Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

Little bass and the Strawberry Moon

Monday, 20 June 2016 at 08:50

First schoolie of 2016 Because it marks the beginning of the strawberry harvest, the current full moon is known rather quaintly as the Strawberry Moon. The first strawberries in my garden were had two weeks ago by the birds, but June's full moon of course also means big tides, and the first hours of the flood last night coincided with dusk and lightish winds. Time for a bass session with the fly-rod. It was a yellow, greasy sort of dusk; the clouds boiled with incipient rain and the estuary looked stricken. Only the small bass seemed to be awake in the sick light and the slapping tide, but the half-dozen I released were the first of this season and I expect stocks to build up through July and August in such a way that there are some better fish among the shoals. Last year there were fish pushing 3lb. among the little schoolies, and although these 2 and 3lb-ers aren't by any means big bass they were good fun on an 8-weight.

Moody, gloomy, glorious Grafham

Saturday, 4 June 2016 at 10:27

Howard into a fish No, it wasn't easy: Grafham was gloomy with cloud, smirr and murk; Grafham was full of strange fish that would follow, splash, nip and boil at the flies without taking them properly, until we'd lost count of the trout we'd moved and failed to hook; Grafham brought us to the edge of hopelessness. Of course we tried: changed patterns, tactics, life philosophies, our wills. But the fish still uselessly nipped and uselessly followed and boiled until by 6p.m., after lashing Grafham's head off, we had one - one - between us. And yet - oh, gloriously, and yet - there in the evening, in the smirr and murk and gloom and the cold north wind, Grafham's trout began to rise (to buzzers). For an hour or two we had proper follows, serious interest. We even had some proper takes. Pattern seemed, as ever, relatively unimportant: the Pea, a small claret palmer, even (astonishingly) a Dunkeld were taken despite the presence of more or less realistic buzzer representations on the same leader. Show 'em and move it.... Yes, we showed, they moved, and although the final result wasn't shattering it was satisfying to both of us. And people wonder why we enjoy fishing so much.

Dewhurst, Reffitt and Halford

Sunday, 22 May 2016 at 10:18

Mr. Reffitt's painting There was a reason I wanted to go back to the Wharfe: it was to see a painting of a brown trout (caught by Mr. H.E. Dewhurst in 1905) by J.W. Reffitt. Reffitt was the 'northern wet-fly angler' whom Halford watched fishing on the Test in 1899. Over six days in April Reffitt got seven trout weighing 9lb. 2oz. and Halford confessed he was 'somewhat surprised at the result'. (There's a whiff of condescension: Halford was at this time codifying - as he probably thought - dry-fly practice, so successful wet-fly fishing on the chalkstreams was something he'd cock at least one eyebrow at.) Now, I've looked at this painting, which hangs in the Tennant Arms at Kilnsey, for many years without realising what I was looking at: J.W. Reffitt has an honourable place in angling history and clearly he was no mean artist, either. The Reffitt/Halford story, incidentally, is recorded in Tony Hayter's wonderful F.M. Halford and the Dry-Fly Revolution (London: Robert Hale, 2002 [p.130]), a book I warmly recommend.

Wharfe brown trout

Sunday, 22 May 2016 at 10:12

Wharfe brown trout The quality of the stocked trout on the Wharfe was outstanding and the fish ran to what were - so it seemed to me at least - astonishing sizes. Here's a good fish from one of the mid-river dubs, a trout I found mooching about taking scraps of nothing from the surface film: Stewart's Black Spider, size 18, proved to be the correct medicine.

Driffield Days (1)

Sunday, 22 May 2016 at 10:08

A good brown trout Interesting two days at Driffield. On the first the trout were feeding hard to black gnats and hawthorns, particularly in the early afternoon; on the second, despite what felt like identical conditions, the fish were in a much quieter mood. Here's one of the best I released, a fish certainly pushing 2lb. It took a parachute Black Gnat (size 18) and put up quite a tussle.

Driffield Days (2)

Sunday, 22 May 2016 at 10:04

Ready Brown trout at Driffield are fished for on a catch-and-release basis, so barbless or debarbed hooks are the rule. A long-handled landing-net is useful, too. Here's a decent sort of brown trout recovering in the net before release: lovely to see these fish swim off strongly. I caught and released one from a certain spot and found it on station and feeding again in the same place later that same day.

The Happy Sampler

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 17:01

Happy days My friend and colleague James Canton (author of, among other works, that splendid book Out of Essex [2013]) came along today to help me do some Riverfly surveying work on the Stour. It poured with rain all morning but that didn't seem to dent our enthusiasm. We collected a wonderful sample and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

  You can watch James talking most interestingly about Out of Essex on

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