Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Slightly better

Thursday, 26 October 2017 at 16:55

Roach When I've not been messing around with the fly-rod I've fished more conventionally and have sometimes had a better stamp of fish: roach to half a pound, some grand dace (around 6oz.), perch that have occasionally needed the landing-net, the odd chublet, even some skimmer bream. The fishing's been full of variety. Recently I've been trying to select for the slightly better roach by using bread flake (though the roach pictured took a red maggot) and have been delighted to see one or two come to that old-fashioned bait. I do nothing fancy with it - just pinch it around the top of the hook-shank, leaving a fluffy bit down below. The cheaper, fresher, stickier and gloopier the loaf, the better. The roach can sometimes nip and dither and it's rare to see the float submerge completely, still less decisively, but it's good fun.

Proving a point 1

Monday, 23 October 2017 at 14:36

Perch worm The weather's been so mild and open that I thought it might still be worth a short session on the river with the fly-rod. My aim was to catch four different species - roach, perch, dace and chub(lets). In the end the chublets eluded me but I did try what for me are some new patterns, including a red-headed variant of the Squirmy Wormy, which I thought might work on the perch. It did. The pattern doesn't sink ultra quickly but once it's sunk you can jig it slowly near the bottom; be alert, too, for perch that follow the thing and take it at the last moment. At this time of year you can spend an enjoyable hour or two outside with the fly-rod and a box of dry flies, pupae and small streamers on almost any coarse fishing river (where rules permit, of course) so long as the weather doesn't turn cold and frosty.

Proving a point 2

Monday, 23 October 2017 at 14:29

Shuttlecock After I'd released the perch I saw that roach and (more often) dace were rising almost everywhere. I released a roach to a small (#18) midge pupa fished just sub-surface and then tried to concentrate on the dace, which were moving almost anywhere there was even a sluggish flow. They took a floating pattern slightly better than one fished just sub-surface - though I don't suppose it mattered much - so in the end I settled on a tiny (#20) Shuttlecock with a CDC 'wing'. I find these patterns so diminutive that I can barely see to knot them on - an Orvis Big-Eye Dry Fly hook helps if, like me, you are troubled with anno domini and general myopic fecklessness.

Proving a point 3

Monday, 23 October 2017 at 14:25

Tiny dace A pristine little dace. They took the tiny Shuttlecock as if they'd been waiting for it all morning but I could still connect with only one in six - fine, make that one in ten - takes. So rapid were the takes that it was good practice for the little grayling that characteristically come my way each winter. Yes, somewhere, Graham is waiting...

  This image provides a good illustration, incidentally, of the difference between a dace (short anal fin) and a bleak, which last image you'll find if you scroll down. The bleak has a much longer anal fin, a slightly bigger eye and a somewhat protruding lower jaw.

Anglers and gentlepersons

Monday, 16 October 2017 at 09:59

Hobbs Fishing from Steve Roberts' boat 'Hobbs' on the Thames is always instructive. We went out with Steve last year and had a grand day. Yesterday wasn't as eye-popping in terms of catches but it was gentle and instructive and the autumn colours and bird life were alike spectacular. We could well have been fishing in an earlier and gentler age.

  Steve is the last of the traditional Thames boatmen and I thoroughly recommend a day or half-day out with him. He's a great teacher too, as I can attest from personal experience yesterday, when he gave me my first lesson in Wallis casting.

A handful of small fishes

Monday, 16 October 2017 at 09:55

Little perch It was a long way to go to Pangbourne to catch a handful of small fishes but it was thoroughly enjoyable. We caught little roach, dace, a bleak...and at one stage, miniature perch moved into the swim and I was pleased to see them. It was a hugely varied day and we trotted floats, touch-legered, hurled unavailing pike streamers and lures about, fished deadbaits under a bobber (for perch) and larger deadbaits for pike, which last were conspicuous by their refusal to look at any bait, lure or streamer whatsoever. Steve also gave me a lesson in basic Wallis casting which I found very instructive.

Lest we forget

Monday, 16 October 2017 at 09:50

Bleak I could make a good case for the importance of tiny fish - minnows, fry and fingerlings and (as here) bleak - to the ecology of the Thames and its weirpools. Call me perverse (I've been called much worse) but once or twice a year I thoroughly enjoy catching and releasing these tiny specimens, which are of course giants in their own hazardous bleak worlds. On the triumphant capture of this specimen, Steve told me that he'd once caught a bleak (on the Kennet, I think) that was seriously big.  'How big?' I asked. He gestured to the circumference of a bait-tub - and that was about nine inches across.

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