Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Hawthorns and black gnats

Thursday, 23 April 2020 at 08:36

St. Mark's Day 23rd April: St. George's Day; Shakespeare's birthday. Yesterday I saw the first hawthorn flies of the year around - yes - hawthorn bushes down by the river. Bibio marci gets its taxonomic name from its appearance at or around St. Mark's Day, 25th April, so these insects had appeared more or less on cue. In these long, strange, fishing-less days I imagined the same insects around the bushes of other rivers; I imagined them being followed by falls of black gnat (which I usually see in May); by stonefly and mayfly.... And I hoped that somewhere the trout would be rising, undisturbed by angling deception.

The first mullet

Tuesday, 14 April 2020 at 15:29

Mullet fry Lord Rhodes wrote two days ago to say he'd seen the first swallow. To note another harbinger of summer, today during my government-approved hourly walk I watched the first mullet working uptide in the estuary. We were about an hour after LW, the air was calm and the pushes and circles of the mullet were clearly visible on the surface. Generally I see the mullet arrive during the first week or two of April and see the last of them in mid-October.

  Image: mullet fry, Bann estuary 2012

Mr. Maintenance

Sunday, 12 April 2020 at 09:51

Serviced Even if you're lucky enough to have a fly-tying vice and a small garden there are only so many flies you can tie and only so many garden chores you can do. I've turned to the innards of fly-reels and have never before stripped and cleaned so many of them. That's because I'm a ham-fisted gumby. Still, better late than never and there are some excellent maintenance films on YouTube to help you go about the relatively minor engineering required. You will need: a good set of screwdrivers, some pipecleaners, an old toothbrush, some lighter fluid, some sewing machine oil, some grease - and a sharp pair of eyes to find screws which have scarpered, widgets that go whoosh! and parts that go ping! (including the exclamation marks). If you're hyper-organised you'll do the relevant work on a white background, laying out the parts in order before cleaning and (re)assembly. In the process of fiddling I've also learnt a great deal about how reels are put together, how different drags work...and what constitutes, or once constituted, value for money.

  And on we go, eh?

Mr. Tidy

Sunday, 29 March 2020 at 17:49

Hooks for fly-tying I've stripped, greased and reassembled fly reels; cleaned and proofed fly-lines; and have done what I've left undone for several delinquent years - sorted out the fly-tying hooks. I had no idea I'd collected so many different models of hook. I suppose I've needed not only a range of sizes (from beck trout to bass and pike) but also fresh- and saltwater irons. There were some surprises in the sorting: alongside familiar standards (Kamasan B100 for buzzers, Kamasan B175 for stillwater wet-flies, Partridge Spider hooks, spiders, Tiemco 103BL for dry flies) I unearthed some Partridge D3ST streamer hooks (a grand sea-trout hook); some Mustad Viking sea hooks (probably fine for pike streamers); some salmon prawning pins (no idea what I'll use them for...); and some Partridge Saltwater Shrimp hooks which I bought for coastal sea-trout but which will be OK for bonefish. The problem now is that the hook drawers are so tidy that I can't find anything.

Stay at home and stay safe

Wednesday, 25 March 2020 at 19:07

Angling Trust image Downloaded today from the resource pages of Angling Trust and Fish Legal. Check out


Stay at home

Tuesday, 24 March 2020 at 15:31

Stay at home Statement from Jamie Cook, Angling Trust CEO (23 March 2020): “In light of the Government’s announcement on 23rd March, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal are asking that all anglers follow the current guidance and stop fishing. [Angling] is not currently classified as one of the safe exercises in which to engage... [W]e hope to work with Government, the Environment Agency and Sport ensure that access to fishing and the benefits it brings are part of the nation's plan for ensuring our community’s health and wellbeing. For now though, we as a community, must take responsible action.... This is about saving lives and supporting the NHS."

Angling, travel and solitary safety

Monday, 23 March 2020 at 11:19

Egret I'm rethinking angling plans in the light of urgent government and NHS advice (see 24th March). Angling is probably one of the safer outdoor pursuits, particularly if done solitarily or with appropriate social distancing, yet I have postponed some of my own plans and am keeping everything under review. Government advice might change (it has: see 24th March) and I'd urge all UK anglers to listen to news updates, revise plans accordingly and act with extra thoughtfulness and consideration. If I speak for myself then if/when isolation measures become more stringent and I am confined to home I shall (a) tie some flies for exotic and imaginary trips (and probably, equally imaginary fish); (b) teach myself to Wallis cast with accuracy and consistency; (c) sort out the fly-tying desk. There's always angling-related stuff that can be done.

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