Hello fellow bloggers and kind followers. Just recently getting about has become increasingly difficult with arthritic knees and hips. So I'm stopping fly fishing for a while, and fishing sitting down a little more. With any luck I'll catch some nice fish off the river Trent, local canal, and a little still-water I know that hold some good Tench, Bream and massive Carp.
The Hawthorne fly is a hatch that for me until this week has always been last week, or next week's bonanza. When I fished Rutland they had a hatch every season, but 30 plus years as a season ticket holder, I never quite caught it right. Enough flies to catch, but never enough to have a 'red letter day'.
That is until yesterday, when fishing our top beat I hit a hatch of Hawthorne flies at it's peak, and fish were lining up to take my dry imitation.
The fly itself, Latin name Bibio marci is a true fly and belongs to the species Bibionadae.The fly is also called St Marks fly as it hatches around St Marks day 25th April every year, and can be seen flying around in May. The females are slightly bigger than the male 14mm both are black with clear wings and long dankly legs that hang down as they fly. The flight is slow and cumbersome, in my view as if there always pushing against a wind. Most of their life is spent in the ground (like the daddy long legs) and once on the wing they last about a week. They mate and the female lays her eggs back in the soil. They are important pollinators, the Hawthorne bush and trees seem to be a favorite of the species. That's about all I know about this big buggy fly, but as much as needed I expect.
As soon as I got to the river I could see dark clouds of the flies around the trees and bushes. The wind was modest but enough to put this poor flyer at risk, and the trout really wanted them. As I say I've fished the hatch many times over the years and found a smaller imitation works best at the start. The fishing books say a size 12 tying, but I tie them in a size 15 and they rarely get refused or mistaken. I think, and it's only me putting my views into a trouts head, that early on in the hatch they are almost frightened of the size of the things. (I've also found a small version of the dancia mayfly works best in the first few days of that hatch, the fish taking a bigger offering the following week with gay abandon) Anyway it worked for me, and I took 3 fish in almost as many casts. Working up the river I could see fish rising, and it was simply a case of covering them. But many came blind from every type of water I put a fly over. While all the fish were modest, I did take a nice fish of a pound or so from a well know pool known that produced some better fish in days gone by.
Hawthorne bushes in flower, covered in the little black jobs.
The upper river in question.
The little black fly. Sorry about the poor picture quality!
I stopped for a snack around mid-day and thought to myself. 'This must be one of my best days for numbers (not something common for me) in a long time'. I guess 20 fish maybe more! This from a part of the river where we had our pollution some years ago. It's surely back to it's best now with such numbers of healthy small fish.
Quietly walking the banks is a preoccupation of mine, simply because of the way I fish. I've always tried to target the biggest fish available. So as the water is presently clear, and since my last trip a little low and weed free, it's a perfect time to do it, even if it does cut into actual fishing time. Last season I fished a piece of the river at the bottom of our lowest beat, there I spotted a rather big fish, maybe 2lb plus. It was with some huge chub and I spooked it first time around. So it was on my list of places to visit this season.
The May day was going to be the warmest of the year to date, as I drove gently down the pot-holed road past the farm and onto the railway bridge, I spotted two Larks singing their blooming heads off. It was as if the warm morning sun had sparked the internal clock all song birds seem to have. When I lived in France my house was surrounded in fields, and the Lark was common. We'd see maybe a dozen or so on our daily dog walks. But in England the bird is in sharp decline, so I could be forgiven in stopping the car, turning off the engine and just listening to their song. I knew come what may, the day would be a good one.
I spent maybe an hour looking for the mentioned trout above, I did spot the enormous chub, but the trout was absent. Things can happen of course, and big fish can simply die of old age. I fished blind with a nymph for a little time and hook and lost two fish. One was decent, maybe a pound, the other a shrimp. I'll have to come back another day, Mayfly time is an excellent time, if the fish is about and I'm observant I'll see it I expect.
I carried on higher up the beat and meet two club members doing some river work. They very kindly stopped and the water cleared a little after they left.
I tried using the 'new' long leader I had in my bag in the next swim, but it's simply not for me. I just could not cast the nymph with any accuracy, it (the nymph) going everywhere expect in the right spot. I know these long nylon leaders are all the thing, making fly lines almost obsolete, but for me 'I'm out'.
Olive soaked Focaccia bread for lunch!
I stopped on a high bank for a bite of lunch. I'd heated up some Focaccia bread before leaving home, dipping it in the oil from a jar of sun dried tomato's on leaving home. With some green olives, plumb tomato's and a drink of fresh ground coffee from the flask, I felt the warmth of the day on my back for the first tome this season. It was just heaven to be out.
On my way back downstream in the last pool before home, I tied on a tippet length of 6lb line then a little streamer I keep in the corner of my box for coloured water days. On the first cast a huge snout broke the surface just as I was pulling the fly from the water. The water rocked and the spray actually wet my sun glasses. ( I was knelling in the water at the time.) The noise and commotion seemed really unnatural for such a little river, as if someone had thrown a badger in.
As you would expect, I only got the one chance. I left for home finding myself saying out loud. ''I know where you live, I'll be back''
The week just gone was really difficult, fishing wise that is. After a really good start to the season we've had a lot of rain that brought the river up, but it's stayed clear making every move you make visible to all trout in the river. With little or no weed for trout to hide in being so early in the season, spooking fish has been an occupation this week.
The only way I found to catch any fish was dry fly at distance, and that was very hit and miss, just two modest but pretty trout each session. There has also been an Arctic wind blowing too, making being on the water uncomfortable. Once the wind speed gets to 15 mph or more fly fishing on small rivers becomes an exercise in losing flies and tangled leaders. Fact was this week, I could just not get close enough to fish before being seen.
One little river I fished had a good hatch of small midge, olive, and caddis, but still despite sitting for several hours in different swims, I saw nothing rise. I thought fishing at distance with a dry would at least give me some chance, but with the wind mostly downstream it was just luck where the fly landed.
Good news is that next week, the wind is promised to die away and the sun should shine. Roll on summer.
In the past I've said how much I dislike furled leaders, and with good cause. Some of the early furled leaders, and some of the cheaper ones still around, leave a lot to be desired. But I've always loved the idea of them. Being able to have a selection of leaders in my pocket that covers all of my river fly fishing and will last a season or two, really appeals.
So I've persevered over the years and recently (2014-2015) found two types that really suit my fishing style. Just as importantly I've found how to get the best of out them. It's not just a case of tying one on and fishing, even though you can just do that!
My preferred every day furled leader.
The nylon furled leaders I like are made by Luke Bannister. Luke donates some of the cost of making them to the Wild Trout Trust, so another good reason for buying from him. Luke's nylon leaders in lengths 3' 4' and 6' cover most of my dry fly and nymph fishing. The smallest is permanently on my Superfine 6'6'' rod. To that one I add 1' of 4x and then a tippet length depending on what I'm doing. If nymphing (rarely in this small rod) I add 3' of 5x, if dry fly fishing than 4' of 6x. This makes an 8' dry fly leader that turns over in everything other than a gale.
The 4' leader goes on my 7'6'' Superfine, again with a 1' length of 4x attached. To this I'll add 4' or 5' of 5x or 6x depending on fly size. The leader is rubbed down with red Mucilin, as is the fly line tip.
If the nylon leader has a minor fault, (and it does) it's that they hold water and becomes a little heavier after fishing for a time, subsequently it will then splash a little when cast. I'll put up with that unless the wind is totally absent, if it is windless, I'll swap over to a thread leader made in the USA by a chap calling his business Zen leaders. These are very light, made to order and the exact size you want also they float like a cork without any product added. For light dry fly fishing these are wonderful, and the very best I've used.
Tippet length is critical when dry fly fishing with furled leaders, too long, or too short and you just don't get the best out of them, yes they will work, but get it right and the leader and tippet will turn over every time with enough slack to avoid initial drag.. I didn't understand this until I started using furled leaders. It's not so critical when fishing nymphs as mostly they are weighted, but when fishing dries I find it vital.
Pay for quality. I've tried cheap furled leaders off the internet and they just don't work. The Luke Bannister ones are really good value for money, and they do last. I would go through a dozen tapered nylon leaders every season. Cutting them back each trip as they become frayed, or kinked then adding a tippet. At under £7 the furled leaders represent good value for such a quality product. The Zen leaders are about £9 and you have to add shipping from the States, but again they are a different class when fishing dries.
I almost didn't fish today! Once the car was loaded with my gear, a small flask and chocolate bar, it started to rain. It then continued to rain for the rest of the day. But I have this sort of thing that, if I go and it rains, I'll stick it out. But if it's raining before I go, I may call it off, maybe. Being retired gives you options you see?
It was much colder today, just 8 degrees. Down on Wednesdays heady 18 deg around lunch time. I knew it would be a difficult day as in early Spring, trout don't like sudden changes in temperature. On Wednesday a decent hatch of large caddis came off, even if the same thing happened today, I doubt I'd see it due to the slate grey rainy day.
For over an hour I walked the banks looking for moving fish, but deep down I knew it was pointless. I really wanted to fish dries again, but sometimes you just have to do what the river and trout tell you. The beat I picked was an old stamping ground of mine, a place I knew held some better than average fish. I'd done enough walking by the time I arrived at the first swim, I'd warmed up some, enough to want to open the front of my waterproof jacket, but the rain prevented this.
River improvements!? had taken place in the winter, a large overhanging tree that gave trout shelter and shade, had been removed. It make casting into the prime lie very easy, by the lack of footprints, I'd guess I was the first to fish the swim this season. But I did wish it back to how it was to be honest, losing a few flies and tippet is a small price to pay for a safe haven for trout.
With Wednesday in mind, I tied on a black bead head caddis pupa, size 14s tied on a jig hook. The tippet was 5x and the rod my 8'6'' Winston. To the line I attached a small piece of green wool 4' above the fly, Ginked. As I knew it would be difficult today, I'd be fishing sub-surface most of it, I wanted to relax and see the takes. If I was fishing to sighted fish, I'd not be using the wool.
On the second cast the wool disappeared and a fish was on, a nice stubborn fish of 14''. Once released I walked a few paces upstream made another cast, then hooked another strong fish, 15''. The rain continued and I paused to think. I rarely nymph fish, but why, is it because it's this easy most of the time. I stopped for coffee and Kit-Kat then reviewed the situation. Moving upstream I took fish after fish, nice long lean hard fishing trout to 17''. All fell to the weighted caddis pupa, both on the drop, but mostly during the drift, the wool indicator dipping away or just stopping. I genuinely lost count after a dozen. I took some big fish, but also small trout and grayling, one grayling being 3'', showing just how these lovely fish are beginning to find our river to their liking.
By 4.30pm I was wet, cold, my fingers had gone all wrinkly and white with the wet and cold. But I was very content.
Taking coffee back at the car I came to the conclusion that today the planets had aligned for me. I was fishing the exact pattern the fish were looking for, a brown caddis pupa. It was still early Spring, the fish were hungry and they had been feeding on this food source for several days. Many times in the past I've put two and two together and made five, but caught fish despite my clumsiness. I'm sure this happens most times we go fishing. But today I got everything just right, a very rare day indeed. Just think I almost didn't go due to the weather?
I'm sure many of you will have set off this season with a few nice fish under your belts. It's been cold and insect activity reduced because of it. However today, some very decent large caddis were hatching in good numbers. Not enough to cause surface feeding fish, but a few were definitely thinking about it. From 10am until I packed at 2.30pm I saw maybe a dozen fish rise, not many is it?
Readers will know my love for the dry fly so a size 14s elk & cd was tied onto the 5x tippet. Because of the recent windy days, coupled with this is the clubs widest part of the river, my rod was an 8'6'' Winston 4 weight. It allows me to fish a slightly tip heavy line such as the GPX for better turn over. Four foot braided leader and 5' of tippet.
I sat on the high bank where I saw the recent fish rise, it was splashy so I guessed they were on the female caddis laying eggs, the flies were quite big in the air and a real mouthful for a hungry Spring fish. Maybe ten minutes had passed when the fish removed again and I covered it first cast, nothing. Then again but with about another yard on. The fly disappeared and a nice fish ran past me downstream, taking a few yards of line off the slack clutch. A nice long, but lean fish over over a pound and a quarter, maybe 15''.
I'm trying to get away from the fish in the mat shots. I'll work on it!!
Nice dry fly caught fish from our wonderful river.
Hawthorne but no flies as yet, maybe next week and the black devils will be around?
Despite walking very slowly back towards the car, I spotted no more fish. So once again I took a seat on an old concrete bridge support and looked searchingly upstream. Last season a big fish dominated this pool, but I could never get a fly over it before it discovered my presence. Today with the coloured water I stood a chance of running a nymph under the deep bank while keeping out of the water. I put on a size 10s bead head caddis larva, and shortened the tippet to just three feet. Then I greased the tip of the line and all of the leader. First cast up stream and as the nymph hit bottom the line hinged and an angry fish shot off downstream. Another good fight from a long lean fish ensued until it hit the net, another good fish over a pound and a half. To say I was pleased would be an understatement, a difficult Spring day had just gotten better. The sun was shining and all was right with the world.
To cap it all I moved upstream and found a nice fish under an overhanging tree. I could just make her out in the water, about a foot down. I'd put a beetle on and dropped it two feet above the tree. It dragged slightly in the cross current, but surprisingly made the fish more determined as it moved several inch to grab the fly. Sadly it missed, but took again half an hour later, but this time a wet caddis pattern. Another nice fish of 13''.