Malcolm like me fishes for everything in fresh and saltwater with a fly rod - but he does it a lot better than me. If you're new to fly fishing on streams and rivers then get hold of Malcolm's book Trout Fishing In Rivers published by Witherby, it's excellent. Another excellent book you shouldn't be without is Matching The Hatch by Pat O' Reilly. It's for the stillwater, river and stream angler. By the time I had finished work, it was too late to go out and cast a fly, though I did sort out and pack some tackle for my coming trip to Moxeys bonefishing camp in Moxey Town, Mangrove Cay in the Bahamas.
Monday was a nice warm sunny day with a light easterly wind. No fishing today, I had a stile to build on one of Bradford City's Angling Association waters near Skipton. Thankfully my mate Mike Osborn from Cumbria offered to come and help. It was about ten thirty in the morning when we arrived armed with a selection of tools and saws. The stile was to be built over a five bar gate which wasn't in use, so the first job was to permanently close the gate. While Mike set about that job. I went off in search of timber for the stile. In no time at all I had enough timber for half a dozen stiles. It's surprising how much timber gets washed up on the river bank during the winter floods. It was quite nice working away in the sunshine, as we worked, Mike and I discussed various piscatorial matters -otherwise known as fish and fishing.
Having finished the stile we covered the gate with wire mesh which would stop young lambs escaping. These animals are like us humans, they think the grass is greener on the other side. After a break I took Mike off upstream to show him some big grayling, we also collected a couple of bags of rubbish. After watching the grayling we went off downstream to collect more rubbish and I was also able to show Mike some good chub. Back at the roadside lay-bye we collected a huge bag of rubbish which had been left by the general public, fast food containers, soft drink cans and bottles, beer cans, plastic bags, wine bottles and plastic sheeting which had been left by some road building contractors. It was another day spent in the delightful English countryside, though we didn't get to fish we both felt good by improving the habitat.
Tuesday I'm back on the river Aire, this time to work on the Bradford No 1 Angling Association water. I worked a seven hour shift with just a fifteen minute break for a sandwich and coffee. Most of the time was spent clearing riverside trees and bushes of plastic bags and sheeting. I pulled five car tires from the river, about one hundred yards of barbed wire was dragged from the river bed. This was a tough task as the wire was covered in all manner of plastic and other rubbish. I can honestly say this was hard physical work.
During the time I was on the water I didn't see a single olive or any other fly hatch off. I did see between a hundred and two hundred Daddy Longlegs or crane-flies under a overhang of the river bank. It looked as though they were mating. I have never witnessed this scene this early in the year. In his book A Dictionary of Trout Flies, Courtney Williams writes on page 154 "Some species of crane-flies appear in April and continue throughout the remainder of the fishing season."
There was only one fly fisher on the water today, Brian. After I checked his rod licence and permit, he commented on how nice the river looked upstream without all the plastic. I felt good that someone had noticed all the hard work which had been done over the past weeks. My last job of the day was loading some piping into the car which would be used by a local angling club who were trying to improve the salmon runs on the Hodder and Ribble. I arrived home tired and whacked. After a shower and dinner I sat reading the paper for a while then went off to bed about 9pm sleeping through till past nine the next morning.
Wednesday I fished as the guest of Stephen Ainscow of Ramsbottom Lancashire. After a mug of tea we set off for the River Ribble. The weather wasn't good, we had a cold blustery wind which during the day went from south east to a southerly direction. During our drive to the river we witnessed the flying skills of a sparrow hawk.
At the waters edge we both tackled up to fish the dry fly rather than nymphs, had we chosen the latter we might have caught more fish. But I doubt if we would have enjoyed it, there is something special casting and watching a dry fly. The odd fish could be seen rising but they were not interested in our flies. As we made our way up river we could see a bush on the far bank with several large plastic bags of various colours hanging from its branches. Stephen said "It looks like Blackpool illuminations" I agreed. Reaching the area we waded across the river then cleared all the rubbish, it certainly looked a lot better when we had finished.
At 2-20pm a flurry of olives appeared and trout started to rise. Stephen, being a true gentlemen, said "There you go Martin". I suggested he should try first, but he would have none of it. Several times I drifted a Paythorn olive over the rising fish but nothing wanted to eat. Changing to a rough olive I tried again; still the fish ignored my offering. Finally I tried a large dark olive - still I couldn't get a take.
At 2-35 PM the fish stopped rising as the flies stopped hatching. A cool wind started to blow. Back at our starting point we had a sandwich and coffee, as we did so we discussed the days fishing, the lack of insects and admired some beautiful clumps of marsh marigolds as we listened to a chaffinch. A pair of pied wagtails were catching small insects on the wing which was quite fascinating.
After a good rest we moved off downstream, after some four hundred yards we found a group of rising fish. Casting a Paythorn olive up and across the stream I watched it drift down, looking very life like, but it was ignored. Twice more I watched the fly drift over the rising fish, which again showed no interest. On the fourth cast a suicidal grayling rose to intercept my offering. After a short struggle I quickly released the grayling, which was quickly followed by another fish. Realising all the rising fish were either grayling or smolts I moved on. Half an hour later with no sign of fish or insect we called it a day.
Back at my place Stephen collected all the piping I had collected from the river Aire. Somehow we managed to get the lot into his car. Stephen then went off to the angling club's hatchery. After a shower and some dinner I answered some three dozen E-mail's One was from my friend Brandon in Maryland which read as follows
Ivette and I headed to the Susquehanna Flats the second week that it opened in search of a big fish for Ivette. We had a good day catching fish from 6-10 pounds. Then I decided to drift into some shallower water where no one else was fishing. We hit about 3 feet and Ivette's rod doubled over and she looks at me and says, "I think I have a big one!".
Well she sure did, she did a great job fighting it and we got it to the boat several times, finally got it right to the boat and I had my hand on the leader and about ready to get the fish out and it shakes its big head, breaks the leader and gets away before we could get a picture. But Ivette was happy, I estimate it to be about 24-25 pounds. Real nice fish. Then we drifted another area in about 2-3 feet and after about 15 minutes I felt like my fly got stuck on the bottom, then the bottom started moving like a freight train in the opposite direction. Well into my backing and still going, finally I stopped him and after about 10 minutes we got him to the boat, Ivette did a great job landing the fish, the boga grip said 28 pounds, biggest I have ever caught on the fly :-) Pictures attached. The fishing slowed after that, we picked up a few more, but then headed home after a good day.
Two days later Ivette and I headed over to a private lake we have permission to fish. Really nice largemouth in there. Ivette again landed a big one, I estimate it to be about 7 pounds which is excellent for around here. Picture attached. Of course when I go to land this one she looks at me and says, "Do not lose this one now." A true angler :-) I caught a few nice ones on the fly.
These Americans certainly do have some excellent salt and freshwater fishing. I will be in Connecticut and Massachusetts in May hoping for a big striper on the fly. After dealing with all my E-mail's I went off to bed about 10-PM
Thursday I was fishing the river Ribble as the guest of Alan Roe. We left my home about ten thirty. Driving alongside the river I noticed what can only be described as a washing machine at work. At the bottom of a fast shallow run some 150 yards downstream of Sawley bridge the river makes a right hand sweep - the bay was covered with a white foam. With our rivers at an extremely low level and low flow rate it's quite a worrying time in case we get a pollution incident. I called the E.A. on 0800-80-70-60 which was quickly and efficiently answered. After reporting the problem and location I was put through to the area pollution office. Some two hours later I had a call from an E.A. officer at the scene who gave me a report on the incident. This time it wasn't a major problem but it proved once again the pollution control team at the E.A. in the North West do take action when alerted.
Arriving at the waterside we put the kettle on. As the wind was quite strong I chose to fish a five weight outfit with a ten foot tapered leader with a three pound point. Having tackled up and finishing my tea I made my way upstream while Alan chose to fish a weir pool.
After an hour or so I made my way back to the starting point having seen no fish or insects. Alan hadn't caught anything either. We decided it was time for lunch, as the fish didn't want to eat. We dined rather royally on smoked salmon, salad and proper oven baked bread washed down with freshly brewed tea. The wind was very cold and blustery with rain showers - not the best of conditions for fly fishing. Lunch finished, I went off upstream once again where I spotted a nice trout rising under the far bank. I tried hard to tempt the fish to rise and take one of the fly patterns in my box with no success. Every two or three minutes, over a period of thirty minutes or so, an olive would come drifting downstream but the trout would only rise about every ten minutes and take one. I didn't have any luck. I felt I was fishing really well today. Casting a long line up and across I was getting the fly to land like thistledown, followed by perfect drifts, but it didn't make any difference. The fish didn't want to eat any of my offerings. During this session I watched and listened to a Spitfire going through a flying routine. It was a magnificent sight which took me back to my boyhood days during WW2.
With the fish not wanting my flies, I made my way downstream and as I did so I spotted five swallows - the first I have seen this year. There were also a lot of curlews calling to one another, which sounded delightful in the beautiful river Ribble valley. Half a mile downstream I tried another fast run where I spotted a fish swirl, but again no takes. I gave up in the end and headed back for some fresh tea. Half an hour later we decided to leave for home. In the car park the sun appeared but only for a few minutes. Arriving home I filled all the bird feeders, then it was time for dinner. I spent the evening answering listeners' letters.
Friday was warm and sunny, after doing some badly needed jobs I headed off to the river Ribble at Mitton. On the way I stopped off at the shops where I picked up some bacon which had been home cured from local pigs, plus a large crusty loaf of real bread along with some fresh eggs. I was providing lunch for Ivan the river keeper today. Arriving at the fishery I was surprised to see several fish rising and lots of olives coming off. Before putting together my tackle, it was on with the kettle on for fresh brew. As I finished putting my tackle together, the kettle started to boil; perfect timing. After tea and biscuits I made my way upstream to the Minnow pool. Reaching the Farmhouse pool I spotted Nick Hammond from New York with a pulled string and bent stick. After Nick had unhooked the fish I said "Good morning Nick, what did you take that fish on" he replied "A size 16 black gnat". I then continued upstream. As I did so several oyster catchers and four common sandpipers flew off a shingle bank.
Olives were coming off and fish were rising. I tied on a size 14 rough olive, greased it up and made a cast up and across. It had drifted some three feet when a fish sucked in my offering. Fish number one was quickly played out, unhooked and released without being touched by hand. Drying off the fly, I made another cast. As it floated downstream I thought to myself how lifelike it looked against the real olives. Three time my offering was ignored but I had a nice trout on the next cast. In an hour's fishing I had five fish, missed three and had several drifts where my offering was ignored.
I was thinking about lunch when Ivan turned up to see how I was doing. We chatted for some minutes, finally I said to Ivan "Are you ready for a mug of tea and some lunch" Ivan said "That's a good idea" We then made our way back to the cabin. Lunch over we had another mug of tea then I went off fishing.
During the late afternoon several big Stoneflies (Plecoptera) hatched off. They reminded me of the big salmon flies on the Deschutes river in Oregon, though the salmon flies are treble the size of our Stoneflies. The fishing during the afternoon session was even better than the morning session. It was great fun, all my fish were returned to their aquatic environment, being unhooked in the water without being touched by hand. After catching three out of season grayling all well over the pound mark, I moved to another stretch of river where I spotted a duck with six, day old ducklings looking like balls of fluff. Casting only to rising fish I had a nice brace of brown trout around the 17 - 18 inch mark. It was then time for tea and biscuits.
Nick joined Ivan and myself at the cabin, while Nick's charming and friendly wife Delaine caught up on her sleep in the warm sunshine. After tea we made our way back to our chosen beats. Both of us catching more hard fighting trout. Around 6-PM we called it a day. I said my goodbye's to Nick and Delaine then headed off for home. It had certainly been a great day in the Lancashire countryside, with nice people, on the river Ribble which I consider to be The Jewel in the Crown of Lancashire. Today was probably the nicest day of the season so far and it's amazing what some sunshine with light warm winds can do for trout fishing.
Saturday it was back on the river Aire to check on permits and rod licences. I also had to burn a mountain of rubbish. In total there were 24 large bags of rubbish to get rid of. Using fire lighters and a liberal dose of petrol inside some of the bags, I soon had a good fire going. After some five hours all the rubbish had been burnt leaving just a pile of ash. Two non members were on the Bradford City AA stretch of water. They had come over a newly built stile which had a prominent notice stating "Bradford City AA Private Fishing". These people reckoned they hadn't seen the notice. What does one do with these people? They did eventually leave without any problems or verbal abuse. I left the river about 4-PM after a six hour working session. Back home I had a shower, some dinner then promptly fell asleep in the armchair waking up about 9-PM
Sunday I was off to the studio at 4-40 am. I was in a very happy mood even at this early time of the day. It was raining, hopefully it would continue for the next few days non stop, but sadly by 11-am the rain had gone. I had planned to attend the Bradford City AA working party and interview fly dresser Stuart Bowdin of Pendle but I had so much work I didn't get away until gone 3-PM.
After a late lunch I had a look around my pond; checking the water temperature I noticed it had risen 2 degrees F from 48 to 50 degrees F. I then checked some frog spawn I was keeping in a tub where I spotted half a dozen tiny tadpoles. Back indoors I caught up on my correspondence, both snail mail and E-mail. After making a pot of tea I sat down to read this month's Trout and Salmon magazine and Fly Fishing & Fly Tying. In the T&S magazine I read two excellent features, Glorious Grafham and A Windermere Spring. Both were very informative. FF&FT contained another excellent article from that master fly fisher Malcolm Greenhalgh and an interesting feature was Uprising in the King's Domain. It's all about river trouting in the Spey. I also enjoyed Steve Thornton's article Precious Stone, more so as this past week I have seen a lot of stoneflies on the river Ribble.
I'm now off to try and catch some bonefish - have a good week's fishing.