Chris McCully

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Germander speedwell

Saturday, 21 May 2022 at 20:56

Speedwell Another wild flower I was pleased to find yesterday in the dale was the speedwell (or the germander speedwell, to give it the name that often appears in references). I love the seeming modesty of this wild flower. It appears in spring and early summer and I often find it hiding among other plants and grasses. Different sources tell me that the plant has a number of other names including god's eye, angel's eye and eyebright. The term 'speedwell'  itself derives from the medicinal properties of the plant; it was known for centuries to be healing, remedial (L. veronica officinalis - a true remedy), and therefore you would 'speed well'  (recover well) if you used the herb medicinally. Today, some gardeners apparently regard the plant as troublesome (the RHS records uses of weedkiller on speedwell gone rampant on lawns and in borders) but its pollen is attractive to bees and I think this lovely plant and its small, modest flowers should be encouraged in all or parts of a wild garden.

Tying size 24s

Saturday, 21 May 2022 at 15:49

24s 'How do you do it?' cried no-one whatsoever, baffled by admiration. 'How do you tie those tiny black gnats, Lord McCully of Dribble?' Well, I shall tell you, Lady No-one of Droppinghaugh. (i) Take a size 24 Orvis Big-Eyed Dry Fly hook (image, with a size 16 Greenwell's for comparison); (ii) use well-waxed 8/0 silk; (iii) start the tying mid-shank; (iv) tie in a wing-post of orange or white poly yarn - leave the ends longish at this stage; (v) tie in and wind a short-fibred hackle parachute-style around the wing-post; (v) dub the silk lightly with black fur and wind that to just shy of the head; (vi) whip finish well behind the eye and cut the wing-post to size; (vii) the silk's already waxed so don't use varnish - this just clogs up the eye of the fly and makes it (even more) difficult to thread the nylon. Oh, and three more stages: (viii) visit a ruinously expensive optician, (ix) buy ruinously expensive varifocals, (x) study to swear quietly.

Campion, black gnats and size 24s (1)

Saturday, 21 May 2022 at 08:35

Black gnats The trout were mooching about in the dubs. Caenis were on the water, hawthorns came past, occasional smaller olives hatched. The rise forms suggested the fish were moving to something stuck in the film. Accordingly I fished artificials in the film, gradually dropping in size from a size 16 (a Klink) to an 18 (caenis representation or F-fly) to a size 20.... Eventually I hooked a lovely trout on a blackish size 24 something-or-other. (I told Richard I'd got the fish on a size 28, which I believed at the time, but I've just looked at the packet of hooks from which the iron had come and it was a size 24 - Orvis Big-Eyed Dry Fly hook, a good make). And that was it for a while: the trout steadfastly refused even a well-presented artificial yet as the spoon showed, they were clearly locked onto the black gnats. Later in the afternoon I caught another trout, a wild one this time, on a size 16 olive Funneldun - and that too had been taking black gnats so had no business taking an olive. Truly, angling for trout is a strange old way of spending one's time.

Campion, black gnats and size 24s (2)

Saturday, 21 May 2022 at 08:28

Campion Here's the campion - pinky-red, very distinctive, abundant. The etymology is odd: the first attestation of the word in English comes late, in the 16th century, and if the etymological link is with champion (spellings of champion as campion were once common) we'd expect the form campion to be attested much earlier. If the link is indeed with champion then the relationship between the two words seems to have been that the campion was once used in chaplets or garlands, such as those worn by victors. More prosaically (notes the OED, from which I get all these weird and wonderful conjectures) the relationship might be campion < L. campus, 'field'.

Miscalculation

Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 20:50

Buttercup Timing the run-off of a small flood didn't prove easy. The river was already dropping (from 0.66 to 0.53) when I arrived in the upper dale; I thought we might get two or three hours' fishing on the extra water. The flood would also, I thought, stimulate a hatch of fly. I was at least partly right: I moved four trout and brought two to hand - not the numbers I'd have expected thirty years ago, but fairly pleasing nevertheless - and there was some fly: hawthorns everywhere at the river's edge, some black gnats, larger and medium olives, a few small stoneflies. By late lunchtime, though, the upper river was fining down and it was time for a move. I drove to our bottom beat, where there's some useful fishing if you wade out when the river's around 0.35 on the gauge. This was a bad miscalculation: though there was much less water in the Wharfe than when I'd started, the Skirfare was clearly still in flood, so the bottom beat (below the confluence of the two rivers) was both high and coloured. I made a few fruitless casts but soon exchanged the rod for the camera.

19th century vision

Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 08:24

Old map I spent parts of yesterday with Lords Rhodes and Calbrade, fishing the same lake near Skipton which had been so generous to us the week before; I also spent part of the morning looking at a map. This (c.1850) showed the Conniston Cold [sic] estate as it was before the lake and its surroundings were landscaped. I find it incredible that the old estate owners had such vision: to lead the human eye into a new apprehension of space, vegetation, water and sky - and their ecological possibilities. That in turn led to new understanding of what must have seemed like God-given abundance.

   I didn't spend all of yesterday in history and metaphysics. The fishing was tough in a gusty wind and sometimes, bright sunshine. Nevertheless we released four brace of rainbows, with the best just over 2lb. Many of then took small black buzzers. There were also some black gnats in the air and further east here in York I've also seen some hawthorn fly, so prospects look fairly good - though I wish the rivers rain.


Rutland ospreys and other raptors

Friday, 6 May 2022 at 08:56

Rutland ospreys Rutland ospreys (information and live webcam): https://www.lrwt.org.uk/rutlandospreys

Peregrine chicks at Nottingham Trent University: https://www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/peregrine-cam

Peregrines at the University of Leeds: https://sustainability.leeds.ac.uk/our-work/biodiversity/university-of-leeds-peregrines/

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