Chris McCully


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Thursday, 24 August 2023 at 10:30

Beach on Harris Last week on Harris the seals lay a hundred yards off the beach, waiting for sea-trout or mackerel to follow the sandeels in with the tide, and gannets were diving through the rays left by the setting sun.

Kick sampling

Monday, 7 August 2023 at 20:50

August kick sampling Important work is done by volunteers, many of them anglers, on monitoring insect populations in the UK's rivers for the Riverfly project. The thinking is that radical declines in insect populations can mean trouble - pollution, perhaps - some way upstream of the sampling site. Regular sampling can therefore help with early detection of potential problems in the watercourse, and is also of considerable interest in its own right. Today I was lucky to come across one of our members and his wife conducting a 3-minute kick-sampling of the upper Wharfe. The outcome: lots of baetids, relatively few heptagenids (that was a surprise because we'd expected more), virtually no b.-w. o., no shrimps and only a couple of caseless caddis. There were some signal crayfish and an unlucky bullhead in the sampling net, too. This made a fascinating interlude on what was otherwise quite a tough day's fishing (despite almost perfect conditions).

You can find out more about the Riverfly Partnership here:

Angling in the Bronze Age

Saturday, 5 August 2023 at 08:57

Stone cairn Where else in the world can you eat your pork pie and angling lunch while watching the river from a Bronze Age ring cairn?

No-one seems to know just what the purpose of these stone circles might have been - were they ceremonial structures of some kind? burial sites? - but I find them intensely moving in some way I can't (or can't yet) explain to myself. I also find it deeply moving and even, if briefly, consoling that the stock of trout in the upper river has existed there since the end of the last Ice Ages, 12,000 years ago.

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.

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