel that there is also a place to be made for it amongst the ever increasing amount of material paraphernalia that gets set aside for the purpose of tying the flies that we fish. Take the techniques of paired feather split wings and hackle point wings for example, what is it that we are looking to achieve exactly when the dry fly passes over the head of a fish against a strongly lit background? The answer is simple, a silhouette!

Now let me make quick with the point, the higher breaking strains of braided backing are of a fine diameter with semi rigid qualities, because of this short lengths can quite easily be worked into distinctive wing shapes for a number of patterns. If we were to use this type of backing in the tying of dry flies we might be able to create the acceptable outline of a wing that could be quickly reinvigorated and restored back to the original shape once it begins to look a bit bedraggled, thought provoking no?             

I aren’t out to list every possible use of backing here and now, but go on and experiment a little with some make do and mend, who’s to say where it will get you; it may even shorten a learning curve.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Droppers or Durham? Leader Makeup for Spider Fishing

On a recent exploration of the information super highway in search of road kill suitable for the purpose of tying up North Country Spiders I decided to frequent the welcoming webspace of Fishing with Style that is hosted and run by my friend Stephen Cheetham and his wife Christine.

I must say to start with that I didn’t have Steve down for the type but It seems that together the two of them have recently being getting busy with the home videos on an evening! Having watched the action and some shaky camerawork 2 minutes and 17 seconds into the footage it’s safe to say that this star has being taking lessons from the darker corners of the North East as he sets too with the monofilament and knots…

Innuendos aside Steve is a big advocate of fishing North Country Spiders in the traditional manner so I was a little surprised to see him discussing a technique for fishing a team of three spiders on camera without the need for droppers! The technique which involves substituting the usual 7 foot tapered leader with droppers for a 10 to 12 foot piece of monofilament originates from those anglers fishing the Tees catchment area and is intended to negate the tangles that can sometimes occur with droppers whilst fishing in fast flowing water.  

They say that it is important to try anything once so I went one better on this and took a leaf out of Mae West’s book with the view that I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it and three times to make sure, so without further ado here are my main thoughts on this different take of leader makeup for spider fishing.

First and foremost, if you are going to employ this method then it is best to rig the flies and monofilament before you set off, I would suggest that you tie up several of these leaders incorporating spiders you frequently have the most success with for the time of year and potential river conditions you will face. I admit that this method of preparation involves making some broad brush assumptions beforehand, but having attempted to tie this rig myself in a light breeze bank side I would suggest otherwise!

Having endeavoured to fish this setup in fast flowing water and slow moving pools alike to see how it fairs in a wide variety of situations in lieu of a shorter leader and droppers, the results I can say were mixed. The flies in all situations behave correctly in the water imitating the nymphal shuck much as they would if tied to a dropper, with the one exception that they track in a more linear fashion due to the direct attachment as opposed to the slightly less restricted movement that a dropper would permit.

Takes in fast flowing water are no different, nor is the method of fishing, but I have found that in slower moving water it helps to have the angle of the rod raised somewhat higher than usual with the length of line outside of the rod tip shorter due mainly to the increased length of the leader being fished and the possibility of missing a take.

Notwithstanding these observations, the setup in the grander scheme of things can work beautifully, I just aren’t keen on directly attaching the flies to the monofilament one after another. I feel that droppers offer me greater flexibility and if it means having to untangle the dropper from the main leader body every once in a while then I’m ok with that.

Each to their own eh?!?

Monday, 30 May 2011

The Catcher of the Fry

Ok! Ok! I’ll admit here and now that I’m most probably doing J.D. Salinger a disservice by making a parody of the title of his American classic but it lends itself rather well to a recent experience three of us had whilst out fishing for the day so I’m going to go ahead and use it anyway.

Walking along the bank of the river I and my companion chanced upon a loan individual sat on the edge of the bank, feet dangling off it, eyes staring into the gin clear water as if it were the abyss. Such was the expression on his face you will excuse me for saying it at this point but it were as if Norman Maclean had this chap in mind when he penned the phrase “haunted by waters” as he looked just that. Now I know for a fact having seen it myself some nine months ago that there is a large brown trout of about 3.5 pounds that lives in this particular section of the river and the chap we were engaging in conversation had just managed to raise this leviathan to a CDC quill pattern of the variety demonstrated by Jeremy Lucas in Fly-Fishing and Fly-Tying. It transpired that this brownie had put up a good scrap and that the angler had managed to get it to the edge of the bank where his lack of a landing net had been his undoing and the fish had let itself off just as the angler had got a hand to it.

Whilst this tale was being told a further less scrupulous angler turned up and without saying a word began casting not ten feet away from where David had almost slain Goliath. As we watched this upstart arrogate our downhearted Tykes spot a tiny trout detached itself from the riverbed to take a fly off the surface. Our bandit angler seeing the rise cast to the fish and the trout rose again to take the fly with confidence, the bandit lifted into it so violently that the trout was pulled clean out of the water and over our heads to land with a thud on the flood embankment behind us. The fish was no more than 4 inches in length but had somehow managed to survive the ordeal, dazed from the experience it was unceremoniously thrown back into the river by the bandit angler where it was quickly washed away by the flow of water (most probably to its death I might add).

It struck me at the time that the actions of this ignoramus were akin to somebody unable to identify or connect properly with the ethos of the sport and if he were to continue practicing the art of fly fishing in this fashion he would quickly alienate himself from his fellow anglers. Each of these themes in a roundabout way brings me nicely back to the book upon which the title of this entry is based as it provides us with a set of ideals we need in order to remain good custodians of the waters we fish.

So if you should happen to come across a Catcher of the Fry whilst on your travels give him the kind word and gently point out the error of his ways.
This entry is dedicated in loving memory of A.W. who quietly passed away on the 30th of May 2011 at 19:06. Fantastic Grandparent who will be very sorely missed and Father to one of the most good natured people that I can claim to know; my Dad the man who lost a 3.5 pound brownie.        

Raising Kane

This was over a week ago now but it was getting on for early afternoon on the River Aire and following a steady successful morning prospecting for trout under the overhanging willows with a small size 16 Sawyers Pheasant Tail Nymph fished in tandem beneath a size 14 Klinkhammer I was in the mood for giving my new 7’6” Streamflex the baptism it deserved.   

In search of the fish capable of bestowing such honours I rounded a sharp bend in the river to be met by the sight of three trout rising to flies on the surface, two of the fish rising were doing so with an abundance of enthusiasm and vigour whilst the third was quite tight in against the bank, rising less often, but doing so with an almost subtle kiss of the surface film. Contemplating the scene before me I decided to try for the trout closest to the bank given that it was the nearest one to my position with the smallest rise of the three, a detail which I sometimes find, can, but not always, be indicative of a better fish.   

Assessing the situation further casting from the bank was clearly out of the question purely from the perspective of having to land the fish given its height and the significant amount of erosion that had taken place underneath it. Opting against this I settled for stationing myself in the tail of the pool at the foot of the bank, slightly hidden from view by the bend. The first cast was damn near perfect but the line pushed up against a submerged boulder which put a lot of slack into the top half causing the fly to veer off sharply mid river. Casting again slightly to the left of the boulder this time the trout rose, took the Klinkhammer and I set the hook.

I’m not going to make out for one minute that what happened next was some sort of epic battle between man and fish but it certainly put my small Streamflex and the double taper 3 weight line that I was using through its paces! Playing a decent sized fish on light tackle always feels like a scrap and a half when you get into one! Like so many trout before it, it seemed that this one was no happier to make the acquaintance of the hook as it took off out of the water like a gazelle twice before running for the cover of the overhanging willows on the far bank. It swam deep in the pool looking for sanctuary under old timber sleepers and rocks trying to grate and snag the 3lb leader on these sub surface obstacles before being finally brought to the surface and in turn my feet.

If you're wondering what I have christened my rod then it's quite simple it is now called "The Raising Kane" quite appropriate wouldn't you agree?

I had to unhook the trout in question on the waters edge as it wasn’t for coming quietly! It was quickly photographed and released back to whence it came no worse for wear but I would put its length at being around 15-16 inches weighing in at about a pound. 

The Problem with Permits

Rain has stopped play on the rivers up here again this weekend and I find myself woefully staring at one of four none transferable permits that arrived in the post a fortnight ago.   

Eh come again? Well one of the associations that I happen to do the majority of my fishing with currently operates a permit system for the largest stretch of a particular river that they lease, the system was designed as I understand it to monitor the number of anglers fishing their, the numbers of trout caught per rod, the size of the fish caught and the length of time the angler was on the river. There is no additional fee to be paid on top of the initial membership costs in order to obtain these permits other than the cost of sending a stamped addressed envelope off to the responsible committee member who is meant to issue by return the permits for the dates you have requested in a timely manner.

Sounds like a good idea on paper thus far, so what’s your problem I hear you cry? Well for myself and a growing number of others it goes a little something like this.

When out for a spell of fishing it is quite possible to go the full day without seeing another angler, sometimes you may encounter a handful, and then on other days it is like we have appeared suddenly from nowhere like the fabled Mayfly hatch. Fortunately for anglers there isn’t anything hungry higher up the food chain looking to pick us off like there is the Mayfly but anyway back to the point I digress!

A number of the members of the association in question that are encountered on the riverbank are quite open about fishing without a permit and from experience I am beginning to take the rather dim view that it seems to be a practice that is rife. Having made a few select observations to the general committee responsible for implementing the permit system and the occasional written representation and having not had an adequate response back on the issue other than grief, the question begs to be asked if there is any point bothering with the rigmarole associated with legitimately applying for these permits for anglers who abide by the rules.

One would be forgiven for thinking that where such double standards exist and a body such as this general committee continue to ineffectively implement the permit system in question that a degree of animosity might exist between those members who fish with a permit and those who do not. Interestingly enough this does not appear to be the case as having sampled a good number of the views held amongst members there appears to be more animosity and resent towards the general committee charged with preserving the water in question. This in itself is rather unfortunate as I know that there are a good number of the repressed younger committee members amongst the resolute old guard who themselves would like to see the permit system put to bed.

Since starting this small, self styled "campaign" to free members from the clutches of the permit I have found it increasingly difficult to obtain the blasted things! Politics and selfishness are so dilatory and do nothing for the bigger picture, I suppose if it comes to it I will simply have to join the others fishing in the face of it underground…