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14 Mar A farewell to Grayling Wherewell

(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.



11 Mar London Fly Fishing Fair Review

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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.



Guest Blog Del Spry - Fishing in Mendoza - Argentina

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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.



05 Feb Farmoor Reservoir

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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!  



14 Jan Manningford Winter Bank Comp

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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.