In Yorkshire fly fishing started on the 25th March, again the weather was horrid, it was cold with patchy rain with thick mist, more like November. Many waters in the south and midlands didn't open until April 1st or May 1st - except for some commercial trout fisheries which opened in time for the Easter break.
Having seen the occasional out of season trout caught by bait anglers, many of these trout have been in a good condition. All the rain we had through the autumn and winter, especially late January / February, will have done a lot of good for our rivers helping to dilute all those horrible chemicals that have been used in the countryside over the past year. When you visit your favourite river or stream you will see the gravel beds shining bright like diamonds. Gone is all that horrid clodorpha weed and other rubbish. Sadly many of our trees and bushes along the river and stream side have plastic bags and other rubbish draped from the branches. Why not spend some of your time removing some of this rubbish, making sure you wear a good pair of rubber gloves. You won't regret giving up some fishing time to improve the countryside. With all the water that has flowed down our rivers and streams some of the spawning reds might have been washed out but nature has an excellent way to look after itself. Far better than we humans do.
One thing you will notice when you go back to your favourite river will be the changes. Those deep quiet pools could now be fast shallow glides. Those nice long shallow glides might now have been broken into smaller glides and pools. New pools will have been created, some of these caused by bank side trees that have crashed into the river or been bought down by flood water. Beware of undercut banks caused by the high water. My advice is wear a buoyancy aid and take a wading staff. You know it makes sense.
To arrive at ones favourite stretch of river during springtime with warm sunshine and a light wind is a delight indeed. Strolling along the river bank you will find hawthorns in their new cloaks of green, catkins and pussy willow, marsh marigold's, primroses, and daffodils in abundance, adding a beautiful splash of colour to the drab countryside. If you're lucky you might just see some cowslips and the last of the snow drops. Sadly all this beauty will be taken away by the riverside trees, bushes and fences being draped in black and white plastic sheeting and fertiliser bags in various colours. It's about time farmers had to pay a deposit of 20 pound sterling on fertiliser bags. A group of anglers from the Bradford City AA collected 40 bin liners of rubbish in just one day in late 2000. That was the clubs last rubbish collecting day due to the foot and mouth virus during 2001 as they couldn't get on the water. It's been noticeable in early 2002 how much less rubbish is strewn in the riverside bushes and trees. The Irish have got the right idea over plastic bags, a tax. Let's have a similar scheme in the UK. Why not a £20-00 deposit on fertiliser bags then perhaps we wouldn't see so many in the riverside trees and on the river beds.
On the northern rivers and streams, dippers are going about their nest building. In the riverside fields, bushes and trees you can expect to see blackbirds and thrushes along with Green plover and Curlew. Most of the fieldfare will have gone but you still might see the odd small groups. As you sit at the waterside looking for a feeding trout, you will probably be joined by a robin looking for a free handout of food in the form of bread crumbs. At this time of the year I take some sunflower hearts which I spread around the river bank. Often I will call in at my local butcher to collect a hunk of fat which I tie to a branch of a river side tree. The birds love it.
It's been well documented that in early spring we should arrive on the river just before 11-0 am then leave just after lunch, say around 2-0pm. Usually this is good advice as the rise of insects is often of a brief duration at this time of the year. But this year it could be a different story, if it's mild you might have insects rising and trout feeding from around 10 O'clock through to 3 or 4 O'clock in the afternoon. As previously mentioned, I have seen insects coming off the water with fish feeding throughout the day, but since the season started there have been very few insects. Where have they all gone? And remember it's been very warm in March.
The season on Lancashire rivers started off in horrid weather conditions, strong winds, rain and low temperatures. I didn't see a single fly coming off. I reckon the only way to have caught a fish was with a weighted nymph. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a very mild spring. Having said that, early January was icy cold with a north easterly wind but still I could see the odd trout and grayling rising to what looked like a very small black gnats. All this action was taking place around 2-O'clock in the afternoon. I suggest you have some dry flies in your box, if you're lucky to get the odd fish rising you can then present an imitative pattern. Since the season started in Lancashire on the 15th March and Yorkshire the 25th March, I have been fishing in both counties. On the Ribble I have had one small trout on a dry fly, but it was great to be back. On the river Aire I have caught a few nice over wintered trout fishing dry flies. No doubt I could have taken a few more trout from the Ribble and the Aire on weighted nymphs but I chose to fish the dry fly as I enjoy this type of fishing. Having said all that. It's great to be back.
When To Wade?
When to wade is a vexed question, if you can cast to feeding fish from the bank side you should do so. Wading can quickly spook fish unless you wade slowly and quietly without making a bow wave, all you will do is push the fish further up or downstream and make them very spooky. Two or three seasons past on the river Ribble my mate Alan and myself experienced the most obnoxious behaviour we have ever seen at the waterside from a very bad mannered person. I refuse to call him an angler. As Alan and I sat at the waterside observing some rising fish, this oaf clad in all the best clothing with the latest in chest high waders and carrying the most expensive fishing tackle drew level with us. Without asking if it would be OK to fish the stretch of river or giving any other explanation he plunged into the river like a bull elephant saying "I'm going to fish the Czech nymphing style today" This idiot then commenced to walk upstream, as Alan said at the time, "What an idiot, there he is flashing his rod around like the sword of Zorro".
Alan and I were near speechless. We looked at each other in disbelief at this oaf's behaviour as he moved upstream. He had gone a few yards upstream when the fish again started to rise behind our idiot. I said to Alan "Tie on a Paythorn olive and show him how to catch those fish". Alan did as I suggested. Moving slowly and quietly using the available bank side cover he followed our idiot upstream. With some very accurate casting and dropping the fly like thistle down, Alan caught half a dozen nice brown trout. It was a great demonstration of dry fly fishing. All the time our idiot in his costly clothing with expensive tackle failed to catch a single fish. After a while he came out of the water and said "I'm going upstream to the big pool, there's some big trout there" We let him go. Then looking at each other, I said "What's happened to the etiquette in angling these days?". It's interesting to note that Alan was fishing with a six foot rod costing about £40-00.
I have waded many rivers when it's been necessary to do so, such as when fish are rising under the far bank of a big river - under these conditions wading gives you the best chance of catching a fish. Remember to wear that buoyancy aid and carry that wading staff when wading. I cannot impress upon you enough to double check the water before you start to wade. The river bed can change quite dramatically during the autumn and winter floods. Before entering the river or stream, ask yourself. Is it possible to cast a fly to a rising fish from my position on the bank? If the answer is 'Yes' then don't wade.
Nymph fishing is one method which often demands getting into the water to fish an upstream nymph between those inviting gaps in the weed beds. Also check with your fellow anglers if it's OK to wade. Never go into the water downstream of an angler who is wading down a pool. Always go in above. The etiquette of fishing a pool is, fish the cast out, then take a step downstream repeating the process after each cast. Never hog the pool, it's bad manners.
Over the past couple of years I have changed my approach to river trouting, gone are the 6 weight rods being exchanged for three and four weight outfits. I have never looked back since. When one thinks of the average size of brown trout from our rivers is probably 12 to14 inches, it makes sense to use a four weight, even a three weight is OK. Some of my more experienced trout fishing friends are using six foot, two and three weight outfits with great success on the smaller rivers and streams. My four weight has handled trout to three pounds. At no time did I feel under-gunned.
Improve the habitat for better fishing
I have always felt that if we anglers worked harder at improving the bank side and aquatic habitat, our fishing would improve greatly. Many game anglers will say to me during the winter months. " I will be glad when the trout season starts again". It's a long winter without any trout fishing. There is a lot you can do to improve the habitat on your stretch of river. What about all that rubbish in the riverside trees and bushes, it all needs to be removed. I feel proud to be associated with Bradford City AA and Prince Albert AS who certainly do a tremendous amount of habitat work on their river fisheries. Last year I gave the Bradford City Angling association one thousand pounds so they can improve the habitat even more, making sure that tomorrow's children will have an angling future. Another club with an excellent record for habitat work is Bowland Game Anglers based in Lancashire. Their work on the rivers Aire and Ribble has certainly improved the fishing tremendously. Also the Prince Albert AS based in Cheshire with members and waters all over the north of England Wales and Midlands. Another club who I have given a big donation. All these anglers who give up their time must be congratulated on their efforts. Another organisation doing some tremendous habitat work are the Ribble Catchment And Conservation Trust, they are doing a lot of habitat work on the river Ribble, Hodder and several feeder streams so I have given them £300-00
What about that old bit of fencing in your river that collects more and more rubbish each week. Why not get it removed now? With the permission of the riparian owner, why not spend some time and money putting up fencing to stop sheep and cattle from grazing close to the waters edge. You will notice an immediate improvement in the insect life along these stretches of river that have been fenced off. Many of today's rivers banks are devoid of willows and alder trees. Why not plant trees and bushes? They will offer sanctuary and overhead cover to fish and insect life. Birds will certainly be attracted, especially Long tailed tits in search of insects. Plant a bush or two over a nice looking pool where minnows congregate so the kingfisher will have a place to perch as he surveys his dinner table.
Now is the time to take out all those rubber tyres, plastic sheeting, super market trolleys, fertiliser bags and other general rubbish that has collected at various places along the river. If you don't do the job, no one else will, and your stretch of river will end up like a rubbish tip with the fish disappearing. We all owe the sport something and the best way we can help it prosper is looking after the habitat so the fish can concentrate on looking after themselves.
Bradford City AA flyfishing section have working groups on the river Aire all through the year doing habitat work, which improves the aquatic environment, wildlife, bird life, flora and fauna. We don't see the anti anglers anti everything in the countryside trying to improve the habitat!
If you haven't fly fished before and you would like to try then Bradford City Angling Association are giving you the chance to learn how to fly fish with a beginners day where members and non members can learn to fly fish. It will take place on the last Saturday in April - for further details Telephone Arthur Padgett fly fishing section secretary on 01274-617419
Kaufmann's Streamborn Inc Catalogue
The 2002 Edition of the Kaufmann's Steamborn catalogue is now available, in its 32nd year it has everything for the flyfisher. The first few pages cover all those holidays we all dream about. The Seychelles, Christmas Island, Iceland, Russia, Central America and dozens of other locations around the world. Throughout this catalogue you will find details of rods, reels and luggage from Sage. Rods from Winston and Scott, with reels from Bauer, Abel, Tibor, Loop, Ross, Lamson, Hardy, Bellinger and Pflueger. The catalogue also contains reel accessories, knifes, rod cases, line winders and fly lines. Leaders and tippet material, accessories, hand-crafted nets. Polarised glasses, forceps, pliers, floatants, waders and wading boots. jackets and vests. Clothing for the tropics, bags, packs and fly boxes. There is an excellent range of fly fishing books which includes the bible for bonefishers. This book titled 'Bonefishing' is the best book on the subject, I cannot see a better book being published in the next fifty years. Randall Kaufmann the editor has covered it all, apart from the bones he covers Permit, Tarpon and Trevally, remember there is no tax or VAT on books. You will find a good selection of videos, fly tying tools and materials. For those of you who like to buy some well made flies, you will find a good selection of well tied flies covering fresh and saltwater. E-mail KAUFMANNS@KMAN.COM for a copy
F M Halford and The Dry Fly Revolution by Tony Hayter Published by Robert Hale Books £25-00
I have just been reading what can only be described as a very historic, interesting and entertaining book on the life of Frederick Halford, originally named Hyam. The founder of the family Simon or Simcha (also known as Simon Ipswich) was born in Hamburg about 1740 and came to Ipswich from Germany in 1790. The man who was to become the High Priest of dry fly fishing was born Frederick Michael Hyam on the 13th April 1844 at Spring Hill Birmingham.
Author Tony Hayter is well qualified to write such an historic book on one of the great and famous names in angling world wide. Tony, a former university lecturer and professional historian, caught his first fish in 1947. He has written other books which include The Army and the Crowd in Mid-Georgian England and An Eighteenth-Century Secretary at War.
In chapter 1 The Early Days. It's interesting to learn that Halford started off by catching the big brown trout on the Thames but even in those early days he proved he was a thinking angler. It was fascinating to read about Halford fishing the river Wandle, a river which started life in the Carshalton area of Surrey and was one of the most prized fisheries near London. He could get from his office or city club by train from London Bridge in about half an hour.
In Chapter 2 titled The Chalk-Stream World, Tony Hayter writes about the chalk streams and those anglers who visited them. Many of the famous names from the past are described as well as extracts from the Field Magazine which along with the Fishing Gazette were the magazines of the day. The Field magazine had some great angling editors in the late 1800's and early 1900's such as Francis Francis, William Senior and Hugh Tempest Sherringham. Editors who were very experienced anglers. Having visited Winchester on many occasions, this chapter came alive and made fascinating reading.
Chapter 3 Houghton: The Club and The Anglers is another step back into a bygone age. Hayter certainly knows how to research and write about historic events. We learn that a season rod at Houghton cost £20-00 in 1885 rising to £25-00. Halford's clothing and tackle cost £100-00 a year, a considerable outlay when a coachman was paid twenty-six shillings a week. Reading this book F M Halford and The Dry Fly Revolution by Tony Hayter, published by Robert Hale Books, it seems as if fishing in those days was certainly for the wealthy.
Other chapters are The Houghton Years 1877-1886, Test and Itchen 1887-1904, Ramsbury 1893-1896, Towards Exact Imitation 1897-1904, Mottisfont 1905-1913. The final chapter 10 is simply titled Halford, Skues and History. Every chapter throughout this fascinating book deserves a ten out of ten. The final chapter must have one extra point. Like all the previous chapters. It was most informative, having read the books of Halford and Skues I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the young and not so young Skues. This is a book that I can thoroughly recommend to you. It's one of those hard to put down books. Thankfully it arrived just as the coarse fishing season ended so I had a long weekend to read this excellent book. At £25-00 it will be in your book shop in early April just as a new fly fishing season starts
Great News For Welsh Fisheries and The Anglers Who Visit.
In the past, anglers countrywide plus many from abroad have looked to Wales for it's excellent salmon, sea and brown trout fishing. Sadly over the years the sports fishing has deteriorated on many Welsh rivers and streams. This has meant the loss of thousands of jobs from guiding to B&B. Today those visiting Wales can still find some excellent river fishing for trout, seatrout and salmon but improvements are needed. Those improvements are now going to happen and I for one are more than happy to see £2.4 million are being invested for game fishing in Wales. We should all applaud the Welsh Assembly for taking a hand in helping the future of sports fishing prospects; it will also see an increase in job prospects and improve the environment which will greatly help the wild and bird life. As we get better quality fishing so we will see an increase in the number of kingfishers, wagtails and otters to name a few, everyone will gain and Wales will attract more visitors.
The Welsh National Assembly has agreed to invest an additional £2.4million in inland fisheries over the next three years. Significantly, the money is tied to specific achievements. One of the targets is that by 2008 the salmon stocks of an additional ten Welsh rivers should be increased to at least meet their conservation spawning limits. Environment Agency Wales intends providing fish passes to bypass obstructions on the rivers Neath, Taff, Usk, Clwyd and Ebbw. Salmonid habitat improvement programmes on these rivers and on the rivers Dwyfor, Mawddach, Seiont and Llyfni will also receive a boost; there, the participation of the angling clubs of Gwynedd has been key to the success of work undertaken to date.
While sea trout in Wales are on a high, it's once famous wild brown trout - in the Usk and upper Teifi for example - are not doing so well. Part of the money will fund brown trout habitat improvements, extending recent pilot programmes on the Usk, Towy and Teifi. There will also be funds for introducing newcomers to the sport, and for the development of coaching via the angling governing bodies in Wales.
The opportunity is greater than it may seem. Much of Wales is covered by European Objective 1 status, and the Environment Agency and angling interests are working together to attract European money for improvements to the environment and angling worth £6million over the three-year period. The Wye, which is in a European Objective 2 area, will also benefit, and the Environment Agency and the Wye Foundation are working on a project bid to Europe. Why not write to the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff giving them your support. It's not often we read about politicians supporting our great sport. Have a good months angling, please note my new E-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org