Monday, 17 November 2008

Close season reflections...

With long months ahead before the '09 season starts, I have been looking through the pictures and notes from last season and found this. It perfectly captures the magic of small stream fishing, in pursuit of wild, brown trout. This is a favoutite pool, only a couple of inches deep before slipping in to over three feet, tight against the far, overgrown bank where trout lie tight against submerged tree roots. Rather than cast (in a formal sense) you can only present a dry fly by flicking across the current, with a semi-roll cast. It isn't pretty, but it works at the expense of pure aesthetics.

I caught my PB of the '07 season at the head of this pool in a falling spate. Positioned upstream, I drifted a tiny nymph in to the head of the pool and was rewarded with a hard fighting trout of just over 14"

This season saw trout between 8" - 12" from the pool on #18 - #22 parachute dries.

It will be an early destination as soon as March '09 arrives, until then I can reflect on the good days of this Summer. Thanks to Cal for capturing my endeavours for future enjoyment. Here he is demonstraing his relaxed roll casting style a little further downstream.

He showed me up on this pool, catching three wild, trout using his proven method of a #16 Black Pennel, fished down and across. He's a wee star...

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Sexyloops Flyswap 2009

I've just entered my first fly swap. The idea's simple enough, a set number of tiers (40 in this case) each tie a set number of identical flies and then each contributor receives one of each submission. Deadline in this case is 14th February 2009.

This is quite an undertaking for me, in terms of time and materials. With eight down, and 32 to go there remains much to do, but I've started early and will be done in advance of Christmas.
I started by preparing most of the materials, enough to tie the first half any how. I've to order extra turkey biot and another box of hooks, but the plan is going well so far.

Another issue is fly selection. There is a broad range of tiers and fishers involved, so I decided my usual style of small, simple stuff may not actually be that useful to most contributors, and I want every contributor to catch fish with my submission. So I've begun tying forty #16 Klinkhammers, each with a mylar ribbed, turkey biot body - a proven fish taker. The addition of a mylar rib adds another 45 seconds to each fly, but the effect is worth it. Peacock glister dubbing also provides a resilient thorax so each fly can take more than one fish. Size 16 is probably a mid-range size for many, small for some and massive by my fishing standards.

The recipe is:

Hook: Partidge 15BN Klinkhammer size 16
Thread: Uni-thread 6/0 olive
Body: Natural turkey biot
Rib: Micro crystal flash (unwind as you wrap to make flay)
Thorax: Peacock glister dubbing
Wing-post: Niche Products siliconised polypropylene yarn (grey)
Hackle: Metz #2 saddle, grizzly

I'm looking forward to seeing what Roy Christie and Marc Fauvet submit.

I'll post another picture when I'm all done...

Friday, 7 November 2008

Fade To Black

See also "Fade To Black" on Blackwiz Records, Brooklyn, NY (BWR9601) a Sandy Riviera production and now a rare, classic. Nothing did, or will ever sound this good on the right night, in the right company and on a killer system...

The last trip of the season is always a time for reflection, and October 18th upheld this tradition perfectly. It was a day to rediscover the magic of the season's adventures, on familiar water with trusted tackle and approach. I heard a John Gierach interview recently where he said something along the lines of, "as fly fisherman, we believe our sport is deeply meaningful. Until that is, we try to describe why it is deeply meaningful, and then it simply becomes fly fishing again..." These sentiments resonate with me.

The day started on the upper reaches of the R. Bush, a mere 3 or 4 miles from home. I know this water well, where the trout are and how to seduce them. I am never in a rush with so much natural beauty surrounding me and it was good to take the time to absorb the early morning scene, as the sun rose, with the half moon still looming in the morning sky.

First off, I sat and watched as a pod of trout, maybe a dozen or so strong I guess, sipped at the surface below a low hanging branch, in smooth, steady water. I love this pool because it demands higher standards of presentation from me than the faster, broken water elsewhere. With a DT2F, 9' leader and #20 black/pink klinkhammer fishing form a low stoop at the tip of the gravel bar, I was able to take four trout between 9" and 12" by working from the edge of the feeding zone to just below the low hanging branch. Keeping the rod low and applying firm side pressure, it is possible to hustle your catch away without breaking the surface.

These trout are amazing. The peaty water, and over grown bankside vegetation has dulled their colouration, such that as they are released, their black backs seem to evaporate in to the water, very different to the golden, buttery trout of the more open pools downstream.

With trout still rising freely, I moved upstream to darker, more overgrown water that holds an almost eery quality. This is an old river, much diminished in size since the building on the Altnahinch dam during the 1960's. Even in high water, the bones of this once large river are exposed and it's now stream status adds to a sense of history.

It was time to change tactics, to move in closer and get in among the trout. Uplining to a DT3F and 7' leader gives more control at short range. As the trees close in around you, the value of garish, but highly effective florescent wing posts is proven. With little surface activity, I stood thigh deep in cold, dark water and considered my next move. Along the far bank, and less then 20' away, the current slicked past more low hanging trees. Releasing line to carry the fly downstream enabled me to roll cast on target and as the fly, another #20 black/pink klinkhammer landed, a darkened 10" trout immediately struck. I have never experienced this before, a first cast in to a pool resulting in a fish, and it was thrilling.

For over an hour, the sport was thick and fast. On two occasions, having lost sight of the fly, I raised the rod to find a trout had taken my fly. Fishing in such tight quarters is never easy, and I estimate I lost maybe six of my neatest, prettiest tiny flies in the process. But hey, I have an entire closed season ahead of me to refill the box.

Again moving upstream, this was the scene as I emerged from the darkness in to the warmth of an early Autumn morning.

Just beyond the right-hand bend above is this wonderful, pacy pool. For the first time this season, I fished a tiny biot-bodied nymph and enjoyed three hook-ups, none of which I netted. In lower water, this is a wonderful dry fly pool as the current bounces over the shallows and trout can be taken in little more then 6" of depth on tiny parachutes, ants and beetles.

The morning ended about a mile from where it started, with more missed strikes and maybe half a dozen more trout up to just over 12". It was possible to get close-in, maybe 12' below the sun-bathed tree (below), and pick off trout as the current pulled and turned.

I returned home to fresh eggs for breakfast and an appreciation that the season was nearly over. At 17:15 I realised I had maybe 90 minutes of sensible daylight left and suggested to Nic that this really was my last chance to get on the water. Her raised eyebrow suggested Nic never had any intention of denying me...

At 18:20 I stood knee-deep in Roy's tiny burn, the scene of so much pure magic throughout the season. At 18:20 something substantial lunged at my #22 all-black dry but was never hooked. Moving steadily upstream through these familiar pools brought numerous, lightning fast strikes and maybe half a dozen hook-ups. The closest I got to catching a trout was in the last pool of the season, as a 6" golden trout skimmed across my palm before disappearing forever.

High water on the burn after heavy rain during the previous week, at normal levels this is a series of beautiful pools and runs, gliding between the rocks and weed growth
and a mere 8 - 12' wide. The trout are still there, but they have lessons to teach me this evening.

At 19:40, in failing light the season ended for me. There was a strange poetry in the failure to catch during this last short, session. During the preceding months I had enjoyed good, regular sport, and returning home my respect for these wild, small stream trout was crystallised. And so was the sense that this style of fly fishing, short rods, ultra-light lines and tiny flies is about as good as it gets. It is something so deeply meaningful to me that I will not diminish it by trying to explain why this is so....

Thanks again to the guardian, Roy Christie and the dude-in-the-stream, Marc Fauvet for the magic times this season.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Tiny nymphs and peccary klinks...

With a report on this season last trip still to write, here is more fly tying, an activity that will fill the long, dark Winter evenings ahead.
I got a good deal this Summer on a couple of packs of Partridge K1A Vince Marinaro midge hooks. These are true small fly hooks, designed specifically for this application with an off-set bend to aid success. At this scale, I at least have limited options but the biot-bodied nymphs below is a cynch to tie and makes for a real pretty fly. A little micro Krystal flash for a tail adds all important flash at this scale. This is a #26, as small as I dare go (the eyes are still recovering...)

I have only very recently discovered peccary, via Peter Smith at Niche Products. This course, barred bristle makes amazing, segmented bodies and is very strong to make for confident tying. A new addition is the minimal trailing shuck to serve as an a additional trigger. Another Niche product.

What self-respecting trout would refuse this fly? I'll have to wait to at least 1st March 09 to find out, but my money is on this being a killer...

For more information about Niche products range of fly tying materials please visit and feel free to contact Peter Smith by telephone or email (details on his site) for first class advice and service. He is very particular about the materials offered, so be assured of the very best quality available and advice based on over 35 years fly tying experience.

Final fishing report of the season to follow, Fade To Black...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Getting it out there: Pt 1

An earlier post described time spent in S. France earlier this year, with Marc Fauvet AKA dude on the stream. I really like this guy, he's warm, witty, intelligent and I count him as a friend. He's also a deadly caster and fly fisher, so there's always lot's to learn from him. Marc has written the following post, the first of two pieces where he introduces his insights and shares valuable wisdom for success on small water.

We'll post Pt 2 at some point in the future, until then enjoy his writing and check-out to view Marc's blog.

Oh, and don't be put off by the pink text, trout like pink and that's what matters...

Getting it out there...

Part 1- the approach

Probably the biggest reason that holds back many anglers from fishing these little streams is the lack of 'normal' casting space. Basically, what we have are obstacles all around us in one way or another, and if we want to present our fly correctly without getting it tangled or stuck into something at every cast, it will be a matter of adapting and using the available space that we do have.

Here, I'll try to point out a few casting techniques on getting the fly out there to the fish but also suggestions on small waters equipment and approach tactics that might help bring back the fun factor in these situations.

If you are used to fishing in wide-open spaces the first thing to do is to adopt a different mental approach and analysis to each situation. Fish in these streams rarely move around much and prefer to keep to areas that funnel food towards them and where they also feel safe.
This means we have a lot of time to decide on the best possible strategy to use in that particular situation.

In these situations the first decision I take is to decide exactly where I think a good presentation will be possible from without being noticed by the fish. The actual cast needed will be decided once the actual fishing position is reached as the perspectives from where I first saw the fish and the one where the cast will be made may differ greatly. This is where having a good repertoire of casts comes handy.

Will I be able to cast without lining the fish ?
Do I need to cast over the shoulder or deliver on the back-cast ?
There's a rock between me and the fish. can i throw a curve mend around it ?
There's different currents going on. Can I deal with this without inducing unwanted drag ?

Those are just a few of the many possibilities that will come up in a
day's fishing. I find that they come up at each cast. I also find that that's what makes this kind of fishing so much fun, challenging and rewarding.

Stealth in all its forms are very important in this close proximity activity.

Camouflaged clothing is ideal. this is a stalk after all. outside of looking cool and being fashionably attractive... , camo clothing breaks up the human silhouette and enable to blend in with the environing foliage. Fishes are always on the look-out for predators and even if we put them back after having caught them, they don't know this and consider us as deadly predators. we do need to move but the fish's perception of our movements will not be as apparent compared to a
'block' of solid color. even if that block is of a subdued color. look into a wooded
area and squint. you'll notice that there are no solid
geometric blocks of one single color.
Another great advantage to camo clothing is that it enables you to eat chocolate like a pig with no-one being the wiser !

Rod flash is a big no-no and all of my rods have had a fine steel wool treatment. No need to dig in, just a thorough sanding of the top layer of varnish makes a big difference and does not affect its performance, durability or warranty coverage in any way. watch an angler who hasn't done this from far away. all you'll see is big streaks of flashing light. Fish don't like this at all and it's one of the best ways to put them down.
As a side line, my Sage TCRs that had a shiny dried blood color now look like sanded wood. Pretty cool.

Some people believe that the flyline's color is equally important and should also be subdued. I don't, as I believe that the line should never be visible to the fish in the first place, whether its in the air or on the water. I find it more important to know exactly where it is and what it is doing at all moments by being able to see it.
A 'natural' or darker colored line will blend in better with its surroundings in the air but will appear as a dark silhouette on the water's surface when seen from below and inversely for a lighter, more visible (to us) line. you chose.

We do need to move to be able to fish but those movements need to be as subtle and as slow as possible. as noted earlier, this kind of fishing should be considered a stalk. Vibrations that reach the fish emanate from walking on the bank or in the water. studded soles can make scratching sounds underwater. hitting or making stones roll around while wading will have the same effect. talking loudly to a friend can be heard under water. rushing through the water causes ripples that
propagate throughout the surface. As Roy Christie points out, an angler moving upstream should be going slow enough so that the ripples that are created don't push up against the current. That's pretty slow, specially in calm waters.
It's always good to remember that senses under water are the same as the senses above water. Specially when one considers that the fish are in their own environment and that most animal's senses are stronger than ours.

Theses notions will of course apply to all water systems but the confined nature of tiny streams oblige us to be even more aware of all elements involved.

Next time I'll talk about specific equipment such as leaders, lines, rods and of course casting in these little streams.

Marc Fauvet

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Leaky waders

I'm a hip wader kind of guy, part due to limited budget, and part because they are cheap and do the job. Sure, there is the odd occasion when I could do with an extra 6" of wading depth, but it never gets in the way of a good days fishing. I've been looking at chest waders recently - and I'm not convinced breathables would work out well on the brushy, thorny streams I hang out on. Neoprene may offer greater resilience, but may prove impractical during the warmer months. And as I said, budgets are always limited, so best to make do with what I have.

And what I have is a two year old pair of green, rubber hip waders. They offer good protection when dragging myself through brambles, at least around the legs, they're not too warm in the summer, or too cold during the winter as long as appropriate socks are worn. They also offer good hand warming properties when required, by sliding your hands inside the thigh cuff.

All sounds pretty good, then. But for the leaky right foot...

The right foot has leaked for as long as I can remember, and I don't think I'm imagining it but, the leak is getting worse. So here's the thing. I know the right foot leaks, and I'm aware at the beginning of each fishing trip that it will end with a wet right foot. And yet, it has never got in the way of the fishing, in fact, whilst "in the act" I am largely oblivious to the slow and relentless ingress of water, even during the cooler Autumn months.

Thing is, this leak is not going to miraculously cure itself, and despite numerous attempts, I have yet to identify the source of the leak. So, what to do? I may have to bite the bullet, and get some new waders, but this isn't a priority with only days remaining of the season.

This situation is at status - marginal dilemma; I probably shouldn't wait until this becomes status - crisis although I have no idea what constitutes a wader crisis.

Rest assured, I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

One-cent emerger

For a blog that claims to cover all aspects of ultra-light fly fishing, there has been a bias towards flies and fly tying recently. The explanation is simple, I have spent more time tying flies than fishing them this season. High hopes for a dryer September have not materialised as yet, with regular, heavy rainfall and even a few sleet showers.

The climate is changing, with increasingly unpredictable and at times, violent force. We can expect the future to be colder and wetter here in Northern Ireland, the environmental, economic, and social consequences of which remain uncertain.

I don't mind fishing in apalling weather, but safety is an issue on these spate rivers. And there is always good reading to be done in front of an open fire with a dram. More about reading on a future post.

It is always difficult to communicate the size of small flies through a medium like this. Just how small is small? And when does small become tiny? I don't know if this helps any, but I mounted a recent tie on a 1 cent coin, to provide some perspective. And so the one-cent emerger was christened...

This tiny black gnat is tied on a Partridge "Vince Marinaro" midge hook, #24
It's as small as I dare go at present, and makes good use of the last 2 inches or so of the Whiting 100's saddle feathers. It is a simple, if fiddly tie on account of it's size. Catch in half a dozen black hackle fibres to form a tail, form a body with 14/0 black thread, catch in the hackle and make 4 neat turns progressing towards the eye, whip finish!

I have yet to fish the half dozen I have prepared, but imagine it might prove useful in late evening, fished at close range when clouds of the naturals swarm just above the water's surface, and small trout snatch at the unforunates who, on account of their small size, fly too close and become trapped in the surface film.

I just need a warm, late summer evening, following a dry spell to put theory in to practice...

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

A bigger fly...

A common theme in the flies I tie is a segmented body. The neatest way to achieve this is the use of biot, the inner filaments on goose and turkey quills. Goose biots are easy to source, but they tend to be short and a little brittle. They are easier to work with if soaked in water for 10mins before use. In terms of handling, a small hackle plier makes life easier.

Turkey biots are longer and wider, so ideal for larger patterns. I've only just received a pack (from Cookshill Fly Tying), so experimentation is at an early stage. More to follow...

Hook: Partridge Klinkhammer #16 (other curved shank patterns work well too)
Thread: Uni 6/0 in claret
Body: Natural turkey biot, tied with "notch" facing in, nut brown artist's ink added to colour fringe.
Wing-post: TMC Dry Aero Wing
Throax: Peacock glister dubbing
Hackle: Grizzly from #2 Metz saddle

The thread is taken just beyond the start of the body and a couple of mm's added before the wing-post starts. This adds all-important triggers to the design.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Well dressed

There is very little point starting out tying flies with quality materials. A good vice and tools, certainly. But those first few attempts may well be disastrous and it would be a shame to waste expensive materials in the process. It's worth investing in decent thread, the tension applied during tying is key to success.

Among the most expensive of materials is good quality hackle, especially if tying dries. But quality here, once the basic skills are aquired is imperative.

I started out tying with a #2 Metz neck, which has small but short and webby feathers and is now used for tying wets. Then a #2 Metz cape was added ideally for #16 - #22 dries. The feather quality is OK but most of the hackles are in the #10 - #14 range. I managed about 35 hackles of a suitable size, so not a good return on £19.

In the absence of a big budget, I have just picked up a Whiting "100's" pack. This is just that, individual saddle feathers, graded and selected in a specific size, #18 in this case. Wow, what a difference good quality materials make! The feathers have dense, stiff, pristine barbs with consistent length throughout the feather. This quality immediately elevates the fly, particularly smaller patterns.

Hook: TMC200R
Thread: 8/0 black
Body: Natural goose biot
Wing: TMA Areo Dry Wing fl. pink
Thorax: Sperfine poly dub, black
Hackle: see above, black

No going back, I'll report on how they fish as soon as water levels return to "status - fishable"...

Thursday, 7 August 2008

CDC Sedge

During a recent morning on the burn with Roy Christie and his partner Julie, I was shown the myriad fauna that live in this tiny water. While my standard biot-bodied parachutes and emerger patterns are proven fish takers, it was fascinating to observe the broader range of patterns I could be fishing with the potential for equal, maybe greater success.

There are numerous approaches to tying sedge (caddis) patterns. Deer hair is great in #10 - #14 sizes, but less so when you go small - too much bulk. A good approach seems to be CDC feathers. The pattern shown below has yet to be fished, heavy rain for a week has left waters high and coloured. But I am hopeful this should take a few trout on the burn when conditions improve.

Hook: Kamasan B100 #16
Thread: Brown 8/0
Body: 3 pheasant tail fibres
Rib: Brown thread
Wing: 2 brown, 1 white & 1 pink CDC feathers
Antennae: Pheasant tail fibres

The pink and white feathers top-side are more for visibility on the water, with the brown providing a more natural underside.

And here's the inspiration, the shrimp will follow shortly...

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Small flies

The explosion in small fly fishing Stateside has been in response to the increasingly picky feeding behaviour of trout on heavily fished water. And yet this approach is taking off in the UK, possibly in the absence of absolute necessity. If you ever tied and/or fished small flies (say, #18 and smaller) it isn't hard to understand why. There is a magical charm when fishing at this scale.

On most typical days, a decent presentation of a #14 or #12 and possibly a #10 Adams parachute will catch trout on the waters I fish. Flies of this size are easy to tie, easy to tie to tippet and a lot easier to see on the water. And yet, I only ever fish #18 and smaller, with all the extra hassle that goes with scaling down.

The following are this season's fish fetchers, each with a track record of success...

Flashback PTN on #20 Fulling Mill Super Midge can be fished alone or trailing a surface dry NZ-style.

Foam beetle on #19 TMC 102Y, deadly fished in high summer under overgrown bankside vegetation. Gink the peacock herl underside and this will float all day, aided by closed-cell foam body. Krystalflash legs provide an additional trigger point.

Biot-bodies parachute on #21 TMC 102Y. The variations of this pattern are almost infinite by changing body, thorax, hackle and wingpost. I have tied a few all white with grey thorax to imitate small moths at sundown. Watch out for airborn bats at dusk.

Biot-bodied tiny knlinkhammer on #22 TMC 200R, this seasons go-to fly.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

What we did on our holidays

(see also Fairport Convention's second album released 1969 on A&M Records)

April 2008, and the five of us head to Lagrasse in S. France for our first family holiday abroad together. Leaving home at 04:00 to catch a bus from Belfast to Dublin, we stop via Newry and stare at the Newry Canal. In recent years, this waterway has attracted a new breed of fly fishers - those after pike on the fly. Traditional streamers and lures are known pike catchers, increasingly they are taken on the dry fly. Whatever the method, this sounds like thrilling sport. Lean, predatory and athletic, I can only try to imagine the buzz of taking a pike on the fly.

The main objective of the holiday is to relax, eat and drink well and get out and about a bit together. But also to fish a little.

I had the opportunity, well the pleasure to meet up with Marc "La Mouche"Fauvet, a local fly fisher, fly tyer and casting guru. He'll blush when he reads this, but hey, I was impressed.

The day started with some coffee at the house, well, we were in France. There was croissants too... We then headed out of town towards the mountains, parking up and heading to the waterside. This was a welcome sight, small water and brushy. I was keen to pass Marc my 7' 2wt rod to see what it could do in experienced hands. I had always assumed such ultra-light gear was limited in terms of casting. Marc was in the water, behind him a narrow slither between branches and brush as he expertly aerialised 30' of line with fast and tight loops. No snagging going on here, just total line control and the ability to alight a dry fly on to the water's surface with complete finesse.
Dude on the stream...

Yeah, I was real impressed....

No wonder then that Marc completed and passed the FFFCCI exam in Germany a couple of weeks later.

We saw a few trout, I spooked them and didn't catch any. Strangely, the day was more about fishing, the landscape and the company than fish, if you get my drift. The conversation was amusing and intelligent, the company warm and thoroughly enjoyable.

Next time, we'll get serious about the fish. Marc knows this water well and would make a first class guide if you find yourself in the Aude/Lagrasse/Carcassonne area in need of some fly fishing or casting tuition. Untill then, I'll keep playing my Fairport Convention album and remember what we did on our holidays...

Marc's details are:

Marc Fauvet

Federation of Fly Fishers-Certified Casting Instructor
Comision National de Lanzado (Spain) -Master de Lanzado

Based in the French Pyrenees, south of Carcassonne, I offer casting courses for beginners, intermediate and advanced fly fishers in English or French.
Guiding services on local waters are possible as well.

marcfauvet at yahoo dot com
phone- (33) 468 69 62 83

Back In Ireland

from "The Longest Silence - a life in fishing"
Thomas McGuane

'The fish I caught were all around two pounds apiece. I don't remember ever catching stronger, wilder, more violent or wanton fighters than these fish. They were vividly leopard-marked with short, hard bodies. They wore me out with their valour.'

Monday, 2 June 2008

Scale down

Waters remain low. Unless there is rain in the next week or so, levels will be very low and the nature of the fishing will change dramatically. Fish will retreat to wherever there is sufficient depth, gloomy pools and undercut banks. Such habitat is usually patrolled by larger trout, but more fish are likely to take refuge as conditions change.

I welcome whatever conditions I find. Things are getting more challenging though, and the bumper month of May is now over, so the season moves in to a different phase; time to get technical.

This is what ultra-light fishing is all about. Where a couple of weeks ago, trout were lining up to strike at modest size, flashy flies, now a more technical approach is required. And by technical, I mean smaller flies, presented on lighter tippet with greater finesse.

Sunday evening and a couple of hours on the water. It had been a hot day, with occasional, gusty breezes. As evening approached, temperatures dropped a couple of degrees and there is cloud cover. There is limited insect life on the water, and the flows are weaker with low, clear water. For almost an hour, searching pockets, runs and riffles with the flies that had brought so much sport the week before, there is little action. Half a dozen strikes, and these are not as determined or committed as before. And yet there are trout in the usual places.

I understand hard conditions. Learning to fish the canals of the English Midlands in the early eighties has served me well. These waters had suffered industry for decades, and fish populations, mainly roach, gudgeon, dace and the odd skimmer, were small. Matches were won and lost by the dram and total catches were often measured in ounces rather than pounds. Such conditions demand a light approach to tackle, feeding and presentation. This has always been my comfort zone, and also my sweet spot - where my fishing is executed most naturally and intuitively.

I'd promised to be home "in less than a couple of hours", and so it was time to tune in to the conditions and fish properly. After an hour of flogging the water, a rethink would also rest the stream. It was time to scale down.

First up, the existing 6x tippet was clipped at 6" and 30" of 7x tippet added to give an overall leader length of nearly 10', longer than practical on most of the brushy streams and burns I fish, but in low water, things have opened up and I can back-cast maybe 25-30 feet.

Next I added a #22 quill bodied klinkhammer. The key here is the hook, a TMC 200R, which is closer to a standard size 22 hook, unlike the greatly oversized Patridge Klinkhammer Extreme range of hooks.

Conventional Klinkhammer theory relies on this oversized fly to shock trout in to opportunistic feeding, providing an obvious differential to natural food prey. The TMC hooks enable the all-important scale-down, even with emergent, parachute style dressings. Similarly, the flash of mylar ribbed, tri-banded dubbing is replaced with a quill bodied dressing to convincingly represent a natural, segmented body. It's not that these fish are particularly spooky, more they are feeding less voraciously and with added caution in low water. The 7x tippet is degreased, the new fly ginked, scale-down complete...

Success in fishing relies as much on one's confidence in approach as any other variable, and making the first cast post scale-down just feels so right.

The first cast in to a jostling riffle, between rocks and weed brings a trout up. He misses, as the fly accelerates away in the current. Next cast, slightly further upstream and a positive strike leads to a hook-up and a 9" wild brown trout.

And I stop fishing right there, as if to make a point.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Trout bum

"A friend once asked, 'How come a guy who dresses in rags and drives a smoky old pick-up can afford such snazzy tackle?'

"... It should be obvious."

John Gierach

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Hei kona ra

I work for a London based firm, from a satelite office in NI. During my round of office goodbye's, at the end of a trip earlier this year, a colleague announced that she was leaving the firm to return to NZ. In passing, I mentioned that NZ was one of the top trout destinations on my wish-list, unaware of our shared passion for FF and trout.

We have kept in touch on this issue, and I hope one day to take advantage of the kind offer of NZ hospitality. The following extract is Lynne's take on fishing her home waters:

So trout fishing in New Zealand. I can rave about doubt the fishing magazines do. The landscape is gorgeous. There is lots of good water and, generally, not many fishers. The fish are large! The browns are as wily as ever.

I live in Wellington (bottom of the North Island), where there is some nice trout fishing on the Hutt River and its tributaries. I've not fished that water though.

I have fished around Lake Taupo (middle of the North Island) simply because that is where I used to go for holidays. My favourite rivers there are:

-the Tongariro; big water and big trout (rainbows) also lots of fishers.
Zane Grey country.
-the Tauranga Taupo; lovely quiet water, nice fish with a splendid sense of being by yourself. In the upper reaches (read hiking access only) lively native forest and beautiful pools.
I'm certain the other smaller rivers that flow into Lake Taupo would be as equally delightful; I've never fished them.

If you're after browns you'll need to look further than Taupo. I'm told the Mataura River in Southland (bottom of the South Island) is the place for big browns. Having done some hiking around that part of the South Island, I think you'd be spoilt for choice: there are so many beautiful rivers and streams there.

If you're short of time, I think that it might be worth investigating using a guide to start with simply to get access to local knowledge and to learn about the rivers. I suspect many of the good fishing spots might need a 4 wheel drive and the blessing of the local landowner to get access.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Bigger fish

I've said elsewhere, that the '08 - '09 season has had a slow start. Heavy rain through March and much of April left waters high and coloured. High water's not a problem, there's good high-sticking sport to be had, but coloured water pretty much kills the game.

So I have taken full advantage of the warm spell and low, clear waters on local streams and burns. But things are different this season.

I spent a lot of time studying over the Winter months; Ed Engle and Vincent Marinaro texts especially, and tying small flies. Ed Engle talks at length about keeping things simple, putting as little as possible between you and the trout. Marinaro is the mad scientist of fly fishing; theory and observation intertwined with oracle-like truth. I've taken this stuff to heart. Fishing has become a more intuitive pursuit.

I spent a couple of hours on Saturday, refining the #20 klinkhammers, that have proved so effective this month. The body is a little leaner, the wing post finer but a little taller and the ribbing more uniform. The trout don't give a damn; the more each fly catches, so the scruffier the fly becomes and the more appealing to fish (this is evidenced by the increasing strike-rate over time I've observed on every session this year). And yet each refinement, tweak and subtle modification translates in to sharper focus on the water, a stronger sense of there being less between the trout and me.

I got an hour on the water yesterday. After half a dozen smaller fish, a stunning wild brown trout was taken in 10" of water, at the head of a narrow channel. It's dorsal fin was visible as it snatched surface flies from the accelerating current, lost a little ground in the flow and then resumed position. Only a couple of feet downstream, in calmer water, there were numerous smaller trout ranging between 8" - 10", easier to pick off from a wider feeding area. To reach the head of the channel required a cast directly between two banks of weed, among rocks and boulders, before the current caught the fly and carried it overhead. I didn't attempt this immediately, preferring to get in to the swing of things with a few fish.

It took three casts to induce a strike, the first two just edging up the channel towards the largest fish in the pod. The strike was sensed before it came, more intuition.

This is a large trout for the waters I fish, maybe not the largest out there, but this is a GOOD fish at just short of 14".
(If you have a 17" screen, click on the image to see an actual size image. This is a beautiful, wild fish...)

It was also the first wild brown trout our youngest son had ever seen, and he hasn't stopped talking about it.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

The opportunist

How to spend your lunch-break...?

It's widely recognised that wild trout are opportunist feeders. Where food is plentiful (and water quality good, the two are intrinsically linked), they flourish in numbers, so increasing competitive pressure for food resources. Where food is scarce, numbers are more limited. In either case, trout exhibit an opportunist approach to feeding - a basic survival mechanism. Fly fishing for trout is all the more productive for this fishy instinct, more so on lightly fished waters.

I spend significantly more time thinking and dreaming about fishing, reading about fishing and tying flies than actually fishing. That's life. Maybe once or twice in a season, I will spend a whole day on the water; setting off at sunrise and walking, fishing, lunching and absorbing the landscape all day, returning home at dusk to relax with a large, often very large malt.

The norm is to catch a couple of hours here and there, maybe 3 or 4 on a good day. In order to max out my time on the water, I too have become an opportunist. Last Thursday, it was a very warm, late Spring morning as I worked at the home office, getting on with business. It has been a couple of weeks since the last heavy rainfall, local waters are ideal, a little low and clear. It was easy to become distracted, imagining medium olives, swarms of gnats and the odd hawthorn fly bringing fish up.

I'd been working since before 08:00, eating fruit and some nuts as I went and could skip lunch, go fishing for an hour (or so) and fill-up on more fruit mid-afternoon. This was highly measured opportunism, it was one of those days when you know the fishing will be memorable, if short-lived. It became impossible to concentrate on business...

There is amazing, lightly fished water within a couple of miles of home. On arrival, I sat below the bridge pictured to tackle-up. All around, upstream and downstream were trout rising, sipping at the occasional medium olive and vast swarms of gnats. At times there were multiple rises at once, the entire surface of water disturbed by feeding trout.

The road sign has been submerged since last Christmas, during roadworks in the village. I think it lasted about two nights before being tossed in the river. There are also wheelbarrows, shopping trolleys (predictably...), cable drums and a few bike frames.

I've often considered clearing the river of this debris, maybe even getting some of the local kids engaged in caring for the river. Age has made me cynical, any demonstration of care for the river would likely increase it's abuse, so I keep a low profile and only fish when the kids are at school or zoned out on PS2 at home in the evening. And so I never fish the river on a Friday night, when the adjacent park fills up with teenagers and cheap lager.

The fishing was simply fantastic. In such still conditions, it was possible to place the DT2F line with pin-point accuracy over individual fish, just upstream of the rise and watch as the fly was snatched from the surface.

Sure, I missed a few, always do but fish after fish was brought to hand, most unhooked in the water and released within seconds. I even stopped fishing for some 10-15 minutes and observed as the water around me filled with trout, ranging from 4" to, I estimate nearly 14". Standing motionless, they would swim between my legs, oblivious to my living presence. As I moved to fish one last run, the water exploded in to chaos, trout darting in all directions.

The last 20 minutes was thrilling fishing. Dropping a fly in to the head of the central run pictured above, produced a strike to every second cast, resulting in 6 fish, each one 10 - 12". They must have been lined up in numbers, picking off insect life as the current hustled through the submerged gravel channel. Keeping the rod low and applying side pressure swiftly drew hooked fish away from the feeding shoal and kept the strikes coming.

I think I was away for about 90 minutes, it was easy to get back to business.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Small stream tactics by Roy Christie

Roy Christie has been fishing since the age of 5, and has caught trout across the globe. He is also a fisher of small streams and an innovator of fly design. As early as 1968, he was tying his reversed parachute emerger, a unique design in that the leader is submerged for impeccable presentation. Some of his designs and a short biography can be viewed by following the link below:

The following piece was written by Roy some years ago, and captures brilliantly his approach to successful small stream tactics. I have followed this valuable advice, and caught trout because of it.

When fishing a small stream, I'd be using a tapered leader of about six - seven feet with a foot or two of tippet, if there's room for that - minimum about seven feet. Tippet as fine as the fish require, 3 pound should do; it's pretty safe unless there are big fish in there. At the same time, if they are not shy, fish as heavy as you can, thus you will spend more time fishing and less time retrieving your flies or tying on new ones.

Forget overhead casting - rolling and sidecasting is the order of the day. As you are coming at them from their blind spot, you should be able to watch them closely.

Be prepared to go down to 22's or 24's in low flows and degrease the tippet for a foot back from the fly on dries.

When you are wading make sure that you do not push any water forward at the fish from off your waders, that means you are going upstream at a slower pace than the flow coming down.

Stealth is the answer.

If the stream consists of pools and rapids, I'd fish every pool from the neck of the lower pool - that lets you avoid pushing water and keeps your profile low.

Play the fish by watching its head and if it wants line, give it some leeway- then the minute it turns sideways haul it in on a really low rod so that it is discouraged from leaping, that way you should be able to take fish without scaring its pals. Every time you catch a fish, rest the pool until you see three more rises. Then they have their false sense of security restored.

Avoid false casting - even with a side cast - in any position where the line or leader may cross over any fish. Take out the fish at the rear of any pool before trying for the fish further up, that way you won't spook the pod. Release the fish into the pool behind you, you will see him come back up a couple of minutes later. He will re-enter the pool naturally, rather than rush in. Play them really softly so they don't run, just wait for them to turn, then 'encourage' them to your hand/net very firmly.

When you hook up, play the fish with your rod down to your side. You should be fishing at three rod lengths or so, so overline the rod by one or two weights. Don't move your body, just your arms. Be a very slow robot. Anything under a pound is a doddle. Bigger fish are worth spooking the pool for. When casting, try to do so when the fish is looking the other way.

For your first couple of trips try to see how close you can get to your target, if they spook, stay really still until they resume feeding. Watch and wait; you should get a fish every other cast.. i.e. one every two or three minutes in a good hatch.

Unless it is wooded, you need to camouflage to appear like a piece of sky. Light grey/blue should still work and let you get really close... It works for herons.

Thanks for permission to post this, Roy.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The art of stalking

(see also Suburban Knight, Transmat Records, 1996)

It's often said that big trout didn't get that way by being easy to fool with an artificial fly. That's true, but even small trout, say 4-6" have likely kept safe for a couple of years just to reach that size.

Part of the draw to small rivers and tiny streams is the art of stalking. I'm not referring to stalking large, stocked fish in a managed fishery in crystal clear water, but the pursuit of wild trout in their natural habitat.

Before you even first cast a line on to the water, the anticipation and excitement builds. First you have to locate your quarry, or at least identify a likely looking spot. Maybe this is made obvious, a splashy rise or a visible silhouette, but often you have little to work with but for experience and instinct, honed and hopefully sharp.

The approach is key; slow, low and deliberate movements as you approach the waters edge and always downstream of your quarry. Never rush the approach, and take in every sight and smell as you go. These marsh marigolds provided colourful cover, why rush with all this going on around you?

On a still day, the sound of water weaving lightly though the landscape can hypnotize, clearing the mind of day-to-day junk. In my experience, a days fishing in this environment is almost the equivalent of a weeks annual leave doing other stuff... If you can only grab a couple of hours fishing in the evening, think of the cumulative benefit as if you had taken a long weekend.

Take the time to plan your first cast, get it wrong and it may be your last on that section so again, there's no need to hurry.

Tackle up well away from the waters edge, still thinking through every step of your approach.

Fish on... fish off, and chances are, that's your lot for the evening. Fishing tiny streams can be as harsh as that, such is the fragility of small, quiet water and it's wild trout.

Over an hour of careful preparation, approach and total focus, followed by mere seconds of contact before the line relaxes and the fish is lost. There is no disappointment, just the slow ebb of spent adrenalin and the last, luckless cast of the session.

Another magical evening on the burn.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Small stream mantra...

"... let me introduce an idea - just something to kick around: Maybe your stature as a fly fisherman isn't determined by how big a trout you can catch, but by how small a trout you can catch without being disappointed, and, of course, without losing the faith that there's a bigger one in there." -

John Gierach, in Fly Fishing Small Streams.

First trout of the season

Finally got a few quiet hours to get the season underway last night. The weather has kept water levels high and very coloured for almost two months and the few sessions to date have been more an opportunity for Cal (our 11yr old son) to fish.

This wee burn is only three miles from home, and it's fantastic condition has a lot to do with the hard work of a young Roy Christie, some years ago.

Started off fishing a #20 klinkhammer with a trailing nymph. This was a disaster. There are long channels of weed and getting a snag-free drift with two flies was near impossible, so nipped off the nymph to focus on the dry.

For the next hour, moving slowly upsteam there was a constant stream of lightning fast strikes, none of which I connected with. This burn must be full of fish, there were strikes in every section.

Finally connected with a 9" trout as the sun set, along the undercut bank in the picture below, always thrilling on light lines. I was fishing alone and keen to get a picture, and the fish was safely returned.

First trout of many from this burn for sure, and the first with a home-tied klinkhammer. There are also 3 or 4 wraps of the milar ribbing at the bend of the hook to act as an additional trigger.

Leader was also home-made: butt comprising 2' of 10lb, 18" of 8lb and 12" of 6lb with 8" and 6" of 5lb and 4 lb respectively and 2' 7x tippet.

Horses for courses, but this is my fishing nirvana. Small flies, short rods and ultra-light lines on tiny streams in pursuit of wild trout.

Big thanks to Roy for taking the time to talk fish, flies and streams over the last few weeks. Have a couple of (now) proven #20 klinkhammers for you to pick up in the summer.