Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

Regrouping

Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 10:58

Tying desk I've missed fly-tying over the past winter. I've had too little time, been too hard-pushed at work. As part of the regrouping that takes place between the end of the coarse fishing season and the opening of the trout fishing I decided to get my fly-tying stuff organised and did something I should have done forty years ago: buy a desk. I know you can get fiercely dear, purpose-made fly-tying desks but the desk pictured came from a local house clearance and very splendid it is. (The word 'patina' is playing somewhere in the dim recesses of the brain as I type.) Large feathers, capes and long hanks in steerage; hackles and furs amidships; tools, silks, varnishes and whatnot in the little drawers on the poop deck.... Yes, I'm so well-organised that I won't be able to find anything for several years, but there we are. I'm now going to tie some Orange Partridges - if I can find that last remaining spool of Pearsall's. And a well-marked partridge feather. And a hook.

Last knockings

Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 18:13

Celandine Last knockings of the coarse fishing season. It felt rather odd to be fishing for pike among daffodils and celandines, and in truth my thoughts were more with the opening of the trout season. Yet I released two pike and moved two more, saw a kingfisher, and spent a good half hour watching a big shoal of dace, roach and rudd in a flow of water by a grating. Very lovely they were, too, hanging in the current and occasionally tipping up to sip at bits of nothing in the surface. Harbingers of June - and June will be upon us before we know it.

The celandine was the topic of one of the boy W. Wordsworth's rather less successful efforts: 'Oft have I seen it muffled up from harm,/ In close self-shelter, like a Thing at rest....' - the portentous 'Thing' sitting ill with the 'shrinking' nature of the plant. Still, one sympathises with the poet's comment that he once encountered a celandine that was '[s]tiff in its members, withered, changed of hue' - an accurate characterisation of the boy McCully fishing yesterday.

Bang and whimper

Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 18:08

March pike One of a brace today, best around 6lb. The pike season's coming to an end not with a bang, nor even with a whimper, but with a sort of mewling. Still, the last few months have been full of interest and it was good to end with a couple of bonny, if small, fish.

Invaders

Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 09:04

Signal crayfish The Signal crayfish - a non-native, invasive species - began to colonise local rivers in the 1970s. Since then it has out-competed, and predated on, native populations of White-clawed crayfish; these last are a keystone species and indicators of healthy, unpolluted rivers. Very occasionally I've had one of these wretched invasive crayfish take baits when I've been long-trotting, but they've usually fallen off the hook before I could bring them to hand. Here's firmer evidence of the presence of these unwelcome guests. Still, these invasive crayfish are themselves predated by otters (and chub), and it can't be coincidental that the spread of signal crayfish has seemed to coincide with the spread of otter populations in local river valleys.

Howard's pike

Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 08:57

Howard's pike Strange day, with the river fairly heavily coloured. There was a greasy, yellow light too. None of that was a good context in which to try and catch pike on softbaits, but I'd reckoned without Howard, who can conjure pike from anywhere. He released two, the best of them this fish of 7-8lb. Both took 8cm softbaits. I did nothing worth reporting, except moving one solid pike that fell off after what felt like a great shrug underwater - just a big kick on the rod, and the fish was gone. Oh well.

We're coming to the end of the coarse fishing season. There were signs of new growth everywhere, and as the light began to fail the roach started moving on the surface. On one reach of river the fish rose continuously and there were some good ones among them. I'd have given a great deal at that moment to have had the float rod with me, especially in that coloured water. Oh well.

In the ancient kingdom

Sunday, 12 February 2017 at 19:02

Ancient law An ancient right allowed us to fish in the heart of an ancient kingdom. It was bitterly cold. I doubt we released more than a couple of handfuls of grayling between us, and they were mostly smaller fish (6-10oz.). Dog-walkers, ball-throwers and fire-eaters went past (fine, I'm joking about the ball-walkers). At its glorious zenith the thermometer reached a magnificent 4C and there was a sneaping downstream wind which chilled fingers, hands....chilled everything. Yet in the shelter of the bank a willow was putting out catkins, there were snowdrops in stream-side gardens and a grey wagtail was busy over the shallows. It wasn't spring, or anything like it, but it could pass for the near end of winter in the ancient kingdom made of fish.

Not quite Graham

Sunday, 12 February 2017 at 18:14

February grayling I don't think I've ever seen an unlovely grayling, but the fish we caught today seemed somehow bleached, enervated and lustreless. If I didn't know better I'd say the poor things were simply...cold.

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