In the past the name game fishing was given to describe the taking of trout, sea trout and salmon by fly fishing. Occasionally the term game fishing was given to those using spinning tackle. Should we have a name change?. Today many of you are not only catching the salmonoid species but also coarse and saltwater fish with a fly rod and reel. Is it time we just put the column under the simple title of Fly Fishing? Please let me know what you think by E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Many of you write to say how much you enjoy the column. Some of you continue that correspondence and in some cases you have joined me on trips abroad. Feel free to write at any time with your questions and comments.
August is often considered a bad month for angling, especially for those of you who go in search of salmon, sea and brown trout. Rivers and streams often have low water levels, high water temperatures and masses of weed with stale fish waiting for some fresh water. Many of our still water fisheries sport can suffer if we get too many hot sunny days with no rain or wind. If you chase river brown trout, forget the middle of the day hours, fish the crack of dawn until breakfast or fish the last hour of daylight and into darkness. It's surprising how the fish will respond to a big dry fly at dusk. If you fish sedges, step up the breaking strain of your leader material as the takes can be very savage.
If your rivers are not fishable then why not turn your attention to fly fishing for some of the coarse fish species, such as pike, carp, perch, chub and barbel. You can of course go and fish the ocean, after all we are surrounded by saltwater. The conditions that cause problems for our game fish species on our rivers and stillwaters can often benefit the saltwater species. With higher ocean temperature we often find more mackerel, bass and mullet willing to feed. At one time bass were usually only caught in numbers from the south, south east and south west coast of England. Today bass are being caught all round the United Kingdom. From my experience if you are fishing from the south, south east and south west coastline of England or the north and west Wales coastline then you're probably going to have the best chance of catching bass but that's not to say you cannot catch bass from other areas of the UK. You can, including the Scottish coastline.
All around our coastline we have estuaries, docks, harbours, marshes and breakwaters. These areas are the places to seek out the mullet which are an extremely worthwhile fish for the fly fisher. Your six or seven weight trout outfit with a floating or intermediate line will be suitable. Flies imitating bread and maggots are very attractive to mullet. I use them in conjunction with a liquidised bread and cooked rice which I use to get the fish feeding. Mullet will take big pieces of bread. Sussex angler John Bodsworth and I were throwing thumb size chunks of bread to the mullet in Newhaven harbour last summer where the fish were taking them with gusto, in fact we virtually had them eating from our hand. Take a look around your stretch of coastline, you could get some very pleasant surprises.
I have just returned from a 4 week trip to the United States where I fished both the Gulf of Mexico and the Apalachicola river in Florida, the trout streams in the Smoky mountains of Tennessee and the lakes and spring creeks in Wisconsin and Michigan. On the Apalachicola river I fished with deputy Sheriff Curtis Carter of Quincy for largemouth bass. Curtis was great company and an excellent angler. Curtis was that good he could chuck lures in holes the size of a tea cup. I learnt a lot that day. Staying in Florida, I travelled down to the Gulf coast at Panacea where I had the use of a 17 foot Boston Whaler fitted with a 90 hp Johnson outboard.
Conditions were perfect and I was able to get afloat every day catching sea trout and lady fish. These are great fighters and really jump a lot. If they grew to the size of tarpon we would need 15 weight fly rods to have a chance of landing them. Other fun fish were the Spanish mackerel and bluefish, when these were feeding you needed a wire tippet. Some days a school of jack crevales would turn up, then it was a lot of fun. These fish never know when to give in and put the tackle under a lot of pressure, they will certainly test your knots. I was privileged to see spotted eagle rays, dolphins and some very big stingrays. One evening, as the sun started to slip below the horizon, a huge ray was illuminated as it leapt clear of the water. My friend Len Elsie told me "It's a very rare sight to see rays jumping like that Martin". Another day I was able to watch a huge turtle with four fish on its back getting a free ride.
Fishing off the tip of Turtle Point reef I had a big bull shark of some ten feet turn up. It stayed circling the boat until I left some two hours later. When I returned to the same spot the next day the shark turned up once more, where it stayed until I left. Turtle Point reef was an exciting area to fish with plenty of action in water averaging about five feet deep and crystal clear. At some time during the day a group of big tarpon would turn up where they would go crashing through the bait size fish shoals creating havoc. These tarpon were big - 150 to 200lbs.
I had an exciting session one afternoon when I got hooked up to one of these big tarpon, I estimated it around 180 to 200 lbs. Its first two leaps from the water were very dramatic as it cleared the water. Head shaking and gills flared, it looked so magnificent in the sunlight with the azure blue sky and ocean water as a backdrop. As the water droplets fell away from the fish they looked like diamonds. The huge silver scales made this superb beast look as if it was cloaked in chain mail. I didn't land the fish. It threw the hook, but it was a wonderful experience. I will be back later this year for another go at one of these big herring shaped fish. Fly fishing the ocean is always interesting, you never know when you will get hooked up to a big one.
After a few exciting days in Florida I left to travel north to the Smoky mountains of Tennessee. It was a journey of about nine hours on roads with very little traffic, in fact the M6 at night has more traffic. The Gateway to the Smoky Mountains is through Pigeon Forge and Gatlingburg. I was shocked to see both towns looking some what like Blackpool without the tower. Both places were full of fast food shops, the smell of cooked food everywhere with most of the other shops full of dross. No way was I going to spend time in these towns.
Cades Cove was my destination. It's a prime spot to see some of the Smokey's history with a delightful trout stream, the Little river. Cades Cove is a corruption of the name "Kate" - the Anglicised name for the wife of the Cherokee Chief Abrams. In this delightful valley, first settled in 1819, the National Parks service maintain a historical and cultural preserve of log cabins, churches and other buildings. Cable mill at the Cades Cove visitors centre is an operating water-powered grist mill. As I drove through the Smoky Mountains I would pull off the single track road, shoot some exciting views and photograph some of the wildlife, including many deer.
The fishing is available for the price of a fishing permit in the Great Smokey Mountains. Permits are available from fishing tackle shops and the Gatlingburg Chamber of Commerce. It will allow you to spend lots of time in and around the many mountain streams. Abrams creek below Cades Cove, Big Creek near I-40 at the parks north eastern end and the Little river, near Elkmont campground in the north-central section of the park. Fishing is allowed within the park from sunrise to sunset. I found my four weight rod with a double taper floating line ideal for all the streams, where fishing was for rainbow and brown trout. All brook trout have to be returned. A selection of nymphs and dry flies such as beaded pheasant tail, damsel and dragon fly nymphs all will all work. If you're fishing dries then select a Yellow hammer, large olive or an elk or deer hair sedge pattern. This is a delightful area for all the family with lots of history. The flora and fauna is magnificent, as are the views.
From the Smokeys it was a long two day drive north to Wisconsin and Boulder Junction. Arriving at 6-0pm, I discovered it was my type of American town. A big wide main street and lots of interesting shops, restaurants and a bar with over 400 different beers - also lots of very friendly people. Boulder Junction is also the official Musky capital of the world. It's surrounded by 240,000 acres of forest with more than two hundred lakes. There are plenty of opportunities for fly fishing swimming, sailing, hiking, biking, canoeing and bird watching with lots of wildlife. You might even be lucky to see a bear. You can also get in a round of golf. For the best packed lunches and value for money in the United States visit Mad Dog Jake's run by George and Kathy. They also have excellent coffee, ice cream and lots of antique tackle items around the walls. It's next door to the bar with 400 brews!
There are two big tackle stores in the town. The North Highland tackle store is one for the lure and bait angler, here there are thousands of lures on display. The other shop is Bill Sherers "We Tie It". It's a fly fishers delight. Bill is a fly fisher who spends a lot of time chasing, and I must say catching, lots of muskys and pike on the fly. Some of his flies are very innovative. Some of his patterns come with diving vanes. During my visit I spent a few dollars on Bills flies. In next months feature I will let you know how they perform. You can contact Bill by E-mail at email@example.com or take a look at his web site www.wetieit.com
If you plan to visit Boulder Junction to fish for the pike and muskys you will need a nine or ten weight fly rod with two or three lines. A floater, a slow sink and a fast sink to cope with all conditions. Leaders should be about eight foot in length of 20lb nylon with a 12 inch wire tippet. The best way to join nylon to wire is with the Albright knot. Bill uses a 40lb breaking strain link swivel for attaching fly to leader. I have always used the Haywire twist for attaching my lure to the wire tippet but I will be giving Bill's idea a workout.
Trout fishing is available in both Wisconsin and over the border in Michigan, which is just a few miles away. It was in Michigan where I had some delightful brook trout fishing. Joe Sherer had invited me to join him for half a days trout fishing on a spring creek As I didn't have a Michigan fishing permit, we stopped off at a local store where one was purchased for the sum total of seven dollars. Ten minutes later we left the main road then drove for some distance down a dirt road before coming to a wooden bridge. As we slowly drove across I looked down at a beautiful stretch of water. "That's Duck creek Martin" said Joe. We drove on for another two hundred yards or so then parked up some ten yards back from the water. Duck creek was beautiful, crystal clear with an average depth of three feet, flowing through some lovely countryside. On the bends the depth could go down to six and seven feet It reminded me of an English chalk stream.
Within minutes of arriving I spotted a nice fish take an insect off the top. I couldn't get tackled up quick enough. I chose a four weight rod, double taper floating line coupled to a nine foot fluorocarbon leader with a 3lb b.s. tippet. Meanwhile Joe had tackled up with a beautiful 3 weight outfit. This guy can certainly cast with his three weight even in the strong gusting downstream wind but Joe wasn't going to fish. He was my guide. He certainly knows his fishing and the waters. In three casts I caught three fish, all beautifully marked wild brook trout. As we made our way upstream, Joe would point out interesting features and suggest holding areas where a fish might be waiting for something to come floating down the stream. With a blue sky, a few clouds and the temperature in the 80's I was having a lot of fun. I doubt if I could find a more a more delightful stretch of water. You will find many other waters as nice but non better. A similar water back home would probably cost me something like one 100 GBP a day or more. That's if I was lucky to get a day.
Certainly the new fluorocarbon leaders we have been using for the past couple of years have given us a big advantage when fishing gin clear water. They might cost a few more pennies but they are certainly worth it. After fishing upstream for some three hundred yards, Joe pointed out a left hand bend in the river about five yards ahead.
"Martin you will find some big brook trout on the inside of that bend, it's about six feet deep. You will need to pitch a weighted nymph upstream and fish it back".
On Joe's advice I chose a size 12 beaded pheasant tail. Slowly we waded upstream, staying close to the far bank and the head high vegetation. Six feet from the bend I peered into the clear water spotting seven good fish. Looking close, I could see five suckers and two big brook trout. I whispered to Joe
"There are two brookies must go two pound apiece".
I could feel beads of sweat on my forehead, My mouth had become dry my whole body seemed to tremble at the thought of hooking one of these beauties. Extending some line, I cast upstream as Joe had instructed. We watched the nymph drift downstream sinking as it did so. Suddenly it disappeared from sight. I struck, it was a brook trout of some ten inches. Pulling it away from the area I watched the big trout - they didn't move. How lucky can you get. Any other time they would have spooked. The fish was quickly unhooked. Six or was it seven times I pitched the nymph upstream, working it back without a touch. Twice I watched the nymph drop down to within half an inch or so of the fishes mouth. At no time did they attempt to eat.
"One more chuck Joe then we will rest them".
I lost sight of the nymph, noticed a tiny twitch on the line and struck. The rod tip pulled over, I shouted "Kate shoot some action shots". It was too late, the rod tip sprung back, the line was limp and a good fish was gone. Still that's fishing. Switching back to a dry fly pattern we fished on until about 6pm then it was time to return back to Joe's house for dinner. Though we did stop on the way for one of those thick milk shakes America is famous for.
From June 27th until July 2nd I was in Swedish Lapland where you get twenty four hours of daylight. I had come to Mala to be Master of Ceremonies for the 4th Lapland World Cup, joining up with anglers from all over Europe and the United States. Several members of the English National Ladies team were in attendance. Lois Howells, Kate Hazzard, Karen O'Shea and Susan Sissons. They were there to take part in the Flyfishing for grayling contest. Also taking part in the grayling contest was Neil O'Shea from England. In the lure contest for pike, England were represented by builder John Bodsworth of Sussex. The grayling contest was fished on a local river while the pike fishing was fished from boats on a local stillwater.
The winner of the fly fishing for grayling contest was Ari Leiman of Finland followed by Sven Perman of Sweden and Jari Kaltiala. Lois Howells was 6th, Kate Hazzard 12th, Karen O'Shea 13th, Susan Sissons 15th with Neil O'Shea collecting the wooden spoon. The winner of the pike contest was David Balcone of Italy followed by Eric Svahn (Finland) and Andreas Lidberg for Sweden. John Bodsworth finished in 6th place. It was an excellent event with no moans or complaints and one that everyone thoroughly enjoyed and they all agreed to come back next year.
I had four days of exceptionally good fishing taking over 100 pike on surface fished flies from the Oman river and a local stillwater. When I wasn't pike fishing on the Oman river, I fished the same venue with a 4 weight rod and floating line for grayling and brown trout. On the second day John Bodsworth, Jimmy Holmquist and myself decided on a late evening session fly fishing for pike on the Oman river. It was about ten PM when we arrived. After parking the car we decided to take a look in the bridge pool where we spotted some nice grayling. After debating the merits of fishing for grayling or the pike, we chose to fly fish for the pike.
John chose to fish the right hand bank downstream of the bridge while I decided to cast a fly into a small backwater upstream of the bridge. After a few casts and no sign of fish, I switched to fishing the left hand bank downstream of the bridge. What a momentous decision this was. On my first cast with a frog imitation a pike bow waved out from the bank Jimmy shouted something. Looking round at Jimmy I said "What did you say? He said "You had a pike following". Of course, the moment I stopped retrieving the fish turned away, frogs and fish don't stop moving when being chased.
I made another cast of some sixty feet downstream, the imitation frog landing some two feet out from the bulrush lined bank. Two quick twelve inch pulls then a huge head appeared quickly engulfing the frog, this was followed by a big boil and swirl. I struck hard to my left setting the barbless hook into a good fish. Thirty yards of line were quickly pulled from the reel as a good fish moved off downstream then out towards the centre of the river and the deep water. For some twenty minutes it was give and take but slowly, ever so slowly, I was working the fish upstream. The pike then tried tail walking without success. Foot by foot, inch by inch, it was coming closer to the quiet back water where I was standing waist deep among the bulrushes.
I had my first good look at the fish and realised it could be a twenty pounder. Getting it in close I tried to grab it behind the gills. No chance, it was far too big. The fish shot off towards the centre of the river. The reel wrapped my knuckles as I quickly lost several yards of hard won line. John, seeing my problem, joined me in the water where hopefully he could get his hands around the fish. Jimmy shot more pictures. It was now some twenty five or thirty minutes since I had set the hook. Once more I fought the fish back into the quiet water, then John had his chance. He grabbed the fish and lifted. It looked a good one then it changed, being good to being big, then very big. The water rolled off the fish I punched the air and said "Yes it's mine". John then lowered the fish back in the water so I could take out the small imitation frog. (It was tied up on a size 2/0 Partridge Sea Prince hook whipped to some twenty pound wire which had been joined to the 15lb leader with an Albright knot). What a super fish to catch on a St Croix nine foot nine weight rod and a floating line. After a couple of trophy shots we all stood and watched the magnificent beast swim powerfully away to the dark depths of the river.
If your fly fishing interests include competition fishing, Grafham Water have an Open boat match Sunday 6th August. Open to all, entry 12.50 GBP plus boat ticket and permit. 1st prize, a gold season ticket. 2nd prize - green season ticket. 3rd prize - ten free boat hires for 2001. Entry includes a hot meal in the harbour view restaurant. If you need any advice or make a good catch please E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org