Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Lichens and germs

Saturday, 1 February 2020 at 11:43

Common orange lichen I've had some weird germ for days - scratchy throat on and off - and decided a walk with a fishing-rod might fettle it. The river was just fishable. During a very brief pike session I was surprised by lichens growing on the walls of a WWII pill-box. Lichens are fascinating...well, what are they? They're not plants, nor single-celled organisms. They're a reaction between a fungus and an alga (or cyanobacteria) - possibly a form of symbiosis. Further, because they absorb nutrients from rain, lichens are sensitive to air pollution, so they grow best outside industrialised areas; they can also be remarkably long-lived. The lichens I've just seen will have been born, as it were, around 1942. For the record, this was a Common Orange Lichen (see and

Remarkably unleeched

Saturday, 1 February 2020 at 11:38

Jack Another result of the walk-to-shake-a-germ was this bright and bonny little jack, of which the most and least that can be said is (a) it actually needed the big pike net and (b) it was remarkably unleeched. Lure was the peerless 6-inch Mann's Shad (flavour: Pepper) rigged on a 6/0 single. I tried other, bigger, smaller lures - different styles and speeds of retrieve - standing on my head and whistling - but with no success at all.

Dead nettles and a jack

Sunday, 26 January 2020 at 14:23

Dead nettle The fact that the river's been up, pumped and in flood for weeks has meant that the fish have dispersed, according to the bailiff, and certainly there didn't seem to be any roach and dace topping in their usual haunts. Among those anglers on the banks there were in fact long faces all round. I went for a walk with the lure rod and enjoyed a couple of hours where nothing whatsoever happened (apart from a thrilling glimpse of a sparrowhawk). I also spent some time photographing what I think are dead-nettle flowers - the only touch of brightness on the banks apart from the snowdrops. Eventually I was surprised by a jack...but that was it. Glorious fishing it wasn't but in sheltered spots there were some signs of very early spring and the first songs of blackbirds can't, surely, be far away.

Estuary birds

Saturday, 25 January 2020 at 14:56

Black tailed godwit I'm hard at work writing at present but try to make an hour each day for a walk down to the estuary. The bird life is astonishing. Over the past few days I've watched Canada geese and greylags on the marsh and oystercatchers, redshanks, greenshanks, teal and wigeon, little grebes, bar-tailed and black-tailed godwits and curlews on the river. I enjoy watching the waders, in particular. They were having a grand feed today in the mud at the top of the tide-line. So intent were they on poking and/or sieving at the shallows that I could approach them quite closely. That three-quarters of an hour made a raw old afternoon somehow warmer.

Herrings and ballet

Friday, 24 January 2020 at 12:33

Herrings Take a moment. Look at any reliable source and read about herrings and their interaction with the copepods on which they typically feed. It's marvellous - underwater choreography, an intricate dance, a predatory ballet.... I was stunned by the familiar.

Image:, accessed January 24th 2020

Moth sheets

Thursday, 23 January 2020 at 17:03

Moth prevention How to protect fly-dressing materials? Today I came across a moth-deterrent which consists of cardboard sheets impregnated with something or other. The sheets are designed to hang in your wardrobe. They pong a bit - synthetic flowers - though over time the whiff will surely wear off. They're readily available; I got mine at Tesco. Although I'm intrigued by moths and am even fond of them I don't want them hanging around the stock of CDC or partridge hackles, so it's good to have some sort of prophylactic. Image:

First snowdrops

Sunday, 12 January 2020 at 16:41

Snowdrops It's often on my local stretch of the river that I see the coming of the year's snowdrops. So it was today. Lord Seabrook spotted them first, which was a bit galling since I'd spent time on and off all morning looking in the familiar places for them. Still, there they were - a bit premature, hanging their frail heads against the weather. As I was photographing this austere snowdrop-clump a double rainbow formed in the river valley and a group of long-tailed tits were busy in the bushes behind me. It's on this same reach of river that I usually see the first mayflies of the year, too (Ephemera danica) so it's a prolific, even blessed little spot.

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