Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

Of shoe trees and wading boots

Sunday, 24 July 2016 at 10:54

Shoe trees Yes. I fully accept that I should get out more. Anyway.... Once you've dried wading boots you're left with a rucked piece of stiff hide, tough as an elephant's corns. It struck me that you could find a use for those shoe trees which you have in the bottom of the closet. They're probably as old as you are, or were acquired from a boot sale in 1993, or were a Christmas gift in 1968. Tuck the shoe trees into the wading boots as they dry. Once the lot has dried, proof the boot leather or Nubuck or whatever with the relevant proofer. You shall therefore have prolonged the life of your wading boots and you shall also bless me for this advice when you try to put on your wading boots next time round. No more faffing, forcing, or falling about in car-parks.

This piece of advice comes to you courtesy of an almost mis-spent life. NB. No wading boots were harmed during the writing of this piece.

Sea lavender and little bass

Saturday, 23 July 2016 at 18:21

Sea lavender The saltmarsh has turned a shade of light purple: unless I'm wrong, this is sea lavender (Limonium vulgare). You walk through clouds of it to reach the water. At present the estuary's very warm and what bass are inshore are mostly rather small. Best today was a fish of just over a pound (to a streamer on 8-weight gear) but there was sporadic activity as the tide made and it was a most pleasant few hours outside.

Of 8-weights and the making tide

Thursday, 14 July 2016 at 09:09

Schoolie A few hours on the estuary, fishing with Henry, who christened a new 8-weight fly-rod (a Shakespeare Agility stick with which I was much impressed and would happily have pinched). Conditions weren't quite optimal, with an onshore wind and a bit of colour in the making tide, but we both got fish. Best of them was the pictured schoolie of around 1┬Żlb. This engulfed a 4-inch-long streamer. It always surprises me (though by now it shouldn't) just what large streamers even little bass will attack. Viable fishing seemed confined to the first push of rising water, after which the bass seemed to disappear. The presence of a seal (see below) can't have helped, but it had been in any case a lovely few hours.

Seal stopped play

Thursday, 14 July 2016 at 09:02

Seal This seal came within casting distance and followed me about for at least twenty minutes. In some ways the presence of seals is a good sign for anglers, because the seals will follow bass, mullet (and sea-trout). Of course it's also true that the presence of seals can and probably does impact negatively, if temporarily, on your chances of actually catching fish. And after a few minutes I found it disconcerting, fishing under the continual gaze of those apparently soft, lambent eyes.

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.

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