Chris McCully


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Sunday, 31 October 2021 at 09:31

Pimping my spoons and other poems The twin demands of work (currently brutal and never-ending) and puppy-training (usually a delight, but time-consuming) are robbing me of fishing. Back when life was less pressured and better adjusted I often found myself able to fish at least once a week. These days it seems to be once a fortnight, if that. Weekend time is also crimped in such a way that I find myself having just two or three hours free rather than the half or full day I'd ideally need to go fishing. Still, even among these torn-off stubs of time I can do some angling-related chores - pimp some spoons (the stuff called Peek is, as the late John Wilson recommended, a good polish), or slowly work through replacing trebles with singles, or even make some pike streamers. Last night, for example, I found myself making some Flash Flies (size 4/0) and very enjoyable that was. Clearly, pike fishing is on my mind again. All the same, angling-related chores aren't fishing - and I'm beginning to crave free time above all things.


Sunday, 24 October 2021 at 20:37

The blank boat The fishing's been brutal of late. Last weekend I fished with Lord Brown at Rutland for back-end, fry-feeding trout. Now, tutored by his gillie (me) m'lud occasionally knows what he's doing with a fly-rod in his hands....but he blanked magnificently. So did his gillie (me). We barely moved a trout all day. Buoyed - if that's the word - by that experience I asked Lord Seabrook whether he'd have interest in fishing Rutland a week later, only this time for pike, zander and maybe a perch or three. Yes, he said. We proceeded to the lake today.....and blanked. The noble lord did move a fish (a zed, we thought) in the South Arm but that was our lot. We fished hard, too - fished the drop-offs, the weedbeds, the edges of weedlines, the bits of structure. Into the boat we took fly-rods, jerkbait rods, rods to jig with, rods to rock'n'roll with. We gave it, in short, the full beans. None of it did any good. It was just....yes, brutal.


Sunday, 24 October 2021 at 20:31

Rutland fry There are abundant fry in and around thre harbour at Rutland. These are I think this year's roach fry; there are also last year's fry (giants now 4-5" long) in the harbour too. You'd think that trout and perch would be lying in wait adjacent to these shoals of prey fish - and you'd be right. That said, I thought that the pike would also be lying in wait for the trout and perch lying in wait for the fry - and today at least, I was wrong.


Tuesday, 5 October 2021 at 20:31

Names cover ...we've begun work on the cover (this is a draft) and the textsetting of Names of the Fish in British and Irish Freshwaters. I finished most of the text last year, before the heart went bang, and then worked on copyright permissions, the bibliography, final tweakings and so on. I don't yet know exactly when the book will appear but we're certainly now into the final stages of its long gestation. The prospective cover image is a piece of brilliance from Jon Ward-Allen and Medlar: how appropriate is it for a book of names and histories that these wonderful fish - I love the grumpy one, who is clearly unhappy with his name - are made out of words?

The Towton chublet I

Saturday, 25 September 2021 at 14:49

Towton This was the strangest trip. In between failing to catch barbel (the river was too low, too warm, the fish weren't feeding, the sun was too sunny, the garlic-infused Spam was too garlicky....) I visited the site of the Battle of Towton (Palm Sunday, 1461) and also paid my respects at the tomb of Thomas Fairfax in Bilbrough Church. I know, I know: what have Towton or Fairfax to do with angling? Well, here's a thing: Fairfax's daughter Mary was tutored by Andrew Marvell, who in his country-house epic, 'Upon Appleton House' apostrophises the Wharfe and presents himself as an angler on its banks. So if you ask what Fairfax, or indeed metaphysical poetry, have to do with angling, there you have it. Towton has a less direct relationship to the river and its fish but after Towton - one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on English soil - the River Cock, which meets the Wharfe just downstream of Tadcaster, is said to have run red with blood for weeks....and I wondered what that did to the fish-stocks. Still, this was only partly a fact-finding trip and inbetweentimes I tried to catch barbel. I was chastened in the process but I suppose I did learn a great deal. Furthermore, finally - and to re-use a sentence I've often used over what are now nearly six decades of angling - 'at least it didn't rain'.

The Towton chublet II

Saturday, 25 September 2021 at 14:40

Fairfax tomb Between fruitless, noxious barbel-fishing sessions I visited not only the Towton battlefield but also Bilbrough church, where the body of Thomas Fairfax lies buried. Fairfax was Cromwell's most illustrious and brilliant general but didn't support regicide and retired to his estates in Yorkshire. From 1649 he worked in retirement for ten years, composing poetry and working on his memoirs (and working, too, as a Yorkshire MP). He was brought back into public life as the Restoration approached. He was a remarkable man and his tomb - solid and serviceable rather than grand and pompous, as he had specifically requested - gives some sense of Fairfax's modesty.

The Towton chublet III

Saturday, 25 September 2021 at 14:33

Bait I blame Lord Seabrook. He knows what he's doing with barbel and I wrote to him for advice - a big mistake, as it turned out. 'They love luncheon meat,' he wrote, mentioning a well-known supermarket's brand of this delicacy. 'But you should tip in half a jar of ready-chopped garlic and infuse the chopped meat with it. You'll have the barbel climbing out of the river to get at your bait-box.' I did as I was told. I infused another tin of finely-chopped Spam with turmeric. I fried some casters gently over a low flame and added the juice of a tub of dendrobaenas.... OK, only kidding about the casters, but you get the drift. After an hour of bait-fussing I imagined I was turning into a stylish piscatorial version of Jamie Oliver. Unfortunately, neither my bait-boxes, my hands, hair nor the back of the car - actually, the car, back and front - will now ever be rid of the strench of garlic-infused Spam. And of the barbel there was no sign.

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