The past month was certainly an exciting one for me, Even if I couldn't get on my local rivers the Aire, Ribble, Wharfe, Ure, Lune, Eden and Hodder. I could have fished a small stretch of the river Ribble on the Post Office stretch at Ribchester controlled by Prince Albert AS who had opened the water in conjunction with the local farmer on August 1st. I felt I should stay away until all the rivers in the Ribble and Aire valley were open. Though I couldn't get on my local rivers, I did spend some time on the river Teme where I enjoyed some good sport fishing big bushy flies and small frog patterns for chub. My best fish on a small frog pattern probably went 4lbs. It was all good fun. Sadly I couldn't get a barbel to take one of my weighted dragonfly nymphs.
In West Wales anglers fishing the river Teifi controlled by Llandysul AC have been getting excellent sport with sea trout. Club chairman Pat O'Reilly fly fishing the river one evening had, in a three hour session, twenty three sea trout. Certainly good fishing. If you're interested in having a few days on the river give Pat a call on 01239-698678. Day and weekly permits are available.
I've been able to get out fishing on some of the waters in the South of England including the river Kennet. What a delightful water the Kennet is. I first visited this water back in 1947 Then of course it was a far better river than today, though I still rate it as one of the nicest rivers in England despite all the water abstraction, pollution and chemicals that leach into this most delightful of English rivers. Sadly one syndicate water on the river Kennet has lost all its weed growth. It's been suggested by some people in authority, that the weed had disappeared because of all the water during the winter months. Of course the syndicate members don't believe this. Otherwise why do the river stretches up and downstream still have a good weed growth. Could the disappearance of the weed be caused by some chemical?
On the subject of chemicals, let's not forget all the salt and other rubbish that is put on our roads during winter which then leaks back into our rivers causing lots of damage to the insects and the invertebrate life, also no doubt killing off a lot of fish fry. Still on the subject of chemicals, what about all the disinfectant being used in England and Wales? I was told that all vehicles attending this years C.L.A. Game Fair were sprayed from top to bottom with this obnoxious stuff. Why didn't the C.L.A. cancel this years event? Rather than wash vehicles with all this poison which will soon run off the land and roads, leaching into our rivers and streams.
Could the reason why it wasn't cancelled, be because some people were making money? We have far too many people these days only paying lip service to the pollution problems they cause. I am not prepared to go fishing or into the countryside if I have to use disinfectant. My fishing can wait. I am not prepared to use disinfectant, which is a poison, so I can go out and catch a fish, knowing at the same time I might be causing those same fish and the aquatic life to die through my irresponsible behaviour of using disinfectant. We keep hearing about the problems of hoof and mouth but have you noticed that no one bothers about the amount of disinfectant being used. I have written to the EA., Government Ministers, MP's, newspapers and the BBC asking them to highlight the problems of disinfectant. But don't hold your breath if you expect some action.
Another problem affecting the aquatic environment on the Kennet in Berkshire and also the Ouse in Buckinghamshire are the Signal crayfish. These crustaceans might help the barbel, perch and chub to grow to specimen size fish but at what cost to the insect and invertebrate life in our waterways? We also have another crayfish causing problems, the Turkish species, which few people talk about. Both of those foreign imports have caused major damage to the environment through eating nymphs, fish spawn and small fish, including trout and salmon parr.
Both the Signal and Turkish crayfish have caused the slow demise of our own crayfish which is known as the white-footed crayfish and is a protected species. It lives in clean shallow fast rivers and streams but can sometimes be found in lakes. Over the years we have had many foreign imports which have caused big problems in this country. The Grey squirrel, Mink, Canada goose, and others.
Another thing that has disturbed me and other fly fishers is the stocking of rainbow trout in some syndicate waters on the river Kennet and other chalk streams. This is so the wealthy patrons can take a big fish home and say "What a great angler I am". Kennet fly fishing isn't about catching big fish. It's all about catching naturally bred brown trout and grayling. Sadly the practice of stocking with big fish has moved to the north of England. Back in July an angling club with fly fishing water on the river Wharfe stocked with three brown trout in excess of 6lbs. I personally feel this is a bad mistake. Let's stop this obnoxious practice, Spend the money on habitat improvement which will then allow trout to breed naturally. Not big horrid and obese trout. What is wrong if our trout only grow to about fourteen inches? We shouldn't worry about the size of trout we catch when river fishing. There are plenty of still waters where you can go and catch plenty of big fish.
These big stocked fish are not natural in northern rivers, or any rivers come to that. They will lose weight, eat lots of small trout parr and other small fish in the process. Why make the fishing so artificial? We've done this on too many still waters. River trouting is not about catching obscene over-weight fish or big bags of fish. It's trying to catch, whenever possible, wild brown trout, or those trout that have been stocked as fingerlings, which have been allowed to grow on in a habitat that helps them to survive, and hopefully grow bigger, in their natural surroundings. River trouting is all about casting a nice line with an artificial fly to represent the real insect, It's also about smelling the flowers and hearing the birds sing during our time at the waterside.
September can be one of the best months in the fly fishers calendar for fresh and saltwater fish. The waters are usually cooler with more oxygen and stillwater trout fishing can be excellent. If you're planning to visit a stillwater this month take a few fry imitations with you. But don't be surprised if a perch or pike should grab hold. If it's hooked in the scissors you stand a good chance of landing the fish. Should it be a big pike and you have no chance of landing the fish without a long fight, think seriously think about breaking off. Fighting a fish for a long period of time does no good to the fish and could easily cause its death. That's one of the reasons I am against line class records. We get too many people going out to catch twenty pound plus fish on 2lb lines.
What a crazy situation we have in sports fishing where the International Game Fish Association encourage the death of a sporting fish. The IGFA would do a lot better fighting the pollution problems in both the ocean and freshwater. They should also be working to get those commercial 'fin' fisherman banned from catching sharks. Then after cutting off of the dorsal fin, the poor fish is dumped overboard to die a slow death. Think of the time and money IGFA spends in organising the line class record list. Money which could be better spent on improving the ocean and freshwater habitat or one of the many other battles we anglers are fighting world wide.
It was interesting to read in the latest issue of the Bass Anglers Sportsfishing Society magazine that the most popular lure used in the year 2000 were flies in various patterns. The list was compiled by Malcolm Brindle from members statistics. The B.A.S.S. magazine is only available to members. If you're one of the growing group of anglers chucking flies in the ocean for bass then B.A.S.S. is probably the organisation for you. Subscription is just 16 pounds per annum. Membership secretary is David Riley 12 Bafford Approach, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham GL53 9 HP For further details take a look at their web site www.ukbass.com or E-mail email@example.com
While on the subject of bass, Lancashire fly fisher Kent Sherington has been having some good success with this species when fishing on the North Wales coast. Kent writes:
"Steve Makin, a fly fisher from Yorkshire and I, were both rigged up with Poppers and floating lines which had proved successful in the past. The water over the reef was as clear as any tropical location, the wind was light and offshore, making casting easy with our nine weight saltwater outfits. After fishing for some time with nothing to show for our efforts (bait anglers as well) we were rapidly pushed out of casting range of the reef by the flooding tide.
During a short break I changed to a new Sand eel fly pattern, a pattern I could cast some 90 ft. Casts that were fast becoming necessary in the deepening water. Ten minutes later I had my first take, I was distracted by conversation with Steve who was fishing a popper close by. I fluffed the chance. Two or three casts later I got another opportunity. This time I made no mistake and quickly had a small school bass to hand. Just as quickly setting the fish free, we decided to fish on until darkness. After the initial small success, nothing else happened. I started thinking about my tackle set up wandering if the brightly coloured fly line was distracting the bass from our flies in the crystal clear water. I decided to change to a clear intermediate sinking line with the same fly pattern. Steve said he would stick with the same floating line but changing from a popper to one of my successful fly patterns.
After some sleep and a mug of tea it was time to commence fishing again. I started off by wading out to the reef with Steve on my right. I made a few casts over the weed covered reef but nothing showed. After some time I felt I was only going through the motions of cast and retrieve. Ten minutes later I stopped fishing to spend some time studying the action of the waves on the reef and the position of any visible rocks and weed above the surface. I soon realised there was a definite shallowing up in front of where I was casting. This was followed by a deeper channel, then more shallow water on the far side of the channel. Perhaps the bass would use this as a highway onto the reef during the flood tide? I called Steve over and explained my thoughts. He agreed and thought it was worth a shot so we waded out further. (I might add we believe in safety and make it a priority at all times to wear a self inflating life jacket when wading or boat fishing. We know it makes sense.) A few casts later I was into a bass, again released to grow bigger than its present twelve inches.
Two casts later I was into another bass, slightly bigger than the first, perhaps a couple of pounds or so this one. Steve had yet to have a take. I moved further along giving him access to the seemingly more productive water. After some time I moved off the reef onto the sand towards the shoreline. Steve still didn't get any takes. The tide was now getting too deep for comfort and we started to wade inshore and along the beach to the left of our starting point. As we moved along we looked for structure that may be worth fishing. Then, almost as we were about to give up, I sighted some boulders with a weed line nearly on the shore in about three feet of water.
I made a cast of some fifty feet, angled parallel along the edge of the weed line. Thump! A good fish had connected with my fly, It fought valiantly. I was glad I had tooled up with 10lb fluorocarbon tippet and a nine-weight rod equipped with a good saltwater disc drag reel. I said to Steve "This is a good one mate perhaps five pound or so". Then it was up top and head shaking. Steve replied "Yes and perhaps a bit more". At first I thought it best to back up to the nearby shore but the bass was having none of that, it wanted to get among those boulders and cut me off.
I pulled it away from the boulders with some heavy side-strain, out into the open water where I could firmly grab hold of its lip. Bass have big mouths without any real teeth so, unlike pike, this is a safe procedure and it helps keep your hands clear of the sharp dorsal spines etc. It would be a great shame to kill such a magnificent creature as this, weighing perhaps six pounds or so. So, as we do with all our bass, it was returned. Hopefully to make more baby Bass and perhaps give another angler the chance of catching Britain's finest saltwater sport fish."
Well done Kent. Lets hope more anglers think like Kent does and return most of their bass. Let's be honest, we are sports fishers and not fish killers. The bass needs all the help we can give it.
Next month will see the traditional start of grayling fishing, but of course we can fish for grayling from June 16th until March 14th, both days inclusive. I believe the reason so many start grayling fishing in October is a left-over from the old days when the wealthy few were able to fish for trout until the end of September. They would then leave the waterside letting us coarse fishers have the chance of catching this delightful fish. No doubt a few trout anglers in the old days would fish for the grayling but most trout fishers thought it was beneath their dignity to catch a 'coarse' scaly fish. How times have changed! But even today some of the old dyed-in-the-wool trout anglers believe trout only eat flies. Several years ago I remember reading a newspaper item where one old dry fly angler was disgusted at the thought his beloved trout would eat cheese. In fact trout are like all fish. They will, as Dick Walker often said, "Eat anything unless they are taught not too".
The ladies certainly make good anglers
Over the past few weeks I've had the pleasure of fishing with a few of you lady anglers on both still waters and rivers. One of the nice things about fishing with you ladies is, it doesn't matter how tough the fishing is, you keep on trying and don't moan about the conditions not being right, or the trout not feeding. You also cast a nice line and handle the fish with extreme care. Recently I was privileged to meet and fish with a lady fishing guide on the St. Regis river in St. Lawrence County upstate New York. Blond haired, blue eyed, Erin Clausen hailed from the Catskills area of New York where she works as a guide on the Beaverkill, and the East Branch of the Delaware.
This area of the United States is probably the birth-place of American fly fishing. Many great anglers have plied their craft on the rivers of the Catskills including, Theodore Gordon, Art Flick, Ray Bergman and Lee Wulff. Catskills anglers who fished these delightful streams also developed many famous trout flies including the Fan-wing, Royal Coachman, White Wulff and Grey Wulff, Light Cahill, Henderickson and Quill Gordon, designed by Theodore Gordon.
During the winter months Erin leaves her beloved New York streams and travels to the warmer climes. She spent one winter down in the Florida Keys chasing bonefish. The lady couldn't afford a guide so fished from a skiff, so determined was she to succeed. She also caught her share of barracuda during that trip, all by the use of a fly rod. Last year Erin travelled down to central Patagonia in South America where she guided fly fisherman in search of huge brown trout. As she said to me when I asked her the question "How do the male species treat you?", she smiled thought for a moment then said "Most are OK. A few are not too happy and the odd one has refused to fish with me". I found this lady a very interesting and attractive fly fisher who could handle a boat, tie flies, cast a nice line and who also had an excellent knowledge of water craft. It was a pleasure to be at the waterside with such an accomplished lady. If any of you blokes have a problem of fishing with a lady I would suggest you take up tiddlywinks or draughts. Let's not forget it was a lady who caught the British record salmon from Scotland's river Tay at 64lbs. Lady anglers also catch lots of other big fish and hold several river catch records for salmon. In my book ladies make great fly fishers.
No doubt like me you have seen in the press or heard on the radio, PETA have another campaign to discredit anglers. This time they have a poster out depicting a dog hooked in the mouth with an anglers lure. The caption reads "If you wouldn't do this to a dog, Why do it to a fish?"
It's supposed to show how cruel it is to hook a fish in the mouth. But fish are not like dogs and I don't fish for, nor do I eat, dogs. I catch fish, which are cold blooded, living in fresh or saltwater. When I am successful the hook goes into the fishes mouth, an area of the body that has no nerve endings, unlike the mouth of animals. The way humans and animals feel pain is through the cortex which is part of the outer brain. Fish only have a minute piece of cortex compared with animals and humans, hence the pain factor is non existent. If fish feel pain, how is it they can crush mussels, crabs, and other hard prickly food items which they have been doing for millions of years. If it was painful they would look for softer food items. Fishery scientists in Eastern Europe, Israeli, Japan and the United States reckon a fish's memory can only hold an experience for around half a second. In that case the fish will quickly forget any experience of being hooked.
In early autumn trout feed on perch and the trout's mouth gets badly lacerated. The fish still continue to feed avidly. Would they do this if they felt pain? Of course not. In one newspaper it stated; "There are plenty of documented cases where anglers have hooked fish, had a broken line, and seen the fish come straight back to try to eat the bait again. These sorts of studies and many others, suggest fish don't feel certain sorts of pain from the hook. There have been many occasions when I have caught fish with two or three hooks in their mouths. On many occasions over the past sixty years I have caught and released fish then caught the same fish again within minutes.
The article goes on "On the other hand, Sticklebacks have spines and the idea is that they cause damage to the pike trying to eat them". What a crazy idea to think the spines of a stickleback will stop the pike eating them. I have spent some sixty years studying fish in the wilds. As a youngster I would watch small immature pike attack and eat sticklebacks and minnows. I would use sticklebacks and minnows to catch small pike fish no bigger than twelve inches from a small slightly polluted stream at the bottom of Bakers Meadow near Upnor in Kent. A big pike needs a bigger quarry than a tiny stickleback to survive. On several occasions I and other anglers have seen pike grab and eat perch after perch without any problems. Perch have a very big spiny dorsal fin but the pike just keep on eating.
You try to crush a prickly spined fish in your mouth or hand, You would scream out in pain and immediately stop what you were doing. That's because we warm blooded humans have a large amount of cortex in the brain which ensures we humans feel pain. Let's not forget, a cold blooded fish with its tiny bit of cortex can be hooked, returned to the water, then hooked again within minutes. Remember, fish get attacked by otters, cormorants, sharks, pike and hundreds of other fish, animals and birds which leave them very badly wounded. Often the fish will have a hole through its body and still continue to feed and get hooked by anglers. Would they do so if they were in pain? I don't think so.
When you hook a fish it tries to get away. That's not through pain. It's because it doesn't like the experience of being tethered. If you take the tension off the fish, it will settle down on the river bed and lay there or move off to join the other fish in the swim. It will even take another bait, despite the hook and line. Tighten the line and immediately the fish strives to get away. Slacken off and the fish resumes feeding or resting. How do I know? Because I have seen it happen on many occasions.
If PETA are so concerned about the cold bloodied slimy fish species, why are they not protesting over the fish's fresh and saltwater environment which is being destroyed daily, perhaps by PETA members. This is happening as I write through the millions of gallons of disinfectant being sprayed in the countryside which is slowly leaching into our rivers and streams. I have never seen PETA at the waterside trying to save fish which are distressed and dying.
The RSPCA commissioned the Medway Report back in the 1970s. This report could not prove fish felt pain. I will continue to fish with a clear conscience truly believing that fish don't feel pain when I stick that hook in the fishes mouth. A fish's mouth can best be described as a bit of gristle, which is a hard, tough, flexible animal tissue. It's something like the hard skin we get on our hands which we cut off without the fear of pain. I might cause some slight distress but the good I do for the fish and the aquatic environment far outweighs any slight problem I cause to the fish. If the fish had a choice. They would rather have me around to look after them than PETA who do nothing to help the aquatic environment.
Ask yourself the question, why should the American based PETA choose the United Kingdom to spout their propaganda and not be protesting in their home country? Could the reason be that in the United States there are 35 million anglers and PETA don't have a cat in hells chance of winning their argument or getting their message across. In fact many people treat them with the contempt they deserve. Instead, this anti-angling group have come across the Atlantic to accuse the British anglers as being cruel, wicked and causing untold pain to fish. Which as we know is so totally untrue.
But we know from the past that lies and propaganda get people believing those lies are true. The NAZI Party propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels proved that if you tell enough lies to the masses, they will believe what they are being told is true - as the German people did in the late 1930's early 40's. PETA are always putting across their propaganda, especially to innocent youngsters as witnessed recently when they attended various Primary schools where they approached young children telling them lies and spouting their propaganda. Saying to these young, easily influenced, children "Stop drinking milk because milk is only for cow babies". PETA also want to stop you keeping pets, eating meat, eggs and fish and are against the wearing of leather goods.
They even have a crazy idea that we should trap mice and release them away from home. What about the ghastly, disease ridden rat? Do we do the same with them?. Next time you're in the garden, don't chop a worm or kill a slug, you might have the PETA police after you!
Next months feature will include my trip to Swedish Lapland and the World Fly Fishing Championships. Have a good months angling and enjoy the experience and if you want any advice or help please E-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org