Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Grayling at the year's midnight

Saturday, 29 December 2018 at 17:43

Below the island It was a long way to go to catch a handful of small fish, but the intrinsic interest of the river and good company made all more than worthwhile. The Wharfe's grayling were fairly disinclined but we did get a bare few, most of them small. Steve Rhodes (pictured) got the best fish of the two days, while I distinguished myself by hooking a respectable pike...on a red/white maggot cocktail offered on a size 16 barbless hook. After playing this thing for a minute or so, mercifully the hook pulled away. (The pike must have been hooked on the periphery of the jaw because the terminal tackle came back completely intact.) Strangely, before it made its mistake the pike had moved twice to the float and end-tackle being retrieved adjacent to its lie.

I enjoy long-trotting, though I'm not particularly (or even at all) skilled. Seeing the float bury forty or more yards away - raising the rod - feeling the kick of a grayling, way downstream... These are grand angling experiences and I've been lucky to have had them.

Grayling at the year's midnight: lunch

Saturday, 29 December 2018 at 17:35

Lunch Lunch and a bit of a chat are so often the highlights of these days. And so it was, with this splendidly calorific selection supplemented by mince pies and Christmas cake.

Topics of discussion included: Milward's Swimversa rods; Aerial centrepins; stamina; reminiscences of a one-yard-wide stream that held a variety of different fish species (including double-figure pike); historical grayling populations and their distribution; getting lost while fishing (this one took us a while); retirement, pleasure and mortality.

Greetings from the fish

Tuesday, 25 December 2018 at 12:25

Nonsense Was feeling ruffe this morning - bleak. I'd been herling last night and it was all a bit crucian. 'Do up your bootlace, you old sprat,' I said to myself, 'and budge. Off your perch, get your greyback out there and don't flounder. Otherwise you'll have a loggerhead and something'll come orfe. Aye... Or come luce. Never mind the morgate - or for that matter, the pope. Don't 'ide. Put up the Christmas buntling, try some sewin', have a glasseye of hot tommy but make sure the fruit core don't charr on the grilse otherwise it'll be burntail and umber - pretty crappie, and you'll need the doctor fish. Who knows? You could be alevin an elver time, from A to Zed. Just for today, undo your mullet, put aside your bitterling and don't be a clown. Then spend some time in the shad and do some whitling. You can have a fry later with your fat chum in whiskers [image left] - or watch some F1. And then happy dace will be here again. Co-ho-ho.' (41 terms, since you asked - or perhaps, didn't.)

I wish my reader tight lines for the New Year.

Plastic, wood and tin

Saturday, 22 December 2018 at 11:54

Wood and tin boxes Years ago I looked at the tackle and was horrified at how much plastic there was, especially plastic tubs and boxes. I resolved then to replace what I could with wood or tin/aluminium: old cigarette tins, for example, are cheap, as are wooden cigar boxes; Wheatley still make fine aluminium fly-boxes - or you can pick up used Wheatley boxes, which in some ways is even kinder and more interesting. Wooden boxes can be given coats of yacht varnish, and foam inserts for flies and floats can be had cheaply. So can balsa wood, if you wish to make partitions. I know it's a bit Blue Peter but if it spares a foot of landfill it's worthwhile. I accept that there are circumstances - saltwater, a boat in a downpour or the muddy, sodden depths of winter on the riverbank - when plastic has its uses and I still carry a plastic seat-box when conditions require. Nevertheless, if anglers and the tackle trade can spare on plastic then that would surely be A Good Thing.

Record Breaker

Sunday, 16 December 2018 at 15:40

Record Breaker Judging from what I've read the Allcock's Record Breaker was sold as an upmarket version of the Lucky Strike. The tapers are identical (I read) but the fittings on the Record Breaker, notably the ferrules, are better. (On this version, the metal is blued and the male ferrules have a pin.) Although the Lucky mustn't ever hear me say this, the Record Breaker is just as good a rod as its forerunner. Sometimes it's a pleasure to take it out of the bag and have a short, uncomplicated session after a mixed bag of fish. Today on the river I teamed the rod with a Trudex, 3.2lb. Floatfish and a waggler. Thinking mainly of perch (again), generally I used red maggot and it's true that I did release a couple of dozen perch, with the best pushing ¾lb. (It needed a net.) Yet white maggots also worked (two cracking dace, best ½lb.) and strikingly, a change to casters resulted in four really good roach, with the best of them once more needing a net. It took the fish an hour and more to find the maggots and the mangled sweetcorn I was using - very sparingly - as groundbait but once the fish had found it then it was a fairly hectic three hours by my modest standards. Good fun, too.

The unblinded fly-dresser

Saturday, 15 December 2018 at 12:40

Shrimp It's been a struggle of late to tie flies. Once I was short-sighted; I'm becoming long-sighted. These ocular veerings have played havoc with any close work and changing flies at the water's edge has been a ridiculous little adventure. Still, courtesy of the local optician I'm now back in business and can again see well enough to tie up a size 24 without strain....if it's on a big-eyed hook. Today I contented myself with tying up some leaded Shrimps. There's a deeply satisfying, ritualistic element to my own winter fly-dressing, which is solidly conventional: representations of shrimp and caddis; some Klinks and goldheads in different sizes; some Elephant Cock Hair nymphs; plenty of Northern spiders; buzzers, Cormorants, Crunchers and Big Reds for Grafham and Rutland; fry and floating fry; and last but not least, dry-flies constructed from CDC and/or dressed parachute-style. Now visual acuity's restored it'll be a pleasure to replenish the fly-boxes.

Itchen and Anton

Saturday, 8 December 2018 at 20:56

Anton Yesterday the Lower Itchen was all but unfishable. I've rarely seen a chalkstream carrying so much colour or rising so fast. The Itchen rose as we watched it, there in torrential storms. It was thick with mud. The keeper called us mad...but Howard released three big grayling to my small singleton so we didn't blank. Nevertheless, wet and dispirited, we packed up early. 'I'm surprised you lasted as long as you did,' said the keeper.

The Anton today (image left) was a great contrast. The weather was kinder though still wet and squally. We released a couple of nice grayling and some few fish were rising in the late morning, so it was a short session full of interest on a pretty beat.


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