Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

Big Red

Sunday, 16 July 2017 at 09:43

Howard July rainbow Happy day at Grafham yesterday, with young Lord Seabrook. As ever, it wasn't altogether easy: there was a fitful, gusty wind bearing successive fronts (and occasional rain); there was a good wave, then a white-capped wave, then little wave to speak of; the fish were rising, then they weren't rising, then they were sort-of-rising-but-not-with-any-real-purpose.... All the usual variables.

We pulled fish early but they were more curious than determined. A couple took the peerless Pearly Dabbler (which I think they mistook for pin fry) and were duly boated. Yet it wasn't until we started pottering around in the weebdbeds, late on in the day, that we found fish working the edge of the weeds. A dry Big Red cast at haphazard to the weed edge (or actually into gaps in the weed) brought a due response. Young Howard distinguished himself by taking a very fit rainbow (pictured) on a dry Ginger Hopper on a 4-weight wand more suited to 6-inch wild browns than to hard-scrapping, feisty Grafham rainbows, but that rainbow, too, was duly boated and very good-looking it was.

The tench rake

Thursday, 13 July 2017 at 08:48

Tench rake If you read older accounts of tench fishing there's usually a mention of raking out a swim prior to fishing. Question: what rake? I could drive to a boot sale, buy a couple of rakes, pillage them and fumble their heads together with rope.... Well, I could. Yet I don't have the time. Even half a day devoted to bodging is impossible at present. And so therefore I gratefully followed a tip on one of the internet forums, and directed myself to Jake's Rakes ( This splendid outfit supplies angling rakes in different sizes and complexities. I ordered one. It came. Simple as that.

The only problem now is that I won't be able to use the rake for a while - it'll be next month, I think, before I can clear the swim I have in mind. And then I shall do things properly: lobworms, red-topped porcupine quill, the lift method.

It's somehow greatly reassuring that in a time of terrifying loss of biodiversity there's still a company that makes tench rakes.

Of Dumbell Wafters, eel-pacifying and perch holes

Saturday, 8 July 2017 at 14:19

Silly bait If you'd told me I'd ever fish with a bait called 'Dumbell Wafters' I'd probably have thought you were bonkers. Anyway... I was trying to catch tench in a local pond and the chap in the tackle-shop said this is what I wanted. I was thinking more of brandlings and/or lob tails, but bought the Wafters (Chocolate Orange flavour). The Wafters didn't catch tench (it said 'Irresistible' on the tub); nor did brandlings or lob tails. Meanwhile Henry divulged his trick for pacifying eels: you stroke them. This only works with big eels. Since I've never caught a big eel this was all esoteric - or possibly, mad. To bring myself round I went out at the crack to a perch hole on the river and caught a handful of decent perch. Then I moved upriver to the gravels where I knew there were dace - and I caught dace, too, best c.8oz. Triumphantly, I also released three minnows - another species to add to the list of local river fish.

I should get out more.

Bread, jack attacks and a rudd in a tree

Sunday, 2 July 2017 at 14:29

Jack attack Out for a few hours this morning in gathering heat, re-learning how to fish with bread flake for roach and rudd. I was pottering along quite happily, missing more than I hooked, when suddenly a jack loomed from a weedbed beneath my feet and had a go at a roach I was bringing to hand. There was a big, green-marbled swirl in the clear water.... The jack missed, fortunately. Next cast I hooked a little rudd - and this time the jack made no mistake. The Lucky bent over and I could see the jack clearly, with the unfortunate rudd protruding from its jaws. The pike wasn't anywhere near hooked, but nor would it let go of its prey. I played both fish for a minute or so and had begun to believe I might land them both - was reaching down for the net - when... The jack let go. The hapless rudd flew up into a tree, from whence I luckily retrieved it, though I can't say that by this time it was anything other than a terminally poorly rudd.

Crayfish and dace

Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 17:43

Non-natives The non-native Signal crayfish began to colonise England's rivers in the 1970s. They're now pretty much everywhere. I find them on our local rivers in what seem to be increasing numbers. Otters love them: the claws pictured here were part of what I'm 90% certain was an otter feast.

I fished for a few hours early on, trying to catch dace. A relatively fast-running glide; the float set at two feet; 3.2lb. Floatfish straight through to a barbless #18 hook. I missed nineteen in twenty bites, but still ended with a respectable number of handsome, pristine little dace - and caught some small roach, three gudgeons and a decent perch for good measure. The meadow was alive with Meadow Browns and the martins were busy. What more could one ask of a Sunday morning?

Unprecedented: Of gudgeon, rudd, bream and Kylie Minogue

Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 15:58

Lucky I think Chris Yates writes somewhere that every Lucky Strike comes with innate fish-catching ability - a sort of fluence, born with each rod. Yesterday I said to Monika that it would be good to christen this Lucky - a late model, from the end of the 1960s, probably - by catching some of the species that have so far eluded me on the river. Gudgeon, for instance. In the event, the Lucky and I caught seven different species in one session. It was extraordinary. After catching some chublets on freelined worms - lovely bit of fishing, though I say so myself (nobody else ever will) - I put up the waggler. 'Be nice to catch a roach,' I thought. A fit 10oz. roach duly obliged. 'Be nice to catch a dace.' A dace obliged. 'Nice to catch a perch' (we caught a perch)....' A bream' (we caught a bream).... 'A gudgeon' (this was riding my luck, but we caught a gudgeon - in fact several gudgeons).... 'Er... A rudd?' (and this really was pushing it, because I've only once before glimpsed a rudd on the river). But we caught a rudd, too - and then, for good measure, another rudd. It was all a bit unprecedented. And the while, that silly bloody Kylie song kept sounding in the dim recesses: ...lucky lucky lucky.... (etc.)

Happy June 16th

Friday, 16 June 2017 at 15:03

Opening day Opening day. Off I went with a 4-weight fly-rod. If little roach and dace are your thing then you'd have shared my frustrations: I must have moved twenty...thirty... and brought very few to hand. Best was a roach of around half a pound that took a small, somewhat tubby Black Spider suspended under a murking great Klink. Of the fish I moved and missed, two were respectable chub, and I saw a small (but distant) shoal of really big chub at lunchtime, too. I think I spent more time walking and watching than I did fishing, and that's fine: the whole season's before us.
     So many people said Hello and stopped to chat. It was as if everyone had taken some sort of benevolence drug. Perhaps they had - and if so, I want some. It was altogether heartening and cheering.

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