The Winds are Turning…

April marks the start of the trout season on the chalkstreams of southern England. A strange month as the weather is unpredictable at best and therefore fly hatches can be sporadic.

This year we have seen a prolonged period of dry weather and the dreaded Easterly/North-Easterly winds! Whilst the weather has been sunny the wind has kept a chill in the air and ground frosts have been common throughout the month.

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The insects have been undeterred and for periods throughout most days grannon were around in early April and the large dark olives have been sailing down the rivers consistently through the month. The fish however have stayed close to banks and under trees searching for easier meals.

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Over the last week the wind has turned, somewhat for the better. We now have Westerly’s blowing in the usual April mix of wind, rain, hail and regular glimpses of sun. This has given a much needed revitalisation to the countryside and rivers and the trout can now be found more spread out and rising more freely.

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We are now seeing the first hatches of hawthorn, a favourite of the trout, as well as the odd daddy long legs. Midges have become an important factor for any angler looking to fish into the evening with trout frustratingly smutting (small dimple rises).

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Most of the rivers are still carrying their usual early season colour, yet visibility is still good. Over the course of May this should clear up to offer some excellent sight fishing opportunities. Our thoughts now turn to May and the much anticipated mayfly hatches, these usually begin around the second week in May so do not ignore the numerous other upwings, sedges and of course the hawthorn that appear this month.Catch & Release

Top April Flies:
CDC emerger
Twinkle Gulper
Brown Sedge
Griffiths Gnat

Tight lines!

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A Good Friday on Good Friday…

So after a quick cast on opening day (for the chalkstreams), Wednesday 1st April, I went for my first proper session today on Good Friday… and it was a good Friday!

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It is always a tough time of the year, hatches are sporadic and the dry fly only rule makes beat selection a challenge. This morning I rifled through my club book of open waters and found what I was looking for… a shallow beat, with plenty of water variation – runs, pools and structure.

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So the weather is dreary and miserable, sticky rain and generally damp but on arrival at the river I was greeted by a splashy rise… brilliant, and even better I saw the fluttering wings of a Beatis Rhodani otherwise known as the Large Dark Olive – a trout favourite! Although the hatch was by no means epic, the steady trickle of duns kept the fish looking up.

I positioned myself behind a couple of risers and persisted with dozens of casts and numerous fly changes, the fish were certainly not going to be fooled easily! I worked my way through all my LDO favourites with just a couple of rises, and in true opening day fashion my strike timing was horrendous leaving me empty handed so far! Not great fishing on my behalf but the excitement of fishing to rising fish was fantastic.

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Running out of ideas I turned to a size 16 quill CDC emerger tied on the end of a 15 foot leader, and just a few casts later I had two fish to my name! Why did I not pick this fly earlier?? So I worked my way up the stretch missing as many fish as I was landing but great fun.

Getting to a wide shallow run I glimpsed a one-time riser out of the corner of my eye, working my way up to it I floated a couple of casts to it. On the second cast this beautiful golden back rolled through the surface film, it was as if time stood still. My strike was, for once, well timed and all of a sudden line shot across the river. Heart rate increasing I was into a proper fish now. After a couple of heart in mouth splashes and dashes the fish slid over my net. A bar of stunning wild gold. Although not in its prime I estimated the fish at a 1lb 12oz.

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Shortly after that truly great fish the rain set in again and the hatch trickled to a stop. It was time to call it a day, although not the longest session a brilliant one all the same. I am hoping for many more this season.

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Please feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions…

Tight lines!

Barbless does not mean less fish

In fly fishing the movement towards barbless hooks has been relatively recent and is a slow going process, yet in coarse fishing (bait fishing) the change has been widely accepted. The question is; why do we fly anglers fear barbless hooks?

IMG_5049The most common answer I hear is “but we will lose more fish”. I have been lucky enough to fish for an all manner different of species and also with some of the best anglers in the world and in a lot of these situations we are fishing with barbless hooks. Do I feel that we would have landed more with barbed hooks, absolutely not.IMG_5707

A hook dislodges due to a sudden change of angle or a loss of pressure, in these situations it does not matter if the hook is barbless or barbed you will be very lucky to stay in contact with the fish. I do however believe that a de-barbed hook does not hold as well as a specifically designed barbless hook.

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Currently there are not barbless hooks for every application but they do still take up a large about of my fly box space from Stillwater through to rivers. The picture below shows just several ways I use the Partridge barbless hooks.

IMG_5946Flies (left to right)
Row 1: Spillers Damsel tied on Size 10 Patriot Sproat Wet (G3AY)
Row 2: Klinkhammer tied on Size 14 Patriot Grub & Buzzer (K4AY)
Retirer sedge tied on Size 14 Patriot Fine Dry (SLD)
Row 3: Hybrid Nymph tied on Size 12 Patriot Czech Nymph Fine (CZF)
The Vlad tied on Size 14 Patriot Jig Hook (JIG)
Jardine Shrimp tied on Size 10 Patriot Grub & Buzzer (K4AY)
Row 4: Quill Spider tied on Size 14 Patriot Ideal Nymph (BIN)
Nymph-It Buzzer tied on Size 12 Patriot Caddis Pupa (K2BY)

All materials from Funky Fly Tying and Hooks by Partridge of Redditch.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions below…

Tight lines!

Twenty Years in and Still I Marvel!

Last Friday several of us others gathered in the beautiful south Dorset countryside on the banks of the River Frome. The reason, to celebrate my dad’s birthday… you may wonder why someone who forges their living in fishing would possibly take a break to go fishing but there we all were having travelled various distances to be there.

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Whilst I cannot explain to non-fishers the joy of gathering on an icy, wind biting winters morning, to then go and stand in a river with the possibility of hooking something slimy. I certainly wouldn’t dream of convincing them that this is a way to celebrate one’s birthday but I can assure you, for those of us with the bug it is terrific.

That evening my buddy Lewis Hendrie and I had been asked to put together a presentation for the Dorset Chalkstream Club. Firstly we were to do a talk on grayling fishing and then moving further afield to the wondrous wilds of New Zealand.

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We knew that the people coming to the evening’s event would all be keen grayling anglers so whilst stood in that river I thought long and hard about the reasons why we all did it. It was there in the winter sun, looking at the effect of winter’s crippling hold over the Dorset countryside that the evidence begun to spring to life in front of me. Several small duns began to hatch and flutter into the glistening light.

The joy of fishing is not the catching, do not get me wrong that is still a huge part, but the overruling thing is the very beauty that fishing opens your eyes to. When by a waterway, be that salt or fresh, river or lake, my passion makes me look for the minute details that I would miss ordinarily.

Through the course of the day, bearing in mind that this is twenty years into a passion that still gives me goosebumps and joy just thinking about, I looked around that river and smiled. I caught a couple of fish, but mainly I was there with friends and surrounded by wonder.

For all the words I could write they would not do the following two pictures justice. I leave you with these images and I hope that you too experience the marvels that come hand-in-hand with being an angler. Please feel free to leave comments.

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Tight lines!

A New Year in Fishing, new goals and challenges…

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The overall thing I love about fishing is it can be moulded to any individual and what’s better is the fish do not care what you choose. Being a river angler does not make you better than a lake angler or indeed the fly angler is not superior to the coarse angler, we are all equal in the fish’s eye – the key is to go out there and enjoy it!

For me fishing is about broadening my horizons, setting goals and generally being a better angler. A better angler, however, does not mean you catch the most fish for me it means you leave the water with a sense of achievement.

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In 2015 I have some new and exciting things on the horizon as well as trying to spend every spare minute I get on the water.

An ongoing goal for me is to explore new waters of the UK, I love to visit new places offering different challenges. I have recently delved into a book called ‘The Graying Angler’ by John Roberts, although flies and methods have moved a long way since 1982 there is an interesting section that denotes the grayling waters of the UK. This is a goal that won’t be satisfied in just a season, but my aim is to work through the list and eventually be able to catch a grayling on each waterway.

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On a day to day basis I find that the the trout season will bring new challenges of fussy trout refusing dry flies, this is a great spur to develop new patterns and new approaches, I hope to bring some of my developments through the season to you via the blog.

Once again I will return to the incredible waters of Iceland, firstly in June in search of char, salmon and brown trout on the Laxa I Asum. This is a new river for me to fish and I am relishing the opportunity to fish with 5 wts for salmon using surface flies.

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In July I will return with our group to Laxardal in the north of Iceland, this is a chance for people to encounter some of the largest wild brown trout on dries they will anywhere in the world. If that sounds like something you want to do there’s still space just drop me a line!

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My big expedition will follow at the end of August; Mongolia and the mighty taimen! This has long been a dream of mine, the mysterious nature of the fish, the remoteness of the location and the culture. If I land but one of these prehistoric fish my journey will be made. I also can’t wait to view this landscape through the camera lense.

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I hope this post inspires you to make your own goals and I hope that you will get as much enjoyment from this incredible hobby lifestyle as I do.

Tight lines!

Fishing with Undesirables … The Squirmy

So every now and again a fly or method comes along that divides opinion, in the past we have had The Blob or the rebirth of Tenkara. Over the last few months I have seen various fishing friends showing off their catches using a fly called the Squirmy, an odd fly… well worm really! I had managed to resist the powers of the Squirmy, until now…

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After a quick visit to see Toby at Funky Fly Tying I picked up the necessary materials and hit the vice. So after a bit of trial and error I soon found a way to attach the rubber material to the hook, add some dubbing and there it is.

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Today I headed down to the River Wylye with friend and casting instructor Dave Wiltshire and we gave the Squirmy a swim. To my horror success was almost immediate! A few lovely grayling graced the net with some horrid purple rubber in its mouth. Dave fortunately kept our dignity by catching some nice fish on pale pink shrimps.

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The squirmy, I may not like it, I may have to hide it, but I think it is here to stay!

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The Ingredients:
Hook: Partridge Sproat Wet Barbless #12
Thread: Pink Veevus 14/0
Bead: Metalic Pink 3mm tungsten
Rubber: Funky Squirmy Rubber – Purple (Try other colours too)
Thorax: Pink and Purple UV Hareline

Tight Lines!

Urban Grayling Fishing

Just in from a great day on the river with Toby from Funky Fly Tying and Lewis from the Devon School of Fly Fishing.

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The weather was relatively kind to us considering that the north of the UK is currently being hit by a ‘weather bomb’, conditions were windy and there was certainly a chill in the air but the sun shone through for the best part of it.

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Over recent years fantastic work by various angling clubs and groups have improved our waterways no end, and although there is always room for further improvement there is no question that in some areas the fish have thrived. Today we may have lost flies in shopping trolleys and bicycle wheels but we certainly found healthy populations of grayling and chub.

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There are waterways similar to this up and down the country, and usually they are hidden right by your doorstep it is just a case of making that first cast.

Tight lines!

Flies for Grayling

Are you heading out for grayling this winter? If so here are three flies to have a go with:

1. Pink & Purple Bug

Pink and Purple Bug

Hook: Partridge – #10 Grub hook, Barbless
Thread: pink 14/0 Veevus
Body: Mix, Hareline UV hot pink and Hareline UV Lavender
Back: Siman Magic Shrimp Foil – Pearl
Rib: Nymph-It – Peacock

2. The Black and Purple

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Hook: Partridge – #10 Jig hook, Barbless
Bead: 3.5mm slotted tungsten – silver
Thread: Black 14/0 Veevus
Tail: Coq de Leon
Body: Black squirrel
Thorax: Mix, Hareline UV hot pink and Hareline UV Lavender
Rib: Copper wire

3. Nymph-It Jig

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Hook: Partridge – #12 Jig hook, Barbless
Bead: 3mm slotted tungsten – Copper
Thread: Black 14/0 Veevus
Tail: Hot Orange floss
Body: Nymph-It – Peacock
Hackle: CDC feather
Thorax: Mix, Hareline UV hot pink and Hareline UV Lavender

I hope this brings you success this winter, materials can be found at Funky Fly Tying.

Tight lines!

First Postings…

So winter is well and truly here now, a hard frost overnight is a good sign that the grayling season is in full swing.

This time of year means less hours on the water and more at the vice, but the few hours stolen at the waters edge can still bring great results. Here are a few images from the past couple of weeks.

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I hope that you enjoy my blog posts…