Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Swan mussel

Sunday, 18 August 2019 at 16:34

Swan mussel The most remarkable thing about an odd little (non-)tench and (non-)crucian session was fishing up the top half of a swan mussel shell. Nothing remarkable about that, you may think - until you see the sheer size of this magnificent bit of mollusc engineering. I used to find plenty of duck and swan mussels in (parts of) the Netherlands when I was fishing for pike and zander but never have I witnessed anything approaching these proportions. I kept my left hand in the shot just for scale. I also pondered the underwater contours of this small gravel pit. If there are swan mussels present then their beds form useful habitat and shelter for fry and smaller fish...and since that's the case, the larger fish (probably perch, in this pit) won't be far away. In an adjacent pit perch have been caught to around 3lb.

Autumn in summer

Sunday, 18 August 2019 at 16:24

Rain Ostensibly I was fishing for tench and crucians. I caught just about everything else - skimmers, roach, perch - but couldn't buy a bite from either tench or crucian. A chap fishing nearby (a man far more skilled than I'll ever be) was having the same baleful non-crucian experience. 'Usually get 'em on a bit of meat over a bed of sweetcorn,' he said. 'Not today.' I'd left the Spam at home and couldn't be bothered to open the sweetcorn. The chap went home. It began to rain. Then it rained harder. Autumn fell in August and a bitter wind sprang up. This ill-tempered fit of weather subsided an hour later but then the perch decided that the red maggots I was using were probably the best thing ever, or at least since they last saw lobworms. Thereafter I didn't just catch one perch, nor even two. I lost count. Nothing was bigger than half a pound and after a while - and this I thought I'd never say - I began to stale of the infinite variety of the perch.

Lister's monument

Friday, 9 August 2019 at 17:38

Lister's grave Sylvester Lister (1821-1900) was a river-watcher on the Bolton Abbey estate (on the Wharfe in Yorkshire), a fine angler and a famous dresser of flies. He was a founder member (in 1873) of what became the Appletreewick, Barden and Burnsall Angling Club. I've been lucky enough to see his manuscript of patterns, written on parchment (1898); many of the dressings recorded there (and in Pritt 1885) were already well-known and in turn formed the basis for some of the dressings subsequently given in Edmonds and Lee (1916).
It seems appropriate that Sylvester Lister is buried in the grounds of Bolton Priory church, within sight and sound of the river he loved. Appropriate, too, for the angling visitor to stand quietly for a few moments there, in homage and gratitude.

A useful trio

Friday, 9 August 2019 at 17:30

A useful cast With the Wharfe running a foot above normal summer level there wasn't much question of fishing dry flies and in a bare ninety minutes' fishing one morning I saw nothing rising. It was reasonable to put up spiders anchored with a small copper-headed nymph: the Copperhead (left in image) seemed sensible given that the trout would be in soft water just off the flows, rooting about for caddis. Above it I put up two classic spiders, the Partridge and Yellow and the Partridge and Orange (size 16), thinking that the odd trout might just be interested in small stonefly nymphs or needle-flies. The Partridge and Orange moved a fish soon after I began but it was eventually the Copperhead which saw a fine old trout come to hand. Still, the spiders on the droppers did attract fish and I like to think Sylvester Lister would have been at least moderately pleased.


Friday, 9 August 2019 at 17:20

East window The ruined eastern arch of Bolton Priory church is, I think, one of the most potent emblems of Yorkshire - more so, perhaps, than the Rose Window in York Minster. I first visited the priory in 1963 and have walked and fished parts of the Bolton Abbey estate sporadically through all the decades since. Yes, the estate does get busy with tourists - it has been busy with tourists since the later 19th century - but even on the busiest summer's day there's usually a place where you can get away from the crowds and, if you wish, find a quiet spot to cast a fly. At the time of our visit the river was in flood though it was just about fishable - was what our angling ancestors called, approvingly, 'porter colour' - so to snatch even ninety minutes' fishing was grand. It was possibly better yet to release a trout within a hundred yards of where I caught another Bolton Abbey fish - in 1974. I have to remind myself that my span of angling engagement here is now at least forty-five years.

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