Remember what I said last month about losing baggage? Since September 11th everything has changed. On my last two flights I wasn't allowed to take my rods as hand luggage either by BA or Northwest. This rule it seems now applies to most of the other airline flights from the United Kingdom. Though in the United States it doesn't seem a problem. Most people are taking on two bags. You will need to make sure you have a good insurance policy that covers all your possessions as checked luggage. Some insurance companies do not cover cameras that are checked as baggage.
I learnt this the hard way when I claimed for a stolen Nikon SLR. I was told by my insurance company that my policy didn't cover cameras when checked as luggage. I explained to the insurance company that British Airways wouldn't let me take my case containing cameras etc. on board my flight as hand luggage. Sadly, the insurance company didn't want to know about my problems! I am now fighting for compensation from KLM Northwest airlines, So be warned.
If you're taking a very valuable fly reel, have your partner put it in her handbag or stuff it in your jacket pocket if that's possible. I feel some airlines are giving the travelling angler a rough time when it isn't needed. As per usual they have gone over the top in many cases. I was told by one BA attendant that I couldn't take my tape recorder which was in a bag the size of a ladies handbag. I suggested she called the supervisor as this was sexual discrimination. Nothing more was said and I was allowed through. I can see many anglers staying at home if we can't take travel rods as hand luggage. After all we have spent lot of money on these rods because we want to arrive at our destination with rods and reels intact.
Chasing Stillwater Rainbows
Many of you are probably getting fed up with no fly fishing. The brown trout season ended on September 30th. The salmon season on most English and Welsh rivers ended October 31st and many of you never had the chance to cast a fly all season, especially those of you who live in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Over the past few weeks some rivers have been bank high and, though welcome, it does stop fly fishing for grayling. So what do you do? Most of you have a stillwater fishery rainbow trout fishery within a few miles of where you live. Unlike brown trout there is no close season for rainbows but make sure you have an EA. rod licence.
Today many fisheries stay open all through the winter, be warned though, some of these fisheries don't stock during the winter months on a regular basis. If they do, it might be just a few fish once a week. So check out your local fisheries stocking policy for the winter months before spending your hard earned money.
It's Not All Lure Fishing
Stillwater trout fishing in winter isn't all about chucking out a lure and cranking it in. You can fish small patterns such as Pheasant tail nymphs, Gold Ribbed Hare's ear, Greenwells Glory, Black and Peacock Spider and Olive nymph's. There will be many days when you can also fish buzzer patterns. Buzzer fishing can often be excellent, especially on a mild day with light winds. The last two hours of the day can produce some thrilling sport by fishing a team of buzzers on a long leader with a 2lb point. Remember most buzzers at this time of the year are on the small size. I usually fish size 14's and 16 so it has to be a fine leader tippet.
Your river brown trout fishing tackle will, in most cases, be suitable for stillwater trout fishing, unless you only fish small streams using 6 foot 3 weight rod. If you have a nine foot rod rated for 6 or 7 with a floating line then you're in business. Apart from the flies mentioned why not take a few lures such as, Montana Nymph, Viva, Cat's Whisker, Appetiser, Sweeney Todd, Whiskey Fly, Perch Fry, Missionary and Baby Doll. This is probably a good selection to start with. Again, lure fishing, done properly, isn't just a case of chucking it out and pulling it back in.
Its Not Chuck And Chance
You don't just cast out a lure then retrieve it. You need to fish your lure in the strike zone. By chucking it out and pulling it back in without any thought, you're just relying on luck. That's not the way to be successful on stillwaters. One of the most successful ways to fish lures and find the strike zone is by using the count down method. It's a quite simple but very effective method. You cast out then count to three on the first cast. If no plucks or takes occur, repeat the process, counting to four. Keep increasing the count down until you either find the fish or you're scraping the bottom.
Don't do what I see so many anglers doing on many stillwaters and that is stand shoulder to shoulder with all the other anglers. Go off and fish a quiet area of the bank side. They might be stocked fish but they can be spooked quite easy at times. Also, don't just cast straight out from the bank as far as you can. Start off with a short cast. Fish the water thoroughly before extending your next cast. Often by casting parallel to the bank letting your fly or lure drop a few feet from the margin, you will catch fish others have passed by. Fishing the shoreline often proves very successful. Fish expect to find food along the margins. Be a thinking angler, don't be sheep-like and follow the flock.
Never forget the windward side of the water because fish will be well aware that food gets swept towards this bank. Seek advise from other anglers and from the fishery owner, though not all anglers give their knowledge freely so check the catch returns book. Some anglers hide the details of successful fly patterns and depth of water they caught their fish in. In fact I always feel the first question to be asking is. What depth of water are you taking your fish from? Not 'what pattern of fly or lure are you using'. If you know the taking depth, then you can usually find a pattern that will catch fish. Rainbows are not the brightest of species.
Let's Have More Etiquette At The Waterside
If you see another angler catch a fish, don't do what I see some people do, that's dash along the bank to fish alongside the successful fish-catching angler. I have seen some people virtually fishing in the poor anglers pocket. Let's have more etiquette at the waterside. While on the subject of etiquette, Let's forget about seat boxes, orange or yellow waterproofs and those horrid green fishing umbrellas that are popping up at some waters. Golfing and fishing umbrellas surely have NO place in trout fishing. Let's be honest, keeping dry at the waterside is no problem these days. Just visit your local outdoor shop and purchase a good set of waterproofs that blend in with the countryside. I can understand an elderly or disabled person having a seat but surely that should be the limit.
Litter And Fish Thieving-It's A Growing Problem
What always puzzles me is why there so much line left at many stillwater trout fisheries. There is no excuse for leaving nylon line or any other rubbish at the waterside. Remember birds, waterfowl and animals get caught in fishing line, then die a slow horrid death. Why not practice the art of, 'Pack it in to the fishery, then pack it back home again to the rubbish bin'. If you see any line or other rubbish at the waterside, please pick it up, then either put it in a rubbish bin or take it home. You know it makes good sense.
Talking to many fishery owners over the years, it seems the biggest problem they face is fish thieving. Either by people at night with bait or nets, or people bending the fishery rules. Either way it's thieving. Remember, every time someone takes an extra fish or two above their bag limit, someone has to pay for it. That person is you, the visitor, through higher ticket charges.
I well remember fishing one stillwater when bread started floating across the surface. Looking across the water I could see someone in a boat feeding bread every so often. I up-anchored and motored across to this person. Where upon I told him in no uncertain terms that ground baiting wasn't allowed. He answered "I'm feeding the ducks". There wasn't a duck in sight. I motored away to the fishing lodge and reported this cheat to the fishery manager. When the manager and a bailiff checked the person out they found 14 fish hidden in the boat. Spooning the fish they were found to contain not only bread but sweetcorn. Sadly the person wasn't prosecuted for theft, just barred from the fishery.
Another trick being used by these thieves is the use of plastic sweet corn or plastic maggots on the hook. At one fishery near me an angler was always seen standing in the water and fishing the same spot. A watch was kept on this cheat. It was found he had a zip on his trouser pocket that opened from the bottom. The pocket was filled with trout pellets. During fishing he would open the zip so a few pellets would fall out and float down the lake. Immediately fish would start rising. He had created stew pond conditions. He would then cast his deer hair pellet to the fish. He couldn't really fail.
If you see someone cheating or thieving, report them. They are stealing your fish and the end result will be a more costly fishing permit in the future. On a stillwater fishery near where I live, the fishery owner recently caught two thieves fishing with bread during a competition. They were thrown off the water but I feel they should have been prosecuted. We can do without these people at our fisheries. In fact it's a pity they couldn't be banned from the sport.
Stillwater trout fishing can often be exciting, interesting and often exasperating. There are many times when you can see fish rising but they don't seem to want to eat whatever you chuck at them. The bigger stillwaters such as Grafham and Rutland certainly offer some excellent fishing in quite nice surroundings. Rutland has always been my favourite water stillwater trout fishery especially in the 1970's and 80's. A day's angling on this water can offer so many challenges with different styles of angling. You never get bored on this huge expanse of water. Without doubt Rutland has to be one of the premier stillwater fishery in the country.
Two stillwater fisheries I plan fish next season are Blagdon and Chew. If you want to read an excellent book on a stillwater fishery, I can do no better than advise you to read 'Blagdon' by Chris Ogborn. It's a super read about an historic fishery that has given so many anglers so much pleasure over many years. If you're new to stillwater trout fishing, I recommend the following titles for some bedtime reading which should help you get more from your sport. Trout From Stillwaters by Pete Cockwill, Stillwater Trout Fishing by John Bailey, Reservoir Trout Fishing by Bob Church. This latter book is an old title but the contents are still applicable today. Finally beg, borrow or buy, The Pursuit of Stillwater Trout by Brian Clark. It's an excellent read with so much interest and knowledge between the pages. It's that type of book that makes you want to go fishing whatever the weather.
Now Is The Time To Go Grayling Fishing
I pitched the heavy nymph upstream in a run between the swaying Ranunculus weed, often known as the water buttercup. It's a delightful aquatic plant that, when it carpets the water surface with its delightful white flowers, we know its summer. Today the flowers have gone. It's just a beautiful swaying green weed. Also let's not forget one of the great attributes of Ranunculus, it doesn't trap silt and mud like other aquatic weeds do. I could clearly see my size 10 mayfly nymph as it proceeded downstream, bumping and lifting off the bottom. I gathered in the slack line watching that nymph like a hawk watching it's prey. I spotted a slight movement at the edge of the weed. The movement quickly turned into a grayling. It drifted across and downstream from the sanctuary of the weed. Suddenly it shot forward then ate my nymph. I tightened into another nice Welsh Dee grayling. The fishes dorsal fin was erect as the fish positioned itself sideways to the flow. The force of water against the grayling's body pushed it downstream and bent the rod double, I had to give some line. It then dived and twisted, rubbing its mouth in the gravel in it's effort to rid the obstruction from its mouth. The fish probably gained two or three more yards of line as it moved downstream in it's bid for freedom. The Thomas and Thomas nine foot five-weight rod was equal to the contest. After a couple of heart stopping moments I soon had a nice grayling around the pound and a half to hand, where I quickly slipped out the barbless hook. I then watched as the fish swam off strongly.
The grayling is a game fish with a coarse fish close season, March 15th Until June 15th, both days inclusive. It's during this period when the fish spawns, unlike our other game fish where the spawning takes place during autumn. I, along with many other anglers in the past, thought it wasn't right to pursue the grayling during the summer months. Today, It's a different story. Many of us now fly fish for grayling during the warmer months if conditions are good for the fish's welfare. I never fish for grayling or any other fish in very low water conditions and high water temperatures where the fish are likely to be distressed very quickly. We owe it to our quarry to treat them with great respect. After all we are sports-fishers not fishmongers.
Rods And Reels
Tackle is quite simple for grayling. Nothing more than what you would use for trout fishing. Yes, you will read in the press that you need a special rod for fishing nymphs. Don't you believe it. If you have a fly rod rated as a six or seven weight, nine feet in length then you have a rod that will do the job. I have fished big heavy nymphs in the rivers of Canada, Sweden, United States, France, Wales, Scotland and England using a rod as described. On the upper reaches of some English and Welsh rivers. I often use a five weight. I haven't noticed any reduction in my catch rate through using the lighter rod.
If you're thinking of buying a new fly rod why not visit your local Masterline stockists and take a look at the Red River 4 piece six weight fly rod, it's a good buy. Your current fly reel with a floating line will do the job for ninety five percent of your fishing. Some of the faster and perhaps deeper stretches of rivers might demand the use of a sink tip line, though you should find plenty of fishable water where you can fish nymphs with a floating line. You can always extend your leader from nine to fifteen feet to get your nymphs down on the bottom.
On some of the English rivers don't be surprised if you hook a powerful fish that you can't handle. It will probably be a barbel. I believe many of the so called big grayling and trout hooked and lost are barbel. Catching barbel on a nymph isn't new. Back in the late 1800's some anglers were fishing for barbel with nymphs. As I have often said. There is very little new in fishing.
A Selection of Flies and Leaders
I carry a few nine foot leaders with a 6lb point which I use when fishing waters where there is a chance of hooking a barbel. Don't try fishing nymphs above size 12's when using these heavy tippets, they don't work properly. Fishing waters where only trout and grayling are present with dry flies I use a 3lb tippet, stepping up to 4lb when nymphing - unless I know there are big grayling present, such as in Swedish Lapland where I always use a minimum of a 6lb tippet for nymphing.
When it comes to fly selection the variety is quite enormous with dozen and dozens of patterns to choose from. Over the past few seasons I have increased the size of nymphs I now use. Up until a few years ago I wouldn't have thought of using nymphs above a size 12, now I use nymphs on occasions down to a size 6. I first realised how big a nymph a grayling will take when nymphing for barbel and catching grayling on size 6 leaded Mayfly nymphs. When fishing in Swedish Lapland I have used some awesome looking stone fly nymphs which the grayling eat with relish. Don't be blinkered and keep fishing as our grandfathers did. Be adventurous and try new ideas. When it comes to nymphing, I always try to make sure I have one box containing some, Beaded Pheasant tail, Beaded Hare's Ear, Beaded Dragon and Damsel fly nymphs in sizes 10's-14's Walkers leaded Mayfly nymphs in sizes 6-10's.
One dry fly pattern that has proved a winner is a Paythorn Olive tied up by Oldham fly dresser Alan Bithell. It's a pattern that has taken grayling on every river I have fished both in both Europe and Canada. Other patterns to have in your box are Black Gnat, Pheasant Tail Gold-ribbed Hare's ear, Coachman, Greenwell's Glory (this is good both as a wet and dry fly pattern) and a Tup's Indispensable.
In this column I can only look briefly at the subject of grayling. I feel the best book on the subject is John Roberts' The Grayling Angler. It's now out of print but should be available from your library or second hand book dealer.
Single signal crayfish found in river Hodder
What is probably the first recorded incident of its kind a single signal crayfish has been found on the River Hodder, one of Lancashire's top game fishing waters. The Environment Agency are now undertaking an "Appropriate Assessment" under the European Habitats Directive to assess the risk that fish stockings from fish farms on the catchment may pose, if they are introduced into rivers, such as the Kent, which are "Candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSAC)" for native Crayfish.
This assessment will involve field work and other research so any proposed fish stockings from the Hodder catchment are currently on hold. Any angler who visits another catchment known to contain Signal Crayfish (such as the Ribble/Hodder catchment) must disinfect boots and nets with Iodophore or by drying preferably in bright sunshine. Any catchment known to contain Signal Crayfish is also assumed to carry Crayfish Plague, which kills native White Clawed Crayfish. If you're a northern angler who travels south to fish the southern waters, you must be extra careful because signal crayfish are a major problem.
Let's have some action
I am indebted to Fred French for alerting me to the Australian Swamp Stone Crop, scientific name is Crassula Helmsii, the following item is quite frightening; why do we keep importing alien species? First we had the Grey squirrel, then the mink, Coypu, Turkish and Signal crayfish. Most of these imports are done by the greedy ones wanting to make a quick buck. We now have zebra mussels, mitten crabs and now this weed. Extensive areas of this luxuriant weed now covers the banks of Bewl Water. It is a very short, close-cropped weed, just like walking on a thick pile carpet. When Fred French found out what it was he immediately contacted all team captains who had fished the Water by 'phone and e-mail, asking them to inform their team members to thoroughly wash boots, waders nets etc before venturing onto another water.
Under NO circumstances should you go near another water before making sure you have perfectly weed-free equipment and tackle. The weed is an invasive introduction which I believe is sold in some aquatic garden centres for ornamental ponds. IF THIS IS CORRECT IT SHOULD BE BANNED AND ALL STOCKS DESTROYED!
The question is: Why was it allowed in the UK? The weed grows like wildfire and spores carried on boots or nets can quickly establish themselves on other waters. Attempts to remove it usually result in particles floating off (or downstream in a river) and the particles then quickly take root and spread elsewhere on the catchment.
Fred French has raised the problem at a meeting of United Utilities Conservation, Access & Recreation Advisory Committee (CARAC) at Warrington. It raised a few eyebrows and a lot of concern although some of the scientific staff were aware of it. I believe it is present in Derwent Water in the Lakes. Fred will also raise the matter at next week's Environment Agency Regional Fisheries, Ecology and Recreation Advisory Committee and ask for an advisory paper for fishery owners and clubs to be produced.
Sorry about ending on a dismal note but I really do feel everyone needs to be aware of these environment problems. Fishing isn't just about hooking another kipper. It's all about the whole environment and we anglers should do everything to protect our fragile environment. We hold it in trust for the generations not yet born.
Before I leave you, try these books:
TROUT AT TEN THOUSAND FEET
Reflections of a Passionate Fisherman; John Bailey £12.99 Hardback
'Perhaps subconsciously, all those years ago, I privately adopted the search for the most perfect fish because I knew it would be impossible to complete. I've never been so blind that I haven't always known that there is no such single special creature because, in their own different ways, all fish are perfect. So if I ever needed the excuse for endless travel, I certainly stumbled upon it.'
For me, like John Bailey, fishing has been a life long obsession. It has sent me north and south of the equator in search of fishing adventures, just as this magnificent sport has sent John from Morocco to Mongolia, the Bahamas to Paradise Valley and from Scotland to Kazakhstan. Trout at Ten Thousand Feet is a collection of entertaining and incredible fishing adventures, and a personal account of travelling to unknown countries and environments, and the friendships formed once there.
Spanning Bailey's entire career, from his first memories of playing in the sink, to travelling with caviar-smuggling Russian Mafia bosses and coming face to face with a tiger in Nepal, Trout at Ten Thousand Feet has been compiled from dozens of Bailey's journals and diaries. Years of experience make this book a wonderful combination of entertaining anecdotes and brilliant advice. From the practical problems of avoiding mosquitoes and deadly insects to the best conditions for drinking vodka or getting through busy airports. The search for perfect fishing has introduced John Bailey to people and places others can only imagine.
Trout at Ten Thousand Feet is not only a celebration of the varieties of the fish he has encountered, but also of the personalities, the people who live in some of the most unforgiving and beautiful parts of the world. It is an inspiration to any fishing enthusiast or traveller who is tempted to do the same, and a pleasure to read for those who just want to dream. This book would make a super Christmas present for any angler who has the spirit of adventure.
I should have gone grayling fishing the day my copy arrived. Instead I stayed at home reading yet another excellent read from the pen of John Bailey who can write as well as he fishes. John Bailey is an internationally renowned author, photographer and presenter of television programmes on angling and natural history. As a pioneering tour leader of fishing trips throughout the world, he has led anglers to some of the most remote corners of the globe.
THE LONGEST CAST
By Alexander Taylor
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BEVERLY AND PETER PICKFORD INTRODUCTION BY LEFTY KREH
'The artistic skills of Peter, Beverly and Alex have captured the essence of what it is like to travel to remote places, a feat that is nearly impossible for most of us. Alex has done the unthinkable in compiling all of this material into one beautiful book. If you yearn to discover the world of fly-fishing, The Longest Cast will fill you with joy.'
This stunning book is the photographic and literary account of a global fishing expedition by Alexander Taylor who, accompanied by award winning photographers Beverly and Peter Pickford, travels to the world's ultimate fly-fishing destinations. For Alexander, fly-fishing is more than the hunt for fish; it is also a deeply satisfying spiritual experience, making The Longest Cast more than just another book about fishing.
Writing streamside, and frequently autobiographical, Taylor philosophises about the meditative effect of escaping into the natural environment. Not only is each destination evocatively detailed and described, but the emotional response it invokes is also recounted with honesty and lyricism, from witnessing a Canadian father and son's fishing trip, to discussing love in Argentina. The Longest Cast visits an extraordinary variety of environments but, whether it is while competing for fish with hippos and crocodiles in Botswana or attempting to fish after too many pints of Guinness in Ireland, the people they encounter all share an intense passion for fly-fishing and the natural world. This passion for Nature is evident in Alexander's commitment to conservation; every chapter discusses the environmental history and issues of each country, with details of relevant conservation groups. Taylor's own royalties from The Longest Cast will be donated to organisations involved in the preservation of endangered fishing sanctuaries.
Over 100 specially commissioned photographs powerfully capture the fish, wildlife and scenery of each destination. From the bears of Canada and baboons of South Africa to the blue ocean of the Bahamas and icy rivers of Scotland, The Longest Cast has been written with great compassion and humour, and is an important collector's item for anyone with a love of fly-fishing, or the natural world.
Available by special request is a special collector's edition, where the stunning photography of The Longest Cast is complemented by a luxurious limited edition book, individually hand-leather bound with gold leaf lettering and raised bands. Each copy of the special edition is individually numbered and signed by the author. Should you feel inspired to follow Taylor's example, he has included relevant fishing and travel information. The Pickfords have also provided full details of the photographic equipment they used.
Alexander Taylor has been a keen fisherman since his childhood in Atlanta, Georgia. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, he is now a journalist in Grand Junction, Colorado. This book is his first and was inspired when a discussion with friends could not decide on the best place in the world to go fishing.
Beverly and Peter Pickford regularly contribute to Africa Geographic Magazine. Winners of the Agfa Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award, their photographs have appeared in various books. Lefty Kreh is one of the world's best-known fly-fisherman. He has published over a dozen books on the subject and produced a number of television programmes and has been featured on the BBC Radio Lancashire programme At The Waters Edge Thursday evenings at 7-30pm and Sunday afternoon at 5-30pm
This would certainly make the perfect Christmas or Wedding anniversary present for the loved one in your life. If you both fish, as many couple do these days, why not treat yourself to the collectors edition.
Have a good Christmas and New Year holiday and hopefully you will get the chance to get your string pulled and your stick bent.
Any questions feel free to E-mail me at email@example.com
Have a good months fishing and join me again next month at fishing.co.uk
If you live in the North of England why not listen in on BBC Radio Lancashire Thursday evenings at 7-30pm or Sunday afternoons at 5-30pm
Why not take a look at my website www.martinjamesfishing.co.uk
Tight lines to you all until next month