Monthly Archives: April 2013

ebb and flow

Here’s a present: is a handy bookmark for anyone planning coastal excursions in the UK. As strange as it may seem at first, this includes those who wish to fish the tidal Thames (everywhere downstream of Teddington Lock). Whilst I’m dishing out handy hints, here’s another: Make sure you purchase your appropriate Environment Agency rod license from the Post Office website rather than paying additional fees to some third party site elsewhere online.

Today marked another spring tide, with low water at 12h39 fitting perfectly with my plan to complete my chores beforehand. Weather conditions were mainly clear, intermittent cloud cover releasing only a couple of very brief showers. The wind was kind to me, leaving barely a ripple on the water most of the time. I enjoyed a few wonderful hours casting and retrieving, playing my Foxy Baitfish through the current and anticipating all manner of scenarios. When the tide changed I was fascinated by how quickly the dynamics of the river switch. I very quickly developed awareness of how many millimetres I had left before my Wellies became buckets, gently stepping towards higher ground before it was too late.

Water clarity was surprisingly good. I could see the white flash of my fly from quite a distance, with a hint of yellow and orange as it drew near. I was surrounded by evidence of fish: three corpulent cormorants actively feeding in the channel, one crested grebe sporting his dashing summer kit and three other humans casting bread and various morsels in the hope of connecting with carp or bream. One fisherman showed me a picture of him with a 15lb common carp caught and released last Sunday. He regaled me with a story of another 10lb mirror carp. I quizzed him on the topic of sea trout and rainbow trout as he mentioned catching them by accident whilst fishing with bread. He is adamant that they are  in the river, however he did concede they are not caught as frequently as other species.  

I met Taz, the owner of a long boat who was working against the clock busy blacking the bottom of his hull before the water came up. Last week, whilst en route from Reading, he and his friend saw a dead salmon floating in the water… Circa 8lb in size, apparently – more anecdotal evidence of Salmonids making their way up the river. Taz is an avid fly fisherman who makes his own flies too… He shared some with me (flashy streamer patterns tried and tested on sea bass in Devon) and I insisted that he have at least one of mine in exchange. As always it is hugely refreshing to experience the generosity and camaraderie between fellow anglers.

Eventually when the size of the beach and my options for a back cast rapidly diminished, I dismantled my rod and took a few pictures with my camera to capture my 2013 Thames debut. To sum up: A very satisfying blank day today, providing me with  a million questions and a few ideas to take back to the vice.

On the Foxy Baitfish pattern, in windy conditions, there is an increased tendency for the main bunch of arctic fox fibres to wrap around the hook. Tonight I tied an alternative pattern that carries the bulk of the streamer at the tail end of the fly. My hope is that this modification greatly reduces the potential for hook wrap complications… I’ll let you know how that works out in due course.

This prototype is designed to mitigate the risk of streamer materials hooking across the hook bend

This prototype is designed to mitigate the risk of streamer materials tangling across the hook bend

Thank you for reading, please visit again soon!

Scaling up for the Thames

The River Thames is a complex environment. Gone are the days when the only feasible expectation of a catch was an old boot or an old tin can, so often described in cartoons. Where I live, tidal surges bring the current to a standstill and reverse it twice a day so water levels are constantly in flux and estuarine species could venture up as far as Richmond, or even Teddington Lock.

In the last two weeks, fewer rainy days than normal mean water clarity has improved considerably. Rising temperatures and increased daylight hours trigger the breeding season for perch and other small freshwater species, providing fry and baitfish in huge numbers.

Larger fish will usually stick to deeper channels, especially at low tide, so casting weighted flies into holes should hopefully provide better odds. Tomorrow I’ll be making footprints in my Wellies at low tide, plumbing the channels with a specially tied JLM Special and a Foxy Baitfish to see if anything latches on!

Scaling up for the Thames - these are tied on size 10 hooks and I'll be practising my casting in preparation for my dream pursuit of bonefish and permit on the flats

Scaling up for the Thames – these are tied on size 10 hooks and I’ll be practising my casting in preparation for my dream pursuit of bonefish and permit on the flats

Without doubt many people will think I’m nuts – so far the only fish I’ve caught in the Thames were some small perch downstream of Kew… I’ll take my camera along just in case – who knows what I’ll be posting on my blog in the next few days?

Thanks for reading, please visit again soon!

Global connections

One of the highlights of my week was my email exchange with Itu Davey. I discovered his YouTube video Itu’s Bones and mentioned it shortly after I began my blog (see March 2013 archives). Itu is a true master of his craft and he reads the ocean just the same way you’re reading these words. Visit his site at BE WARNED!! – his photos will take your breath away!

A while back, I contacted Itu for his perspective on colour selection for bonefish flies… He very kindly confirmed that the fish are always the ones who decide, and that they can switch their preference on a whim… It is up to the savvy fisherman and fisherwoman to be fully tuned in and prepared to adapt at short notice. Having said that, Itu also advised that to choose a fly colour that matches the surrounding habitat is the best starting point. On that note, make sure when you tie any pattern, you are able to cater for slightly different sizes and colour variants.

Different sizes and shapes help you to adapt according to the fishes' whims.

Different sizes and shapes help you to adapt according to the fishes’ whims.

When sourcing materials, try not to get carried away amongst rows of shrewdly arranged merchandise, if you’re anything like me you get way too excited as you walk towards the tying materials section! Start by envisioning your fishing destination, then take a mental leap into the water and think like a fish… Sounds crazy, I know – however you’ll appreciate this advice when you’re getting bites and even before then, so will your wallet!

Have you ventured out recently and caught a fish? Did you lose any? We’re you able to release it? I’d love to hear from you with your story so please drop me a comment and celebrate the experience!

Thank you for reading and please visit again soon!

foxy baitfish part one

Herewith the first half of the foxy baitfish pattern. For those of you enjoying the first signs of springtime, wishing you tight lines and happy days… If it’s autumn where you are, make the most of the daylight hours and may I remind you about my cold water formula once again!

Thanks for watching, please visit again soon!

foxy baitfish for sea bass…

Today I’m experimenting with another saltwater pattern to compliment the JLM Special which is a shrimp lookalike. Baitfish are a staple diet for most predatory species and in estuarine areas, depending on the conditions, a fly that imitates them should prove highly effective.

Copy this pattern and please let me know when you’ve caught a fish with it!

Foxy Baitfish - named after the arctic fox hairs used to make it. Ideal for fry lookalikes in freshwater and marine conditions

Foxy Baitfish – named after the arctic fox hairs used to make it. Ideal for fry lookalikes in freshwater and marine conditions

Thanks for watching and please visit again soon…

Take a Kid Fishing…

This piece is to say a heartfelt “Thank You!” to all the amazing ladies and gentlemen that took me, or helped make it possible for me to go fishing when I was a little guy. Packed lunches, tackle boxes, fishing vests and tubes full of sunscreen… Zam-Buk and clean changes of clothes… It all took some doing!

I fished so often in some of the most remote places in Africa, as well as all the popular haunts of the tournament circuit… Sometimes successfully and often catching nothing. The painstakingly preserved skeleton of my giant Oreochromis placidus is carefully housed in the depths of the Bulawayo Natural History Museum, a treasured specimen caught from a tributary of the Lundi river, and a test of rod and line that I will never forget.

The sting of droplets of Zambesi water burning my eyes after the splash of my brother’s giant Tigerfish leaping free from under my nose on a sandbank – just another day in our amazing upbringing. The raucous peales of laughter from my Mum when I made up the joke “What do you get when you cross an Ichthyologist with an Arachnologist? A freak of Nature…” (It’s true!)

The sight of a giant eel taller than my sister smiling eagerly at the camera… Pink leopard skin print was the coolest fashion back then, and it has come full circle again…

If you ever want to enrich someone’s life and you plan to go fishing – make sure you take a kid with you, and spend the time it takes for them to discover one of Life’s greatest joys.

Take a kid Fishing, it's one of the greatest gifts of all!

Take a kid Fishing, it’s one of the greatest gifts of all!

Fishing stories… Always the best!

Aren’t they just wonderful!

The most recent one shared with me was earlier this evening whilst watching an exquisite sunset over the Thames. It happens so rarely in London – softly lit, clear skies punctuated by fast flying ducks and the slow arcs of aeroplanes evoking memories of long ago…

As a child, my beautiful wife lived on a farm on the West Coast. There were times she would light a storm lantern and hop into the rowboat at dusk to set the net across the river, catching springer on the incoming tides… Sometimes in foil, sometimes straight onto the open fire, one or two freshly delivered gifts from the ocean would nurture their bodies. Several seasons and many moons have passed and yet they’re still nurturing her soul.

If you have a favourite fishing tale, please pop it in the comments below and it shall never get away.

Thank you for reading, please visit again soon.