Fishing with Style

 

 

Yorkshire Post - Country Week

2012 Fly Fishing Monthly Articles

Since April 2005 Roger Beck and Stephen Cheetham produce a fly fishing column in the Country Week section of the Yorkshire Post once a month.

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Here are the monthly articles, published in 2012, which we trust you will enjoy reading:

Greenwells Spider   Mickey Mouse   Mouse and Grouse    Mouse and Claret

Leckford Professor   Dove Bug     Shadow Mayfly   Stewarts Spider (Tenkara)

Loch Ordie   The Whiskey Fly   Endrick Spider

January 2012

Fishing at Kilnsey Angling Club - Greenwells Spider

First of all Roger and I would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year. It’s now 2012 and good to look back at last year’s fishing. I had one of those days that only come round once in a while when I had been given the chance to fish the Kilnsey Angling Club stretch of water. I had the day off work and it was a lovely September morning.

KIlnsey Angling Club Tenant ArmsI knew I had to be allocated a beat, so arriving at the Tennant Arms in Kilnsey, I went in through the front door and was hit by that lovely aroma of bacon and eggs, then that hint of toast followed by the smell of freshly ground coffee.  I wished I could have stopped and taken full advantage of the food but the river called.

Turning left into the “fisherman’s bar” I was greeted by a sight that hundreds of anglers would have seen over the many, many years that Kilnsey Angling Club has been in existence (in fact Roger will be mentioning this club in this year's Historic Angling Clubs feature). Sitting round a large rectangular table sat six men, with mugs of tea and fly boxes in front of them, each one dressed ready to go down to the river. I could imagine the old anglers from the 1800 and 1900’s doing exactly the same thing, each selecting their flies for the day, discussing the merits of each fly and the size of the trout to be caught and secretly keeping the location of the best fish to himself.

Standing at the bar, with an air of authority and a small blackboard in hand, was Ken Slaymaker; river keeper, ghillie, bailiff and the man that every club needs to organise everyone else. On the blackboard were the names of the beats that would be allocated to each angler for that day. Favourite spots would obviously go to the members of this illustrious club. Why not?  Membership is at a premium, but Ken with a twinkle in his eye, keeps some beats for the day ticket holders knowing that the fish could be anywhere.

Having been allocated my beat and with a strange sense of regret, I left the assembled party in the fisherman’s bar and made my way back to the car and down to the river. Ken had forewarned me that the previous night's rain could have put the water level in the river up a bit so I was not surprised to see a good flow passing under Coniston Bridge. After assembling my rod and putting on my thigh waders I made my way downstream of the bridge to an area I had fished previously, I knew what to expect and I knew which method I was going to use and it worked.

Casting a team of three North Country Spiders across the water they rapidly swung round into an area that could hold fish in a small eddy near the bank. Leaving them there, hanging in the water but then gently lifting the rod tip to simulate a hatching insect I was greeted by my first fish of the day, a small wild brown trout.

After a while I made my way downstream and stood on a small tuft of grass on the waters edge. I was completely lost in thought, what a wonderful day! Eventually, without thinking, I put my left foot behind me to take a step back -  thin air! You can imagine what happened next and there was nothing I could do about it. Crash - flat on my back half in and half out of the water. 'Drat', or words to that effect, but it could have been worse,  after all Roger Beck makes a habit of falling in.

Struggling to my feet, feeling rather stupid, I was thankful that I was alone, or was I? I looked round and three ladies were standing there, looking at me.  Each glanced at the other, seemingly amused, and went on grazing. There is something knowing in the eyes of a Swaledale sheep!

Thank you Kilnsey Angling Club.

Greenwells Spider

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

 

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February 2012

Mickey Mouse

During my month’s absence from the column, I’ve been thinking. This is not an activity that I enter into lightly; in the past it has caused me to develop a nasty headache. I suspect that history may be repeated.

My deliberations have been directed mainly forwards towards my plans for fishing season 2012, but my mind was transported back seven years. The first column that I wrote in this prestigious publication was in April 2005. It featured soft hackled sinking flies often associated with the north of England; the so-called spider patterns. My recent musings were perhaps lubricated with a drop of amber fluid. Incidentally, I must thank our blessed government for funding said libation; they call it my winter fuel allowance. However, thus inspired I formulated a plan to return to my roots and use traditional flies for the whole of the season.

The next task was to gather the materials that I might need to dress these relics of bygone days. I decided to refer to a list of fly dressings produced during the late nineteenth century by Sylvester Lister of Wharfedale. That’s when it started to go horribly wrong. For years, I have used the fur and feather from various species of game birds, hares, rabbits and squirrels. I have even teased out fibres from the scrotum of a tup. I have plucked the preen glands of mallard ducks and relieved moles of their winter coats. All these creatures have either graced my plate or laid siege to my garden. (With the exception of the tup I grant you.) After studying the recipes of Mr Lister and a few of his pals too, I came to the conclusion that in 2012 I risked going a step too far.

The Spring Black had seemed a good place to start because Mr Lister assured me that this fly would be well employed in March and April. Sadly, I’m not prepared to go out and murder the sole bullfinch that visits my garden. Even if it eats all my blackcurrants, it will remain unmolested. Yes, to tie the Spring Black requires feathers from the outside of said hapless creature’s wing. Might there be an alternative for the early part of the season? Well, yes there is the Cow Dung Fly but, if I am to produce the authentic article it necessitates the assassination of one Britain’s most rare and best loved bird, the corncrake. Disappointment set in quickly, but pragmatism suggested that I should look elsewhere for bright ideas. I turned my attention to a chap called Pritt who was also flicking fluff at the water in the late eighteen hundreds. No help here. TE Pritt would have me fashion my flies from the feathers of owls, dotterel, merlin, woodpeckers, cuckoos, swifts and fieldfares. I can see myself in a lot of bother if I am caught lying in wait with the shotgun, watching as the tawny owls flit through the ash trees. The RSPB might just have me banged up.

So, I have abandoned my original plan. Reluctantly I have come to the conclusion that these old fashioned flies should remain the province of the historians, not anglers. I am going on a crusade to move forwards, not backwards. Out with the old and in with the new. North Country spiders run the risk of being superseded by my new mobile hackled Southern Softies series.

My pal Charlie Jardine recently suggested to me that mouse fur was the new mole. Whilst I conjure up a new spider that Steve can tie for us next month, I give you the Mickey Mouse. I’m afraid that’s what some of these old relics have become.

Mickey Mouse

 

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483

 

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 March 2012

Mouse and Grouse

So, bring on the Southern Softies.

 After last month’s debacle over traditional North Country spiders we need to move forwards. I’m fed up with the old fashioned, same old, same old look of my fly box, so I’m determined to freshen it up a bit this season.

There is no doubt about the effectiveness of flies with soft, mobile hackles and many of the original ones are associated with the northern end of the country. I always try to avoid upsetting people, so my new introductions will be affectionately referred to as Southern Softies; I’ve been giving the whole idea a lot of thought.

The top, right hand basket in the freezer is reserved for my fishing - related perishable paraphernalia. It contains cooked hemp seed for the roach, half used tins of spam for the tench and dead stuff for the trout flies. So, obviously, that’s where the bag of frozen mice is stored. Now, this hasn’t gone down too well with the domestic management department, but it’s really not my fault. I needed a silky fur from which to form my new flies. My old pal, another southern softy, suggested mouse. Plenty of the little blighters hole up in my shed for the winter, munching on stored spuds, so out came the traps. None of that namby pamby live catch nonsense either; I want the varmints dead. So, a trio of Little Nippers began their work. By the way, there’s no debate, the best bait is definitely a red jelly baby’s head.

In next to no time I had half a dozen Mus musculus ready for free flow freezing. The next concern was to decide just exactly how to best use the mouse fur to create the effect that I wanted. I needed a fly that created an outline that the fish would recognise as food and I wasn’t sure how mouse fur might behave when it’s wet. I did toy with the idea of conducting some experiments involving deceased rodents and a glass of water, but I’m afraid that the aforementioned domestic management department vetoed that one before any conclusive evidence was forthcoming. What I did learn, however, was that mouse fur is longer than one might think. So, I reached the decision that the mouse fur would be best removed from its former owner before being applied to the fly dressing thread by a process that fly tiers call “dubbing.” That done, the thread and fur, when wrapped around the hook would produce just the effect that I was looking for.

It was time to ‘phone Steve to tell him of my ideas and prepare him for a delivery of mouse fur. We had a long natter about the exact recipe for the first of the southern softies. I think that he believes that I have finally flipped and am barking mad. Despite all that, we came up with a plan. I had a sleepless night trying to decide how best to remove the fur from a mouse. Was it to be Wilkinson’s sword or Philishave rotary? After a bit of a pantomime featuring a half thawed mouse, I decided on the third way; scissors.  Having harvested the body material for my fly, I turned my attention to choosing a soft mobile feather to produce the hackle. This was an easy decision; the grouse is the first of the game birds to be in season, so the mouse and grouse was born, or if you prefer it, the grouse and mouse, I really don’t mind. So, here it is then; you have our full permission to copy it and try it out as soon as the season is open. Let us know how your southern softie performs.

 Mouse and Grouse

 

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483

 

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April 2012

Mouse and Claret

If you have a river trout fisher in your house, things will have been a bit hectic lately. It’s the new season you see.

Most waters open for brown trout fishing on April first. As a result, there will be a lot of feverish activity as anglers emerge from their winter hibernation. A lot of this frantic stuff could actually be avoided because, after all, the last season closed at the end of September. However, human nature being what it is and despite good intentions getting stuff ready is frequently left until the last minute.

Some of the preparatory tasks can cause a bit of domestic unease too. On your last fishing outing, if you heard a grating noise as the fly line passed through the rod rings, it either needs cleaning or chucking away. Yes, I know, I’m talking to Yorkshire anglers, so we’ll go for cleaning. This is, ostensibly, a very simple task, but things can become a bit fraught. The best way to do the job is to gently pull the line through a soft cloth anointed with the stuff that’s used to clean the car dashboard. Allow it to fall in big coils on the floor. Before you do so however, it is, important to vacuum the carpet; otherwise the line will become covered in fluff and dog hairs, which is counter-productive. This is where the potential problems start. Prepare yourself, because the domestic management department will enquire about hoovering becoming part of your familial duties. Be careful before you answer; it can cause a repetitive strain injury to the casting arm.

Oh, and by the way, if you’ve emptied out the fishing bag beware of another hazard. Those bits of nylon that you screwed up in there to prevent environmental catastrophes will cause all sorts of fun and games if they wrap around the hoover brushes.  Worst case scenario? You will burn out the electric motor and fill the living room with acrid smoke. Don’t ask me how I know this stuff; I just do. One last thing; if you have a cat shut it in the kitchen before you start.

It’s more than likely that reels will require a bit of maintenance too. The insides will be full of grit and sand and will need lubrication. I’m not going to dwell on this for too long but I’ll just mention a couple of things to avoid. First, do not put your expensive alloy reel through the dishwasher. The substance that makes your glasses sparkle corrodes spindles and drag systems more effectively than sea water. Second piece of advice; I can’t recommend squirting WD40 on the parquet floor or the vinyl tiles if you don’t want to turn the place into a skating rink.

If you stored your rods in the garage or shed over winter, send the kids out before you bring them in to check over. The cloth bag in which you enshrine your treasured possession, make perfect nesting material for mice and chances are that they will have nibbled bits off yours. If you are really out of luck, they will have helped themselves to lumps of the cork handle too. Young and impressionable ears should not be assailed with your ensuing words of wisdom. Mice also like to urinate on things too, so if the corner of the living room begins to niff, don’t blame the cat. To add insult to injury, mice are also very fond of chewing waders. It’s best to check before stepping in the water.

My old friend Cliff tells me that his rod bags were attacked by a veritable army of mice. They are now lined up neatly in the freezer awaiting transformation into this year’s killer pattern for the river Rye, the mouse and claret.

Mouse and Claret

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483

 

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May 2012

Leckford Professor

Can somebody please explain to me why it’s not stopped raining for a fortnight, yet we are in a drought? The volume of water that’s recently flowed down the dales rivers and out to sea would save us from a hose pipe ban for half a century. Am I missing a trick here or are the water companies simply taking the Mickey?

You’ll have to excuse me if I appear a bit tetchy; I was hoping to be out on the rivers of Ryedale on a regular basis in April but casting a fly into a torrent of chocolate can be a bit daunting. There is some talk of grumpiness and bad words bandied about; don’t believe everything that you hear. The upshot though has been more thinking and planning. I like opposites and the unconventional so I’m of the mind to do some things differently this season. When I do eventually have the opportunity to flick a fly, I shall employ my mousey modern versions of the soft hackled spider patterns. Usually I would undertake this with a modern, state of the art carbon fibre fly rod that weighs in at less than a whisker. This year, however I am determined to more regularly take my classic cane rods to the river. They are much heavier than their carbon counterparts but they possess a timeless quality that reflects traditional skills that emerged in the late 1800’s. All hand made by gluing together sections of tapered, split bamboo some of these rods have become classic collectors’ pieces. It is a salutary realisation that my Hardy CC De France split bamboo rod is worth far more than any of my pristine carbon equivalents. The design originates from 1911 when JJ Hardy won a prestigious French casting competition; hence the name. Mine was produced much later, in 1955, but works as well now as it did all those years ago. Whether I can use it to the same effect as dear old JJ is another story.

I recall that stalwart of the upper Wharfe, Brent Little, waxing lyrical about the beauty of split cane. He opened my eyes to the reflection of the setting sun from the burnishes, soft golden hues of painstakingly varnished wood. This is in stark contrast to the brashness of some modern graphite gear. There is even a bright red one out there. He compared the wide arc curvature in the cane creation to the very shape of the limestone fells amidst which we fish. The two forge a harmony of natural elements that eludes the stark intrusion upon the landscape of a modern material.

I will admit that these beautiful fly rods are not easy to use, they demand love and respect. “Treat them gently and they will serve you well”. The words of my dear departed mentor, Hugh Evans haunt me when I try to force a bamboo rod to flex rather too quickly.

Visitors to Kilnsey Show will have witnessed another of my cane companions in action. I am the proud second owner of a Hardy JJH Triumph built in 1959. The rod is eleven years my junior; it is not for me to say which of the pair has best withstood the ravages of time. You may judge for yourself at this year’s show. It was bought, in the same year of its creation, by John Dowling. He employed and treasured the Triumph until, when in his nineties, John passed the rod to me. I shall continue to cherish this piece of living history.

I’m off down south next week and I wanted a historic fly to chuck in the chalk streams. Steve came up with the Leckford professor designed for the job by Ernest Mott.

Mind you, I shall have a few Yorkshire creations in my back pocket!

 

Leckford Professor

 

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

 

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June 2012

The Dove Bug

 “A perfect package of pure enjoyment” is my diary entry for the last day of April and the first day of May this year. On Monday evening, Mark and I would participate in an evening dedicated to tasting Speyside malt whisky; on Tuesday we would fish the Derbyshire Derwent. I was relishing the opportunity to fish this beautiful river. I have marvelled at its magnificence as it emerges from Ladybower reservoir, scrutinised it from bridges and fantasised about the fish that it dwell therein. Finally, I was offered the opportunity to cast a fly over it. Just to add to the whole experience, my wife and I had booked a couple of nights at the marvellous Plough Inn near Hathersage.

The whisky tasting was a true educational experience, undertaken in convivial company and amidst much merriment. However, as we walked back to Mark’s house, there was a whiff of despondency in our conversation. Although the rain had eased temporarily, it had poured for days before. Added to this, daytime temperatures were decidedly Baltic; not the most appealing of fishing conditions. Our main fear was that the river would be flooded and impossible to fish and the euphoria originating on Speyside was beginning to dwindle when my wife arrived to return me to the sanctity of the Plough.

We had decided that an early start was not indicated; more a weather than a whisky issue I promise you. Mark’s arrival in the bar at 10 o’clock coincided with that of the next shower and two disconsolate would-be anglers shuffled off to the adjacent Leadmill Bridge to assess the situation. Our worst fears were confirmed, the river was running like a train and quite badly coloured. Mark had booked prime beats, so we went to investigate the possibility that a miracle might have made this section of the river fishable; a fool’s errand. After some debate, we decided that the only fishing opportunities that day would be found high up the valley a before the river Noe joins the Derwent. Late morning found us leaning over Yorkshire Bridge. “If it was just me, I’d go home” announced Mark, breaking an ominous silence. A call to the keeper confirmed that this beat was free, along with the whole of the rest of the beats. There was a bit of a smirk on my friend’s face as he handed me my wading stick from the boot of his car. “The keeper says that if I have anyone elderly with me, he’ll need one of these.” Just plain impudent I call it.

The river was just fishable, with care. Wading was a bit hazardous, but possible with caution. We looked for likely places, sheltered from the main push of the current, where a trout may seek refuge. Nothing. By mid afternoon our mood was low. “Should have fished the river Dove instead” offered Mark. Clutching at straws, to lighten our spirits, my frozen fingers produced a couple of long forgotten flies from the box. “Let’s try the Dove Bug then” I suggested. Cutting to the chase, the offering produced five trout from the tail of a shallow pool, finally bringing a smile to the faces of two bedraggled friends.

I have to tell you that as I walked back into the Plough, I was met by Melissa, wearing her usual beaming smile. Before I could even speak, I was ushered to a table by the roaring fire and a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord   ale materialised as if by magic. My wading boots were soon drying by the same fire and Bob had relieved me of soaking wet waders promising to return them next morning. Marvellous service I reckon.

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

 

 

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July 2012

Due to a change in editor and the Great Yorkshire Show no article appeared in July

 

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

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August 2012

Shadow Mayfly

If you’re not an angler, you will not appreciate the experience of leaking waders.

Breathable waders are a wonderful invention but eventually they leak. Often it’s a seam that first allows a little ingress, occasionally helped along by a bramble or a barbed wire fence. The wearer is seldom immediately aware of watery invasion; rather it creeps up on you. One gradually becomes aware of a slowly spreading dampness and, if it’s early in the season, a little localised chilling. The overall effect depends upon the precise position of the leak.  Between ankle and shin is a mere inconvenience but if sited north of the knee cap, the whole experience begins to take on a different dimension. I don’t wish to stray into territory that may be interpreted as indiscreet, but there are certain sections of one’s waders through which one really does not wish water to pass. So, on a cool day in early June, as I waded ever deeper in the Rye, I slowly became aware that there was a bit of an issue in the anatomical equivalent of the central lowlands. A couple of hours later as I walked back to the car it became obvious that the drought was well and truly over in that particular domain.

I divested myself of soggy waders in the privacy of my own back yard and hung them in the woodshed. I then did the penguin walk to the back door where I encountered Kate, my daughter in law. There’s not a lot you can add to clear evidence of flooding in the central lowlands, so I simply scuttled off to dry out.

A couple of days later, I prepared for another foray by the river. Not wishing to experience further seepage, I gathered another pair of waders from the lobby. Late morning found me leaning on the rails of Packhorse Bridge, embroiled in those weighty decisions about which rod to select, what length leader to use and which bit of the river to head for. A wrong judgment can lead to dire consequences, so it is a stressful process. Eventually, I slowly began to make my way upstream. There was no sign of surface activity so I searched the water with a small beaded nymph, occasionally experiencing that little adrenalin rush as another brown trout mistook my offering for lunch. All the trout in this part of the Rye are as wild as a British summer; they are exquisite examples of their genre and after a moment of contemplative admiration, each one was returned gently to the water.

Part of my fishing days always involve some time just sitting on the bank, watching, listening and occasionally thinking. This day was one of the few warm and sunny interludes that we have enjoyed; my thoughts were entirely occupied by the realisation of my extreme good fortune in being amidst stunning countryside my senses bombarded by the scents of the meadow behind me and the sound of the curlews above me. Suddenly, my eyes were aware of a swirl at the surface of the water by the far bank. In a small eddy, a mayfly disappeared into the jaws of a fine trout. Not allowing my gaze to wander from the site of the incident, my fingers slowly probed the front pocket of my waders wherein I keep my box of mayfly patterns.

The realisation struck me like a thunderbolt; all my mayflies were languishing in the woodshed enshrouded in leaky waders. A feverish search uncovered one bedraggled shadow mayfly pattern in the corner of another fly box. I tied it carefully to the leader and promptly lost it in a tree, first cast.

 Shadow Mayfly

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

 

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September 2012

Stewarts Spider - Tenkara

An evening of bliss

At the beginning of June I was fortunate to spend a week on the West Coast of Scotland and whilst the rest of the UK shivered in the rain and winds we had temperatures that, at times, were higher than the Mediterranean.

I had promised my wife that no fishing tackle would accompany us on this holiday but somehow or other one rod was packed together with a selection of small flies. That rod was a Tenkara rod which is telescopic and collapses into a tube no longer than eighteen inches so it could easily have accidently slipped into the suitcase.

TenkaraFirstly let me explain what Tenkara is. Remember when you were a child and you had a garden cane, a length of string and a bent pin or hook, well that is what Tenkara is. Although we like to think it is more sophisticated as we get older Tenkara is fishing with a stick. It is said to be the traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing, which uses only a very long telescopic rod, a length of line and a fly. However, James Chetham in his book The Angler's Vade Mecum published in Manchester in 1681 describes a very similar setup of horse hair for the line and a very long rod. So let us just say it is a very old method of fishing, worldwide.

So there I was, on the Isle of Mull, parked up in a motorhome on a very beautiful stretch of grassy shoreline. The sun sets late up there, so early evening  I wandered along the shoreline and soon came across a stream coming down from Ben More. A single track road crossed the stream over a very attractive humpback bridge and beneath the bridge was the most wonderful crystal clear pool. Sitting on the bridge I looked down into the water and could see small brown trout darting about chasing insects.Loch na Keal

That was it! My chance to cast a fly in Scotland. Hurrying back to the motorhome I rummaged about, found the rod and flies and ran back to below the pool. One thing about Tenkara, there is no reel or flyline to be worried about and being telescopic it can be assembled in seconds.  Up went the rod, line attached to the end and now came the most important decision. Which fly? There could only be one choice.  As I was in Scotland it had to be a Stewarts Spiders. A fly which should never be off your cast according to Mr Stewart in his book of 1847.

Crouching down I crept up to the waters edge and cast the fly upstream into the pool. Immediately the line went taught and lifting the rod a brown trout came to my hand. Alright I will admit it was not the biggest brown trout I have caught but it was two inches of pure delight, beautiful colour and little red spots appearing on its flank. Back went the beauty into the water and scurried off and back went my fly into the pool. A third cast brought me another fish, this time it was about three inches, and so it went on until I think they must have got wise to me. After about half an hour I had caught 8 fish, the largest about six inches but what the heck, it was 30 minutes of pure bliss.

The clear blue sky, the crystal clear water and not a soul in sight. Absolute perfection, what a wonderful experience which will always stay with me. I am, however, sorry to say that the bridge and the pool were washed away in the July storms, a sad loss to me and to the other people who have sat on the bridge and watched those little brown trout.

Stewarts Spider

 Text written by and flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

 

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October 2012

Loch Ordie

Back in August, I complained of moisture round the central Lowlands. This month, I’m soaked from Southampton to Stornaway!

In the weeks leading up to our annual pilgrimage to the Western Isles, the Outer Hebrides enjoyed similar weather to that of the Bahamas. Every phone call from Philip reported temperatures up to 30 degrees and no rain. That just aint normal for this exposed archipelago. So, inevitably, within twenty four hours of our arrival in North Uist, a significant blow howled around the cottage and hurled rain by the bucket – ful at the windows. I always observe local tradition and never fish on Sundays, but by Monday evening cabin fever began to bite. For the third time, I ventured outside, removed a lump of sheep’s wool from the fence and watched its forty- miles- an- hour journey down the wind; due west. Back inside, I pored over the map whilst my wife, reclining in the warm glow of the stove, performing that rotating - finger - at - the - side - of the head thing that denotes insanity. After thirty nine years, I continue to pay no heed.

I needed to get out and cast a fly; in order to do so I sought a loch that is well sheltered from the west. Loch Sgadabhagh (sort that one out) fitted the bill exactly. It is a huge Loch with high peat banks and hundreds of small sheltered inlets which face east. Now, I’ve played this game before; trying to climb into chest waders in a gale can be a challenge. The wind blows down the legs, inflating the things like a balloon. If you happen to be a skinny little runt it’s not a big problem; I’m not and it is. When XL chest waders are fully inflated, and one is hanging on to the shoulder straps for dear life, it’s difficult to think of fishing and not wind surfing! So, I pulled on waders and boots in the kitchen, climbed into the car and set off.

Twenty minutes later, with the wind and rain at my back, I stumbled the quarter mile to the loch-side through waist high heather. Sliding down the five foot high peat bank, I rested on a convenient boulder as the wind and rain howled high above my head. On the sheltered calm water before me, sedge flies were performing their egg-laying dance whilst the trout ate them. A Loch Ordie fly soon adorned my leader; a favorite imitation of a sedge. I pulled line from the reel and delivered the first cast. Less than ten seconds later a brave brownie hurled itself at my offering. Cabin fever abated. I waded slowly along the shore, concentrating on dropping my fly gently onto the undisturbed water. That’s where it all went badly wrong. Such was my preoccupation that I failed to see the rock that I fell over. Seconds later, I lay, full length in two feet of water, flailing about to retrieve my rod, water streaming down the top of my waders. I may have mumbled words that would not appeal to the editor. Having staggered back to the car, falling in a peat hag in the process, I knew that I could not drive with several gallons of Loch collected in my clothing. Waders and outer garments stowed in the boot, I set off. Despite low fuel I went straight home; the good ladies at Bayhead stores were spared the sight of a soaking Sassenach entering their emporium in his undergarments.

I arrived at the front door and swilled most of the water from the foot-well. I heard the cottage door open and turned to see a repeat performance of the finger rotating trick accompanied by a slow shake of the head.

Amidst a trail of undergarments, I headed for the shower.

Loch Ordie

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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 November 2012

The Whiskey Fly

Many moons ago, before I met Steve Cheetham, I used to tie my own flies but his now put mine to shame as the pictures accompanying this column have testified.

One of the patterns that graced my fly box in the seventies was the whiskey fly. Devised by a chap called Albert Willock to capture rainbow trout in the midlands reservoirs; I found it just as useful in more northern climes. Inevitably, it fell from fashion and my examples were delegated to the “desperation” fly box. Some years later, I developed an interest in the larger brown trout of our Yorkshire Rivers. The whiskey fly was resurrected and re united with my “every day” flies where it gained quite a reputation during the last month of the season.

Now, this might become a bit confusing, so I want you to sit up and pay attention to the next bit; whisky is not to be confused with whiskey. The former is the fine medicinal compound bases on barley and distilled in Scotland. The Americans, as usual, were incapable of leaving stuff alone and insisted on adding an “e” to the name of the fire water that they conjure from rye. Just as well; you certainly would not want to mistake one for the other. I can only assume that Albert had relations in America.

So, this neatly returns us to my wader problems that I’ve described to you over the last two columns. Be patient and stay with me, all will become clear.

As you may recall, first I had a problem with definite dampness around the anatomical equivalent of the central lowlands. Then, after my spill in the chilly waters of Loch Sgadabhagh in North Uist that I described in October (you wouldn’t believe me if I told you how to pronounce it) I found another watery ingress. For one moment, steel yourself and imagine my wader-clad person in profile and seated. There was a modicum of moisture spreading around East Anglia due to a leak located around Lowestoft; I needed to get to the bottom of the problem quickly.

The following evening found me crawling around head first, inside the waders with a torch. Meanwhile, my dear wife sits in total darkness looking for the pin-hole of luminosity that locates the leak. That done, she draws round the light with a laundry marker.

Now, I have some very special glue that cures in moments when exposed to ultra violet light. So, to fix the seepage, I smear my sticky substance around the marked area and just leave them outside in daylight. My plan was to apply the glue that evening and let it cure outside whilst I ate breakfast the following morning.

I found the glue and refreshed my memory by reading the instructions; that’s when it all went pear-shaped. The first designated task is burned into my brain. “With alcohol, thoroughly clean the area to be sealed.” At home, I have a bottle of isopropyl alcohol that I use for the purpose; that was nearly five hundred miles away. I feverishly searched the cupboards and drawers of our rented house. No sign of anything useful to be found; not even a drop of meths or nail varnish remover. Panic began to set in; I had big plans for those waders the following morning.

It was with mixed feelings that my gaze fell upon the bottle of fine malt whisky that had originated on the nearby Isle of Jura. I began to think the unthinkable. With trembling fingers, I uncorked the bottle and tentatively moistened a bit of kitchen paper with the liquid gold.

I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

Whiskey Fly

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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December 2012

Endrick Spider

One of the rituals of my Christmas is fur and feather harvesting. Don’t you dare to go all soppy on me; you’ll scoff turkeys and geese by the million over the festive period and what do you think happens to lovely fluffy little lambs?  My best opportunity for plume garnering is my invitation for a day as the guest of an eclectic group of wonderful chaps who manage a small shoot just up the valley.

Last December, we gathered in the farm yard, meeting old friends and a few new ones, exchanging banter and views on the price of spuds. The dogs, meanwhile, were enthusiastically reacquainting themselves with each others’ nether regions. We humans just shook hands.

As usual, to make sure that everyone is organised, this shoot has developed a cunning plan. Everyone picks a card and depending upon the colour of the suit chosen, each of us is issued with a similarly coloured bit of stick. Written on each bit of wood is a vertical list of numbers that provides useful information about one’s movements for the day. You soon get the hang of it! So, empowered by the rule of the sticks, men and dogs climbed into the back of a huge covered wagon that would not have been out of place in Utah in the 1840’s; except for the tractor.  We discussed prospects for the day, the accuracy of weather forecasts and the government. The canine incumbents, now in a confined space, created a line of nether region sniffers hemmed in by feet and leather cased gun butts; the cocker spaniel at the back of the queue looked disconsolate.

Twenty yards up the hill out of Helmsley, there is a loud bang! Bill stuck his head over the half door explaining that it was a terrible shame but the pesky rear left tyre was burst. A chorus of “well blow me down” erupted from the trailer.

The dogs were “encouraged” by their owners to stay behind but the rest of us descended the rear steps in order to lighten the load, each of us shouldering our shotguns safely stowed in a slip. A brief conference concluded that the tractor could pull the trailer into the nearby gate.  At this juncture, we could all go in search of feathers whilst Ghandi was summoned to change the wheel. The folk innocently driving into Helmsley may have become rather alarmed at the sight of a posse of armed guards flanking a large trailer as it limped up the hill. A line of motley muzzles peered over the half door.

By lunch time, man and canine companion had accounted for waterhen bloa, snipe and purple and Endrick spider. We sat in the barn with our sandwiches, tears streaming down our faces. This was the result of some ox tail soup laced with chilli that Peter insisted we all try. The spaniels had a brief fall - out whilst the labradors searched the cobbles for any sign of a crumb.

The intention for the afternoon was to gather the makings of the Adams (you’ll remember that one) and a woodcock and yellow. We also needed cdc (duck’s bum feathers to the uninitiated). We sallied forth again full of pork pie, good humour and a little sloe gin, except John, who drove the tractor. Mid afternoon saw us returning to base as the light faded; all missions accomplished. Anyone not driving was allowed another nip of sloe gin; there was little interest in a re – fill of Pete’s soup. The dogs were worn out, just retaining the energy to curl up and investigate their own nethers. We contented ourselves with robust handshakes and an exchange of seasonal compliments; another successful harvest complete.

Please, do enjoy the season in the way that you choose to celebrate. May 2013 bring you a bountiful harvest of whatever you would wish for.

Endrick Spider

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

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© Copyright 2009 Stephen Cheetham, Roger Beck, Yorkshire Post Newspapers.