Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

Old hatches

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 at 08:50

Old hatches The majority of the world's chalkstreams is found in England. It depends how you count them - do a parent river and its nearby tributary count as one or two? - but the number is around 200. (Charles Rangeley Wilson lists 218 chalkstreams in his splendid book, Chalkstream, which details the waters of that chalk belt running from the Yorkshire Wolds through to Normandy.) These are globally unique habitats and in places, such as the Avon below Salisbury, it's possible to see how land and water were once managed. The river was allowed to flood the meadows (hence 'water-meadows') each winter and subsequently the flows would be regulated by sluices and flood-gates. This system provided grazing as well as habitats for fish and invertebrates. Here and there, if you think about what you're looking at, it's possible to see the land- and waterscapes as a sort of ecological palimpsest. The image is of an old hatch-pool on a disused sidestream of the Avon below Salisbury.

A grayling lesson in Hampshire

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 at 08:38

Howard on the Itchen Grand day in Hampshire this past weekend, long-trotting for grayling with my old friend Howard (pictured). It was a hugely instructive day: grayling - some big grayling, too - were clearly picking up loose-fed maggots but would resolutely refuse a maggot snicked onto a hook until I changed down to a 2lb. hook-length (from 3lb.) and a size 18 fine-wire hook. You wouldn't think the difference in nylon diameter would have made a marked difference...until it did. I didn't catch anything massive - when do I ever? - but I caught enough to satisfy both honour and curiosity.


Tuesday, 28 October 2014 at 08:35

Graham I wrote earlier this month that of Graham - Graham the Grayling - there had been no sign this year. I was delighted, however, that we were re-acquainted on the lower Itchen. Graham must have travelled from the Wiltshire Avon across the chalk downs over the past months, and he seems to have survived the journey rather well.

Avon grayling

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 at 08:31

Avon grayling A lovely day on the lower-middle Avon yesterday. It was a mixed bag: while I was fishing for grayling, primarily, I also encountered good dace and some chublets together with some big salmon parr and the ubiquitous minnows. Great bait-snafflers, these last. The grayling seemed to be lying on the shallows and it was necessary to set the trotting float to 12" depth. Care was accordingly needed in casting, so that the hook-link wouldn't loop over the float. But all was well and in the end I released half a dozen lovely little grayling before leaving early for the long drive home.

Of dace

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 at 08:27

Avon dace In this open, mild weather the dace on the Avon were still lying in the streams and on the shallows. Avon dace are quite astonishing in quality, running easily to 10-11oz. I didn't catch many of that size but I did release two or three fish that were certainly half-pounders or better, and these are good dace. They're a lovely fish. I was reminded that last year on the Stour I caught leashes of dace of similar quality, but only until early December. After the weather turned cold and even wetter last winter I could catch chub, all right, but of dace there was no sign. I simply couldn't find the shoals.

Hard won

Sunday, 19 October 2014 at 22:28

Wharfe grayling Was it the quick, dirty flood? The unsettled weather? Today the grayling seemed disinclined. Before lunch I caught only minnows: greedy biters who flattered to deceive. After lunch I did move a handful of grayling but there was also a great gale of wind that made controlling the trotting-float tricky. Yea, the wind smote, even as a thing that smiteth. Huge dark catspaws of wind ruffled the pools and the surface filled with willow leaves. Branches thrashed about. The summer undid itself as I stood there hanging onto my hat. Nevertheless, I was delighted to get a few grayling and the best of them, at over 1lb, was a good fish for the river. And at day's end, a rainbow arced down the valley. If the gale had been almost like a mania, the rainbow was almost like a blessing.

Grayling: the Brezhnev years

Friday, 17 October 2014 at 20:40

Brandling Periodically I go home - back to Yorkshire. It's odd: I barely recognise some of the places where I grew up...and the traffic's so heavy that Yorkshire's probably sinking. As I was flogging up a by-pass somewhere this evening I had a sudden recollection of Soviet politicians in the Brezhnez years. The Moscow streets would be cleared for the relevant fleet of Zils. I could have used something similar today: 'Clear the road; McCully's abroad.' Still, I imagine Brezhnev and his bemedalled cronies didn't have a bag of brandlings in the boot. During a long-trotting session this afternoon a brace of grayling - good grayling, too - showed an almost immediate partiality for a brandling snicked onto a size 16 hook.

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