Monday, 16 December 2013

Time Out (River Unsettled Again)

Picture 1
High waters scupper the Grayling fishing yet again, and although we have recently had a short period of more settled water, at which time I did venture out and catch the odd fish or two, unfortunately it has not lasted long enough to warrant arranging a trip or two for those wanting to get out there and fish for Grayling, however we have now earmarked a couple of sessions in the near future, water conditions permitting. 

Meanwhile, whilst conditions are unfavourable, I thought we could take advantage of this time off the river and look at something
Picture 2
constructive that some of you may find useful during your future fishing trips when the river levels settle down again. So to that end I thought we might take a look at a way of using some of that spare backing line that may be sitting in a drawer somewhere gathering dust, and putting it to good use in the form of "sighters" for Grayling fishing.

Picture 3
A sighter is simply a name that has been given to a type of bite indicator that you can incorporate into your leader set up to help you identify what can often be the slightest indication of interest from your quarry, and although trout anglers will also adopt this approach, you will find that it is more commonly used by Grayling anglers whilst using a variety of nymphing techniques. One of the main reasons for this is that Grayling can often be very subtle takers, and therefore any additional help to identify these takes can give us a great advantage when it comes down to actually hooking up with these fish.

Picture 4
I personally like to use a sighter from time to time for my winter Grayling fishing simply because of the variations in light we often encounter as anglers throughout the day, making the business end of your fly line very difficult to see at times, therefore something that stands out against the back drop can be a welcome addition to your armoury, especially if your eyesight is not great, "like mine, for all I hate to admit it I think it may be an age thing". 

Picture 5
So by attaching this simple to make sighter to the end of your fly line, let's say for example, for Czech/Polish Nymphing, (one of it's many uses) we can then use this indicator almost like a swing tip works for coarse anglers whilst following our team of flies as they travel through the water columns at the depths and speeds we wish to fish. You can either keep the end of your sighter just off the surface of the water, watching for the slightest indication of a take, (this is the more common approach) or, (remember there are no hard and fast rules here) you can lay the sighter on the water surface (this is often dictated by the speed of flow and depth etc) and use it as an indicator in this way too. The choice is yours!

Picture 6
So what do we need to make our sighters?

Not much you will be pleased to hear, you will probably have most of it at home already. Here is a list of items required to make your bespoke sighters:
  • Scissors, Tapestry Needle, (size 22) Super Glue (picture 1)
  • Indelible Marker, AA Battery (picture 2)
  • Backing Line, Tape Measure (picture 3)
Picture 7
Once you have all these things in place you can now set about making your bespoke sighters. To help with this task I have included a series of pictures (starting from picture 1 above) and a step by step explanation of the process below:

Picture 8
1. Thread the end of your backing line (whilst still on the spool) through the eye of the tapestry needle (picture 4). Why use a tapestry needle I hear you say! Well you can use an ordinary needle, but as a tapestry needle is purposely blunt (has a rounded business end) it is easier to slide through the centre of your backing line, without it constantly popping out of the side wall during the next process. (I find that a size 22 tapestry needle works well with backing line).

Picture 9
2. Now push the business end of the tapestry needle through the side wall of the backing line (picture 5). This is a bit fiddly, but it will go through.

3. Once your needle has penetrated the side wall of the backing line, push the needle gently through the centre of your backing line for about 20mm (picture 6). You can push it through a little further if you wish, but the further you push it through the more difficult the next stage becomes!

Picture 10
4. At this point make the needle exit the side wall again (picture 7) and continue pulling the needle all the way through. This will also pull the threaded backing line into the centre of itself (picture 8) and back out of the side wall again (picture 9). Continue pulling the backing line through itself until the tag end pops out, (picture 10) taking care at this stage not to pull the backing line completely into itself at the top end (opposite end to the needle in picture 10) as the objective is to leave a small neat loop peeping out (picture 10). Keep hold of this loop as you pull the needle clear so that this cannot happen. You can then neatly form your loop by gently pulling the loose tag end to accommodate the size of loop you require. I like a small loop of about 5mm - 7mm, but this is simply a personal preference.

Picture 11
5. Now completely remove the needle from the backing line. Once the needle is removed and you have successfully formed the loop to the size you require, use your scissors to cut off the excess tag before tidying up the section the needle went through (picture 11).

Picture 12
6. After you have cut off the excess tag, you can now tidy up the section the needle went through. By waiting until now to do this, enables you to draw this slightly out of shape stretched section of the outer layer of your backing line, neatly over the cut off tag end as you smooth it out, (picture 12) affording you a neat seamless finish (picture 13). You have now successfully completed one end of your sighter.

Picture 13
7. Now measure this length of backing line to the length you prefer for your personal fishing requirements, this will often be unique to the individual. If you have never used a sighter before then I suggest you make a couple of different sizes to try out first, allowing you to see which you prefer whilst fishing. One at 40cm and one at 50cm. Always measure an additional 5cm over and above the size you require before cutting, as this will allow for the inevitable shortening of the sighter as you create the final loop (picture 14).

Picture 14
8. After cutting your backing line to your desired length, follow the same guidelines as before to create your second and final loop at the opposite end of your backing line. Your sighter is now almost complete, all we need to do now is mark it up (or not, once again the choice is yours).

Picture 15
9. As mentioned above, at this stage you can either leave the sighter as it is, (all one colour) or mark it intermittently. In this case, as I am explaining the complete process we will mark this one up.

10. This is where your AA battery and indelible marker come in handy (picture 2). The AA battery is just a personal preference as I find it offers me just the right diameter for what I require, but in all honesty what you use is entirely up to you, I am sure you will have your own preference after making a few up. 

Picture 16
11. So, take your almost completed sighter and wrap it around your AA battery in relatively neat turns (picture 15). Once you have wrapped it around the battery, tidy up the turns, (i.e. shuffle them together) and then take your indelible marker (picture 16) and colour in approximately one third of the wrapped turns of your sighter (picture 17)Make sure you have coloured them in well and the marker has permeated the turns of your sighter, this will save you having to touch it up with the marker after it has been removed from the battery. 

Picture 17
Now simply remove your sighter (backing line) from the battery and you should be presented with neat and uniformed intermittent marks throughout it's length (Picture 18). All that remains to do now is put a small dab of super glue on the loop joints (picture 19) and you're good to go. Don't use too much super glue as it will make the ends of your sighter hard and brittle (just a dab).

Picture 18
When fishing with these sighters using the Czech/Polish nymphing techniques mentioned above, they are commonly attached to the business end of your fly line with a loop to loop connection and in turn, your leader is attached to the opposite end of your sighter, also with a loop to loop connection, allowing for a quick and simple way to change your leader, or your sighter, or both when required, whilst at the same time affording you the ability to quickly introduce a simple visual aid to help improve your success rate.

Picture 19
These sighters can be made from other materials too, such as braid, using the same technique, and it is also worth making them up using a variety of colours to combat the ever changing light variations (as mentioned above) and differing back drops we encounter whilst fishing for these magnificent fish that offer us an extension to our fly fishing season on the river.

Picture 20

Good luck with your new sighters!!!

Monday, 18 November 2013

And so to Grayling

Ian into one of several Grayling
Now that the salmon season is over on the river Eden our thoughts turn to Grayling fishing. The Grayling is a fish that "in my opinion" certainly doesn't get the reverence it deserves and is often simply seen as an ancillary to salmon and trout fishing. However, when it becomes the only target species available on the river to the Game Angler, therefore creating a welcome extension to the season, (especially on the fly) only then do people actually realise the full potential of this magnificent fish. 

Another good specimen
With water conditions continuously fluctuating over the last 3 weeks, a trait that any avid Grayling fisher will tell you is not ideal as results are consistently better during periods of more settled conditions, we have had to work hard for good results. That said I was recently guiding on the Eden for several members of the English Police Fly Fishing Association, (EPFFA) who certainly understood this, but despite these difficult conditions they still managed to tempt a few of these, often fickle fish, to take their flies. A good result in the circumstances!

Colin also had one or two
The most successful method in the recent high (but clear) water levels has been a variety of heavier offerings in the form of weighted nymphs etc, using a short line Czech Nymph approach, which is usually the case with Grayling, but once the water does decide to settle for a spell, and some anglers will be surprised to hear this, we will see some good results to spiders and dries at times too, usually in the middle of a crisp winter day when the sun decides to bless us with a slightly milder spell, often around mid day, and an hour or so either side. This will sometimes encourage very sparse hatches to occur, (usually midges or the odd olive) over a short period of time, giving us a small window of opportunity to tempt these predominantly bottom feeders to the surface during the long winter months.

A keen fisher under the far bush
I was hoping to indulge in a reconnaissance trip today to identify as many productive areas as possible before arranging a few trips for the near future, as I have several eager people awaiting the nod from me to let them know when conditions are worthy of a visit. Unfortunately I have had to put that off (yet again) due to a rising and colouring water from yesterdays additional rain. No fear though, as it will not stay up forever and I will be dropping you guys an email soon. You can see from the picture on the right that the river is out of order again for now, but if you click on the picture to enlarge it you will see that the difficult conditions haven't discouraged all from venturing out.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Slow Finish to the Salmon Season on the Eden

Heading for the bank in coloured water
With salmon in attendance throughout the system, and a few being tempted to the fly in the final throws of the season, the pools in general have been relatively quiet for this time of year, especially as October is generally our prime time for salmon fishing on the Eden, and a time that we should have been seeing our biggest concentration of fish in the river so far. Also, the few fish that were showing themselves were of the coloured variety i.e. predominantly resident fish.

I am not entirely sure why this is, but there have been several suggestions, one of which refers to the heavy flooding we had four years ago which may have impacted on the Redd's and therefore we are now seeing the knock on effect from that event. However electrofishing projects following these events have shown positive results and therefore refutes this theory somewhat. My personal feeling is that the inordinately higher temperatures we have been experiencing (and still are) for this time of year is effecting the migratory instincts of these magnificent fish. After all they are not equipped with the Gregorian calenders that we are privy to, nor could they read them even if they were. They are simply driven by temperature and pressure changes that occur around the time that they should be arriving. This does happen from time to time and we then get a cyclical event which we have all experienced before over the years. It is as if this season has been totally turned on it's head, with a very cold start and a very warm finish, and we did see an upturn in the spring fishing this year too. "Who really knows with Salmon", but this is my theory anyway. Hopefully when temperatures begin to fall we will then see an influx of fish into the system and with no further pressure on them, due to the season being over, a good spawning outcome. Let's hope so!

One of several Sea Trout in June/July
On a brighter note though, the brown trout season has been phenomenal yet again and even during the spells of low water and warm conditions we had some good sport (when adopting the right techniques) and for those die hard's (including myself) who ventured out at night from mid June to mid July there was some very good sea trout fishing to be had, which also produced some hefty browns from time to time.

However, we are now turning our thoughts to the Grayling fishing, with a few nice fish beginning to show an interest in our offerings throughout the day and with temperatures remaining relatively mild for this time of year spider patterns are still working from time to time, but weighted bugs will often tempt a big fellow from his deep dub and when temperatures eventually do begin to fall rapidly (and they will) we should turn more to this type of approach.

One of the Demo's in Wales
I have spent the last few days down in Wales with many other like minded anglers whilst enjoying yet another of our biannual assessment events where this time 10 successful candidates (just over 50% success rate) either gained a further qualification or became AAPGAI instructors for the first time. This coupled with a great open day event where those wishing to know more about our association could come along and watch the demo's, as well as take part in the tailor made tuition sessions, made for another very enjoyable experience.

Back home now though, and as mentioned above my focus will now be on the Grayling fishing, a fantastic fish that has the added bonus of extending the game anglers fly fishing season, what's not to like about that. I will keep you all posted! 

Monday, 23 September 2013

From Iceland to Eden

My fishing partner Trev in Iceland
Well my trip to Iceland is now over, yes I know it doesn't seem that long ago that I mentioned in my last blog that I was looking forward to going. However I was definitely not disappointed this year as Iceland certainly lived up to the recent reports we were receiving for the 2013 season as our party managed to land exactly 100 salmon (on the fly) for 10 shared rods over a period of three days fishing, pretty good going, not to mention the multitude of fish lost during our time there. 

Rob plays an Eden trout on a clearing water
We had some fantastic sport on the Midfjardara river, all catch and release too, which has certainly proved itself to be one of the contributing factors to the excellent fishing experienced in this magnificent country. When you consider that conditions on the river were not ideal when we arrived, with rain swelling the river a bit too much, which also added some unwanted colour to the mix, not to mention driving winds and sleet on the final day and a half, dropping the river temperature to 1 degree at times, the results were not bad at all. Imagine the potential given the right conditions. That said, we were certainly not complaining. 

Nigel with a late season Brown
Since returning home I have certainly been kept busy on the river Eden with a range of people taking tuition and fishing for both trout and salmon, and during the short time I have been back we have been catching some good fish too. The trout fishing has continued in good form with temperatures remaining above average for September, this is a definite bonus at a time when colder conditions can often suppress much of the remaining insect life, and with water levels much more stable than last year, the trout are also more likely to oblige. That said, we have had a couple of good lifts in river levels too which certainly helps the salmon anglers during the latter part of the season.

A well formed fish for John
There are fewer salmon showing in the system than usual for this time of year, but there are definitely fish about as both Christian and David (regular visitors of mine to the Eden) discovered to their delight over this weekend as they landed two very good conditioned fish of around seven pounds and eight pounds respectively. Both fish were taken on a falling water following the most recent spate.

Christians fish came to a Cascade
Chris and David have been coming now for the past five years and incredibly they have always caught fish. "I need to bottle whatever it is they are transmitting". This time around they had one of each, a cock fish (on the right) and a hen fish, (seen above) both fish were promptly returned to the water after quick photographs. John also caught a couple of nice brown trout on the first day of his trip.

Alan into an Eden Brownie 
Only one week left now until the end of the trout season on the Eden and three weeks until the end of the salmon season, but plenty of sessions left between now and then, so fingers crossed that things continue in this positive vein for those of you who still have your trips to come and that there are still plenty of successful days left between now and then. "Tight Lines".

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Fresh Water Stirs Them Up

Phil & David
On Sunday 1st September I was out with two keen salmon anglers on the lower river, Phil and David. Phil has been out with me a couple of times before and was much improved in his casting techniques, and David was indulging in salmon fishing for the first time, although he was really getting to grips with it. There were plenty of salmon showing on the lower river, but with low water conditions hanging on they were reluctant to take the fly, and with only a couple of days to go before another of my regular groups arrived I was willing the rain to come.

Unfortunately the rain held off, and when Andy, Alan and Andrew arrived a few days later, the water was still very low, and although they can now cover the water very well with a variety of casts for differing wind directions, the fish still wouldn't oblige. Quite frustrating too, as there were plenty of salmon in attendance showing throughout the lower beats. We then spent a couple of days on the middle river with no success, but on day one the rain decided to come, putting the river up on day two and making conditions very difficult in the early stages as the colour thickened up throughout the system. High hopes for the following day though as we returned to the lower beats. The only down side was that they had to wait for a good part of the day for the colour to diffuse offering them a much better chance of a fish. 

Andy through the net
Mixed fortunes ensued as the water did begin to clear slightly and Andrew hooked into a very good salmon on the fly as we watched it crash about on the surface briefly before seemingly behaving itself for the next 5 minutes, but then came the twist as the fish parted company with Andy not far from the bank. If anyone deserved a fish it was one of these guys as they had covered the water relentlessly and very methodically too I might add. In all fairness, they only really had two half days when the water was good and they certainly made the most of that. "Don't worry guys your day will come".

I have since had reports from up and down the river that Andy's fish was not the only one hooked that day, and apparently as the water began to clear there were several other fish caught that day, and landed too, which included a couple of fish over 20lb, so hopefully things are now beginning to happen. It's surprising how a bit of fresh water can trigger these magnificent fish, but the difficult bit is being there just at the right time as water levels are dropping and clearing after a spate when these fish become agitated and much more aggressive, or is it anticipation?

Alan in full concentration
Unfortunately for me, if this recent fresh water has improved things, which it certainly seems to have done, then I am about to miss the results, as I am off to Iceland on Thursday to indulge in a bit of salmon fishing of my own, however with reports coming in of bumper catches in Iceland this year I may not miss out on too much after all. We'll soon see, I have been at this game long enough now to know not to count my chickens (or salmon) before the event, so I will let you all know how it went when I get back. "Here's hoping".

Friday, 30 August 2013

Trout & Grayling Strong, Salmon Won't be Long!

Our stall at the Galloway Show
As indicated in my last post I attended the Galloway Country Fair over the weekend of the 17th & 18th August representing both Borderlines and AAPGAI, along with my good friend and colleague Glyn Freeman as one of the demonstrators at the show. The weather was a bit kinder to us on the Sunday than it was on the Saturday, which helped to draw in the crowds on day two, and in addition to delivering eight demonstrations between us over the duration of the weekend, we also offered a casting clinic for those wishing to indulge in tuition sessions throughout each day. We shared the marquee with the Nith District Salmon Fishery Board and the Nith Catchment Fishery Trust. (See the Website: Here) as Jim Henderson of the NDSFB is one of the directors for Borderlines.

Fly Tying on the Stall
As expected, the Eden rose again throughout that weekend, which ensured that we did not miss out too much on the fishing front, however, reports of good runs of Grilse entering the system continued to reach me via my mobile, which I witnessed first hand upon my return. There has also been one or two Grilse caught over the last couple of weeks, along with some better fish too, but for the amount of fish we have seen passing through the lower beats, the numbers caught still remain quite low in comparison. 

Ralph & Uschi
Up to now most of the salmon anglers I have taken out on the river have been more interested in the casting tuition side of things in preparation for the latter part of the season, although during a tuition and fishing session with John Dunn on the lower river, whilst putting his much improved skills into practise, he did have two chances throughout the day, one of them offering him a really good draw to his fly, but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. That said, it is good to have further confirmation that they are definitely in attendance, especially as we are now rapidly approaching the most productive time of the year on the Eden for the salmon angler. "Watch this space".

Ralph with a small Brown Trout
Just over a week ago now, I had the good fortune to spend some time with a really nice couple from Germany, Ralph and Uschi, on their first trip to the lake district. Following a fly casting session, with the single handed rods, we spent the day on a local Stillwater fishing for Rainbow and blue trout, whilst the river was still a little too high for brown trout fishing, and in a joint effort, Ralph played and landed a nice Blue Trout (Rainbow Trout variant) for their tea. We did however manage to spend the last day on the river, and although conditions were still not ideal, Ralph managed to catch a couple of small trout on a weighted nymph.

Sam's First Fish
I was also out with Sam Rickett, who came along with his wife to be, to learn how to cast a fly for the first time, and at the end of the session I put on one of my favourite dry flies, the Klinkhammer, and following two near misses his new found skills came to fruition as he managed to hook and land his first ever fish which turned out to be a cracking grayling of around one and a half pounds. "Nice one Sam"!!!

As water levels recede, the trout and grayling fishing is also improving, but due to a distinct lack of any prolonged surface activity, despite the heavy fall of black gnats on the water we have seen over the past few days, the majority of the fish are still coming to sub surface offerings, and only yesterday we had some great results whilst adopting this approach.

Another to the nymph
Although we continue to fish for trout throughout September and grayling throughout the winter months, over the next few weeks I have some serious salmon anglers coming out with me for some prime time fishing, so water permitting, we should hopefully have an interesting tale or two to tell over this period, and if it is anything like last year when we had salmon up to 25lb (22lb and 25lb to the same rod) it could be very interesting. "Here's hoping".

Friday, 16 August 2013

From Warm & Low to all Systems Go!

Harry making a Circle Spey cast
Since my last post conditions continued to take a downward spiral with the low warm water trends persisting, often making it very difficult to produce good results, in fact with very little insect life in attendance during the day, and following a couple of youth days with Borderlines, including the annual Carlisle youth Angling event for the C.A.A. I actually took a few days away from the river to take advantage of the warm weather. If you can't beat it join it!

One of a few to the dry fly
Upon my return though, at the beginning of August, we had a rise in water, making the fishing difficult once again, but for very different reasons this time, (i.e. water colour) as the river was then carrying a lot of sediment, which unfortunately did not suit the needs of the guys I had out for Salmon at that time, as Tim, Gaetan and Harry, only really had one days good water from the three days they were with me, however this did give them plenty of time to take a look at the mechanics of their casting and therefore get a good rhythm going for when conditions do improve, but despite the difficult conditions they all agreed that they enjoyed their trip to the river Eden.

Miloud with a very good Grayling
Following this rise in water and therefore subsequently cooler temperatures leading up to the pending Lowther Show, where AAPGAI were asked once again to run the demonstrations and the fly casting clinics on 10th & 11th August, the trout fishing exploded again for a spell, with fish mainly coming to the nymph as water conditions settled, but more importantly cooled down somewhat, although a few did come to the dry fly like the nice specimen shown above right. The guys that were out with me during this period, and just after, had some great sport as you can see from the pictures, and whilst out with Sean Henney on the middle river, following a slow start in the morning, he hooked into five very good hard fighting browns and several smaller fish too. The Grayling fishing also improved with several good fish coming to the net like the one caught by Miloud above left. Well done guys!

Sean playing a good Brownie
I have also been keeping an eye on the salmon fishing, given the fresh water we had recently, and whilst out on the lower river with John Dunn, (who has been for a few sessions with me in the past, which included some very successful spider and nymph fishing sessions for trout and Grayling) the water began to fall away nicely and John's improving skills almost bagged him a fish when his line drew away, as one of the many fish we saw that day decided to take his fly, but almost immediately parted company with it again. John then managed to get a second take later in the day, but the fish won yet again. It's just a matter of time John!

Another Brown for Sean
It's now good to see plenty of Grilse beginning to show (almost every day) on the lower river, (all fresh too) and it is just a matter of time now before these new fish join the others throughout the system, increasing the numbers in all the beats along the river and offering anglers the opportunity of some exceptional sport as we are now rapidly approaching the prime salmon fishing period on the Eden. However, whilst the order of the day, when salmon fishing, (especially on larger waters with cooler temperatures) often warrants the use of sink tips and medium to large flies, (e.g. large doubles and large tubes at times) it is definitely worth considering down sizeing to 10's and 12's (or even smaller) whilst these Grilse are in attendance, and it is also worth considering a floating line too, as these running fish are more often than not in the upper columns of the water. Give it a try!

Some good Grayling appearing
I am off to the Galloway Country Fair tomorrow for the duration of the weekend where I will be delivering some of the fly casting demonstrations in the main arena. The timing of this show could not have been better as the river Eden has just risen yet again following the latest downpour, so fingers crossed, as the river should hopefully be coming back into good order again for Monday, which is when I return. "Tight Lines".

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Bring On The Rain

One of the better fish
With River levels continuing to fall and water temperatures warm enough to take a bath in, you can imagine how difficult it has been lately to tempt some of the better fish to take the fly. Plenty of small fish at the moment, but in these conditions, to connect with some proper Eden Browns, you need to be targeting these fish very late in the evening, as the light fades into darkness, which at the present time is a very small window of opportunity. However, as any angler will tell you, because we are dealing with wild creatures, you can never say never, and from time to time, even in these difficult conditions, we have managed to tempt one or two decent fish to the net, as you can see from the picture above, taken on the lower river.

A Short Clip of one we Returned

Sea Trout are still in attendance on the river too, although they have slowed down a little since my last post, but if you are prepared to go out in what has been very pleasant night time conditions, as temperatures do cool down somewhat following the heat of the day, there is still a very good chance of a fish or two. Unlike Salmon, Sea Trout are very active at night and will often move upstream (and take!) in very low water.

However, Salmon anglers continue their frustration, as the present conditions have made it almost impossible to tempt these powerful fish to take, and we are all waiting patiently for the rain we have been promised over the next few days, to both freshen up the water, and to lower temperatures to a more comfortable level, thus encouraging fish to run the river and hopefully take our offerings. This fresh water (if we get it!) will also improve the trout and Grayling fishing too. "Bring it on".

Tuition at the West Cumbria Game Fair
I attended the West Cumbria Game Fair again this year on the weekend of the 13th & 14th of July as part of the AAPGAI team delivering the demonstrations down on the water in the fishing area, and this year I was also given a slot in the main arena on both days. The very hot conditions continued throughout the weekend which certainly made it much more suitable for demonstrating than it did for fishing.

A good fish in difficult conditions.
I have been out with people on the river again over the past few days, with limited success, although whilst employing some of the low water techniques we have managed to prove that it does still work to a degree, (as you can see from the picture on the right) but results are still very slow. Yes it's nice weather to be out on the river, but it is also nice to have the opportunity of catching a few fish too, and to help with this we desperately need some water, "so here's hoping".