Wednesday, 10 November 2010

River Dore

The plan this weekend was to meet up with my mate Steve and fish the Monnow for some grayling. It all looked peachy until the rain came, and carried on and on and on. The Monnow ended up being a risk off wash off so we decided instead (with a little help from the local knowledge) to fish the tributary, the River Dore.

Our chosen beat was Abbey Dore Court, unfortunately the most expensive on the WUF books but the only beat available, and after a 3+ hour drive we turned into the grounds of a beautiful house. We met the beats owner, a lovely lady who tends to the massive manicured gardens all winter! and her lurcher. They showed us the lower "garden beat" and we tackled up. An 8'6'' 4# was overgunned here but it is the smallest rod I own, a situation which must soon be rectified!!


This water may look fast and shallow but it conceals wader filling depths right under the banks, careful wading was needed on this small stream.

Steve entered halfway up the beat below a nice weirpool and I made my way right to the bottom so we would not overlap and fish the same water, the stream was too small for that.


Steve fishing the largest pool on the beat, how he missed the shoal of grayling lying at his feet I will never know, but I am selfishly glad he did!

First pool and first fish, a lovely grayling engulfed my size 19 Black PT nymph as i let it drop through the slow water of a very deep eddy. For such a narrow stream the depth of the pools was astonishing, many had to be skirted round as even the edges were over waist deep. The grayling was followed by a few more as I made my way up to the weir pool.


The first grayling and at just under a pound a very good start.

This was very challenging fishing and completely different to the chalkstreams I am used to. There is no sight fishing to be done and the order of the day was short casts with long leaders and heavy flies into deep water. This made bite detection tricky but by keeping the rod high and line short the twitches were registered and fish were landed.

Making our way on to the wild overgrown upper beat we were optimistic, we had 7 fish to hand between us in our short morning session and this water looked mouth wateringly good. Every corner revealed a pool which screamed fish. Ofcourse this was not the case, 3 and a half fruitless hours past and morale hit rock bottom. I tried every fly and tactic i knew but to no prevail and eventually we trudged back to the lower beat with our tails between our legs thoroughly beaten.

I again entered at the fallen chestnut but this time Steve did not fish the weir pool so when i reached it I was able to get into a position and settle in to methodically work the active water. It was a dream to fish with a sweeping current working around my position on a shelf in the inside slack and a massive swirling eddy beyond the fast water. A few casts in and I had the single beadhead working nicely occasionally touching bottom and snagging the odd bit of weed, perfect. A few small brownies attacked the flies at the very tip of the pool, taking them as soon as they hit the water, a change to an even heavier fly soon sorted that problem out and the fly made its way bottomwards in search of ladies.


The weirpool was full of small brown trout but a heavier nymph pushed the flies to the bottom and out of their sights.

Everything came together then and I enjoyed an hour of brilliant sport with a shoal of grayling with atleast half a dozen good fish coming to hand as well as a few more small brownies. There was a true fishermans tale to tell though as one cast went skywards and landed well beyond where it was intended in the back eddy. As the line bowed in the current and the nymph was pulled round my line tip jerked forwards and I tightened into a small brownie, only this time he wasn't so small, a fish of over a pound left the water and my 8x tippet could not cope and parted. Thankfully the hooks were small and barbless so I am sure he is no worse for his encounter and will spawn unhindered.


The best fish of the day was probably just over a pound and fought well in the fast water and 8x tippet.

All in all it was a good days fishing on a challenging beat, casting is tricky and wading essential due to high banks. The fish are not easy to catch and well spread over the beat. It was a very different day to the small stream fishing I am used to and made a pleasant change. This said I do not think this beat is worth its hefty price tag when some of the other WUF waters are considered. Nice fishing but challenging and pricey.

Monday, 25 October 2010

A Day Peeking at Ladies

As all good grayling days should Sunday started with me scraping a thick layer of ice off my windscreen whilst doubting my own sanity for wanting to spend the day bollock deep in ice cold water. My gear was packed and the moment I could see out of the windscreen I was off down the A34 to my favourite spot on the Avon, well a little carrier of the Avon anyway. I was absolutely adamant that today would be a sight fishing day, I wanted to see the takes, after all this was the reason for fishing a chalk stream.

When I arrived at the beat I was greeted by the usual dog walkers and joggers and tackled up for the main river. I was expecting to see a river back to her normal level but she was running at least half a foot shallower than would have been ideal. On the upside the water was absolutely gin clear and my love affair with the Avon was restored.

As the sheep parted for me I crept slowly up the bank trying in vain to spot a flick of a tail or movement of a shadow against the gravel. I saw nothing. With a half intuitive guess I decided to spend a bit of time meticulously fishing a pool I knew to be a few feet deeper than most and was rewarded almost straight away with a cracking bar of silver. Unfortunately to release her I had to slip into the water and managed to put down the rest of the shoal, I would make this decision every single time if I could rather than subjecting the fish to the net.


With the first fish came that sense of relief and I could now settle down and fish properly. Moving up through the pools I managed another half a dozen or so nice grayling. There was absolutely no interest on the glides between the pools which, when the water is higher, are extremely productive areas.

As much fun as the main river was the fish were holding in some very deep pools and I could not see them reacting to the flies. A change was needed and I knew just the place. Halfway up the beat a tiny, miniscule little carrier comes off starting in a raging torrent of a weir pool. I made my way back through the sheep (who looked entirely displeased at being forced to stand again) and made my way to the bridge at the downstream limit of my little carrier.

I have no idea why but every other fisherman I have ever seen on this beat (except my mate Steve) ignores the little carrier completely. It is only about 6’ wide in most parts with savage bank-side vegetation and fly-eating, overhanging trees but Hell is it beautiful. If you are quiet and slow and careful not to break the horizon the carrier swarms with small trout and grayling. 

The little stream was even lower than the main river and the riffle I slipped in on was only ankle deep. This area normally holds a few fish but today I hedged my bets and moved up to narrower deeper channels, nothing spooked on my way.



This little spot is where I started the serious fishing, painstakingly slow upstream steps allowed me to get close to my quarry and present my duo of weighted nymphs. Every decent cast would see a fish turn for the nymphs and then turn away. I am not always slow and soon realised that the tiny stream with its micro-currents was causing the team of nymphs to move very unnaturally, off came the dropper (very easy when you use leader rings) and a few casts later and the first lady of the stream was mine.


The majority of the fish in this stream are juveniles, my biggest all season was a half pound trout and I had caught no sizeable grayling. This has never bothered me, in fact the opposite is true, the fact that so many small fish survive here shows just how strong the wild populations are in this stretch of the Avon. A good few more small grayling came to hand in very quick succession, with a few “nuisance” trout thrown in.


I had a fairly sizeable shoal in front of me and at the tail end of it I could see a large grayling. This fish would disappear under the bank side weeds every time one of his companions were hooked and then slide back out to feed after a couple of minutes. I had decided he was to be mine. An uncharacteristically good cast saw the size 19 nymph touch bottom a foot or so in front of the fish and a gentle raise of the rod tip saw him lunge and engulf the fly. The induced take was something I had been trying all season and to see it work a few feet in front of you is extraordinarily exciting. I lifted into the fish and the small rod hooped over. If I said the fight was exciting I would be lying, it was heavy and slow. The result on the other hand had me shaking, this was by far the biggest grayling I have had from this carrier and still has me smiling now. 



I continued to fish the shoal until they dispersed and I continued my slow walk upstream. On small streams I prefer to stay out of the water when at all possible and made my way up the bank for the next hundred yards or so before the next shoal was spotted. Once these fish were located catching them was fairly simple. Sneak into position without being seen or felt, get as low as possible preferably with something between you and the skyline and then start at the back of the shoal and work your way forward. Beaded nymphs accounted for a good number of grayling and a few more trout before I reached the fallen tree. 

This spot has been a bit of a heartbreaker for me this season where clumsy casts and broken tippets always seem to lose good fish but today would be different. There is an extremely deep scour hole created behind this obstruction, deeper than my 6’ can wade through and there are normally a few fish there including my P.B. half pounder. Sunday I was in awe. There was a small shoal of GOOD grayling there; they probably averaged half a pound and a few trout in amongst them. I managed three of the grayling from the tail of the shoal which were a good stamp. To reach the head of the shoal I had to leave the water and fish across the flow from the nettle beds along the river. Fishing this way means bite detection is almost non-existent and you rely solely on seeing the take (which with a size 19 brown nymph against a brown bottom is no mean feat).
Then something extraordinary happened, I followed the path of my fly down the hole but obviously misjudged its route as a trout leapt clear of the water above me and the line tightened. I got the fish in as quickly as possible but due to bank side growth I could not reach the water so it had to be netted. I estimated its weight at about a pound and a few weeks ago I would have been ecstatic with it. Out of season though I feel odd catching trout, even though I was not aiming to catch it I feel I should have been able to leave it to spawn in peace. Either way it was a beautiful fish.


The day ended with half a dozen out of season trout and perhaps twenty beautiful ladies the bigger of which I would never have expected to catch from this carrier. The memory of seeing these special fish lunge at my nymph will stay with me forever. So with blue feet, receding testicles and a smile on my face I left my favourite river and head home.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Daddy Long Legs

These lanky buggers have started to invade my house again and it will not be too long before they start to appear in good numbers and the trout will be seen feeding on them. Last season I used a foam daddy to good scucess on many of the stillwaters I fish but this season I am trying something a bit different.

I wanted a fly that sat lower in the water with all those legs attracting the trouts attention, like an unwitting daddy that has started to drown. I decided to attempt this by using a parachute hackle and the result is below. I have yet to catch on it but I have high hopes come the warmer evenings in September.


Tuesday, 10 August 2010

CDC and Elk

This is my version of the classic (from hans Weilleman i think) which accounted for the majority of the fish we caught from the Wye. As with all the flies I tie I keep it as simple as possible so that when my bloody Father gets his filthy mits on it and sticks it in a tree I am not too upset. I tie them in a range of sizes and change the dubbing colour to try and match the sedges hatching.


Hook, Tiemco 103BL size 19
Thread, UTC brown
Abdomen, Superfine Dubbing, Tan
Underwing, Khaki CDC
Thorax and Overwing, Spun deer hair

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Wye at Bakewell

For the past year I have been following reports on flyforums about the fabled wild rainbow trout of the Wye in Derbyshire. The pictures of their colourful spotted flanks and descriptions of their free rising nature meant I was unbelievably excited on Sunday morning as we started the two hour drive from my Dad's house in Lincolnshire down to the Peacock at Rowsley. I have only been fishing rivers since last winter and this trip would be my Dad's second trip onto the moving water. We were expecting the trout to make us look foolish, we envisaged these wild fish to sit in their lies laughing their heads off as we churned the water to a foam around them (they wouldn't be spooked as they had nothing to fear from the couple of incompetent pricks chucking fluff at them). How wrong we were, what followed is probably the best days fishing I have ever had.

We started our day on the "meadows" stretch working our way from the farm back down to Rowsley. The sight of large fish holding station in the tributary (is this the Lathkill?!) had us salivating but the tree cover allowed little more than the odd catapult cast at a showing fish, we rose none of them. This is the point we composed ourselves for a very hard days fishing.

Just as we met the Wye the river keeper, Jan, joined us for a quick chat and pointed out the prolific silverhorn sedges that were expected to be coming off all day. Off came the paradun on went a CDC and Elk size 19. We cast at rising fish in the glassy smooth water which was swarming with sedge, the occasional insect unlucky enough to linger a second too long on the surface. NOTHING. the fish showed no interest in our flies, I am guessing that in the smooth water the leader was all to visible and the steady flow gave them all the time in the world to inspect our flies.

We then came to the first pool and everything changed. A small riffle was emptying out into a much deeper channel and just on the other side of the fast water a willow was bent over with small trout circling under it before they shot out into the current with a splashy rise. Me being the gentleman that I am (laugh my ass off) let Dad fish through it first, mainly because he saw it first and blocked the entire pool. The next thing I heard was "Danny, I got one, they're in the faster water". A gloating father gently brought the first wild rainbow either of us had ever seen to hand and dear lord was it lovely, especially as first fish meant I had to buy him a beer at lunchtime.

The first wild rainbow either of us had ever seen signified the start to a brilliant days fishing.

He then (uncharcteristically) suggested I give them a go, he pretty much ordered me to chuck a fly over the fast water, a tricky cast followed by a quick upstream mend had the fly moving through without too much drag and within seconds a splashy rise startled me half to death and I tightened into my first Wye fish, a gorgeous little brown trout was photographed before releasing him none the worse for his ordeal. Spot on!!

A pretty wee brown came from the exact same spot as the first rainbow on the very next cast, they were lining up!

From then on we concentrated on putting our flies in and around the broken faster water working our way downstream, stealthily approaching each pool before spotting fish or rises and presenting small deer hair sedges to them. Before 11am we had worked our way down to the end of the beat and managed over 15 trout between us with a couple of grayling thrown in for good measure, all of mine were to small CDC and Elk fished through the broken water.

Fishing the riffley water after the weirs seemed to be the order of the day.

On the way back up we fished from the other bank to cover areas of the pools which previously were well beyond our casting skill. A fluky cast saw my fly land softly underneath some tree cover and the moment it hit the water it was engulfed by a lovely little rainbow, the fishing was getting a bit silly now with both of us catching more than we ever dreamed of.

A cast put into a weed channel tight to the far bank saw a very different rise as a trout just gently surface and sip my fly down, I tightened and all hell broke loose. The fish shot upstream like it's arse was on fire until it hit the weir and turned diving straight into the weed and everything went solid, SHIT. Remembering a trick I have used when carp fishing I slackened off and saw the line pulled away, the fish was still on but the line was wrapped around a large clump of ranunculus. Moving downstream soon sorted that out and once again I was connected to the fish directly. Soon after the net got it's first proper wetting and she was on the bank in all her glory, absolutely brilliant.

An unbelievable fight from one of the prettiest, fittest fish i have ever seen. Pellet pigs eat your heart out!

By this point we both agreed that we had been absolutely blessed and it would not matter if we didn't catch anymore, well over 20 trout had seen the bank and we had pretty much lost count of the lost fish (and the number of my home tied flies that Dad had found new homes for in the abundant undergrowth). A liquid lunch was in order so a trip to the Manners and a few pints later and we hit the middle stretch below the pumping station. The water here was not as turbulent as the shallower stretch downstream and the fishing was much harder. We both managed to winkle out a couple of grayling and Dad managed a few trout and lost even more flies.

Dad plays a lovely wild rainbow from just below the pumping station after flicking a small sedge tight under the trees on the opposite bank.

It was time for a move and luckily enough we bumped into Jan again, incidentally a top bloke who ran over to chat with us even after he had finished work and was simply sat enjoying a pint. He suggested we try Scott's Garden and not being backwards in going forwards we shot off. Again the sight of lovely weir pools awaited us with some enormous, mind-blowingly huge wild trout swimming around them. I decided to put on a much bigger sedge pattern as the light was fading and my eyesight is god awful at the best of times (and Dad had by this point lost every single one of my smaller flies) and chucked it in a huge heap at the top of a pool. By some sheer fluke it managed to straighten itself out and just as I was about to lift off and cast a bit more gracefully for the walkers the line was pulled from my fingers and a beast tore off across the pool. This was something completely different it was absolutely clear from the beginning that I was into something a bit special. it tore upstream and downstream and made me look like an amateur fool, which coincidentally is exactly what I am. 5 minutes later and I finally got its head up and Dad slipped the net under the biggest wild fish I have ever caught. It was quickly unhooked and photographed before being held in the current before a kick of it's massive tail soaked me and it slid back into it's pool.

A tail like a shovel ensured this was a fight I will never forget.

I was absolutely buzzing, ecstatic, over the moon and my casting suffered because of it, I was shaking like a leaf! Two more fish graced my net before we called it a day and made the long smiley journey back. I am still a wreck even writing this has given me goosebumps remembering the fight with that fish. The catch returns book simply reads "LOADS" under trout as we cannot remember how many we caught, between us it was definitely over thirty, Dad had caught his first ever grayling on the fly, I had memories to last a lifetime, the sun was shining and the beer was good. It was perfect.

Jan you are a top bloke with a smashing bit of river, we will be back!! In fact I think I will book it tomorrow.