Chris McCully


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Flood and frost

Sunday, 26 November 2023 at 07:51

Otter print The rivers in this part of the North have been in flood and more or less unfishable for weeks. As a result I've had only two days' grayling fishing over the past month, and what fishing I have done has been compromised by the sudden falling in of frost and ice. Of course grayling will feed at low - sometimes very low - water temperatures but they need a day or two to adjust to a sudden shock of cold. So although my efforts have been modestly rewarded, it's been cold, wet and tough work. One fish-hunter, however, has clearly done well. As levels have receded, leaving river-banks washed and exposed, animal prints are beautifully visible in the scoured sand. I'm pretty sure the print in the image - five-toed, and with a big pad mark - belongs to an otter.

I don't at all begrudge the otters their occasional fish. The creatures love non-native signal crayfish, too, and in the Dales I often find crayfish carcases which have been so beautifully eviscerated that claws and pincers are abandoned symmetrically - a neat left, a neat right - on the stones.

A good bit of kit

Friday, 17 November 2023 at 16:35

Kit by river The past month has seen all the local rivers in continual and sometimes grievous flood. October had 215% of its average rainfall and it's barely stopped raining in November. The past few days, however, have seen the rain and showers dwindling and today was mostly dry. There were even some gleams of sunshine. All the same, the river was marginal to fish - it looks OK in the image but it was a scree of water in places and I don't think the downstream beats would have been fishable. I did complete a short session with the trotting rod and the 'pin, and was delighted to christen a new landing net handle (Drennan Super Specialist) with a handful of grayling, with the biggest a respectable 1¼lb. The handle in question is a robust yet light model which extends to 3m - plenty for the small and medium rivers I usually fish - and will be particularly useful when used on the high banks I find on some local streams. It's a good bit of kit.

It was lovely to be out grayling fishing again.


Monday, 30 October 2023 at 15:25

Waiting The rivers have been in more or less continual flood for the past three weeks. That's meant no grayling fishing (the last three trips I'd planned were washed off). There has been much waiting; there have been many chores. I'm seriously thinking of taking the beachcasters to the local coasts, where the cod may be moving in mysterious ways.

A little bit of fly-fishing history

Thursday, 19 October 2023 at 08:30

Arthur's originals My friend Peter French kindly gave me a film canister in which were three John Storeys tied by John Storey's grandson, Arthur Storey in c.2008. Like his grandfather and father, Arthur was the keeper on the Ryedale Anglers water around Helmsley; it was under Arthur's watchful eye that I caught my first grayling, in 1972 (R. Rye). Back then, the club had asked us schoolboys to help out with weed-cutting, and the day's grayling fishing was our (gratefully received) thank-you for what was backbreaking work with a multi-bladed saw. I was telling the present keeper about this incident recently. 'It might be the same saw,' he said, 'that Arthur bequeathed to me when I took over.' I asked Jim whether he would like to have a go with the saw, just for old times' sake. The answer was unequivocal. All the same, I find them strange and touching, these legacies from what's becoming the distant past.

Grayling time

Monday, 2 October 2023 at 17:02

October grayling It's always disconcerting, swapping from a focus on trout to a new and technically rather different focus on grayling. I know that there are some, perhaps many who continue to fish for trout on stillwaters throughout the autumn and even the winter, and they're welcome to do so of course, but - perhaps foolishly - I dislike trout fishing in what I've long regarded as the close season. And so I switch to thinking about and fishing for grayling, as I did today. There was a sparse hatch of fly around the early afternoon - willow fly, some small olives and sedges - and the grayling were inclined to rise. A size 19 dry Terry's Terror conjured a few fish from the glides when the grayling were up, and a pink-headed bug deceived two more after the hatch dwindled. All around me, the woods were turning into umbers, yellows, ochres. For all that there may be warm days to come, summer's over.

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'.

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