Fishing with Style

 

 

Yorkshire Post - Country Week

2013 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 2013, which we trust you will enjoy reading:

John Titmouse      Wiggly Worm   John Swarbrick   Drop Fly

Little Black Reverse Hackle  Ally's Shrimp

Crazy Charlie  Gotcha    Steve Parton's Grizzly Nobbler      Winkler's Twinkle   Neither Nowt nor Summat

January 2013

John Titmouse

Despite the fact that 2012 threw some atrocious weather at us, I’ve had a wonderful fishing season. For the first time in thirteen years I have fished for my own pleasure.

I live ten minutes drive from the river Rye and one ‘phone call to river keeper, Jim Gurling, provides full details of the water conditions, based on his encyclopaedic knowledge of the valley. So, I have been able to pick my days. I prefer to fish when the river is a bit too coloured rather than a bit too clear. As I’ve said before; the ideal tint in my opinion would be indistinguishable from Timothy Taylor’s bitter; anything in the range of John Smith’s to Joshua Tetley’s still works well for me.  Newcastle Brown is a step too far. I have pushed my luck on several occasions when the river has only just been fishable. However, by combining small beaded nymphs with Steve’s exquisite spider patterns, I never drew a single blank. This is a testament to the health of the river and Jim’s sterling work, not to me. On some days it’s not been easy; that’s fine. My philosophy is that fishing should be challenging and satisfying, not predictable.

A couple of days stand out in my memories of 2012; I still derive huge enjoyment from seeing others catch fish. In late October, Richard joined me as a guest on the river. He has no opportunity to fish for grayling on his home territory; he was keen to meet the “ladies of the stream” who reside in satisfying numbers in the Rye.

It was October 23 and the river was somewhere between John and Joshua. I was fairly sure that I knew where to find a few grayling; mid morning found us just below the falls. The complex threads of current that flow diagonally from the falls pool always hold a few of our target species; except today! We were mesmerised by the sight of brown trout bravely trying to jump the falls on the way to the spawning grounds, but not a grayling to be found. Unconcerned, we leisurely made our way upstream; Richard had introduced himself to nine grayling before we reached the bridge. He was like a dog with two tails.

On the last day of October, John was my guest. It was cold and windy; the river was in the “just fishable” category, approaching Newcastle Brown. John is the son of my late mentor and dear friend, Hugh; his influence remains though. Hugh was firmly of the opinion that classic cane rods could not be bettered by modern carbon; he taught me to appreciate the connection to natural materials and revelled in my first crude, rushed attempts to make bamboo rods work. “Ask it nicely” he would say, grinning mischievously from astride his shooting stick. John brought along his own seven foot Hardy CC de France cane rod, Hugh declared it to be Hardy‘s the finest design. John’s sole aim was to catch his first grayling with his classic rod, watching it like a hawk all day, lest I made off with it.

By early afternoon, we were fishless and I was becoming uneasy and chilly. As we sat on the bank, my eyes were glued to a seam of current by the far bank, no more than two yards long. A tiny trickle of Large Dark Olives started to hatch; the first grayling that I’d seen all day silently sipped them from the surface. I chose a John Titmouse, from my fly box, a traditional Yorkshire grayling fly. The ladies cooperated and John caught four of them from those two yards of river.

We retired, frozen, checking the colour of Joshua on the way home.

John Titmouse

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483

 

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February 2013

Wiggly Worm

I’ve stopped making plans; I’ve become an opportunist. Most of my plans revolve around weather, which I have realised is neither controllable or, indeed, predictable. I have concluded that the meteorologists, even the pretty ones on the telly, couldn’t forecast a full moon. In preparation for next season, I’ve bought a hank of seaweed.

Persistent precipitation had dampened my angling enthusiasm. I kept an eye on the weather conjecture as I now know it, hoping for a fine day.  Not a chance.

One afternoon in early January, the rain clouds began to disperse; the western sky donned its party clothes and shone with a majestic combination of oranges and reds, giving the impression, as they say in these parts, that “Shepherd’s hut’s afire”.  I stood at the front door, as Arkwright might, and enjoyed a brief monologue. Decision made, tomorrow I would trot a worm down the river in search of the lady of the stream.

I even got up early, which will be a shock to some, and took the spade from the shed. It was a fabulous morning; the low winter sun had dipped into the pink corner of its paint box and treated the leafless treetops to a coat of wonder.  I readied my cloth bag, wherein I keep my worms, plunged the spade into the bit of garden that is constantly manured in order to attract Eisenia fetida; common name, the red worm. (Yes, I know, I need to get out more.) The plunge came to nothing. The soil was frozen solid by last night’s frost. Every self respecting worm would be on a journey to the centre of the earth.

Wormless, I collected my fly box, fly rod and long johns. Fifteen minutes later found me sitting on a bench in Duncombe Park, scrutinising the Rye. My senses were almost overloaded by stunning views; the sun was now higher and specialising in the yellow section of its spectrum as it continued its arboreal enhancement. Reluctantly, I turned my gaze away from the vista and tied a big heavy nymph to my line. The trusty undergarments warded off the chill of the water as I waded into the river, trundling that weighted fly through the depths. I really do find deep nymph fishing a chore; it is very effective but it somehow lacks the finesse of other branches of our sport. I rate it as only slightly less tedious than salmon fishing.

Daylight dissolves into dusk very early in mid – winter and as I reached Mill Bridge its stones glowed as the celestial decorator began to daub the facade with splashes of a hue for which Farrow and Ball might charge a fortune.

I was absolutely confident that there would be grayling hereabouts, but what I needed was good old Eisenia to help me to winkle one out. A cunning plan dawned upon me; in one corner of my fly box lurked a couple of very nasty, flashy wiggly worm imitations that would infuriate the purist. The river’s flow bestows upon them a very life-like appearance, the pulsating rubber legs creating the impression that a whole gaggle of little red worms are performing cart-wheels through the depths. Don’t tell anyone, but it once served me very well on the hallowed waters of the Test. With absolutely no conscience whatsoever, it swapped places with my conventional nymph and went for a swim. Three casts later, the end of my line twitched and I felt the determine shake of a grayling. He was only a little chap, but I was delighted to make his brief acquaintance.

As I walked the half mile back to the car, the rainclouds were regrouping.

Wiggly Worm Blood worm variant

 

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483

 

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 March 2013

John Swarbrick

It is now March, the month that heralds the start of the brown trout season. Over the winter period rods, reels and lines will have been checked, cleaned and replaced where necessary. Fly boxes will be full to bursting with the new season's “killer” flies.  Club memberships will have been completed and plans will have been made for where to cast the first fly. Those fanatical stalwart fly fishers will be giddy with excitement like schoolboys waiting for their first school football match and getting on everyone’s nerves. Such is the attraction of this historic pastime.

The only problem now is which fly to use first. When I first started fly fishing I asked Roger Beck for advice, the response being “anything small and black”. Later in the same year I asked the same question, the response being “anything small and black”. It worked a treat, but one does like to have something else in the arsenal.

Over the years I have developed a great passion for the historic North Country Wet flies, or spiders as we call them, and having read numerous “spider” books I have developed a list of patterns that suit me throughout the season. All you have to do is trace the hatching periods of the individual types of fly and cross reference with the flies that are tied to imitate them. Matching the hatch!

I have read the books by Pritt, Edmunds & Lee and a few others but one book caught my attention a year or so ago. This is not a big book, in fact not much bigger than a credit card. Written in what one might call “olde English” it is packed with information and best of all pictures of the flies being described.

John Swarbrick

John Swarbrick was born in Austby near Ilkley in 1771. Obviously he loved the River Wharfe, particularly the Middleton stretch which has changed little since he produced his List of Wharfedale Flies in 1807. The book is not just a list of fly dressings but it also a diary of natural events in and around the Upper Wharfe with precise dates given for the emergence or appearance of the insects which will be food for the trout.

Back in John’s day the season seemed to start in February with the Winter Brown as his first fly, but wait a minute! His second fly is the Little Black! I knew Roger was knocking on a bit but!!!  Reading on, the March Brown starts to come into its own. I know the March Brown hatch is a rare occurrence these days on the Wharfe but there are reports of the fly making spasmodic appearances which is encouraging. The next major hatch will be the Large Dark Olives which fortunately seem to be thriving and this fly will be the one to follow well into April and May.

Where would we have been without anglers like John?  It is said he was illiterate and his list was written down under his guidance by another member of the family, but he took the time and trouble to let us know, 200 years later, what we could or should be using.

Bolton Abbey

 

Narrative and photos by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244. 

 

 

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April 2013

Drop Fly

The trout season will be up and running by the time this column appears. Whether the snow and ice will have cleared is another matter. 

My preparations have been painstaking though there is another in the household who prefers the term obsessive. I’ve decided to have a bit of a rethink. Steve has been banging on at me for over a year to have a go at this Tenkara fishing lark. It’s all to do with very long fishing sticks, droopy bits of line (that closely resemble baler twine) and no reel, which all sounds a bit iffy to me. There is no real casting involved, apparently one just flaps the limp string around, hoping that the fly lands in the water.  Steve has mumbled something about old dogs and new tricks. Anyway, I have decided to give it a go and have even bought a Tenkara rod. My friend and I, Martyn Roberts from “All water fly Fishing” in Harrogate, have made a pact that our first visit to the Rye will be a “Tenkara only” affair. We will be well away from prying eyes and no cameras are allowed! If I feel that you are up to it, I’ll let you know how thing go.

I have it on Steve’s authority, that there is a fool-proof method for catching fish with this style of gear. He tells me that, first, I need to know where the fish are; no problem there then. Next, I flail about with stick and string in order to drop a little fly onto the water five times in a row; seemingly, it is an absolute guarantee that I will catch a fish on the fifth flap. Yes, and I’ll believe that when I see it.

There appear to be some mysteries and black arts involved in this new-fangled fishing lark, apparently, I need special flies in order to make it all work; reversed hackle or some other airy fairy fancy concoction. If I ever find out what that means, I might give it a try but, for the moment, that’s just a step too far. I can see the advantage of a fly with a bit of mobility, so for a start I shall try the drop fly from about 1800, which incorporates ostrich feathers into the dressing.

I’ve always thought that ostrich feathers bestow mobility upon anything that they happen to adorn, the Victorian ladies proved that with their hats. So, whilst visiting South Africa recently, I decided to gather some plumage from said creature. I did mention the possibility to an ostrich farmer who pointed out possible spanners in the works. First, the best feathers are on a male ostrich between the top of its leg and its bum. I was assured that sneaking up on them is not a good plan. Ostriches have two razor sharp toes on each foot; with which they launch a kick that can disembowel a grown man. They can also do about 45 mph. and if you fall down whilst running away, they are so stupid (their eye ball weighs more than their brain) that they are likely to mistake your head for an egg and sit on it for forty days.

Returning featherless, I have a confession.

Kate, when you and my son Sam were married last week, I could not help admiring that fabulous feather boa that you wore; the smattering of ostrich at the back just set it off perfectly. I know that we were all a bit distracted by the photographer, but yes, it was a bit of a liberty.  When you see the photos, all the white stuff blowing down Bedale market place is not confetti. Oh, and there really is only a tiny bald patch at the back.

Drop fly

 

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483

 

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May 2013

Reverse Hackle - Little Black

The brown trout season opened here on April 1st. My concerns expressed in last month’s column were well founded; snow lay in large patches on the moors and even at lower levels, the hedge rows still had white feet, a poignant reminder that winter had not lost its grip. As I drove over Blakey Ridge in mid April, the hollows were full of snow and the head of Rosedale was decorated with more of the same, evidence that the latest blast of winter had struck from the east. Cruel winds from the same direction continued to deter me from setting forth with rod and line. It wasn’t only me that was persuaded to delay venturing out; phone calls from friends across the county told the same story. Richard, a very hardy soul, did have a brief outing in Wharfedale, but within twenty minutes had lost all feeling in his fingers and could no longer tie knots. He returned to the fire side and mumbled for the rest of the afternoon. 

Eventually, cabin fever overcame me and I just had to apply fly to water. The wind had eased and blew from the west after a brief attack from the north. A sheltered stream seemed the best plan, so late morning found me descending the steep sides of the dale, following the forestry track to a sheltered clearing by a bridge. I was shocked by the lack of green shoots and swelling buds, the bare branches of deciduous shrubs and trees that overhang the river were a stark reminder that spring was still on hold. No significant rain had fallen for several weeks so the river ran low and very clear. My mind distracted by the thought of an imminent hose pipe ban, I carelessly allowed my shadow to fall on the water and was rewarded by the sight of a small trout leaving an impressive bow wave as it hurtled upstream in order to avoid the intruder. 

Waders strapped on, I tentatively withdrew the tenkara rod from its tube. If you read last month’s column, you will know that this is the basis of a craze that appears to be afflicting fly fishers. I attached the floppy leader to the bit of string protruding from the pointy end of the contraption and gracefully lowered myself into the river. The water was not only low and clear, if was freezing cold; this was not a day for wading above the level of what my friends at Kilnsey would call “the fork”.   

Steve had sent me a picture of the recommended reversed hackle fly that accompanies this column, so I’d tied a few up and attached one to my leader. There was not a fish to be seen so I began to flick the fly into likely looking runs and riffles. The lack of foliage meant that the twigs overhanging the river become almost impossible to see; the floppy leader had a mind of its own and refused to go where directed. Consequently my first catches comprised of one alder, two dead willow herb stalks, my own jacket and a bramble. Muttering stuff that is not fit to repeat here, I slowly made my way upstream to a slightly wider part of the river with less intrusive vegetation. I’m not sure why I never spotted the holly bush until a prickly leaf captured my wayward line, leaving my reverse hackle spider dibbling about in the water below. I just had time to utter the single word that succinctly expressed my opinion of life, when the feisty fish shot from under the bank and grabbed the fly.  

I unhooked the trout, disentangled everything from the tree and went home!

 Little Black Reverse hackle fly

 

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

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June 2013

Ally's Shrimp

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’m asked for advice on buying essential fishing tackle. I have even prepared an advice sheet that I can attach to an email or stick in the post; I update it every season.  Every person who attends one of my courses at Lockwood Fishery is given a copy of the document, whether they like it or not. Over that last dozen years I must have dispensed scores of these bits of paper. If by some unlikely accident you still have a copy of these words of wisdom, do me a favour and chuck it away. It’s not that the information is inaccurate; on the contrary I would stand by every word of it. It’s just that I have recently realised that there is a glaring omission; I never mentioned Long Johns. 

I’ve just returned from Grantown having spent a week in pursuit of the huge brown trout that inhabit the mighty river Spey. When we arrived, the water gauge by the old bridge was showing a height over three feet; previous experience suggested that about one foot on the gauge was about right. The river was well up the bank and roaring through very quickly, obscuring all the pools, runs, glides and riffles that endow a river with character. I rely on studying the character of a stream to help me to locate fish.

Everyone except me had come to fish for Salmon which, you will recall, I consider to be about as interesting and exciting as watching paint dry. Surrounded by the paraphernalia of salmon anglers, I assembled my trout rod and then began a close scrutiny of the river. Here and there were small slacks and slow eddies wherein a trout might find respite from the full force of the flow.  

Over the next couple of days, I diligently searched these places with a variety of flies including some very nasty, brightly coloured monstrosities that would have me banned from many a Yorkshire angling club. My efforts were rewarded by a handful of modestly sized brownies, every one sparkling bright and a beauty to behold. I was delighted to see them, but this was not the purpose of a three hundred mile journey. I sought the leviathans, but it was not to be. Meanwhile, my friends landed five salmon between them. 

On Thursday, Tim had invited me to fish a little way upstream. As I pulled on my waders, I could see some hefty trout rolling and slurping in the pool upstream of the hut. I knew that they were completely safe. The water was far too deep for me to approach to within casting distance; the levels had receded only inches over three days. Slowly, it dawned on me that there was only one logical course of action; with a heavy heart, I assembled the salmon rod. I’m not quite sure why the best salmon lies are on the other side of the river, they just are. Andrew the gillie pointed them out to me then watched as I waded ever deeper, complete with life jacket and wading staff. Chest deep in the Spey, I began to utilise the special casts born on this very river, which enabled me to reach far bank. Despite all the flailing about with an Ally's Shrimp, I quickly realised that I was beginning to feel very cold, around the mid-riff and southern lowlands. As I slowly waded back to the bank, I was now facing the Cairngorm mountain range. The corries were full of snow and it was pure snow melt that had swollen the river.

My Long Johns were safely tucked away in a drawer in the hotel.

By the way, I caught nowt; back to the paint brushes!

Ally's Shrimp

 

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

 

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July 2013

Crazy Charlie

George Bradley was standing on the front deck of the boat; I was by his right shoulder, rod in my right hand, my left grasping the tan coloured Crazy Charlie fly. The air temperature was 32 degrees; the water was a mere 29 degrees. I was a long way from the Wharfe or the Rye.

For many years, it has been my ambition to catch a bone fish, known as the grey ghost of the tropical shallows that can do 0 – 60 faster than a Ferrari and can empty your reel in seconds. So, here I was off San Pedro Island, Belize, Central America putting my faith in George to help me to realize my dream.

George Bradley is one of a band of professional guides whose job it is to find the bone fish and to help the angler on their capture. George also “advises on how to improve your technique.” He needs to raise the angler’s casting skills to the standard of his guiding prowess. His “advice” is free, forthright, frequently repeated; he does not take prisoners. He is a hard task-master and an extremely skilled and professional operator.

George stooped momentarily; his left forefinger extended in an unwavering direction at right angles to the boat. His right hand tapped me gently on the shoulder “forty feet, nine o’clock forty feet, bone fish; you see him?” Now, the Caribbean Sea is absolutely gin clear; I could see nothing. “Need to be quick, need to be quick” urged a voice in my ear “oh! He gone, need to be quick, need to be quick.”

We drifted on amongst idyllic tiny coral islands carefully circumnavigating small clumps of mosquito infested mangroves, all the while my mentor scanning the shallows. “tirty feet, tirty feet, eleven o’clock” came the guidance from behind me. I flipped the fly into the air, extended the fly line and delivered my cast right on target. “He moved, he moved, twelve o’clock” I lifted off from the water and aimed twenty degrees to the right. “Oh, he gone, you spooked him, you spooked him.” I had seen nothing.

Moments later, I was advised “tailing bone fish, tailing bone fish; hundred fifty feet twelve o’clock, wait, we go closer we go closer.”  This time, I could see them. Bone fish have the habit of standing on their heads vacuuming crustacea from the silver coral sand. In the shallow water their distinctive two-pronged tails announced feeding fish. The sight mesmerised me until, having reduced the range to sixty feet, and angled the target to a more manageable eleven o’clock, George, reminding me of the business in hand, announced. “Get ready, five feet to de left of dem, five feet to de left.” There was quite a breeze over my left shoulder, George had insisted on a leader of fourteen feet and sixty feet, in old money, is twenty yards. Anyway, to cut a long story short... “Oh no, I tink dat was tree feet” and as the shoal disappeared in a flurry of foam, I was counselled again “you spook dem Roger, you spook dem.” This was information rather than admonishment, I think.

A little later, George and I spotted a small shoal of bone fish “forty feet, four o’clock” I suggested “you doin’ good aim in front, aim in front” grinned George.  Seconds later, I saw a fish peel off from the main shoal and inhale my Crazy Charlie. “You got ‘im, you got ‘im” cried George, gleefully slapping me on the shoulder as fifty yards of fly line and backing fizzed from my reel. “You learning, you learning, we go catch anodder, we go catch anodder.”

Crazy Charlie

 

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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August 2013

Gotcha 

Up to my knees in the bath-warm, azure, coral bejewelled Caribbean Sea I followed Roberto as he scanned the water for bonefish. Occasionally he would raise his right hand, fist clenched; this was our agreed signal for me to stop and not move a muscle. Bonefish are very easily spooked; in the shallows a stealthy approach is essential to avoid scaring the whole shoal. One false move and they are gone. When Roberto lowered his fist, I could continue. The sign I eagerly awaited was the raised index finger; that means “quarry spotted, prepare to cast”.

Soon, the finger was raised and by the time I waded to his right shoulder, the same digit pointed to my target. “Forty feet, you see?” Now, the question was superfluous. This was my third day of salt-water fly-fishing from San Pedro Island, just off the coast of Belize; I had caught lots of bonefish but so far, had not seen one before I hooked it. At this stage I was still completely reliant on the amazing fish spotting abilities of the guides. “No” I replied, staring forty feet beyond Roberto’s outstretched finger. “t’irty five feet now!” he replied with just a little edge to his wonderful Caribbean drawl. With no further delay I launched my fly in the required direction at the requested range. I had learned by now that if I was on target, my guide would remain completely silent but adopt a stork-like predatory posture. I saw Roberto’s head drop very slightly, so I knew the shot was a good one. I allowed the fly a few seconds to sink and then began the jerky retrieve that attracts the fish’s attention. Nothing. Roberto’s brow furrowed, he pondered for a brief moment and then announced “dat fly no good, we try de Gotcha.” Dutifully, I opened my fly box and handed over said fly. I swear that his eyes never left the water as he tied it onto my leader. As he passed it back, eyes still fixed forwards and with just an element of doubt in his voice he nonchalantly enquired “ can you do seventy five feet?” “Yes” I affirmed, trying to remove every trace of doubt from my own voice. The forefinger shot out “seventy five feet.” I hastily stripped line from my reel, flipped the back cast, mentally allowed for the crosswind before hitting the delivery cast. As the fly touched down, I breathed a sigh of relief; not a sound from my left. Seconds later the rod was nearly ripped from my hand as a bonefish began its first searing run. “Roberto’s grin said it all. 

The finger appeared again, and by the time I was in position the advice came “fifty feet, big shoal.” The superfluous question was omitted. At the same instant as I released the cast, all hell broke loose fifty feet away; a mighty splash and broken water as bonefish scattered in all direction. “ Barracuda!” I was informed “I do not like dem very much, dey are all fornicators and of doubtful parentage.” I was further advised. “dat one have to go.”

Roberto handed me a stout rod baited with a sardine, the finger told the story “ten feet.”  I said. Roberto did not see the joke. The barracuda grabbed the sardine as it touched down. I raised the rod and thirty pounds of very angry barra launched itself from the water. The rod bucked in my hand and line fizzed from the screaming reel. The fish leaped into the air several times and tail-walked, shaking it’s head back and forth. Eventually I could see the spectacular dentistry as the predator neared the shore. “Gotcha!” I yelled in excitement as I drew my prize onto the sand. “No, sardine” laughed my new friend as he slapped me on the back enthusiastically.

 Gotcha

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

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September 2013

Grizzly Nobbler (Steve Parton pattern)

Over the last ten years or so, I have spent a couple of weeks each year in pursuit of specimen brown trout in North Uist, Outer Hebrides. I feel that I am beginning to make some progress; I know where the big boys (and girls) live, it’s just a matter of catching them. I have been fortunate to catch some specimens in excess of four pounds in weight and have noticed that many of them disgorge handfuls of sticklebacks as they are returned to the water. I knew that I needed a fly to “match this hatch.”

In search of a stickleback look-alike I came upon a pattern by the late Steve Parton (the Grizzly Nobbler). I never met Steve, but had enjoyed a few telephone conversations with him. Steve always told it “how it is” and I admired him for that. He was an innovative angler and will be sorely missed. In preparation for the Hebrides 2013 expedition, I tied half a dozen pearly fry in the hope that I might fool a stickleback scoffer.

As we docked at Lochmaddy, we were greeted by perfect holiday weather; overcast, not too warm, a gentle westerly breeze that was the harbinger of rain. Thankfully, the high pressure that brought hot sunny days had receded just in time for our arrival. In less than half an hour and in keeping with tradition we were seated in Philip’s kitchen, lemonade to hand, planning our piscatorial pursuits for the next couple of weeks. By the way, please do not run away with the idea that I completely neglect my dear wife during these pilgrimages to the Western Isles. I have always made it quite clear that she would be most welcome to accompany us on any of our forays. Indeed, it would be most helpful to have someone to manage the oars whilst we concentrated on the job in hand. You will be amazed, dear reader, when I tell you that all proposals have, so far, been declined.

So, the following afternoon, Philip and I launched the boat alone; in doing so I opened proceedings by falling in again. Luckily, the water was shallow; I was togged up in chest waders so only my pride was damaged.

In these crystal clear machair lochs, I have learned that the leviathans tend to lie amongst the rocks on the downwind shore and simply ambush passing stickle backs. I had tied the pearl fry to my leader and began casting as close to the rocks as I dared. I cannot remember if it was the third or fourth cast that the huge fish pounced on my fly. It was immediately airborne and I knew that I was attached to a wild brownie approaching five pounds in weight. The fish just would not stay in the water; time and time again it performed aerial gymnastics so I could not begin to coax it towards me. In my heart of hearts, I just knew that it would happen. As the fish crashed back into the water for the umpteenth time, my nylon leader snapped like cotton as it dragged over a sharp rock. We both remained silent for several minutes. The rest of the afternoon drew a blank.

Over the next few days, the stickleback accounted for some beautiful trout around the two pound mark. Very welcome they were too, but somehow there was always a tinge of disappointment as I slipped them back into the water.

Then; catastrophe. The ridge of high pressure nudged away the front that had so improved the island weather. The sun shone, temperatures climbed back to the mid twenties. Not what I call holiday weather at all.

Grizzly Nobbler Steve Parton

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

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October 2013

Sorry, no fly this month

 

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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 November 2013

Winkler's Twinkle - day with "The Fonz"

They call him the nicest man in Hollywood and from my day spent with Henry Winkler believe me it is not just Hollywood but anywhere.

It all started near the end of the trout season with a phone call from his agent asking me if I could take Henry fly fishing for a day on the river Calder. As I explained to his agent I have not often fished the Calder and I suggested a day spent on the Wharfe, a river I know well at Bolton Abbey, which would be a great experience for him.

Having made the preliminary booking I sauntered back into the living room to be questioned by my wife as to who was on the phone.  Henry Winkler? The Fonz?  YOU are taking HIM fishing?? I have never heard such a commotion, and then the reaction set in. With all due respect to my other clients, taking Henry Winkler fishing has to be the high point of my career - a very high profile gentleman and well loved by so many people.

Meeting Henry at Bolton Abbey was a nervous time for me but he soon put me at ease with his smile and good nature. Kitting him up in the only pair of chest waders I had that would fit him we laughed that he looked like one of the Telly Tubbies but he was adamant that it suited him well. Selecting a rod, line and reel that he thought was right for him we set off for a day I shall never forget. Discussing tactics on the way to the river gave me an idea of the flies, wet or dry, that he would like to use and was most likely to catch on.

The previous Sunday I had been on the river with a group of fly fishing guides and had been shown “one that was the best pattern in the whole of the North” according to the tier. Now we fishermen have boxes and boxes of killer patterns but this one stuck in my mind. Basically it is a standard gold ribbed hares ear but with a twinkle in the tail. Perfect  for deep pools that we were to encounter. I renamed it "Winkler's Twinkle" there and then.

Down to the river, on went the fly, second cast brought the reaction I had been praying for, after all it was Sunday, Henry Winkler’s first Yorkshire Dales wild brown trout. Aaaaaaayyyyy.  Safely in the landing net and the fly removed I advised Henry that it was tradition that one should kiss one's first Wharfe wild brown trout for good luck. Not to be outdone Henry gave that fish a full kiss smack on its mouth. I am sure that fish smiled.

Now Henry’s agent had advised me the week before that this should be a private visit and to keep it secret. We did not want publicity and to have the riverbank full of folk trying to get his autograph, however on the day Henry’s love of dogs did prove a stumbling block. As we moved from pool to pool along the riverbank we had to mingle with those taking full advantage of a beautiful afternoon and Henry had to say hello to every single dog that we passed. Obviously this produced many smiles and much excitement amongst the owners. After all it’s not every day you meet The Fonz on a day out.

As the day progressed Henry smiled and smiled. “Wow, look at that” pointing to the Abbey, “Wow, look at those hills” pointing around, “so lovely” at every fish he caught (five in all).

“What time is it Steve?” replying “3 o’clock Henry” “Right time for a cigar” and a large cigar was produced and savoured sitting down on the banks of the Wharfe with Bolton Abbey in front of us.

“Perfect” and a smile.

Winkler's Twinkle            Henry Winkler Bolton Abbey          Henry Winkler and Steve Cheetham Bolton Abbey

 

Fly, narrative and images by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

 

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December 2013

Neither Nowt nor Summat

As regular readers will know, whenever the opportunity arises, I always poke a bit of fun at the salmon fishers. Kilnsey show gives me the opportunity to take the Mickey en masse; this year was no exception.

Salmon anglers take themselves very seriously and have a nasty habit of unnecessarily complicating things. There is a simple method of moving the fly line around on the river. Normal people call this roll casting. Salmon seekers insist on giving the name Spey casting to exactly the same procedure.

Standing in the Wharfe with a fourteen foot double handed fly rod, I talked my audience through the “double Spey”.  As I swept the rod from my left shoulder to the right, the butt collided with the buckle of my belt from whence my microphone transmitter hung. Electronics and water do not mix so the instant that the little box of tricks hit the water, all went silent. It was probably just as well; otherwise an awful lot of people would have discovered that all radio microphones are born out of wedlock. I scuttled up the bank to calls of “retribution” from the salmon fishers.

The following morning, Richard and I cautiously made our way downstream by the river Skirfare . Screened by the trees, I could see the occasional rhythmic movement of a fishing rod. A beautifully formed aerodynamic loop of line lazily and repeatedly penetrated the bank side obstacles to land in the gaps under the trees. I knew immediately that I was observing a very skilled angler; I also knew who it must be.

Michael, then in his eightieth year, now in his eighty first, is an angler of consummate skill. His speciality is catching the fish that other people have given up on; he employs only flies that emerge from his own vice. To him, a proper trout never saw the inside of a hatchery; it was spawned in the very river wherein he wades. Keeping well below the skyline, Richard and I seated ourselves on the river bank, taking care to keep out of Michael’s back casting zone.  Incidentally, in compliance with the local rule, I wore only thigh waders, so within moments of nestling into the grass my backside was sodden; more retribution?

Soon, Michael took a rest from his piscatorial pleasures, and joined us on the bank. This is when a little age and experience tells; Michael sat on his coat. We passed the time in reflection, as fishing friends frequently do. In a gentlemanly kind of way my companions reminded me of the previous day’s performance. The whole scene would not have looked out of place in an episode from “Last of the Summer Wine”.  After a little while, I noticed that Michael’s eyes were focussing somewhere over my right shoulder. “There’s a fish rising about twenty yards upstream” he announced; “been at it for the last five minutes, you can go and catch that one” he informed me. No pressure there then. “You’ll need one of my flies; those fancy things of yours are no good.” Michael handed me the fly and I tied it to my leader without taking my eyes off the rising trout (you should try that sometime).  I slowly manoeuvred into casting position and dropped the fly two feet upstream of my target. Lazily, without hesitation, the fish simply ate Michael’s fly. After a spirited display of aerobatics, it slipped over the rim of my net. It was as I removed the little barbless black morsel from the corner of its mouth that the elegant simplicity of the fly struck me. “Have you a name for this fly?” I enquired of Michael”. “No, it’s neither nowt nor summat” he assured me with a twinkle.

Nowt nor Summat

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

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