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Hanak European Grayling Festival River Dee 02 – 04 Dec

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Was looking forward to this one from well out. Having been unable to attend last year after the dates being moved several times I felt I had missed out. This year’s lack of rain and the weather forecast promised the river was going to be in top nick. I had booked the Cambrian House for accommodation for the team a single and a twin for £315 which included breakfast, good value. It was a pity that the twin was opposite the central post office which insured a bright and breezy start on the Friday and Saturday. Graham Lumsdon and I had travelled up and met Del Spry there, a pretty decent run up to be fair which is a rarity these days. We had a wee dram and chatted through our options for practice. Graham has the most experience of the river and advised that we go to the golf course. It was close to Llangollen and we could maximise the little daylight there would be.

We started the Friday with a cracking fry up cooked to order, just what you need for a cold day waist deep in the Dee. The golf course section was not so busy and we were fortunate enough to get straight into fish. It’s a wee bit strange getting used to fishing so close together but great fun for a number of reasons. There is always someone near to take photos and you can rip the pi** out of each other. Grahams waders were leaking quite badly and he was not long getting soaked. He toughed it out though unwilling to show any sign of weakness, Del and I on standby to tell him to harden the **** up! We managed to make our way as far as the sewage pipe and almost everywhere we dipped in we would take good numbers of Grayling. With confidence high we decided to call it a day at 1500hrs. The boys wanted to get some bits from Llangollen so we headed back into town. Graham wanted to pick up some loom bands to secure his droppers. I was more than a little uncomfortable, three blokes trawling toy shops looking for loon bands. As nobody seems to want them any more Graham struck a deal and got a lifetimes supply for about a pound. It was still fairly early so we thought to nip to the Hand hotel to see if John Emerson (Unique Flies) or Toby Merigan (Funky Fly Tying) had set up their shops. Unfortunately, they had not it was only 1600hrs.

What to do, what to do, might as well have a pint….. well one led to another and so on and so forth. The Wet Your Knot team joined us early on minus Adam Stafford who had been relieved of his man card and was in his room talking to God on the big white telephone. After a couple of beers, we decided to move to the Bridge End for an evening meal before the Captains meeting. You get a really good feed here and it is decent quality and very good value for money, I can heartily recommend it. I was relieved of my man card when I only ordered the lady burger (read Hawaiian burger). The rest of the boys had opted for the not insignificant belly buster. Graham, our Captain had spooned me to attend the Captains meeting he has done it in previous years so I was happy enough to oblige. All the teams received a pack explaining the competition. For those not familiar with the Festival you basically have two anglers fishing at any one time and one angler controlling another team. It’s a great format and there is the chance to meet new folks and of course learn new techniques. There are often some pretty handy anglers attend this event. The rest of the evening was spent catching up with old and new pals before heading off for a good nights rest and to dream of Grayling.

We were to kick off with Del and I and were off to fish the Dee at Corwen. We parked on the end of the bridge and had arrived in good time. The kick off time was 0900hrs so we had about fifty minutes to rig up and get to our start point. As we were setting up a couple walked by it seemed to be a guy with his sister or girlfriend or both! They were both brandishing a tin of Carlsberg, well I suppose if Carlsberg did couples. They asked if we were after the Salmon, Del replied eh no the Salmon are not in season. The young lady chipped in with how lucky we were to come to Wales and fish because everywhere else must be rubbish. They tootled off and Del and I exchanged a look that would translate to did that just happen! Anyway I digress, we had rigged up four rods two for double nymph, a dry fly rod and a rod with heavy trio. We had made the short walk to the beat and surveyed what we had in front of us it looked pretty good to be fair. As 0855 approached there was still no sign of a controller, a bit worrying. Two minutes to go and our controller turned up a little flustered we got into the river and started our session. The water was very similar to the depth and flow we were fishing the previous day and we were hopeful that we would do OK. Del lost a fish fairly quickly which did give us a boost but after nearly thirty minutes with no further action it was time for a move. We pushed down to the bottom of the beat, strangely the beat finished right in the middle of a decent looking run. Only a few feet from the bank both of us were in up to our chests. Del hooked a lump of a Grayling and did well to keep his composure in the deep water and land our first fish. We picked away for a bit but it was a fool’s errand. So back to the type of water that we thought would produce the best chance. I won’t lie it was tough going the Grayling were just not joining in. I had managed to winkle out three more fish but it was not easy. Our controller mentioned that there was a small stretch at the top of the beat that we might try, nothing to lose we moved up for a look. The water looked a bit quick but what the hey we were here now might as well give it a go. There was about forty five minutes left and between us we managed to grind out another four. Eight fish for the session we were both a bit disappointed but agreed that we did the best with what we had in front of us.

I was to fish the next session with Graham on B10 and we had a bit of a drive to get to the beat car park. It was grand to have a lad on the road in a high viz vest waving you down towards the car park. Otherwise I think we may have driven up and down the road looking for the turning. As we chatted to others that had fished the A section first off we kind of got the feeling we had been average in the previous session. Graham geared up and I quickly re-rigged my double nymph rig and we set of with our controller Kevin, the beat was a fair distance away and we were keen to get there in good time. As we reached the start of our beat we immediately discounted the first quarter as it was shallow tumbling quick water. As we strolled up further though we were greeted with what looked like prime Grayling water. Near the top of our beat was an exquisite run that showed a nice bar of gravel running down the centre. We had bags of time and as Graham set up I chewed the fat with Kevin about destination fishing we had both been to a few of the same rivers in Europe and where having a good craik. The Santa Express (Steam Train from Llangollen) was choo chooing past and we waved to the kids who looked to be having a ball. Once Graham had sorted himself out we thought to have a more detailed look at the beat. Our initial thoughts confirmed it was time to head back and make final preparations. Graham stopped in his tracks and exclaimed that he needed an immediate download with ten minutes to go FFS! I left him to it and as I wandered back images of the Santa Express going past to the sight of a pink arse hanging off a tree flashed through my mind. Would we see the session out or would the local police be along to lift us? As I was making my way across the river to the gravel bar ready to start Graham came trotting up looking a lot happier and lighter just in time to start. Again a very slow and nervy start from both of us. Fish were not forthcoming and we were in the prime water. As we moved down the beat I picked up a couple of what I would call random fish from areas I would not have expected the Grayling to be. Not quite clicking on we were both scratching our heads wondering what to do. Eventually it dawned on us that the Grayling were sitting in uncharacteristic water. The bottom was a hard rocky bottom with very slippy small and large boulders. The wading was difficult and made more so by the fact that I had elected to discard my wading staff. Grayling never cease to amaze they were there and they had tentatively started to join in. We were a bit late to get settled but managed a few fish. Graham fishing about twenty yards behind shouted down that he had lost a good fish. I replied as you do with one-word WANKER, we laughed and cracked on. Just near the end I caught a cracking fish that shot downstream, my drag was too tight and the fish peeled away from the hook. I was greeted to a cry of WANKER from Graham and Kevin who had joined in the banter. The session finished up and we had managed a grand total of twelve not too shabby.

Graham had been soaked to the skin within minutes of getting into the water and was gibbering by the end of the session. A forced march back to the car and some dry kit ensured we did not have a man down. We got back to the digs all of us pooped a combination of the previous evenings merriment and fishing our socks off all day saw us all knackered. A quick scrub up and it was back to the Bridge End for another bang up scoff. A bit more sensible this evening just a couple of beers then back for a quick night cap. Tucked up in bed by 2130….Rock and Roll. With the later start and it being a Sunday we had a leisurely start to the day getting a good fry up down before the morning ahead.

We had tried to work out where the boys were going to fish using google earth. Graham thought he recognised the water as being a bit of a nightmare, solid bed rock with ice rink characteristics. I felt for them and was glad I would be a mere spectator for the final session. I was to control Robbie Winrams team, I know Robbie from the Rutland shop and it was grand to catch up with him. His partner in crime was a Welsh lad called Rob Evans, I knew we were going to have a laugh as they were both realistic about the beat they had drawn. It had produced eight fish for Franta Hanak the previous day. So Robbie was hopeful of at least a couple of fish. The only bit of water that looked fishable was where they set their start point. The wading was treacherous and I feared one or both of them may have been paddling before long. After an hour Rob had managed to tempt a couple of small Brown trout but no Grayling in sight. Half way through the three-and-a-half-hour session a chap appeared telling me to get off the river and that this was a private stretch. We had a polite exchange of words and he was off to speak to the owner and anyone else that would listen. Robbie had opted to return to the bank to try and get some warmth back into his body. There was the tiniest bit of water at the very bottom of the beat that would just about squeeze two anglers in so he shouted over to Rob and we moved down. It was not much to go at but better than nothing. Robbie fished hard and was rewarded with a couple of nice fish. I was also really pleased to see Rob net a fish and have it measured. A really tough session for the lads in a technically challenging beat.

We returned to the car where before long Graham and Del came wandering up. I feared the worst having just seen the kind of water that Rob and Robbie had just fished. The guys though had pulled out all the stops and managed twenty-one fish, a top performance from both guys. At the start we had set our sights on a top ten finish and were hopeful that this last session would take us there. We got back to Llangollen and went straight for a hot brew and a bit of a reflection of the last few days. It had again been a great comp and we had all enjoyed it immensely. The fishing had been superb with some big fish putting in an appearance. After strolling back to the hand we chatted with a few of the boys catching up and regaling each other with stories of the weekend. Before long though we were called into the room for the results. 1000 fish had been caught and released in the competition which is phenomenal and speaks volumes to the quality of the river and indeed the anglers in the field. The winners over the two days of competition were the Ireland Iron Blues, who also had the top rod Peter Driver. In second place was my old pal Steve Cullen who fished with Scotty Nellins and Hywel Morgan as part of the Welsh Ospreys. Not for the first time the Poland Polish Nymphs made a strong showing in third place. The Veterans managed a very credible seventh and I know that we were all very pleased with the result.

My sincere thanks to Ken Bathers, Gary Hedges and Hywel Morgan for the organisation, I am sure many others were involved also but these are the catalogue boys for this event. Thanks also to Franta Hanak who sponsors the event with trophies and prizes. This is a unique event in this country and it epitomises everything that is good about competition river fly fishing. The comradery and craik are second to none and I can’t wait to be involved again next year.     




The Army Autumn Meeting Draycote Water 28-30 Oct

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First of I would like to thank the folks that made this possible as you might get bored and not read to the end. So firstly the sponsors that makes the event accessible to all Techmodal and Deloitte, specifically Martin and Steve, my sincere thanks. I am sure all in the Federation appreciate your support. The Chairman (Richard Thorpe) and the Secretary Si Elson without whose work and commitment Army fly fishing would not exist.

Now to the event itself, Draycote needs no introduction it is amongst the most popular fisheries in the country and has recently become home to the autumn meeting. Having done a fair whack of river fishing of late I was looking forward to getting back in a boat. The prospect of catching up with a number of the old and bold members added to the anticipation. Not so many boys were available for practice but I think we still managed a few boats on the water. I was to spend my day with John Gamon and we started off in fine style with a big feed at the Willoughby café. When we arrived at the water it looks fantastic a good breeze which seemed a little stronger than forecast and overhead cloud. The staff at Draycote are a friendly bunch and always willing to help with a word of advice on where to kick off. Al had pointed me in the direction of Toft to start, so after tackling up we headed straight there. We started our drift fairly well back but already I could see the banks at Toft were lined with anglers. They were doing exceptionally well and we witnessed a number of fish being caught. As we drifted a healthy distance from the bankies it was becoming more and more obvious that you needed to be nearly on the bank. Not so much as a stickleback on the first drift.

It was time to get the big guns out so out came the fast glass and on went a pink snake. Action was almost instant as I rolly pollied the snake back at speed it locked up. I was rewarded with a top quality Rainbow not huge but a very fit two and half pounds. We had another drift and I was getting the very odd rattle on the snake but hooking up was problematic. We decided to have a look up the other end of the water. The ripple here was very gentle and I changed back to my floater. John fishing in a similar way picked up a nice fish but it was not what you would call on fire. We searched along down the dam wall and along to the tower but it was tough going. I managed to draw a big fish up to the boat but it turned away from my offering. We moved down towards Biggins again there were a few bank anglers doing very well for themselves. We had to get closer to the bank so we moved up to an area that was unoccupied and made a drift in. John picked up another fish and I had a couple of offers and dropped a fish. A little bolstered we moved on and found ourselves not far from the pontoon. It’s here that most of our success came and we also picked up some very nice fish. Not wanting to over reach and having just taken a fish that towed the boat round in a circle we decided to call it a day.

Accommodation was at the Draycote Hotel a ten minute drive from the fishery. As I arrived I noted a wedding in full swing and prayed my room would not be above it! After a quick scrub up and a few drinks in the bar it was an early night for me and thankfully I was that knackered I heard nothing of the wedding. The first day was to be a match with the serving soldiers and officers against the associate members. As there were four more serving than there was Army they decided that they would just take the bottom four rods from the Armies total. I believe Man U is fielding 15 this weekend and just not counting the players that were a bit shit! A bit more thought next year me thinks.  Anyways enough bitching from me and onto the fishing, I had drawn James Bond to share my day with. Yes I know we get all the high profile boys fishing with us, but this was not the James of 007 fame. He has however qualified to fish for Wales next year so a big well done to him. James very kindly gave me the engine and we were both amiable about the fishing. Jim had made much more of his practice than I and was confident set up on a fast glass with blobs and boobies straight from Q. I had gone with a midge tip and a washing line approach. As we glided across the big mirror that was Draycote I hoped that a breeze might pick up later. As it was there was not a breath of wind to be seen anywhere on the water. Our first stop proved fruitless so it was round the corner to Jim’s spot. His approach paid dividends and in no time he quickly boated three fish. I should mention at this point that it was kill your first two fish then release as many as you can get. I had changed to my fast glass and was desperately trying to get back in touch. It was pretty exhausting though and before long I went back to twiddling. Jim’s work ethic was impressive and his method was encouraging plenty of sport with plenty of action in the way of takes and follows. Jim had reached a very respectable total of five before I eventually managed to take my first fish.

It had gone rather quiet and a move back to our starting area was a good one and Jim picked up another fish. I had also started a small come back getting a bit more action and managing another couple of fish. It was evident from the other boats that it was pretty tough going with only ones and twos in many boats. With half an hour to go Jim had a little purple patch taking his total for the day to nine, good angling and well deserved after a hard days graft. Just a quick straw poll of asking how folks had gotten on insured that it was going to be very close. The weigh in was efficient and quick so that we could get back to change into the glad rags for the evenings dinner.

The dinner was outstanding I was very privileged to share a table with some of the old and bold and the crack around the table was outstanding not least from Steve Cranston who had us all in stitches with his tales. The meal was well received by all and Si Elson was on hand to remind everyone what they had ordered. At the end of the meal the Chairman thanked the sponsor’s and announced the result of the day’s match, the Army had won by 5oz. The main event of the evening was the presentation of an honorary life time’s membership. This is the first time such an award had been presented and went to one of the Federations founding fathers. Tug Lawson has been a stalwart supporter of the federation since the early eighties. When I joined in 1992 he had been one of the leading figures in the Federation or Association as it was known then. Totally unexpected Tug was very pleased to receive the award and a more popular recipient you would be hard pressed to find. The evening went on in fine humour and to be honest it got a bit messy towards the end, didn’t it Steve Cranston…

The next day we were to have a boat pair’s match where you fish with your partner. The way it is done is very clever and fair, the top angler from the day before is paired with the bottom rod and so on and so forth. The format is really good to, you must kill your first fish then you can select which fish you kill next. So a bit of a dice chuck but great fun you only really need to catch four fish in the boat to be in with a shout. Conditions were very similar to the day before except the size of my melon which was throbbing big style, I was hopeful the pain killers were going to kick in soon. I had been paired with Brian Perryman and we both thought to head over to the tower to try and pick up something a bit bigger. Steve Cullen was just arriving in the corner as we approached and was very quickly into some sport. We did not stay long as I did not wish to interfere with his day so moved off to give the boils a go. No joy there so it was on to ‘T’ buoy where Jim had gotten the late spurt the day before. Nothing happening Brian was scratching his head and I was rubbing mine! Time to find a friend; we motored over to where we saw a few boats congregating round the sunken island. I shouted across to Derek Sibson and Phil Hooper who had both had some action. Cool we were in the right place then.

Our day flipped on its head the very slightest of breezes kick up and the sport began. Brian was first to get into a cracking fish to get us off the mark and he was not long in getting some more interest. I was registering the odd pluck and had several determined follows but they failed to connect. Next drift was more of the same but I managed to convert one not a bad fish. And so it followed every drift would provide us with a little more sport. In the end we only managed six fish between us but we had a glorious day. Exchanging stories and discussing the state of the world, I really enjoyed Brian’s company such a passionate angler. I packed up with half an hour to go I had drank the last of my water three hours previous and my heed was starting to complain again.

The weigh in was again very quick and Si had the results in no time. We had finished at 1600hrs with the clock going back and many having to travel back to Scotland. The winners on the day were Dave Prince and John Twine who were well clear of the rest of the field. Dave had caught a 5lb Brown Trout that had sealed victory for the pair. Ok the fishing was not as prolific as it most certainly can be at Draycote, but I doubt you would find one person that did not have a ball. It’s not always about the fish and more and more I find it’s about the people you fish with. That’s the boat fishing done for me this year, back to the Grayling and I might manage a wee session on the banks of Grafham. I am told I might catch one or two ;-)  



River Avon (Services Dry Fly Fishing) 27 Oct

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I would not normally take the time to make an entry for such a short session, but on this occasion it was so good I thought to give it a short mention. Ben Worley has been trying to tie down a day on the Avon for some weeks but with a new addition to the family it’s not been easy. Despite having not sorted out my kit to go to Draycote the next day the opportunity to get back on the Services water was too much to resist. Off course I could have gone to purgatory (Thorpe Park) with the family but I would have rather tried to fit a small elastic band around a Doberman’s nuts! So a bit of a no brainer really.

Being a creature of habit I came down early to make a cup of coffee for the trip only to find that I could not find my thermos cup. Not a problem will pick up a hot brew from the local golden arches, shut for refurbishment. Oh well at least I will get a brew and an egg, sausage and cheese bagel from the Solstice services, eh no, shut for a till upgrade FFS. In desperation I went to cost a packet and was duly ripped off,  a cup of coffee and a toasty not much change from a tenner. My mood was getting darker by the minute.

I had arranged to meet Ben at ‘C’ Crossing and my spirits were immediately lifted when I looked over the bridge at the river. It was as low as I have ever seen it but crystal clear and there seemed to be the odd fish about. Ben arrived looking a little knackered, a new baby will do that for you. I handed over a few flies I had whittled up for him and suggested that he set up his rod for Duo. We made our way down to the very bottom of the beat to find a gentleman from the environment agency preparing to start work on enhancing the river. He said he would be a while so we slipped into the river, I stood on Bens shoulder explaining how to cover the water in front of him. A lifelong angler he was all over it like a fat kid on chocolate. After a quick half dozen good Grayling I wanted to show him how to double nymph. I broke out the 11’ rod which I had set up with a couple of light bugs. Thankfully the fish joined in and I could not get my flies back without a grayling attached. It can take a bit of time to get into double nymphing but Ben took straight to it. I had moved of to fish myself and glanced back to watch Ben catching fish after fish from a seemingly very small hole. I had only moved up the river forty feet but was still catching steady away. All to soon the agency man sparked up his chainsaw a little upstream of us and it was time to move.

What an absolutely blinding start to the day, it could not carry on in the same vein and although it was still great it did slow down a bit. We worked our way back up towards the crossing. Ben had gotten a little pre-occupied sight fishing for a large fish just below the big house on the opposite bank. I had moved up directly opposite the house, I don’t usually fish here as they have a couple of Labradors that stand on the opposite bank barking like there’s no tomorrow. Today however they were nowhere to be seen. I saw a few fish sitting in about a foot of water and began catching them. Surprisingly there were many more fish than could be seen and they were most obliging. Fish after fish came it was quite remarkable, I know this section was good but this was something else. The fish were anywhere between 25-35cm. I beckoned Ben up and told him to cast into the run I had been fishing, first cast and he was straight in. It was a lump of a Grayling and would have been near the 40cm mark, sitting in little more than a foot of water.

By the time we had returned to the car it was 1400hrs, it had been an exceptional session. I have never known any river to fish like that. Fish were tripping over themselves to take our offerings. Ben was keen to get home to his young family and I had to get back and try and find some reservoir kit. Three days at Draycote beckoned and the forecast looked very promising. 



The River Eden (Appleby) 24 Oct

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 A busy week of travelling and fishing has left me woefully behind with keeping the blog up to date. So I am going to try and catch up as best I can this week. I was up North visiting family and managed to track down Del Spry (no easy feat) for a day on the river. I had fished here before with Del and Graham Lumsdon and was mightily impressed with the River and the fish in it. Del and I met up in the car park at Appleby and we tucked into a bacon bap and a cup of coffee Del had picked up from Greggs. He had also sorted the tickets out; it was a good day so far!
The weather has been so mild even in Cumbria and there has not been much rain, the river was in perfect nick. It was much lower than the last time I had fished there and on a mild Autumn day we were both hopeful of a few Grayling. We started to fish not far from the bridge and fished some runs that had produced for Del in the past. We did not really get of to a flyer though Del managed one small fish and I had a half-hearted offer. We decided to walk downstream a bit until we found some water with a bit of flow to it. Not far down there were a couple of favourable looking runs and we decided to give them a go. Both the runs were good and gave up plenty of fish but nothing of any real size. Perfectly formed but in the 25-30cm bracket so it was time to push further down.

Those that know the river well will recognise a small Island that has several tasty looking runs coming of the back end of it. I told Del to have a couple of casts in these pools so I could take some photos. He was only rigged with light nymphs though so I offered up my rod with some heavier ammunition on the end. I took a few photos but no rod bending was forthcoming. He had handed me his rod a 10’ Hanak comp rod it felt feather light after I had been wielding my 11’ Streamflex about. I thought to give it a couple of casts while Dell was working his way up a run. The flies I was fishing were far to light for the pace of water in front of my but I just wanted to see how it cast. First couple of goes saw nothing untoward. I was impressed by the rod and was just thinking how much when the whole thing locked up. I was not sure at first but thought it might have been a OOS Brown trout. No such thing a big Grayling shot out of the river and into the air making a huge splash. All at the same time I shouted Del and ran down stream trying to get below the fish in the fast current. I knew this was a great fish and was keen to get it to the net. Not having my own kit was a real disadvantage not knowing how much stick Del’s kit would take. I played the fish carefully and did get down stream of it at one point. The fish fought like a demon though and got below me once more. As Del was arriving at my side I felt sure the fish was beat, as I stretched out the net ready to try and fit the fish into it disaster! The huge Grayling raised its dorsal fin like sail boat and the hook parted company with the tippet. A little distraught we went back to fishing the runs for a few more fish.

After a while catching lesser fish we decided on a walk down to the bottom of the beat. It was great looking at the river a discussing where would be best to get in and fish. Del and I strode down catching up with each other’s lives in some very warm sunshine. We got down to the bottom of the beat and Del slid down the bank to fish a promising looking run. I moved up about hundred meters to fish below the island that had some very promising looking runs. The promise held good and several reasonable Grayling came out as did several less welcome visitors in the guise of Brown Trout minus one as JT would say! In a short while My phone went the normal run of things I would not even look at my phone whilst fishing. Experience however has taught me that when my mum has my kids its best to check. I digress a little but I remember once the phone going and my mum was ready to cut my youngest daughters hair off. Sasha had been playing with one of those stupid electric hand fans and gotten too near Lucy’s head, you can imagine the result. Anyways long conversation short Lucy still has a full head of hair. However, this phone call was from Del, he had just pulled out three 40cm Grayling on the bounce and wondered if I fancied going down to have a go as half the run was still to be fished. I declined the kind offer and continued to fish the water in front of me and there was plenty of it.

Del and I met later on and started to stroll back up the stream dipping in here and there. Sometimes it was for a bit of silver other runs proved less favourable. I don’t know where the day went but before long the last of the daylight was fading into dusk. To be honest both Del and I were hanging out at this point eight hours fishing no drink or food, we had forgotten to eat lunch. We made the car before the light had finally gone and said our farewells. I nipped over to the Appleby chippy who much to my surprise did haggis suppers result! Great day and I look forward to my next trip North.



The Grayling Classic (The river Test Broadlands) 22 Oct

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I doubt there are few fly anglers that have never heard of the River Test it is one of the great English rivers. I have been fortunate to fish this river a number of times when the two-week gap between the end of the Salmon season and the start of the course fishing season allows us mere mortals to get near the river. In years gone by they did hold qualifiers for the English Rivers National which were well attended but invariably not sustainable. I myself have given up on the rivers competition scene and it has been a few years since I last bothered with it. I don’t have the time nor inclination to go into the reason for this here but suffice to say I had my fill of the Rivers Comps. I much prefer going fishing with a few buddies on unpressured rivers and catching a hat load of fish.

Ben Bangham has long had the aspiration to run a pegged rivers match and in conjunction with Jon Hall the aspiration became reality. The inaugural Broadlands Grayling Classic was announced and places were quickly snaffled up. The week preceding the match you were allowed to come and practice for £25, what a bargain. Unfortunately, I could only manage a few hours the Thursday before, or I would have been there all week. I met Tony Baldwin in the car park on the Thursday and it was great to catch up with him, it had been a while. The fishing on the Thursday was just superb, to be fair as I was short on time I just hit all my favoured marks and landed a ream of fish. Great fun and I had to drag myself away to go and pick up my daughter.

An early start on the Saturday morning and I have to confess that I had a restless night’s sleep. I felt like a kid at Christmas I was so excited. I got there along with all the other kids that could not sleep the car park was pretty busy by the time I arrived. It was great to see so many familiar faces as well as meeting some new ones. The whole atmosphere of the event felt relaxed and unhurried. There was a hot drink on the go on arrival and the chefs were beavering away feeding the masses. I popped in the hut to see Ben and get my first beat sorted out. I had drawn beat ten, Ben explained where it was and I was more than a little pleased. This was one of my favourite stretches of the river. I could hardly believe my luck.

When I came out of the hut the whole area was buzzing with anglers greeting each other, a top field had assembled including Howard Croston, Lewis Hendrie and even Davie Parker had been tempted to make the long trip down. It was great to be in such excellent company. The morning was a bit nippy but the sky held the promise of an extremely mild day for the time of year. Toby Merigan from Funky Fly Tying had brought a little mobile shop as well as a very decent 25 year old blend, cheers Toby. The match briefing was a breath of fresh air no hard and fast rules just a simple format that just worked really well. You catch your first fish and it is measured by your controller and recorded. Every fish after that regardless of size as long as it was a grayling was recorded. Anglers were to make their way to their beats and start when ready. The beauty of this is you don’t have to keep tracking across the river with your fish, you simply show your controller you have a Grayling and slip it back into the water. A short session of one hour thirty minutes each I was to be first to fish and was controlled by Hector.

I had looked at the length of my beat and was pretty confident that I was going to do OK. As I am sure every angler will tell you every day is a school day. So after about forty five minutes without so much as a sniff I was left scratching my head a bit. Luckily Hector pointed out to me that I had not fished the far bank. In fact if the truth be known I had not fished particularly well, I had no plan on how to fish the water and was paying now. Once I got one and had it measured I settled a little better. An hour and a half was over in the blinking of an eye, I had ground out nine fish in total. I knew I should have done better but hey ho nine was not bad.

Hectors turn, and my chance to get a free masterclass. He had only set up one rod and it was for double nymph. Hector immediately moved to the middle of the river to access a deep hole that I had failed to cover. A little nervous to start he missed several offers before getting on his game. When he hit his stride though he was on it like stink on shite! To cut an action packed hour and half down Hector netted 22 Grayling including one to 45cm and another two at 43cm. As well as this he hooked at least three Brown trout and lost another two or three Grayling. Outstanding angling, by Hector, but I had heard of a few catches in the twenties as well as a quite staggering 39 fish in an Hour and a half absolutely phenomenal.

Lunch was fantastic anglers drifted in around 1230hrs and a hot or cold beverage was available with a hot all in stew. It was just perfect, again the whole thing seemed unhurried and was very enjoyable. Anglers exchanged stories of their mornings endeavours’ before eventually we were beckoned into the hut to draw our afternoon beats and controllers.  I had drawn beat fourteen not one of my favoured bits of water but that’s the luck of the draw. I was heartened by the fact that Tony Baldwin had managed 20 out of it in the morning. I had gotten Jay as a partner and although we had not met in a long time we knew each other from previous Rivers nationals. Jay had done really well in the morning but was super relaxed about the whole thing.

Our beat was only a short walk up stream and was quite a short beat. Jay got off to a flyer netting his first fish inside two minutes of the bell, a cracking fish at nearly 35cm. After that though it got a bit tougher. That was an understatement actually it got a lot tougher Jay persevered through and picked away and had managed six fish with fifteen minutes left. An inspired move for the last bit of time left saw him net another three fish good angling and well deserved bag of nine.
My Session I planned to get my first fish from the bank my controller was on then cross the river to access some of the deeper holes. It started pretty well I had rested where Jay had taken his last few fish for ten minutes before heading there to give it a go. After a few casts I managed a reasonable fish with the double nymph. I then proceeded to cross the river. I have to say it looked really good but it did not produce for me. After fishing all the way down the crease for nothing I was again left scratching my head. I decided to fish it back while trying to think of what to do next when I had a little purple patch and took four fish in short order. I was thinking I had found them. But after changing patterns several times it had dried up for me. The last ten minutes I had resolved to try and catch some of the tiny fish and had switched to a size #22 nymph it proved effective. The only thing was the operator error, I missed three of four good offers. I did manage another though to take my afternoon tally to six.

It had been a fantastic day, I had seen a dragonfly, a bumble bee and a king fisher all in glorious sunshine with the river Test as a backdrop and all this at the end of October! When we arrived back at the hut Jon was on hand with a cold beer and there was a selection of cakes for the peckish. The results seemed to take a while but with good reason it was very close at the top. The eventual winner was Hector Rodriguez, whom I had controlled in the morning a worthy winner who seemed a little shell shocked that he had won. A massive well done to him and all the anglers that made this a very special day.

I feel ill equipped to put into words how good this was, Jon Hall and Ben Bangham have started something that is sure to endure. I don’t doubt the hard work and commitment that went into the organisation of this match and I know there were lots of others that had a hand in making this a success. Mark my words next year they will be turning anglers away from this must attend event, simply outstanding.



The River Kennet (Barton Court) 16 Oct

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I last visited this venue with Adam Stafford and Zek Klietz back in the middle of March in the hope of intentionally catching a pike on the fly. Zek had organised to have the fishery to ourselves this time so a few guys were invited along. Zek had very kindly offered to do breakfast and lunch, and most welcome it was. I had not seen many of the lads for a while as Loch Style fishing takes up most of my time in the summer months. The drive to the venue was only an hour and on a Sunday morning it was a doddle. As I neared the venue the skies opened up and a deluge of rain was unceremoniously dumped. The morning light had yet to push the night away and it was still pitch black as we clambered to get into the hut for shelter from the rain. While we were tucking into a venison burger and a bit of gunfire for breakfast It was grand to catch up with the lads.

Only Adam Sinclair and I opted to chase down the Grayling and neither the two of us was gagging to step out into the rain which was still torrential. Zek was landing a pike from the pool by the hut as we walked up to the car to tackle up, a promising start to the day. Despite the current situation there has been very little rain and the river was on its bones. Adam had set up a double nymph rig and I went with the Duo. As we wandered up one of the carriers I was pleased with my choice although there were the odd deeper pools mostly the depth was around a foot and a half. The rain was so heavy it was like looking at the top of a kettle.

I left Adam at a weir pool which looked very promising and carried on down to the bottom limit of the beat. It took a while to get into the right position I could barely see my dry fly in the down pour and was casting pretty short. It still seemed like it was not yet daytime as it was so dark. Only two or three casts in and I noticed my fly line move and lifted. It became quickly evident as the fish went nuts round the small pool the it was an OOS Brownie, well their not to know are they. I took a quick picture and slipped it back. It had trashed my rig and in the low light It took me some time to re-rig.  Once I was back up again I made two steps upstream and made a short cast only maybe fifteen feet in front of me. The parachute Adams I was using was struggling to stay afloat in the monsoon like conditions. As it dipped away I half expected to lift into thin air but to my surprise it was a Grayling. Not a monster but a start, I moved upstream a little for another small fish before deciding to go find Adam.

Dipping in here and there at likely spots I failed to increase my tally, only able to spook the odd fish. I eventually found myself at the weir where I had left Adam, he was nowhere to be seen so I tried my hand for nothing. I had switched to a full blown indicator as the Adams was just not up to the job in deluge of rain. As I wandered up back towards the hut I bumped into Sean who had just bust up his Pike rig as well as the end of the floating line it was attached to. We noted that there was some blue sky on the horizon and that it looked inbound. A long walk around much of the fishery dipping in here and there produced nothing for me. The weather had cleared though and the Sun began to put in a shift. I ditched the bung and decided to go back to my original Duo which had done me well at the start of the day. I also thought it prudent to return to the area where I had gotten the most sport. An inspired decision as it turned out as a few more Grayling and another couple of daft Brownies came out in short order. My belly was telling me it was time for lunch though and I made the short hike back to the lodge.

Not unusually I was the first to arrive I stripped of most of my outer layers hoping to dry them out in the sunshine. Sean was next to arrive with a lighter for the gas stove to get a brew on. Sean had kindly brought a little starter in the form of some cheese and cold meat. I had made myself a brew but mistakenly put salt in the cup rather than sugar. After spitting out the first mouthful things went from bad to worse, I had left my bowl and cutlery back on top of the fridge at home bugger, bugger and bugger! Luckily Zek had a spare plate a fork and a spoon so all was well with the world. The Venison Stew was very tasty and the warm meal was most welcome at half time. The fishing had proved quite difficult across the board. Poor Adam Sinclair was also man down with a bout of D&V so had to retire early.

The other Adan, Sean and I decided to bimble up the carrier I had fished in the morning looking for rising fish in the afternoon sunshine. We did come across some very small fish rising to take what I assume were tiny midge. Sean and I looked on as Adam gave us a master class in dry fly fishing. After a short while I could see the odd fish moving below and decided to have a chuck at them. No joy initially put perseverance was the name of the game and it did not take long to tempt a few ladies out of their lies. We all wandered back up towards the hut and Adam was plonking a couple of nymphs into the little pool and getting a bit of interest. He was just about to call it a day when he had an unexpected guest. A hardy little Rainbow put in an appearance and gave Adam quite a fight as well as giving the waiting Sean with the net a good soaking. It was a nice way to finish off the day and we all decided to pack up I was only an hour from home but Adam and Sean had a two-hour trip to look forward to. Zek and Rob were still off hunting the Pike.

It occurred to me that I have been somewhat spoilt with fishing the river Avon this year. The head of fish in that river is unrivalled. The Kennet was a much tougher prospect and I had to work really hard for the meagre few fish caught. Still a great leveller and just great to be out as well as the opportunity to catch up with some fine gentlemen most of who will be at Broadlands next week for the inaugural Grayling Classic. Thanks to Adam Stafford for the use of one of his photos, nice job pal.



Draycote Water 25 Sep

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I was so excited to be heading off to Draycote I could barely sleep the night before. The recent reports have been favourable with dry fly fishing featuring heavily. The weather forecast looked good and I was out with Steve Cullen who knows the water intimately. The journey up did not go so well with the road signs on the M25 warning that the M1 was shut north bound. Luckily I had left plenty of time and the diversion through Shakespeare country was very pleasant. That said if I had seen a kid with a banjo on some of the roads the sat nav took me down id have been locking the doors.

The welcome at Draycote is always a warm one and Al and Tom who were obviously very busy with the Ladies National as well as all the other customers still had time for a quick chat. I was tackling up with dries by the time Steve arrived and conditions could not have looked any better. Keen to get out on the water Steve opted to tackle up once we were out. I had tackled up with a big red on the point and a couple of bobs bits up. I was flicking the flies a short distance from the boat while trying to hold down a conversation with Steve. Not the best plan as a juddering take left me thinking I had been bust up. The fish had taken my little bobs bit and had straightened out the hook.  What a way to start! Steve had set up with a slow intermediate and I lost count of the amount of bow waves that saw fish rushing to intercept the fly only to refuse it completely or give a little nip but fail to hook up. I managed to move a couple of other fish with the dries but was losing confidence fast.

We decided to move over to the weed beds to give the fry feeders a go. There was hardly any activity on the surface though. That did not deter Steve and again after lots of interest we still had nothing to show for our efforts. After delivering the immortal phrase that we have never had a bad day and always catch plenty fish I could have kicked my own arse! So about three hours in and loads of interest but no fish to show for it. We opted to go back to A buoy I had gotten into a tangle and Steve had at last gotten into some fish. At last we had come across a pod that were prepared to have it! Moral boosted a little I decided it was time to stop mucking about with snakes and dries and get down to business. On went the fast glass and a team of consisting of two boobies and a couple of nymphs in-between. Only a few casts in I got a firm take and soon boated a nice Rainbow which had fallen to the pink booby on the top dropper. I thought that this may have been the start to some consistent sport but it was not to be.

We went on the hunt after that and went over to the other side where the wind was quite tasty. I had changed to a DI5 Sweep and a single booby and just kept up with the line as I hung my fly as best I could in the wave it all locked up. Luckily I got it into the net before it realised it was hooked, once these fish get their heads down they can be a bugger to get in. We bounced down the bank the drifts did not last long as we were now travelling at speed. We failed to tempt any other fish to the boat and were a bit weary of being battered by the waves so back across for some comfort fishing.
It was really disappointing as we had both looked forward to the day and I felt for Steve coming of the back of a lack lustre Chew. We were just chatting over finishing up the horrific drive up was playing on my mind so we opted to fish till five. Last half hour let’s give the weed beds another go, so we rigged up the dries again and the first run through produced nothing. There were the odd fish moving on the inside line. Steve tucked us right in it was nearly five and I had already began tackling down when a fish rose right in front of the boat. It was hard to get excited as we had seen this most of the day covered the fish then nothing. Steve covered the fish and gently lifted in, not a monster but certainly our best fish of the day. It had a mighty fine propeller on it to boot, Steve played the fish tentatively and I had my fingers crossed he would land the fish. After some pretty hairy moments when it headed for the weeds the fish came to the net. A great way to finish of the day. Draycote is a fantastic fishery and on another day we may well have had a hat full but today the water was somewhat moody. We had to work really hard for the fish that we manage, lets hope its a bit better next time.

Steve was excellent company and we had managed a few fish just the drive home to contend with. That could be a blog entry on its own #BloodyTraffic!












River Avon 22 Sep

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It’s just great when work and fishing collide, I was asked to hand deliver some paper work in the area and the rest of the day was mine. I had arranged for a guest ticket for my buddy Graham Lumsdon for the West Amesbury Fishery part of the Salisbury & District Club. I was brought to this stretch of river some five years ago by John Ball as a guest, which prompted me to get on the waiting list for the S&D Club. The fishery is Two miles (seems longer) of double and single bank fishing, situated 7 miles North of Salisbury and 2 miles from Stonehenge. The bulk of the fishery bends round in a huge horseshoe shape and access is very good. Considering the amount of rain, we have had of late the river was in great form and was running very clear.

The morning session started with some rain threatening so Graham and I donned our G10 for men waterproof jacket and headed down to the river. There were already fish rising all over and although keen to start we resisted the urge and wandered up stream towards the wading section of the beat. Graham opted to start with the nymph and I started with a dry fly. Forty-five minutes in and although I had scared a few fish and had my offerings refused by a few more, I had nothing to show for my efforts. Graham came into sight and I shouted across to see how he was doing. Just grand came the reply, the size 18 Mary nymph doing the damage. I soon changed and started to get into the Grayling not quite mimicking Grahams success… not even close! Still I was content to catch the odd one here and there. Shortly after things had picked up a little I netted a little silver looking fish which was not a Grayling. After showing it to Graham we agreed it was a Dace my first one ever on the fly, I was well chuffed it’s always nice to catch something a bit different.

As we moved up the river it was easy to see where the clubs hard work had paid dividends. The habitat improvement works have resulted in thriving populations of wild trout and grayling and very healthy invertebrate life. If you were still enough with a good set of polarized sun glasses large shoals of Grayling could be spotted on the gravel beds. As the morning wore on the sun was doing its best to cook us in our waterproof jackets and by the time we had got back round to the car for a spot of lunch I think I had shed a couple of pounds! So of with the waterproof jacket, body warmer and shirt and on with the T shirt and sun block. We enjoyed lunch courtesy of Graham in the company of two other anglers. Ian had also brought a guest in the form of his father. Ian has been a member of S&D for nine years and coincidently only live a few miles away in Windlesham. He regaled us with tales of much larger fish down at the bottom of the fishery. So as it was half time we swapped ends Ian and his dad were to go upstream whilst Graham and I headed for the bottom of the beat.

After such a hearty lunch and maybe half way down to the bottom of the beat I felt the very urgent need to evacuate the dance floor. I told Graham I would catch him up and wandered into the woods for an adventure poo. Feeling much better I hurried to catch Graham up only to find him at the side of the river casting away. I said that there was still a bit more water to go down but he had spotted a couple of large ladies hard on the bottom. Try as he might they ignored his advances so we headed down to the bottom of the beat. In this area where the bridge crossed the water the river is deep and just to the other side of the bridge which marks the beat boundary the bottom disappears into black depth. Luckily on our side of the boundary although deep you could still see the bottom and sitting in a very deep lie was a huge Brown trout. The fish seemed very still and sat alone in the deep pocket, Graham gave it a wide berth. I changed from the light nymph to something a little heavier on a jig hook. I crawled up on my hands and knees hiding behind the bankside vegetation. My first cast was not bad and as the nymph drifted by the fish about a foot away it moved to inspect the fly but quickly moved back on station. This was encouraging though so I retrieved my line and edged back to change my fly. I selected a smaller offering and crept back up the fish still there. This time as the fly drifted towards the fish it moved to intercept it and I struck into thin air. Remarkably the fish just dropped back into its lie seeming not to be overly worried. A little peeved that my bad angling had let the opportunity go astray I repeated the dance shuffling backwards and changing my fly once more. As I edged forward once more I obviously showed to much of my fat arse and the fish leisurely swam into the cover of the nearby ranunculus.

Cursing my incompetence, I moved further upstream and for the next forty-five minutes struggled to get back in the groove and not tempting any more fish. A cry went up from Graham he had caught a good Grayling. I dragged myself out the river and ran up the bank keen to get a photograph of the capture. It was indeed a grand fish at 40+. After the honours were done we spent the next ten minutes looking for Grahams net which he had failed to attach to his body. The search was futile though and we decided it was a lost cause. We both moved down about 100 meters to find some fresh water. I had changed back to dry fly and was fishing some fast, shallow gravelly bottomed water. The little wild brown trout started to come now and my confidence started to come back.

As we moved further upstream Graham was only about 50 meters from me. I was looking at some real peachy water ahead of me when Graham once more shouted he had a good fish. I could not get out the river due to the trees on both banks, there was nothing else for it. I waded through the stunning stretch of water completely trashing it and thinking this fish Graham had better be good! Sure enough it was the best fish of the day a cracking Brown trout with a shovel for a tail. We fished on a little more but time had gotten the better of us and it was time to head back. As we walked back up we discussed the potential of this river and had spotted some very big Grayling. I think another visit once winter has gripped it may see some impressive ladies making an appearance.

What an absolute pleasure it was to be on the river today the weather was more akin to June than late Sept. It was also great to have Graham along for the day to enjoy the place, here is hoping for a return visit very soon.








Interservices Rutland Water 11 – 13 Sept

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Firstly, let me apologise for the lack of images from this blog report. In an act of complete buffoonery and a lack of spectacles my camera was on the wrong settings for many of the photos I took. Lesson learned. The images that are here are ones I managed not to **** up or from my little waterproof camera. The Interservices for those not in the know is a long standing competition between the three Armed Forces. It has been hotly contested in the past but in recent years the RAF have pulled away winning the last few.

If the long range weather was to be believed, we were all going to get a great tan! The first practice day was spent largely on the right hand side of the North Arm with my practice partner Jamie Nairn. We concentrated our efforts mainly on the weed beds hoping to tempt some of the better fish. I managed a follow from a very nice looking Rainbow. Jamie managed to hook a very good fish which moved much water in its efforts to take the fly and take it did right of Jamie’s line and back to the weed beds. Not a bad start but the rest of the morning up until lunch was the perfect exercise in futility. Not a follow nor take or even any indication of fish could be found. At lunch the others had faired a little better and indeed even our comrades on the other side of the North had managed a little sport taking some very nice brown trout. Those in the basin in the morning seemed to have the best of it though. The South arm also proved to be in a mood and failed to give up many fish.

Jamie and I were lucky enough to be in the basin in the afternoon. Opting to start on the opposite bank to where the morning crew had fished we started at Whitwell and worked our way up the bank completing long drifts from 300m out. I started to get the odd follow but the fish were a bit shy and would not commit to take the fly. By the time we reached U Buoy I was a little relieved when I watched my rod buckle over as a trout slammed into my fly right at the end of the retrieve. One fish between us not so good, but we were now heading over to the area where all the fish were. It was going to be a doddle…lol. My name is….NO it was like a dog shite that had been left in the sun for three months! Jamie who had been out the previous day was scratching his head as well. It was time to get nasty on went the DI5 and the horrible, just at the end of my retrieve the rod went over again. A really nice fish but was it a method ten or so minutes later the same thing happened. I guessed that the fish had just dropped down in the water so went to the DI7. I managed another two fish in short order on this line. Not the best days’ sport but maybe the start of the jigsaw coming together.

The next day Sean Hanlon my partner for the day were sent up the South arm. With another boat to check it out a vast area of water it had not been covered the day before. To cut a long and boring story very short all I can say about my morning is that is four and half hours of my life I won’t get back! To be fair we did see Phil Thomas hook and land a fish but that was about the size of it. So we met up for our lunch break again the guys that fished in the basin were giving it large surely Sean and I had paid our dues and it was our turn next. Wishful thinking, we plugged on till about four before I called time. Sean had managed one fish and my net was still dry as a bone. Roll on match day.

The briefing that evening was a bit subdued everyone in the room knew that we were going to have to work very hard the next day. The boat draw was read out so we all knew who we would be spending the match day with. Patterns to be tied were few though and the room was all but empty by 2130hrs. The guys getting an early night to be at their best the next morning. I had drawn Steve Ottridge a former Chairman of RAF angling. I had fished with Steve previously in a national final on Chew. Only living in Oakham his experience of Rutland would be invaluable and he drew the engine anyway. The one thing that was plain was you had to get your fish early before the sun which was blazing hot got too high in the sky. I managed to talk Steve into going where I wanted not an easy feat I might add. When the hooter went of it was obvious that everyone knew the score and all but one boat turned right into the basin heading up into the open water. As we stopped and turned the boat a couple of other boats stopped just by us with Army rods in each. Within fifteen minutes I watched Paul Calvert loose two fish in play and boat another. Close by Mike Sale was smashing it taking three fish on the bounce. I was next getting my first fish to the boat after it had smashed into my fly. A short while later I had a rod wrenching take that saw the rod bend right over, but then nothing! Steve was next and he landed a spritely Rainbow with some difficulty as his leader was a little on the long side. A bit further on and as I was hanging my flies a hungry fish came up and took one of my nymphs. The fight was short and the fish won, bugger! Steve hooked and landed another before the end of the drift and this was all in the space of an hour. I know it sounds great but I was sure it was a limited time offer and very soon it was going to be very difficult. So back around and the next drift I switched to a fast sinker and was rewarded with two quick fish. Conscious that the small window was starting to close Steve had spotted a number of boats re-drifting at Fantasy so up we went. I managed to speak to Gerry Rattery he was on seven I got the information and immediately changed line and tactics to try and squeeze out a few more. It seemed to work early in the drift I managed another fish. The takes in this area were hard and it was like a jolt of electricity up your arm. Somehow though the fish were not sticking and I failed to convert three solid offers.

It was 1300hrs and the party was well and truly over rods everywhere just stopped bending. It was going to be a grinder. The Sun had set phasers to malchy and it was pure roastin! We started to move around the basin looking for any signs that there might be feeding fish but to no avail. As the afternoon wore on we decided to move back to the area we started in. Jamie Nairn was there and was doing remarkably well with six fish to his credit. Phil Thomas and Paul Wright were to my right and we were all within shouting distance. Jamie was just saying how dead it was when my line was almost ripped from my fingers and I got a billy bonus fish to take me to five. Not much else after that and the match ended on a whimper. When we had all got back and had a rough informal count up it seemed as though it was going to be very close again.

The Normanton Hotel was where the evening meal was to be held so a few of the boys had a quick Dundee shower in the restrooms at Rutland before driving the short distance to the hotel. The RAF had organised this year with Dave Newing doing a sterling job. The venue and the food were outstanding. The result was a mixed bag Peter Harrop (73 years young by the way) my fellow ‘Old Lag’ retained the title from last year. Gerry Rattery who had a red letter day finishing shortly after 1300 won the Interservices trophy joining such excellent anglers as Phil Thomas, Ronnie Christie and Jock Kettles to name but a few. The Army team with five new caps to the squad made real match of the event but inevitably just fell short of the line. I was really disappointed for the lads as watching them on the water each and every one of them gave there all. As ever it was a great privilege to fish with such fine gentlemen and there’s always next year……  









The East & West Dart 30-31 July

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I had not had the chance to get out with my old mucker Graham Lumsdon since our trip to Slovenia. So I gave him a call and asked if he fancied a short trip down to his old stomping grounds on Dartmoor. Graham knows the system intimately after spending some considerable time practicing for national competitions as well as pegging the Commonwealth Championships there in 2014. It’ll be great I said, it will have had very little pressure and we will catch a hat full of fish!

So after a quick tea at mine we set of about 1945hrs, the Sat Nav had us getting to our digs at 2245hrs. Just in time for last orders bonus, the roads seemed quite and we were making good progress. Right up to the point when we came to a complete stop on the M3 just before Basingstoke, about a quarter of a mile ahead on the opposite carriage there had been a bad accident and the police had shut the motorway to allow access for the air ambulance. We were only held up for an hour or so though and we were back on the road and bombing it down to the West country. Finally arrived at the Prince of Wales pub in Princetown just at the back of midnight. Graham had kindly brought a bottle 12-year-old Bunnahabhain and after a night cap it was straight to bed. We had booked into the bunk house which although a bit Spartan it had a bed, toilet, shower and it boasts a little lounge area upstairs with fridge, kettle and a drying room. The price was right at £15 a night and you can get a very steady breakfast in the pub in the morning.

After a fine feed and a visit to Postbridge Post office for our tickets we decided to try our hand at the upper reaches of the East Dart. In years gone by this has produced big numbers of fish, but this year there was very little water in the river. We were both confident that there would still be some sport to be had though and traipsed up the not so well trodden path to a known mark. Graham opted to start fifty meters below me and I got myself into the tail of a likely looking run. I was rigged to fish straight dry to start but after picking the wrong rod to punch the line out (9’ for #2). Having the whole lot come back at me nearly as fast as I was putting it out I had to stick a little nymph on just to achieve turn over. Sure enough the first cast the little sedge pattern disappeared and as I struck a tiny fish whizzed by my ear and was catapulted down the river behind me. Whoops, I had forgotten how small the fish were here a good fish from this system would be 25-30cm. The next cast or so I managed one to the net but it was no more than 15cm but still a start.
I spent the next hour stumbling and crawling on my hands and knees catching only one more fish that was no bigger than the previous one. While I contemplated how utterly crap I was Graham had moved up ahead of me and pointed to a tiny run just above me. I made a half decent cast and a good fish came for the dry I struck and missed, bugger! Graham had not fared much better than me and it looked very like the upper reaches would not fish in this level of water. We decided to cut our losses and wander back down to Postbridge for a bite to eat and a re-think. We eventually opted for the main West Dart at the Swincombe steps area. Even in the low water there would be enough deep channels to hold a few fish.

The move proved to be a good one for me and even better for Graham. I slowly started to get to grips with the river again. I even managed to catch a few fish over twenty centimetres’. The wading was pretty treacherous though and late into the afternoon my inevitable swimming lesson started. I had just finished fishing a run and was at the head of the pool I had just started to stand up and slipped on my arse. As I tried to sit up the river had me and I found myself floating on my back. Luckily taking girls to swimming lessons every week finally paid off and skulled my way downstream until my fat arse hit land. As I regained my composure I quickly looked round to make sure Graham was not standing by with a camera, as you do! I waddled my way up to where Graham was crouched at the bottom of a run trying to catch some rising fish. It took a little while to empty my waders and wring out my shirt but eventually I was ready to crack on. Graham had built a decent total of fish where I was still in single figures not the best of days so far. We fished on until around 1830hrs but with the long and uphill walk back to car we both decided to wrap it for the day. I had nearly managed ten which amused Graham no end and was to become the catch phrase for the evening!

On returning to the digs we got scrubbed up and ventured into the pub for one of Terry’s legendary mixed grills. If you have been on the moors all day this is what you want to see on your plate. Now the evening’s entertainment it’s not quite what my wife Jayne thinks, I am sure she thinks we are of clubbing of a night but I can assure you I was barely able to drag my tired arse to dinner. After the meal we enjoyed some re-hydration in the form of Jail Ale. Previous experience has taught me that I am on a two-pint limit with this stuff its lethal! I don’t get to the pub much anymore two young kids, the price of beer I would rather enjoy a nice malt in the house. I do recall however that every pub would have a character you know the one not quite normal. Well the Prince of Wales boasted several of these characters who were highly amusing for the evening. We enjoyed a laugh with the locals but I was beat and another day of hiking saw me to bed by 1030.

The next day we were up bright and breezy, I wish I was aching all over from the previous days’ exertions. At breakfast the landlord Terry commented on our nice tans and said it was unusual as people usually come to get moss. Still we were going to make the best of it and headed down to the East Dart to fish around the area where the Cherry Brook joins the main river. I was going to take some photos before starting fishing so let Graham crack on when I returned he had made a great start. He was fishing in amongst big boulders and was enticing a few fish to a green bodied caddis fly. With a stiff downstream breeze, I tackled up a 9’ 6” #3 and tied on a duo rig to punch the dry into the wind. We walked downstream past the junction where the Cherry Brook comes in and down to some deeper runs that Graham had confidence that there would be a few fish. On the way we spooked a bird of prey that was on the ground feasting on a rabbit. Eventually we arrived at a sweet looking pool with a lovely run. Graham gave me the honours and I moved up on my knees behind a boulder and began to fish the tail of the pool. Only a couple of casts in and I had a cracking little Brown trout. As I worked my way up the run more fish followed mostly taking the nymph but the last one of the five right in the head off the pool came and smashed the dry.

Graham had moved downstream a bit further and had told me to take the high ground and follow him down. We were now entering water where in the normal scheme of things would be a very deep fast flowing river. As it was there was some lovely looking runs revealed by the low water. I had moved down past Graham and spotted several fish rising in a huge pool and decided to give them a go. It was great fun some fish taking the nymph but many more coming for the dry fly. Graham came to join me as I had moved up the river a little and stuck some wets through the fish but only managed one on and off. As we moved back up the river Graham spooked a nice looking Sea Trout which had tucked itself into the bank in shin deep water. We arrived back up to just below where Graham had fished at the junction of the Cherry Brook and fished up. There was sport to be had but you had to be on your hands and knees and use the cover of the boulders to catch the fish. We had both managed a good few before returning to the car.

For the last session before returning home we opted to park at Two Bridges and walk downstream to fish back up. The walk down was tough going over some particularly challenging terrain. Eventually though it was worth the walk and we found some runs that made it worthwhile. You’re not going to find big trout in this river unless you luck into a sea trout. But what you will get is some of the prettiest wild fish around, size definitely isn’t everything.

We had enjoyed a grand couple of days and most importantly managed to catch up and enjoy a good laugh mostly at each other’s expense both of us spending a little time up to our waists in the Dartmoor bog. I had spent some time immersed in the river quite literally but it had all been a blast. I need to start thinking about the boat fishing soon ….but not yet, not yet.   



The Avon (Stonehenge Beat) 21 Jul


By coincidence I often have to travel down to Andover for very short meetings. It would be a real shame to have travelled all that way and not take advantage of the excellent fishing opportunities to be had all over the area. So an early start saw me standing by a familiar stretch of river, I had fished here a couple of weeks earlier with Alan Ward. It’s difficult to fish well when the pressure of the camera is on you so I thought it would be nice to have it to myself and just enjoy the place. I had no sooner returned from walking the length of the beat and had begun to set up when I was joined by two other anglers Warren and John. Warren a regular visitor and John who lived a bit further afield could not have picked a better day for it. It was hot but not the oppressive heat that we have had in the South for the last few days. As time was against me I left them to get tackled up and headed up to a section that I had spotted several Grayling rising. There was also a very decent looking Brown trout sipping some small midge from the surface just a little upstream of them.

I had tackled up my shorter rod as I intended to do the bulk of my fishing under the canopy of some large trees. A start a little down from where I had spotted the grayling rising soon saw me into a bit of sport. Not your big fish mind but of a good stamp between 25-30cm if carefully handled these have the potential to get much bigger. In amongst the shoal of Grayling a rouge Brown trout put in an appearance again only small but in perfect proportion. I was having a blast and noticed Warren and John fishing below me slowly moving up. I had only moved about 20’ all in but was now in the area where I saw the trout rise. The first couple of casts to the area brought small Grayling slashing at the fly. Then from nowhere the trout came and smashed the dry. It gave a great account of itself but with little flow in the river to aid the fight it was quickly into the net. I am using one of Glen Pointen’s floating nets its ideal if like me you enjoy taking pictures of fish before releasing them. The fish can sit in the net while you get all you shit together; you can even sit your rod on top of the net to allow both hands free for the photography bit. But here is a top tip, ensure the net is connected to you in some manner or watch your rod, net and fish float gently away from you! By the time I had retrieved my camera the net with rod and fish was some 10’ from me. Luckily the river was in a lazy mood and it did not take long to retrieve all three items. Photo done, I waded back up to where I had caught the fish.

The river is not quite canal like but not far from it so wading has to be done with considerable care. Any thrashing about results in fish bolting for cover me running down the river trying to catch my net had not helped. I was however up into fresh water I had spotted a few more steadily rising Grayling. I managed to grab a couple pulling them quickly from the shoal as not to spook the rest. The water was very clear and as I watched my next cast drift down I saw a good fish swim down and track it back about a foot. It decided to have it and this boy did not need any flow in the river to fight It brought its own motor! It carted round the pool bossing the fight for the most part. Eventually it got downstream of me and all my slack line was on the reel and I began to move down after him. Once I was clear of the canopy the fight was a lot easier and I could raise my rod high. The fish slipped over the brim of the net and it was a beauty. Well chuffed with my efforts a quick glance at my watch showed my time was running out.

I wandered up the river a little dipping in here and there taking the odd Grayling but I did want to make time to take some photographs with my big camera back at the car. So after a great little session it was time to stow the tackle and break out the camera. There was so many bugs and beasties about it was great fun trying to photograph them. The river was alive with life and as always I was just glad to be there. I met another member whose name I failed to catch a Canadian gentleman who was with his wife. 81 years old and still fishing, fair play! As I arrived back at the car Warren and John had returned for a spot of lunch. We chatted about all things fishy, isn’t it great how you can meet fellow anglers and instantly be chatting away. They had faired pretty well fishing a small black nat I handed over my successful patterns. Before I knew it I was already late for my meeting but it was worth every minute! A trip to the Dart with my old mucker Graham Lumsdon in a week, so no fishing for me this weekend :-(




River Avon (Stonehenge/Manningford) 09 Jul

Images courtesy of Alan Ward, please click on the photos for a better view

All year I have been trying to find a date in the diary to co-ordinate a trip to a chalk stream with Alan Ward. We go back a long way through the Army, Alan now works as a semi professional photographer and pens the odd article for publication. Boasting over 25 front covers you could say he is an accomplished photographer, you can check out his work here. I really enjoy photography but I enjoy fishing more, often when I try to combine the two I end up doing neither very well. So it was a great boon to have Al along to do the snapping. I had never been to the Stonehenge Beat of the Avon but it had come highly recommended by Malcolm Hunt from Manningford. I have to say when I arrived at the bankside I was not disappointed. The banks were meticulously kept and the river was in perfect nick, it seemed to be the perfect depth for wading and there were several fish rising along its length. Al and I decided to walk the beat first to get a feel for the river and the best areas to fish. It was a wide meandering beat with long slow glides, perfect dry fly water. There were lots of Grayling present in the river and we did spot the odd Brown trout. This was chalk stream fishing as you would imagine it. There were no other anglers present by the time we got back to the car so it looked like we would have the beat to ourselves.

Alan was not fishing but did produce more cameras and kit than you could shake a stick at. In fact, he brought a long stick with a Go-Pro attached! I also gave him two of my cameras as well just for good measure. I had tackled up faster than Alan had sorted out his camera kit and told him I would be in the river. I only had a couple of casts before catching the first of many 25-30cm Grayling. Stunning little fish that are perfectly formed, I was hoping for something a little bigger as the day went on. Alan had not long arrived when I hooked the first Brown trout of the day. Not big but just lovely to behold, Stonehenge is a wild fish only beat so I was not expecting any really big fish. We moved upstream slowly as the water was so still that even moving carefully would cause a bow wave to ripple upstream immediately calming the water of any rising fish. The Grayling were easy enough if you covered them more often or not you would be rewarded with a chance. Alan spent some time photographing the fish and I was glad of the Glen Pointon floating net. The fish could be kept in this once unhooked. This allowed Alan the time to sort out his shot and get what he was after without causing undue stress to the fish.

We had moved up maybe 50 meters and after catching predominantly Grayling with the odd small Brown trout the pressure was on to get Alan something a little bigger to photograph. I was more than a little relieved when my two weight buckled over and a better fish went ballistic carting this way and that. I knew from the way it was fighting that it was a reasonable sized Brown. I was very pleased to see it slip into the net and Alan did the honours with the camera.  Though not a huge fish on the very light tackle I was fishing it had given a great account of itself. After the fish was safely returned the call of nature beckoned. Not one to see a fly rod sitting idle Alan had a go himself quickly bringing a small Grayling to hand. Not a minute later Alan had hooked a pretty nice Brown trout, life in the old dog yet! I think he would have like to fish on but I was keen to get back to work. I took charge of the rod once more and tried in vain to recover the dry fly it had been mullered. I changed it over and gave it a little treatment, I have been using some of the Glide Floatant. It’s a lot like Gink but not as expensive and does exactly the same job. We had pushed maybe halfway up the beat when a chap turned up to trim a bit of branch from the path by the river. I had not even noticed it the chap was Chris Thomas and he was a bailiff for the S&D club. I introduced myself and he was a variable font of knowledge on the S&D waters and was more than happy to give advice on where else to try. After Chris had moved on we moved to an area that we had marked where a good fish had been lying. Alan had moved up the bank and confirmed it was still there. Double teaming it with me casting to Alan’s direction I failed to tempt the quarry. After making several fly changes to no avail and then eventually spooking the fish it was time to move on. I missed out a large chunk of water as there was another angler on the opposite bank. I ended up popping out near to the end of the beat. This was a great looking part of the river with long beds of ranunculus flowing in the crystal clear water. There were long runs with a quicker flow and clear channels where you would imagine fish to lie. After taking a few fish though my tummy clock was telling me it was lunch time. So back to the car for a bite to eat and a catch up with Alan.

The morning session had been outstanding and after attempting to give some of the water another go it was obvious that the afternoon was going to prove much tougher. The fish had seemed to have gone off less rises were evident and at one point it very nearly rained. The plan had always been to move up to the Manningford stretch anyway. So we saddled up and headed to the gate, where I met Chris again. He had asked if I had seen the vandalism to the returns book, but I had not as I had forgotten to complete it. He told me that a gang of small kids had ripped and defaced the book, little falkers! Would you not just pay good money to catch them doing it?

It’s about 11 miles to Manningford from the Stonehenge beat and I had warned Malcolm off that I would be around with a photographer in tow. The bit I wanted to fish is not the easiest in the world and having been spoiled in the morning it took me some while to adjust to the much narrower and tree canopy enclosed stretch. I knew it would be worthwhile though as there were some pretty big fish in this stretch. So after much cursing and loss of flies and of course real flies buzzing round and making a nuisance of themselves I eventually started to get into it. The first few fish were small Grayling but eventually I started getting the odd Rainbow but they were still on the small side. Opportune feeders anything that fell onto the river from the trees was met by a rising fish. As I was drawing to the end of the run I was fishing thoughts of a better fish were drifting away. Suddenly in the shallowest of water there was an eruption as a big Rainbow engulfed my fly. Just what I was after as I tightened up on the behemoth it leapt into the air almost beaching itself on the bank. Unfortunately for me it did not make the bank nor the net, it’s one huge leap had dislodged the hook and it was gone. It left a visible V shape in the shallow water as it headed for the hills. I have to say I was a little disappointed and I said to Alan what a great shame, well actually it was more along the lines of “you **** piece of *** **** ***ing *****” we’ve all been there so I am sure you get the picture.

Time was wearing on and I was getting pretty tired, one last bit to try before calling it a day. We had passed an area on the way up that held a couple of nice Rainbows, it was worth a chuck. I started by edging up the edge and managed to fool a couple of small Grayling. But I was hoping for something a tad bigger. After making a couple of really awkward casts round a corner which I could not really see land, I heard a splash and speculatively lifted my rod. I was in, as I broke from cover I could see it was a decent fish. I was fishing light and tested the tackle to its limit the fish was in a charitable mood and splashed and thrashed straight into the waiting net. The photography part was very difficult under a dark canopy of trees; the light was awful. Alan was having some technical issues with his kit and we only managed a couple of half decent images. Still a nice way to finish up the day and we headed back to the lodge where we had parked up. We sat discussing the day and the prospect of a future project when the Trout season was finished. A great day out plenty of fish in the most idyllic of locations. Not only that I got to catch up with an old friend and ended up with some great images from the day. I really cannot wait to explore more of the S&D water. The problem is its like being a kid in a sweet shop always wondering which to grap next. Really looking forward to my next outing maybe I can tempt my pal Graham Lumsdon to come along for a day out?

I have recently added a fly fishing forum to the website please feel free to join and add value to the threads it can be accesssed from the link above in the navigation bar.


The River Itchen (Orvis Beat) 04 Jul


I had shared a boat with Graeme Ferguson way back in April on Rutland water. We had discussed the prospect of a day on the river then but I had forgotten all about it to be honest. I got the message on the Saturday that he was down this neck of the woods and would be fishing on the Monday. It took a bit of fast footwork with my boss who is an absolute gem and gave his blessing. So I found myself on the M3 heading for the Itchen on Monday morning instead of the office, bonus!

I have not fished the Itchen for trout ever the small problem of not being loaded always getting in my way. I have however fished it for Grayling on several occasions and have caught some pretty impressive ladies from this river. I turned up far to early so decided to have a little exploration of the beat. It being the start of the weed cutting I had expected the river to be carrying a bit of colour. I was however pleasantly surprised to find it running very clear. As I walked across the small footbridge to the other bank I spooked several fish, not big mind but plenty of them. It’s not a particularly long beat and you can cover the whole distance in twenty-five minutes ambling up the bank spotting fish. Graeme showed up just before eight and as you’re not allowed to fish before nine I did the whole thing again with Graeme. Of course in the company of another angler everything takes much longer as you blether shite about fish lies, access and how you think it might fish. So we were at the very top of the beat at nine with no kit. After hot footing it back to the hut where we left our kit Graeme grabbed his rod and I the camera. I was keen to get some photos of Graeme getting his first chalk stream fish.

As chance would have it I did not have to wait long after only five minutes Graeme’s rod lifted and he was into a very nice Brown trout. What a great start to the day, keen to wet my own line I headed back to the hut and grabbed my rod. I had opted for an 8’6” #3 and was fishing a light duo rig with a Parachute Adams and a size #18 Mary nymph of the bend. This is my usual rig for fishing clear shallow water and it seldom disappoints. Only a few casts in and the Adam’s disappeared I lifted into my first Brown trout of the day. Not the biggest fish in the river but very welcome none the less. Pressed right into the edge of the bank I creeped up the edge fishing at distance. The next two offers I missed and the one after that I just spotted the Grayling roll over spitting my fly as it did so. More alert to the presence of the Grayling I was much more alert to the takes. Next cast my rod bent over and the fish shot downstream. Again not very big but perfectly formed.

Graeme had now moved above me and was fishing from the bank. It was a little more challenging fishing this way as there is quite a bit of vegetation in front of the water and in many areas little room for a back cast. Armed with such a short rod I resigned myself to return to the section where wading was permitted. I really enjoy being in the water especially when the wading is so easy. I fished up about one hundred yards taking a mix of Grayling and Browns. After this I opted to go and find Graeme to see how he was fairing. I spotted him the other side of the M3 fly over and stopped to try my hand at some of the bigger fish that lived just on the edge of the bridge. My efforts were mostly ignored though except, for a smallish Grayling that swooped on my heavy bug. As I approached Graeme he reported several Grayling but not many Browns. I moved above him to fish the very last fishable bit of water at the top of the beat. It was indeed Grayling central and after taking one after the other we decided to head back to the hut for a bit of lunch. It had been a grand morning and as we sat having a bite to eat several fish had started to rise. I was going to just take a few more pictures of Graeme but thought one on the dries before I called it a day. I had started by offering them a little sedge pattern that I have a lot of faith in but after a couple fish coming to look and turning their noses up it was time to go down. I tied on, after much swearing and cursing of my knackered eyes a size #18 shuttlecock emerger. It took a couple of casts to get it right where I wanted but when I got it right a nice Brownie came up and smashed it. It was to prove my last and best fish of the day, child care duties beckoned and with the unpredictable traffic I did not fancy being chastised by my seven-year-old for being late!

 I gave my thanks to Graeme and said my goodbyes, he was driving back to Edinburgh after fishing with an appointment on the Lake of Mentieth the next day. The lengths we will go to for a days fishing! I am sure he enjoyed the fishing greatly and I received a number of photos via FB later in the day with some cracking looking Brown trout and a smattering of Grayling. I hope he can come back down sometime when we can arrange a whole day or couple of days fishing.    



Durrington Fishery River Avon 30 Jun


By chance I managed to get the work fishing balance just right a meeting in the area that afternoon left a spare morning to explore some of the Salisbury & District water. I got in touch with Malcolm Hunt who manages Manningford Trout Fishery. He is a font of knowledge in regards the local area and put me right on the money. When I arrived at Manningford I was surprised and pleased that out of all the water I could have chosen from the generous S&D ticket that I had picked this one. A large comfortable and clean lodge sits on the banks of the fishery with stunning views across the lake. I was greeted by Malcolm with the offer of a hot drink, very welcome. The lake was booked out to Bill Howell from fishing for forces and the car park was filling up fast with some familiar faces. I was here to fish the river though and after an excellent briefing from Malcolm using the map displayed in the lodge I had a good idea of the beat. It was much longer than I had anticipated and I wanted to see it all.

I made my way down to the bottom of the beat and on the opposite bank I could see a nice hammock by the river with a caravan which I assume is for anglers to use. There was a deep weir pool at this part of the river but I was rigged with a dry fly and only had a couple of speculative casts. Moving carefully upstream I purposely stayed close to the edge of the river to try and get a feel for the fish density. Spotting the last remnants of Mayflies, the odd one or two could still be seen fluttering down the river trying to stay above the water. I had the odd cast here and there but always conscious of the time pushed on. I got to a really nice run that was bending sharply round on a hairpin. I could see a few fish rising and managed to hook one up but it gave a little wriggle and was gone. The flash of silver as it shot back to a deeper hole gave it away as a Grayling. Nice to see those back on the menu!

Before too long I was back at the lodge and the fishing for forces day was in full swing. A tremendous turn out saw experienced anglers coupled with novices being shown the ropes. I ducked into the undergrowth to find myself back by the river. This section was mostly covered by the canopy and looked awkward to fish. As I walked up I could see many fish darting about they had chosen their spots well, they were marked in my mind though and I will be having a go at them in the near future. I moved further up noting various areas where fish were steadily rising. One area in particular seemed to hold quite a big fish and I resolved to have a good look at that later. I walked up as far as the Church, this marks the point at which no more wading is allowed. So I turned around and made my way back to the spot I had noted before.

Careful to avoid the edge of the river I slipped into the almost canal like stretch as carefully as a fat boy like me could (not very). You know when you go fishing and you know your shite, well the first five minutes were a lot like that. I slipped sending a tidal wave up the river, then I caught my fly high in a tree. After several expletives and a re-show on my kit I got into it. I was still a good way back and the rising fish still seemed oblivious to my presence. I started to pick up some small Grayling, always welcome and then I caught a small Rainbow of about 30cm. A perfectly formed fish and reminiscent of the wild Rainbows I had caught in Slovenia. I worked my way up at a snail’s pace taking several fish trying to get into position of a fish that was very obviously of a much bigger stamp than those that had gone previously.
As my parachute Adams hit the water it was immediately engulfed and a fish tore of downstream it was only little though and I just assumed that it was punching above its weight. A spritely little Rainbow of maybe half a pound. As I looked up I saw a big bubble in the same area, perhaps the big one was still there. Sure enough the next cast the water exploded and a huge Rainbow leapt clear of the water. It tail walked towards me while I tried frantically to strip line and get some tension on. I had no sooner got some tension on the fish than it very obligingly swam straight into my waiting net. I estimated the fish at between 2.5 and 3lb an obvious escapee from the fishery. I went on to get another few fish but time had beat me today it was time to get back.

As I walked back along the banks of the fishery the novice anglers were having a ball many with fish on the banks. A real testament to how well stocked the lake is, as I strolled up many fish could be seen sipping flies from the surface. This was a dry fly fisherman’s dream, so I was more than a little perplexed to see 4” cats whiskers being thrashed across the lake. Each to their own though and the results could not be argued with. I resolved to bring my daughter here and try and infect her with the bug of fly fishing, this will be much to the disgust of my wife Jayne. After saying my goodbyes to Malcolm and a few of the boys it was back to real life NOT!

Many thanks to Malcolm Hunt not only for his time explaining the beat but for the kind loan of a landing net, which I had neglected to bring. Manningford is a stunning location for a day’s fishing and I may well have a go on the lakes next time round. It is certainly worth considering if you are looking for a relaxed day on the bank.     



Thin Diameter Fly Lines (Review)

I know they have been around for some time now and some very notable anglers have sung their praises. Not someone to miss out on some new fishing tackle I decided to bite the bullet and throw some of my hard earned sheckles at one of these lines. The choice is not exhaustible but there are certainly a few to choose from in the market place. Sunray, Rio, Hanak and several other respected manufacturers. Most of my river fishing fly lines have been Rio and I find them a joy to use, they don’t last long mind getting stood on with wading boots and studs. None the less it’s a brand I have confidence in so I opted for the Rio European Nymph line. It arrived well packaged on a plastic spool and the operation of transferring it to the reel is simple enough.

The first thing that struck me was how very thin the line was not quite the diameter of my French Leader but pretty anorexic! It’s not even the thinnest one on the market but still compared with a good old 7Wgt this was thin. The next thing is the end where you would attach your tippet is very bright orange that you should be able to see about a week away. I was quite excited to try it out, the promise was great but would it prove itself invaluable for future outings and replace my current rig of a French Leader and indicator?

When at the water the line handles teams of flies effortlessly, I was initially fishing a double nymph setup with about six feet of tippet attached directly to the fly line. I was fishing in very clear water and watched a number of Grayling come and inspect the fly my eye drawn from the orange indicator. It took a little time to get used to the large orange length of indicator, perhaps going at it with a sharpie in black banding the tip may make it easier to view. After getting a bit more used to the way the line handled I quite enjoyed using it. I can see it coming in handy when there is a bit more wind on the river and the French leader rig doesn’t cope as well.

When trying the line fish started to rise and I quickly changed to dry fly. Although this line would not replace my trusty LT line for this sort of fishing at a pinch it did a job for me. A short while later I decided to swing some wets with it which it did very well.

So in conclusion it is a welcome addition to the armoury and maybe in time it will replace my French leader set up, but not yet, maybe after a few more sessions working with it. If you have some spare fishing tackle money and its burning a hole in your pocket it would be worth giving it a go.



Army Championships’ Rutland Water17 – 19 Jun


The prospect of fishing Rutland always fills me with excitement. It is one of my favourite venues and what better way to fish it than with an old friend. I was to be sharing a boat with Jock Kettles the banter was sure to be good. Only a small number of anglers were able to attend the event this year, certainly a sign of the times. Usually when the Army turn up for this event we are met with high winds and bright sunshine. Not this year though there was a light ripple and good overcast conditions. When I fall asleep at nights thinking of troot this is the kind of day it would be. We both had received reports of fish out in the middle of the basin as well as close into the banks. I had started on a full floater and Jock had opted for the midge tip. First cast and Jock had generated a bit of interest immediatlly only two or three casts later and I had a sharp pull, it was going to be great! A short while later I managed one to the boat. It fought like a Spartan carting this way and that before finally coming to the net a cracking rainbow of about 2lb. As we floated down the drift we could see Derek Sibson playing a fish, Jock mentioned that he had started on a DI5. I decided to drop downstairs to a DI3 and as we approached the bush to the left of X Bouy my line locked up again. This time the roly poly retrieve had done a job but surprisingly it had not been the FAB on the point but the large shrimp pattern I had placed in the middle. Once more the fish fought like fury these fish were in fine fettle and giving a great account of themselves.

Jock was persevering with a variety of different lines but not getting much luck. In fact, after such a promising start the morning started to quiet down somewhat. We made various long drifts no joy, guys we bumped into were either fairing no better or were reporting having good numbers of fish to the boat. Paul Calvert had managed ten fish while his poor partner Jim Wright had not managed a fish. Paul was kind enough to tell us what he was doing so I changed back to my floater, first cast and I am into another fish. Could this be it just throw the floater out and hang on? Well not for me and certainly not for Jock who had gone radio silent. It had been extremely difficult and by 1500hrs we had only managed three fish between us. We knew they were there as we had both gotten several follows but the fish just seemed reluctant to take our poultry offerings. Perhaps the crystal clear water was putting them of a bit. Then from nowhere they decided to start feeding, follows turned to takes and in no time at all Jock had put three fish in the boat. A little behind the curve I changed back to pulling on a DI3 and was soon into another hard fighting fish. We finished up with four fish each, I have had worse days!

In the evening we were off to Weatherspoon’s in Oakham for our evening meal. It was good chance to catch up with Dave Murray who was up pleasure fishing for a few days. A bit of food and a refreshing shandy then back to Whittering for a few pain killers and a dram. My back was in clip, if there had been a wind I doubt I would have seen the day out. As it was a good night’s rest worked wonders. Up and at them early start (0900) kick off. We had gotten the boat draw the night before and I was to fish with Alex a novice to the Federation but a very competent angler. Being a left hooker I gave up the engine to Alex and he was happy enough to go where ever. I had not planned on leaving the main basin truth be told. The weather again had been kind and conditions were excellent. As the gun went off Jock and I exchanged glances as almost half the boats headed up the South arm. Woulda, shoulda, coulda practiced up there but didn’t bother. It started of pretty tough and that did not change throughout the day for me at least. Bouncing around Jock we were both toiling a bit. I had managed to winkle out a couple of fish but it was hard going my back was giving me some serious jip and the pulling tactics that were working for me no longer became an option. I packed all the uglies away and resorted to washing lining some shrimp patterns. Alex had also managed a couple of fish despite the lack of action it was a great day to be on the water. I managed another couple of fish feeding hard into the bank on the shrimps, they don’t half go in the shallow water. A couple of the fish beat me in the end fighting free from the hook before I was able to get them to the boat. Jock had come into the area I was fishing, by this point only looking for two fish. He was not disappointed as he took them both in as many casts pulling a DI3. His partner Jim Wright was stuck on three but as the last hour ticked by I watched Jim put in a sterling performance pulling out his last five fish with only ten minutes to go. As I was packing up my stuff Andy Everitt was coming in in search of just two fish, I duly pointed him in the direction of X Buoy where Jim W had just gone to town. A good day but a sore one for me a bite to eat tablets and a night cap. I even contemplated not bothering with the next day as I was not sure my back would take another day.

I woke up the next day in a fair bit of pain but after a big breakfast and pain killers I was good to go. I decided to stick with the gentle stuff and tackled up a floater. My partner for the day was Paul Wright, being the gentleman he kindly took the engine. The second day is always strange all the secret areas are out the bag everyone knows what everyone else had done the day before. The boat split was pretty even half up the South arm and most others over towards Sykes Lane. Both Paul and I were not in the running so opted to leave them to it we decided to fish the Normanton bank as I had the previous day. With the lack of boats and engine noise there was a real beauty to the place that will keep coming back to this amazing place. The fish were not for joining in however and I suggested a look up to Yellowstone. We could see the other half of the fleet at New Zealand point but having bumped into Paul C and Steve L thought better of joining the happy throng. As we moved into Yellowstone a couple of bank anglers were setting up, always a good sign. The water was clear, it wasn’t too bright and it looked fishy. Other that the fact we could not so much as muster a follow it was great. We did not stay long and after a couple of long drifts we decided to return to the Normanton bank.

The floater was just not cutting it so at the risk of my back the DI3 went back on. I was only short lining it and stroking it back. Paul and I had the whole bank to ourselves and not long into the drift and out of nowhere I had a violent take that after a hard fight ended up in the bass bag. Of the mark another two fish followed suit in fairly short order. As we approached the blue pipes I could see the bank anglers stood well back from the bank fishing into the margins and doing rather well. I hit another fish just by the blue pipes but just as I was bringing it across the net it came off, briefly catching on my point fly it made a little wriggle and was gone. I thought I took the loss of this fish on such a hard day rather well. We decided to go all the way back and it was Pauls turn to get into some fish. I lost my next fish but things were really picking up. It was around 1530 when it really started to come alive. By 1600 I had taken seven and was confident of a finish. Despite my best efforts I finished on seven. It had been a great day though and thoroughly enjoyable the Ipbrufen had done a job for me and my back had behaved. Paul and indeed all my partners had been outstanding over the three days and I very much look forward to fishing with them again.

Si Elson has these events down to a fine art and the weigh in was done in a quick and efficient military fashion. A big thanks to the unsung heroes who makes these matches possible, Si Elson, Richard Thorpe, Paul Calvert and our sponsor Steve Lawes from Delliote. Your efforts are much appreciated. Jock Kettles won the Associate cup and Paul Calvert was crowned Army Champion. I believe the Royal Engineers won the Corp team Competition and 7 Scots won the Unit team event. Medals and cakes presented we were all off our separate ways, a great three days roll on the Autumn meeting.



Pro – Am Grafham Water 16 Jun

Graham Pearson asked me to fish this match which is a team organised by Graham against the Confederation of English Fly Fishers. I had missed out on the Bob Church Classic the week before due to a back injury. Although my back was still not quite right I decided to give it a go sponsored by Ipbrufen and paracetamol. The weather looked exceptionally good overcast and light winds perfect! Speaking to a few of the boys in the car park the fishing had been up and down one minute folks would be fighting fish off with the oars. Another day guys would be scraping round for an offer, which would it be today?

It was great to catch up with a few of the Confederation guys and few other old soldiers. I had drawn Peter De Kremer, he had practiced the previous day and was happy enough to take the engine. I had seen several fish topping before the boats had left the dock and was hopeful that the fishing would be pretty good. We sped towards the right side of the dam in the flat calm. As we approached several fish could be seen smutting through small pin fry and we both began to fish expectantly. Due to the wind bouncing off the dam the boat moved haphazardly around. Peter did an excellent job of keeping us in the zone so to speak. Despite our efforts though we managed only a take each. Time was pushing on and after a couple of fruitless hours we decided to find a friend.

We arrived not far away amongst a few other boats and I spotted Al Owen who had managed a couple of fish. He explained hoe he was getting them deep, so a quick change to a five sweep and I was soon bored out my tiny skull! I don’t mind fishing the the ugly stuff early season but surely the middle of June …..come on. After half an hour of so I did not so much get a take, it was more like the line just going a bit heavy. As I pulled in line the rod buckled into a pleasing arc, the fish had been deep, very deep. As I brought it up to the surface the arc in the rod disappeared and I could just make out the tail of a nice fish swishing back to the depths. That was about all she wrote for my fishing that day. No other follows or takes, I would have to go back a long way to find a day’s fishing less memorable.

More of note was the superb company of Peter a passionate angler who lives no fat from Rutland. He reported some pretty outstanding fishing to be had up there with tales of fish close in feeding on the shrimp. As I was going up to Rutland that evening I was all ears. As the skies began to darken around the water Peter caught a fish on the midge tip, happy days. It was the first bit of action in ever such a long time. Shortly after as spots of rain found their way to my face Peter had another perhaps things were going to turn. Turn they did, the rain started to fall in huge sheets and the rumble of thunder could be heard in the not so distant distance. We wound in an high tailed it to the bank. Another angler had beaten us to it and watched as we beached the boat on the South shore. From the bank I could see fork lightning streaking out towards the ground. Sitting out in the middle of a lake waving a lightning conductor around was not my idea of a good time. We waited patiently for it to pass. A lack of wind was hindering this and I suspected this was in for the day.

The weather seemed to subside a little and Peter and I agreed that it would be safe to venture back out. As we were returning to the area where Peter had taken his two fish we could see the launch speeding round the boats and knew it was all over. Mark Haycock approached us and explained that there were three storms surrounding the water and we were to return to the dock, good call. As we returned it was evident that it had been a very tough day. I was in good company joining several of my team mates with the big donut! The match itself seemed to be a very close affair with only one fish between the two teams. We would not know the results until after the meal.

The meal was in The Lion Hotel in Buckden, only a short drive from the water. It was a three course meal and very good it was to. It was great to catch up with fellow anglers sharing stories and opinions about fishing. I was particularly pleased to see John Seaton who seems to be making the most of his retirement from Anglian Water. Less pleased to see him drown a decent whiskey with lemonade mind but I can work on that…lol. The results were super close but as luck would have it the professional team ably led by Graham had won the day. Nobody likes not catching fish but still I can’t help but think how much I enjoyed the day. After the meal it was onwards and upwards to Rutland for three days to attend the Army Championships. 



Lipnica 30 May

Well last but certainly not least Matej had advised us that the Lipnica was a hidden gem worth a visit. He kindly got in touch with one of the local bailiffs to check water levels, they were all good so we set of for this little known tributary of the mighty Sava. As yet none of us had managed a Brown trout which is surprising considering the amount of water we had fished. We had picked up breakfast from the now firm favorite bakery in Bled and set off for the venue. The sat nav was taking us one way but Graham thought it would be better if we tracked the river and have a look at the beat. I was driving and I can tell you now the roads were not for the faint hearted! At one point Del thought I was going to drive down a set of stairs and when he screamed out like a girl I was thinking the same. Anyways a long story short we managed to get to the spot in one piece with only a few of my nerves frayed.

We got out for a quick look at the river, this was a much smaller river than what we had been used to over the previous few days. It was running pretty clear despite a bit of rain the previous day. As we ogled a few fish over the bridge it was only apparent just how many fish were there when I started to drop a bit of my breakfast over the side. In the space of maybe twenty yards’ fish started appearing from everywhere. They were not just small fish either some pretty impressive specimens were showing their hand. I was to partner up with Del today and we were to have the water that we were looking at. Graham and Graeme were going to walk down to the confluence where the river meets the Sava and fish up. I told Del he was welcome to the water at the bridge as I had spotted a small run about fifty meters up that I really fancied. I stayed and watched Del for a bit taking a few photos before eventually moving up to the good looking run.

I decided to approach this run carefully on my hands and knees, keen to try and maximize the number of fish from it. Fishing the very tail of the run with a tiny Mary #18, Only a couple of casts and I was playing a spritely little Rainbow. I netted the fish and it was one of the prettiest fish I had taken the entire trip. The careful approach was paying dividends and more fish began to come increasing slowly but surely in size. I had to change to a heavier bug as the flow began to increase and the run became deeper. The change met with instant success and another few fish came to visit. I was in my element but running out of water. Up ahead there was a small weir, always a promising sight. I dropped back to get Del and we approached the weir together Del on the left and I on the right. The first few casts saw us both take fish nothing very big but most welcome. We thought we were in for a beano but were brought back down with a bump when the takes began to dry up. By this point we were both right at the edge of the weir. I was now changing through various weights of bugs to illicit a take. I had gotten to a .6 of gram heavy bug when at last the rod went over it felt like a better fish then the ones before and fought deep. As I brought it under control I could see it was a Brown trout outstanding the grand slam beckoned. As it slipped over the brim of the net I gave a triumphant shout of get in! Del only a short distance away did the honors with the camera. It was a stunning looking fish with the red spots looking really vivid. I was over the moon. Del moved back down to the run I had fished earlier and managed to winkle out another couple of fish. We were due to meet up for lunch and that time was fast approaching. So we moved back up towards the bridge we had looked down from that morning. Ten minutes till we were due to meet up it would be rude not to. I slipped into the water and dropped to my knees shuffling into position. Only a couple of casts and I was playing a healthy Rainbow, great way to finish of the morning.

Over lunch the other boys Graham and Graeme told us that they had not fared so well and that the water below the bridge up to railway bridge had not been up too much. After lunch Del and I headed down to the railway bridge to start fishing up but the water was to skinny and narrow for both of us. I finished that section for nothing, when I had moved up I could see Graham planted on his backside pulling fish out on the dries regularly. Graeme was fishing just about every other bit of water. As I had moved up to the bridge to watch Graham from a higher vantage point he hooked into a cracker of a fish than ran wild through the pool. He eventually netted the fish which would have been in the 2-3lb bracket. It was a stunning fish and I got in close with the camera to try and capture its beauty. After the excitement of the big fish we decided to explore the water above the weir. It was stunning water and fish though small were rising steadily. I had moved up into some sweet looking water but for all my efforts I could only manage a few sprats.

A change of location in the afternoon saw us in the middle of the beat. I was really pleased to be on hand when Del caught a Brown trout to complete the grand slam and got some nice photos of it. I spent some time sorting out a new tapered leader in preparation for the evening rise. Once I was set up though I decided to have a wee stroll up the river and found some quite magical water. Well it certainly looked the part, I could not winkle out anything bigger than about 25cm. I had kind of lost track of the time and when I glanced at my watch I realized it was nearly five. I hot tailed it back to the car before the search parties were sent out. Graham reported catching a Brown trout as well so a great afternoon session was had by all. The decision was to stay on and fish the evening rise?

Matej had advised that we fished the confluence at the very top of our ticket. We duly drove up there and had a walk down to the river. There were already two anglers on the spot and it looked as though the river was on the rise. The clarity was pretty poor as well and there was much huffing and hawing as to what to do. This would be our last chance at an evening rise so if we packed up now that would be the end of our fishing trip. After ten minutes’ deliberation we decided to call it.

This was my 50th birthday present from my wife and I could not have imagined receiving anything else that will make me grin from ear to ear for some time to come. I would like to thanks her from the bottom of my heart for putting up with not only me being away from home but my constant banging on about fishing. I would also like to thank Graham Lumsdon whose meticulous planning and sound decision making makes all the trips I have been on with him a real joy. Thanks also to Del Spry and Graeme Sharp for their company on the trip.

My final thoughts on Slovenia…. You will be hard pressed to find a meal that you won’t enjoy, the food was superb. Don’t stick to the beaten tracks The Soca and Sava are breathtaking but there are other venues within this country worth exploring. The people are very friendly and mostly speak very good English. There is a lot more to do than just fish, I know this may be a bit alien but I could easily come here with just a camera and be happy.  



The Sava Trophy Section 28-29 May

The Sava Bohinjka is a headwater of the Sava River in northwestern Slovenia at 41 kilometers’ (25 mi) in length, it is the shorter of the two headwaters that become the Sava River in Radovlijica, the other being the 45 km (28 mi)-long Sava Dolinka. The Trophy section of this river is only a five-minute car drive from Bled. We had visited Fauna Bled, this is the tackle shop on the main drag in Bled. The shop is good and you can get your tickets and some essentials but where it really scores is Matej Gartnar. A passionate angler with an encyclopedic knowledge of the fishing in Slovenia. His advice was spot on and was to prove invaluable for the last days fishing, but more on that later.

Graham had the foresight to book the Trophy section on both days of the weekend. This gave us exclusive access to about 2km of water. After yesterday’s combat fishing on the Soca this would be a real boon. As well as the Trophy water we were also permitted to fish on the other beats of the Sava so plenty to go at. We had picked up a bit of breakfast from the local bakers and sat munching away on a bridge looking up and down the Sava. Below us holding station in the deep runs were some truly huge fish, sitting deep in the water and undisturbed by the four anglers drooling over the bridge. Three of us had fished this water a previous three times and we all knew that the weir can be a hot spot. I had already decided to have a go at the fish below the bridge. The trouble with this is access, the run is deep and wading out to where you can get a cast in is not an option. I had this run in my mind’s eye before leaving and that’s why I brought my #7 rod and an Airflo DI7-8 Competitor! I initially stuck on a snake with heavy tungsten dumbbell eyes and as the boys stood on the bridge spotting for me I was getting some interest nearly every cast. At one point they got really animated as they shouted that a huge fish was following only feet from my rod tip. I searched the water in front of me and sure enough an enormous pike sat stationary no longer paying the fly any attention. The boys moved off and I changed to an unweighted fly the effort of casting such a heavy fly to much. The fly I changed to was a pink snake, success was instant and the first fish was close to 3lb. There were lots of takes in fact nearly every cast I could see fish following the fly. Only a short time later another good fish in the 3-4lb bracket visited the net. I should mention at this point I was oblivious to the rule that you cannot fish flies over 5cm, who knew? Read the ticket dumb ass! I grew a little bored with the big rod and wandered down to see how the others were fairing.

The boys were all fishing very close together and Graham had told me that there was a pile of stocked fish at the weir. He also reported some nice Grayling in the fast run just below, Del was a little further down catching Grayling on dries in the fast current. Graham kindly offered to let me have a go at his run and I managed a small Grayling. I let the master back in and he showed me how it was done taking fish almost at will. The Grayling here are a stunning colour and fight like demons on light tackle in the fast flow. We had all managed a few fish and morale was high, it was time to explore further down the beat so off I tootled. You can pick up fish throughout the length of the beat but I wandered a good ways down to what was about the middle I suppose. I spotted rising fish and switched to dry fly the ones nearest to me came quickly but before long I had pushed them into the deeper water. Still rising it became increasingly difficult to achieve a drag free drift. With a steady downstream breeze, it was becoming very frustrating. Del had dropped in below me and was still taking fish on the dries. In a fit of frustration, I decided to throw the snake at them. It did not take long for a very respectable looking fish to lock up and even though I was fishing a #7 the fight took some time. It was a beast and I was well pleased with it, after the fish was carefully released it was time for a spot of lunch.

After lunch we decided to move the car down to the bridge at the bottom of the beat. Surprisingly there was not another angler in sight below the trophy section. Graham and Graeme decided to fish below the bridge into the weir pool. Del and I fished the slower water above. From my position on the far bank I could see Del playing what looked to be a good fish. I later found out it was indeed a cracker but had run Del ragged and the fish ended up bolting for cover and eventual freedom in some overhanging trees. Under the bridge I could see the other lads hauling fish out like it was Rutland in April. I on the other hand had one fish in front of me and try as I may I could not tempt it to take a fly. I had started with dry fly and tried the subtle to the ridiculous. I then tried the nymphs from tiny to huge and for all my efforts I think the fish might have glanced at one of my offerings but no more. Ah well out smarted again by something with a brain the size of a pea! I had moved up onto the bridge in time to see Graeme playing what was obviously a big fish. The other Graham was on route to help him out. That’s when I witnessed the worst etiquette I have ever seen on a river anywhere. A group of anglers at least four with a guide marched straight up to the weir without a word and started fishing. Leaving the two Grahams no room for manoeuvre quite shocking and it made my blood boil. Luckily for us we had the trophy section to ourselves and had already sussed out where we wanted to be for the evening rise. People talk about hatches and evening rises, I myself have very little experience of this as most of my fishing is done in the day. I was about to get an education!

We had all been fed and watered and gotten ourselves into position for the evening rise. It was exciting to watch the fish slowly at first start feeding on emergers. As much as I tried I could only get the odd nip to my humble offerings. Del and Graham were doing OK swinging wets another gap in my armoury. Graeme and I were continually frustrated as the fish moved onto the dries. As the hatch progressed it was hard to take a breath without inhaling several spinners. As the hatch started to die of the river seemed to come alive with every fish in the stretch bubbling at the surface gorging themselves on the spent flies. I had managed to hook a couple but lost them after only seconds. So by the end of the rise I had netted exactly zero, nadda, nothing zip! I was more than a little annoyed with myself all the opportunity in the world and not so much as one fish to show for all my effort. I resolved to get in about Del and Graham to get it right the next night. We packed the car in the dark and headed back to the digs, a quick night cap then of to bed to dream of rising troot.

The next morning, we were back on the trophy section for the morning, this time I found myself alone by the weir as the others decided to fish the water above. I know they were just stocked fish but I stayed on them taking out my frustration of the previous evening on the easy to catch fish. There were a mix of Grayling and Rainbow the Brown trout were only noticeable by their absence. After a couple of dozen fish, I moved on to look for better prospects. I was keen to improve my wet fly fishing and grabbed Del for a quick lesson. He explained how he set up and how to fish the flies across and down the key area that he kept repeating was do not strike! I duly threw my line across the river and mended up stream, I watched as the bow in the line arced round and then just at the end the line jerked away from me. I struck big style laughed out loud then jumped in the air. Off course as I did so the river took the feet from under me and I was fully immersed in the river. The next thing I knew Del had grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and yanked me back to my feet. We were both laughing our heads off. It was the lesson I needed because after that I started to nail the Grayling on a partridge and orange. The technique was deadly and I built a steady total, with some of the fish there would be like a bubble where the flies were and a slow lift would usually produce a fish. I had a bumper morning. The boys were ready to see some more of the river and we decided to go to the top of the beat. It looked good and as we approached the water we thought we had spotted a huge fish in the water just at the drop off to some deeper water. But after Graham had made several casts to it it became apparent he was fishing to a large rock….lol. There were a few fish about though and the boys started to pick up the odd one here and there. I had moved onto some skinny water above them and was doing rather well with a small Mary nymph. The fish were not big but perfectly formed little wild Rainbows. I had fished up to a large dam and decided to go back and get the others. The weather had been kind but it was closing fast, Graham had decided to fish the dam and I followed him down with the camera. He was fishing a sinking line with a lure and after only a couple of casts his rod buckled over violently. The huge fish gave a shake of its head and the hook hold was lost. A couple of other anglers joined us on the dam wall and we were to find out later that they were from Wales. The sky had gotten very dark and I thought it best to get my camera back in the waterproof bag before the impending rain hit. I had just reached my day sack when the heavens opened and the rain came down in huge bulbous droplets. We were all wet through in an instant. Time for a beer and some food, so we were off back towards Bled for a bit of sustenance.

As if on que as we finished our meal the skies cleared and it looked like we were going to get another cracking evening rise. Again the fish began to feed on the emergers I was ready with a wet fly, it worked a treat and I was soon getting plenty of action. This time it was the same kind of rise as the previous evening but the use of the wet fly made all the difference. I had some problems matching the hatch with the dries not having anything other than some Mayflies that would approximate the large spinners. Again Graham and Del had struck gold with a spent pattern that they were putting to devastating use. I was doing OK but I have a feeling I should have been doing better. Still it was great experience and a great way to finish off on the Sava.

It had been a great couple of days fishing but there had been no Brown trout caught by any of us. In years past I recall catching a real mix of Rainbow, Grayling and Browns. Perhaps they are no longer stocking them? It may well be that stocking so many Rainbow trout that the Brown trout population has been pushed out of that part of the river. Still unsure what we were going to do with our last day and unsure what the weather had in store we would decide in the morning. The adventure continues………



Slovenia 27 May – Soca & Lepena

Please click on the images for a better view

Graham Lumsdon and I are fifty this year, I know hard to believe! We decided to mark the occasion by returning to Slovenia. I also celebrated my 40th in this beautiful country and have been a couple of other times to boot. We were going for four full days fishing and the plan was a simple one the Soca on the first day with two days on the trophy section of the Sava and we left Monday open to options. Perhaps another day on the Soca. I am going to split the trip up into three parts for blogging purposes. This first part will cover our arrival and first days fishing.

We had a confirmed party of four Lindsay Simpson, Graham Lumsdon, Del Spry and Graeme Sharp. Graham has a knack for planning these trips with almost military precision and this one was to be no exception. He had booked us two apartments’ in Bled. The Viktoria Apartments are only a five-minute walk into the centre of Bled and I cannot recommend them highly enough. They were clean and spacious with a sitting area that could accommodate up to six anglers. We had a room each but if your party was up to six this would still be a great option. Bled offers a multitude of options for eating out but again Graham had done the homework and we ended up eating in Gostilna Pri Planincu we all ordered the mixed grill and waddled home much contented.

An early start the next day and the prospect of the first days fishing had us all to bed after a few night caps. I was to drive the first day and was more than a little nervous we were travelling over the Vršič Pass with an elevation of 1,611 metres (5,285 ft), it’s a high mountain pass across the Julian Alps in northwestern part of Slovenia. It is the highest pass in Slovenia, as well as the highest in the Eastern Julian Alps. It connects Upper Carnola with the Trenta Valleyin the Slovene Latoral. The road across the pass, known as the Russian Road, was built for military purposes, to supply the Isonzo Front of World War 1. Anyway enough history it has more hairpin bends than you can shake a stick at. I am sure the boys were more than a little nervous and there were some sharp intakes of breath. Still I managed not to crash or even scratch the car and we arrived at the confluence of the Soca and the Lepena. There is a campsite here that sells tickets which includes quite a bit of water to go at. We were all more than a little dismayed when we noticed the car park was full of other anglers cars many setting up as we arrived. In the morning we decided to fish the tributary first. We split into pairs and ambled up the river trying to get our bearings from previous trips. Every place you could fit a vehicle on that road had cars in with anglers either tackling up or making their way towards the river. Graeme and I had identified a run that we were getting into a position to fish when straight out of the tree line another angler stalked purposefully right into the spot. Bugger as we moved up to the next run another angler could be seen fishing the run. I had spotted a tiny little run that I thought might hold at least one fish and decided to give it a go. As you can see from the pictures the water is crystal clear. I was glad of my knee pads as I crawled up the pebbly bottom. Graeme had moved up a bit and I made my first cast, BANG! I was straight into a hard fighting Rainbow. These fish are really strong they have to be to hold in the powerful currents of the river. I soon had it netted and had called Graeme for a quick photo. I persevered with similar small runs for nothing before dropping back on the opposite bank to the angler that had walked out earlier. There was a small run that he could not reach from his position but I had managed to crawl up and secrete myself behind a large boulder. As I peeped round the rock I could see what looked like some very good fish. After several fruitless casts eventually I had a slight indication and lifted into a huge fish. At first it ran straight towards me and when I saw it my heart was in my mouth it was the biggest fish I have ever seen in a river. A large brown trout, it bolted straight into the current effortlessly. Then ran straight to the bottom of the pool at one point the angler on the other bank was in a better position to net the fish than me. It tore back up stream straight into the head of the pool, I had now retrieved all my line onto the reel. As the fight went on my confidence that I could land this monster started to grow. I moved down the bank to get below the fish and as I did the fish bolted at speed for the cover of some nearby branches I was powerless to stop it and inevitably the fish won the day snapping my fly from the line. I cannot describe the feeling fully but although I was very disappointed to have not netted the fish a sense of exhilaration and elation that I had been connected to that force of nature for a short time will never leave me.

After that the pool was wrecked and I made my way back towards the others. We walked downstream grumbling about the population of anglers on the trib. A rough estimate would be about 20 other anglers it was more akin to a rivers national than a pleasure day. Del had managed a couple of fish one of them being the much coveted Marble trout. This was my fourth trip and I was yet to see one in my net. Del had been here twenty minutes and had already scratched it of the grand slam list! The boys decided to walk further up the beat I had spotted a nice looking deep run that was free of anglers (most were not) and decided to fish it hard. I could see at least three fish in the run and resolved to get them all. One wes regularly coming from deep to take large stone flies right of the surface. A change to a large stimulator proved successful another cracking Rainbow. I switched to a heavy bug in order to rest the water a little and to reach the fish that were sitting 5’-6’ down. It took several changes of fly before the trusty Mull Killer did the damage. Several more fly changes saw another fish fall to the net. It was time to head back to the car for lunch and a catch up with the others.  We bumped into the bailiff who checked our licenses (they are all over this) he said that most anglers had moved of the main river because snowmelt had coloured it. We had a hot meal and a couple of cola beers, they call it Diesel in Slovenia very refreshing and most welcome on a blisteringly hot day. Graham and Del decided to fish up towards the gorge whilst Graeme and I decided to fish the main river. We pushed quite a long way down for no reward. I had snapped my net magnet while hunkering down and was now carrying it with my day sack. We had reached a large pool near a bridge and I had just missed a fish. Several fish could be seen in the run and they were sitting deep in a powerful current. Graeme had joined me and was yet to break his duck, I left him to it and moved further down and crossed the river over a bridge. From the bridge I could see a small number of fish, they did not seem to be feeding but what the hey let’s give it a go.  

After about 40 minutes of bouncing different flies of the fishes nose I decided to try the big dry fly. I had seen what I thought was a small fish darting out from the cover of some rocks and taking something of the surface. I had made several casts but my complete inability to put the fly where I wanted was hindering my progress. Perseverance was the key though and eventually I got it just right and out popped the fish and duly engulfed the fly. As the rod bent over I instinctively reached round for my net and grabbed thin air! As a scrambled round looking for my net handle a glance across to the other bank confirmed it was lying on the other bank with my day-sack containing my camera. I turned back to look at the fish which was thrashing around on the surface and realized it was a marble trout. I shouted to Graeme who was on the other side of the river and he duly raced over to assist me. The fish was beat and it was dangling precariously from my hook while a waited on Graeme arriving from the other side of the river a small prayer escaped my lips willing the fish to hang on. Graeme passed me the net and the prize was safely slipped inside. What a feeling I was absolutely buzzing it was a cracking looking fish. I will always be grateful to Graeme for making the dash across the river to save the day. I did not fish much after that and resorted to taking some photographs of the breath taking scenery around me. It was time to make the hike back up to the car.

When Graeme and I arrived back Del and Graham were taking a few fish in front of the camp site. I managed to get a few photos of the boys then we put our heads together to discuss where we would fish the evening rise. Del had fished dries most of the day and had enjoyed the most success of the group. He had been fishing a large black stimulator which I assume the fish were taking for the copious amount of stoneflies littering the water. Del kindly gave me one and we moved to the main river to try and tempt some risers. Not long into the session I had a fish come and slash at the fly but failed to connect. Only a few casts later and a decent fish came to claim the big black fly. There was no mistake this time, my rod buckled over and a hefty Rainbow took to the air it fought like fury in the deep and fast current. I watched as it drifted downstream of me just out of reach of my net and then it had the full advantage of the current and as I tried to slow up its progress the tippet snapped. I fished up another hundred yards or so but was pooped and decided to call it a day. The others were tired as well and with a lack of an evening rise we decided to head back across the mountain.

It was a fantastic day for me anyway some of the lads had struggled through and between us we probably only managed 15 odd fish. The high density of anglers was not helpful and did detract from the day. Comparing the river to ten years ago is like chalk and cheese. As Graham was driving us back over the pass I wondered when I would return to this valley with its stunning scenery and unique Marble trout. Unless it starts to be managed better by controlling the number of anglers allowed to fish on any one day I fear the river has seen its best days past. We as a group ruled out returning on the Monday the long drive and hard days fishing had taken a lot out of us. Still a very short drive for the next two days on the trophy section of the Sava to come bring it on!       



Anglers World Flyfishing Championship Grafham 14 May

I don’t really know where to start with this tail of woe. I was supposed to be having a day out with a pal but he ended up being swamped with work and unable to meet up at Rutland. It was short notice and I did not fancy sharing another day with lunchbox so decided to try my hand at the re-branded Lexus now called the Anglers World Fly Fishing Championship. A similar format to the old Lexus with the individual taking place the day before the team event. I tapped up John Horsey to see if there was a chance of squeezing into the heat but was initially told it was full up. John however managed to secure another boat and I was in. I had not been to Grafham this year and was unable to get out on the Friday. Not that it would have been much fun in the big wind. I had very kindly received loads of tips and hints on what to expect, god bless social media. Those that had been out the week before had enjoyed some great sport, the poor souls that had been out in the week leading up to the match had less favourable reports to deliver. Needless to say all the boats were booked up and then some, there was more than a little horse trading going on in the shop and I feared Pauline’s head was near exploding! I bumped into a few of the RAF lads who had spent the last few days of their Championship on Grafham. There were not many happy faces, the fishing had been tough and the weather the same with some high winds to contend with.

If I had not heard all the reports and had just turned up to Grafham in May with the conditions, I would have expected a really good days’ sport. Appearances can be deceiving though. A bit of luck was drawing Vince Howley I last fished with Vince on a very memorable day at Hanningfield in the AMFC. Vince was competing in the team event the next day and was happy enough to bounce round the water trying tom pick up as much information as possible. We both initially decided to pull for a start at the seat I on a fast glass and Vince on a DI3, not so much as a follow. Over to the North shore and the Willows, there had been reports of a few fish being caught there. We were almost an hour in and yet to see a fish being caught. Then all around us the very odd fish began to give themselves up. One boat seemed to be doing pretty well picking up three fish in short order. It was only when we began to get closer to them that we realised their drogue had snagged on the bottom and they were not moving. We persevered for an hour hoping to get into some sport, I had changed to my midge tip and Vince had opted for the bung. All our efforts were in vain though and with nearly two and a half hours gone for not a touch it was time to move on.

As it was it seemed that every boat in the fleet was on the North shore and getting in to spots was fairly tricky. After dropping into all the usual spots for not so much as a sniff I decided to break out the packed lunch. I cast out my line and proceeded to chomp down on my sandwiches. It was at this point I noticed my line shooting away and I was into my first fish, takes real skill that L I got the fish to the boat quickly it was pretty small but none the less welcome. Vince had still to get a lick and morale was really low, after completing a tour of the North shore we had a quick chat and decided to give Rainbow corner a go. As we got there there was only one other boat in the area it was Si Gaines from the RAF and he was going great guns with five fish. On our first drift I was in the middle of commenting how the inactivity can break your concentration and you miss what might be your only opportunity. Halfway through that conversation the line was yanked from my fingers, a few profanities’ were uttered but at least I had been woken up. We went back round and Vince still on the bung nailed his first fish, it was small but full of spirit it had take his buzzer just three foot down. Safely netted and now re-enthused we were back round once more and again Vince’s bung dipped but he missed. Not long to wait though and Vince was in again, As I was pulling my midge tip back to get out of his was my line also locked up. Safely in the net the tide had begun to turn and with a couple of hours left surely we were going to get a few more? Well no as it happens, you could feel the temperature dropping and the flies that had been hatching off had stopped doing so. We carried on for a while but our enthusiasm had waned I suggested the last hour at the lodge right beside the out of bounds area which had caused such controversy a few weeks previous. Halfway through the first drift Vince started to pack up I was nearly there myself. I had changed to a DI3 Sweep and was rolly pollying the line back when the line locked up. The fish tore across the surface taking the fly with it for ten feet before it all went slack. That about sums up the day, One more drift before I can it. The next drift was fruitless though and I decided to call time on the day. The good news was that my pal Jamie Thomas, last years’ winner had ground out six fish and had done enough to qualify for the final. There were a few boys that had found a method that worked for them and done very well and credit to them. For me though it was a poor showing and the old Army saying rang in my head “Fail to prepare then prepare to fail”. I hope Grafham picks up again soon I have enjoyed some fantastic days there in the past, unfortunately this one wont stick in my memory long.       



AMFC Spring Meeting 22-23 April

Please click on the images for a better view

I always look forward to the Spring or Autumn AMFC meetings because I get the chance to catch up with so many of the anglers that I have met over the years. For the un-initiated the Affiliation of Major Fly Fishing Clubs is an event consisting of six matches over the season. There are three divisions which fish at various venues across England. The Spring and Autumn meetings see all the divisions come together to compete.

This year I am fishing in and organising the Soldier Palmers ‘B’ team with the view to developing new anglers to the Army Angling Federation (Game). Its particularly difficult at the moment as the Army are very busy and getting folks released to fish can be a challenge. When Mike Guild was called into work on the Friday which at the time left us a spare seat in the boat for practice. Dave Murray very kindly offered his services as a boat partner a hugely experienced angler that would be sure to bring a lot to the party.

It had been to long since I last shared a boat with Dave and I was keen to catch up with him. We arranged to meet at 0800hrs but as the old saying goes ye cannae hurray a Murray. My kit set up and the rest of the boys departed Dave showed up about 0850hrs. I helped him decant his kit from the back of the Landrover, it looked like someone had thrown in some fishing tackle with a Tesco’s bag and a grenade. This belies the fact that Dave is one of the finest anglers I have ever fished with. He had fished the previous day with Al Owen so we had quite a lot to look at. We started with a trip up to Old Hall, not always my first choice as it’s a good distance away. Dave assured me it would be worth it…. he was not wrong. The drogue had barely hit the water and I had hooked my first fish. We had not travelled more than fifty yards and Dave and I had both had several fish. I commented to Dave that this was the best start to a drift that I had had this year. He gave me a quizzical look and said it was like this for him all the time….lol. Something on that drift that was worthy of a mention was Dave catching a fish and unhooking it. I grabbed a quick picture and Dave slipped the fish back for it to immediately take a buzzer in the middle of his cast. I have never seen this before it just shows how resilient and hungry the fish are. We bounced down the Old Hall bay and flats and every drift produced great sport. The further down towards the basin we fished the slower the sport became. By the time we reached Inmans Spinney it had all but dried up. One of our party decided that a visit to Sailing Club bay was a must while the other disagreed. It was the slowest part of the day fishing wise, not so much as regards abuse though!

The afternoon, we had moved round to the North Arm to confirm the drifts the boys had completed in the morning. We had slipped into the the start of the wooded area down from Barnsdale Road end. Dave decided to switch to the bung to fish up the drift. We had spotted Ray French from Bewl in the boat in front they were giving the fish a right good seeing to. I stuck with the pulling but it was evident that the fish were now hard on the buzzers. I managed a couple but poor Dave had not managed even an offer. Not happy he wanted to re-drift, no problem I offered to switch to the bung to show him how to do it. After much chortling the gauntlet was thrown and a bet of fifty pence was made. I had barely gotten my cast on when Dave shouted start. I got my first cast out and was explaining to Dave how he had been doing it wrong. “You have to put a long draw in the retrieve Dave” the rod duly buckled over and I got a torrent of abuse! We fished on into Dickinson’s for no joy so opted for a move into Barnsdale. Nothing there either so we bounced down to Belgrano Dave now back pulling was getting lots of follows and takes and occasionally a fish would lock up. Dave had the best fish of the day just down the bank from Belgrano. We decided to call it a day, my sincere thanks to Dave who brought much to the party and his unique humour.

The match day dawned cold and windy, many at the lodge were layering up expecting the worse from the weather. There was some delay getting a boat draw out as no one knew if Bristol were going to turn up. As it happened they did not show and by about 0915 a draw was up. There was veritable stampede to get on the boats, but all seem to fall into place. I met my boat partner for the day Steve Radclliffe who was fishing for the Queen Mother. Steve had not been able to practice and was happy enough to allow me on the engine. I had told Steve we would be fishing in Old Hall and he seemed happy enough with that. The hooter was sounded and we were off. There was a good spread of boats, but as I suspected a good number were on their way to Old Hall. I had expected it to be fairly busy but its was a large area and there should have been plenty room for all. When I arrived a bit behind the rest of the pack I was really pleased that there was a gap just where I wanted to start. That’s when it started the bloody wind, it was swirling round pulling the boat right then left. I could not get it to go where I wanted for all my effort. I noted several fish being caught much further down towards the flats. In particular Mark Haycock was off to a flyer. I managed to hook a fish in the first half hour but it immediately spat the hook. Shortly after that first fish to the net, always a relief. I was fishing deep with a booby but it did not feel right, I could see others around me on the bung catching well so I made the change. Initially it seemed like a good choice as I quickly took two more fish. But as time rolled by getting onto the drift I wanted became increasingly difficult. An hour went by with not so much as tweak to my bung. I changed back to the pulling rig. I was discussing with Steve our next move it was 1200 and things seemed to be drying up. I suggested bouncing down the Normanton bank until we found some fish. As the sentence was leaving my lips the rod buckled over as did Steve’s. One more drift then? They kept coming picking up a fish nearly every drift the trick was getting on the drift with an awkward wind and a congested field. I made it to seven by about 1345hrs only losing a couple on the way so I was fairly pleased. The last one would surely not be far away, wishful thinking on my part I’m afraid!

Steve had lost a few fish as well and this can be a bit frustrating. Over the years I have been called Harry Potter for the way I swing my rod around after losing a fish. In recent years though I have managed to get a grip of my temper, the anger management classes worked, who knew. Today though was to test me and I am sad to say I failed. After hooking one particular fish which felt decent, it doggedly fought deep shaking its head. It felt like I had a good hold of it, but after losing a couple of other No 8s I was going to play this a bit smarter. It came off before the thought had finished forming…..the rod went first, then the hat and then the air went blue. No need to repeat here what was uttered but I noted Steve turning away to concentrate on his fishing. After recomposing myself I got back to business, it had gone very, very quiet. Back to the bung as the odd fish was still being taken on this method, forty minutes a change of location within the bay no joy. I changed back contemplating not finishing here. Options for one more fish were speeding through my head, it was still difficult to get on drifts due to the wind and other boats. I opted to hack it out I knew there were fish here, they were just tough. After what seemed like an age the last fish locked up, it was well hooked and came easily to the boat. I always have a count up before putting my kit away and was much relieved when I confirmed I had eight. Steve had another take but it was not his day, he fancied finishing up with a drift into Church Bay. There were a few boats already in the last chance saloon and we had drogue free drift into the bay. No joy for Steve though and he finished up on three. When we returned to the dock the boys had mixed results. The Soldier palmers (A) had put a hard shift in, Andy Everitt had fished his socks of with a great bag of fish and time bonus. For the other boys it had been a struggle. The B team had faired a bit better three limits and a three. We would have to wait till after the meal to get the results. The meal was booked at the old fishing lodge Whitwell. Both our teams attended the meal it was of a really good standard and we managed to charm some extra steak pie, fat boys only! After pudding the results were read out the A team had come 4th not to shabby. The B team claimed the top spot in division three, well done boys what a fantastic effort.

The AMFC is great fun and a good way for any aspiring competition angler to develop. You have the chance to fish with some top quality rods that more often than not will be more than happy to help bring you on. If you are interested in the results click on the links below.

Results Div 1

Results Div 2

Results Div 3




The Kit Kat Cup (Army Spring Meeting) 15 – 17 April

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Going to Rutland is always a pleasure but going up for three days and meeting up with some old friends is just awesome! The Kit Kat Cup was being fished in its usual slot the first match day of Army Spring match. It has been fished at different times of the year depending on when Jock and I can get together for the best part of twenty years now. The banter leading up to this year’s match was unprecedented with the advent of social media it has become easy to pock fun at each other. Just to be clear though I have the utmost respect for Jock Kettles and he is one of the very best anglers I know, but I also enjoy a good laugh. I was fortunate to share a boat with Graeme Ferguson on the practice day. He opted to start on nymphs straight from the off, I was going down and dirty. The wind was blowing straight of the Dam so it made sense to start up at Fantasy and drift right down the Normanton bank. We started out about 100 yards from the bank and started our drift. Two or three casts in and my rod buckled over with a spritely stockie on the other end. As the other practice boats started to turn up I was playing my fourth fish. They were all being slipped back into the water and with the barbless hooks this was an easy task. Graeme to his credit stuck with the nymphs for at least twenty minutes before uttering the immortal words F**K this for a game of soldiers and quickly began to change to the dark side. A quick look behind saw all the boats now lined up behind. Jim Wright was so close he could have had a cup of tea out my flask… After Graeme had changed he was quickly all over them as well. By the time we had gotten to the blue pipes it had begun to dry up a bit. What a great start, it was a lot colder than we had expected and we were both feeling it. By this point we had abandoned the Normanton bank before we had reached the Church and moved over to the Sykes bank. Within the space of a few minutes I had lost two and been snapped off and Graeme had boated a cracking Rainbow. The phone buzzed in my pocket it was Jock, “Do you want to go in for a hot drink, my partners cold?” aye nae doot ya big Jessie! I have never been so glad to go in for a brew in years me and Graeme were both frozen to the core and hot drink was just what was needed.

Over a brew in the little café we discussed the mornings sport Jock had fished buzzers most of the morning and claimed to only have taken five or six fish. When the feeling had returned to our fingers we decided to head back out. It was a much needed break and we all felt the better for it. Both our boats went back over to Sykes and we were rewarded with some great sport. Jock drifted off out of sight while Graeme and I continued to push along the bank. There was only one bank angler mad enough to be out in the bitter cold so we could pretty much nip in and out to the bank. As we got tight into Stockie bay we both hooked fish together. Mine was a run of the mill skerritt but Graeme had picked up a really nice Brown. We toyed with the idea of going up to Dickinson’s but after a short chin wag we both came to the conclusion that neither of us would venture up there in the match. So we finished doing the Monument bank. Time was ticking by and the cold was creeping back into the bones so we said we would do a big drift down the Normanton bank and then go in. The sport was as consistent as it had been in the morning and we missed out large chunks keen to get down to the Church. Jock had reported earlier that there had been a few fish there. As we turned into the bay there was already a couple of boats hard up to the Church in the slack water. We motored past them and started half way up, it was carnage. Takes, fish on and off as well as several to the net all in one drift. Graeme and I had been treated to an extraordinary day’s sport and were both scratching our heads with the number of options open to us for match day. A bunch of us headed down to Wetherspoons for a bite to eat and a general gossip about the day, the banter and anticipation for the match the next day thick in the air. All back to the camp for a couple of drams and an early night.

The next day dawned and when I went to the car to pack my kit I was quick to realise that it was bloody Baltic! It was only 0630 in the morning and the wind was already going at it cutting through my thin fleece. As I was heading back to the block I could have swore I saw penguin clutching a continental quilt round its shoulders, but it could have been wee Andy Everitt cuddling a wee ginger doll ;-) The match was starting at 0900 so a good feed in the cookie and we were all down at the lodge keen to get going. I am not a slim man but once I had stuck on every bit of clothing I had brought on I was still cold. There was nothing more for it into the shop and I bought one of those Artic Buffs. Money well spent it was brilliant, keen to get going most guys had gotten all their kit on and their rods rigged up. The Spring match is about bringing on new serving members and my partner today was to be a young Ghurkha called Vissan. The first day is a boats pairs competition with your partner so I was keen that he caught a bag of fish. I asked him what his fastest sinking line was and was dismayed when he said a floater. No problem I handed over my spare reel and DI7 there you go get that on. Will I be able to cast this with 8’ 6” for a six, eh no! I duly passed over the spare rod and told him to go set it up. When he arrived in the boat he handed me the rod and line all set up just needed tippet and flies….lol.  How would this cold wind and low temperatures affect the fish? We were going to find out, a rolling start I was pretty much first out the gate. I had thought I might go to Fantasy but as I motored up I decided to drop into Church bay. I was not alone as Martin and Brad dropped in at either side of me. The first drift was fruitless but I was sure the fish would still be there. Next drift I caught one on the hang but as I pushed the net towards the spinning thrashing fish a little to enthusiastically I knocked it and it was gone. Bugger bad angling, the next drift I hooked another that spat the hook before I even saw it. The next drift Vissan hooked and landed a fish well in. The next drift saw me loose another at the net, get a grip for goodness sake. It might sound like it was easy and there were lots of fish around, but I can assure you it did not feel like that. I eventually got my first fish from the water and into my bass bag. A quick look at my watch told a tale 50 mins in and only one fish in the bag. But as it began to warm up a little they started to come. I noticed Martin getting a few as well, Vissan was going great guns and was quickly up to five. I too had reached five when the Sailing Clubs Safety boat came across to warn me of the imminent arrival of the Spanish armada. Oh well not to worry I will just go to Fantasy. The wind had changed though and was now blowing at a fair rate directly onto the Normanton bank. A couple of drifts with nothing then Brad arrived we bounced around each other but only two more fish came both to our boat. Visson and I left on six each. When I arrived over at Sykes I was a little surprised it was deserted, moments later Vissan and I were both on seven fish. Only minutes after that I got my last fish for a 1245 finish not to shabby but how had Mr Kettles done? Having sealed the bag I fished on but after getting another fish quickly I thought it best to got to something different to allow Visson the best chance to get done. I stuck the bung on little expecting it to be so devastating. The first fish to the boat from the bung rig was a 4.5lb brown trout an absolute peach. I had no camera with me not even a phone but the fish will live on in my memory. About five chucks later a 3lb Rainbow came both fish would have been most welcome in my bag had there been room but hey ho. Vissan only had to wait 30 minutes and he was also finished. We had both had our fill for the day so decided to go back and pick up my camera. I went round getting a few snaps of our guys here and there with a eager eye on the look out for Jock! I was confident he would have finished but at what time and would there be any big fish to skew the result? He later told me that word had reached him that I was done and that he hid away in a wee bay for the rest of the day….PMSL. So the Kit Kat cup was on its way South once again. I was over the moon, but what put a bigger smile on my face was watching Vissan catching his last fish he could not have been more pleased.

We decided to go for a Chinese in Oakham and very nice it was too after returning to the block we broke out the dram for a few drinks. There was much banter and mirth much at Jock’s expense. He took it all in good humour and I am sure he will give it all back in spades next year, that’s if he can pull his finger oot and do better;-) It had been a long day and the next day the boys were driving home straight after the match so early night were had by most.

The next morning the wind was no where near as fierce as the day before but there was still a hard frost on the cars. That said one of the Geordies commented that this was a summer frost up the road! Living in the South has obviously softened me up, when we arrived at the water the wind was the same way but without the sting it had borne the previous day. I was paired up with a lad called Mick from the Royal Signals, he had fly fished in the distant past but was a little rusty. A very accomplished sea angler he knew much of what I was explaining to him. I set him up as I had Vissan the day before and was confident we would do OK in the better conditions. On this occasion I was just about last off the blocks when I got to the entrance of the harbour I was intent on heading straight to Fantasy but as I drove past the Church no one else had stopped…it would have been rude not to. I dropped into the Church bay and noted Andy Everitt out to my left. Again the first drift was for nothing similar to the day before. I was torn between giving it another go or getting up to Fantasy. Next drift Mick took a fish I had a good knock and then hooked and lost one. Round again then. Andy had shouted over that he had one, so they were still there just not quite out off bed yet. The next drift Mick get another and I lost one a pattern was forming that I was not enjoying. A few cast later though the rod arced over and the first fish was quickly in the bag. Subsequent drifts produced great sport we would either get a fish or a bump or lose one. Fantastic, Mick had really got to grips and steadily built a good bag of six fish I had nudged ahead to seven. One more drift might even do us both, I took the boat out a little further than I had been as I was baking and kit had to come off. As I reset the drift I launched my flyline into the distance and proceeded to rip layers of waterproof and fleece from my body as fast as I could. I sat down and ripped the flyline back to recast and bang No8 admin fish get in! 1155. Mick only needed two more what a result I was already planning my afternoon of photography on the bank. I stuck the bung on while I was waiting and watched Andy rip out three fish in succession on the buzzers. Now it had warmed up a bit the fish had changed tact. Mick was still getting the offers but they wee coming shy. The ones he did bend into fell off, it was a frustrating afternoon. We watched as Andy finished and then his partner Peter followed suit. We tried the Bung for a while but it just would not come for Mick. He fished extremely hard and I could not off have asked more from him and was gutted for him especially right at the end when we thought all hope was lost. With only a few casts left he got a thunderous take that failed to hang on to the hook just to add insult to injury. Still an impressive bag for what was a pretty tricky day for some of the most experienced anglers.

The match was very ably organised once again by Si Elson who has it just down pat, results were calculated quickly and prizes dished out to the lucky ones. I had been presented with the Kit Kat cup the day before which of course being the most prestigious trophy in fly fishing was what it was all about……lol. Roll on next week when I hope Rutland is just as kind for the AMFC Spring meeting. 



Draycote 30 Mar 2016

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Its not always about the fishing its often for me anyway about catching up with old mates and sharing a bit of banter. When amazing fishing is thrown in well that’s just a big fat bonus. I had tried to arrange a day out with Steve Cullen for ages but family and work made it difficult to get a day we were both free. A number of days had already been seen off and it was only by good fortune an amazing wife and an outstanding boss that I managed to escape for the day to go to Draycote. The fishery needs no introduction; it is one of the best fisheries in England. In stark contrast to Rutland the other day Draycote was very busy lots of boats were either out or going out and the banks boasted many anglers.

We had started our day at the Willoughby café where Steve treated me to a big fry up is there a better way to start a day fishing? I don’t think so! We were all kitted up and ready to get on the water by 1000hrs. I was admiring Steve’s waterproof jacket its part of Wychwoods new clothing brand and very smart it is too, but more about that later. Steve took the engine this being his home patch and all and we headed across to Toft. I had started with a fast sinker and a booby and Steve had opted for the DI5 and a team of lures. The drift was set quite far of the bank and I thought we might have been a little to far out but my very first cast saw me bend into the first fish of the day, the fight was brief though as the fish spat the barbless hook. It took but a few moments before I was into another fish the fight was deceiving as the fish although reasonable size 2lb-ish it had fought really hard. This was most probably aided by the crystal clear water. Steve was also soon playing a fish and the first couple of drifts which were becoming ever shorter due to numerous anchored boats produced a dozen fish between us. My fast sinker had got into a right state and the tangle seemed unsurmountable so I took it of and threw it into the box to be dealt with later. After putting another sinker on it did not seem to make much odds to the catch rate. We soon grew weary of trying to weave around the anchored boats so decided to join the happy throng.

I am not a fan of anchoring up I don’t see the point once you have caught the fish in front of you that’s that. At least in a drifting boat you can cover fresh water and increase your chances surely? Once we had anchored up we both switched to floaters with teams of buzzers. The one thing you can do at anchor is fish really slowly or even static. I was giving Steve a wee lesson in static buzzer fishing….read I cast my line out put my rod down got my tangled sinker out to start un knitting it, twice in as many minutes….superb. We both watched as the wily trout started wising up and the takes became ever so subtle. Slight line movements which could easily be seen in the clear water especially with Steve’s white floater. I had gone back to the sinker and sport picked up again, we spent a couple of hours catching fish and shooting the breeze. Anchoring up was not as boring as I had anticipated, greatly helped by the huge head of fish in Draycote.

We decided on a wee change of scene and headed over to Rainbow Corner, there was already a couple of boats there with anchors out the back. So it looked like there were a few fish about. We were both back on the sinkers and the lures it seemed a bit barren at first but we soon found a few. After a few drifts we decided to go back across to Toft as there seemed to be a bigger concentration of fish there. The boats had not thinned out so we found a little spot and dropped the anchor. It was not the huge fishing bonanza as earlier in the day. Steve threw down the gauntlet for 50p for the next fish and the boat got a little quieter not that we are competitive mind….lol. Steve was getting all the action with lots of takes just coming short. I on the other hand could not buy a take, just after Steve had missed another offer I got a thunderous take and then nothing. This went on for five or ten minutes. This might not seem long but we had been smashing it all day and it seemed like an age. We lifted the anchor and moved down a little. Again Steve was getting all the action and I was scrapping round my pockets for the 50p. I was thinking that it was only a matter of time when my own rod buckled over and I was playing a fit rainbow. The fight was hard but brief, what a great way to finish up the day.

I couldn’t say how many fish we had hooked but I can’t recall catching so many fish in one day in a long time. If you need to get a fishing fix you could do worse than visit Draycote. The staff are really friendly and helpful. Quick with advice on areas and methods, the boats were clean and in good nick. The only quibble and I am sure it’s the same everywhere is we seemed to have a really poor engine. It repeatedly failed to start on nearly every attempt to do so. Of course I was on the pointy end and it may just have been operator error by the captain ;-)

As we were packing up I asked Steve to have a look at his waterproof jacket. I am in the market for a new jacket for the rivers as my trusty Loomis after five years of pretty harsh punishment has given up the ghost. In a previous employment I used to repair Gortex equipment for the Army so I know a good deal about construction of waterproof garments. The Wychwood jacket is not made from Gortex but a similar high end waterproof material. What was impressive about the jacket was the close attention to detail. The cuffs had a rubber seal at the wrist to stop water moving up your arm when returning fish. The labels were sewn on neatly and with care always a sign of a well made garment. The seams were all well sealed with thick waterproof tape. The jacket Steve was wearing had been in use for nearly a year and the taped seams showed little sign of wear. Its certainly a contender for my next river jacket. But of more pressing need is a new pair of waders!



Rutland Water 25 Mar 2016

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I was supposed to go fishing today 26th Mar with Ronnie Christie but work commitments kept him from attending. I tried to tap up some other partners but all the usual suspects were spoken for. I even nearly abandoned it all together to go and find comfort in the river Usk with Adam and Glen. But in the end the prospect of Rutland lured me in, the weather for today is rotten high winds and rain so I switched days to yesterday. What an inspired choice the weather forecast said mostly cloudy but the wind was 12-15 which is a nice ripple. I don’t particularly like going fishing on my own I find the banter of good company always enhances a day out. So all I had in the way of company was my trusty sandwich box, some would say it has a lot more charisma than Ronnie anyway….lol.

When I got to the shop I bumped into to seasoned pros in the shape of Graham Pearson and Al Owen. They had both seemed to have overwintered well and Al told me not to expect to much as it had been a bit patchy. I rigged up a fast sinker with a team of lures. I recently tied some flies with the new jelly fritz. I tied a hot head jelly cat on the top dropper a cormorant in the middle and a FAB on the point. I asked sandwich box where he fancied but he did not really have an opinion so I decided to start in church bay and work my way up the Normanton bank. I miss calculated the first drift (its been a while) and after a couple of casts was almost back in the boat dock, plonker! I moved further across towards the church and fished in from about 100m out. It was only when my flies nearly hit the bank that I had the unmistakable rattle from a fish the rod duly buckled over and I was into the first fish of the day. A cracking rainbow, not that big probably just under the 2lb mark but lovely and silver with a well mended tail. I drifted up the bay for not much else avoiding the boat that was anchored as I moved beyond the anchored boat I had a drift in right by the church and again as I neared the bank the rod buckled over once more. A rank stockie it failed to put up much of a struggle and was in and out of my net in short order. As I was motoring up the anchored boat was lifting anchor and already moving towards the spot where I took the fish…oh dear! Not to worry plenty water to go at. I moved round the other side of the church and bounced up the bank towards fantasy. Some drifts were fruitless, not many mind most drifts would offer up a fish or a follow. After three hours I had reached eight fish to the boat not to shabby. It was a little past twelve when I decided to move across to Whitwell and cover the other bank. The wind had obligingly changed direction to take me right down the bank.

Before carrying on fishing sandwich box offered me a butty and a drink so I stopped fishing for a spot of lunch. Sandwich box was a great crack but I decided to phone Ronnie to rub it in a bit…lol. As I began to work the Whitwell area concentrating 20-30m of the bank I had switched to just two of the jelly cats 10’ apart as nothing else was taking might as well double your chances. About half way towards trig point a fish locked up and I knew almost immediately it was not a recently stocked fish. The slow deliberate head shaking indicated a Brown trout of some size. The fight was mostly in the depths even in the clear water it was not till near the end that I glimpsed the fish. It was a belter maybe even 5lb I was stoked and quickly got all my line onto my reel. The fish made one more big run the reel singing along. But it was done and as I brought the beast to the boat for the last time and reached for the net the fish rolled leaving the fly floating alone in the water. All in all, I thought I took it really well I gave sandwich box the look but he said nothing. Only a few casts later I watched as two spritely Rainbows chased my top dropper zig-zaging across each other inspecting the jelly cat. One committed and turned in the blink of an eye and was of 20’ from the boat. I had to move my head quickly as the flies pinged back hurtling towards my swede. Was the day starting to turn a corner aye the wrong corner! I moved around a few bank anglers who were not fairing to well from what I could discern from the boys I spoke to.

Before I got to the Monument I had another thunderous take and again as I glimpsed the fish I knew I had a peach of a trout on I thought it was a Rainbow at first, it fought like a Trojan. I had retrieved all the line back on the reel and took care fighting the fish. I was mightily relieved to net what would turn out the best fish of the day it was stunning, a Brown trout that had silvered up and it was only on closer inspection that I noticed this. It would have been between 4-5lb not as big as the one I had lost but a great consolation prize. A couple of more Rainbows came to visit but Sandwich box and I fancied a change of scenery, so it was of up the North arm.

The North arm was not as clear as the basin had been and there was some brownish tinge to the water. I hit up a couple of the usual marks for not so much as a take until I reached Dickinson’s. The water looked not so good and I was not really fancying it but sandwich box insisted on a couple of casts. A couple of fresh stocked fish fell to the cat but I had grown a bit bored with lures so switched to buzzers. I had wanted to give my new floater a run out anyway. I had opted for a Rio Perception and have to say I am very pleased with it. There was not much heat left in the day but even though the buzzers still scored taking a few fish in the last hour. Sandwich box was starting to bore the shit out of me and I decided to pack up and head for the boat dock. I had enjoyed a great opener to my loch style season and it was sorely needed. I have found it really hard to get excited about boat fishing but this has put me right back in the mood and given me my appetite for back.

When I got back to the dock I chatted with Al and Graham for a bit about the fishing they had managed around twenty to the boat so I was pretty pleased to have netted seventeen. We discussed the lack of bank anglers about which was unusual considering how pleasant the day had been. I think fly fishing is in a pretty tough place at the moment and maybe people have to prioritise where their spending their hard earned buck. Its really sad not to see Rutland buzzing with anglers especially on such a cracking day, I only hope its because its still a wee bit early and things are going to pick up soon.



14 Mar Pike fishing on the Kennet

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Well last day of the Grayling season (which was woefull this year due to the rain) and I had an invite from Adam Stafford to go try my hand at Pike fishing. I had been tying some big flies for my trip to Slovenia later in the year so was well prepared, or so I thought. I packed up my loch style rod a 10’ for #7 as well as the usuall river gear. Adam wanted to meet early and we were to be accompanied by Zek Klietz who had been out the previous day to scope out the likely spots that pike may lie. We were to meet for 0630hrs which was not a biggy for me as I am only about 45 minutes away at that time of the morning anyway. Introductions complete we drove down to the riverside and started to tackle up for the pike. That’s when I got my first clue that I may be slightly undergunned for the job. Adam proceeded to set up a 10 weight with an intermediate line and the biggest fly I think I have ever seen it looked about a foot long and it was not even wet yet. Undeterred I began setting up my #7 and noticed that Zek was setting up a similar rig to Adam, the fly may have been slightly smaller. Adam kindly set up the business end of my fly line with some 40lb test tippet (it was nearly as thick as my fly line…lol) and a wire trace. I was keen to try one of the articulated flies I had tied and was fairly confident my trusty rod would be able to cope with the large tungsten dumbell eyes.

We walked along the river the first anglers on site, I mean what other maniac gets up this early to go fishing! We walked past some typical Chalk Stream water which although not crystal clear it held the promise to be so. The bottom also looked ideal habitat for Grayling and already I was regretting not bring a bugging rod with me. As we walked on the river soon changed in character to longer deeper runs where the bottom was no longer visable. As we arived at our starting area it had the appearance of being a perfect habitat for an ambush predetor. There were big over hanging banks where the water was deep and murky. Trees had let some branches lean into the water on the far bank lending even more cover to these apex predetors. Reports of huge pike up to 30lb had filtered down to Adams ears and it was all very exciting. I watched Adam for a short while throwing this huge fly across to the far bank then retrieving in slow and twitchy movements to entice any waiting pike. I soon followed suit a little bit up stream from him and relised immediatley that my rod was not really up to the job. I endevoured to persevere the casting becoming more of a lobbing action than that of the gentle art of fly fishing.

Adam kindly let me have a go of his rod and it was easier none the less it took me a few casts to get used to weilding such a beast. The fly in the water was a bit special and certainly something to behold, it pulsed and darted with every small movement of the rod. I was keen to get a photograph of it in the water and passed the rod back to Adam. As I moved to get into a position where I could get the shot my leg shot down through the soft riverbed and I found myself up to my ging gangs in mud. After clawing my way out we decided to move downstream a bit more to a narrow bridge crossing the river. Adam had again passed the rod to me and I was hitting the far bank and working the lure back trying to cover all the water. Zek who was on the bridge had spotted a pike in the margins so I passed the rod back to Adam who went to entice the fish to the bank. With Zek spotting from the bridge there were cries of its coming yes, yes ….eh no! Frustrating but that can be said of all fishing. Feeling rather guilty that I was using Adams kit I decided to hand his gear back and persevere a bit with my own kit. I did manage a little interest from a pike but after several seconds of the fish staring at the fly as it fluttered back down through the water column it swam off rejecting my offering. I wandered back up to where we had started and was pottering about when I heard Zek send up a cry of PIKE ON! This was his first Pike on the fly and he was elated, it was around the 4-5lb mark and looked in good health. After watching it swim away I decided to walk back to the car and try my hand for some Grayling. This is when I noticed how busy the fishery had become I must have passed a good half dozen anglers mostly trotting maggots downstream some fishing a float. Really pleasant folks who were happy to stop and chat fishing. It took a while after all the gassing but I eventually got back to the car and my Grayling gear. By this time the others had joined me and we were heading up another part of the river. I was now armed with something I had a bit more confidence fishing. The first few runs I tried produced nothing at all. Adam and Zek were moving off to deeper darker stretches. I eventually found quite a good feature where the water had been funnelled to increase the flow. Fishing on the edge of quite a skinny platform only my second chuck and the rod buckle over, it was either an outstanding Grayling or a decent Brown Trout. I know what my money would have been on and it would have been a safe bet. The trout fought like a Trojan and it nearly had me of my perch and into the river as I tried to net it. A stunning fish of a little over two pound bodes well for a great season ahead. 

I pottered a bit more not really fishing properly one eye on the time as I would have to be off to do the school run soon. I caught up with Adam and Zek who had not faired so well up until now, we chatted a bit dipping in here and there. When we came across a really promising looking bit of water Adam had made a perfect cast and was just saying he could not have done better when everything locked up, he was into a good fish. Zek scrabbled for his net and I my camera. The fight though frantic in those first few seconds was short and soon the beast was in the net. Now for you hardened Pike anglers a 13lb Pike might not be all that but I am a lad that gets excited about 20cm Grayling! It was an absaloutly stunning creature to look at perfectly fit for purpose. We took a couple of quick snaps before sending it on its way none the worst for wear. With that it was time to head back for a spot of lunch morale high from Adams capture.

We had a bite to eat while shooting the breeze talking Mongolia and Slovenia, both trips eagerly anticipated. Time was running out for me though and I wanted to have a few more chucks for the Grayling. I picked up some small specimens, nothing to write home about but perfectly made nuggets to keep me going till next winter. I am going to invest in a proper rod for fishing for Pike, It was really great fun and if we get the same kind of winter we had this past year then it may be the only option to get out fishing. So only a half days fishing, still better than none. I hope to be out a lot more in the coming months and get back to my bread and butter Loch Style fishing roll on Rutland!


31 Jan 2016 Rockbourne Fishery (Charles Jardines Birthday)

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A bout of illness and unprecedented bad weather has kept me at the vice rather than fishing. So a somewhat late start to the blog this year, but what a great way to start! The original plan was to go to Broadlands but this was not possible due to the size of the river with more rain on the way. Jon Hall the keeper at Broadlands posted a video of the river on the Thursday and I had feared the whole thing would have to be called off. That coupled with the news that the upcoming rescheduled Grayling Festival had also been rescheduled (again) nearly broke me I don’t mind telling you. Not only that rescheduled on the weekend of Mothering Sunday, I like my nuts where they are thanks and unfortunately will not be able to attend.

So it was all looking rather bleak but a man of Charles Jardines experience soon threw up a contingency plan enter Rockbourne Fishery. Small Stillwater’s are not my bag to be honest but Sundays trip was more about getting together with like minded anglers and having a bit of banter and the chance stretch your legs. I had not had much time to prepare my kit due to decorating duty immediately followed by a late supper while a good friend and I done some damage to a bottle of 12 year old Bunnahabhain. Still the adrenaline rush of the first fishing day of the year forced me out of bed early enough to get a cup of coffee and two Ipbrufen down my throat. I grabbed at ramdon bits of tackle which was unusually really dis organised and I was fairly happy that I had enough kit to muddle through. I plugged the post code into the sat nav from the website and was a little perplexed when I ended up in a housing estate in the New Forrest. The nearest thing to a fishery was a large puddle that I did not fancy my chances in. A careful check of the website and the correct address thankfully I was only ten minutes away. When I got there I was really impressed with the large cabin and an already toastie log burner. A few of the boys had already turned up and we all grumbled on a bit about the horrible weather. It was great to meet some new folks and catch up with some old friends. After the pleasantries it was time to tackle up, I had surprised myself with my packing plenty warm kit the right rod and reel bonza! I reached for the 8.5lb Rio Fluroflex Plus as I had been told there were some big fish to be had here. Only to find when I took the elastic from the spool there was like 9” of tippet there…..bollocks. I scrabbled round my bag and checked my little chest pack that I had brought and sure enough another spool was nestled in the chest pack and there was at least 12” on that spool….tosser! I eventually found a spool of 5lb and thought that will need to do. I stuck on a floating line and a single blob and wandered up to the top pond. There are several little ponds scattered around a very well maintained complex and although there were quite a few anglers present it did not seem crowded.

There is no catch and release at this fishery which is a great shame as it is extremely well stocked. First cast I was still sorting my admin out when the line shot away. Ah bit of a fluke the next cast saw my fly ripped from the line. I had only brought a handful of flies and was not best pleased. I decided to cut of the hook and just fish for takes as I did not want to end my day before it had begun. It was great fun and at the risk of over egging it I have to say that I was getting an offer every other cast. Julian joined me on the lake and was fishing a buzzer but not for long, I offered him one of the winning flies and he was soon enjoying some action. After forty minutes or so I had stopped fishing and was just wandering round chatting and seeing how folks were doing. Everyone seemed to be having a bumper time the fish were on average around the 4lb mark and a lot fitter than most for stock pond trout I have encountered in the past. They gave a really good account of themselves when hooked and several time I watched anglers playing the fish on the reel. Stuart a visitor from Oz had barley learned to cast a line and was soon into a hard fighting fish much to his great joy the smile said it all.

At one o’clock we all met up for a veritable feast Charles had made a number of dishes and some of the other lads had brought their speciality dishes. Not a bad one amongst them and I know because I tried them all. The banter was good and those that were in the lucky position not to be driving could have a few beers courtesy of Adam Stafford and there were various bottles of wine to sample if beer was not your thing. All very civilized and most enjoyable, the pinnacle of the lunch break was of course the cake…..the cheese cake I know what your thinking a cheese cake for a birthday but its worse than that. The cake was actually made out of real cheese which seemed to have caught fire as Adam was bringing it out, Charles quickly blew the candles out before we had a fondue disaster on our hands. After lunch some did not bother to return to the fishing but I was keen to take a couple of fish. The fishery offers to exchange your freshly caught catch for smoked trout and I had promised my pal a bit (how many times has that gone wrong…lol). I had given all my catching flies out but as I scrabbled round the back of my car I found a few of candy floss boobies and a sinking line. I went back up to where I had started and cast out across the lake. The first three casts resulted in me losing all three flies the trick was to just let the fish run and don’t strike. I was joined by another angler and I explained to him where I was going wrong. I then proceeded to demonstrate the failed method one more time……wanker! I tied on a black fly and had a couple of casts with that but the fish showed no interest. I tied on my last candy and immediately stuck it in the tree behind me. Luckily my eagle eyed companion retrieved the fly almost immediately. The next couple of casts ended with a nice brace of fish on the bank. I headed back to the lodge to deposit my catch in the fridge and grab my camera. I wandered about for a bit snapping anglers with their prizes and just enjoying the venue. I soon bumped into Richard and told him about the booby, keen to give it a go we wandered back to where I had left my rod and headed up to the pool. After a very short time the fly was ripped from the line and as it was barbless unceremoniously spat out into the middle of the lake. Well that’s that then….Richard said its ok we will get it when it drifts to the bank and sure enough it slowly started making its way to the bank. Then a ruddy great fish came and took it right of the top, realising its mistake it spat the fly a little closer to the bank. We eventually retrieved the fly but the day was shrinking away and we decided to wander back to the hut.

Some had already said their goodbyes but a few boys were left and we chatted on for a bit putting the world to rights. If still waters are your thing, then I could not recommend Rockbourne enough it is a really slick operation. The fish are hard fighting and there are plenty of them, including Artic Char if your looking for something a little more unusual. The fishing lodge is by far the best lodge I have been in by a country mile and the whole setup seemed geared up for large parties. If I was looking to introduce a friend to fly fishing I would seriously consider bringing them here.