Fishing with Style

 

 

Yorkshire Post - Country Week

2016 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.

Go back to the 2005 articles      Go Back to the 2006 articles    Go back to the 2007 articles  Go back to 2008 articles

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Go Back to 2013 Articles     Go Back to 2014 Articles   Go Back to 2015 Articles  Go to 2017 articles

Here are the monthly articles, published in 2016, which we trust you will enjoy reading:

Grayling Bug      Tenkara New Zealand     Ishigaki Kebari      Grey Ghost

The Last Hope    Shuttlecock CDC    Reverse Mayfly   Reeve’s Revenge

Knotted Midge    Grayling Bug    Squimph

 

January 2016

Grayling Bug

You’re not going to believe this, but some of my friends and associates have publicly expressed an opinion that I’m daft. I’ve always dismissed this as a preposterous opinion; I consider myself to be a well-balanced individual with intact mental faculties. That was until one day in mid-November.

The river had not been fit to fish for over a week, swollen by heavy rain and running the colour of good beef gravy. Never the less, I decided that there was nothing to be lost by having a close look at the water – just in case. I sat perched upon the edge of the seat erected in memory of Arthur Storey, watching water, foam and assorted branches hurtle over the weir whilst holding my faithful fly rod across my knees. I had clambered into my waders at the end of the lane, well before catching a glimpse of the river; that way, being fully prepared, I was not likely to be deterred by adverse conditions. I estimated that the water level was at least three feet above normal. As I watched the maelstrom boil and blunder beneath my feet, doubt began to creep its icy course up my spine. Perhaps I was, after all, going daft; not there yet but on my way.

It was decision time; I carefully made my way into the shallow slower water that rolled over a shingle bank. With my feet immersed in nine inches of water, despite its colour, I could still see the lace holes in my wading boots. Right, decision made, if I can see through nine inches of water, then a fish certainly can.

I happen to know that there is a whole jumble of rocks just a few feet from where I was standing. I know that because on a similar day two years ago, I tripped over said rocks and took a little moisture on board; but that’s another story. In October 2010, Steve told you about the method of fishing that suspends a heavy nymph pattern beneath a buoyant floating fly, usually a klinkhamer; It is nick-named “klink and dink”. It is an ideal way to present a nymph near the bottom of the river whilst relying upon movements of the floating fly to inform the angler of any interference with the sunken fly. Some call it cheating, I call it effective.

Having found a klink with a highly visible fluorescent hat, I turned my attention to the dink department in my fly box.

Now, I’m not as organised as Steve; by November the dink department was depleted. Good fortune intervened because I noticed a couple of likely candidates concealed in the corner of my box. I’ve no idea what it’s called but I’m sure that someone out there can tell me. I had cadged a couple from John who used the fly with great success on the Derbyshire Derwent earlier in the year. The little pink tail makes this fly very attractive to grayling, they love a bit of bling. If I were to be very non-PC for a moment, I might suggest that’s the reason that the grayling is called the Lady of the Stream. However, I shall not risk it.

I began to work the nymph amongst the rocks. Second cast, the Klink hesitated, I lifted the rod tip and saw, below the surface, the familiar silver flash of a grayling. I’ve just checked my catch record; I caught fourteen grayling from about thirty yards of river that afternoon. Believe me, if you can see your lace holes in nine inches of water, it’s worth giving it a go.

Happy New Year to one and all. 

Grayling Bug

 

 Narrative by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.  www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk

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February 2016

Toward the latter part of 2015 I spent a marvellous few weeks in New Zealand. This was a family holiday but I did find time to spend on the riverbank. Oh no! you might say, not another tale about fishing in areas you can only dream of going to. This is a tale applicable to anywhere in the UK.

I found a stretch of water on the Waipa River just below Tao Bridge, 6 miles east of Otorohanga on North Island. Just like any stretch of water in Yorkshire it had rapids, pools and streamy stretches, just as I like it. Whilst tackling up at the car I was approached by the farmer who owned the land I had to cross to reach the river. Enquiring as to what I intended to do, which to me was obvious, he asked me where I was from. "England, well Yorkshire actually" I told him. "Well that's OK then" he replied "Had you been local or an Aussie I would have asked you to move on". Without going into too much detail it has something to do with a fallout between the landowners and the New Zealand Fishery Board.

As many folk do in New Zealand I donned my sandals, shorts and hat -  no need for waders and boots, it was too hot -  and I set off, rods in hand, to search for those renown rainbows and brown trout. If one ignored the palms and ferns the river and the surroundings were exactly like any Dales river.

I fished for a couple of hours using my usual methods, with some success, catching small rainbows but I was sure there were better fish to be had particularly in a pool with fairly fast flowing water which I had fished through once. Feeling a little exasperated, I decided to sit on the bank side, have a cup of coffee and have a think about tactics. It was at that time I was joined by a family of piglets, who wandered aimlessly past me and settled down in the shallow water just above my intended spot.  It was then I realised I wasn't in Yorkshire at all  - I've fished with herons, kingfishers, otters and mink for company, but never pigs!

Just before I had left the UK, Brian at Tenkara Centre UK rang me and informed me he had launched a new rod, which was beefier and just right for big fish.  He had sent me one in the post to try in New Zealand. Being a Tenkara rod it was light, small and easy to pack so a no brainer!

So back on the riverbank, away went the traditional rod and out came the Honryu Tenkara rod. Now normally I fish with about three feet of tippet, that's the bit of "invisible" material between the line and the fly, but I decided, in view of the water depth, I would put on six feet of tippet to get a bit deeper. On went a heavy fly  which had been recommended to me by a local, and out to water I went trying not to disturb the piglet family.

First cast nothing, second cast nothing, on the third cast - sugar!!! I've snagged the bottom and then the line moved slightly upstream, so I lifted the rod and then all hell broke loose. Upstream went the fish then downstream, a few mighty leaps in the air, then upstream again. Ten minutes the rainbow fought, ten minutes the rod held out against one of the biggest fish I had ever caught on a river.

Finally the fish was landed, a beautiful 3lb wild rainbow, the first fish caught on a Honryu rod in New Zealand and the piglets were not impressed at all.  Perhaps they thought I was trying to hog the limelight....sorry!

Tenkara New Zealand

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

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 March 2016

Ishigaki Kebari

It's now March, a time for the fly fishermen to start thinking about the forthcoming brown trout season. If they haven't already done so, their rods, reels and lines will be checked and cleaned and a fury of fly tying will have to be done to stock up their fly boxes.

Recently I have been closely watching the social media and am surprised to see grown men and women reduced to what can only be described as the Christmas Day of fishing. The excitement within them, openly stating that there are "only 20 more sleeps before opening day" and "where are you going on the first day?" or "what fly will you be using?" and "cannot wait to try my new rod".

Social media is littered with pictures of fly boxes, stuffed with creations, some of which I bet will never even get wet. Just how many flies can one use? OK you may have to allow for the condition and colour of the water, the hatches of insects that are coming off the water etc. but one can go over the top with the number of flies and fly boxes one can carry, and I know because I have been there and done it.

Over the past couple of years I have met many anglers on the riverbank and discussed tactics and flies with them. I have been amazed at a few of the older generation whose choice of fly has been what I can only describe as minimalistic.  One gentleman I met used only two flies all year round, a Grey Duster which is a dry fly, and a Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear which is a wet fly. He was happy for these two flies to do the business for him no matter what. Another guy only used a black parachute dry fly.  I won't go into the tying method but it is a very effective fly and attracts fish. He was a happy chap and caught plenty using this alone.

In 2014 I was a guest of Discover Tenkara and was invited to fish the small streams that feed Ladybower and other reservoirs around Sheffield. Together with the company owners, Paul Gaskell and John Pearson, was a gentleman from Japan called  Dr Ishigaki who, by all accounts, is a wizard at fishing in Japan. Before turning up on the day I did my homework on Dr Ishigaki and found that he quite literally fished with only one style of fly all year round. That fly was a black Ishigaki Kebari so off to the tying bench I went and tied up what can only be described as a host of these flies neatly aligned in a new fly box.

On being introduced to Dr Ishigaki I proudly opened my fly box and showed him my interpretation of his fly.

"Ah so!", well at least I think that's what he said.  "Too neat, too tidy, needs to be scruffy" was the translation I received, and then he showed me his tying of the same fly. I could see I had been too careful in the tying, particularly because he ties his flies with his fingers and not with a vice.

During the day I was able to watch Dr Ishigaki manipulate his fly in every conceivable way, imitating hatching and drowning insects, casting in areas which seemed unlikely to hold fish and to just generally get the best presentation to an unsuspecting trout.

The question now remained, could this fly be the answer to all my prayers, could I fish with one fly only all season no matter which method I used? Sadly the answer is no! I am still stuffing fly boxes with flies which will only get wet when I drop my fly box in the water.

Ishigaki Kebari

 

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

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April 2016

Grey Ghost

Have you heard the one about the Englishman, American and Tasmanian?

As we flew in to Taupo airport on the North Island of New Zealand, it started to rain. Two hours earlier, when we left Blenheim, on the South Island of New Zealand, it had just finished raining. On our way to David’s house, we began to climb the hill at the South West corner of Lake Taupo. The rain became so ferocious that we pulled in by the side of the road. Twenty minutes later, we edged back onto the carriageway as the deluge eased off to a downpour.  Twenty yards in front of us, the steep embankment began to crumble and slide into the road. I slammed my foot down hard on the accelerator and just managed to outrun the land slip before it inundated the road.

Welcome to the North Island.

As we pulled into David’s yard, Mal (otherwise known as the Nantucket night fisher) appeared from the back door. “Isn’t this rain great?” he enthused “It’ll get those trout running for sure, we’ll catch ‘em tomorrow night.” Mal migrates from his native Massachusetts to New Zealand for three months every year; he is a legend amongst local anglers.

I’m not quite sure what happened for the next few hours. Steamed fresh green-lipped mussels and amazing grilled lamb steaks were helped along by seriously good Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and examples of Hawkes’ Bay Merlot that never sees these shores. Apparently, I agreed that Mal and I would meet at 17.00 the following day.

As we assembled our gear at the allotted time, Mal took the time to outline his cunning plan. “That drop (drop!) of rain will have raised the level of the Kuratau Lake which is drained by the Kuratau River into Lake Taupo.  The increased flow of the river will bring lots of food downstream to the mouth of the river.  The fish will sense the arrival of the chuck wagon and gather where the flow enters the lake. The guys we are after will turn up to eat the fish that chased the chuck wagon.”

So, the Englishman and the American turned up at the sandy bay where the two waters meet. As we made our way to the waterside, another angler waded to the shore and shook Mal warmly by the hand. “G’day mate, how yer hangin’” We have our Tasmanian. I was enthusiastically greeted by Gary from Tas. I formed the impression that most of the male population of Tasmania are called Gary. “How long yer here for” asked Gary. “Just two days” I replied. “You need to catch a fish pretty sharp then” he announced. The next gesture just blew me away. My new Tasmanian friend assured me that he was fishing in the best spot; he absolutely insisted that he should relinquish it to me. I really did protest but he would have none of it. Next, his fly box materialised and he tied a Grey Ghost onto my leader. I was led into the water by the arm. “There they are mate” he said pointing with his finger. I cannot think of a better expression than “gobsmacked.”  As I followed the finger, I could see huge brown trout rolling in the edge of the current; they were about the size of a Gloucester Old Spot.

I began to cast my fly into the flowing water and was rewarded for my efforts with a series of tugs that all but wrenched the rod from my hand. I landed six brown trout in all, the best one weighing in at around six pounds, without doubt, the smallest one in the shoal.

That evening is now etched into my memory; Kuratau bay has become “The Bay of Pigs”.

Grey Ghost

 

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483

 

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May 2016

The Last Hope

When I was no’ but a lad, I did English Literature O level; we had a marvellous English teacher and it was not her fault that most of the set pieces that we studied were outdated, crusty old irrelevant 19th. century non-sense.  One of the poems that was inflicted upon us came to mind last week, as we drove from Malton to Easingwold.

Whilst the screen wipers dealt with the falling snow, we carefully manoeuvred around cars that were sliding backwards down Brandsby Bank. As we rounded the bend, the white topped summit of Whernside appeared on the horizon as if in support of the sugar dusted tops of the Howardian Hills. The words of Robert Browning sprang immediately to my mind. “Oh to be in England now that April’s there…” “Oh, highly amusing” I muttered, earning a bewildered sidelong glance from my wife, who was acting as my chauffeur, as she has done for for the previous month.  No, I’ve not run foul of the law, I have temporarily lost the full use of my right hand. I am, you see, of Viking extraction and have inherited a set of genes which result in a condition called Dupuytren’s Contracture. I am right handed, and have the condition in that hand; it causes the fingers to bend inwards and eventually almost closes the affected hand. It’s not painful but it is very inconvenient.

When you wash hour face, there is a risk of removing an eye with a wayward finger. It is awkward to hold small items in the afflicted palm; last season, the wind blew countless flies from my grasp. For six months, I was not able to hold a glass in my right hand, it was only with considerable difficulty that I was able to grasp the handle of my fishing rod. However, the worst problem for a Yorkshireman is the inability to put your hand in your pocket.

The solution to the problem is surgery, and that was performed in late March by a dedicated team of doctors and nurses. I have to point out that all this, and the after care, has been delivered by our fantastic NHS, despite some politicians attempt to wreck it.

The operation left me one-handed for about a month, hence the chauffeur.  Whilst incapacitated, I have come to understand more clearly the predicament of others. Just imagine, for one moment, the prospect of doing everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING!) with one non-dominant hand.  Just out of interest, try spreading preserve on a slice of toast one-handed. I did endeavour to hold the toast down with my right elbow whilst manoeuvring the marmalade knife with my left hand.  I had to apologise to the nurse for the butter in my bandages.  

I always knew that my disability was temporary and that I would regain full use of my hand once it was healed. Nevertheless, the experience has made me much more aware of the problems of minor lack of function, even so, I cannot imagine the consequences of permanent incapacity.

Over the years, I coached a number of people with severe physical disabilities; it always gave me enormous satisfaction to witness the smile on the face of someone who thought that their active life was curtailed and yet could effectively cast a fly and, with a little bit of help from their friends, catch fish.

The fly that Steve has tied for us this month is called “The Last Hope”, I’d like to dedicate it to the band of dedicated fishing coaches who offer just that to young and old for whom a light has dimmed. These men and women are often able to restore some meaning to lives that have been permanently altered.

The Last Hope

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

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June 2016

Shuttlecock CDC

First, I must thank all those kind readers who contacted me after last month’s column enquiring after my well-being.  Since surgery for Dupeytren’s contracture, my right hand is improving quickly. I can hold a fishing rod once more and the sense of touch in my fingertips is returning. There are now only a few things that my physiotherapist has advised me to avoid; ironing, I am assured, is very dangerous because the iron handle is very narrow and I may lose my still compromised  grip on it, he is also concerned that using a vacuum cleaner might slow down my rehabilitation. It’s far too complicated for me to understand but it’s something to do with electrical vibrations and blood circulation. As usual, I just do as I’m told.

The remaining impairment to my sense of touch is a bit of a problem. One of the most vital skills to an angler of any persuasion, is the ability to tie effective knots.  Fumbling fingers do not make it easy to tie a tucked half-blood knot in a piece of monofilament that is 0.13 mm. in diameter.

A recent afternoon found me sitting by the river Nidd. I always spend several minutes taking stock before I even make a cast. The river was very low and so I had taken up position by a long riffle (where the river is fairly shallow but fast flowing over stones). I decided that this was perfect fish habitat, given the conditions. The broken water gives the trout a sense of security, a stony river bed is home to many of the aquatic insects that constitute fish food. Most importantly, as the river burbles over the stones, it picks up life giving oxygen. It does require an experienced eye, but as I watched I could see the occasional swirl and splash in the broken water. I watched a little longer; there were no adult flies to be seen on the water so I reasoned that the fish were eating nymphs. The occasional splash suggested that some of the nymphs were being eaten at the water surface as they hatched into adult flies

I carefully made my way to the downstream end of the riffle so that I could cast my fly upstream to the fish.  Steve has tied an example of the fly that I use in these circumstances and in which I have enormous confidence. Simplicity is often best. This consists if a peacock feather with the fuzzy bits removed with a pencil rubber, wrapped round the hook and topped off with a bit of duck’s bum fluff.  Seated on a bank-side tussock, I reckon that it took me a good five minutes to tie a satisfactory knot; the finger ends stubbornly refusing to properly manipulate the end of my fine leader. Finally, satisfied with my efforts, I turned my attention back to the water, nothing had altered, the subtle changes in flow and the occasional flattening of the ripples reassured me that the trout were still busy.

Rod in right hand, fly in left I carefully stepped into the river, pausing briefly to adjust the prescription Polaroid glasses that I rely upon. That’s when the right arm of my specs disengaged from the rest of the frame, which, swinging on the retaining cord, fell into the water. I managed to grab them before they sank and stuffed them down my waders.

I’m as blind as a bat without my specs; the wade to the bank had every potential for disaster. Five yards out, I tripped over a big stone and went headlong into the Nidd. I must apologise profusely to the two lady dog walkers, I was just thinking out loud.

 Shuttlecock CDC

 

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

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July 2016

Reverse Mayfly

In June 2006, in this column, I bemoaned the loss of significant mayfly hatches on my local river, the Rye. I’m delighted to report that over the last few years the numbers have significantly improved. We still do not have the prolific hatches of yesteryear, but Ephemera danica has certainly made its presence felt over the last couple of years. I’d better qualify this extravagant claim by pointing out that the return of the mayfly to our northern streams is important to anglers, but not necessarily to normal people.

The mayfly is quite a big creature; the females can be up to an inch long (that’s 25 mm. in new money) and as a consequence become quite a popular menu item. If you’d been fed on nothing but gruel all your life, the opportunity to munch on a McDonald’s might appeal to you. Unfortunately, the return of the mayfly has had quite a significant effect on anglers’ behaviour.

The appearance of the first few Ephemera on a river system causes a mad panic in the minds of anglers who fish those rivers. A couple of years ago, I was invited to fish the Derbyshire Wye. Unfortunately for me, someone had spotted a mayfly in Buxton the previous day so every angler and his uncle were out on the river. Mayfly fishing just gets people like that; it is a spectacular sight to watch fish leaping a foot into the air to snatch lunch before it even alights on the water. It is equally exciting to watch the trout competing with the swifts to find out which can gulp down the most mayfly. Once the fish realise that the mayfly have appeared, they can put on a stunning display, lunging and swirling at the hapless creatures as the float, newly hatched, downstream. The dedicated fly fisher just cannot resist the opportunity to float an artificial mayfly over their heads. On most rivers, mayfly put in an appearance for about three weeks every year, the main hatch being for around ten days.

Of course, there are no guarantees that fish will attack your carefully prepared and presented artificial with the same enthusiasm. An effective pattern shows the right profile when viewed from below and has a number of “trigger” features which attract the fish’s attention. The one that Steve has tied for us was designed by that stalwart of Yorkshire fly fishing, Oliver Edwards.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the opportunity to fish during the mayfly season, but I don’t go bonkers; maybe it’s an age thing. Strolling along the river bank with my wife one evening near the end of May, I noticed that the sky was absolutely full of adult mayfly, spinners as they are called, that would make their way back to the river the following day in order to lay their eggs. I do not exaggerate, there were millions of these pale cream creatures performing an almost balletic dance, first rising into the air before falling back towards the trees, employing their wings a mini parachutes. I suspect that even normal people would be mesmerised by this display.

That was my cue for action, the beat on the river was booked for the following morning and my anticipation grew.

The ‘phone call came fairly early the following morning; our daughter, Jenni, was on her way to hospital having started with the contractions overnight. Now, I could not go fishing until I knew that young Alice had arrived safe and sound.

When she’s a bit older, I do not really relish having to tell her that I cannot make her birthday party.  

 Reverse Mayfly    

 

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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August 2016

Reeve’s Revenge

It is often said that with age comes discretion and that one learns by experience. So, on that basis I should no longer be making an annual expedition to the far north west of this archipelago that we call Britain. After last year’s buffeting by wind and rain, any sensible person would not purposely seek to repeat the experience. There’s the rub; it’s that sensible bit that precipitates the problem. The heart rules the head, so once again, in early July we began the journey north towards the Outer Hebrides, or the Western Isles as they are more properly known.

It’s a long journey, so we now take two days to complete it. We love the drive, which passes through some of the most evocative of Scottish landscapes. I hope that I will be forgiven for suggesting that the use of an interpreter would be an asset in some areas around the Clyde. Perhaps that’s a bit rich coming from a person once described as unintelligible by someone from a southern county!

I have lost count of the number of times that I have traversed Glen Coe; the atmosphere of the place never fails to move me and I can distinctly remember the occasion when the sun shone. This year, the head and shoulders of Aonach Eagach and Buachaille Etive Mor were enfolded in the gentle arms of purple cloud and a grey mist that constantly moved along the flanks of these massive igneous monsters. I have to say that the majesty of the Glen was, on this occasion somewhat marred; it was not easy to negotiate a group of young people taking selfies in the middle of the road. Half mile traffic queues behind lumbering caravans also served to remind me of my heart felt belief that these tin tents should only be allowed to travel in the hours of darkness… but that’s another story.

There is no secret about the reasons why we return to the Western Isles. For one of us, the unique character of the fishing enthrals; for the other half of the partnership, the archaeology is fascinating and compelling.

I like to try out new fly designs on the wild brown trout of the Western Isles. The old faithfuls never fail to appeal, the Dunkeld dabbler and the Clan Chief are frequent co-conspirators on my cast.  I do believe though that some of the big boys and girls of the machair lochs do like something bright and colourful. I was presented with an unmissable opportunity to test my theory. It is apparent that when my friends encounter dead things, their thoughts turn immediately to me. When Rob informed me that one of his collection of Reeve’s pheasant cocks had suffered a demise, I did feel a momentary pang of sorrow for the hapless creature but this soon passed as I conjured up a mental pictures of its plumage; google it as soon as you finish reading this, I am sure that you will share my excitement. With a selection of plumage arranged on my desk, I quickly decided that the striking black and white barred feathers from the shoulders would make a perfect hackle. I added a flashy mid-section, a bit of bling around the bum and sent my design off to Steve so that he could work his magic. My fly tyings are only fit for personal use, they are not for public display. The trout just loved it; some sizeable specimens ate this fly with wild abandon.

It doesn’t have a name; please feel free to make suggestions. Until then, “Reeve’s Revenge” will fit the bill.

Reeve’s Revenge

 

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

 

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September 2016

Knotted Midge

I’m afraid that this month’s column needs to be read after the 9.00 pm. watershed.

If you are a television viewer or a radio lover, you will be familiar with the practice of using a bleep as a substitute for words that some people might find offensive. Such is the case here. I shall use “bleep” whenever I shrink from writing the actual word used. Please feel free to insert any word that you feel suitable and with which you are comfortable.

It all started on a visit down to the Cotswolds with Mark where we encountered trout and grayling that were feeding upon something that neither of us could identify. My theory was that it was something southern. A couple of weeks later, Rob and I faced exactly the same conundrum by the banks of the Wharfe; so much for my theory.

In a slow moving section of the river, trout were regularly slurping up some tiny morsels from beneath the trees on the opposite bank. I’d experienced this scenario before and I assumed that they were feeding upon aphids that fell from the trees, a relative of the greenfly that infest your roses and about the same size. For the initiated, that means using a fly tied on a size 22 or 24 hook. To the uninitiated, that’s about the size of two pin heads; I employed a CDC Humpy which you will remember, Steve introducing to you in January 2007,

Two question sprang immediately to mind; first, could I manage to cast the tiny fly beneath the leafy canopy? Secondly would I be able to see the thing once I’d managed to solve issue one? Oh, I forgot to mention that I was wearing thigh waders, which regular readers will remember that I hate with a passion.  Both matters could have been solved by my wading just a little closer to my target, but that would have meant wet nethers.

An adapted roll cast, which salmon scarers insist on calling a Spey cast, propelled the fly right into the dining room, time after time. I’m not quite sure how it’s possible to “studiously ignore”, but that’s what the trout did to my offering. Time for a sit down and a think; by way of which I enjoyed a wet backside for the rest of the day thanks to thigh waders.

Rob joined me on the bank, thereby suffering the same discomfort of the derriere, and we began to scan the water for clues. Suddenly, Rob plunged his hand in the water, scooped something up and stared at it intently. “They’re feeding on ‘bleeping’ midges” he exclaimed, holding out his hand for me to scrutinise his captives. Sure enough, there were several tiny black chironomids scuttling over Rob’s proffered hand. “That’s an interesting discovery”, I admitted, “but it doesn’t solve the problem. A Humpy adequately represents either a “bleeping” aphid or a “bleeping” midge, we are missing something.”

After a couple more unproductive casts with the Humpy, I had a brainwave (it still hurts.) “Rob” I called, “these trout are not only feeding on “bleeping” midges, they are selecting pairs of midges that are actually “bleeping.”  We both laid down our rods and stooped low, staring into the water. Sure enough, there were hundreds of entwined midges floating down the river.

This was great news because we could now use a fly that was nearly as big as a match head. As soon as we changed fly to a size 20 knotted midge, we began to catch trout. This fly is specifically tied to represent mating midges. 

In my fly box, it’s now called the “bleeping” midge.

Knotted Midge

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

Narrative by Roger Beck                    01439 788483. 

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October 2016

Grayling Bug

I hated geography when I was at school.

The single simple reason is that my geography teacher was incredibly boring; he was about as inspiring as leaking waders in February. Consequently, I took very little notice of what he said and the fact that I actually passed O level geography was a complete mystery to me. It clearly indicates that examinations do not test knowledge or understanding; memory perhaps, but little else.

Apparently, one of the topics that we covered all those years ago was “the rain shadow effect of the Pennines.” I only know this because my wife told me. She enjoyed an inspiring geography teacher, so she paid very close attention to her lessons. The theory is that the prevailing, moisture-laden winds approach from the west; when they reach the Pennines, they are forced to rise over the hills. In doing so, the air is cooled making them unable to hold as much moisture. As a consequence, the now condensed water falls as rain on the flanks and summit of the hills.

Just a minute, I hear you saying, “What on earth has this to do with fishing?” Well, actually this meteorological phenomenon has significantly affected my 2016 angling calendar.

At times when the Dales Rivers have enjoyed good flows of water, over here in the east it has been a different story. The rivers and streams of the east of the county have suffered from a lack of flow for much of the season. Since July, the rivers have been at or below typical low level; there are stretches of the river Rye that are currently completely dried up. We have seen the occasional period of rain but these have turned the river dirty rather than increasing the flow. On one day in August, when the rivers in my part of Yorkshire were very low, I fished the river Wharfe, only fifty miles to the west and experienced excellent conditions.

Why does all this matter? Ah, now I know about this stuff simply because I gave unwavering attention to my science lessons because my chemistry teacher was motivating and my biology teacher was beautiful. For these reasons, I know that when water flow decreases in summer, it becomes warmer; warm water carries less dissolved oxygen than cool water. In low oxygen levels, fish become lethargic and less inclined to hunt for food. As river water rises in temperature and decreases in flow, green algae proliferates which covers the stream bed in a slimy layer that denies oxygen to the bottom dwelling invertebrates upon which the fish depend for nutrition. It also clogs up the gravel in which fish lay their eggs in the autumn. Added to all this, low flows also usually mean gin clear water which negates any attempt by the angler to be stealthy. One day in July, I fished one of our small rivers and found myself spooking fish that were still ten yards upstream of me.

Please do not think that I have not enjoyed my fishing season, I have. By the time that you read this the trout season will be closed for another year, but grayling fishing continues through the winter. Known as “the lady of the stream” the grayling often fall for a bit of bling, hence our grayling bug offering for this month, but before I cop any ear ache, I do not extend this accusation to any other ladies.

I must just finish this month by acknowledging the fact that my English teacher persuaded me to write even as a young shaver. She was a true inspiration and was adorned with a most spectacular beehive hairdo.

Bring on the autumn rains.

Grayling Bug

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.   sales@fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck 01439 788483

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 November 2016

Squimph

It’s the time of year when my thoughts turn to nymphs. No, not that sort of nymph! The ones that I concern myself with are the ones that crawl or hide on the river bed.

I was looking for an imitation nymph with a specific profile; I wanted an obvious tail and a soft halo around the head that would move in the water and simulate the undulating gill filaments of the natural.  Squirrel fur provided me with the answer, and so I named the resultant creation “The Squimph”. Obviously checked on google to ensure that no-one has coined the name already.

You will notice that the squimph has a metal bead at the head end; as you will no doubt be well aware, this is to ensure that it sinks quickly. In the olden days, layers of lead wire were used to add weight, more recently beads made of brass or even tungsten are employed. Now, this is where things become interesting, well to fly tiers anyway! Beads usually have a hole bored through the middle, so the point of the hook is poked through the hole and the bead pushed around the bend of the hook and up to the eye. YouTube fly tying videos usually cheat by simply starting with the bead in place. “Slip a bead onto the hook” is the general advice in written instructions; easier said than done. If using a large bead, say 3mm. in diameter (yes, a 3mm bead is a big one) then the bead can be gripped in one hand and the point of the hook inserted with the fingers of the other hand. That is, of course, if you do not have fingers like bananas, have an arc light to illuminate hook and bead and don’t drop hook and bead in the process. If the hook has a barb, the odds are that the hole in the bead is too small to pass over it; it’s also not unusual for the bend of the hook to be such that the bead will not run round it. The answer to both these irritations is, of course, brute force which can result in (usually) a thumb speared with a very sharp point and well beyond the barb. You now have two choices, A and E or amateur surgery. May I recommend the former?

A number of solutions are available to address the problem, the most common involves gripping the bead in tweezers, pliers or similar. A word of advice; make sure that said device is either serrated or enclosed in rubber to provide the necessary friction to retain a polished metal bead. Otherwise, the firmer the grip, the faster the bead exits the implement when force applied exceeds the coefficient of friction. A 3mm. tungsten bead, travelling at speed can cause serious consternation if it collides with a sleeping cat or spouse.

Then there is the other end of the scale, Chris recently explained that he was in the process of tying tiny nymphs, which involved 1 mm. diameter beads and size 16 hooks; think half the size of your little finger nail. If you are going to tackle this one, all I can advise is a visit the optician first. The chances of dropping both hook and bead are fairly high. In a lengthy tying session, it’s amazing how many escapes can occur.  A magnet on a piece of string will collect the hooks. Sadly tungsten and brass are not magnetic. So, it’s hands and knees with a head torch and magnifying glass or the vacuum cleaner.

Do you know a decent vacuum repair person?

Squimph or Squymph

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham.  0113 2507244.   sales@fishingwithstyle.co.uk

Narrative by Roger Beck 

 

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December 2016

I love shopping in Helmsley, especially when I can take a detour along the river bank on my way home. It’s especially useful to have the company of my dear wife; she enjoys opening gates.

So, as we skirted the second meadow, I could hear the water rushing over the falls; music to my ears. For most of the summer, the river has been so low that there was merely a trickle over “The Cascades” making the fish hard to find. Now there was sufficient flow to provide them with sanctuary and life-giving food and oxygen. The rain had only ceased over the previous night, so the water resembled gravy; I sat upon the memorial seat for a moment and formulated a cunning plan.

Mid-morning the following day found me sitting upon the same seat, beguiled by the russet, red and yellow autumnal adornment of the ancient oaks and beeches that border the river, which was the colour of Anglers Reward from the excellent Wold Top brewery; perfect. Below the seething aquatic turmoil of the plunge pool, the water rolls and boils as it passes over submerged rocks. In front, behind and between those rocks are pockets of calm water where a wily grayling can loiter and wait for elevenses to tap her on the nose. I adore these November days; the sunlight illuminates the autumn colours and endows the whole valley with the patina befitting of an ageing year. Better still, there is no point in early starts at this time of the year, I like the sun to bless the river before I venture forth.

My plan was to dangle a nymph about a yard below a whopping great floating klinkhamer fly with a tuft of buoyant fluorescent pink polypropylene big enough to serve as a buoy in Whitby harbour. There is no place for “subtle”, I need to see my marker amidst a maelstrom of moving water that is flecked with foam. By allowing the nymph to search all the nooks and crannies of the stream bed, whilst watching the floating fly like a hawk, any piscatorial inspection of the sunken offering will be shown up by movement of my indicator fly. You will recall that, in the trade, this is known as “Klink and dink”. So, the klink is sorted, what of the dink?

Whilst visiting the States, I was introduced to fly called the “Copper John”, and very effective it is too. The name is a bit of a giveaway, the body is fashioned from copper wire; a consultation with professor Google will reveal all. However, when the water is coloured, something a bit more eye-catching is required so I decided that “John” should undergo a gender realignment and become the “Copper Jane”. Steve has tied one for you to see, it’s a jealously guarded secret pattern so please do not tell anyone about it. Even professor Google remains blissfully ignorant.

I always believe that time by the waterside is not just about fishing. As I gingerly stepped into the margins, something caught my eye; brown trout were throwing themselves at the tumbling rush of the waterfall in an effort to reach the headwaters of the river to spawn. They were truly on a mission.

Starting merely inches from my feet, I began to allow Copper Jane to fossick around in the submerged clefts and crevices. She had travelled no more than a yard when my shocking pink klink simply disappeared. I lifted the rod tip and immediately felt the unmistakeable powerful pull of an angry grayling. I explored no more than twenty yards of river that day and a further eleven grayling fell for Copper Jane.

 Copper Jane

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

Narrative by Roger Beck 01439 788483

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