Robert Johnson of Washington State sent me an E-mail recently saying how he enjoyed my recent feature on fly fishing for carp, having seen the pictures of the twenty pounders he is intending to try the method himself. As Robert said "We have millions of big carp in the Columbia river and its backwaters". Having fished the area Robert, I can only say you're a lucky guy to have such good carp fishing on your doorstep. The only advice I can give you is to say that carp are not that easy to catch, they are also a very spooky fish and a good one to target as they will fight as hard as any fish in freshwater. I wish you well.
November has been often be described as a dull month in the fly fishers calendar with the end of salmon, sea and brown trout angling on our rivers, It doesn't have to be like that. Also, while on the subject of calendars, have you got your copy of the 'Grab Your Tackle' calendar available from www.fishing.co.uk ?? It's good for a laugh and makes an ideal stocking filler for Christmas.
This month will see many of you attending fly tying clinics either through your local education centre or one of the many branches of the Fly Dressers Guild. If you haven't tied flies before give it a try, it's very satisfying to catch a fish on a fly of your own tying.
Don't put away your fly fishing tackle now the season has ended for your favourite game fish species, go out and catch a few grayling. They can be taken on wet flies, dry flies and nymphs. They are not always an easy fish to catch, in fact they can be very difficult at times. Should you catch one you will often catch a dozen, as grayling are usually a shoal fish. Having said that, the bigger fish are often in groups of half a dozen. On the river Aire the bigger fish are often solitary, usually staying in the same area all winter even through the big floods. I have often seen good size grayling swimming with a shoal of chub. Could it be safety in numbers?
You don't need anything special for grayling fishing. Your trout fishing gear will be suitable. What I will recommend is the new Ghost tip. It's a thirty five yard green floating line with a 15 foot clear sink tip section from Cortland. It's a lovely line to have for nymph fishing, it's a line I feel will help you catch more fish and, with no join as you would have if you used a sinking leader, you don't get any hinging effect. With it's clear tip you won't need such a long leader; for river fishing I have found seven feet long enough and nine feet on still waters. I don't nail knot the leader direct to the line. I make a loop of about an inch or so then tie it in with a couple of nail knots using some 12lb breaking strain line.
Cortland manufacture two types of Ghost tip lines, one for cold water use, the other for the tropics. I have been using the latter, which is a thirty five yard long, yellow coloured line, with a nine foot clear tip, for my bonefishing in shallow water, with great success. If you're one of the new breed of fly fishers chucking big flies for pike, the new cold water Ghost tip in a nine weight is an excellent line for use with both sunk flies, poppers and big surface flies. Again, you can use a shorter leader, in fact I have used six foot leaders in windy weather which has made casting so much better. I haven't noticed a drop in the number of takes. Cortland have changed the colour of their Pike and Musky line from peach to red, apart from the colour change it's the same line. Why they changed the colour I don't know. Probably down to some marketing whizz-kid who earns a bucket full of dollars for thinking up these ideas!? Why not take a look at the Cortland Ghost tip fly lines in your tackle shop.
At one time I was under the impression that fly fishing for pike was only good during the warm summer months. This idea didn't come from any experience but from ignorance. I now know differently. Providing the water isn't too coloured or the water temperature too low, the pike will grab a fly the same as they have grabbed hold of spinners and plugs - for as long as anglers have been chucking these things in the water. So don't put away tackle. Go out and chuck a fly in the water this autumn and winter. Up until a few years ago most angling clubs had a rule saying 'no pike fishing until October 1st' . Then, one would hear anglers say "Pike feed best in frosty weather" but we now know pike will feed in all weather conditions and all through the season. What I will say from my experience, pike are far more aggressive during the warm summer months. Though I stand to be corrected on this statement. What I have found during the autumn and winter months is, pike usually take sub-surface fly patterns and not top water flies or poppers .
Forget your floating line, choose a slow sink line if you're fishing water up to five or six feet deep. If it's deep water you're fishing, you might want a fast sink or even lead core line. I usually tackle up with two outfits. One a slow sink outfit where I can thoroughly search the water. But I also take a fast sink outfit which I use when I need to get down quickly on the bottom in water depths of fifteen feet of water or more. As we all know, fish don't follow any rules. When we think they should be on the bottom they can be in mid water even occasionally on the top, but its rare. With less boat traffic on the canals during the autumn and winter months the water will be a lot clearer so you will have more chance of pike seeing your flies, and it's a lot cheaper than chucking flies for stocky rainbows. If you live in the Sussex area, why not join the Ouse Preservation Society? The Ouse above Barcombe mill is well worth a visit for you fly chuckers in search of pike. Don't ignore the small dike between the river and the Andrews stream, it holds double figure pike.
Up and down the country there are lots of still water rainbow trout fisheries open all through the year. My advice to all you still water fly fishers who stop visiting your local trout fishery after the first frost is keep on fishing. If your local water closes, look elsewhere. You should find a fishery near you where you can catch rainbows all through the winter months. Though it can sometimes be very slow, it all depends on the stocking policy. Choose a fishery where the owner stocks every week. Even in conditions where you need a thermal one piece suit to keep you warm, you can still catch rainbow trout. There have been many times in the past when I used to fish for cold weather rainbows. My usual outfit was a six weight, slow sink line, nine foot leader with a 3lb tippet. I would usually fish Damsel fly, Dragon fly or Pheasant tail nymphs. I would fish the nymphs with a very slow figure of eight retrieve. Many times the hit would come just as the nymph started to rise slowly from the bottom. There would be an odd occasion when I would switch to fishing a small black lure on a size 12 hook. This pattern would also be fished quite slowly. The ideal line for this type of angling today has to be the Ghost tip lines.
Take Care of Your Fly Lines
Now the season has ended for many of you, it's time to check your fly lines. If you're one of those anglers who hasn't stripped the fly line from your reel, now is the time to get this job done. Fly lines are designed for several years service. But they do require a little maintenance to keep them in top condition. After stripping the line off the reel give it a good wash in warm soapy water and running the line through a soft cloth you will be amazed at the amount of dirt coming off the line. I don't use any old soap powder but one designed for delicate clothes. Have a word with your wife, girl friend or partner on this subject. Having washed and cleaned the line of all the foreign bodies, grit, algae, weed etc., you will then need to rinse the line off in cold water and dry it thoroughly. The line then needs a good polish with one of the many fly line cleaning products on the market. Your local tackle dealer should be able to advise you on this subject.
Don't rewind the line back on the reel but store it in a dark cupboard in loose coils until next spring. When you make that first cast of the new season you will be amazed at how good your casting will be. A clean well polished line will add yards to your distance I try whenever possible to clean my fly lines after every trip, if I have used them in fresh or saltwater. I might occasionally miss this on freshwater trips, but never fail to clean my lines after a days use in the ocean however tired I might be. On the subject of tackle maintenance, check all your rod guides. With the use of a cotton bud clean all the inserts of your guides. It's amazing how much dirt gets hung up on guides. Give your rod a good wash in warm soapy water, I use a toothbrush to clean bits of dirt and grit from the screw winch fitting. After drying the rod and putting it back in its cloth bag, don't dump it in the corner of the shed until next season, hang it on a hook in a safe place. Make sure your shed is free from mice as they enjoy chewing cork handles. I learnt from experience back in the 1950's with a MK 1V carp rod.
The Abbotts Barton Controversy
I am sure all fly fishers, and not just those who fish the chalk streams of the South have been following the Abbotts Barton syndicate saga on the river Itchen in Hampshire, with a great deal of sympathy for the syndicate members. I am sure most of you think as I do, that the actions carried out by some members of the Hampshire Wildlife Trust can only be described as very stupid behaviour, in banning the syndicate from this stretch of the river Itchen where they have done so much good work. Work for the aquatic environment and the wildlife on a river made famous by such notable as Skues, and Halford among the many great anglers who have walked the banks of this magnificent water over the past hundred years or so.
Over the past few weeks there have been many thousands of words written about the controversy on the Itchen. One of the best features I have read on the subject was published in the September issue of 'Total Flyfishing' by Graham Mole. Well done Graham on giving us such a very informative feature.
I must pose the following questions: Is it possible the Hampshire Wildlife Trust have been infiltrated by some anti anglers? And should all of us anglers who care about the sport of angling and the wildlife become members of their local Wildlife Trust?
One angler who has done just that is Alan Roe of Blackpool Lancashire. As Alan told me "I have joined my local wildlife Trust because I am a naturalist and want to see the wildlife protected and the habitat improved. Also to make sure the anglers interests are also included in any improvements or other work carried out" What has happened to Abbotts Barton today could happen to your fishery tomorrow - we must be on our guard at all times to defeat the enemies of angling, and there are many. It's not just a handful of misguided people from Pisces but many more who are supported by P.E.T.A. who are funded to the tune of millions of dollars, much of this money coming from the United States of America. My American friends tell me a lot of these dollars are generated in Hollywood. I am sorry to say many members of the general public today feel we should not be catching fish for fun.
Twenty years ago some 2-5% of the general public were against angling. Today it's some 30 35%. Remember, politicians in the House of Commons sway to and fro in the hot air they create. That direction of sway is where the most votes come from. We cannot trust them to look after our sport. Also from my experience with the Environment Agency since it was formed, we cannot trust this either, it's a huge monster called a quango which of course was given to us by those same politicians we cannot trust. Some time ago a fishery officer in the Midlands said "You have to remember Martin, we mustn't rock the boat we could lose our jobs and our pensions" Thankfully the EA fishery officers and pollution inspectors in my area of the North West do get down from their ivory tower (commonly called an office) and do their jobs. They keep me informed of improvements they are doing for the habitat, the help given to the disabled anglers through the building of disabled platforms, pollution incidents etc. Remember, should you see any sign of pollution, the dumping of rubbish, digging of badger sets, suspected poaching, then immediately stop fishing and telephone the environment agency on 0800-80-70-60 its manned 24 hours. When calling the EA Make a note of the operators name, also the time, location and nature of the suspected offence and ask them to notify you what action was taken. If you're not satisfied with the action by the EA then write to the Environment Minister and your local Member of Parliament, House of Commons London SW1 OAA
Lets Licence the Canoeist?
This year there seems to have been an increase in the number of canoeists on our rivers, the majority being very well behaved and with watery resources at a premium it's something we all have to share. Recently on a trip to the river Wye with Brian Clark, a journalist on the London Times newspaper, we had a continuous flotilla of canoes passing by. They didn't prove a problem to our fishing as they passed by on the opposite side of the river. It was a classic case of anglers and canoeists sharing the river. Contrast this with an incident a few days later on the same river.
I am fishing just past the centre of the river with the usual flotilla of canoes passing behind me. No problems, in fact when I hooked a salmon of some six or seven pound the canoeist stopped while I played the fish. They watched me unhook it then saw it released with the message "That's one for the future and the children of tomorrow". After answering more questions they passed on their way. I moved to another pool where I had seen a rolling swirling fish. As I fished the pool I would take a step downstream after each cast, Canoeists passed down downstream behind me, everyone enjoying the watery environment. As I made another cast I noticed one small group of canoeists would pass over my fishable water. I politely asked them to pass the other side of me. All but one of them did as requested quite willingly. The exception was one slob who refused and said "I am going where you are F****** fishing and you can P*** off. You can't F****** stop me I have every F****** right to go where I want to".
If this slob hadn't got a lady in the canoe he would have been tipped out where I am sure the icy cold water would have cooled him down. We anglers have to hold a licence to fish in freshwater, so why not a licence for all canoes of, say 20 pounds sterling a year? The money could be used to improve the habitat. Also if all canoes had to have a registration number displayed. We could then find out who the idiots are and ban them from our rivers for a period of time!
No doubt like me you would like to improve your casting skills. All through the year whenever I have a few hours to spare I go out on a local sports field where I practise my casting. We fly fishers are very lucky these days with the number of video's on sale which demonstrate various casting techniques. Two videos that will help your casting include The Dynamics of Fly Casting with Joan Wulff.
This video is probably the best I have watched on the subject, Joan captured her first casting title in 1938 and has been winning honours and catching fish ever since. In chapter format, Joan shows and explains the mechanics and techniques she has been developing, analysing and refining for more than 60 years. You will also learn the important elements of great casting, vital hand and arm movements, practice routines that will teach you how to make almost all kinds of casts along with some very special tips. You will learn everything from solid basics to advanced techniques. Running time is 1 hour 30 minutes I can thoroughly recommend Joan Wulff's Dynamics of Fly Casting
All of us who have visited country fairs and game shows will have witnessed the casting and teaching skills of James Tomlinson, His video, Distance Fly Casting shows how to increase your casting range to improve fish catches. James is a casting and angling champion and world record holder who has won over 300 medals and trophies in national, international and world casting championships. James was the first British caster to score the perfect 100 maximum points in a world championship. Running time is approximately 30 minutes.
Just before the brown trout season ended I managed to get a few hours on the upper reaches of the river Aire. It is small stream fishing. The river looked perfect as Alan Roe of Blackpool, my guide for the day, suggested I fish a streamy run overhung by hazel bushes and willows whose branches reached down towards the water surface. There was some two feet between the water surface and those branches that love to eat flies and leaders. I used a 6 foot rod, 4 weight line, 9 foot leader with a Greenwells Glory. On my fifth cast a fish gently rose and sipped in the fly. I tightened into a nice fish which gave a good account of itself. Bringing it to hand where it was unhooked and released, Alan congratulated me then reached for his flask of Macallan's where we toasted the fish. It was a happy James who moved off upstream and a very satisfying way to end the season.
Have a good month at the waterside, go out and get your string pulled and your stick bent and enjoy it Any questions or if you want to join me on a trip, then E-mail me email@example.com