Chris McCully

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Men at work

Monday, 30 May 2022 at 20:16

A sheep It was bitter under the shoulder of Great Whernside - below 10C all day. The water (12-13C) was warmer than the air. The wind blew fitfully. That said, it was generally overcast, the breeze eventually condescended to blow and the conditions became benign enough to offer wet-flies across a reasonable ripple. I released four little trout, lost two others, and had lightning takes from several more. Strangely, what I did see rising rose in tightly circumscribed areas - just five or six square yards. The bird life was also abundant - oystercatchers, plovers, lapwings, greylags, and in the distance, the sound of the year's first cuckoo. I enjoyed it, even though the return was disappointing. I shall do better next time, when the road-menders have done their mending.

Essentials?

Monday, 23 May 2022 at 13:50

Essentials I'm about to start work on an upland reservoir full of wild brown trout. The average size of the fish isn't particularly big and the water's quite remote. It's bank fishing only. Because I don't want to lug a heavy bag or pack around the water I'm restricting myself to two pocket-sized fly-boxes, one holding dries, the other traditional wet-flies of the kind you'd expect to take to Scotland or parts of Ireland. The dries include Hoppers, Midas-es, Crippled Midges, Big Reds and Daddies but It's been a thought-provoking exercise, working out what wet-fly patterns to take. What wouldn't you ever be without on such waters? My list is this: Pitsford Pea, Copperhead, Black Pennell, Mallard and Claret, Invicta, Silver Invicta, Bibio, Hare's Ear in various styles, Olive and/or Black Muddler, Daddy (wet version) - in size range 10-14.

The scurry

Sunday, 22 May 2022 at 12:50

Scampston The gundog scurries at Scampston looked like fun so we entered our Poppy. She had four runs and did perfectly. Buoyed by this easy success, we then entered her for some working tests. The first dummy she didn't mark, so ran off in the wrong direction; the next test, walking to heel off the lead, we forgot to do; the next test - retrieving a dummy from water - she messed up because although she fetched the thing splendidly, she then buggered around with the dummy; the last test - unseen retrieve from cover - she did well and that allowed us to end an embarrassing failure on a note of praise. Still, with hot bacon rolls, Monika's company, gundogs learning their stuff and more stalls and activities than you could shake a thumbstick at, what a top morning.

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'.

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