Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

Otters and damselflies

Saturday, 16 May 2015 at 21:03

Large red damselfly Fascinating morning, looking for otters and watervoles as guests of Essex Wildlife Trust. While on the river I managed to take a quick snapshot of this Large Red Damselfly  (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). For other fascinating photos of this insect, see

Otter footprint

Saturday, 16 May 2015 at 21:00

Otter footprints Five-toed; asymmetrical; tear-drop shaped: otter.

Slow bass

Monday, 11 May 2015 at 21:02

Estuary Bass are beginning to trickle in to the local estuaries but my two short sessions so far have been blank. The stocks should build through May and June, though all bass stocks these days are vulnerable. Water temperatures are still quite low (12C last week) and I've seen no terns working on baitfish yet, though the terns are present in small numbers. There are many compensations for this relative fishlessness, though. The bird life is sensational: Brent geese (why haven't they left for the North yet?), swallows working the littoral, various ducks and waders and, inevitably, cormorants working the far central channel. Lovely light, too.

Island at the end of time

Monday, 11 May 2015 at 12:21


The owl and the nightingale

Monday, 11 May 2015 at 08:32

Nightingale ...which is the title of a well-known 13th century poem in which the owl and the nightingale debate their respective creaturely merits, including the noises each of them makes. (The owl charges the nightingale with her boring and excessive song.) I'm not conscious of ever having heard a nightingale in the north of England - their range is usually more southerly, though odd birds reach the North Riding - but nightingales are (still) fairly common here on the Essex coast. Last night we enjoyed a guided walk with a warden from Essex Wildlife Trust at Fingringhoe Wick centre ( and heard several birds singing in their respective territories. The song was well described as operatic: in my view it's no more lovely than the song of the blackbird but it has much more volume and has a much greater tonal range. The males sing from the time of their arrival here (mid-April) until mid-May. Last night we also saw some full-grown badger cubs quarreling at the edge of the estuary and the edge of dusk. When the world slid into the dark on its slow rim the nightingales were still singing. 'All I need to hear now,' I thought, thinking of the medieval poem, 'is an owl' - and as if on cue there was a flare of white wings in the closing darkness and that familiar, hunting cry.

Of fishing I shall be brief. I have been comprehensively skunked on the last three occasions I've been out. One skunking (at Grafham) was both inexplicable and humiliating. And after these drubbings I've been obliged to submerge myself again in more work than has been altogether reasonable. If someone tells me that this kind of thing is 'good for the soul' then they'll get a thick ear. Still, the mayfly has appeared in the Irish West and meanwhile we live among owls and nightingales. [Image: courtesy of Essex Wildlife Trust.]

The coast

Monday, 11 May 2015 at 08:29

Mersea island Extraordinary shot - taken with an old mobile phone - of the coast near home. What I like about this shot are the boiling clouds, the huge and livid sky. This is also oyster country, bass country - and nightingale country.


Sunday, 19 April 2015 at 10:24

Kick sampling It's heart-warming, what can begin in deepest Chigwell. Last Friday I went to Chigwell to get some training for participation in the Riverfly Partnership, which uses anglers and members of the public to survey fly-life in streams so that pollution and other events can be monitored ( The up-winged flies, stoneflies and shrimps are sensitive to pollution, so are useful diagnostic indicators of the health of running water. Eight volunteers carried buckets full of life accruing from kick-samples back over the M25 and I wasn't unaware of the irony. In a three-minute kick-sample of the Roding we found bullheads, a minnow, shrimps, loads of different olive nymphs (though in my own sample, no blue-winged olives), damselfly larvae, an alder larva.... It was a tremendous experience and for interested volunteers, it's free. All you need is some time.

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