Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

Driffield contrasts

Sunday, 24 April 2016 at 16:38

Sheltered corner Mulberry Whin on Driffield Beck is one of my favourite places. Last week the beck seemed to be just waking up after winter. Sometimes expected hatches of olives didn't materialise; at others, the passing of a cold front seemed, counter-intuitively, to trigger the fly. These were mainly Large Dark Olives. I have a hunch that some of the flies hatching were Iron Blues, though it was hard to get a good look and I've never to date seen Iron Blues hatch on the beck. [Update: My hunch was wrong. Dave Southall tells me that the 'invisible' flies we encountered were probably Agapetus sedges.] There were a few hawthorns about and over the next three weeks I'd expect to see hawthorns, black gnats and increasing hatches of olives, so some fascinating fishing may lie in wait for those lucky enough to be out. For further information, including a very useful early season report, click on

Driffield wildies

Sunday, 24 April 2016 at 16:32

Wild trout on a Hawthorn These were, for me, tough sessions: four trout in three short days' fishing was a thin result but my goodness, I enjoyed it. There were abundant and fascinating contrasts: a warm Thursday which saw a few hawthorns aloft and no hatch of olives, a chilly Friday during which a cold front seemed to trigger a goodish hatch of olives, and a bitter and windy Saturday which saw a delayed and very short hatch. The river seemed to be just waking up after its winter sleep but the beck was running full and very clear. The fish pictured took a dry Hawthorn, I got another on a John Storey during a hatch and on Saturday, before leaving early for an appointment, returned another brace on weighted shrimps. All these trout looked wild as the wind. And I know the fishing will pick up throughout May and June as the fly-life becomes ever more abundant.

Cane and silk

Sunday, 24 April 2016 at 16:25

Cane and silk I fished for a couple of our Driffield days with an 8'6" Pezon et Michel cane rod and a Thebault silk line (DT5 et vive la France) and most pleasurable it was. Almost absurdly limber by today's standards, these old cane rods, but once you've slowed down the casting action and have begun to enjoy the feel (and sound) of the silk line going through the rings it's a very pleasurable way to fish. Lovely light delivery and presentation, too, and the thinness of the silk line makes it effective at cutting through the incessant Driffield winds. Small nymphs and dries work best on this gear; heavy bugs and shrimps are (I think and for what it's worth) better presented on standard contemporary fly-rods.

Always something to see

Monday, 18 April 2016 at 14:50

Fungus I was doing some Riverfly surveying work on the Stour and went for a walk. There's always so much to see at this time of year, even in apparently unpromising places. While I was looking (unsuccessfully) for otter spraints my eye lit on some fungus - the 'Many-zoned Polypore', no less (Coriolus versicolor) - growing from a dead willow that lay aslant a pond. I was astonished by the beauty and intricacy of the structure: it seemed as if oysters were growing from wood.

The river was in flood though dropping from its dirty zenith. The survey confirmed one old angling chestnut: floods really do wash worms into the flow. In the survey I found at least five brandlings as well as the expected shrimps, nymphs and so on. So that was pleasing. Less pleasing was the fact that I went in up to my middle a foot from the bank. It was a wet squelch to the car and a damp drive homewards.

Tying for reassurance

Saturday, 9 April 2016 at 16:37

Spiders It's nearly fifty years since Bill gave me my first lessons in fly-tying. It was all Yorkshire spiders in those days and I remember Bill had a small but lovely Wheatley fly-box into which he clipped his tyings. That box seemed spectacular to a ten-year-old. This weekend, having accidentally been given a handful of old spiders - some of them dressed on sneck-bend hooks - I re-filled my own identical Wheatley box with Yorkshire patterns. In doing so I stripped the old hooks and dressed my favourite tyings onto them: Orange Partridge, Dark Watchet, Poult Bloa, Snipe and Purple.... I love tying these flies and the process joins me up with the boy that was once me. I don't think I'll ever use these particular flies: the old hooks are now a bit unreliable in their temper. Yet I'll keep them there in that venerable Wheatley fly-box because their presence is somehow deeply reassuring.


Saturday, 9 April 2016 at 16:31

Moths Howard was telling me recently that over the winter his precious fly-boxes had been attacked by moths - or 'merths', as Inspector Clouseau unforgettably might have called them. It happened to me once: merths had a go at my sea-trout flies somewhere in a dampish Amsterdam basement. Since then I've taken reasonable precautions. I don't keep my fly-boxes in sheds or basements, but in the study. Even there they're not safe from merths, so I strew the fly-tying drawers as well as my fly-boxes with some little naphtha balls I get from the supermarket. This seems to deter the merths though the balls need replacing regularly.

Of Crunching

Monday, 4 April 2016 at 21:25

Cruncher Along Grafham's northern shore a small flotilla of boats had clearly located shoals of rainbows. It's true that neither Howard nor I could match the gents fishing there - these gentlemen are, after all, matchless - but I doubt anyone on the lake could have had a more enjoyable day than we did. We saw a few fish, the best of them a 3lb. rainbow that took a Cruncher (see image) and then careered away on a 30 yard run before being slowly worked to the boat in a squall. We saw some fish rising to buzzers, too - the first real rising fish of the year - in the entrance to Savage's Creek during a strange, greasy flat calm that fell for an hour between lively rain showers. And we saw the first martins on the water; very lovely were these knives of the air. Good to be out.

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