Monday, 21 June 2010

'The Aquarium'

Looking across the rippling stream, I could see a beautiful rising trout gently sipping 'Procleon bifidum' in the distance. Careful, quiet walking like a deer in the forest, making less sound than a gliding otter was the approach needed for my success. I stopped and peered as a king fisher flew by, and then from nowhere felt the draft of breeze blow onto my face as a passing barn owl sawed passed me. I stopped, knelt down and evaluated my approach. As I knelt in the cooling evening sun, I saw another rise. Staring like a wiley fox, I knew this fish would be mine. Making my way, step by step, creeping and ducking under overhanging branches to subdue my silhouette I carried on watching, staring and learning the feeding habit of my chosen fish. It rose again and again. My heart started to beat a little faster. I was nearly in range and my prize was in the prime feeding flow. Should I cast or let her settle down for a while? Should I re-check the size and choice of fly again or have the confidence that my selected pattern would fool this beautiful elegant fish? Attached to the end of my tippet was a perfectly tied pale watery dun pattern. It had fooled many Salmo-Trutta in the past, but would it work this time? As I looked around to check for casting hang-ups, everything seemed clear to make a cast. Again I paused as my old friend the barn owl breezed back down stream in my direction. It hovered, as to tell me to "make the cast".

I decided to hold back a little longer to think my plan. Pulling my pipe from the upper pocket of my tweed fishing waistcoat, I turned my back to light and smoke my favoured tobacco. The scent and smoke began to drift downstream indicating to the me the wind direction and strength. Again as I looked, my fish began to feed. This time it looked to be taking an emerging 'Rhitrogena Semicolorata' or Olive Upright for the non-fly fisher. I quickly pulled my fly box from inside my fishing bag that was draped over my left shoulder and began to study the contents in it's entirety. Running my finger along each row, I was looking for the perfect fly for the perfect cast, for the perfect fish. Most were the wrong shade of olive. Some were too dark, some were too light. Some were too big and some too small. I was looking for one with the correct mix of grey/olive with a hint of brown dubbing running through the abdomen. Hook size and overall fly size meant everything. I had a lovely looking Kite's Imperial tied on a splendid size 16 up-eye hook which seemed perfect for the quest ahead.

Snipping off my original choice pattern, I attached the kite's Imperial dry fly and prayed it would rise my butter coloured beauty once again. Taking my time to make sure everything was correct, I used my favored half blood knot and degreased the tip of the cast and applied a drop of quality floatant to the fly. I once again crept into position, this time to witness a family of otters making their way down stream of me. I held my breath, hoping that they would keep moving and not change their direction and head towards my feeding prize. Surely they must of picked up my scent and had opted to keep a wary distance. I just hope the trout wasn't as wise to my presence. It was now or never! Taking to one knee, I pulled five foot of floating fly line from my loaded fly reel and placed the fly perfectly upstream of the last rise. I looked on as it drifted into the feeding zone, and without warning my old split can rod buckled over. She had taken! Now it was down to me to make sure she was played in a manner that Mr Frank Sawyer would of been proud to have witnessed. She knew her lair well. Spending years cruising, swimming, living and feeding in that area, she was wise old creature.

Sounds pretty good. I wish my day's fishing was as thought provoking as that! In fact it was written by a non-fisher who had a browse through a fly fishing book and had a good thought of how fly fishing usually is. In reality, or in my case anyway the only reality to the J.R. Hartley style writing is that I will be in a stream somewhere trying to catch trout. It's a good point to prove that it can be easy to try and pull the wool over peoples eyes. I have read countless articles that reveal themselves more when you read between the lines. On of the last articles that I read was about fly fishing for pike. Having spent the last twenty five years searching for, fishing and understanding the species, I'm as keen as the next guy to learn more. But when reading it, you could see, or rather read that the author had only recently started fly fishing for them. Giving people advice on how to do things should be right if you are going to write about about it. Maybe it wasn't the authors fault that there were quite a few points that weren't right. It perhaps should of been down to the editor of the magazine to make sure that the facts were correct before printing.

So how have things been down here in sunny Devon. Hot and sunny! The rivers and streams are still as low as I have seen them. The fishing has been good since writing the last blog. I was pleased to catch up with Ollie again the other day for a look in the river Okement. Not the best of fishing weather, but like most I'm sure the trout are getting used to it by now. I had spent the morning fly fishing on the East Okement struggling to find too many willing fish. It is surprising that two similar streams the are only half a mile apart can fish so differently. They both start near and run through Okehampton Artillery Range, passing either side of Yes Tor and High Willhays, before the West Okement is dammed at Meldon reservoir. Meeting up with Ollie, we set up a couple of light weight fly rods and headed off from the old park and headed towards one of the deeper pools on that stretch. I had been down there a few nights previous and had seen a good number of decent fish in there. There was plenty of food around and the trout were busy feeding on sorts sort of fly life including midge, yellow sally and olives. It was good to sit in the sun and watch what was going on. I'm no Bill Oddie, but watching a couple of Damselflies going through their mating ritual took up a few minuets whilst Ollie got into fishing position. It was a shame that a trout grabbed the female Damsel fly from the leaf just after taking the photo. At least it's main aim in life had been carried out. Leaving a nice conveyor belt of food for the following season or two.

Even Damselflies need a bit of privacy during the moment!

The pool that we chose is often affectionately referred to as 'The aquarium'. If Ollie could manage a few fish out of it, then the name would probably stick.

The 'Aquarium'.

It is a weird pool to fish due to the nature of the flow. Basically it is one big back-eddie, so the usual rules of fishing don't really apply. The first thing that you notice is the way in which the fish are holding and searching for their food. Unlike the usual downstream flow where the fish tend to look upstream and swing around a cruise around the pool feeding. Probably 80% of the fish are facing downstream or across, looking to feed as the food passes them by in an upstream direction. When fishing these types of pools, I find it best to keep the casts short and pick off the front fish first and then extend the length of line and fish for the further fish afterwards. Otherwise you end up pulling fish through the rest of the shoal, spooking most of them in the process. Typically on this pool, the better fish were the furthest away tucked in under the bushes and hanging off the main flow that pushes through the edge of the pool. Just like most types of fly fishing, it comes down to catching a few and loosing a few before you get your head around the way that is the most productive.

Ollie decided on the fly choice and spotted a fish that he wanted to pick off. I just gave him a couple of pointers on the type of cast he should use, as there were plenty of overhanging tress willing to catch the fly. First cast and a fish took straight away. It's nice when that happens. His fly choice was a duo set-up with a small olive klink and a small Pheasant tail hanging underneath. For some reason there was a bit of colour in the river, but you could still see as at least half a dozen fish shoot over to the fly as it hit the water. Unfortunately for him, it was one of the smaller fish out the shoal that was the quickest (or daftest), to grab the fly first. But that's fishing. It sometimes takes a bit of luck to home in on the bigger fish. I have seen it countess times especially when pike fishing, watching a large fish follow the fly in, only to have it taken by a smaller fish that rockets in from nowhere.

First cast, first fish of the day!

It was a lazy day of chilling and fishing the pool and joining runs. I know I have been going on about how low the waters are at the moment, but there are now trees starting to sprout where the water usually runs. This is where all of the fly casting practice pays off. With all the bank side vegetation, plants growing in the middle of the river, exposed stones and rocks, twigs and logs poking out of the water, it doesn't take much for a stray cast to get snagged. It was good to watch Ollie figure out the flow and the cast, that would cover the fish. We fished until dark, with Ollie catching a good number of fish with a couple of better trout grabbing the dry fly as it drifted back up-stream.

Going back to the beginning of the blog. The person who wrote it mentioned all the types of wildlife that they thought was the norm. In fact I don't rally see that much during a trip out. I manage to see the odd crow or seagull if I take my eyes off the water. But what was nice was to catch a glimpse of some feeding deer in the old castle meadow as we were walking back down stream towards home.

Catching up with Derrick the other day, it was good to hear about his recent sea trout expeditions. Things have been tough and I give him credit for the effort he has put in. He has driven hundreds of miles, coming down this end of Devon to have a crack at the Lyd sewin. There are some good fish in there and good fish come out every season. But due to the conditions it has been a little bit hit or miss of late. But sticking it out with Tim Smith from the Arundell Arms they have managed a few fish. Next week Derrick is back off home to Wales for a few days sewin fishing on the river Towy. Fingers crossed for him that the conditions are good and he catches a few good fish.

A nice Lyd Sea-Trout for Dek.

Along with the river fly fishing that has been going on, we have been over to the coast again for look at the bass and mullet fishing. The mullet numbers seemed to have shrunk though since our last visit, but according to Derrick he knows where they are and we will be out for them specifically next week. The bass on the other hand are around in good numbers. They were happy chasing clousers and thunder-creeks around. Nothing big came out, but there were a few nice fish spotted amongst all the basslets. I decided on a 4 weight out fit, so most things still pulled back a bit.

Not many chips needed with these.

Friday, 4 June 2010

News Flash!

News flash! The weather has briefly broke and we were treated to a bit of long overdue rain. Well it rained for the day and the rivers rose and inch or two before falling for tea-time. Even that small amount of fresh water had the fish coming alive. Looking up stream as I passed over through the park, the pools were alive with rising fish. It has been a busy week. Fishing has taken main priority again (as it always should do), and with trips to the coast, moorland fishing and a visit from my brother and good mate roz, meant it has been a hectic week.

It was good to meet up for a morning session with local fly-fisher David Wright who was looking to get into a few Okement trout. He is a lifelong fly-fisher and also a magician. So I was hoping he would teach me a few tricks and pull a few fish out of his hat. The weather was another bright, sunny and warm morning. The afternoon was going to be a lazy day at the coast chasing mullet, and it looked like it was going to be another hot un. I met up with David by the castle and we decided to head up-stream and look in a few of the pools that we haven't had chance to fish since last season. There were plenty of midge and stonefly milling around and it didn't take David long to get the fish going. Fly choice was a simple 'F' fly. Simple to tie and a pattern that is always worth keeping in your box. He was catching fish from upstream, across, down and from all sorts of weird angles and drifts. The fish didn't seem bothered what the fly was doing. I think he had four or five fish in as many casts.

Mr Magic lifting off for another cast!

I had to leave David causing trouble amongst the trout, and as he headed further upstream I climbed out of the river and drove over to the North coast to meet up with Derrick for a crack at the mullet. He had done well at the same mark a few days prior, so I was looking forward to seeing if they were still around and getting into a few of them. Low tide was at 1:30pm and it was a bit of a rush to get over there in time, but taking a few shortcuts off from the main roads it wasn't too long before we were making our way down to the estuary. As we walked over the rocks and kelp to the edge of the water you could clearly see the tell take shapes of some big mullet cruising and rolling in the weed. With big silver flashes in front of us it was time to get a fly wet and see what was going on. Water depth at the time was about two to three feet and the fish were still spooky. It didn't take Dek long to have a couple of quick takes though, but true to form they didn't stick. I worked an area that seemed to be stuffed with fish. Again, quick takes and they were off in the opposite direction. Eventually as the tide turned, the fish switched on and they were all over the flies. We tried a variety of patterns including small clousers, nymphs and shrimps. It was interesting watching how they reacted to each type of fly that cast towards them. Some were hit straight off, some they wanted to inspect first. But as long as they were taking we were happy.

A bit of afternoon mullet action!

The session was another good one with us both managing a few fish between us. Once the tide flooded in the sport became harder as the fish pushed out of casting range and our cut off point was starting to fill behind us. I knew I had to rush back to meet my brother back in town, so I made my way over the dunes, said my goodbyes to Dek and started the drive back. So far that day, I had managed to fish from the source to the sea. Not bad for a day's work, and with my brother and friend down there was a bit more on the cards. For anyone fly fishing for bass and mullet, one fly line that is brilliant for the job is Rio's Clouser line. Designed with a similar profile to the stripper bass and pike lines, it is designed for casting flies into a wind and will defiantly help in tough blowy conditions.

The following morning we had planned on having bit of a leisurely stroll along one of the coastal paths that runs from Looe to Polperro over in Cornwall. I don't know what it is about going to Looe, but I love it. We have been going there for the past twenty years and I never tire of the place and there is some excellent fishing to be had there. Whether you want to hire a charter and go out for the sharks or congers, go on a little 2 hr mackerel trip or take to the rocks and fly fish for a variety of species! It has it all. Apart from reminding you of the old Jaws movies it also has some of the best scenery anywhere in the world. After the short drive, the first stop was to grab a brew and a cream-tea before setting off down the path. Or should I say up the path! The idea was to walk along the coastal path, and where possible clamber down to the sea and try fishing the bays and inlets to see what was around. Basically it was bit of a recce for my own fly fishing and doubled up the day with a bit of sight seeing for my brother and Roz.

The start of it all, looking down the river Looe.

The start of the walk is a nice easy wander through the old town of Looe and after a steep walk up to top of the hill, you begining to see the coastal path in the distance as it climbs and twists around the headland.

Looe Island, one of the famous landmarks.

In general, the route is easy. Overall distance is about five miles of up and down walking, but nothing too much. The beauty of it is, once the walk to the other end is reached you have various ways of getting back. You can either walk, catch a bus, taxi or boat. We weren't sure which we were going to do until getting there. If we got there too late, then we could be walking back! It didn't take long to find likely looking fishing areas. During most of the walk, the tide was still out so this gave us the perfect opportunity to get down and have a good look around.

The kind of places we were looking for! When full, these areas would hopefully be stuffed with fish.

Once you were down in the bays and coves, you could of been anywhere in the world. Well, anywhere that was stunning, hot and near to the sea. It became apparent that there would be some good cove and rock fishing to be had. There were plenty of routes down to the shore, either by path, scramble or climb. Better still would be to come in by kayak, which would give you access to all of the area. A nice gentle paddle along the shoreline and hop in for a fish and a BBQ, what more do you need!

Paddling in by kayak would be the easiest way to reach all the areas.

The further we walked, the more rock fishing we spotted!

By mid afternoon the temperature was in the mid eighties and we were sweating like pigs! So taking a break we had some lunch and I went to investigate if there was anything willing to grab hold of a fly. After bit of a scramble down a small cliff, we reached a breathtaking bay. Again the tide was still out a bit further than we wanted, but there wasn't any complaining. We chilled in the sun, grabbed a bite and had a fish.

As tempting as it was, we didn't have a dip- (Apart from some Dorito's and a chili dip).

Trying not to loose my balance on the knife edge rocks.

After a full day of hiking, scrambling, casting, fishing and eating we finally reached our destination in one piece. Again, Polperro is a stunning traditional Cornish fishing village. Most famous for it's smuggling history, you can see why it was a good drop off point for the rum and tobacco runners of old.

Nearly there! Looking down into Polperro harbour.

Once in Polperro we thought it would be best to check what time we would have to leave, otherwise it meant we could have to make the same route back on foot! It wouldn't of been a problem, but Baz and Roz fancied a BBQ sometime that day, so we had to get that sorted. We had a couple of hours to kill, so we fished and chilled for the remainder of the time before setting back. The preferred choice of travel was by boat. Within five minuets of getting into the boat back to Looe, the weather changed and a sea mist began to cover everything around us! So much for the nice day!

Leaving Polperro in a cloud of crappy weather!

After the rocky boat trip back into Looe harbour we walked down to see if there were any fish moving with the turning tide. Were there any fish? The answer was yes! One of the biggest mullet shoals that I have ever seen there were crashing all over the place. Judging fish size from afar can be a guessing game, but I'm certain there were some fish over 8lb cruising around. If only I could of gotten down to them!!! True to form when we got back into Okehampton, Baz and Roz went off to fetch the BBQ supplies and we headed off in search of a midge free area. We chose a little spot next to the river where we had a quick flick and pulled out a few small browns whilst the pig bits on sticks were burning away!

Not a bad end to a perfect day! Baz on the BBQ.