Chris McCully


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Day of the red squirrel

Saturday, 23 September 2023 at 21:23

Bridge The river's been up and down like a fiddler's elbow but on the best of the falling water it's been a nice stream. The fish - all wild, up in these headwaters - have reacted as wild trout do; they've been on the feed, then off, then on again. Generally they've responded to the appearance of any kind of natural fly but one feature of this season (and I suppose on reflection, several seasons past) has been the scarcity of natural flies on and around the water. This year, for example, I've seen only trickle hatches of upwings and relatively few black gnats, hawthorns and sedges. That said, kick samples of the river show robust numbers of nymphs, bugs and crustaceans. And it's been a joy to fish traditional wet-flies - Partridge and Orange, Hare's Lug and Plover, and a relative newcomer, the Peacock and Red - and to find the trout taking them. Yesterday, too, there seemed to be great numbers of dippers around the river and almost miraculously I had a glimpse of a red squirrel, a creature I've not seen for over forty years. I felt remarkably lucky to have been there.

The chalkstream and the equinox

Tuesday, 19 September 2023 at 08:01

Mucky chalkstream We've had some torrential rain of late. Yesterday, while en route to Hull I stopped briefly by the Driffield Beck. I've fished the beck sporadically as a lucky guest for decades, usually in the warmer months but sometimes in winter too, and I've never in all those seasons seen the stream run with this turbidity (it was the colour of milky tea, as this unedited image shows). Clearly there had been a downpour somewhere - I later heard that the basements of some properties in Garton on the Wolds had been flooded - and as a result the stream ran utterly unlike its usual vodka-clear self. What makes this strange meteorology even stranger is that just a couple of weeks ago it was high summer - a summer so high that reluctantly we postponed a trip to Rutland which was due to fall on the hottest day of the year (33C). But maybe after all, this changeability isn't unprecedented: writing 250 years ago in Hampshire, Gilbert White commented on September 19th (1770) on the extreme variability of what he called 'aequinoctial weather'.

Frustration and the Daddy

Thursday, 14 September 2023 at 08:14

Daddy weather Fluky wind and bright sunshine. Not optimal conditions, but the dry Daddy could and did move fish. In fact it rose 11... of which, from slavering incompetence, I brought only one to hand. It was a good fish for the water, though, being all of 15 inches. A frustrating day, therefore, in tricky conditions... but what a land- and waterscape in which to be frustrated.

Hot work

Wednesday, 6 September 2023 at 19:39

One on the Dink John Roberts is an eminent angler and writer whose most recent book is Grayling on the Fly (Coch-y-Bonddu Books, 2022). John's perhaps best known for his works on grayling angling but has written with distinction about dry-fly fishing for trout and also compiled a splendid dictionary of fly patterns, thereby updating Courtney Williams.

Occasionally I have the pleasure of fishing with John and am invariably put to shame. Thus it was today - hot and sweaty work on one of the warmest days of the year, but John nevertheless managed to catch and return a leash of trout and grayling. Here he is netting the best of them, a lovely wild brown of around 1┬Żlb.


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.

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