Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Pays Basque

Sunday, 16 June 2019 at 09:48

Glenn Delporte In the Pays Basque Richard Faulks and I fished in the company of our expert guide Glenn Delporte ( We fished different rivers in the foothills of the Pyrenees - the Grande Nive, some of its tributaries, and the Irati, which eventually drains into the Mediterranean - and caught brown trout, an escaped rainbow and the extraordinary zebra trout. We fished, took photographs and did some fly-life sampling. The last revealed how prolific these streams are: caddis; baetis and ecdyonurus (stone-clinging) nymphs; loads of stoneflies.... The fishing wasn't easy and conditions were by no means optimal but it was a fascinating trip. The image shows Glenn fishing in the pretty village of St. Etienne de Baigorry.

The Grande Nive

Sunday, 16 June 2019 at 09:38

Grande Nive The Grande Nive, which courses through the Pays Basque towards Bayonne, is in all senses grande. It hosts a run - these days, a very small run - of salmon and provides significant brown trout fishing in its upper reaches. There are barbel lower down the river. We fished the Grande Nive on two evenings and caught trout on both. They weren't big fish - 10-11" - but there was a copious hatch of different flies (mostly Pale Wateries but with some False March browns and sedges). The birds liked these hatches just as much as the trout and I was entranced to watch the acrobatics of wagtails, swifts and martins. The Grande Nive also carries an extraordinary colour, running almost turquoise through shale and limestone. And here's Richard Faulks, netting a trout on our last evening's fishing.

Nive des Aldudes 1

Sunday, 16 June 2019 at 09:32

Richard in the Pyrenees This image, taken on the Nive des Aldudes near St. Etienne-de-Baigorry, gives a good idea of the often torrential yet always clear nature of these Pyrenean streams. The angler here is Richard Faulks. There are some flats and deeper flowing pools where dry fly can be used but elsewhere there are many miles of what today is called 'pocket water'. Our host Glenn tended to fish using French nymphing methods - essentially, with two tungsten-beaded nymphs fished on a special indicator leader. (This is also called the 'leader-to-hand' method.) He did this with wonderful expertise, working the weighted flies into pots and slacks off the current. It was a lesson in watercraft and skill. Fifty yards below where Richard is fishing here, for example, there on the left bank was a deeper scour and swirl of water no bigger than a writing table. From this Glenn extracted the best trout of our trip, a heavily-spotted 14 inch specimen.

Nive des Aldudes 2

Sunday, 16 June 2019 at 09:28

Pryennean trout The Nive des Aldudes, a tributary of the Grande Nive, holds trout of very respectable sizes, though a fish of 12" is probably about the average. The fishing is challenging - very clear water, wary fish - but as we found, occasionally those Pyrenean trout would make a mistake. This one took a Deerhair Emerger in a tight corner under the trees one warm, light-scattered afternoon.

Zebras in the Pyrenees

Sunday, 16 June 2019 at 09:25

Zebra trout High in the Basque country there's a river called the Irati which eventually drains into the Ebro and from there into the Mediterranean. The river's host to a unique form of trout, the zebra trout, so-called because of the stripes which mark its body. I know this one is no more than a parr but I lost two others (c.12") and could see their stripes quite clearly in that clear mountain water.

Knowing one's place

Saturday, 8 June 2019 at 09:44

Zander I am Lord Brown's gillie and that's fine. Really. Still, among the Rutland trout lay something I hadn't expected as I worked away - sodden, wind-blasted yet polite in the ways stipulated in the Big Boy's Book of Being a Gillie - on the oars...preparing the lunch...doing the of dusting...polishing the silver...completing the chores any gillie is reasonably expected to undertake.... Well. There was a surprise: a zander. 'Didn't think it was playing like a trout,' said the Lord. I shrugged as if I knew what I was doing. 'Oh yes,' I said (or possibly 'Och aye'), 'Little orange-beaded nymph, sir.  Deadly for the zeds' - and turned back to rowing, blister-handed, into the gale. One knows, after all, one's place.


Wednesday, 5 June 2019 at 08:49

Jasper I've sporadically been restoring a Milwards rod I acquired some months ago from Lord Rhodes. The problems with the rod amounted to no more than a droopy tip section, a light knocking in the bottom ferrule, some loose rings and an overall loss of condition. One question I posed was whether to strip and rebuild - which I suppose I could do, even ham-fistedly - or whether to restore lightly, which meant tweaking, gluing and re-varnishing. (The droopy tip can probably be addressed by heating over a gas-ring and re-setting, though a chap needs nerves of steel.) One advantage of light restoration is that the original whipping silk can be kept. It's otherwise tricky to find a replacement silk in the same shade, which is called 'jasper'. Last night, having decided for the moment on tinkering rather than rebuilding, I gave the whippings an initial, holding coat of rod varnish and the jasper came up beautifully under the brush-and-finger.

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