click on the images for a better view
Reports of Rutland from the off have been nothing short of extraordinary, the previous weeks Sportsfish team event saw a rod average of 15! I had arranged to practice with Del Spry on the Friday but as luck would have it I managed to secure the Thursday of as well. The weather looked great for the Thursday and Friday but it was to get up a bit over the weekend. I was keen to get up and do a little photography and a bit of buzzer fishing, no one to share a boat with meant I could please myself. So, after taking a few shots of Normanton Church I returned to the lodge to sort out my kit. Sean Hanlon was also taking an extra day with Jim Wright and we chatted while setting up our rods. I only ever set up one rod when sharing a boat but as I was on my tod today both rods were rigged. I set one up with the floater and a bung rig and the other with a midge tip straight through. I wished the guys tight lines and made my way up to the South arm.
I had spoken with a couple of anglers at the lodge and they had suggested that there were some fish to be had up at Gibbets. What I found was I was at the wrong end of the wind and had much difficulty keeping up with my line. It was not supposed to be this windy I cursed under my breath. A couple of drifts and I abandoned the endeavour and made my way across the arm to Old Hall. This appeared much more civilised and the shores were lined with bank anglers, surely a good indicator that there were some trout about. Indeed, there were and the sport with a midge tip and buzzers was outstanding. A good mix of Brown and Rainbow trout. The wind was kind on this side of the arm blowing me gently out at an angle from the bank. As I got out the wind would really pick up and I just tucked back in. Every drift produced sport, Anglian water should be commended the quality of the stocked fish is very good and there were plenty over wintered fish joining in. As I made my way down towards K Buoy the sport was frantic. I thought to myself that I would need to find something really special not to spend my match days up here. I got around the corner to Yellowstone’s and unbelievably it just got better! I had a couple of really nice fish to 4lb in here all just twiddling. Before I knew it was 1400hrs. I went across the arm again into East Creek I thought I would get some shelter for a spot of lunch. I got my bung out while I ate but the fish would not give me peace and I lost half a pork pie over the side trying to stop my rod from being dragged overboard. I did not really want to do the North Arm and Normanton bank as I thought Del might want to look at them the next day. I went over to Carrot Creek for a bit but managed nothing. The shortest of trips into Whitewell and with an increasing wind I thought it was time to go in. On the way back I spotted a boat in Church Bay the angler on the point playing a fish. My interest was piqued however when his pal also hooked into a fish, well it would be rude not to. I stuck on a DI5 and a couple of blobs. An orange blob on the top and a black blob on the point. The wind was pushing through and although the drift was a good distance it was quick. Carnage, that’s the only way to describe it you could not get your flies back without a fish hooking up or a follow or take. Great way to top off a grand day.
The boys had arrived from Scotland a couple of the them a little worse from the journey. Jon Twine looked like a broken man he had done the bulk of the driving. It was really grand to see them all and they had over wintered well. Jock Kettles was in grand form and really looking forward to the Kit Kat Cup. A man on a mission having not enjoyed a brew from it in the last couple of years. We headed off to Weatherspoon’s in Oakham for our evening meal, a top scoff and a pint for under a tenner, you cannae whack it! Our accommodations were a little Spartan but the price was right I had gotten a six-man room but knew nobody wanted to share with me as my reputation as a snorer always precedes me. Del does not mind though being half deaf has its benefits!
The Friday saw the wind get up a little and it was time to get down to business. The floater and midge tip were dispensed with and on went the sinkers and the nasties! Del set up with a long midge tip initially and off we went. Church bay was a little bust with boats so I stuck to the outside and kept an eye on them. I knew Martin and Brad from old and could see them slaying fish at will. Even though I was on the outside of the bay I still managed four fish in about fifteen minutes. Del struggling to get much sport with the buzzers initially he did well to stick to his guns. We kept drifting ignoring the temptation to go into Church Bay. As we drew level with the Church Del finally scored with the buzzers and what a goal it was cracking Brown trout with a huge tail. As we carried on drifting we had both made ten or so casts for nothing and Del turned to me and said “Its gone off”, we both burst into laughter. We arrived at the bush behind the hotel, shootie in bush. The fish here were of a slightly better stamp and it was duly noted. We moved further up all the time looking around to see how others were doing. We had arrived at Fantasy and were about to move up to the North arm when we noticed one of our boats taking fish hard in. Well while we were here….lol.
We arrived in Dickenson’s bay during the match a couple of weeks back this had been full of Brown trout. That has changed though and there was a good mix. We had picked up Dean Rudd who was out on his own and asked if he wanted to move around with us for a bit of company. We worked down the Barnsdale road end and Cardiac Hill all the while taking fish, it was a red-letter day no doubt. Eventually we reached Bellgrano, I hooked into another fish on the top dropper and while it was in the net Del pointed out that there was another on the point. I half expected it to be gone by the time I had returned the first fish as I was using barbless flies. As it was the fish was still attached, I quickly got it to the boat and released it throwing the flies over the edge of the boat only to see the flies shoot away again. Unfortunately I still had one in my hand this was soon quickly imbedded in my index finger….ouch! There was claret everywhere and it took some time to stem the flow of blood, my finger smarting it was time to call it a day. I have fished with Del for years and we have had our share of great fishing days but I think he would agree that this surpassed them all.
Spirits were high around the camp fires most had enjoyed bumper sport and the tales of triumph were being banded around. Off course match day is always a bit different, you can go from hero to zero in a heartbeat a wrong decision on method and area can leave you scratching your head. The problem if you could call it that was there were too many areas to choose from. For me it boiled down to where was the quickest place to get eight fish and the answer was Church Bay. By the time people had travelled to Sykes or Yellowstone I was confident I could be well on my way to finishing. My partner for the day was a grand lad called Ian Pinder, although veteran fly angler he had not fished in competitions. It was the day of the Kit Kat Cup and although its bit of a laugh between Jock and I you can be assured that we both want to win! Ian was a star and gave me full control of the boat, only Del and I ended up initially in Church Bay. I watched Del net his first fish almost first cast, as I struck into my first fish and dragged it un-ceremoniously across the top to my waiting net. It buckled and wriggled free before it reached the waiting net. Oh well never mind as I looked up I watched Del net another. I was getting takes and offers but it took a little bit of refinement to get them to have it. Surprisingly Del decided to move off to shootie in bush I had assumed to tap into the slightly bigger fish. I opted to stay and just try and finish quickly. By the time Del had returned about forty minutes I had managed seven and lost another couple in play. He reported that he could not find the fish we had found the previous day and was still on two. I told him they were still here but the wind ensured you had very little time in the kill zone. Sitting on seven fish I lost another two fish in play and I have to admit to thinking I had blown it. I had not looked at the clock concentrating hard to get finished. The last fish inevitably locked up and when I checked my watch it was 1026hrs not to shabby but could have been better. The wind was pretty horrendous by now and I decided to take Ian to an area where he would be better able to fish effectively. So, it was up to Dickinson’s. It was like a different water Ian was better able to stay in touch with his flies and he was soon in about the fish. Building a steady bag, I was convinced he was going to finish. But after a hatful of opportunity and several returned Brown trout we had run out of time. Seven was a great day and he assured me that he had thoroughly enjoyed himself.
As we arrived back I could see Jock on the bank already changed. It was going to be close and I assumed it would come down to a bit of time bonus. Ian and I went to weigh in Jock hot on my heels he had finished only a short time after me that would make only a little difference so it would be down to the fish weight. My fish were a good average going a little over sixteen pounds. Jock congratulated me and offered his hand, the Kit Kat cup was secured for another year. I could have gone home a happy man but the Army were kindly running a Spring match so I thought I would stay on and have another day out.
The evening was filled by the Federations AGM and afterwards I gave a little introduction to fly tying for those that were interested. A couple of pints in the pub with the boys and I was fit for bed.
The way the boat draw is done for the last day is the guy that come first on the first day fishes with the guy who comes last and so on and so forth. My partner for the day was a Lad called Dave Norbury. He had suffered a bad day the day before and was hopeful of a better day. As we milled around the harbour waiting for the off I was convinced I was just going to drop into the drift I had done the day before. So many boats dropped onto the area I opted to fish the other side of the harbour. Less boats had gone left so off I went as I set the drift and made my first cast I noticed Del coming across as well. He had finished here the previous day and had assured me it was stuffed with fish. As I extended my landing net and picked up my rod four or five long pulls saw the line tighten up into my first fish. It was a cracker, great way to start. But as time ticked on I was not feeling the love, I spoke with Del who had already boated three. I was too deep so up to a three, I also told Dave to stop mucking about with his midge tip and get on a DI3. Almost immediately I was into another good fish. After ten minutes or so though it just did not feel right, Dave had boated his first fish as well to be fair if it had been fishing normally I would have been very pleased. There is nothing normal about the way Rutland is fishing so after ten minutes without a follow nor offer I decided to take us back to Church bay.
I stuck with the DI 3 and was into a fish very quickly, I was still unhappy with the depth though and changed back to the DI5. Explaining to Dave that I thought this would be quicker, he changed to a DI7. I was just saying to Dave how important being organised and having the ability to change quickly can make a huge difference to your day. As I was dishing out all this golden advice my spool spun from my reel hitting the gunnels of the boat and spinning to the depths. I rolly pollied the line as fast as I could but to no avail. All the line, all the backing in the water what a bloody plonker! Aye Dave efficiency that’s what it’s all about! So I had missed the whole drift, but Dave had managed a few fish and generated a lot of interest. Back around and actually having the flies in the water brought another three fish to the boat. Dave was going great guns also and we were both on seven. One more drift and we were both done great effort. It was only the back of eleven so we decided to head up the arms for a bit of buzzer fishing. We had an hour or so catching fish for fun but there was to be some rain coming in and neither of us fancied a drenching so we headed back in about 1500hrs. Tug and Jock were already in and were to be the winners of the boat pairs competition. We were finishing at 1600 so there was not long to wait until the weigh in. There had been some great performances Mark Rose who had such a hard time the previous week in the Sportsfish finished in less than an hour.
It was pleasing to see most had managed their limits and there had been some amazing fish caught. Notably some pretty impressive Brown trout had been taken. I have not got the full results but the highlights, Jock Kettles ever consistent won the boat pairs both days. Adam Sinclair new to competition loch style fishing won the Serving members trophy. I was lucky enough to be the top rod over the two days and won the associate trophy. More importantly though the Kit Kat Cup is back home and ready for Tuesday morning! If you have the opportunity to go fishing go to Rutland now, it can’t last. Many thanks to all my boat partners over the last few days and the organisers without whose efforts there would be not a match at all.
click on the images for a better view
I have reined in my competition fishing quite a bit the last few years but the AW is a bit special and I was very pleased to be selected to fish for the Soldier Palmers in this the first round. An early heat promises of plenty sport were greatly anticipated. We were going mob handed to this event and the Federation decided to enter two teams and it was decided that we would work together and pool our shared knowledge. The weather looked pretty reasonable for the time of year so everything was set and it couldn’t hurt that it was only two weeks away from the Kit Kat cup!
We were taking two days practice to help build a rounded picture of how the water was fishing. The first day I was to fish with Jamie Nairn who I have had the pleasure of fishing with in the past. We had been given the task of checking out the main basin, my personnel favourite! After a couple of hours of not so much sport and being caught by a squall from out of the blue we were a little discouraged with our lot. That’s team fishing though you get a job and you have to crack on. The other boat that was helping us in the basin that contained Peter Harrop and Ben Worley had fared much better. After we watched them desperately pushing themselves of the dam (lol) we managed a quick chat. They had done pretty well which was good to hear, we managed a few more drifts before realising we were late for lunch and the team half time talk. With only six or seven fish to the boat Jamie and I were not exactly cock a hoop. When we eventually got to our flotilla the numbers that were being banded around of fish catches seemed more than a little exaggerated. They must have been using secret flies or fancy new lines surely, but no. Using the same or nearly the same shit as us they were catching fish for fun. As it was quite a late lunch there were only a couple of fishing hours left and Jamie and I were given free rein to go and catch some fish. We decided to head up the North as far as Barnsdale Road end then just bounce down the bank. This is what Rutland should be like this time of year, brilliant! At one point once you cast out you couldn’t get your flies back without a hungry trout engulfing them. Wading through Brown trout fun though it was not going to cut it on match day though. Motoring back in at least Jamie and I had gotten a shot of moral down our throats and were keen to get back on it the next day.
Practice day two saw me in the boat with my old mucker Del Spry more used to fishing for exotic fish abroad of late this must have seemed a bit ho hum. We were asked to go check some of the far reaches of the water and were both pleasantly surprised to find a rather large head of fish. They were a mixed bunch with Brown trout and Rainbows all in the mix. It was however uncanny that Del would catch only Rainbows and I could only get hold of the Brown Trout! We spent the morning doing the various tasks we had been given by the Captain dropping into various areas some good some not so much. Then it was back to the dock for some lunch and a quick catch up with the rest of the troops. The afternoon saw the wind decline to a near flat calm and we were given weapon’s free to go where we liked. We had both rigged up floaters and teams of buzzers and what an afternoon we had. The takes were just superb, the fish were slamming the flies so hard that I marvelled why I had not been snapped off more. It would have been tempting to stay out and enjoy the fishing more but we both knew that we would be wanting these fish the next day.
The match day weather forecast looked good light winds to start but get a bit windier later. There were some top teams on show and when signing in I recognised many of the anglers on the sheet. It was going to be a tall order getting through this level of competition our old rivals the Fishhawks were there, like us with two teams entered. Also, Ian Barr’s Team Costa had brought along another team to support the heat. I have seen competition participation dwindle over the years for one reason or another so supporting the likes of the AW has become even more important.
I had drawn a fellow Scot, Murray Hunter from the Costa B Team, he had drawn the engine so I waited in the pointy end for him to arrive. Before I could clap eyes on him though our team capt wanted a last-minute chat before going out and after that Jon Marshall was ready to give the match brief. The rules were to be a four fish kill which could include one Brown trout. After this ten, Rainbows could be caught and released on barbless or de-barbed hooks. A fourteen-fish bag was a big target but the fishery was in top form so well achievable. As we motored out into the harbour Murray and I discussed where we were going to fish, Murray was keen to head down the Normanton bank but I knew options down there would be limited and we finally agreed at a trip up the North arm. A lot of boats headed in this direction and I was more than a little surprised when almost all of them kept going and left Ernies point. This had been a real hot spot the previous two days and it would be rude not to give it some attention. I had started off on a pulling rig but as the wind was so low it was very quickly replaced with a floater with four buzzers. The change brought almost instant success. The first fish was quickly to the boat and I watched Si Gaines boating fish just a little down from me. We went back around and again the line was ripped from my hand as I yanked line into the bottom of the boat the fish was having none of it and bolted for the middle of the basin. I exclaimed that I must have a double shooter (two fish on the same cast) in the hope Murray would help out if I was fortunate enough to get the fish back to the boat. It was so strong that it towed the boat around on the drogue. After what seemed like a long time I eventually got the fish to the net it was a cracker, a Rainbow of what I thought was around the 4lb mark.
A great start to the day more fish followed unfortunately some fell off but still forty-five minutes in and sitting on three fish, not too bad. So, I thought until Del motored by me indicating that he had managed six! I also caught up with Jamie who was on eight. A change was in order back to the pulling and the change brought the required result and I was getting back on track. As the day moved on I had built a steady bag and by about 1240 I was sitting well poised on eight fish. I looked to my left and saw Jamie Thomas still getting into the fish. It was only going to be a matter of time, the follows and takes were still coming but I failed to convert my chances. Almost an hour later I looked across to watch Jamie net his last fish, good angling. I confirmed that he had not changed his method and went around again. I worked the area for longer than I should have and by the time it had dawned on me to move we were the only boat left. A schoolboy error on my part, as the time grew short I was wracking my brains what to do next! We had a trip across to the other bank in a bid to fish buzzers but the wind had us every which way. Desperation was setting in I had been stuck on eight fish for about three hours. A move down the bank and I met up with our team Captain Sean Hanlon. He was in the same boat as me but he did give me the good news that one of our comrades Ronnie Christie had also finished. This spurred me on and after a couple of attempted drifts of the bank that were doomed due to the wind we moved to the front of the Peninsular for the last hour. I had gotten into a bit of a state with my cast and tied on my spare trace. Change of trace change of luck I took two fish really quickly but time was running out. I was back in the groove now though and I brought fish to the boat regularly but they failed to take the flies the ones that did were on only for a moment before coming off. Time was up for Murray and I and we called it a day and started to head back to the dock. In the normal run of things, I would have been overjoyed with ten fish but I knew I had dropped the ball and hope that my team mates had done enough to pick up the slack. When I got back we had managed four limits a ten and eleven a great effort. It was going to be close though as a few teams had managed the full house. As the results were announced I was mighty relieved that my errors had not punished the team. We had scraped in in 5th spot, so onto the Northern final!
Rutland can be a cruel mistress sometimes but it had been extraordinarily kind to us the last three days are some of the most memorable fishing I have had at Rutland at this time of year. Let’s hope it’s the herald to a fantastic season ahead.
22 & 25 Mar Army Angling Federation (Game)
Recruitment days at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Trout Fishing Club (RMASFC)
(Please click on the images for a better view)
In an ever-shrinking Army it is becoming increasingly difficult to get soldiers released for sport. Getting fresh blood into the Federation has been given top priority and was taken on as a job by Ben Worley. Events like this have been held on a much smaller scale but have been limited in numbers. This is a combination of geographical location as well as expense and availability of mentors. Getting the word out to the field Army has been difficult. Ben utilised the skills of Jamie Nairn who using the chain of command drummed up a great deal of interest. Ben approached the Officer Commanding the RMASFC Mark Harrison to see if it was going to be viable to use the club waters for the event. After some consultation with the head bailiff Danny Lee it was agreed that this would be allowed.
Not only was permission given to use the club waters but H and Danny were prepared to give up their own time to help out. As well as this other members of the club were sought out to act as mentors on both days. As the Federation could only provide a handful of experienced anglers this was a real boon allowing us to almost double our numbers for both days. There was so much interest in the end people had to be diverted onto the Spring meeting. So, for the meagre fee of £15 soldiers and officers could come along for the day get some tuition a spot of lunch and learn all about the Federation and its many benefits. Also, Adam Sinclair came along to inform anglers about the Services Dry Fly water. This stretch of the river Avon is chalk stream fishing imagined and was home to the most famous of river keepers Frank Sawyer. There were several river anglers present who found the presentation most useful.
As I work in the grounds of the Academy it was easy to come along and lend a hand. The photos in this blog entry were all taken on the Saturday. The reason for this was the Wednesday conditions could not have been worse. A really cold snap the night before ensured a pretty chilly start to the day. To compound the matter the rain was unrelenting and came down fairly heavy most of the day. I was to spend my day on the main lake in the boats. The lake itself is not particularly deep so a floating line would suffice. I had paired up with a young lad from Northern Ireland who had been a lifelong fisherman. I was really pleased that he caught a fish fairly quickly as it was a pretty miserable day to be on the water. Not many around us were catching fish which is a little frustrating as I know how well this water can fish. Lunch could not come quick enough and a hot brew was most definitely welcome. There was a good spread laid on for the boys and the table was cleared by the end. The guys then had a presentation about Services Dry Fly and the Army Angling Federation. It was during the presentation that we sat inside looking out at what was the nicest part of the day, typical. The afternoon started well I was out with a soldier from the famous forty twa! Of course, I was well out by the time he had joined but we knew some of the same arseholes…lol. The rain came again in the afternoon intent on getting us completely soaked. Still despite the conditions the lake was kind and gave up another fish, rightly so the boy had come all the way from Inverness after all! Despite the weather there were plenty of smiling faces at the end of the day most had managed at least one fish and that seemed to have made it all worthwhile.
Talk about chalk and cheese, what a difference a couple of days can make. The Saturday dawned with stunning blue skies reaching out across the Academy. What a fantastic back drop for a day’s fishing. I was supposed to be walking round taking photos but we were one short for the boats so found myself back in the driving seat. This day saw many more experienced anglers that have been serving but were unaware of the Federation until this event. I shared a boat with a fairly experienced chap who cast a lovely line and couldn’t half catch fish. I hope that he will return to the Spring meeting and swell our ranks. At lunch, it was much the same detail as the previous day a lot more smiley faces about mind it’s amazing what a bit of sunshine will do for your day. In the afternoon, I was freed up to wander for a bit with the camera and got the chance to speak with a few of the anglers. The even had been very well received by all accounts with several commenting on the very informative presentations at lunch time. Time will tell on how effective the events have been but to have gotten so much interest I can only hope it bodes well for the future of fly fishing in the Army.
The Federation owes H and Danny a great debt of thanks for all their assistance over both days. They were kind enough to also provide a number of mentors from their club that made the event possible. Thanks also to the members of the Federation that made the effort to travel in some cases some considerable distance. Of course, many thanks to those anglers that attended either of the days, with guys travelling from as far afield as Inverness there are sure to be more events of this ilk in the future.
(Please click on the images for a better view)
I have not gotten to the river as much as I would have liked this year. This time of year is always a bit hit or miss, more miss than hit so far! I had hoped for a day out with Adam Stafford from Wet Your Knot. Adan has a busy day job as well as administering the WYK Facebook page so a bit calendar wrestling saw us agree on the last day of the Grayling season. There are not that many venues available for day tickets so a welcome return to an old stomping ground was on the cards. Although I have not fished here for some time I know the venue really well. I used to fish here every other week for in the Grayling season. After a couple of lack lustre visits to the river Avon I was keen to shake the cobwebs of and go and catch a hat full of fish.
I also wanted to use the opportunity to do a little product testing. I had been given the range of Hunts Original Products to try, you can find my findings and conclusion in the new part of the website here. Rather unfortunately Adam was to be delayed for a few hours and would not manage to get along until lunch time. I got there bright and early and spent a bit of time in the hut with Robbie and Bill. Robbie was giving me all the latest gossip and we all spent half an hour putting the world to rights. Keen to get on though I was soon tackling up, a quick look at the river showed the water level to be good if a little murky. I opted for a Duo rig with a Parachute Adams and a small herl nymph about 2’ of the hook bend. I always drop into the weir to just net a couple of fish to get into the swing of it. Today was no different except the fish part that is! Not so much as nudge it looked good but there were no signs of Grayling. Flies were changed heads were scratched to no avail, a good half hour for nothing.
It was time for a move to another of my favoured spots. A bit more head scratching and changing of flies and an hour in not a scrap! Another angler was moving upstream and I asked how he was getting on. He had managed one sprat but declared that it was hard going, no shit! A move to Greg’s stream that always has fish in. I started in an area that has always produced for me and was relieved when the Adams dipped and I lifted into my first fish. As the fish tore off upstream though my heart sank this was no Grayling. To add insult to injury the fish didn’t stop and took my nymph with him. It’s at this point it dawned on me that it had been over a year since I last fished here and the river may have changed in character. Areas that had in the past were no longer producing it was time to adopt a new approach and approach the river like I had never fished it.
So, I wandered the banks looking for likely water that Grayling may inhabit. Still on Greg’s stream I moved up and found a likely looking run, a slow meandering stretch that I often find Grayling favour. I generally pick the sweet spot out, then fish everything before it in case I get a bonus fish but time was wearing on and I was staring the big donut in the face. I cast straight to the prime spot of the run and was immediately rewarded. At first I thought it was another Brownie but my fears were alieved when I spotted the huge dorsal fin of a decent Grayling. Luckily, although it scraped like a Trojan it came straight down the river to my waiting net. To be fair it did not look in too good a nick, and seemed very dark and a little war torn.
A couple of small fish started to come but not in great numbers, but hey at least they were coming. I moved back to the lodge area to greet Adam on his arrival and while there fished just in front of the hut. This was to provide the most consistent sport of the day for me and I had three fish on the bounce to the Adams. I discarded the nymph in order to fish a straight dry but the takes just dried up, without the nymph I did not even get fish to come and look despite several changes. I decided a bite to eat before Adam arrived then we could go at fresh in the afternoon.
Adam arrived and got his stuff together, we opted to walk down to the bottom of the beat and then work our way back up towards the hut. As we walked down shooting the breeze we talked all things fishy and the London Fly Fishing Fair, Adam had gone on the Friday and like me was very impressed. I started right at the bridge and fished on my knees to several good Grayling. It was fairly frustrating regardless of my many offerings and different presentations the fish seemed not to be interested. Eventually I slipped into the river and started to fish upstream spooking the fish I had failed to catch, not my finest hour! The Brown trout were not shy though and a beast of a trout had me chasing it round the river. Thankfully no one was watching because it looked like an end sequence to the Benny Hill show. Eventually I managed to get the fish in the net and then safely back in the water.
We fished hard all the way up throughout the afternoon picking up the odd fish between us. I have known Wherewell to fish tough on the very odd occasion, but generally the fishing is really good. It seemed my run of bad luck was continuing. We met other anglers on our travels, heads held low some reported that they had not even managed one Grayling. Their day only saved by some sporting Brownies. I couldn’t point to why it was so tough the weather was OK as was the water level and the clarity though not crystal clear like it can be was not bad. I will have to chalk it up to the barometric pressure, yes that’s it, the pressure was all wrong….lol.
We finished up our day above the bridge by the hut. After taking one on the Adams and spotting the odd fishing coming up I again discarded the nymph. I could see nothing coming off and there seemed to be nothing on the water itself. Hey Ho, I tried everything from very small to stupidly big not even an offer. My back was broken, my moral low it was time to call it a day. I had just about scraped double figures not the bumper session I had hoped for from eight hours fishing but it was great to get a catch up with Adam. We will get them next time pal.
(Please click on the images for a better view)
This was an inaugural event held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London. I had stopped going to shows and fairs a number of years ago mostly due to ticket prices and geographical location. The ticket price for this show was just £15 so I thought it would be worth a punt. An early start but no accommodation costs made it a no brainer, I had to give up a day at Chessington though PMSL!
I had checked out the list of exhibitors’ online and was a little disappointed that some of the big hitters in the industry had decided not to put in an appearance. I have to say though on entering the venue the layout was just perfect. There was easy parking and I got the car right in the hall itself, joking aside there were a number of options for getting to the venue and those driving had the opportunity to pay for the parking on the Fair’s website. The Angel Underground station was only about three hundred yards away so access was good.
The hall had high ceilings making it seem very spacious a really good choice for having a show such as this. As I came in through the door I was very impressed with the huge screen that was set up with various rotating images. This area was to be used for talks and slideshows by the various destination fishing companies present. I had gotten to the venue as the doors opened as I was keen to catch the first presentation about Fishing in Iceland by Fish Partner. I found it very difficult to hear what the chap was saying due the noise from the activities on the upper levels, but the images of Iceland had me hook line and sinker! A trip there in the next few years is high on my priority list.
On the left-hand side as you entered the building was the refreshments area and in the morning, you could grab a bite to eat and at lunchtime there was a bar if you fancied wetting your whistle. Also in this area was the Bentley parked up next to a much more practical looking Land Rover. I have to say the Bentley made me chuckle when I think of the fly tying kit in the boot and the cream leather seats, you can just imagine climbing in with your waders and muddy wader boots to move up the beat a little….NOT!
I ventured up to the second floor where the bulk of the show was located, it looked great with a casting pool in the centre and the various stands arranged around in two tiers. I thought to move round in a clockwise direction so the first port of call was the fly tiers. It was still fairly early and most were chatting amongst themselves. I did come across Mickal Zapal from Poland. He is one of my favourite tier’s and I always look forward to seeing his work on Facebook. It was really great to meet him in person and he even tied me a lovely Sedge pattern which I will undoubtedly steal! As I moved up the various exhibitors I came across young Ben Beckworth working away at a nymph box, a very impressive young man and I am sure he will be one to watch in the future if he decides to go down the competition route. I really enjoy fly tying and it was great to see the work of others at close quarters.
In my element, I moved round the various stalls stopping to chat when something caught my eye. Without exception, all the exhibitors took time to chat to you and were very friendly and helpful. I can’t mention everyone but here are a few that gave up their time to chat to me throughout the day. In no particular order, Stephen Parkes (Atomsix), Maria Gonzalez (Mayfly Art), Cameron Craigs (Albury Estate Fisheries), Tom Hunt (Hunts Original), Wayne Mcgee (Alaska Trophy Adventures), Ben Bangham (Costa), Toby Merigan (Funky Fly Tying) and a special mention to Hywel Morgan who gave me some great pointers for Iceland.
Well let’s get down to it, would I go again? Absolutely I had a blast right up to the point where Dave Murray and I went to the pub to watch the rugby the day went down like Sanchez in the penalty box after that.
- Easy venue to reach
- Reasonably priced entry
- Well thought through layout
- Great selection of Fly Fishing content
- Price of food was outrageous £12.50 for a burger, coke and about six chips. OK it was wild boar but for that kind of dosh I would expect the breast meat from a Dodo!
- Having to leave early to watch the rugby, would have been a good idea to utilize the large screen. The bar would have done a bomb!
- Scotland getting humped by England, nuff said!
It really was a great success I can see this becoming one of the biggest show events of the calendar. For the first one they did a super job and I hope to return next year.
Click on the photographs for a better view
I was in Argentina climbing Aconcagua, it would be rude not to try and get any fishing in, we were very lucky with the weather and got the mountain climbed fairly quickly so that meant a few days R+R in Mendoza. Mendoza is a large city set in the eastern plains at foot of the Andes mountains, famous for its Malbec wine and olive oil. Most, if not all of the rivers that I had seen up to now had been un-fishable dirty glacial melt so it was essential to try and find a guide. Straight to the Orvis shop in Mendoza to make some enquiries, the guy behind the counter was really helpful and offered to take us out to a remote ranch the following day. ‘Polo’ the guide explained that it was a small mountain stream with wild Rainbows and Brooke trout, in good numbers, set in a beautiful location in the Andes 2500m above sea level, sounds perfect. Polo had previously been a full time guide in Patagonia and has just finished making a fishing series for ESPN so we were in very good hands and couldn't wait to get up to the stream.
It was a early pick up from the hotel and we soon found ourselves back up in the mountains winding our way up a dirt track towards the ranch, the track seemed to go on forever but eventually arrived at the ranch and met the Gaucho who informed us he would have food and wine waiting whenever we finished fishing, the day was getting better and better. We rigged up a couple of rods, I opted for the #1 handmade bamboo rod and John had a full flex #4 rod we both tied on a huge foam dry fly as instructed by Polo. John is a International Mountain Guide who helped us all up to the summit of Aconcagua but a total beginner to fly fishing, although a lot of experience fishing for carp back in the UK he always wanted to try his hand at fly fishing - the perfect place for it. The plan was simple, we fish upstream taking it in turns pool by pool and work our way up until the heat of the day either puts us off or the fish off. With huge condors circling above, we set off and I saw the stream for the first time, my heart sank, it was tiny and I mean tiny, you could easy step over it and thought to myself there is no way there are any fish in that tiny stream and thought the tourist trap had been set! Following the footpath, slightly disheartened, we moved up and Polo pointed into a pool ‘look, big rainbow’ I looked down into the pool to see huge rainbow trout sat at the back of a crystal clear tumbling pool lazily picking nymphs off. Amazed, is an understatement! The size of the fish compared to the size of the river was unbelievable, now I believed Polo, I was exited to get fishing.
We carried on upstream as Polo said that the fish will be bigger in the middle stretch of the stream, up we went and we found a nice looking pool, getting down low so that we didn't spook the fish we all peered into the pool and saw a nice looking Brooke trout. After a quick demo from Polo and a quick practice, it was time for John to catch his first trout on the fly. Getting into the correct position is very important, taking your time so that the fish don't see you and getting into a comfortable position before you make the all important first cast. As the stream is so small you don't need much fly line out, 18 inches is ideal, and its more of a flick than a cast but still very difficult due to target area being so small. John flicked the fly out and it landed perfectly, the Brooke couldn't the resist what was on offer and John hooked into the fish. What a start, fly fishing for less than 10 minutes and he's playing his first trout. A beautifully marked Brooke trout, a fantastic start. A quick photo and a very short walk to the next pool, Polo had a excellent eye for spotting fish and had already spotted two good sized fish in the pool before I had even caught him up, so down on my belt buckle I got in position, watching the fish I flicked the huge fly into the small pool and instantly hooked into a lovely Brooke trout, what a start, a nice fish each and the pressure was off.
We worked our way up the pools both of us having action in every pool, weather it be a fish, a quick smash at the fly or a fish turning away at the last second it was the most enjoyable fishing I had ever experienced and the amount of fish in the tiny stream was unbelievable. The technique was quite difficult to master, after the flick you had to hold the leader off the water so the fish did not spook, harder than is sounds with a stiff breeze and small stream with natural vegetation on the banks, but soon got the hang of it. John and I both loosing good sized fish (estimated around 2lb) we continued to catch fish and miss plenty.
Polo has also wrote a book on fly fishing and explained he wrote one chapter based on the ‘first cast’ and the importance of the first cast being correct, your best chance. As the morning progressed this could not of been more true, every pool we fished, if the first cast was not right it would spook the fish and your second cast would be useless and just a waste of time with the fish moving off station into the faster water or simply just ignoring what was on offer. Very interesting and educational as it rings so true back in UK. Another interesting observation was how far a fish would swim off its lie to take the fly, sometimes well over a metre, sometimes they would swim from under the cover of banks to take the fly. Fantastic to watch.
I lost count of how many fish and chances we both had, but it was a lot, this tiny stream was in great condition. Polo turned over a few stones to show us how they are all sustained, the stones were covered in huge caddis and hundreds of other nymphs which explains how there can be so many fish in such a small stream. With the sun beating down on us and fish moving into the more shaded and oxygenated water it was almost time to call it a day the last pool of the day, a quick flick of the fly and I was playing a lovely wild rainbow of 1 1/2lb on light tackle it was great fun the fish going up and down the stream giving me the run around. Eventually succumbed to the net, this fish was destined for the pot, what a way to end the day. We took a slow walk back to the ranch where the Gaucho had prepared lunch, steak, chicken, local sausages and the freshest rainbow trout ever all washed down with the local Malbec wine. What a fantastic day, the hardest part was explaining to John that unfortunately this is not my normal days fly fishing but an introduction both of us would never forget.
Click on the photographs for a better view
A short notice trip to Farmoor, I got an invite on Wednesday from Steve Cullen to go fishing on Sunday. After some negotiations with the long haired General it was on. I had never been to Farmoor before even though it is only just over an hour from my home. The venue is not going to win any prizes for the prettiest fishery in the country. It’s essentially a concrete bowl filled with water, so what’s the attraction? The bank fishing is supposed to be superb and the quality of fish are reputed to be very good. Anyway, what’s the worst that could happen a day of freezing cold wind and a bit of banter with Steve. Although the blog is little populated for this year I have had a few trips to the river Avon but they have proved so uneventful I could not muster the enthusiasm to record them.
I was to meet Steve at 1000hrs but traffic was so light I was well early. I spent a little time looking around, lots of sailors and anglers about. I watched a couple of the bank anglers catching fish they seemed to be fishing in pairs and when one would catch the other would slide down the side of the dam and net the fish, teamwork in action! Steve soon arrived and informed me that I would not need much a reel, rod, DI8 and a box of boobies. We squared up the tickets and got into one of the boats that Steve had booked up. The fishery has a few boats but not many and I would advise that if you’re going to pay a visit and hope to fish from a boat you best book. The setup was simple enough two boobies on a long leader cast out the back of the boat pay out a little more line then hang on. There was a wee bit more to it than that but essentially that was it. It made sense to me it was Baltic the water was freezing the fish would be on the deck.
There was action from the off really and after I struck at my first couple of offers to no avail Steve counselled that you had to just let it tighten up. Fishing with heavy gear it’s hard to appreciate how good these fish are and as I got the first fish to the boat only around two and half pounds I was struck by the quality. The fish was a bar of silver more akin to one of the Grafham fish that you get out in the middle mid-season. The tail was perfect and big; the fish was long and lean and we were off the mark. The first fish had taken my top dropper which was a small booby blob it went on to catch several more fish, one for the back pocket. I was experimenting with some new patterns and was very pleased with the results. The fish were coming steady with lots of takes and interest, everywhere bar one drift that Steve took us we were rewarded with some sport. The day had started pretty mild but as the wind picked up it cut through us like a sharp knife despite the numerous layers we were wearing. It’s funny though the cold does not seem to bother me when the fish are coming thick and fast.
I had thought we were doing OK but Steve informed me that this was a pretty slow day. If this was slow I can’t wait to get back when its picked up a bit! The general stamp of fish were excellent hard fighting silver torpedoes. We had made our way around the bowl and arrived at the causeway just as a large group of bank anglers were packing up. As we were drifting up I tightened into another fish as it neared the boat it was clear that it was a decent fish. After a dogged fight from the fish I eventually coaxed it into the waiting net. While all this was going on Steve had also hooked a cracking fish and had played it to the boat. After quickly releasing his fish Steve did the honours with the camera and I was fairly sure that this was going to be the fish of the day a solid three and a half pounds with a rudder for a tail.
After re-drifting the same area for not so much as a knock it was time to move around so we made our way a little further round the bowl. It was a lot more comfortable here, at the top of the wind and the cold was a little less biting. This was the area we found the fish in numbers and although the stamp was a little smaller the fish still fought like stink. I don’t recall now which drift it was but we were catching plenty when I hooked into a fish that came straight to the surface and started to fight in the top layers of the water. Steve could see it better than I and exclaimed it was a good fish. To be honest it did not feel particularly big but I gave it the respect due a decent fish and played it out sensibly. I was so pleased I did, once the fish was in the net it was very obvious that the hook hold was a tenuous one it was only very lightly hooked and as I reached to retrieve the fly it parted company with the fish. It was an absolute cracking fish and exactly what Farmoor is famous for. A quick photo before being safely released it had made my day.
We continued to do the same drifts and you could almost predict when you were going to get a fish or a bit of interest. We had located two bands of fish which gave us both plenty of sport. The sailing boats were very friendly some coming so close that we could have exchanged numbers! To be fair though there was no harsh exchange of words as can occur at some other venues and a few were downright pleasant asking how our fishing was going. I had really enjoyed the day and with twenty-five fish to the boat in a little under six hours we had made the best of it. The cold had taken its toll on me though and I was completely frozen to the core. Lesson learned more layers for the next trip and there will definitely be one. Forget the scenery go for the fish and you won’t be disappointed!
Click on the photographs for a better view
Welcome to 2017, this is the first entry of the New Year. Many will have already been out a few times already this year alas for me there has only been one very short visit to the river Avon. I saw this match pop up on my FB feed and thought it would be a great way to kick the season off properly. I am not very experienced when it comes to bank fishing, much preferring large reservoirs or running water. I have fished the River Avon at Manningford though and it is a very picturesque fishery which is kept in top nick by the keeper Malcolm Hunt. They have a very comfortable lodge which is a decent size with facilities to have a seat and hot drink, essential on those cold winter days.
I was sure I would know a few of the boys attending as it was there were not many faces that were unfamiliar to me. As well as this there were another four Soldier Palmers to keep me company. It was really good to catch up with many of the lads from Chew, I was surprised that it was only one hour fifteen to the fishery about the same for me. The boys were in fine fettle and there were lots of catching up with old friends and chatter about what we had been up to. Hot drinks and bacon butties were on the go courtesy of Adam Sinclair who was along to help out Ben and Malcolm for the day.
I asked about the rules which were pretty straight forward one fly barbless or de-barbed. You drew a peg at the start and every forty-five minutes a car horn would toot and you would move clockwise five pegs, simple. I had drawn peg eighteen which was at the top corner of the fishery. There were thirty-six anglers in total which made the pegs a little on the tight side. I had Dave Drake to my right and he was still setting up when the car horn beeped to start the match. I had opted for a floater and a Daphnia blob to start an un tested fly but what better place to give it a go. As I made my first cast one of the anglers to my left was already playing a fish. As I watched my own line tightened up and I was into the first fish of the day. After an initial flurry of a few fish being caught it went eerily quiet. With the water being thrashed to a foam by six of us in a rather tight corner it was not surprising that the trout had donned their hard hats and had hunkered down. Forty-five minutes goes fast when your fishing and in no time at all it was time to move. A few anglers had already made an early move and were keen to get cracking. The next peg (23) was pretty tight but very sociable. The crack was grand but the fishing was hard going and myself and both anglers either side moved to our third peg with only a couple of tugs to show for our efforts.
The next peg was much of the same I had switched to a fast sinker and a trusted Candy booby. We all looked on with envious eyes watching anglers on the other side of the lake having a field day. Ben was popping around asking how folks were doing and we spent five minutes chatting away. I managed a spritely trout right at the end of a retrieve but that was my only one from this peg. Another move down saw us getting a bit nearer the lodge and a few anglers up on my left-hand side started to get into some action. This was the last session before lunch and I feared it may have been another blank one. Fortunately, the booby done the job and spared my blushes. As the horn honked I think we were all ready for a bite to eat. There was a large pot of chilli on the go and it was most welcome and very good to boot. It was very obvious from the lunch time chatter that the other side of the fishery had fished its head off. The best fish thus far was into double figures with many others in the seven to nine-pound bracket, a real credit to the fishery. Ben Worley had chapped an 8lb fish on the head as one of the other guys had wanted it for the table. This was to come back and haunt him a bit later.
The afternoons three sessions kicked of 1330 and my neighbour to the left was into action almost immediately. Dave to my right was also soon off the mark and eventually I managed one too. This was more like it, not as productive as the morning session but none the less a lot more sport than the previous sessions. The penultimate peg was my best of the day, I had watched the boy on the right of me take several fish on the bung so thought best to change. I fished a yellow blob about two and a half feet under the bung and was getting the fish by launching it as far as I could out into the lake. Fish came steady after that but they were difficult to keep hold of at that distance. Great fun though and the guys to my right and left were all getting plenty sport. My last peg of the day looked OK but I knew it would be tough to get anything from it as it had now been fished all day. Half way through the session and still on the bung I cast out into the lake. I was toying with the idea of going back to the sinker and had put the rod down to get my line out. Having retrieved another Candy and a new piece of tippet from my waist coat I was in the middle of connecting the fly to the tippet when my reel screeched for my attention. Then ensued a comical scene with me not wanting to lose my last candy and new tippet and a feisty Rainbow running me ragged all over the lake. I eventually managed to net the fish and the angler to my left came and helped me sort my life out.
As the session was coming to an end Malcolm the fishery manager came over for a chat and gave me a little insight into the fishery. He was disappointed that the water clarity was not its usual crystal clear due to some heavy rain. To be fair it had still fished its socks off though. He took me over to the river to point out some pretty impressive Grayling and I made a mental note to come back soon and have a crack at them. The last toot came across the lake to signify the end of the match. I was much relieved as my back was killing me, I tootled back to the lodge with Dave Drake and we both agreed it had been a really good day. Back at the lodge I learned that Ben Worley had returned a 12lb Brown trout as he had already knocked one on the head it had to go back. No good deed goes unpunished as they say, still he got a nice picture of it and I am sure the thought of it will last long in his memory. Ben featured in the final results with Chew regular Mark Miles winning the match and Ben by the narrowest of margins in second place, Les Cooke was third. Well done to all those who attended and made it such a great day.
A really enjoyable day at a great venue, good food, great company and a few fish what more could you ask for.