Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Emergers and the upwind ripple-edge

Monday, 27 May 2019 at 16:43

Emerger A last-minute decision to go fishing: the rainbow lake. The conditions seemed good for fishing buzzers - gentle wind, overcast, warmth in the air, a light ripple... Strangely, I didn't see a trout where the ripple had built downwind. I fished there for an hour but moved nothing. Then again, I was fishing under a self-denying ordinance, having taken only a box of dry flies. I'd have been glad to get a brace in the limited time I had open. Still, I thought a fish or two might be moving at the upwind edge of what ripple there was. So often in summer, rainbows patrol that edge, moving quietly to any hatching flies stuck there or to land-bred insects blown there. For once, theory was right: eventually I released a leash of fish, keeping one for this evening's meal. I was using only a single fly, and that an odd one: a Deerhair Emerger (Bob Wyatt's pattern). I know it's not an accurate hatching buzzer representation but it floats well, is visible and the rainbows found it perfectly acceptable.


Sunday, 19 May 2019 at 17:46

Bustards T.E. Pritt (1885) was maddeningly unspecific when it came to dressings for the Bustard. (The term is a corruption of 'buzzer', by which Pritt meant a buzzing insect, a moth.) In North Country Flies he sketched two dressings, a White and a Brown Bustard, both tied on 'a size 4 or 5 hook' (c. today's size 10). The white pattern is tied with 'white Berlin wool' and a rib of gold tinsel, with some black ostrich herl tied in at the head, while the brown pattern has a body of hare's neck fur ribbed with brown worsted. Hackles ('legs') were made from white or 'any brown' hackle. Wings were owl quill; happily obliged to use substitutes, I used white wing fibres or rolled hen pheasant. For the rest, I improvised, dressing ostrich herl on the white pattern as part of the body and for the brown pattern, ribbing for strength with fine copper wire. Lord knows whether these improvisations will work. We shall find out.

The country of the Green Man

Saturday, 18 May 2019 at 10:01

Green Man A day's fishing in the country of the Green Man, with some additional fieldwork at Bolton Abbey and elsewhere.
    After fifty years, memory plays tricks: I'd remembered the image of the Green Man - probably an ancient fertility god - as belonging to stonework outside Bolton Priory Church, but of course this unique carved head is found on one of the roof bosses of the church. It was a tricky shot with a compact camera because the roof is high and there were spotlights shining into the lens. At least this patchy image shows the snake emerging from the god's mouth (and from one of his eyes) as well as the productive leer on his face. I dimly remember - yes, dimly, again - a line from that fine Lakeland poet and angler Tom Rawling about the god of the corn, leaping in the darkness 'with a bat in his drum'. How the ancient peoples here would have wished for those mysteries, even ecstasies, of renewal, generation and harvest.

Painters, engravers and anglers

Saturday, 18 May 2019 at 09:34

Bolton 19th-century painters - Girtin, Turner, Landseer - often engaged with Picturesque or later, Romantic representations of Bolton Abbey. The engravers, too, often turned original paintings into plates where slopes, screes, trees, ruins and the fast-flowing river made essential components of the scene(s). One engraver turned a sketch by Turner of this part of the Wharfe into a fine reproduction, with the angler, his brass-ferruled rod, massive single-action reel and wicker creel central to the Picturesque conception - see Poets of the same period - Wordsworth ('White Doe of Rylstone', published 1815) and Samuel Rogers ('Boy of Egremond' - 'Say what remains when Hope is fled...?' 1819) - also gave 'poetical treatments' to local legends. An engraving of Bolton Abbey from a Turner original illustrated Rogers' Poems (1834); the poet also owned a Girtin sketch of Bolton.

On the Wharfe

Saturday, 18 May 2019 at 09:27

Lord Rhodes I've never quite lost that sensation of wonder at being out in the Dales at this time of year. It's not a Romantic or even post-Romantic feeling - quite the opposite, in fact, since it seems to rest on apprehending and describing, with precision, the intricacy of the inter-relationships between the life in the river (flies, fish) and the life around it (the trees in first leaf, the uses of foliage and breeze, the ambient conditions of sun, shadow and cloud). Yet after all, one goes out to these wonderful places to fish rather than to potter about feeling wafty, awed or wistful, and here's an image of Lord Rhodes doing one of the things he does best.

   There were trout rising in that glide.

Black Gnat

Saturday, 18 May 2019 at 09:22

Black Gnat I suspect it's been a good year for Bibio johannis, the Black Gnat. The front of the car was plastered with them and there were plenty in evidence on this part of the Wharfe. The fish were taking one in a hundred of the naturals and Steve pointed out that the trout might have become sated with the flies over the past week. That made sense. Nor did I see any fish rising to the upwings that were hatching; these included the Yellow May dun, a most beautiful insect. Nevertheless, careful and persistent fishing with the gnat (size 16) did bring the occasional trout to hand and we released eight or nine fish between us on a hot, bright afternoon. A pair of red kites, too - the first I've ever seen in this part of Wharfedale - circled overhead. It was grand.

News from the Pork Pie Triangle...

Saturday, 18 May 2019 at 09:17

M&S variant ...which is Lord Rhodes's name for this tract of the North Country where anglers (and presumably, their pies) go fishing and then disappear, never to be heard of again. Anyway, the news is that the M&S variant of the pork pie - this offering was from one of my pork pie suppliers in Skipton - is perfectly acceptable, and counts, of course, as one of your Five A Day.

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