Chris McCully


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Peacock and Red

Friday, 21 July 2023 at 17:34

Peacock and Red If you enjoy fishing spiders on rain-fed streams, one pattern that seems to do pretty well on the Dales rivers as they fall back after a flood while still carrying some peat-stain is the Peacock and Red. I tie this on size 14 irons and use a broad rib of red holographic tape and a soft black hackle. The touch of red shows up well in the peat-stained water and catches any gleams of sunlight in the tumbling currents. I don't think it represents any specific insect; it's simply visible, mobile, and has the illusion of life. I usually fish it across and up on the top dropper but it also works fished across and down.

I got the pattern from Mike Harding's little reference book of North Country flies (A Guide to North Coutry Flies, 2009). It's a really useful, clearly illustrated text. I often return to it. The quality of the photographs and the precision with which the dressings are given are alike exemplary, and I like the fact that little-known, newly-developed and frankly experimental dressings are given together with dressings of the famous standard spider patterns.

Under the trees....

Wednesday, 19 July 2023 at 19:53

Shade and sedges Working a dry fly into shaded runs under the trees.


Wednesday, 19 July 2023 at 07:42

Father and son As the flood ran off it was heartening to encounter some bonny wild trout at the top of the dale. It was remarkable that, after taking well and apparently feeding actively for an hour or two, the fish stopped moving altogether at 1430, as if some piscatorial god had thrown an 'off' switch. Still, the occasion was heartening - and equally heartening was watching father and son on the riverbank. When was the last time you saw a young man beginning his trout fishing under the careful eye of his father? (The young man in question got a fish, too, later that afternoon, which was admirably done.)

The wild meadow

Tuesday, 18 July 2023 at 13:16

July 2023 You're looking at a former lawn, scraped of topsoil and some scrubby grass in August and September last year, then seeded in autumn and again in spring 2023 with just two or three packets of wild flower seeds, inexpensively got from a local garden centre. I cut the meadow in late May, left the hay for a week and then collected the long stems and recycled them. Over the last eight weeks, cornflowers, poppies, yellow rattle, ox-eye daisies, different kinds of scabious and ragwort have grown up. There are also some remaining white campion flowers. This came after a good showing of forget-me-not, cyclamen, herb Robert, speedwell, dog violet and winter aconites earlier in the year. Behind the 'meadow' is a wild hedge now filling with blackberries. It's all been hugely rewarding, though let no-one tell you that wild gardening is easy work.


Tuesday, 18 July 2023 at 08:44

Scabious I was asked recently about the etymology of the word scabious. I was stumped, embarrassed because I didn’t know. Was scabious related to scab? Etymologically, it is. The noun scabious is derived from its earliest use in English as an adjective, scabious meaning ‘pertaining to a scab’. The plant was used by medieval and later healers, ground into an oily paste (or its juices were used, boiled with oil), then laid across wounds to aid healing, clean the cut and hasten the departure of scabs. The OED dates the first attestation of the noun to the early 15th century. Grigson dates the term slightly earlier (14th century) and derives it from ‘apothecaries’ Latin’ (A Dictionary of English Plant Names 1974, p.190), adding that its ‘use against …scabby afflictions was probably suggested by the scabby appearance of the involucral bracts’ (p.191). I had to look up ‘involucral bracts’ - they’re the bracts found at the base and on the underside of the petals.

A summer flood

Monday, 17 July 2023 at 19:53

Flood It's a long time - several years, I think - since I witnessed a summer flood in the Dales like this. The levels are dropping rapidly now but the extra water will have done the rivers a power of good.

Absorbing hours

Thursday, 6 July 2023 at 17:02

John Storey Of late I've enjoyed some - usually short - sessions on local streams. Water levels have been low but at least in the Dales, there have recently been some small lifts of extra water, though those have run off quickly. It's been a case of pushing a little dry fly about under the trees. I know I could probably catch more by using a spider or PTN singly on the point of a long leader, but I enjoy watching floating flies and never tire of seeing trout take them. Therefore, despite occasional stern-jawed forays with Stewart's Black Spider (size 18), I generally fiddle about with the dries. I find Skues' pattern of Little Red Sedge very good for such exploratory work. Another pattern I use a great deal is a size 18 John Storey (pictured). I've wasted many hours of this lifetime trying to work out what trout take the John Storey for, but even after all these years I have no idea: is it a Yorkshire paradun? A declassé Klink? The pattern works particularly well at sedge time, but its outline and profile is nothing like a sedge, so riddle me that. It's been absorbing fishing - but rain, then some more rain, with more rain on top of that, would still be welcome.

The hook, incidentally, is a Tiemco 103BL - an outstanding dry fly hook.

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