Friday, 14 November 2014

Just how smart are fish?

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.

2014 RTOF wining fly
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.

To view the clip click here or visit the Carp on the Fly Adventure Facebook page.

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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