often asked whether poaching is a big problem for us and the truth is no.
Occasionally we will get a bunch of kids dangling over a bridge but trout
are mostly a wary bunch who soon outwit them. So, on the rivers do we have
any problems of the human kind? Well, of course. I must admit what used to
enrage me most was wanton vandalism; breaking down fences, the smashing of
cabin windows and low level stuff. But today it is litter that really is
the bane of my life.
I exaggerate not when I
tell you that each and every one of the river keepers I know will have
spent some time in the past month on litter patrol in the run up to the
opening day. However, for them it is not just a stick, bin bag and rummage
along the verges but the donning of waders that has to do the job. It
really never ceases to amaze me the amount of rubbish people discard into
rivers. It is hard to conceive why anyone would lob a beer can into a
pristine stream, but they do and in quantities you would find hard to
And there is a definite
pecking order for the metal. Beer cans are in a clear majority, energy
drinks second, closely followed by soft drinks. Sandwich packages, crisp
bags and sweet wrappers are the litter stuff, plus loads of assorted items
you really do not want me to list. Depressingly there is also a pattern to
where we find most of this. Inevitably it will be downstream of urban
conurbations; typically the hundred yards of a river below a road bridge or
foot bridge on the edge of a town that will require a weekly clean up. The
further you get away from people the less the problem .....
You may wonder what has
prompted this rant. Well, three things really. Firstly, it has been much on
my mind as we have dedicated so much time to the clearing up during April.
Secondly, when we are trying so hard to improve the big stuff like water
quality and habitat the litter thing really makes you despair as to why as
a nation we can't be good about the small stuff. And finally the campaign
launched by Country Life
at least told me I wasn't alone in being appalled at the quantity of
littler desecrating our beautiful countryside. It doesn't make for
uplifting reading (e.g. 2.25m items of litter discarded every day) but the
article and subsequent support it has garnered is worth reading. Here is
Fly Festival winners
venue, new beats and more teams that ever before gave the 2015 competition
that little bit of edge as the anglers and guides, new and old gathered at
The Greyhound in Stockbridge. There were a few glances to the heavens,
recalling last year when it rained relentlessly from dawn to dusk. But with
good cloud cover, a light breeze and just a very slight chill to the air
after an over warm week this looked a perfect fishing day. So it proved.
By lunchtime the scores
were stacking up; the fish total had already surpassed the 2014 full day
tally. Six teams were vying for first place, with scores of a thousand
points plus, a total usually considered good for a whole day. As the teams
returned at the end of the day there was no real inkling as to who had won
as so many different beats had produced so many good scores. In the final
analysis the top five places were taken by five different beats covering
four different rivers with 184 fish between them. That compares with 154
fish for the entire competition last year, which gives you some indication
of just how good the fishing and fishers were this year. The total on the
day was 409 fish, not including a chub to a dry fly at Broadlands!
Winning team: Stream Dreamers (top left).
Duffers Delight: The Dream Team (top middle). Alex Lewis & Big Fish
winners (top right)
When the results were in the winner was Stream Dreamers led by John
Graham a richly deserved reward as they have taken part in every One Fly
since its inception. The winning angler was Marcus Janssen competing for
the first time with a long time One Fly guide Brian Raw, who caught 48 fish
on a Pheasant Tail/Hares Ear combo nymph, similar to the fly that won in
2010. The Estate prize went to Compton Chamberlayne who had been knocking
on the door for the past two years with Benham Estate and Avon Springs picking
up the section awards. The Big Fish prize with a 24" fish apiece was
shared by Jan Grimstone and Alistair Robjent.
If anyone felt a little bit nervous going into the One Fly that was
as nothing compared to the 14 who put their vices on the line for the
first ever UK Iron Man Fly Tying Challenge. This has its origins in Fly
Tackle Dealer Show in the USA and takes a little bit of drama from the
American version of Masterchef. This is how it works: the competition
challenges all-comers to create the perfect fly within 15 minutes, but with
a twist. The contestants are given no prior knowledge of the fly-tying
materials. At the sound of the bell each is given an identical bag of fur,
feathers, dubbing, flashy materials and hooks. What and how they tie is up
to them, the outcome only limited by their skill, imagination and the
ticking down of the clock. Just to spice up the challenge even more, a
mystery material is given to each contestant half way through the first
round. This must be included somewhere in the finished fly! When time is up
luminaries from the fly tying industry judge the flies, eliminating all but
three of the contestants who go forward to compete in a winner-takes-all
tie-off the same evening.
Fly tying is a skilled
art that requires a steady hand; all credit to the competitors who, despite
some shaking hands, all managed to complete a fly in the allotted time. Two
One Fly guides. Rob Doyle and Stuart Tanner made it through to the final
round along with keen local tyer Simon Ware with Stuart (pictured) winning
out in the end.
A huge thank to Orvis
for conceiving this event and also to The Greyhound on the Test for hosting
the One Fly, all the rivers owners for providing the fishing and I am
pleased to say the events raised £750 for our chosen charity the Alex Lewis
Trust. If you would like to see more photos here is our link to Flickr.
Hatch no. 1 for May
Tuesday I took a walk along the River Test at Middleton and bumped into
Jeff Smith. For those of you who might have fished there any time in the
past 40 or so years, Jeff will be familiar. A coal miner who came south, he
learnt his trade under the fearsome Countess of Brecknock at Wherwell
before moving 4 miles upstream to Longparish.
Jeff, at least to my
southern ear, sounds as Yorkshire as the day he arrived and he likes to
play up the gruff northerner gig, but really he is nothing of the sort.
Since he retired five years ago he still takes an active interest in the
river, helping out Andy Clay the current keeper during the weed cut and
generally lending a hand. Walking along the river we were both bewailing
the lack of Hawthorn fly in the past few seasons. It is not really a river
fly at all, the eggs laid in the damp earth beneath hedges. It looks like a
house fly with an undercarriage, the long droopy legs hanging beneath as it
flies. But it is not a strong flyer and once grabbed by a gust of wind it
succumbs to its fate, which often ends it up dumped on the river where the
trout go mad for this occasional feast.
As Jeff and I chewed
the cud we turned the corner along into the meadows to be greeted by a huge
cluster of hawthorn flies, dancing as they do around the hawthorn bushes
that make up a majority of the hedges around these parts. It is good to be
Meadow flower of the
cuckoo flower Cardamine
pratensis is the first and most visible of all the flowers
in the water meadows (pratensis is Latin for meadow) in late April, poking
its head well above the grass.
is often called lady's smock but I guess it gets its bird name as it
appears around the same time of the first cuckoo call. The delicate pastel
mauve-to-white petals always sparkle on damp mornings, little shining
beacons dotted across the grassland. If you pick a few be careful; in
folklore it is said to be sacred to the fairies, and so was unlucky if
brought indoors. It was not included in May Daygarlands for the same
Back by popular
demand is the quiz. Remember it is just for fun and the answers are at the
bottom of the page.
1) How many fins does
a trout have, including the tail?
2) Which fish is
generally regarded as the biggest salmonid?
3) Which country is
hosting the 35th World Fly Fishing Championships this year?