Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

Faith and the feeder

Sunday, 17 February 2019 at 15:07

Feeder rig I wondered what could be done on the lower Wharfe with the swimfeeder. I've rarely used the method but wanted to christen a JW Avon Quiver rod, had bought some block-end swimfeeders and was ready to experiment. Although I was thinking more of chub, in the event I caught four grayling (best 12oz.), bumped another two and lost another at the net. I also missed bites which anyone more competent would have converted. There was some action around lunchtime but the glide died during the afternoon. I stuck it out. I had to have faith - faith that the fish were there, faith that they'd feed at dusk. By 1600 a long twilight had begun...and the bites increased. When I left at 1630 the bites were still coming. Righyni wrote that the last hour of light was a time when grayling could be active even when they'd been quiet all day. Right. I don't think the feeder will ever be my favourite method - I prefer trotting for grayling - but it was an interesting experiment.

Pike and revenge

Sunday, 17 February 2019 at 14:58

Wharfe pike Not the most distinguished shot but there's a story behind it. Six weeks ago I moved, and briefly hooked, a Wharfe pike on a double red maggot. The pike, clearly lip-hooked, fell off after a couple of minutes. At the weekend I visited the same swim again, this time with appropriate tackle. Two casts over the spot with a Mann's 6-inch Pepper Shad and.... It was a fit pike which I estimated at around 8lb. It's not quite the only time I've revisited a spot to try and catch a fish which fell off or beat me first time round, but it was a satisfying experience: piking as gentle revenge.

Auld lang syne

Sunday, 17 February 2019 at 14:52

Spro shad It's been nearly five years since I fished for pike with these Spro shads. I can't remember what they're called but I bought a job lot of them before I left the Netherlands then forgot about them and have fiddled around with smaller softbaits ever since. On the Wharfe, however, it seemed to me that as the light leached out of the afternoon sky a lure that was big, slow-moving and highly mobile was called for and my eye lit on these old shads. Sentiment was involved, too: I suppose I wanted to fish them simply for the sake of auld lang syne. Out the shad went.... Within a few turns of the reel handle everything locked up and the rod kicked over. The pike when landed was a remarkably fit female of 92cm. That's certainly 12lb. in real money and although the diary will record 12lb+ I'd probably put another pound (or even two) on top of that. This is my biggest pike for a while and, I think, my largest English river pike.

A minnow trap

Sunday, 17 February 2019 at 14:43

Simple minnow trap It was a joy to make and use a simple minnow trap. Cut a cross with a sharp knife in the tin lid of a Hellmann's jar (other mayonnaises are available); fold back then press down the corners and be careful of your fingers. (The initial cross mustn't be too widely cut otherwise your resulting hole will be too big and the minnows will escape.) Tie some rot-proof string around the neck of the jar. Bait the trap with (stale) white bread then fill the jar with water. Swing out the trap to where you suspect minnows are to be found, let it settle then leave it for a bit.... I'd taken some old Archer tackles and was going to mount dead minnows on them and spin for perch. In the end the minnows were so lovely that I lost my stern resolve - and let them go.

I hadn't caught minnows this way for over fifty years and doing so gave me almost as much pleasure as catching fish with rod-and-line.

Photo model: Steve Rhodes.

The first blackbirds

Thursday, 14 February 2019 at 17:41

Blackbird I've been hearing blackbirds for a week or ten days now - just some phrases, almost as if these are trial songs. (They probably are.) But this evening I heard the real thing: full-throated blackbird song, gloriously liquid. Although rough weather can be expected between now and April, I always like to think that this blackbird-song is an announcement of the first phase of spring.

Almost as good as....

Saturday, 26 January 2019 at 13:07

New growth I did a reading years ago at which, during the Q&A, a young woman took the microphone. 'May I ask,' (and here I braced myself for the shower of praise which would be embedded in her question - I was clearly one of those stern-jawed, politically-committed, dead-on poets I've myself so much admired over the years - obviously she'd want to ask about that, and about how I so effortlessly aligned political sincerity with a convincing poetic register - and equally obviously, she'd want to ask about where, how and from whom I learnt my sheer technique [I probably suppressed an imaginary dahlings! here] - and would also want to know about whether she could buy the latest...)... 'May I ask,' she continued, 'why you write so often about your garden?'

I love the garden, work hard in it and learn a great deal from it. That process is almost as intricate, surprising and reassuring as fishing.

Snowdrops

Thursday, 17 January 2019 at 15:33

First snowdrops With bitter conditions forecast, these snowdrops might yet regret poking their heads out into the weather - but all the same it's lovely to see them. Their appearance this year is early. I usually reckon that these bulbs begin to show themselves in the last week of January or first week of February. By the time we have carpets of them - mid to late February - the coarse fishing season is, for me, drawing to a close.

The mornings are very slowly becoming lighter; there's increasing volume of bird-song from around 0645. When the coming cold snap has passed, one calm, late winter morning there'll be the first great chorus of the blackbirds. And spring will have announced itself again.

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