A passion for fishing developed from watching my father fly fish for trout on the banks of the River Strule in Co Tyrone near my mum's family home and for brook brownies at Tal-y-Bont not far from the site of my great-grandfather's smithy.
I'll leave you with this for tonight... just got in after a short session, a good number of follows and attempted strikes and then this beauty of 9.5lbs mullered the fly at 10pm! Fly - Umpqua pike fly - one of Barry's faves... I'll write more on the session tomorrow (I'm a bit chuffed!).
16th June and it’s the open season on the rivers again… I decided that like last year it just had to be done and I got up at 0430 hrs and was at the river for 0545 hrs.
It was a lovely morning with mist rising off the fields – the forecast for the following day was going to be storms from the Irish Sea are… not good! On the way to the river bank a fox was looking intently into the hedge bottom waiting to commit murder most terrible and completely oblivious to me… bet if I had a rifle in my hads he’d smell the gun oil and be off. The kingfishers now part of the river scene again provided the electric blue flashes that are stunning in the early morning.
The river was busier than last year’s opening day… more unemployed with the recession we are suffering? Chap on the first peg delighted in telling me he’d had a couple of reasonable chub and a few roach.
I decided on the fly rods one floating and one sink tip.
With much of the usual marks taken up I decided to head off to a small mark that I know produces a fish… floating line with a dear hair diver and nothing… OK fish it deeper with the bucktail. After a few casts and fishing it deep the inevitable happened – I hit a snag! Lost a favourite bucktail… bugger! I then decided to use the foam popper on the sink tip… allowing it to rise at the end of the retrieve.
It was at the end of probably the 4th retrieve that I had the popper sat on the surface and thinking of the next cast. I decided to cast over and beyond weed to my right… as I lifted the fly off the water the water erupted in a ball of foam with a green and gold monster with gill covers flared trying for the fly… if only I’d waited a millisecond extra. The fish was easily 15lbs as it slammed back into the water.
The air was blue with expletives and my heart pounded at the damn near laxative effect of the encounter!
I plodded on through the day seeing a jack of 3 or 4lbs and a nice brown trout of a couple of lbs that wouldn’t take the spinner (yes, shame on me I’d taken a spinning rod with me as back up!).
So the opening day was technically a blank… but at least I know my favourite spot still holds a pike and it is castable with the fly rod!
Reflecting on the fly I lost… it’s been a favourite pattern of mine for ages and has been the most successful of all. I’ve got into my tying and it’s almost become as big a hobby as the fishing. I’ll come back to that again in the future.
I actually gave away a fly when I was at Chew… to a chap (Jim Hart pictured above in the killer hat!) who was going to pike fly fish for the first time. If I’m honest my pal Toby had given him a fly and I wasn’t going to be out done and was interested to see if my pattern was as successful in someone else’s hands.
Jim has used and now lost my fly but not before accounting for a good number of pike on it – just look at the photos! Fantastic Jim… I think I should make you go and get that fly back…. As for another to replace it looks like I’m at the vice again… Now how much does the pixie dust cost?
Boy has it been warm this last week or so… I’m not complaining although it has put paid to pike fishing for the moment.
I’ve had a few trips to the lake to observe more than anything, however, with a cool wind this morning I decided to take the fly rods and look for action. Basically there was no pike action so I decided to tie on a deer hair spun fly that resembles a cubed bread crust. Don’t laugh I’m serious.
Talking to a regular who ‘d just pulled out a nice tench I decided to move on… moving down the lake there is a shallow shelf and there must have been a pod of 12 – 16 carp… a real mixed bag; grass, mirror and common carp in a variety of sizes. I decided to target a 12 to 15lb grass carp. I must point out that no ground bait was used in this exercise –just the fly!
I cast below the pod and allowed the wind to gently take the morsel toward the pod of carp where I would bring it toward the targeted carp as necessary. The grass carp took great interest in the fly line sucking at it, sadly not the fly! I tried in vain for 20 minutes or so to entice one of the pod and then the wind changed! Casting down the lake was easier but the main contenders had mooched elsewhere. The fly drifted and two big carp peeled away leaving the chunky mirror carp eyeing up the fly… I could actually see him think and then purposefully go for it…
It’s amazing to watch a fish eye up your fly and go for it, no vicious take here… just a big slurp and it was engulfed! I struck and I was in.
Dogged determination is all I can say as far as the fight went but ultimately little match for the Harrison fly rod… came out well and went back well!
A shade over 6lb and my first carp - I was chuffed! (Could be a convert.... never)
No pictures on this one… just an update on the Harrison Advanced Rods I own and a bit of a thank you to the team at Harrison's.
As many will know Steve Harrison is an old friend of mine as is Mike Helliwell who is part of Steve’s team (Mike introduced me to Steve many moons ago when we all used to race on the Mersey… I think Steve is the only one of us that sails regularly now, I digress). I’m a firm believer in home grown kit where possible and for me that means Harrison’s now that I’ve come back to fishing. I have my Harrison designed 4Surespin which is marketed by Veal’s in Bristol and my 9 foot 9/10# 4 piece fly rod built and fettled in Liverpool.
The rods are perfect partners for the fishing I do. The 4Surespin was bought after reading Mike Ladle’s diary on pike and sea bass fishing and has landed all my lure caught pike as well as barracuda and jack trevally, I forgot I’ve used it for mackerel fishing as well. This is without a doubt one of the best workhorse rods you can have in your bag. It is a true traveller and a rod that I would be sore to lose!
A couple of weeks back I broke the upper mid section, a complete operator error! But true to form my pal Mike was able to rebuild my rod and have it ready for action again (didn’t mean I’d catch anything though!).
The rod of the moment is without a shadow of a doubt my Harrison fly rod that I named Caledfwlch (Welsh name for Excalibur). The rod is perfection and suits me and my style of fishing… it is kindly to my casting style and I have grown with it to now be able to cast rabbit skins and hunks of bucktail almost a full fly line away! It isn’t a fast rod – I suppose medium fast is where it stands although I’d be happy to have this corrected by my friends at Harrison’s. Toby my fishing partner from Chew had a brief cast with it and it was certainly softer than his Loomis Crosscurrent… this didn’t detract from Toby’s ability to cast further than me! It also proves a point that in the right hand the rod is dynamite.
The rod has been teamed up with Cortland’s 333 Pike WF10F and Guideline’s new Pike Sink Tip WF10 and both of these lines work well with the rod.
Next rod? Well, I almost bought a Sage RLPXi from Toby BUT hesitated long enough for it to be sold to someone else. Why the hesitation… it’s down to the fact that I want another version on the Harrison fly rod (the blank has been ordered)… I found the benefit of having a two rod set up at Chew… sadly the other rod was lacking in the butt and on two fish of around the same weight I felt more in control with the Harrison.
If you want a Harrison rod custom built I would recommend that you look at Steve’s website as he lists rod builders there (Dave Lumb and Steve Parton to name just a couple)… I can tell you this; a custom rod beats any “off the shelf rod” as it is very personal and feels part of you. As a final point. The two characters that I mentioned at the beginning are two of the nicest folk you could meet; Mike is an all-round great guy and honest as the day is long and knows his fishing, Steve is one of those rare beasts whose blog I try and read every day and if he doesn’t post something new that day I feel somewhat cheated. In addition to the fishing aspect of the blog it gives an insight into the perfectionist Steve is, linked to the business acumen and drive he has. Both are much respected.
Life has been sparse on the pike front BUT I’ve been playing with the fly tying and had a go at salt water fly fishing as an aside to a night away with friends last Friday.
I’ve included photos of the flies I tied for interest and comment.
Friday was a little cloudy to say the least and Janet and I thought that this was it for the day… to prove us wrong Anglesey was bathed in glorious sunshine! Well for a short time anyway… my pal Nick and I launched the RIB in what could have only been described as a pea souper, the sea mist came in thick and fast. With state of the art GPS plotting we set forth to meet Janet and Clare our respective wives and Anna (Nick and Clare’s daughter) at a bay along the coast for a spot of lunch. Civilised!
It was a little weird navigating in the mist but without a hitch we arrived in time for lunch. Bathed in sunshine and with the mist rolling back we decided to head for the Skerries a treacherous landfall surmounted by a lighthouse. We were beaten back twice by the mist that decided to envelope us again, we gave it best and I was allowed to fish for a while… I used the sand eel pattern exclusively on the floating line (yes I should have gone for the sinker!). No fish for tea then.
At about 1630 hrs we saw the lighthouse through the mist… galvanised into action within seconds the rod and line was away and we were speeding toward the Skerries. A minor hiccup, the mist came in again but we were so close to our goal we kept on. As if by magic we broke through the mist to find the islands bathed in glorious sunshine. Our skipper (Nick) skilfully manoeuvred us into the lagoon beneath the lighthouse to a welcoming wave from a seal sunning himself on a rock.
I have to say that it was a real privilege to be able to be there… it was an idyll and one of those places you must see before you depart the mortal coil!
Arctic terns nesting in their hundreds if not thousands and puffins stocking up on sand eels made this an unforgettable visit… we were alone in one of the most tranquil places on earth… no noise save for the birds and the occasional snort from a seal or two (alone apart from the girl from the RSPB that is!).
All too soon we had to leave to skim at high speed across one of the most dangerous pieces of water in the British Isles. No fish BUT the barbeque called.
I tried in vain at slack water to fish again for bass… no luck. However, we feasted on sausages swilled down with beer watching the sun go down on a great day in the company of great friends!