Back To The Waterside

April can certainly be a month of change. This month will often start with very cold easterly or north easterly winds, clear night skies and frost, sometimes it even snows. A week later we can have some delightful spring weather with warm sunny days and light south westerly winds. Hopefully we will have many such days. What will be beneficial are a few days of warm rain which will raise the water temperature and encourage the insect life to hatch. This will bring the trout to the surface and keep our rivers flowing. With good rainfalls, our rivers will be at a good level and flowing clear. The extra water also dilutes some of the filth that enters our rivers from fields and side streams. Our northern rivers certainly need rainfall each week to keep them flowing and the gravel runs sparkling

Rookeries will be a hive of activity with lots of noise. At the waterside many species of birds and water fowl will be going about the business of nest building. In fact several species of birds and water fowl will probably be sitting on a clutch of eggs. Frogs and toads should have spawned and depending on the time of the month and the weather, some of our still waters and slow flowing stretches of our rivers will be full of tadpoles which the trout love to eat, as do blackbirds.

Hawthorns will be in their new cloaks of green. The hawthorn certainly adds a bright dash of beauty to the waterside early in the season. They are magnificent looking and probably the first tree to come in leaf after the long winter. Wild flowers are now growing in profusion; daffodils, primroses, bluebells and marsh marigold What a delightful flower. It certainly brightens up the dull English countryside with it's brilliant golden flower and bright green glossy looking leaves. Matching the marsh marigold for adding a splash of colour to the countryside is the lesser celadine. If we are lucky we might even see the wood anemone and later this month we should see the cowslip's.

My early season trouting usually takes place on the river Aire, Ribble and Dove. In the past I made many long journeys south to fish Rutland but over the past few years my still water fly fishing has taken a back seat in my quest for river brown trout. This season I plan to spend some time on the Scottish lochs and the river Tweed. This river can offer some excellent brown trout fishing for the price of a day, weekly or monthly ticket. It's not easy fishing but the rewards can be very rewarding. If you're looking for some reasonable river fishing two clubs worth joining are Bradford City Angling Association and Prince Albert Angling Society. The latter club have a two to three year waiting list. It's certainly worth putting your name down for membership. This club have many miles of trout, grayling, sea trout and salmon fishing.

I feel our river trout fishing in April this year could be very good especially if we have some warm weather. This will encourage more insects, which in turn will hopefully bring the trout to the surface. My choice of early season fly patterns to have in my box would include the Black and Peacock Spider. This is a very under-rated pattern useful in rivers and still waters, Greenwell's Glory in wet and dry patterns, Large Olives, March Brown, Alan Bithell's Paythorn Olive, Beaded Pheasant Tail Nymph, Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, Snipe and purple also Orange Partridge.

A book I can certainly recommend is 'Trout Fishing In Rivers' by Malcolm Greenhalgh published by Witherby. Sadly it's out of stock but it should be available from one of the many second hand book dealers. You could try Paul Morgan (E-mail paul@anglebooks.com) who has a very comprehensive second hand book business. Hopefully Malcolm's publishers will bring out a second more updated edition. Malcolm Greenhalgh is without doubt one of the finest exponents of river trout fishing who I have had the pleasure to fish with.

Salmon Catch And Release

What I cannot understand is why so many salmon anglers are refusing to go fishing until the Environment Agencies catch and release programme ends in June, Some people have said to me "I am not going to buy a licence and then return my salmon if I catch one". I see no problem with this regulation that requires me to return all my salmon. That's when I'm lucky enough to catch them. Especially if it give the kids not yet born the chance of seeing such a magnificent fish in the future. Also I feel fish are too valuable to catch once. In the future, should we get to the stage of good salmon runs in our rivers, then we can harvest a couple of fish per season. We are sportsmen, not fishmongers!

Sadly though the fishmongers among us are still there. In a recent magazine I was shocked to see a person from Lancashire with 5 dead salmon. In the article he writes 'The beats that I fish on the rives in my part of the North of England have experienced poor returns of both salmon and sea trout' . Surely this is one more reason for returning our fish. Harvesting one fish is certainly OK, but to kill five fish when the fish runs are so poor is obscene and quite sickening. Many of my American friends who have seen the picture of this person's pile of dead flesh cannot understand this 'kill kill kill' attitude of many salmon anglers when the Atlantic Salmon is becoming an endangered species.

Let's Ban Fishing And Netting

A problem I see as a sports fisherman, and one that makes me very angry, is the practise of allowing anglers and netsmen to take bass from the many bass nursery areas around the United Kingdom coastline which are usually in the area of power plants and warm water out-flows. It's time this horrid and un-sporting practise was stopped. If we saltwater fly fishers were to protest to the various Government Ministers and our members of Parliament then perhaps we could get the practise stopped. Also, why not a saltwater rod licence? The money raised could then be used to build reefs and other structures around our coastline. If the American anglers can put pressure on there Government Agencies and State Governors to get action on improving the habit. Why can't we in the United Kingdom do the same.

Your New Rod Licence Is Now Due

Remember, as from the 1st of this month you will be required to purchase a new Environment Agency rod licence before you can go fishing. They are available from all post offices. When it was first announced that rod licences would be sold in Post Offices I sent a letter of support. I still think this was an excellent idea to have them on sale over the counter of our local post office. There cannot be many places in England and Wales where it's not possible to get a licence. What amazes me are the large number of whinging people who complain about the cost of a rod licence. I personally feel we don't pay enough for our licence. Also is it not time we all paid the same price for a licence? We all benefit from improvements to our river whether we seek the trout, sea trout or salmon, And are we not all anglers? If we paid a realistic fee, which I feel should be fifty pounds, then the Environment Agency would have more funds to improve our fisheries and hopefully prosecute a few more farmers for destroying our rivers and streams. Let's stop all those concessions for rod licence fees. I am entitled to a reduced fee for a rod licence but I choose to pay the full licence fee. I don't want anyone to subsidise my fishing. The EA need all the funds they can get.

With more income the EA could perhaps then rent a strip of land alongside our rivers and streams. We could then have a buffer zone which would act as a barrier against the run off from chemicals and slurry that are pumped indiscriminately over the fields. This would then increase the chance of more fly life which is so crucial for the young fish and many of our birds. Swifts, swallows, martins and dippers all rely on aquatic insects and flies on or near the rivers and streams to feed their young, as do the many duckling which give us so much pleasure in springtime.


Let's Make Farmers More Responsible

We keep being told how tough it is in the farming industry. Well, what about the steel workers. It's tough for them guys too and they don't get handouts from the EEC! The farming community keep demanding more handouts from us the tax payer, yet, we are over-producing food and milk. One example of this crazy situation are the thousands of gallons of milk being poured away every week. Last year we had farmers blockading fuel outlets, when they should have been at work on their farms. Is it not time the farming community throughout Europe were made to stand in the market place without grants from Brussels? 'Brussels' should read 'you, the tax payer'. We might have to pay more for our food but the environment and wildlife would benefit. We would be leaving a greener, brighter future to children yet to be born. Yes, the less efficient farmers would go out of business. That's life. Let's not forget most other businesses do not get massive handouts from Brussels.

This past winter when the ground has been frozen, I have seen farmers pumping thousands of gallons of evil smelling liquid or spreading the more solid filth. Not only is it spread on the fields, it's also allowed to get into our rivers and streams. We are told it's spread on the fields to help the grass grow. Tell me how it get into the rock hard ground? The filth will just lay there on the frozen ground until the rain comes, then it's swept into our water-courses. As this filth lays on the fields, cattle and sheep can be seen eating the filthy grass. What does that do to the food chain and our bodies? No wander I have cut back considerable on my meat consumption.

Rachel Carson And Her Fight For A Better Environment

A major problem hitting the aquatic insect life are the insecticides and pesticides being spread on the fields which leach off the ground into our water courses. Not only have they caused much of our aquatic insect life to disappear but also land bred insects. These chemicals have been the cause of why so many birds, wild flowers and mammals have disappeared. Remember Rachel Carson and her book 'The Silent Spring' published by Hamish Hamilton? Many years ago HRH The Duke of Edinburgh addressing a World Wildlife Fund Dinner said "I strongly recommend Rachel Carson's Silent Spring If you want to see what is going on".

I have been a Rachel Carson fan since the 1950's when I first heard about this special woman through the pages of an American environment magazine. Apart from The Silent Spring I also have The Sea Around Us, Under The Sea Wind, The Edge Of The Sea. Another book I have is 'Rachel Carson - Witness for Nature' It's the life of the author by Linda Lear, Penguin publishers, which I commend to all of you who love and care about the British countryside. Don't rely on politicians or the farming community. Ask yourself these three questions. Where have all the skylarks gone? Where have all the butterflies gone? And where have all the Glow-worms gone? For those of you too young to know what these delightful creatures are, they are related to the fireflies of the tropics. Only the females emit the bright yellow-green luminous light, which is very bright. Today Glow-worms are nearly as rare as the Dodo. Again, the cause of their loss, along with skylarks and butterflies, is the loss of habitat through modern farming and GREED.

I feel we fly fishers are closer to nature than most other anglers as we match our flies to what is hatching. Modern farming is bad for fly fishing. Sadly the trouble in angling is the word apathy. If only more anglers were to write to the Prime Minister, Ministers and their MP's. Let's stop buying British beef and lamb until the farmers act responsibly.

Should you see any sign of pollution, especially if the water turns a pea green and smells, immediately call the EA on 0800-80-70-60. Note the persons name who answers the phone. Get them to call you back with the result of the inspection. Follow up your phone call with a letter. If possible take a water sample. Should you see farmers rubbish, grass cuttings, piles of loose soil or building refuse at the waters edge waiting to be swept away by the next flood call out the EA. Keep a close watch on side streams and outfall pipes. If you don't like what you see call the EA. We fly fishers must be the ears and eyes of the countryside. If we don't care no one else will.

Fishing Is Cheap Compared With Other Sports And Pastimes

Recently I was in a tackle shop listening to a customer complaining at the cost of tackle needed to start fly fishing. Let's be honest, it's cheaper to take up the sport these days than in the past. Let's get away from the idea that fishing is a very costly sport. It isn't. For the cost of a Premiership season ticket, you can go out and buy a set of fly fishing tackle, purchase a rod licence, join a fly fishing club which would give you several months of fishing and enjoyment. Then no doubt you would still have some cash left over to join the ACA.

For the price of a good set of trainers, shorts and shirt, you can go out and buy a set of fly fishing tackle. I pay more for a single round of golf than I do for a whole seasons rod licence. Some of my friends watching a Premiership soccer match for one and a half hours pay more than I do for full week's angling. Some call it entertainment. The biggest moaners are often the coarse fishers who chuck more bait in the water during a days fishing than they pay for a season's rod licence. I have seen them use six pints of gentles, a couple of pints of casters and four pints of hemp with a couple of bags of fancy smelling groundbait. What's that lot cost? Twenty pounds?

Fly Fishing The Tropics

Over the past month I have had several E-mail letters seeking information and advice on locations and tackle needed for bonefish. My first bit of advice would be to go out and buy Bone fishing! by Randall Kaufmann. Western Fisherman's Press. It's without doubt the best book on the subject. A book that covers all the bonefish locations around the world and contains every bit of information you will need about this great fly fishing quarry of the flats. In fact, I rate the bonefish as the number one quarry for fly and lure angler in fresh or saltwater world-wide.

On every bonefish trip I learn something new about this magnificent quarry. Perhaps it's about the tidal movements across the flats or the fishes feeding habits. Perhaps it's about the weather conditions and its effect on the movement of bonefish. Through the guides I have learnt about new techniques in presenting the fly, or the use of an item of tackle. If you're planning a bone fishing trip then go out and buy one of the new 444 Tropic Plus "Ghost Tip" lines from Cortland. It's a floating line with a 9' sinking clear tip section. This line certainly gives you an advantage with spooky bonefish. I have also learnt from experience to uprate my Sage rods by one line rating. i.e. An eight weight line on a seven weight rod. I have certainly found a big advantage with my casting and fly presentation, especially in windy conditions. Another advantage when fishing the flats is the use of fluorocarbon leader material. This certainly has helped me catch more fish. I fact I use this material for all my fly fishing leaders. In fact it's so good I have been using it for my winter chub fishing too with great results.

I cannot impress on you the travelling angler, to make sure you purchase saltwater travel rods which you can take on board your flight as hand luggage. More rods are destroyed or lost at airports than for any other reason. Remember, when you arrive at your bonefish destination the chances of buying a new rod are virtually nil. The only bonefish venue I know where you might purchase a new rod is Florida. My advice is take two rods, an eight and nine weight. The former for bonefish the latter for permit, snappers and barracuda which are excellent fighters. I have never worked out why so many anglers, especially the Americans, don't like this fish. Barracuda will give you some good jumps, make fast runs and generally give you a lot of fun. You will find you cannot retrieve the fly fast enough for this fish with it's mouthful of razor blades so make sure you have a wire trace.

For those of you going on your first bone fishing trip my advice is choose Andross Island in the Bahamas. It's a beautiful venue with some excellent bonefish flats. There are, apart from bonefish, permit and tarpon and some good fishing for mutton snappers. Fresh Creek is one place to seek the tarpon. The small flats either side of Fresh Creek bridge usually holds a few bonefish which are easily spotted. Working up the creek with the ocean at your back you will find several flats where you can often spot tailing bones. You don't need a guide at every venue. Small Hope Bay is another good venue. This is ideal for all the family with its safe swimming. It's a full dive service camp where you can learn to dive and catch bonefish all in your weeks stay. The food is excellent and all the drinks are free, you just help yourself. Another good bonefish camp is Moxey's guest house and Bonefish lodge on Andross Island. You can E-mail Joel Moxey pax@bahamas.net.bs

On your first bone fishing trip my advice is book a guide for the first one or two days. You will learn so much and have a great experience. It's well worth the cost. If you're on a very tight budget you can then go off and search the flats once you know what your looking for. This is where your guide is so important on this first day or two.

Of course there are one or two things you should beware of when you're in the tropics, First are the stingrays. Never walk in the normal way on the flats, shuffle your feet. The rays will pick up the vibrations and depart the area. They are more frightened of you than you are of them.

The other problem is sunburn or sunstroke. There is no excuse in getting either if you follow a few simple rules. One is wear a hat. My hat is based on the Foreign Legionnaires Kepi. You will need a good pair of Polarised glasses which are very useful for fish spotting and finally some good sunscreen is needed. I use P20 made in Denmark which I purchase at the airport shop in the UK. It retails for around seventeen pounds fifty. You apply it to your body an hour and a half before going out in the sun. It's not sticky, it dries quickly and you only need to apply it once a day even if you go swimming. I always take two pairs of glasses, two hats and two bottles of sunscreen. Finally, I know we are fly fishers but a very important item of tackle is a light spinning outfit. Make sure you take such an outfit. Then, should you get a windy day where it's very difficult to cast a fly, you can spin or fish a bit of shrimp or crab and have some good sport on a day when most people are back at the camp getting bored.

Florida's Space Coast

This winter I have had several E-mails requesting information on fishing available around Orlando in Florida. From what you tell me, many of you are planning on taking the family to Disney and Sea World this summer. You also want to know about the fishing available. All I can say is you're in for a treat. The fishing can be excellent for the price of a rod licence. Don't stay in Orlando and pay Orlando prices. My advice is stay on the Space coast just across from the Kennedy Space Centre which you will of course want to visit during your holiday. Kennedy is a magnificent place for all the family to visit. Titusville is one of the places to stay.

To the south you have the famous Cocoa beach, to the north is the well known Daytona beach known for its bike racing. In between, there are lots of attractions. If you stay in the Best Western hotel, which is a family hotel with swimming pool and laundry room, the hotel also has a lake where you can fish for bass etc. with fly fishing or spinning gear. The kids can even catch fish on bread as the wife or girlfriend soaks up the sun.

Across the road from The Best Western is a Wallmart store where you can buy a 7' 4 piece fly/spinning rod for 27 dollars. It's certainly a good buy. I have one, which fits in the suitcase. I will be fishing the Indian river, Banana river and Mosquito lagoon this month for redfish snook and sea trout. Later in the season you can also fish for tarpon, lady fish and jacks . If you want to fish for bass then you have some of the best largemouth bass fishing in the country. Fly and lure fishing.

For further information E-mail Nancy or Carol spaceinn@iu.net You can rest assured you will have a great time in Titusville without all the hassle and high prices of Orlando. You can reach Disney, Sea World and all the other attractions quite easily. After all the excitement and walking you can relax on the lake at the back of the Best Western hotel catching a few fish

Other very useful addresses are Guide Capt. Patti and Jay Dee of Florida Fishing Outfitters, E-mail maxfish@digital.net

Another well known fishing guide is John Kumiski E- mail spottedtail.com You don't need any tackle. It's all supplied along with drinks and food if needed. Make sure you take some good sunscreen Polarised glasses and a hat.

Fish spotting glasses from England

One of the greatest aids for fish spotting must be the polarised glasses designed to clearly see through the surface reflections on water, They are also designed to stop damage to our eye-sight which as we all know is very important. For several years I have had my polarised prescription glasses made in the United States for the quality and the competitive prices. Last year I needed a new pair of glasses and decided to see what was available in the UK. I checked out several high street optician and was shocked by the prices quoted. (It's certainly the rip off Britain syndrome)

One lunchtime, sitting reading a magazine I spotted an advertisement for UK-made Polarised sunglasses. After reading the advertisement a couple of times I put a call through to Tony Kerr of Optilabs Ltd. After a long chat I decided to order a pair of his companies glasses with amber high contrast prescription lenses. I sent off my order with a copy of my eye glass prescription. A few days later my glasses arrived. To say I was impressed was an understatement, they were excellent. They had come supplied with two types of side arms, side pieces to cut out the glare coming from behind, a good quality case and an adjustable cord. Certainly excellent value for money. I have used my glasses in the Middle East, Florida and the Bahamas. I also found them ideal when I was dog sledding and ice fishing in Swedish Lapland.

For further details telephone Tony Kerr on 020 8686 5708. If I can be of any help in your quest for some good fishing, information on holidays, casting instructions or you want to join me on a trip just E-mail me. martin@flyfish.demon.co.uk

Have a good month's fly fishing

Cheers !