Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Ice on the rings... last session for 2008!

Blimey I’ve just stepped in out of the cold and the last session of 2008!

Let’s wind the clock back 24 hours (yesterday)… the frost had lifted and it had been positively balmy in comparison to the weekend. I decided on the spur of the moment that it would be good for a “dabble” and so I set off, new rod in hand. Arriving at the lake I quizzed one chap who said that he’d had three runs but the pike had dropped the bait... unlucky, but I knew they were active. I set up and cast into the corner spot – my usual starting point! It is more of a get you into the swing of things mark although I have had a few follows from there in the past… so not a complete right off.

I didn’t decide to BUT because of circumstance I ended staying at the next mark. I heard hoots of laughter as a chap out to catch silver fish hooked a pike on his maggot laden hook… this could have been the biggest catch of the day. All of six inches long!

I had fan cast around and was debating whether to put a sinking poly leader on when the water boiled and a pike of 7 or 8 lbs slashed at the fly… missing it! Ah well, I almost christened the new rod!

Today I decided that as the day was good I’d go to the lake… the temperature and barometer had fallen and the wind was a strengthening easterly… it was darned cold! An ill wind perhaps.

Not much had been caught; one chap said that he’d caught a few small perch and roach but nothing of significance… I managed to lose two flies and the associated spiral locks which annoyed me, but that’s fishing.

The temperature dropped steadily and the rod rings started to ice up… as nothing had shown itself I decided to give it best and retire to the warmth of home.

I won’t be writing now until next year… so wherever you are, have a great New Year and tight lines in 2009.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Women & fishing Pt II - Calendar girls?

Photo above courtesy: Dan Bailey

Photo courtesy: k8
When I began researching women and fishing I stumbled across Rogue Angels BUT I also landed on a site called Girlsflyfishing. I therefore tracked Dan Bailey (the photographer) down and he’s allowed me to reproduce one of the photos here as long as I tell you that he took them (look at his blog) and that you can buy the calendar by clicking the link HERE

OK, so adverts out the way… Is the calendar representative of women who fly fish…? Or is it a calendar in the genre of the garage calendar BUT with more of a tasteful suggestion rather than a full exposé…? The Victorians were a lot worse! There is no doubting that the girls on the calendar are pretty; I’d be a liar if I said they weren’t. So, pure fantasy or reality? You make up your own mind.

It was interesting listening to a radio programme last week following a news story about the dress code of a cocktail waitress and some listeners phoned in saying that a waitress needed a low cut top and short skirt… Mmmm… one of the bars that I used to frequent in Liverpool had a uniform which covered both male and female staff and was akin to US Forces drill shirt, with tie and trousers for both male and female staff… Perhaps the female staff looked even more attractive and smarter than the “obvious”.

Then there were offshore yacht races I used to take part in where everyone was in full wet weather gear and after 5 days the boys are looking unshaven and unkempt (dog rough for short). Yet women in the same environment drenched in salt water with their hair sort of in shape and with a hint of lip protector can still look attractive. How? It’s just so unfair!

One of my friends (female) has a worldwide responsibility for encouraging and promoting sailing to women and does a fantastic job, I'd put a photo up of Jane, but sadly it is copyright protected. However, through various sports I’ve seen women leave sport because of the attitude that they’ve been shown… great shame. I remember a quote from a female kite buggy pilot when I was researching a piece for a magazine “I’m selling up, to compete in this game you have to be male, an accountant, overweight and over forty!” A sad indictment both of the stereotype and more so the attitude that led to the comment!

Rogue Angels is additional proof (as if you needed it) that women can and do perform in an environment just as well as men and look great as well… I tested the Angel’s blog with some non fishing blokes and gave them Dan Bailey’s site to “paw” over as well. I have to admit that I was a little taken aback when they scoffed at the Rogue Angels site (they couldn’t see what I saw) and wondered where they could get the calendar from! You just can’t educate some folk… the flip side is that the exit link from my blog to Rogue Angels is by far and away the most popular link away from the blog according to the stat counter. Ladies, hopefully it goes to prove that fishermen do appreciate women (and those that fish as well!).

Waders aren’t flattering for the best of folk but to look good and catch fish that is some going… shame that I can’t catch that many fish (1 out of 2 ain't that bad tho'!!).

I wonder what the Angels think of the guys (and I hate to think what the stat counter will show in the New Year)?

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Caledfwlch - take me up & cast me away!

I took a call from Harrison Advanced Rods… my old friend Mike Helliwell was on the phone “Guess what?” “We’ve built your rod!” “Thought that you might like to try it over Christmas”

Knock me down with a feather... they said that they were building it in January!

Well all that blanking on the river melted away as I popped over to Liverpool to pick up the rod… Mike met me and took me over to another part of the factory. A plastic heat sealed bag was handed to him. I could see that the bag contained a black rod bag. I was given the bag and handed a Stanley knife and slit the plastic with the precision of a surgeon’s first incision on the cutting table. We were in… I took out the rod bag and undid the Velcro tabs… no ties to get in the way. I unrolled it and looked at the 4 openings… I could feel the full Wells handle and gently took the handle from its bag.

The cork fighting butt and then the titanium Struble reel seat, what engineering… Then… the ground carbon blank… black whipping with silver tipping above the keeper and also on the female ferrules… absolutely stunning. Like a couple of excited schoolboys we assembled the rod. Perfect!

The name had been finished in silver as requested… the Harrison Advanced Rods logo with 9’ 9/10# set in a small font. Next to the all important makers mark was the name chosen for this rod an indeterminable link for me with my past and who I am; “Caledfwlch” an old Welsh name pronounced phonetically Kaled-voulch… Who or what is/was Caledfwlch?

Caledfwlch was the most treasured possession of Arthur (King Arthur) and was the original name for the sword, Excalibur. The word Excalibur was a French interpretation of the name Caliburn or Caliburnus which was in turn the latin take on the old Welsh name. I have my dad's (his name is Arthur) fly rod which he asks about so I counted that as a treasured material possession and as he introduced me to fishing - so perhaps a fitting choice of name.

The blade of Caledfwlch had two inscriptions one on either side, the translations are “take me up” and on the reverse “cast me away” perhaps an adequate description of the mechanics of fly fishing. I thought this mythical but important legend that I grew up with (I'm from Wales on one side and Northern Ireland on t’other – that is the “who I am”) again lent its name to the rod. By way of an amusing modern twist I discover today that Lara Croft in the game Tomb Raider; Legend, Lara has to find Excalibur which has been split into 4 pieces and she is charged with finding the 4 elements and re-forging the sword. The twist is that the rod is a 4 piece rod!

Although I’m fiercely proud of my Celtic heritage I was pleased to see the Union Jack sticker on the rod… proving that although we don’t have a large manufacturing base in the UK as we once did, we can still produce goods of exceptional quality in the UK.

As ever the proof of the pudding is in the eating BUT this is the same blank as Mike’s own rod… I know I won’t be disappointed!

I can only thank my friends, Steve Harrison and Mike Helliwell and the rest of the team at Harrison Advanced Rods for creating my ultimate rod… I won’t claim that this was the last rod to leave the factory in 2008 but it would be nice to think it was.
Hopefully we'll have quite a few adventures with this rod and I'll document them here... the rod primarily to target pike will be used to entice other freshwater and saltwater fish into taking a fly or two!

Happy Christmas all!

Monday, 22 December 2008

I want a pike for Christmas!

One of two 15lb pike taken from the Dee today... BUT what a bitter sweet pill... I was made up for the guy on the next peg (Mal) who got them and rather naffed off that I spent 12 hours on the river with nothing to show for it... I had the choice of pegs BUT chose the wrong one!

It also has to be said that supermarket deadbaits are useless... frankly the quality of fish is awful... if I wouldn't touch it, then why would a fish?

Mal's two fish were both taken on ledgered livebaits... either chub or roach. The benefit of a feeder rod in addition to the rods for the pike... a ready supply of fresh bait. I "borrowed" two small chub, sadly to no avail. I was just in the wrong place.

I got up at stupid o'clock and and I am sitting here absolutely knackered... what didn't help was that yesterday I thought I was brewing a cold and dipped out on a trip to the canal. Were there any pluses to today... well the fly rod works well on this stretch of river and if the pike are on then casting won't be a problem as access is good. Coming to Mal's rescue after he'd packed away his forceps my super long forceps do indeed reach those deep hooked moments!

Sadly there were more downs to the day... and oh isn't it muddy - my car is testimony to that!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Shoaling up for the winter!

I decided to sit at the vice last night as it is a couple of weeks since I tied a fly or two... Inspired by Dougie's creations I set to!
From the top is my first attempt at a Surf Candy... coloured as a Rainbow, I'm not sure whether it is too sparse and it was interesting working with Devcom 5 for the first time as well.
In the middle is a play on Dougie's bait fish... rather than rely on Pantone pens and Silli Skin I tied a strip of Funky Fibre at the eye and drew it back over the mylar body... a pearl type plastic was tied to the shank along with the silver strands prior to the mylar body going on... when the epoxy goes on the mylar it makes it more translucent and the strands move in the body cavity!
At the bottom... slightly out of focus... A BIG silver streamer constructed out of Christmas tinsel strands with a palmered garland body.
All tied on 4/0 Big Mouth hooks.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The "reel" deal!!

OK... I wasn't but I will... just to get the salivary glands going! Here is the titanium reel seat... pure genius. Ain't it truly gorgeous!

Friday, 12 December 2008

When they are off they are OFF!

No I haven't started buying impressionist works of art! My main camera died today and I used my camera phone to shoot the float lit by a watery sun accompanied by a reflection of the trees! Blimey David, why did you do that? Well, having fished for 9 hours it was getting a little tedious not catching!!

I tried every trick in the book... The pike are OFF! Fly, lure, jerkbait, spoons and deadbait (both static and wobbled) - and absolutely NOTHING! Pah!

I amused myself in the end with a seagull and a deadbait... playing catch me if you can - allowing the deadbait to surface and have the seagull circle only to let it drop at the last minute... NO - I was fishing and was pestered by the gull. Mind not the only pest!

An opportunist moorhen decided that she'd play hard ball with the float and peck at it and then she followed me down the lake to steal the prebaited herring... is there no justice in life!

It did allow me another session with the Harrison rod and I'm pleased to hear that all 4 sections have been made and we are on for a build in January! The reel seat should be delivered tomorrow and will be dropped off next week with the loan rod.

Oh and the new rod once it has been build will be named! Guess the name and win a hand tied fly... of my choice!! (posted to mainland UK only unless you can supply me with tickets to the destination of your choice where we can fly fish for bones whilst the winter slips away in the UK).

Only 19 days of fishing in 2008 left!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Harrison Rod Review... Do I do reviews?

Busy, busy, busy... lots going on with work at the moment (I'm not complaining!) BUT I've still found time to take part in a little piscatorial art this week.
We've had some sharp frosts this week and I love being out and about at first light on a frosty morning. I decided on Wednesday to see what activity there was on the lake... I drove there just as dawn was breaking, the sky was an amazing colour scheme rather like a bruise of a few days... blues, yellows, purples and reds with a tinge of green stirred in for good measure... not far off a quarter moon and stars dancing in the sky. Magic!
At the lake the odd rabbit was gamboling along and a hawk swooped through the tree cover as I got out of the car. A tepid -3 degrees C... Brrr... cold!
Geared up I was casting at 0710hrs and the lake was like glass... a few rises BUT nothing to speak of... so a quick dash home. Shower & shave, then suited and booted and in the office for 10am! It's always amazed me how invigorating it is having an early start.
Today was a little different. It was a day to test a new rod. I have lusted after a fly rod of sheer class for years... well ever since I set eyes on the magic of the 'boo rod of my dad's (at age 4 plus something). Don't get me wrong the Ron Thompson MPX has served me well and will continue to do so BUT after a day of casting YOU KNOW IT! Sooooo.... the connection.
I raced for some time on a yacht called "Quattro" a Sigma 33 out of Liverpool and it was (still is) skippered by Steve Harrison of Harrison Advanced Rods (this was during my long vacation from fishing!). It has really been by accident in someways that things come full circle and I'm contemplating a Harrison blank. I was infact introduced to Steve by Mike (to get me that crewing position), a friend who also fishes and works for Steve... the basis of the incestuous relationship does get deeper in the drinking holes around town many moons ago... BUT you get the drift.
A combination I'm sure of Steve's attention to detail and what Mike "doesn't know about fishing isn't worth knowing" has drawn me ever closer to the Harrison blank. In addition to an enviable reputation, they are really nice folk and where possible I would like to support local businesses.
Anyway, I've built them up so what about the blank? I had a short go over 6 weeks ago and Mike had the rod set up with a shooting head on it which I'd never tried and it couldn't cope with the tandem... down to me as Mike could cast it albeit that it did hinge. I really want to build my own rod and rang Mike to see if any blanks were in stock... nope but I could borrow his rod! Wow! An opportunity too good to miss... Fortuitously I was in town and able to drop by the factory and relieve Mike of his 9ft 9/10# rod. A certain amount of trepidation... using someone else's rod.
I couldn't get to the lake first thing... the office beckoned and I got to the water for the right side of 1100hrs and had to be back in the office for 1400hrs to get a mailshot out to clients... tough life!
The wind was about 15mph and the first cast with this rod with my Cortland 333 Pro Pike WF10F was amazing the fly took flight and covered more ground (lake) and quicker than I'd cast before... Awesome! But you can really slow the cast down and get the loops bigger for those bigger flies.
I spent the next 2-3hrs casting a variety of flies and differing casts and all I can say was "I was in heaven". Iwas still able to get the fly onto the water as the wind built to 35mph... something I couldn't consider with the RT. The Harrison rod was light and even being a 9/10# I didn't tire using it... I rang Mike and said to him "Do you want the good news or the bad?" His response was in his usually smiley self "What? You caught a fish and the rod is in two!", I retorted "Nope! I love it and I don't want to give it back!" Generously, I have the rod for another week... I just have to get out for another session!
The blank has been ordered!
The boots... very quickly then... Sorel 1964 Pattern boots with liners, good to -40 degrees F (who knows what that is in Celsius!). £50 from the local Outlet Village... best buy ever... my feet have never been drier or warmer. Come on winter what have you got? Bring it on!

Monday, 1 December 2008

The sublime to the ridiculous?

Over the weekend I managed to sneak in two very short sessions... the weekend was -2 degrees C and foggy on Saturday and Sunday it was same temperature BUT an icy wind and no fog. I was hitting the water at last light and talking to the guys leaving the lake nothing much had shown on either day.

The Saturday session was really a quick cast over the water after buying some Manta Big Mouth 4/0 hooks to tie on... Sunday was to try out the prototype of this baby. The pike are feeding on skimmers at the moment and I wanted a short fat fly with volume to try and emulate a slab sided baby bream... it fishes reasonably well on the retrieve... not the prettiest of flies I grant you. But what do you expect when you use a Christmas garland (palmered), a little bucktail, funky fibre and a little Krystal flash! Oh the eyes are from a craft shop 99p (50 cents) for a pack of 100.

All I need to do is catch a pike with it!