Fishing Fun With Very Little – in the way of numbers – Fish!

This year past I haven’t spent as much time on running water as I would normally. The main reason is that my river fishing competition stuff was curtailed as the rules, in the heat  I wanted to fish in, changed. I was not comfortable with the new ones, so I pulled out.

This meant a lot less time on running water than I’d enjoyed during the previous few years. I’ve spent far too much time on the bigger waters, putting in plenty of hard shifts up and down the country so I could get used to fishing different waters. Brown trout and rainbow venues were visited at various times to see how each fished through the season, all great fun, but I missed the call of running water.

Having been brought up next to rivers, I fished them from a very early age. Running water / river fishing is by far the best form of fishing there is in my eyes, in fact the best by a country mile. Don’t get me wrong I had plenty of river fishing trips this year, but none in which I totally immersed myself in, which is what I would usually do.

Last week I was offered an amazing trip on a stretch of river that I have never fished before. I don’t often get too excited when I’m looking forward to a trip or even when I’m fishing, others would disagree with me, at the least little bit of interest to my flies, I squeal like a girl! This trip had me excited though as I knew that this little stretch of little river held big grayling, with 2lb fish not too uncommon and with bigger ones also putting in an appearance. BUT, they were few and far between, and take a modicum of skill to fool, right up my street. Unlike some of the so-called river fishing techniques I’ve witnessed, these grayling need to be approached with caution and with a great deal of river fishing ‘know how’. There’s no place for bungs and multiple droppers in which to harvest juvenile, uneducated fish here. This is proper, a bit of tact is called for.

I met my host, Glen, a great guy, and full of patter who’s super, mad-keen on fly fishing, any fly fishing. He was all excited about these new flies he’d created and wanted me to see for myself how good they were.

As we chatted over a lovely breakfast, a free one, as the hotel manager and Glen were good friends, he told me stories of his last trip to the river only the week before when the river was higher than normal, due to some heavy rain in which he managed five stonking grayling all of which were over 2lb!

I’m not too sure where Glen hails from but his voice sounds… STOKIST.

“Sereeoos Brootha, them grrrrayling are Huyooj Man.”

After brekky we jumped into Glen’s work van, full of sparky gear and soaking wet waders and a stinking wee landing net, his neoprenes were kicking out a right pong too. Driving through a series of farm gates, we finally, after about 15-minutes get to the ‘secret location’. We park up and get the geared sorted out, the plan is Glen is gong to fish his normal way, two of his light shrimpy patterns and one slightly heavier one on the point. He’s fishing French Nymph style with a coloured indicator between leader and tippet as a register of any takes. I on the other hand, being a big river man, go with one bomb and two size 12 little grub type things, which I catch shedloads of river fish on.

I think that I may have made the right choice, when we saw the river it still had a little tinge of colour in it, it was largest than I’d expected too. The plan was to go fish for a fish, or swim for a swim, whatever came first.

Glen entered the river at the bottom of a stunning looking run, the river here came through a narrower stretch pushing the current toward our bank with a lovely fast seemy flow pushing down our side. Working from the bottom up he covered the water toward the best part the faster moving water at the head, the water comes over bedrock and drops into a hole, from two feet o five foot in a blink of an eye, ideal grayling habitat. They were not playing ball, he had one take that was it, no fish!

A familiar voice called out behind us…”What are you two doing here?” I think he thought he’d have it to himself through the week. Another mate, and another river fisher John Tyzack appeared. Glen and I got out of the water and had a blether with him, he wanted to try the pool, so we headed downstream to another.

This time a small confluence had been created by a small island and Glen was sure he’d get fish from where the water joined. Typically, his first cast and sweep through and the indicator shot forward before burying under water as an unseen fish dived deep. Seconds later it was in the net, a wee grayling, all 12 inches of it. What on earth was that doing in there? This was not in the script.  Glen fished the pool out and it then, finally, it was my turn.

He laughed when he heard the splash my big bomb made when it hit the water, can’t blame him, it was like sparkplug hitting the water. Halve way down we heard a cry from up river, JT was in. I gave Glen the camera, but as he headed up the bank to get a photo of JT’s fish, I made a point of asking for his net, just as well that I did! I had made my way down to the tail of the pool, the inside track where I was wading was treacherous, bed rock and slippy at that, but the main push was over a nice gravely bottom, ideal grayling feeding area. I had delicately LOBBED, my three flies up stream, into the fast push and allowed the current to sweep them down the inside line over the riverbed…

My Set Up: Big bomb, two 4mm Tungy beads on a size 8 shrimp hook, leaded body and covered in Nymph Skin, point; one of my grubby things, with small copper bead, dropper; and a pink / Disco Shrimp on the top dropper. This is all on 3lb G3 Fluoro, only 6ft long, two foot dropper, two foot dropper two foot point. I normally use 0.10 Stroft ABR for most river fishing, BUT not ‘Bugging’, it’s just not up to it. The less length of line you have the more sensitive the feel. I use an indicator in the form of s six inch section of two tone coloured braid, The main line, if you want to give it it’s technical tern, is straight-through braid, 20ft of thin 18lb stuff, you’ll feel everything. I never bother with magic marker stuff anymore, preferring instead to have the braided indicator as my take detector.

…As I led the flies down and into the streamy edge, I could feel the bumps and jolts transferred through the braid as my ‘big bomb’ trundled the dropper flies perfectly just up off bottom. As the flies came towards, me leading the flies, a little faster than the current – pick a bubble floating down and move your flies ahead of it – the soft bumping turned into solid pressure, like hitting a snag, before I felt the thump and pull of a good grayling.

I started shouting, “Glen, Glen, Glen!” Followed by whistle, whistle, whistle until I heard him call back. “I’ve got one, and it’s a good one!” I shouted into the wind and rain.

The fast current meant playing the fish was a slow yet careful affair, but finally I had him over the rim of the net before I walked it over to the shallows to wait on Glen.

“You got one then? John’s just had a nice one!” Yeah I’ve got one, is it as good as John’s? I held it up in the net. “Nice fish, about the same size mate”, he told me.

It had taken the middle dropper, the wee buggy thing with the copper bead, like I knew it would! We had a few photos and then slipped it back.

It’s amazing how you become immersed in what you’re doing, believe it or not that was nearly two hours away! We all decided to retire to the cars, for a brew, which ended up turning into a can of Stella each, cheers John. We talked of the fishing here, well they regaled me with tales of monster fish. By the time we finished I was feeling rather giddy! Stella for dinner what was I thinking, still the patter with the boys was good. We went upstream to, one of the river’s hotspots. Again this was shallowish neck running into a deep slow pool, given the colour of the water we couldn’t see the bottom. Glen pitched in and John worked his way across to fish it from the other bank.

Glen worked upstream while john worked down the other side. Within a fee minutes of starting Glen was in, and like John’s previous fish, and mine this too was a good one!

Glen played the thing for ages, milking it I’m sure for both John and I. “ I just can’t do anything with it boys , it’s too big and powerful, the speed of the water isn’t helping either, I just can’t do owts!” Well, he could, it wasn’t to long before he had it in the net.

We’d all had good fish, albeit one each BUT like I said this is proper fishing hunting big grayling that are few and far between, hence they get big. I took photos as the boys worked their way downstream, after an hour or so, I got the shout, “Steve why don’t you have a go with your mackerel rig?”

Nice one boys, let me in.

Now let me explain this so that we have it right, the boys had been through the water, one with the French leader, up the way, the other with the same leader down the way, BUT they both fished the deep water that was pushing into the bank at the other side of the river. I thought I’d try the shallow water that they had just walked through.

It was tricky as I was fishing the heavy point fly, so I had to fish my flies fast to avoid hitting the bottom, I still did, but it wasn’t too bad. Glen was watching me, he’d never really seen anyone fishing in this manner before, he’s far more used to fishing smaller rivers, ones that have not got the massive deep, fast runs that I’m used to fishing.

I took a grayling on my third cast, a small one another 12- incher.

“I’ll get another one of these Glen if they are in here” and I did, the very next cast. John came back up and watched me. Just in time too, as I reached the lip where the shallow water gathered pace as it sped towards the next set of rapids before going into the downstream pool, I hit into something  far more substantial.

In the shallow water I saw the silver flash of the grayling as it took my fly and tried to get back to it’s lie, only this it had my middle dropper in it’s mouth, so it struggled a bit. Given the fast, shallow water it took it’s time coming in but eventually, I had it. It wouldn’t quite go 2lb but still it was another cracking fish from a tough stretch of water, again on the same fly.

John, at this point- it was after all about 3pm- said… “PINTS?”

We all retired to the hotel bar.

A class day in which not a lot of fish were caught, the patter and company was brilliant, and for once, in nearly ten months, I was in to it! Guess where I’m going this weekend?!

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Eggs Over Easy


Eggs, Over Easy



If you think that fishing with eggs is not your cup of tea, then bugger off now, I’ll only offend you. Oops, perhaps I already have?!

No matter. Everyone in the UK is aware of how good Egg patterns can be when you are visiting small still waters, even more so on fisheries that are daft enough to stock with sexed fish, oh dear what are you thinking, they are soooo easy to catch at spawning time!

Anyway, Eggs are often banned on these waters they are that effective.

I remember, a long time ago now, 20 years? Fishing at Raygil up near Skipton, after the cages were broken in a storm, there were so many fish swimming about it was obscene!

Have you ever seen a pod of fish fighting over a coke bottle top, I have, I’ve also seen a brown trout of about 6lb swimming around the margins of said water with a chicken leg in it’s mouth, a witty local thought he would see exactly what the trout would eat!

We – a few Borders boys – were the first to fish the Egg down there, or so I believe, who knows? We came up with the idea, after seeing fish we’d netted release eggs, and sh** loads of trout coming into the margins to take them, as they fell from the net. Next thing you know it’s egg fever.

I know of one guy who fished 20lb nylon and five eggs, four on droppers, highly illegal, but he casts out and pulled in five fish on three consecutive casts!


Needless to say they were promptly banned, rightly so, too they were just far too effective.

However, recently, well for years really, I have been playing around with Eggs for river fishing, mainly based around little Fritz patterns, very effective they are too, on rivers which have salmon runs. BUT it’s been yarn eggs and the sight fishing on both chalk and limestone rivers that has really been an inspiration recently!

I have cast my little Egg, into numerous pools and that initial cast is always the same, virtually every fish in the pool comes over and fights for it, trout and grayling, and big ones from both species!

They hurtle over, swim around it as it descends before finally nailing it as it lands on the riverbed.

I’m not giving too much away, but I have been out now with two very able, seasoned river fishermen, both of them have been blown away by the success rate!

Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!




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“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to be beside the sea!”

But sadly I’m not I am writing this..

Recently I was over in Ireland, I love the place proper fishing, can’t whack it!

It was to be hectic though and  stupidly so, three days to cram in five features, easy eh, not over there, wee roads and everyone driving at 80 kph. I started in Dublin, and ended up traveling all the way down to the south coast and then back up to Cork again. The trip went okay, day one was late tea, 10: 30, as our ‘chap’ insisted on walking the river to show us this that and the next thing. The food was very good, proper Haute Quizine, lovely but bed was late, 1am, as John Buckley, my host and my mate, who would be fishing and driving around with me had things to catch up on.

The next day we were up bright and breezy, no we were not, we were pooped, to go fishing. I shan’t elaborate too much, as this is NOT what this little bit of ‘chewing gum for the brain’ is all about. Anyway, we ended up coming off the river at a stupid time, and the restaurant was closed, not funny, we’d a sandwich at lunch time, so we were very hungry, still we drank beer, that seemed to help.

Next day we were up early again as we were heading off to fish Lough Sheelin, I was very, very excited, the weather looked perfect as we drove through Mounthugent, warm and over cast, perfect for the mayfly.

They look like this:


and they are BIG, if you’re not familiar, but hey you’re an angler, so surely you must?!

Well, typically, the weather was rubbish – bright, bright sun, stupidly hot and windy – by the time we headed out from the Cover House Hotel boat dock, with our hired boat.

John had been on the water two weeks previous and I’d never been on it, however mates of mines fished it in the International the week before, so I had some idea of what to expect but realistically we were going out blindfolded.

We fished the North east end of the water, concentrating mainly around the Church Island.

The fishing was nothing short of Utterly, Diabolically CRAP!

These are wild fish right? And the sun was splitting the stones and there was a wind, not good for mayfly or fish. Saying that, every now and then a whole pile of mayflies came shooting past our heads and off into the distance, but none were actually settling on the water, the wind was too strong!


We fished, John  with his sink tip and wets, Dabblers mainly and me with two dries, I was – ‘ADAM ANT’, “stand and deliver, you’re money or your life!” – that I was going to get a fish on dries. I never. From 10:30 until 6pm we fished! John jagged a small one and I had not had a sniff, sweet Fanny Adams!

It seemed the pressure from the quality anglers the week before had made an impression on these wild fish

We parked the boat on the East side of`Church Island, lay down and slept, for an HOUR!

We woke, actually I roused, as I never really slept but dozed as John’s snoring was epic.

Things had settled down a bit, it was still blazing sun but the wind wasn’t too bad and what’s more there were lots of Mayfly coming onto the islands to get themselves ready for action – rumpy pumpy – later on, things were looking good! back to the boat!

I should mention that I was fishing over-sized Jinglers, tied up for the occasion, they are river flies and they are brilliant!

A simple fly that is devastating!

We headed up to the shore and started a drift towards the island, we had the place to our selves too, halfway down the drift, a head came up and over the dropper Jingler, no action all day, one tiny movement 20 yards away, and my body kicks in automatically, lift rod, pull line, FISH ON!

I’ve only gone and caught one!

It went mental, but my nice soft rod was more than a match for it and after a few minutes I had it on board, a pretty wee fish of about 2lb! I would have been happy at that.

The colours, a whole host of golden hues glistened as I held it up for a photo in the, fading sunlight, pleased me like no other trout had done for a very long time. I’d came and I’d conquered, But wait what’s this…. As I slipped this one back another rose to my right!

Now then things were starting to happen, the spent fly was falling and the fish that seemed to have been non-existent through the day, were up, not in numbers but the odd fish here and there, class, this is what it’s all about! Like little kids John and I would gasp, coo and cal out to one another, “see that”, “Sh**, that was bloody massive, did you see it? “Your side, 30 ft, cover it!” Intake of breath followed in take of breath, followed expletives as a big boy moved, it was IMMENSE.

John took another fish, taken at the slide of a slick and I took another too, one about 4lb, a proper one. But we also hooked and moved some serious trout, god if only they’d stuck!

What a place, what a night, what a carry on! Sheelin was all I hoped it would be, and that was when it was fishing hard, I can only dream of how good it would be given good condition, one thing’s for sure… I WILL BE BACK!


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“I’ll have a fish supper please”



Fish, Are Fish Food!

A lot has been said for streamer fishing mostly negative but I’m sure that’s because a lot of anglers have never bothered to give it a go!

I have been dabbling for about 10 years, with varying degrees of success.  When it’s on, this is usually when the fishing is tough, either low water or high water, it can be THE method. At other times it’s like banging your head against a brick wall, just not as painful. Have you ever tried banging your head against a brick wall? There’s only one winner, the wall.

It’s not the hardest method in the world to master but like everything in fishing there are skills that you’ll learn; you have too or you won’t catch, as you go along. It’s all about presenting the fly in such a manner, as to be attractive to the trout.

You can do it with a sunk line on large rivers when in flood and the results, especially when you’re poking in and around the back eddies and slow seams, are immense at times. When you do hook a fish they go ballistic and head out into the current, it’s hang on tight time!

The way I like to fish streamers, is a little bit different, small rivers, summer lows and bow and arrow casts – floating line only, into small holes as I work my way up river.

Wee stotter

I love this kind of fishing, it’s more hunting than fishing, me against the trout, the wild, hiding away and not really interested trout! It’s good as I have to work a little harder to make my fly provoke a response.

It’s all about work rate, the more water you cover the more chances you have, but you also need to give the fly life!

I don’t bother with gold beads as they are to light I want weight, weight equals movement and movement means fish!

I have two favourite streamers and they are so simple as to seem ridiculous.

A heavy head is a necessity anything from 3mm to 5mm tungsten, marabou, again the movement issue, and chenille body, simple cheap and very effective, body hackle, always cock feather, and that’s it, a strong barbless hook and a bit of rib, usually silver wire, jobs a good one.


One thing to remember, and I see people getting this sooooo wrong all the time, is to ensure you can fish the fly as soon as it hits the water! It’s no use, losing the line and then having to pick it up before retrieving, nope, you’ll miss out.

Cast, stop rod, and trap line so all turns over, good stuff then you’re in contact.

The vast majority of takes come with a second of it hitting the water, be like a coiled spring!

The ultimate retrieve is as follows, figure-of-eight, but as you do, continually flick the rod tip, like you see those coarse boys doing when they are jerk baiting for bike, retrieve flick, retrieve flick, and repeat until the flies a few yards away. Like you would on a small water lift and pull the line to work the fly into view, this is another key time, just as you’re about to lift off trout will often take, be ready.

Use a tapered leader and thickish tippet, I use 0.12 Stroft, sometimes on big rivers I’ll go with a more robust 6lb fluoro, that’s usually enough.


Try it you won’t be disappointed!

FANCY A DAY ON THE WATER? Click on: ‘Fly Fish Guide’ at the top right of the page.

This one was seen feeding on minnows at the tail of a pool on a large river

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In the words of a great guide, one who spent some time on the island and who now has his own very successful guiding business,  “Grand Cayman is a great place to flats fish but not a great flats fishing place.”

Having just spent two weeks there he was right, the place is stunning driving around the island at silly o’clock was great fun, though you’d kill a hundred crabs doing so, lots of the little suckers coming out from all over the place, land crabs, creepy looking buggers black and red ones and pale orangey ones… no matter……. CRUNCH, they all sound the same when you go over them in a hired car, a big one litre Hyundai, my chariot for me my wife Bethan and baby girl Poppy, it didn’t like corners that’s for sure!

Early morning session 1

The day was bright with 20kmh winds, not too bad! I was expecting crystal clear water and lovely flats, WRONG!

There are just NO flats, not the the type you’d associate with bone fishing that’s for sure, from the word go I knew this was going to be tough!

This is more or less what I was faced with, as you can see a storm was brewing!

This was the best - near flat on the island.

So, let’s see what’s what then! Well, after a few hours walking this area, I managed to see NOTHING!

The problem was I’d hit the island on a week of spring tides, the water was just a tad too deep to see any tailing fish, I needed to find another place and come back here the following week, this was the area I’d had secret info on, lets call this place Area 51.

Early Morning Session 2

Okay, another day out, up at 5am so I can get the car and bugger off without impacting on ‘family time’.

I hit a known area called the FRANK SOUND, the main road runs right along the sea here so parking’s a breeze, I also stop for a coffee at one of the Texaco garages, this is to become a little ritual, coffee with SWEET milk, lovely, but god it plays havoc on one’s bowels!

I also religiously listen to the local COOL radio station:

Anyway hitting the Flat, that’s not quite a flat, I realise that this too is rather deep but it’s not as windy today, so I’m hopeful.

Anyone that’s done this kind of fishing will be aware of just how ‘in the zone’ you can get. You become like a heron, every footsteps is measured and patient as you peer intently at, in and on the water, by the way if you’ve never owned a pair of Costa’s with 580 lenses, you need to own some, they are by far the best I have ever used, just the ticket for this type of fishing.

The turtle grass gave way every now and again to some deeper holes, turquoisey green and beautiful, I was hoping I’d see some bones swimming over the area but I never did. Out of the corner of my eye every now and again a shoal of needle fish would make the water ‘nervous’, I’d turn hawk-eyed only to be disappointed when I saw what it was, you see every crease and ripple differently when in the zone!

Having walked the entire length, east to west, I headed back. Halfway back in a little bay, I saw a glint, was it, wasn’t it….. IT WAS! Bonefish, get in. It was moving though, not feeding and it was moving away from me, shit! I moved higher up the beach and headed up past it  hoping against hope that I could get in front, I had to take my eyes off the water, so was concerned about losing it and not seeing it again.

I did though, it had stalled and started to tail on top of some turtle grass, me 20-yards further up the beach in front of it.

I pulled off some line and made my way a little closer towards it, the water this close in was shallow, real shallow, so ff came my fly and on went an unweighted shrimp with a weed guard, all the while I’m looking up and praying that it keeps coming, it’s still there but even better still, another has appeared,. two of the buggers sitting feeding 10 yards away, this is a given I’m thinking! I cast – right on their noses – no reaction, strip, strip,and the fish are gone, bolted like scalded cats. BEEP!! I can’t tell you how frustrating that is!

It took me a few more trips to realise that stripping the line without the rod tip under water was spooking them, bare in mind this place has plenty of local fly fishers, it seems you have to get cute to catch these buggers!

Early Morning Session 3

Get up , sneak down to the hotel docks, it’s still dark, cast out a large green tarpon toad, pull back at speed, get a tarpon! Well jump them! I did this twice before the hotel guard came down and told me I couldn’t fish from the dock, Damn, I went to the beach and waded out and casts towards the dock, this was just as effective! I caught and managed to land another two, one about 20 the other a bit bigger. Tarpon are AWESOME! But this was cheating in my eyes.



I hopped into the car about 6am and headed to my favourite place Area 51.

I stopped off had my ‘sweetmilk’ coffee, and listened to some reggae on hot 104.1 FM as I went there. When you arrive, you come through some seriously expensive property – LOADSAMUNY, through a long street before coming on a small carpark, I say small it’s enough of a bare bit of beach for one or two cars. From here I can see out onto the water, the reef, which more or less surrounds the island, was up to my left, the lazy water to my right, with some beach and some mangroves.

The tide was now neeps, good, lowish water perfect for seeing the buggers tail or move some water!

My rods are always set up in the car, I just roll my window down, any way  I had a new 9wt jobby in case I saw tarpon or sharks, and my trusty Jenson, 9ft 8wt, my rod of choice for bones, until someone buys me a Cross Current. I was using a 10ft tapered leader to 10lb cut back and a tippet, loop to loop of 5ft of Powerflex 12lb, I tend to use my own fly for bones, a concoction of coral rabbit, rubber legs and coral straggle Fritz, time to walk the area.

As I head to the dead tree in the water, see image above, I wake the two dogs that stay in the mansions next to the water, noisy gits how can I concentrate, feel sorry for the owners! : )

As I get to the the little point of the beach in front of the tree, the mangroves to my right, I stand and survey the water, I can see far in both directions, it’s a great vantage point.

To my right, about 100 yards away the water moves, it moves again, then I see splash, it’s a few bones pushing and shoving their way towards me. As I watch, hoping that they come closer, a silver flash appears in the – unseeinable water  – in front of me, bonefish?

I strain to see through the water, I can’t, but I don’t have to, the tip of a tail appears, then another, and another. There are at least three bones only 30ft away from me and another lot coming my way, get in!

I peel line from the reel, check the drag, nice and tight, there’s mangroves here after all and roll my fly out, to get the line working through the rings. I kneel down and cast out, a short cast, one foot in front of the leading tail, breathe for a second, put the rod tip under the water and slow strip, just the once, the group and the water move in unison, pull again, something pulls back, keep the strip going, it’s not there anymore but the fish are following, strip, then the line goes solid as I pull into my first bone of the trip.

Despite what every one will have you think this fish doesn’t take off at a rate of knots, it pulls steady, as if it’s checking that something is indeed wrong. It soon realisies that something;s up and suddenly the water boils as my fish takes off spooking god knows how many with it!

I’m holding on, the reel spool is spinning against the tightly set drag,as the bone heads off towards the other group of tailing bones, in the process these spook. If I thought the first group was big I was mistaken, this group shifted water the size of a tennis court.

My fish hared off out into open water, thank god, I let the reel do the work and it was only  case of me reeling in and letting go if and when it decided to run , soon enough I was pulling it up the beach for a photo:

Not the biggest but good enough for me, 2lb bonefish


That was that section AREA 51 knackered for a wee while, so I made my way up to the reef area. Bigger bones often are in this area. working the stones looking for crabs and shrimp as the tide pushes in and out.

There was a few fish tailing when I got there, thank goodness for neep tides!

Off came my fly and on went a lightweight crab, and I started to make my way above them, I’ve yet to catch a bonefish, when casting ‘Downstream’ of one.

I managed to get above them, just in time they were close to me as I got ready, as I went to cast, my line got caught on the sharp lava, the result was my line hit the water like a ton of rocks about a meter short, the splash was too much and they pushed off into  deeper water, must bring line tray next time I go abroad!

I did catch this little bugger, flicking my fly over the turtle grass as I made my way back to the car, elated yet slightly deflated at another missed opportunity!

Shame I never caught it on film inflated!

Early Morning Session 4, 5 and 6

All pretty uneventful, apart from seeing one big ass snook, nothing to report but HEAT!

Early Morning Session 7

I hit Area 51 early doors, as I get the rods out the car, I see two  or three, it’s hard to tell, bones tailing as they feed heading up to the reef, in between two large stones. Okay experience tells me to get in front, it also tells me to get right in the water so that my line snags nothing, I need no slip ups if I’m to get a hold of one of these tricky buggers.

I head up past them keeping low, all the time watching them as they can move fast, real fast, but I’m soon getting ahead of them, my heart is going like a piston in my chest, me the sea and a group of bones, not a soul was stirring in the houses, game on!

I’m rigged up with a crab pattern, using a long leader, these big ones are tricky, so you need to be very careful, stealthy and bang on with your casting!

I get the line out and fire my fly, arrow-like into the fish, I reckon I have it a foot in front, I’d weed guarded a whole host of flies with bug bond and some 80lb fluoro, this crab was one of those flies, it needed it, not so much for the weeds but the rocks, lethal.

I do nothing, neither do the fish, I pull, the fish move, one takes it, I feel it, a tension first then the full blown lock up, YES! Lift rod tip, pull line and hang on tight!

That first instant when a bone, goes from being calm feeding away to the realisation that it’s hooked is mental! Happy, feeding, Happy, feeding, Happy, feeding, Happy, feeding….. then BOOOOM! warp speed crazy, mental, nutcase that’s just a swallowed a shed load of Bolivian marching powder, like a rainbow that has been given the Superman treatment, a famous five rainbow if you like, I love it!

On it’s first run it barreled out towards the reef, towards the jaggy stones, clever little shit, I have the hands up and the rod tip high, but it’s inevitable, the tension in the line and the lava stones and are a recipe for disaster, soon enough the leader is rubbing against something and no matter what I do to try and keep up and deal with it, I know I can’t, but still I play it. I’m winning it’s nearly at my hand, quick a photo. I get one and guess what, it then comes off! The frayed line  held and the bloody hooks slips out, bloody barbless! I look at the small area of water where it’s sitting, i go to gran it and it swims off! 

I have a drink, a long slug of my pink lemonade, very refreshing but nowt like catching a bone, time to walk down to the point where the mangroves are.Before I get there I can see the calm water in the lea of the promintary, what’s this then? Bones, oh hell yes, they are there and close in to!

To a fly fisher this is better than porn!


I quickly set up a new bonefish leader, cheers Rio, and then add my tippet loop to loop and the my fly, my little coral thing.

Pulling line off my reel the things are getting closer to the mangroves, mmm I don’t like it but hey if I hook one I’ll deal with it! Ready… Steady…GO!



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Catching Big Fish!

I am often asked if it’s possible to go out on a reservoir and target bigger than average fish with small flies, the answer in simple terms is YES!

I recently had a trip to Rutland, the fishing had been tough but a few nice fish were being caught on the bung up in Manton. My boat partner and I had a look, fished for a while and due to the inactivity, decided to go for bigger fish, with dries out in the open!

This, in my eyes, is the ultimate way in which to catch proper fish with small flies.

Dry flies have a habit of fooling the bigger trout, even on days when the fishing is really hard!

We chose to drift from Gibbets right across open water to Old Hall, bear in mind it was wet and windy and bloody cold for the time of year, that’s why the other fish had gone off up in Manton.

I fish a short line and two dries, normally a Bits and my own little dry which is being relied upon more and more just now.

I took 7 trout each one was like a grilse and all of them to my little dry, what you need to get your head around was the fact that we never saw a fish move all day!

This was a good bag for the day, and that included the bags being brought in by the stockie bashers.

Why on earth  everyone hung up on pulling Blobs when you can be going out and catching big  fish on dry flies I have no idea.


I’ve been fortunate enough to catch plenty, big, reservoir rainbows and browns and I can assure you it’s not just luck – despite what some people will have you believe!

Big fish, don’t tend to hang around the stockie shoals, stockies mean boat pressure and the bigger fish stay well clear of this.

It’s rare to get these bigger than average trout, I’m talking 3 to 4lb and above, on mini lures, it’s possible but that really is luck, ‘pulling’ across open water is the usual, an unsuspecting resident can be a sucker for a Blob or Sparkler but you can’t go targeting lots of them.

The best bet by far, is to try dry flies or better still floating fry, small ones, ones that fit in the gauge.

Last year while practicing on Grafham Water for the English National Final, I took rainbows, five of them, each one over 5lb, one over 6lb in less than five hours fishing over two days.

I fished a single fly on a 15ft leader of 12lb fluorocarbon on my ventures into this tiny area of the reservoir.

I’d wait until the other boats had left the dock, sneak in for an hour, leave it and have another crack last thing at night, again when no one was near.

Day one, morning one, I rose five and caught two, in the evening I rose two and had one.

Day two, morning one, I rose one and caught one, in the evening, rose three and had one.

My boat partner on both occasions, tried everything in his box but couldn’t even raise a fish…

On match day, I ventured into that little spot just once, I rose four, jagged two, one of which I played for about 30-seconds, before it went under a huge raft of weed and came barreling out the other side up into the air and down into some more. My boat partner and I estimated it at around 8lb!

These fish had no pressure, a constant food supply and were feeding.

The three key factors needed for catching big fish!


Get the three key things sorted and this is the prize

My Little Dry fly
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Skeletor Buzzers

I have been out a lot lately on Rutland Water and despite the terrible conditions and the bollocky weird colour the fish are there to be caught, and there’s lots of them and there’s plenty big stuff in amongst them too!

The last two competitions I have fished have seen me fishing with small stuff despite the dirty water and one little buzzer has been the stand out fly!

Fishing the Davey Hodgeson match the weather was good condition favourable, bright skies and mot too windy at all thank you very much!

The match is a MIDGE TIP only match, so I set up a long leader with two crazy heavy carp hook buzzers top and 2nd dropper, little biscuit on the 3rd and one of my SKELETORS on the point. This little fly accounted for six of my eight fish limit, one came to the Biscuit and one to the carp hook  buzzer. Now this might not seem to impressive, but I had caught 8 by 12:45, more astonishing was, of the 15 boats all around me the most caught by another person was three by the time I’d finished!

I gave me boat partner my cast, Bob Cooper, a real gentleman, and he promptly caught!

As we were allowed to de-barb and go on fishing, I took him a tour of the North Arm, where we caught fish from Armley, Finches, Dickos, Cardiac and the wee bay next to Barnsdale.

Jobs a good one, here’s the dressing

Hook: Standard wet size 10/ 12

Thread: Black Floss

Body: Lemon marker pen over BB

Rib: Flexi- Floss, locked in without thread

Thorax: Floss built up

Cheeks: Chartreuse biots

Thorax cover: Pearl Mylar

More BB and then Sally Hansen



Getting top billing on Rutalnd just now...

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Stocks, Stockies and a chillie which made it’s presence felt days later!

I headed up to the opening weekend at Stocks Reservoir recently, trust me it’s a bit of a hike for me.  My mate, a good one at that, John Emerson, picked me up bright and early on the Saturday morning.
He came in for a coffee and spouted his usual nonsense to my wife, boy can he talk
in a nice way obviously.
Eventually we were in the car and on our way, stopping only the once for a quick break, me for coffee him for a Benson & Hedges.
Arriving at the water two hours later, we tried to get in to the car park, fat chance, it was wall to wall carnage. The big hill near the fishery was nose to tail parked cars, the car park was pretty much non existent!
Soon enough we had abandon the car and headed into the comfortable lodge – with all it’s finery, it’s looking good by the way, lots new fly tying schizzle etc, very nice.
Anyway John and I got geared up and ended up walking quite a way to get away from the crowds. The fishing was literally shoulder to shoulder for at least three quarter of a mile, perhaps more!

It’s just a bit busy!

Our first port of call was Newclose Bay, which is quite shallow but we had the option of moving around to the right to the deeper water of Beetle’s Drop.
It was too shallow and the wind coming into us was restricting the casting somewhat, so we moved over to Beetle’s and deeper water.  John was set up with a floater and two lures, both with 4mm tungy beads on, spaced ten foot apart on a 20ft leader, a good set up for searching. I had went with a shooting head scary Di8, teamed with two Boobies!
Within a few casts at the deeper water, I had a take on the drop, shouting over to John who was ten yards further on,  as I did. I thought the chance was gone, but the rod tip slammed around and I pulled the hook home into a fish.
It was on for all of three seconds!
No matter, perhaps in this quite little area we had found some fish?
Sadly, we hadn’t. Fishing on for another 40-minutes without a touch, it became obvious we needed to move.
Casting and moving we leap frogged each other, and other anglers until we reached Ben’s Beach, A nice steady bit of water where the depth was pretty consistent.
John, with his floating line set up soon was into a purple patch, picking up five fish fast, including a double hook up. I on the other hand, who was all of ten yards away couldn’t get a sniff!
We swapped places, and I also changed my set up to match John’s. I caught nowt in the next 30 minutes so gave him the place back, the bugger went in and caught another four from there in the next two hours. I stuck the Di8 set up on again and caught two. Location, location, location early season! If you’re not in the exact bit, then you’re going to struggle that’s why you need to get to venues early, if you’re going on the bank!

The Lucky Bugger!

By about three o’clock we’d had enough and started to make our way back to the lodge, even at this time there was no space to fish anywhere near the boat dock.
No matter, we went to the lodge to have a natter with Ben, Tom and Matt, oh and I had the best pie in the world, Mince and Onion, it was MAJESTIC!

Matt, Pie modeling!

And so to the carry on in the evening. We, a few friends and I, were all due to have our dinner at one of the local ‘Hostelries”, I shan’t name it!
Chillie was on the menu, with the prefix ‘HOT’, that was it! Hywel Morgan had some as did I and also John, we were the only one’s silly enough.
Hywel is bigger than me  – weight wise obviously! and I’m 6ft 2inches and 14 stone, so we are fairly big, John on the other hand is not so tall and nowhere near as heavy.
The Chillie arrived with a flourish, with get this, a whole Chillie nestled on the top, oh and a smattering of chips!
I knew it was going to be tough, I dipped a chip in the chillie and had a taste. It was EPIC, very, very hot.
We’d had beer though and the whole manly thing cropped up.
To cut a long story short, Hywel had at most, two fork fulls, I took out half a bowl, only after ordering some water to help me along, John, with casual contempt polished the whole bowl off without uttering a word, apart from belittling words for Hywel and I. 
Some people are built better than others and John, give him his due, was more than a match for the chillie.
The chillie, sadly, hadn’t finished with me, the next day, as we traveled home, I had to ask John to stop at the Sandbach services. I disappeared into the men’s toilets and never surfaced for half an hour.
Perhaps it’s not just women that the ‘beer goggles’ work with, food it seems can often make you regret your decisions!

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Everyone that goes out with a fly rod from time to time knows that now and again, on those rare occasions, something pretty special can happen.
It can be anything out of the ordinary that makes your day.

One of my friends, Paul Davidson, an amazing fisherman whether on still or running water, called me recently to tell me of the remarkable day that he had experienced on the River Tweed, not only did he catch lots of grayling, 13 I think it was, he also managed a PB of 3lb 5oz, colossal indeed.
That wasn’t the only reason he phoned though, the amazing part of the day was the mother otter which swam up past him, with her two young, as he sat on the bank having lunch.

How often does that happen in a lifetime?

I had a special day last week.
A friend and I had a day out on the famous big fish venue, Lechlade down in Gloucestershire.
To say I had a good day is an understatement, it was epic!
The majority of the water was frozen over, another victim of the cold spell we’ve been having, goodness knows how many waters are affected loads I’d imagine!
There was roughly around 30% of fishable water, with two other anglers there it meant that we had to share what water was available. The guys were wonderful, great company and easy going, so it was kind of like a lads day out.
At first the fishing was tough, the cold most likely, but as the day warmed up, a few takes were felt on the end of the line, and a few fish, up to 9lb taken.

We all went to the lodge for dinner, them; a proper packed lunch with a whole host of niceties, us; Lucazade and pork pies from the garage.
We chatted away like long lost pals, before they headed off home and we returned to the water.

I dispensed with the floating line which I had started with, and went instead with  Di3 forty plus, eight foot of 10lb leader and a small black and green lure. It was nowt fancy, rabbit strip lashed to a hook with a bright green bead.
Casting out and whinging it back I had several follows but nothing was looking like taking the fly.

A change of tact was required.

The muddy bank was making a mess of my line, so stepped into one of the moored boats, I figured I’d be able to lay my line down and keep everything tidy by standing inside it.

I decided to cast as far as I could, towards a small bay, and just keep in touch with the fly as it dropped through the water.
After ten seconds of free fall I felt a touch on the line, a little rattle, like a Booby take. I did nothing. A second or two later the line locked up tight and I was in. 

The thing never moved, whatever it was brown or rainbow it was big!
I pulled and eventually it started to pull back, before finally deciding that it was going to go mental!

It did several laps of the available water and also had one foray way under the ice to my right, before eventually coming into view. It was a rainbow at it was BLOODY massive!

Netted, I held it up for a photo, it weighed a ton, looked amazing and was fully-finned with a massive tail, perfection!

A monster rainbow, 16 to 17lb, taken on a small black and green lure fished deep on a Di3 line.

A few high fives and back slapping followed. What a fish! I was pretty much on cloud nine, and wasn’t fussy for continuing I was content to watch my mate but he was adamant I should carry on straight away as things seemed to be hotting up.

I pulled the line back off the reel and this launched a cast towards an aerator which was working over time to keep the ice at bay.
Why change a winning formula I thought.
I left everything, just kept in touch as the fly sank through the water column.

20 seconds later… BANG!

No tiny takes this time, whatever it was that took the fly, it wanted it big style!
I lifted the rod and pulled on my line with the retrieving hand, just to make sure obviously. Big fish tend to have large, hard mouths!
The unseen fish started to doggedly pull line from my hand… Bump, Bump, Bump, it shook it’s head out in the deep water. I could feel every movement transferred up the line, bucking the rod right through to the butt  sections each time it pulled.

After a few minutes, and in complete contrast to to the first fish, this one did very little, instead it did a very good impression of lakebed!

I put even more strain on the rod and moved it from side to side as I did so. The trout had obviously managed to get embedded in the weeds. After what seemed an age but was probably no more than five minutes, I could feel movement again, there was life back on the end of the line. 
I don’t often play fish of the reel but I did with this one, tightening the drag the minute I managed to get out out of the weeds.

The rest of the fight wasn’t very impressive, more a war of attrition really until I was finally able to net it, a brown trout, a beautiful, heavily-spotted, deep-bodied, fin-perfect whopper!

How big? Who knows. It was a double figure fish, in fact it was easily a double figure fish. I’ll never know for sure how big as I slipped out the barbless hook and got it back into the water.

It’s not the done thing on a catch and kill water and no doubt I’ll end up in trouble over it but I figured it was too good a fish to be caught once!
Leaning over the boat, I held it there in the water as it worked it’s gills, trying to get oxygen into it’s system.

All of a sudden, it went form being loose in my hands, to tensing up, flexing it’s massive frame and flicking it’s spade like tail and shooting away from me descending to the depths as it did so.
Two doubles in two casts, one rainbow and one brown, will that ever happen again, I’d love to think so but I doubt it!


The immense brown trout, looking every inch a fair sized double, taken 20 seconds down in deep water! What a lucky bugger I am.  


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I have had a nightmare of a day, I was supposed to being doing a feature with my mate John Pearson up on the Derbyshire Wye.Checking the river levels this morning it had only risen an inch, great I’ll drive up then.
The window wipers were on full pelt all the way up to Mansfield, and hour and half’s worth!
We meet up with good old Dave Percival, a nicer chap would be harder to find, and he has access to some out of this world fishing.
 Anywhy, after breakfast we get a phone call from the river keeper, “forget it, it’s high and it’s very coloured” Brilliant!
So it’s postponed. BUT, I had a wee look at John’s Tenkara patterns, a Japanese thing it is, a fly tied with a reverse hackle. The Japanese call this style “Sakasa kebari”.
reverse hackle thing, and indeed Tenkara was pretty much unheard of until 2009, now lots of anglers are talking about it.
 You use long rods for dibbling flies in pocket water. The flies though can be tailored to what you want and John had tied some wet flies this way for use on the river. Sadly we never used them.
I came home and set about tying some, see what you think, I like them and I can see them catching fish, they need to be fished dead drift with the occasional tweak to make the hackle pulse.

Black And Red

Partridge N Orange

Red Tag

Purple Bloa

They are very nice flies to tie and the world’s your oyster for variants, try them.

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