Chris McCully


First blackbirds

Thursday, 22 February 2024 at 13:42

Beach They've taken their time about beginning to sing this year, but this morning I heard the first full-throated songs of the blackbirds.

More rain fell, has fallen, is falling and therefore periodically I've headed for the coast. It's amazing how absorbing it can be, catching and releasing the smallest dabs in the world. Because I suspect the rigs I've been using were set up with hooks too big for dabs (1/0, on 2-hook flappers since you ask) I made up some specific dab rigs using size 4 hooks - 3 up. The rig-making has been almost as satisfying as fly-tying. I'm also learning a great deal about how the beaches behave in different conditions of wind and tide.

Whether the floods will allow us to fish for grayling before the end of February is doubtful.

Of dabs and slugs

Tuesday, 13 February 2024 at 16:56

Beach It's been so frustrating, waiting around for the rivers to fine down sufficiently for grayling fishing to be viable, that yesterday I headed for the East coast beaches, where I enjoyed a sea fishing tutorial from my old friend Richard. It was remarkable, lamming out 6oz. leads on the big beachcasters, and I enjoyed the change of scene, where gulls continually bisected the long, fastidious line of the horizon. Fishing was initially slow, but as the light fell out of the sky the rod-tips started to dip and we did encounter some dabs as well as a surprise rockling - a fish so unprepossessing that its by-name is 'slug'. Still, God must have made the rocklings for a reason and I suspect their barbules are wonderfully sensitive and well-adapted for browsing in sand and shingle.

Richard's dab

Tuesday, 13 February 2024 at 16:47

Dab Richard caught this lovely dab just as the light was beginning to fade. I caught another, slightly smaller, a few minutes later. One sometimes reads about how tasty dabs are and this lunchtime I put that gastro reputation to the test. So often with fish cookery, simplicity is best, so I fried my dab in butter and served it with a twist of lemon. It was delicious.


Tuesday, 2 January 2024 at 08:27

No Text Plus ça change...

Theory of the Small Worm

Saturday, 23 December 2023 at 16:21

Christmas grayling Just now and again it's good to encounter a number of grayling - an ample day. And today I did meet plenty of fish. I had made one change: mindful of Lord Roberts' strictures on the size of my worms, I used worm tails only, and tried to limit myself to a hookbait that was never more than 1½ inches long. This seemed to work satisfactorily, though I did get some nugatory pestering from the stream's resident minnows. I also tried to present the bait in every likely pause, glide or crease, not just the crease off the main current. That in turn meant dedicated exploration of some near-bank swims, even to small and apparently insignificant depressions in the stream bed. In short, I tried to be thorough. The grayling seemed to appreciate the extra effort. Best of them was this chunky beauty of about 1½lb: a grayling for Christmas, thanks to the Theory of the Small Worm.

Bleak midwinter

Tuesday, 19 December 2023 at 09:14

Trotting The rivers are finally coming into fishable order but it's been a frustrating business, waiting for the continual floods to subside. Yesterday was a case in point: a river more marginal for trotting than I'd have liked coursed past bleakly. Nevertheless, Lord Roberts managed to winkle out 8 grayling while swimming the worm (as our ancestors so delightfully put it), including one really good fish over 2lb. Meanwhile I was struggling and could only apparently connect with out-of-season trout - until at last I managed to release a bare singleton, a grayling of 12oz. or thereabouts. Diagnosing my piscatorial problems, Lord Roberts took one look at the size of my brandling - not a phrase I ever thought I'd commit to the English language, but there we are - and opined that it was far too long. So there you have it: my worm is, officially and on the very best authority, too big. And with that, I wish a merry Christmas and peaceful holidays to my reader.

Flood and frost

Sunday, 26 November 2023 at 07:51

Otter print The rivers in this part of the North have been in flood and more or less unfishable for weeks. As a result I've had only two days' grayling fishing over the past month, and what fishing I have done has been compromised by the sudden falling in of frost and ice. Of course grayling will feed at low - sometimes very low - water temperatures but they need a day or two to adjust to a sudden shock of cold. So although my efforts have been modestly rewarded, it's been cold, wet and tough work. One fish-hunter, however, has clearly done well. As levels have receded, leaving river-banks washed and exposed, animal prints are beautifully visible in the scoured sand. I'm pretty sure the print in the image - five-toed, and with a big pad mark - belongs to an otter.

I don't at all begrudge the otters their occasional fish. The creatures love non-native signal crayfish, too, and in the Dales I often find crayfish carcases which have been so beautifully eviscerated that claws and pincers are abandoned symmetrically - a neat left, a neat right - on the stones.

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