Friday, 26 December 2014
Friday, 14 November 2014
Nether Wallop Mill, Hampshire, England - Friday November 14th 2014
I have never signed up to the belief that fish have a three second memory. If that was the case how is it that the trout in my lake start to follow me around each morning once I start feeding them over the winter?
They truly do follow me; whether alerted by my shadow or the vibrations of my footfalls I don't know, but they will porpoise along the bank beside me. A few months of this gets them in trim form for an impressive party trick with the fishing school pupils at the start of each season. As we assemble on the bank for the obligatory 'how to catch a fish' demonstration they swim in from all corners of the lake. It really does give you something of a Jesus complex ..... needless to say they are rarely hard to catch, usually first cast, which does no harm for your fishing kudos.
But are fish smart? Most people think not, but as an angler who has been outwitted by a trout on more occasions than I care to remember I have always held to the belief that they must have some brainpower. If not, how thick am I? So it came as something of a relief to read the headline in the papers last week 'New research reveals fish are smarter than we thought'.
Scientists at Bath and Queen Mary Universities have proved that fish have 'parallel visual search'. Apparently that is the ability to pick out one object amongst many whilst ignoring others; a bit like you or me quickly scanning a supermarket shelf for a particular item. It has been assumed for years that fish without the frontal part of the brain in the neocortex were unable do this, instead obliged to examine every item in turn before making a choice.
This confirms, for me at least, much of what I have observed in feeding fish over the years. The activity is rarely random and there are frequently occasions when a particular fish will focus on a particular insect to the exclusion of all others. I'm sure you like me have been in that sort of spot, where a profusion of flies covers the surface but there is only one insect the fish wants to take, and most likely the one you can't identify!
Happily for the egos all of us who have ever been defeated by a feeding fish the co-author of the paper Dr Matthew Parker concludes, 'Fish don't deserve their reputation as the stupid branch of the animal family tree.'
If you wish to read more the paper Parallel Mechanisms for Visual Search in Zebrafish is available on the PLOS ONE academic web site.
The One Fly is back
The River Test One Fly is back for a seventh year on Friday April 24th hosted by kind invitation of Lucy and all the team at The Greyhound on the Test in Stockbridge.
|Grant Harrower with his 2014 winning Daddy Long legs|
For those of you not familiar One Fly it is both at once a celebration of everything great about the chalkstreams with that little element of competition to kick off a new season.
It is not always the easiest fishing day you'll ever have; at 10am you pick a fly and that's the one you fish with for the day. Dry or nymph? Traditional or a bit edgy? Chance a light tippet but risk being broken? These are just some of the choices that might give you pause for thought.
But don't worry you are not alone; all competitors are accompanied by a Fishing Guide who acts as guide, scorer and confidante. We meet for a welcome breakfast with beat draw taking place at The Greyhound. Then it's off to the river for six hours of what I'll wager is one of the most intensive and nerve jangling fishing days you will ever have. Will you win? Who knows until the prizes are handed out over tea at in the late afternoon of the last Friday in April.
In case you are wondering all fish are released; we score by length not weight. If you are interested I have spaces for two teams or if you can't make up a team some individuals. The entry fee is £295 including a contribution to a worthy fishing cause. More details ....
Fly Fishing Film Tour 2015
SPECIAL INVITE: Following the success of last year's first ever screening of the Fly Fishing Film Tour all One Fly participants are invited to the second annual show that features six of the best short films from around the globe. Last year's premiere was a huge hit, so register early as numbers are limited. Guests and non One Fly participants welcome at £15.
Thursday 23rd April. Doors open 6.30pm. Show starts 7pm. The Hatch Room, Grosvenor Hotel, High Street, Stockbridge, SO20 6EU.
Carp on the Fly
Here's a good plan if you are sorting out the family trip for next summer. In my experience any mention of fly fishing goes down badly, with a reaction that involves much sighing, eyes heavenward and comments along the lines of 'can't you forget about your blasted fishing for just two weeks .......' But I'm sure if you innocently mention Portugal nobody will be any the wiser until it is too late.
My only experience of carp on the fly was on a lake within eyeshot and earshot of the M25. Hardly a rural idyll but I still remember it well. With a Bonio fly (looks like a dog biscuit as the name suggests) and under the tutelage of Bob James I was hardly likely to fail and I didn't.
That day has always stuck in my memory, so when the Jose Rodrigues video popped into my inbox, I suspect you like me will be tempted.
Warm sunshine, tranquil lakes, Mediterranean food all just a hundred miles south of Lisbon. I can't vouch for Jose's operation having not visited, but he makes a compelling case.
October feedback draw winner
Well done to Len Armstrong, the final Life of a Chalkstreamwinner for 2014 who fished Mottisfont Abbey on almost the last day of the season in what Len described as 'relentless rain'.
I am promised the Abel hemostats are on their way to me, so as soon as they arrive we'll have the end of season draw.
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Tuesday, 14 October 2014
Thursday, 25 September 2014
Are moose dangerous?
Nether Wallop Mill, Hampshire, England Wednesday September 24th 2014
Quite frankly I had no idea, but the answer apparently is yes. They are rated Canada's most dangerous animal and in continental North America kill more people each year than grizzly bears. As for the one I met I thought it looked quite cute, which is the wrong thing to think. Google 'Are moose dangerous?' and you will find an article entitled '15 cute animals that will kill you'.
|My guide Brian (foreground) with moose (background)|
So on the second day of the One Fly we were out of the boat hiking up a side stream when I found myself separated from the guide and the other angler as I moved upstream towards the most perfect pool. On the opposite bank, looking fairly benign was a massive moose with a huge rack, drinking from the pool. Getting into the river I began to wade up slowly to get the best shot at the pool, at which point the moose spotted me, pawing the stones and emitting this guttural cough cum barking sound.
Having spent years dodging cattle that do much the same, only to back off when confronted I must admit I thought nothing of it and blithely got ready to fish until behind me both the guide and my companion angler (keeping a safe distance) started hissing in my direction, gesticulating that I get out of the river mighty fast. 'Really', I shouted in disbelief. 'Really' they whispered, gesticulating yet more. Reluctantly I edged my way back and we continued upstream giving the moose a mighty wide berth.
Why do I tell you this? Well, naturally I want you to know how intrepid I am but actually it is more of a whinge. When we got back to the pool an hour later, Mr Moose had vanished and having caught three fish of moderate size further upstream, I deferred to my companion who proceeded to haul out four big scoring fish. My guide Brian, who I am sure you will agree from the photo looks every bit as scary as the moose, said I'd been 'a real gentlemen'. I, on the other hand, I wish I'd taken my chances with the moose.
I should not complain really; at 20th out of 171 anglers it was one of my best finishes ever in the One Fly and the Fishing Breaks team was 14th of 40 teams. But as with any angler it was a case of what might have been.........
Another dry fly victory
We have rules for our One Fly here on the River Test; dry fly or nymph, the latter being strictly of the chalkstream imitative type. Lures are banned. In the US version of the competition, streamers, what you and I would call lures, are permitted in addition to both nymph and dry.
|These are the dries; now imagine the streamers ......|
I have fished a streamer on a couple of occasions and it is not an experience I would recommend. Quite frankly it is just damn hard graft. The streamers are big and heavy. You know the sort of thing. A fly that will give you a nasty thwack on the back of the head if you drop the back cast. You truly do have to rip the streamers through the water to imitate a fleeing small fish, scudding through the water as fast as its little fins will carry it. If you have ever watched those fishing shows where the angler jerks a jig back on short spinning rod you will be getting the general idea.
Try doing it for eight solid hours and every bit of you will ache. The first time I used one was when the river was blown out by a landslip, the colour of mushroom soup. I laboured all day without a single take. The second time my boat mate and fellow competitor was a pro guide who was an ace streamer fisherman, who gave me no choice. The problem is that if one of you fishes a streamer, so must the other. Put a streamer in the water and it kills dead the dry fly option and negates effective nymphing; don't forget I'm in a boat 15 feet long and we cast in unison landing our flies just a few feet apart. Effective it was, but mostly for him. Actually it was more than a little depressing as he out fished me five fish to one every hour of the day.
But streamer fishing is effective and therefore popular. It brings out those big fish who love to eat small fish. As the guide screams "Hit that hog!" as some fish looms up fast from the deep you have to strike as if every cutthroat trout was the re-incarnation of orca. For a gentle chalkstream soul like myself this is the culture shocks of all culture shocks, but hey, it is all part of the adventure.
I am not going criticise the use of streamers in the Jackson Hole One Fly; it is just another way of fly fishing in Western USA and was on the scene long before I came along. However the Team Skwala took it into their collective heads to only fish a dry fly this year, defying the sceptics to win the competition outright. I don't know whether they did it as a tribute to Frederick Halford, but in the centenary year that marks his death, I am sure the founding father of modern day dry fly fishing would be rightly proud.
PS For the record I fished a Pheasant Tail Nymph on day one (All hail Frank Sawyer) and a Black Cricket on day two. Full results, more details about the competition and the Jackson Hole Foundation click here.
Whitchurch Fulling Mill for sale
Three time winner of the River Test One Fly Whitchurch Fulling Mill has just come up for sale boasting a beautifully restored 8 bedroom mill, 21 acres and perhaps most importantly extensive fishing on the River Rest.
For those of you who have fished here anytime over the past twelve years you will know this is in every sense of the word classic chalkstream fishing; gin clear, fast flowing, lovely rafts of ranunculus and ideal for sight fishing, especially if you like to wade. It is one of those beats where the wild trout thrive, as do the grayling, So with that three way mixture of the wild, stocked and grayling there is usually always something on the feed.
But there has to be a but; Whitchurch lies close to the A34 so there is the noise from the busy main road to contend with. For more details visit the Strutt & Parker web site.
Alistair Robjent and Kirsty tie the knot
There was quite a gathering of us Hampshire fly fishing types on Saturday when Alistair Robjent and his long-time partner Kirsty married in the church at Wherwell with the reception on the banks of the River Test.
As you might imagine this was a much fishing themed wedding: a mayfly on the front of the order of service. A wedding cake adorned with salmon flies. Many inappropriate references to Alistair's 'catch'. The tables named after famous trout and salmon rivers. And to cap it all Alistair broke off from the photos to grab a rod and catch a trout on, yes you have guessed it, a Robjents Daddy.
Sadly I didn't film the best man's oratory, a peach of a speech themed around the four rules to shopping in Robjents. I precis: 1) Keep your diary free, preferably for a full day if you intend to engage Alistair in conversation 2) Do not mention a certain fishing emporium opposite 3) Don't ask why Robjents don't stock Hunter boots 4) Never, never, never enquire as to the origins on the Robjents Daddy.
Joking aside it was a lovely day and I'm sure you will join me in wishing them both many years of happiness.
Hope you are having a good week.