Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Book Review: River Fly Fishing by Peter Lapsley; A Fly Fisher's Entomology by J. R. Harris

I read this book every year before the start of the new season, and each time I get something new from it. This year, I gleaned particular pleasure from the opening chapter Roots. It is the most succinct, informed and informative essays covering the long history of fly fishing I have read. I can't remember having read it before - in previous years I most probably skipped it, eager to get to the actual fishing bits, but this year I took it all in, and I'm glad I did.

Peter Lapsley's writing style is, as I've already mentioned, succinct. Dermot Wilson, quoted on the book's dust cover, says:

'...he never wastes a word and every word is a mot juste.'

It's true. Consider this withering yet economic semi-dismissal of Frederick Halford's legacy:

'It can be argued - and I would not disagree - that chalk-stream fly-fishing would probably have developed much as it did without Halford's intervention.'

There follows a couple of pages discussing the development of the dichotomy between Halford (and his followers) and Skues' relative philosophies during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One is left in no doubt as to who Lapsley regarded as having left the most lasting legacy.

Peter Lapsley died on Saturday 3rd August 2013 aged 70

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Tricky Dikler on Opening Day

I'd checked the weather forecast yesterday, natch - west north westerly, gusting up to 40mph: Well, as usual they got it wrong, the worst gusts were mid thirties, tops.

The Churn looked good, but casting was tricky, and sighting the leader among the white horses was a tad problematic. I did, however, manage to winkle a couple of wild browns out on a pink bead head GRHE nymph. Nothing was rising, and there was no sign of large dark olives coming off, unlike a couple of days ago when I came for a pre-season amble along the bank, when there was a prolific hatch at lunchtime.

There was a bit of drama though. The farmer here puts his lambing ewes into the fields bordering the river and, skulking along the bank with the river to my right and the sounds of bleating sheep to my left, I heard a baleful bleat coming from - my right. A lamb, no more than a day or two old, had fallen in, and was standing up to his nether regions in the water on a small ledge. Throwing caution to the not inconsiderable wind, I got in and picked the little fellow up, waded upstream to a handy shingle beach, and put him back onto dry land. Although shivering a little, he felt warm and I thought he would be alright. The problem now was locating his mother. There were a lot of ewes in the field and no obvious candidate presented herself. He seemed unwilling to leave my side, and for an awful moment I thought he might now consider me his adoptive parent. Anyway, I shooed him off towards the flock and, to my immense relief and surprise, a loudly bleating ewe came running over to claim him. I watched for ten minutes or so as he fed from her, both of them oblivious of the disaster that had come so close, but for the intervention of an heroic fly fisherman. Seeing that my work here was done, I decided to move elsewhere for the remainder of the afternoon.

The club had announced some new water on the comedicly named river Dikler the previous day so I decided to give it a try. It is a lovely looking stretch, but with very little cover. The fish were not giving their positions away, so I made searching casts with the hitherto reliable pink head GRHE but with no success. Then, out of the corner of my eye, in a very tricky lie beneath one of the few trees on the beat, I spotted the first rise of the season. It was a sippy affair and I was not sure it was a rise at all, thinking that perhaps it had been something blown from the tree by the still boisterous breeze. However, I waited and watched and, sure enough, after a couple of minutes, something sucked something invisible from the film. I hastily tied on a dry GHRE and made a complete balls-up of the cast, scagging a dead reed just upstream and to the left of the fish. I managed to pull gently free, but no more rises came. I moved on.

I took and hour or so working my way up to the top end of the beat and still had caught nothing, or seen anything that remotely betrayed the presence of trout. Worse, a couple of anglers were making their way across the field to the river. I scurried hurriedly back downstream to where I had seen the fish rising. Creeping up to a position downstream of the tree I noticed two duns riding down towards the spot where the fish had previously shown itself. A flash of pale yellow, an ostentations splash, and only one dun remained. As I was frantically securing a Kite's Imperial to the tippet the blighter noisily took another. I started to count and waited for the fish to rise a third time; 40 seconds. I counted to 35 and cast, this time it hit the spot. The trout took it and put up a bit of a stink, it must be said.

I decided to take it - having returned all my fish last season - took a pic, and sauntered happily back home to dinner (with chips and mushy peas). I've booked tomorrow off too: woo hoo!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Loading the Correct Amount of Backing on Your Fly Reel (And a Tip for Greys Streamlite Owners with Pawl Issues)

At this is the time of year, with the dawn of a new game season a few tantalising weeks distant, fly fishers are wont to untie the old rod bags, assemble the cane, carbon or glass, and give it a preparatory flex in the back garden. Reels are liberated from their pouches and inspected, cleaned and oiled in anticipation. Periodically, though, during these otherwise happy preparations, the sad realisation dawns that, alas, the purchase and installation of a new line can be put off no longer.

The putting on of new line is fraught with myriad anxieties, of course. First, there are the knots; the arbour knot to connect the backing to the spool, the nail knot that connects the backing to the fly line... Anglers tie these knots so rarely - relative to the common knots tied unthinkingly during the course of day-to-day fishing - that they find themselves having to refer to various tomes or online tutorials to steer them through the loathsome process. I am no different. Last week, while checking that I'd got the nail knot correctly done, I couldn't help but notice that a lot of questions on the forums related to calculating the correct amount of backing line to load onto the spool. Here's a method shown to me a few years ago by the helpful chap in the Orvis shop at Burford. It works perfectly well for small arbour reels (all my reels are of this type), I don't see why it wouldn't do for large arbour models as well.

1.)  Take the fly line from the packaging and take the spool apart as shown below. Remove the fly line from the spool, but don't take the cable ties off the fly line at this point.

2.) Tie the backing to the fly reel spool arbour using an arbour knot.

3.) Wind on what you estimate (or what the instructions supplied with the reel recommend) to be the correct the amount of backing for the type of line you are fitting, e.g. double taper, weight forward, etc. Do not cut the backing line yet.

4.)  When you think the amount of backing is about right, carefully pick up the fly line and push the opposing sides together so that the hank of line is doubled.

5.)  Slot the doubled hank onto the spool as shown below.

6.)  You have the correct amount of backing when the distance from the fly line to the edge of the spool is the same as what you'd want when the line is wound on. So, make adjustments to the amount of backing until this is achieved.

It may appear from the illustration that there is no backing on the spool: there is. It's just that a very small amount is required for the double taper line I'm putting on this Hardy Featherweight, and it is not visible in the picture.

7.) Cut the backing, tie it to the fly line using a nail knot, and wind the line onto the reel spool. Piece of cake.

A Useful tip for Owners of Greys Streamlite Reels

I have owned one of these canny little reels for ages (3/4wt model). In fact, it gets used for the majority of my river fishing. I love it. It balances my 8' 4wt Streamflex, a prince among rods, perfectly.

The Streamlite has an adjustable click check but both the pawl and ratchet are plastic. A spare pawl is supplied with the reel. The first pawl lasted about six or seven seasons before it started to wear and was replaced with the spare. This lasted one week. I suspect this was because the reel became submerged while I unhooked a grayling during an extremely cold New Year's Day session on the Coln. When I resumed casting and drew line from the reel, the end of the frozen pawl simply snapped off. Needless to say this resulted in highly annoying overrun issues as I pulled line from the reel.

I searched online for a solution and noted that several other anglers had experienced issues with the plastic ratchet/pawl arrangement, and not because they had allowed the reel to freeze either. It appears that the use of plastic for these crucial parts is a bit of a design flaw.

The upshot was that I called Customer Service at Hardy Greys (see the Hardy Greys website for contact details) in the hope of obtaining some more pawls. I was informed that, for a nominal fee (£26.50) they will retro-fit the Streamlite reel with a metal ratchet and pawl. I entered into the agreement readily and, within a week, my reel was back with the new parts fitted. It works like a dream and sounds much better than before. It only begs the obvious question; why don't they make 'em like that in the first place? Cost, presumably. Anyway, I recommend the upgrade, regard it as well worth the fee, and commend Hardy Greys on the efficiency of the turnaround.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Gentleman of the Stream

Finally, after spending the entire winter in pursuit of a decent grayling, worthy of a post of its own, I am able to present this Gentleman of the Stream.

Not, by any means, a particularly pretty fish, I'll grant you - he carries the battle scars and curmudgeonly air of a grayling that has loved, and lost. He represents, nonetheless, a clunker in my book; in my estimation a very good two pounds. Having snaffled the proffered nymph, he yawed this way and that with his head upstream before deciding to do one in the opposite direction. I found myself running dementedly downstream in hot pursuit as he took a lot of line and not a little of my dignity. 

It will, no doubt, come as small consolation to him, but I tweaked my back in the process. He was, however, worth the pain.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Magic Fly and the Grayling

The final couple of weeks of the trout season can be a frantic time. Fish begin to move with renewed vigour as the water temperature drops, levels rise, food becomes more abundant and spawning approaches. These changes bring with them the promise of good sport and, indeed, end of season fishing can match late spring for excitement. When this happens the end can be abrupt: just as things are hotting up after the languid months of summer, the season ends as suddenly as it began, and the curtain comes down on another year’s trout fishing. The opportunity to focus on a new quarry through the rest of autumn and deep into winter is a welcome one.

I love grayling and grayling fishing, but they, and it, can be frustrating as well as exiting. I’d say that grayling are far less predictable than brown trout which tend, in the main, to station themselves in fairly obvious lies. Furthermore, it is usually the case that the better fish can be found in the better lies. So, once a certain degree of watercraft has been attained, it is often relatively simple to locate the quarry. It is true that grayling have predictable behaviour patterns, but they are far more likely than trout to dispense with these altogether and adopt an entirely different lifestyle, seemingly on a whim, and often en masse.

The key to successful autumn and winter grayling fishing, then, lies in the ability to locate fish. Grayling can be tricky for a variety of reasons. Unlike trout, they rarely lie close to the surface unless they are feeding in shallow water, which the better fish tend not to do. Even when they are found in shallow, clear lies, they can be devilishly difficult to discern. I have experienced enough times, when wading, the sudden flight of sizeable grayling almost from beneath my feet to know this. Their beautiful, ambiguous, impossible to describe colouring renders them almost invisible against a variety of backgrounds. The grayling’s outline too, so recognisable when viewed side-on in pictures, is altogether more cryptic when viewed from above through water. They are shape shifters. To make matters trickier still, as autumn morphs into winter, grayling tend increasingly to shoal together, so that, in a given stretch, most fish are concentrated into as few as two or three holding areas. Clearly, under these circumstances, location becomes an absolute prerequisite.

In the rivers where I fish for them, grayling begin to appear more and more as September draws to a close. Indeed, on the last day this season, on the Coln, I caught four decent grayling in successive casts from a tiny pool, no bigger than five yards by ten, while trying for a large and very visible brown trout with an olive gold head nymph. Until I caught them, I had no idea that any other fish were in the pool, let alone four of them - each one more surprising than the last. The point is that grayling often pop up unannounced in unexpected places, and are often not noticed at all.

On some rivers I fish (The Teme comes to mind) grayling seem to be present in abundant quantities throughout the entirety of the coarse and game seasons. On others (e.g. the Coln) they are conspicuous by their absence until late summer when they begin to emerge, from where I know not, in increasing numbers.

A few weeks back I fished a stretch of the Coln that was new to me. The club has rights for Grayling from autumn to spring, but the beat is not available during the game season. It was an incredibly warm and sunny day for the time of year and the river was clear and low – lower, apparently, than normal summer levels. This being my initial visit I treated it as a fact-finding mission, my primary aim being to glean information about the river and the likeliest fish-holding spots. If I caught anything it would be a bonus. There were a lot of trout visible, some very big ones among them but, of course, they were off limits. So, moving gingerly up the bank, I cast to places that my rudimentary watercraft told me were probably deeper than average, thinking this to be as good a plan as any, given the grayling's penchant for deep pools and holes. They are, after all, bottom feeders essentially. I began with a heavily wired PTN and, when no interest was forthcoming, switched to a small (16) gold head olive nymph. I was rewarded shortly thereafter when I hooked and landed a half pound grayling from a deepish pool beneath one of the many small weirs that characterise this beat. Something much bigger was moving in the pool, however, and although I cast a few times at whatever was snaffling nymphs and causing the surface disturbance I saw, it failed to answer my offer.

I decided to return to the car and replace the 10ft 4wt outfit I’d been using with my trusty 8ft 4wt Streamflex. I can cast a far tighter loop with it than the floppy ten footer and there were some tricky casts beneath the far bank herbage that I had tried, and failed I felt, to exploit fully.

Back at the car I got chatting to a fellow brother of the angle who gave me some useful advice and a fly to try. Discretion prevents me from revealing the pattern (one which I had not seen before) but, suffice to say, it was markedly more colourful than the nymphs in my box; red being particularly prominent. With renewed confidence I sallied forth with the new fly hitched firmly to my tippet and, sure enough, caught more than a few grayling. Annoyingly, and entirely by accident, I also caught a clunking three and a half pound brown trout which would comfortably have romped into the winner's enclosure as fish of the season, had it counted. Surely this was a magic fly...

The next evening I feverishly tied up a dozen nymphs to the same pattern. I had a day off in the coming week and intended to revisit the Coln, this time forearmed with some knowledge of the beat and with the Magic Fly in my box. Conditions were perfect: still unseasonably warm but heavily overcast and almost windless. The light was such that sighting the leader and its dipping point on the surface was simplicity itself. I progressed upstream, fishing the Magic Fly, and once more I was rewarded with many lovely grayling, mostly half a pound apiece but an astonishingly hard fighting pounder came to the net as well.

Regular readers of this blog will know me as a conservative type of chap when it comes to flies and fishing. The flies in my box, by and large, are traditional patterns in various shades of brown, grey, dun and black. The amber grayling nymph described in the last post was strictly a one off aberration designed for a very specific purpose and, in any case, was conceived and tied when I was drunk. Further evidence of my ambivalence towards the modern and colourful can be read about in the depressing account of a soulless, but educative, spiritually at least, afternoon hauling an orange fritz (for crying out loud...) through the white horses of a North Pennine reservoir in a gale. Yes, it has rightly and oft been said that, when it comes to flies, old Retiarius is a very much a traditionalist, and possibly a curmudgeon too.

But have I been too conservative I ask myself? My success with the Magic Fly has taught me that grayling really do favour a gaudier offering - on occasion. I might even argue, after a few drams and enough provocation, that highly coloured nymphs are an aid to provoking takes from grayling over those of trout - who knows?. It is, perhaps, enough to relate that, since the Magic Fly experience (is it too much to call it an epiphany?) I have tied up a few colourful patterns (not too colourful, mind) for grayling nymphs which I have given below, alongside a couple of more traditional ones. The glass bead patterns are fun to tie and, I have found, are particularly effective. 

As ever, barbs are crushed or barbless patterns used. None of the patterns are as gaudy as the Magic Fly.

Glass Bead Hare's Ear

Hook:  Partridge Heavy Wet (14 - 18. These are size 14).
Head: Glass bead (they can be acquired in various sizes here.).
Underbody: Fine copper or gold wire, as required. I tend to weight mine with wire as glass beads are not as heavy as their brass, steel or tungsten equivalents.
Thread: Olive 0/8 (or anything handy).
Tail: Hare guard hairs.
Body: Hare's ear dubbed scruffily.
Rib: Use the excess from the wire underbody.

Rabbit and Pink Nymph

Hook: Partridge Heavy Wet or Kamasan B170 (14 - 18).
Head: Pink enamelled steel bead (Veniards).
Thread: Olive 0/8.
Tail: Rabbit guard hairs.
Body: Dubbed rabbit underfur with a few guard hairs mixed in.
Collar: Fluorescent pink SLF.

Rabbit and Orange Nymph

Hook: Kamasan B170 (14 - 18).
Head: Copper bead (You could use an orange enamelled bead).
Thread: Olive 0/8.
Tail: Rabbit guard hairs.
Body: Dubbed rabbit underfur with a few guard hairs mixed in.
Collar: Fluorescent orange SLF.

Pink Head Hare's Ear

Hook: Kamasan B170 (14 - 18).
Head: Pink enamelled steel bead (Veniards).
Thread: Olive 0/8.
Rib: Gold wire.
Body: Scruffily dubbed hare's ear with guard hairs picked out.

Black Nymph

Hook: Kamasan B170 (14 - 18).
Head: Silver bead (it is silver - it's just a rubbish photograph).
Thread: Black.
Tail: Black hen hackle fibres.
Rib: Fine silver wire.
Body: Black SLF.
Hackle: Black hen, tied very sparse and swept back.

Sawyer's Killer Bug

Hook: Kamasan B170 (14 - 16).
Thread/Underbody: Fine copper wire.
Body: Chadwick 477 wool (Veniard do a good version of this legendary yarn).

Sawyer's Grey Goose Nymph

Hook: Kamasan B170 (14 - 18).
Thread/Underbody: Fine copper wire.
Tail/body/wing case: Grey goose shoulder.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Toast to the Season

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that the regular poster of this blog has not been so regular of late. Well, I've been fishing: mainly fly fishing and always catching and releasing. This poses a problem as there are, consequently, few pictures of fish to post. Trout are sensitive creatures and there little time, in between catching fish and releasing them, for photos; especially if one is a lone fisherman. 

The fish below is one of four I killed last season, taken after I had taken off the fly, wound in, and was wending my contented way homeward at dusk last September. It rose noisily in a pool I was passing. I tied on a grey duster and it took it first chuck. It was the last fish of the season.

A nice near two pounder from last season

This year, I decided to take no fish at all unless I felt it necessary, because of deep hooking, exhaustion and so on. So far I haven't had to dispatch any. This is a personal choice and is not in anyway meant as a polemic. This post is about the season now drawing to a close and mainly concerns flies I've found successful. The recipes for all the flies are given at the end.

I decided to fish opening day on the Churn at Siddington. The weather was cold and the river high. It did not look promising. I took a long swig from the hip flask and offered up a prayer to the river gods.

The Churn on opening day

Naturally, I had arrived far too early and there was nothing rising, so I tied on a pheasant tail nymph and chucked it upstream with the cack-handedness of one who has not cast for six months. Amazingly, after only two or three casts, the leader jagged upstream and I was into a fish. Although it bumped itself off almost immediately, it had served to instil a modicum of hope. I moved up the beat casting hither and yon into likely spots, my casting becoming gradually more relaxed and rhythmical. No further takes, however, were forthcoming.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

A tad of despondency was beginning to enter into proceedings, and I had begun to imagine that I'd missed the only chance of the day. But at midday a prolific hatch of large dark olives began abruptly, and fish began to rise to them. Swapping the ineffective PTN for a size 14 Kite's Imperial I was soon among the fish and eventually took six. All nice fish, for this little stream anyway, the largest being about a pound.

Kite's Imperial

The body of the imperial, as you know, is formed from herl from a heron's primary feather. The selling of heron feathers, however, is rightly prohibited. They are not hard to find, though, if you keep your eyes open. When I see a heron at station on the bank side, I always have a butcher's after they've flown off. It's surprising how often usable feathers can be found. Substitute material can be used for imperials, grey goose or turkey for example, but heron is the original and best. On contact with water heron herl assumes a peculiar translucency, allowing the purple thread to show through, darkening the body in a particular and consistent way. Oliver Kite advised using a darker, more gingery, dun hackle and tail for early season imperials, with a lighter, paler hue more effective later in the year. I have a few dun capes and keep flies of various shades in the box. The example pictured above is a late season variant. Some people don't bother with the doubled thorax, suggesting that it is not visible to trout. I find it adds a certain something aesthetically and its inclusion cannot hurt.

A collected heron feather

Kite, of course, professed to use few other dry flies than the imperial. I can believe it. It is, in my opinion, as good a general purpose dry as any for the olives in their various forms, and has, this season, temporarily surpassed the tailed grey duster as my first choice dry when I'm not sure what's rising, in sizes 14, 16 and 18. Also this season, I have discovered the Tiemco 103bl, upon which the pictured imperial is dressed. It is a very light barbless, wide-ish gape pattern that comes in in-between sizes - 13, 15, 17, etc. - and which I cannot recommend too highly. An ideal hook for high riding dun patterns


The hawthorn season, as any fule kno, can be as exciting as the mayfly. there are many hawthorn patterns and the one pictured I have found to be as killing as any. Circumstances dictated that I had only one session in their company this year, but I enjoyed it immensely. When B. marci are falling, it can be tricky to tempt fish with any other fly - and who, indeed, would wish to try?

In late May Mrs Retiarius and I travelled to my sister's modest holiday home in the foothills of the Pyrenees. I took a stripped down set of kit and was greeted by the mouth watering scene you see below. Alas, La Mare (pictured) and the other local rivers were almost entirely populated with annoyingly petite chub (chevain, en francais), that flung themselves at anything remotely resembling a Greenwell's Glory spider. There were also remarkably unspookable barbel (barbeau) that swam right up to me, as if to see what I was doing, sitting there on the bank. I suspect no-one has ever fished for them. I found no trout, though. I believe there are in there,somewhere.

La Mare, St Etienne d'Estrechoux

A brief digression on the origin of fly patterns

Musing on the popularity of the Greenwell's Glory among the piscine population of the Herault, I visited the local hunting/tackle emporium, La Chasse, in search of inspiration and advice regarding my lack of trout (truite). There, surrounded by a terrifying array of rifles, shotguns and canon (all unencumbered by security of any kind) the proprietor showed me the modest selection of flies for sale. Apart from a couple of rather outrĂ© mayfly patterns, all were variations on the Greenwell's theme, more or less. Partial as I am of a bit of iconoclasm (this is meant as a polemic), I can't help but suggest that these flies owe little to the good Canon. I am minded to imagine that they originated among local fishermen, independently of developments across the channel, much as animal species evolve separately, but remarkably similarly, on different land masses, isolated from one another. When one considers that accounts of fishing with artificial flies for trout survive from ancient Greece, it strikes me as preposterous to imagine that Canon Greenwell, in the middle of the nineteenth century, was the first to discover the efficacy of that particular combination of material and colour. The same goes for Kite's Imperial: that a similar dressing originating from The Marches existed long before the late Major christened his own version is not in doubt.

7lb Tench on the cane

Upon my return to Blighty, a trip to my favourite tench pool armed with an Avocet, Mitchell 300 and a tin of sweetcorn re-acquainted me with my coarse roots and resulted in the lovely fish pictured. I also witnessed the weird vortex type thing pictured below. It was rotating visibly and, I assume, had something to do with the pool's proximity to the tidal Big River.

Spooky pool vortex

The mayfly on the Windrush above Burford was the best I've seen in years, although with duns coming off and spinners returning in such large numbers the fishing was testing. The trout were rising alright, but such was the proliferation of fly that anything but the most precisely presented artificial was ignored. The video below gives some idea of the numbers.

Mayfly at Widford

The fish had no need to move a fin to get a meal. I found this emerger variant of my usual CDC winged mayfly, tied on a klinkhamer hook with an Antron shuck, to be moderately more successful than high riding dun or spinner patterns.

CDC mayfly emerger tied on a klinkhamer hook

Moving into the traditionally dour midsummer months the blue winged olive and various terrestrials offered the best chance of success. The BWOs typically rise late in the afternoon, moving into evening, and I found this pattern, tied with an olive turkey biot for the body, to be a reliable artificial for the dun. 

Blue Winged Olive Dun

With the rise coming later as the summer progressed it was not uncommon to have duns coming off and spinners falling at the same time. When this happened the fish seemed to plump for the spinner, given the choice. The sherry spinner is the classic artificial for the BWO spinner, of course, but I have had moderate success with the pheasant tail, tied in the same manner as the Kite's Imperial, again with a doubled thorax, but substituting cock pheasant herl for heron and orange silk for purple. As with the Imperial, a variety of dun hackle hues is useful.

Pheasant Tail

Last summer I found myself on the Windrush during a fall of black ants and no artificial in the box. I made a amends with a couple of fish on a tiny black gnat, but I resolved not to be caught out in future. I knocked up a few ants to the pattern pictured below one dark winter evening and was rewarded this summer when, again, I was lucky enough to be on the river when a spectacular fall of winged ants occurred. This fly proved an effective artificial for them. Even when the ants weren't falling, I found this fly, cast beneath overhanging herbage, capable of tempting languid summer fish to the surface.

Black Ant

This year I have become attuned to the importance of emerger patterns. Those sipping rises that dot the surface of the river on summer evenings are a sure sign that the trout are taking emerging insects in, or just below the miniscus. The klinkhamer is, of course, an emerging sedge pattern, but it is a good general emerger pattern when the light is failing and visibility becomes an issue.


Another good emerger pattern is the gold ribbed hare's ear, although it is a much easier fly to tie than the klinkhamer, it is somewhat trickier to fish . Anointing the fly with just enough, but not too much, Gink can be tricky (other floatants are available, but are mostly rubbish). It is best fished sitting in the film, but it is difficult to keep the fly in the correct state for long. Invariably it eventually becomes waterlogged and sinks. It lacks the klinkhamer's buoyancy and can be hard to see in the gloom.

I am of the opinion that these two flies trigger a response in different ways. The Klinkhamer features an obvious sub-surface abdomen that also serves to disguise much of the hook; the bend and point, perhaps, being taken for a tapering abdomen. I have noticed, too, that fish will often take the klinkhamer with a slashing rise, rather than the more subdued take typical of a rise to an emerger. It will often rise fish when used as a searcher pattern, even when there is no surface action at all, especially at the latter end of the season. This may be because they take it for what it was designed to imitate - a sedge about to hatch and disappear out of their reach - or because it simply appears to them as a juicy morsel of protein. This, to me, explains why the klinkhamer can often rise a trout spectacularly when little else will.

The GRHE, on the other hand, represents what has been called the confusion of a hatching insect. The scruffiness of the picked out abdomen and thorax (I use a bit of Velcro stuck to the end of a lolly stick) presents an indistinct outline when the fly is sitting in the miniscus, distorting the surface tension. The tail - stiff guard hairs tied long - looks like a semi-sloughed shuck to a trout. When tied like this, I only ever cast it to fish taking emergers and, unlike with the klinkhamer, trout invariably rise to it as if it were one. Clearly, it is often taken as a still-born.


I have usually tied my grey dusters with tails, as a general dun pattern; but tied classically, and very small (the fly below is a size 21) I fished them this season in the film as a caenis emerger, with reasonable success, when those little blighters were preoccupying the fish. Again, however, they can be a bugger to tie on, let alone keep sight of, in the half light of dusk when the caenis often rise.

Grey Duster

Looking at last year's records, I note that nearly half my fish were taken on the nymph. This year I have only fished the nymph when I can't rise anything on the dry fly. After all, as Oliver Kite remarks often in his admirable tome Nymph Fishing in Practice (Swan Hill Press, 2006), the dry fly is by far the easier method! 

The PTN (Sawyer's pattern) is just about the only nymph I use for most of my nymphing, tied in different sizes (14 to 18) and with more or less wire in the under-body to vary the weight. Kite held that tying a nymph on anything larger than a 14 (or size 1 on the old Pennell scale he knew) was bad form; that trout might take them for a lure rather than the natural. Heaven knows what he would think of strike indicators, let alone the Duo, New Zealand, or 'klink and dink' method so prevalent these days. I suspect he would regard it, rightly in my view, as fishing with a float and pooh pooh it, as I do. Besides, it's too much faff. I just sight the leader and watch for movement, or watch the targeted fish, if it can be seen. It is difficult, but extremely rewarding. Just last week, in a thrilling fifteen minute spell, I took 2 two pound browns and three one pound grayling from one small pool on the Coln using this method.

It would be fibbing to pretend I use the PTN exclusively for nymphing. I also tie a range of gold headed patterns. Now, I hear some of you saying ,"Aha - surely the addition of a gold head to a nymph turns it into a attractor pattern!". Perhaps. Use dull coloured beads if it offends you: I bought my stash of assorted gold beads years ago and have lots of 'em left, so there. A couple of examples are picture below. I usually use them when I want a small fly say, size eighteen, that will go deep quickly.

Gold Head Hare's Ear

Olive Goldhead Nymph

The bare hook nymph was another Kite speciality. He realised that badly chewed old PTNs that had been stripped of their herl by the teeth of countless trout were often as effective as new ones. In his book he tells of demonstrating their effectiveness to fellow anglers, especially when used in conjunction with the induced take method. Kite eventually tied a pattern with just a thorax, but I find that it slips down the shank if it isn't super glued, and so tie a full under body but omit the herl.

Bare Hook Nymph

Talking of attractor patterns, I concocted the actrocity pictured below one evening after, perhaps, one scotch too many. It has a heavy lead under-body and I intend to try it for the grayling of my favourite barbel river, the Teme, this coming autumn if the bearded ones fail to play ball. It bears a resemblance to the Czech Mate, but I tied this particularly garish version to use when the Teme is running high and thick, as it invariably does from Autumn onwards.

Leaded Amber Grayling Bug

And so the season draws to a close. It seems, simultaneously, like yesterday and years ago that I stood by the banks of the Churn last April. As I write a couple of weeks only remain for river trouting in my neck of the woods. The driest, most clement September on record has delayed the late season LDO bonanza, which is a shame. My rivers are still fishing like it was late summer.

The time has come to oil the fly reels, pack away the trout rods and get out the barbel gear.

Autumn has come around again

RECIPES (all barbs are flattened before fishing, or barbless patterns are used)

Hook: Partridge wet heavy supreme, sizes 14, 16, 18
Under-body: Copper Wire
Tail: Cock pheasant herl
Body: Copper wire and cock pheasant herl twisted together
Thorax: Cock pheasant herl doubled and redoubled

Hook: Tiemco 103bl, sizes 12, 14, 16, 18 (I use mainly 14 and 16)
Thread: Pearsall's purple silk
Tail: Dun hackle fibres
Rib: Fine gold (original) or copper wire
Body: Heron primary herl (or substitute) doubled and re-doubled to form a thorax
Hackle: Various Dun shades (darker, more ginger early season; lighter, paler late season)

Hook: Kamasan B440, sizes 12, 14 (used for pictured fly, but any dry hook)
Thread: Black
Rib: Silver tinsel
Legs: Dyed black knotted pheasant tail herl
Body: Black seal fur (or substitue)
Wing: CDC
Hackle: Black cock

Hook: Partridge klinkhamer, sizes 10, 12
Thread: Black
Rib: Brown floss
Body: Cream seal fur (or substitute)
Tail: Pheasant tail herl
Shuck: White Antron, doubled
Wing: CDC feathers tied upright and back-to-back
Hackle: Two badger cock hackles

Hook: Tiemco 103bl, sizes 14, 16, 18 (pictured fly is tied on a Kamasan B170 size 18)
Thread: Olive
Body: Olive turkey biot
Tail: Dun hackle fibres
Hackle: Dun (mainly blue dun, but a few different shades for variety)

Hook: Partridge patriot barbless ideal dry, sizes 14, 16, 18 (I use mainly 16 and 18)
Thread: Pearsall's hot orange
Tail: Dun hackle fibres
Rib: Fine gold or copper wire
Body: Cock pheasant tail herl doubled and re-doubled to form a thorax
Hackle: Various Dun shades

Hook: Any dry hook, sixes 16, 18, 20
Tying thread and Body: Pearsall's black silk
Hackle: Grizzle cock

Hook: Kamasan B100, sizes 12, 14, 16, 18
Thread: Olive or tan
Body: Grey SLF
Thorax: peacock herl
Wing post: White Antron
Hackle: Red Cock

Hook: Any dry/emerger hook, sizes 14, 16, 18
Thread: Tan
Tail: Hare guard hairs
Rib: Fine gold wire
Body: Hare's ear hairs teased out, the scruffier the better

Hook: Tiemco 103bl, sizes 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 
Thread: Black
Body: Rabbit under-fur, or SLF
Hackle: Badger cock

Hook: Partridge wet heavy supreme, sizes 14, 16, 18
Head: Gold bead (or any alternate colour as preferred)
Thread: Tan
Tail: Hare guard hairs
Rib: Fine gold wire
Body: Hare's ear teased out

Hook: Partridge wet heavy supreme, sizes 14, 16, 18
Head: Gold bead (or any alternate colour as preferred)
Thread: Tan
Rib: Fine gold wire
Body: Olive SLF

Hook: Partridge wet heavy supreme, sizes 14, 16, 18
Body: Fine copper wire

Hook: Kamasan B100, sizes 12, 14, 16
Thread: Bright orange
Under-body: Veniard's self adhesive lead sheet, cut into a strip and wound on
Rib: 3lb Maxima clear mono
Body/legs: hot orange SLF, teased out
Shellback: Veniard's clear shellback