Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Brook and River Trouting

Thursday, 22 April 2021 at 08:36

Lee's grave ...was written by Harfield Edmonds and Norman Nellist Lee and was published in 1916. It's justifiably regarded as a classic: not only do the illustrations to the work show (for the first time, I believe) the feathers used in the construction of North country flies but almost every sentence of the text is filled with practical advice. The description of fishing the upstream wet-fly is particularly detailed and is still useful.

Edmonds and Lee fished all over the Dales but the Wharfe at Burnsall and above was a particular favourite. Norman Lee loved the Skirfare so much - the Skirfare runs into the Wharfe below Kettlewell - that he chose to be buried in Arncliffe, close to the stream he loved. He lies with his wife in a peaceful spot in Arncliffe churchyard, with the village bridge just upstream and the river running hard by.

Low and clear

Sunday, 18 April 2021 at 17:16

Near Hubberholme Spring hasn't quite come to the Dales. There's been little rain for three weeks or so, the air's been cool and the trees are still relatively bare of leaves and blossoms. The blossoms are there, right enough, and there are cowslips, late daffodils and celandines showing in the limestone uplands, but the season's not as advanced as it is down south. In many ways this reminds me of the springs we used to have when I was younger: ash trees were rarely if ever in leaf before the beginning of May and if you looked out over any dale in the third week of April then despite the presence of the lambs, and a keen sense of appeal in the air, the land would still seem a bit brown and lifeless.

All the streams at present are low and very clear. There's been a glitter of sunshine and on our walks it's been possible to peer into some of the pools and runs. There hasn't been a trout to be seen and there's been hardly any fly. We need a flood, we need wind. We need the Atlantic to wake up.

A wasted opportunity

Thursday, 8 April 2021 at 20:27

Release It's true I released four or five trout - but Andrew released thirteen, fishing straight-lined buzzers. Early on he was finding fish eleven feet down; my own experiments with a weighted damsel in a different bay proved almost useless bar a brace of inexplicable rainbows. At 1100 a decent hatch of buzzers began in a calmer area of the lake. I imagined the fish were taking pupae stuck in the surface film so I faffed and fiddled about with dry flies (Crippled Midges, various parachute buzzers in smaller sizes....). I'd have done better to have stuck with straight-lining: the only two fish I caught came to a small pupa which I'd attached to a short dropper and was fishing just sub-surface. All in all, it was something of a wasted opportunity. Did I enjoy it? Of course I did - but I'd have enjoyed it better if my angling brain had been slightly more engaged, meaning engaged enough to work out both what the fish were taking (colour of pupae? size?) and where they were taking it (on, in or just under the surface?).

Watching and waiting for mullet

Monday, 5 April 2021 at 15:33

Estuary image The mullet - both thick-lips and thin-lips - generally appear in April, with the thin-lips often seeming to arrive slightly earlier than their cousins. (Last year I saw the first mullet during the second week of the month, though I saw no sign of the fish today.) The bass are tardier, coming from late April and May onwards. Through the summer the estuaries slowly fill: mullet, bass, returning flounders. You'll often see the mullet circling on calm, warm days, pushing their way into the estuaries on the early tide. This year, having determined that there are indeed some thin-lipped mullet in the estuaries, I've rigged some baited spinners and will try to catch one or two as and when conditions allow. I may well be on a fool's errand but I usually enjoy changes of fish species and angling method and I usually learn something even when experimentation doesn't quite pay off.

Great year for blossom

Monday, 5 April 2021 at 15:23

Blackberry blossom Although the current bitter weather may yet nip the buds, it's been a grand year for blossom of all kinds. Whether it was the generally wet winter or that touch of warmth and sunshine last week I don't know, but I can't remember seeing so much fruit and early hawthorn blossom in this part of England before. That said, the cherry and plum trees in the garden aren't quite in bud yet. When the blossom does come I'm going to try and protect our fruit trees from the ravages of collared doves and woodpigeons, which together have ruined so much blossom and therefore so much fruit over the past three years.

Strange to recall that it was snowing just this morning. It was one of Housman's lyric voices who determined to go about the woodland rides 'to see the cherry hung with snow' and that description struck me as most apt this afternoon while I was looking at this bush, which isn't a cherry but which is (I think) a wild blackberry in full blossom.

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