Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

Game Fair (1)

Sunday, 20 July 2014 at 06:37

Clays The CLA Game Fair is one of the great events of the British country year. This year's event is being hosted at Blenheim, just outside Oxford. It's several years since I came up to a Game Fair and it was splendid to be back. The crowds were, I thought, remarkably peaceful and good-willed, the working dogs were doing their stuff, there was clay shooting, there were ethnic sausages. Somehow, I find the Game Fair reassuring: it's as if some of the oldest and best bits of Britain dust themselves off and turn up. It was also very good to see so many young people there. The biggest smile of the day came, as so often, when I was watching the working dogs, particularly the dog who went out for a dummy, dropped it, then looked round bemused at the crowds and wandered off to sniff all the new smells.  The handler was clearly mortified. 'Well,' said the MC to the crowds, 'Penny's only a young dog. Well done, Penny....' Cheers all round - cheers that were all the warmer for the sympathy they contained. Those of us who've stood out in all weathers trying to bring on working dogs understood that little scene very well.

Game Fair (2)

Sunday, 20 July 2014 at 06:31

Nomads presentation I had the privilege of talking about Nomads of the Tides (and about sea-trout, the fish, and sea-trout fishing in general) with John Bailey (centre) and Malcolm Greenhalgh (right). John did a wonderful job of acting as MC throughout a whole day of talks and seminars, and it was a privilege to meet both John and Malcolm: I've admired the writings and work of both men for years - as I have the work of Mark Everard, whom I also met yesterday. (He even left me a bacon-and-egg sandwich at lunchtime, which I felt was above and beyond the call of stern duty.) Not often these days that I'm let out among the Great and the Good. Many thanks to John and Malcolm, and to Jon Ward-Allen and the Medlar team, for arranging these events.

Wild flowers and dace

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 21:31

Wild flowers along the Stour It's the time of wild flowers. This lovely bank lies along the Stour and was re-planted with Ox-eye Daisy, Poppy and Scabious by a local resident who waged gentle war on the nettles that were threatening to take over. Some nettles are still there - left there deliberately, since they're so good for butterflies - but wild flowers now grow abundantly along the bank and the effect is stunning. One other flower that seems abundant now is mallow: you see the purple heads everywhere. Add purple loosestrife, too, and cornflowers.... Add to these things the bird-song I've heard here in Essex during the past two weeks: goldfinches and even nightingales sing behind our house on most evenings. It's a privilege to be outside.

  I was on the river to fish for dace with the fly-rod and enjoyed a wonderful few hours. Further words and images below.

Homage to Anthony Shepherdson

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 21:19

Chublet on the fly 2014 In 1960 Anthony Shepherdson published a lovely little book called How to Fish the Suffolk Stour. Shepherdson recommended fly-fishing for summer dace: a size 12 Red Tag was his prescription - a fly big enough to deter fingerlings while being attractive to larger dace, which in the Stour can reach impressive sizes. And so today, in homage, I put up the fly-rod (a 7-foot 4-weight) and to the end of the leader knotted a size 12 dry Red Tag. It wasn't easy fishing, by any means. It was a warm, bright afternoon, the water was low and clear, and I'd have done better at dusk. Still, three intriguing hours of creeping and crawling brought half a dozen dace and chub to hand. (Image shows a chublet.) The dace were lightning-fast to take and eject the fly while the chublets ran to half a pound or so. I also moved a couple of much more significant chub but they were so easily spooked you only got one chance. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was so glad to get a dace on Shepherdson's prescription.

Mating shrimps

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 21:14

Gammarus pulex in a clinch Another thing I did was to kick-sample some of the Stour gravels. The result? Lots of olive nymphs of various kind together with a really remarkable number of shrimp (Gammarus pulex). The two in this shot were literally inseparable. I felt rather guilty at interrupting their intimacy. I suspect an artificial shrimp pattern might do quite well in the deeper holes and undercut banks where the chub lurk. We'll find out.

Storms and Dabblers

Sunday, 29 June 2014 at 09:22

Rainy Grafham On the last two visits to Grafham I've fished in flat calms and/or storms. Yesterday was no exception: the day began with a sick, yellow light and a flat calm; by two o'clock the clouds boiled into thunderheads and there were lightning strikes NW of Savage's Creek. I don't mind rain in the boat but I do loathe electrical storms: carbon fibre and petrol are a potentially lethal combination. So I sat the storm out while the far bank of Grafham disappeared into rain-spray. The fishing had been reasonable before the storm (I picked up three rainbows, best 2½lb., to various Dabblers fished at speed on a WetCel II) but was poor after it. The wind freshened from the north and the temperature dropped by four degrees. I fished out the afternoon without further offers bar one fish that fell off. I discovered that a newish Grey's Platinum bag - a generous Christmas present - wasn't waterproof and that custard tarts don't improve after being rained on. For waterproof boat fishing, there's much to be said for plastic seat-boxes or the B&Q tool trolleys I see many Grafham regulars using. I mocked at first....but stayed to admire.

The highlight of yesterday was talking to visiting Welsh anglers who'd driven down from Aberystwyth that morning. A lovely crowd. Among them was a young lad who was out with his Dad. They'd had a couple of fish and as we stood there waiting out the storm I asked the lad - I could have wrung him out, he was so wet - if he was enjoying it. His face was a picture. He was lit from inside. 'Oh....yes,' he grinned, emphatically. And somehow, I was very touched.

Memories of Mask

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 at 10:02

A squall on Mask Three weeks on and I'm still living with memories of a day on Lough Mask. It was splendid, though early evening we were hit by a huge squall coming from the NW. Markus was astute enough to keep his camera going as the waves built and broke. (This photo is ©Markus Müller.) The guide is that expert boatman and equally expert angler, Declan Gibbons.

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