Category Archives: Fly casting

tiddler treasures in the thames


This weekend I was privileged to be able to fish both days during the switch of tides. The water was clearer than I have ever seen it and although there are always man made items in the river, the amount of plastic has vastly reduced compared to the levels I became accustomed to seeing in 2013.

Massive thanks to everyone who makes real effort to reduce litter and pollution in this city. The water clarity is the best I've seen it and the prolific abundance of fish is evidence of a recovering river.

Massive thanks to everyone who makes real effort to reduce litter and pollution in this city. Water clarity is the best I’ve seen it and the prolific abundance of fish is evidence of a recovering river.

I worked my way through my favourite spots, eagerly anticipating a bite, scanning for evidence of fish as always. Cormorants, herons and grebes are abundant – sure signs of viable fish populations. It was not long before I saw shoals of baitfish and I did my best to put together a pattern that worked. Low tide is an exciting time, below and above the surface. Fast currents pull food to waiting fish, slow waters gather nutrients and provide comfortable resting places for predators and prey alike.

On both days the magic happened during a little time window coinciding with the onset of the incoming tide. The best way to describe it is when the current gently grinds to a halt, then s.l.o.w.l.y. changes direction. All of a sudden the river begins to boil softly with the constant rising of myriads of baitfish. There is little chance of predicting exactly where they rise – all around me in every direction: spates of little fish leaping clear of the surface or delicately sipping morsels from the film.

My humble Mrs Simpson chugged along, faithfully tracing staccato arcs through the water – how long before a giant slab of silver would latch on in the frenzied hope of yet another mouthful? Action came in tiny yet explosive packages – brave perch knocked my fly doggedly, regardless of their diminutive stature. First one took me by surprise and I did not have the heart to set the hook – it bounced free with an unplanned tailwalk into a splash landing. I chuckled at my heightened senses, the pounding in my heart inversely proportional to the size of the prize. The next attacker was larger and less fortunate as a result – even tiddler perch have cavernous mouths – and I was delighted to get this unusual picture for my catch catalogue:

The joy of fishing in the Thames is not knowing what may latch on - every cast could produce one of many different species. This time it was a feisty perch - Perca fluviatilis falling prey to the seductive powers of a Mrs Simpson pattern tied from woodcock feathers.

The joy of fishing in the Thames is not knowing what may latch on – every cast could produce one of many different species. This time it was a feisty perch – Perca fluviatilis falling prey to the seductive powers of my Mrs Simpson pattern tied from woodcock feathers.

Back into the Thames on the rising tide... The water was the cleanest I've seen it since I started fishing there in March last year. Big thanks to everyone who makes real effort to reduce litter and pollution in this city.

Back into the Thames on the rising tide… The water was the cleanest I’ve seen it since I started fishing there in March last year.

Not long after the fun began, it suddenly turned quiet. A westerly wind came up and I had to return to the safety of higher ground, driven by the rising tide. After having blanked on every previous visit since August last year, I was overjoyed to have caught and released a new species on a metiefly pattern, irrespective of its tiny size.

Day two was even more fun for me as I anticipated the prospects of success, armed with my recently acquired knowledge. I had visions of a shoal of sea trout cutting through pods of baitfish, chasing them down in the shallows, herding them against the surface and gorging on my meticulously presented fly. I toyed with the option of a smaller fly to specifically target the baitfish, then quickly rejected it, steadfast in my resolve to catch a sea trout. After all, the little fish last night had no trouble gulping my Mrs Simpson:

This fly proved itself with tiny perch... would it step up to the challenge of a wily Sea Trout?

This fly proved itself with tiny perch… would it step up to the challenge of a wily Sea Trout?

I chose to fish upstream into pockets of rolling currents, challenged by the need to strip my fly quicker than the current to give it some action – after a few casts, I was shocked to have a savage take, only to discover this – for a few milliseconds I was besides myself thinking it was a young trout or a salmon par, then to discover it was a dace, known to ichthyologists as Leuciscus leuciscus. Another new species – Mrs Simpson was on a roll!

Leuciscus leuciscus - dace... These can grow to a decent size. I look forward to finding out more about them in due course.

Leuciscus leuciscus – dace… These can grow to a decent size. I look forward to finding out more about them in due course.

Like clockwork, the tides switched and the boiling began, this time I cast in the region of the biggest swirls, retrieving rapidly in the hope of attracting attention to my fly. No bites. As soon as I slowed down my retrieve to a steady figure of eight – wham! Another stunning photo opportunity:

Day two, number two - I was amazed at how hard he struck and with the bend he managed to put in my rod! Notice how clear the water is, despite a downpour earlier in the day.

Day two, number two – I was amazed at how hard he struck and with the bend he managed to put in my rod! Notice how clear the water is, despite a downpour earlier in the day.

My next perch was the brightest of the bunch, helped by a perfect splash of sunshine exactly on time for the picture:

Perfect poser! I love these colourful little fish... So do cormorants and grebes!

Perfect poser! I love these colourful little fish… So do cormorants and grebes!

I was in the zone, having worked out how to catch them, each one seemed slightly larger than the one before…

See what I mean about cavernous mouths?

See what I mean about cavernous mouths?

Finally, just when I had waded back towards my homeward shoreline, I had the biggest take of them all:

Day two, perch number four!

Day two, perch number four!

What wonderful additions to my Thames catch catalogue after two highly enjoyable afternoons. I am thrilled to have discovered what lies underneath the surface during “happy hour” – one thing I know for sure: some of those baitfish were leaping because they were chasing down food; most of them were leaping for their lives, desperately escaping much bigger mouths under the surface. It will not be long before my next sojourn…

Thank you for reading – I look forward to seeing you back here again soon!

99 blogposts – not out!


For my 99th blog entry I feel honoured to share this video.

It is not my work.

It definitely echoes my sentiments – great work by its creators.

Enjoy it and thanks again for visiting my site

I look forward to your return!

JLM Special makeover – back to Abaco?


Constructive feedback is a wonderful inspirer. Esteemed fellow blogger and author of a stunning Bird book, RH (of rollingharbour.com) painstakingly limited his catch rate on my behalf during his last sojourn in the Abaco Marls. Persisting long after his wiser companions abandoned the JLM Special in favour of their tried and tested stalwarts, RH very kindly gathered all the empirical evidence he needed to tell me the following:

These flies don’t work in Abaco! Not even by accident! (These are my own words – RH is far more generous and polite :-))

RH went on to provide constructive insights to help me refine my approach:

“Basically, much too dark for the waters of Abaco, too bushy, no streamer tail, no sparkle.”

My first creative reaction is to take care of the colour tones…

Prototype1 - this albino variant is made by combining arctic fox tail with ginger (yes ginger!) elk hair and white embroidery thread. To give it some colour and fine movement, I used blonde hare fur tips. For the telson, a sliver of red wool . Photo - metiefly

Prototype1 – this albino variant is made by combining arctic fox tail with ginger (yes ginger!) elk hair and white embroidery thread. To give it some colour and fine movement, I used blonde hare fur tips. For the telson, a sliver of red wool . Photo – metiefly

The streamer tail and addressing the bushy profile is a matter of correcting proportions:

Longer and fewer arctic fox fibres , a whiff of red in the main body - each iteration is a little step closer to the end goal!

Longer and fewer arctic fox fibres , a whiff of red in the main body – each iteration is a little step closer to the end goal! Photo – metiefly

I have no idea what the final design will look like – in the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the ongoing pursuit of what Abaco’s bonefish consider a tasty morsel.

Ready for postage... Thanks again to RH for his great attitude and collaboration...

Ready for postage… Much appreciation to RH for his patience, great attitude and collaborative spirit. Photo – metiefly

Thank you for visiting – I look forward to your return.

Burkheimer – true craftsmanship!


I saw this video on the Fishing in Style website… I am inspired by the passion for quality and perfection that goes into every rod… The narrator says “part of that person, part of the passion goes into each rod…”

Powerful stuff!

Thames adventures and aquatic beetles in Africa


I spent several hours on the Thames over the last two days reconnecting my casts in pursuit of a sea trout, or any species willing to hunt my offerings. The wind has been perfect, allowing me to cast upstream and work my fly through riffles and runs at low tide. No bites so far and plenty of time to ponder – what a tremendous way to iron out all the wrinkles that work and commuting create.

I longed to tie a credible Walker’s Killer since my very first attempt at dressing a hook, back in 1984 when I first met my trout hunting friend Gareth. From an early age he tied flies for his family’s annual pilgrimage to the mountains of Nyanga – perfecting many techniques, trusting his instincts and improvising with locally sourced materials and colour combinations. Hooks were hard to come by in tiny sizes and I would often tie a fly, examine it for a while, then I would cut off the thread, feathers and wool to start again!

Last night I rekindled my enthusiasm for this pattern using woodcock feathers and squirrel tail… My technique needs further refining however I am confident that with continued practice and the right feathers (partridge feathers are best) I will master it at last!

Herewith my first prototypes for the time being:

This magic pattern mimics water beetles, dragon fly larvae or small fish. Have a go at tying your own and let me know when you succeed!

This magic pattern mimics water beetles, dragon fly larvae or small fish. Have a go at tying your own and let me know when you succeed!

The more I practise, the easier it gets - I discovered that a similar pattern, the Mrs Simpson is used specifically for sea trout in New Zealand, fished at night... Will mine work in the Thames this season?

The more I practise, the easier it gets – I discovered that a similar pattern, the Mrs Simpson is used specifically for sea trout in New Zealand, fished at night… Will my equivalents work in the Thames this season?

I use liquid fusion superglue to cement their heads... Make sure they dry sufficiently before you handle them or store them to prevent them from sticking to each other.

I use liquid fusion superglue to cement their heads… Remember to ensure they dry sufficiently before handling them or storing them to prevent them from sticking to each other.

woodcock feathers produce a different effect - I look forward to using partridge feathers to recreate the original in due course...

woodcock feathers produce a different effect – I look forward to using partridge feathers to recreate the original in due course…

Water beetles are ubiquitous in the lakes and rivers that I visited as a boy – perhaps this is why the Walker’s Killer is such a hit there:

Photo - Art.com

Photo – Art.com. Cybister tripunctatus is a predatory water beetle that hunts Odonata larvae… In Southern Africa There are over 200 species of water beetles in the Family Dytiscidae alone.

Thank you for visiting – I look forward to your return!

lessons from history – Walker’s Killer pattern


I understand I’m getting older when what was once considered current affairs is now taught in the form of history lessons!

I met my first Onchorhynchus mykiss on Mare Dam in the Rhodes Nyanga National Park. In the words of my beloved Granddad, I stood “knee high to a grasshopper” at the time. Magical fly fishing holidays now flit amongst my neurons in the form of spectacular memories and deep seated core knowledge… No box is a fly box if it does not contain Walker’s Killers. Some of the finest fishermen in the land would carry only this pattern, save for a dry fly or two in case of an evening rise. They had good reason too!

Attributed to Mr. Lionel Walker, the Walker’s Killer consists of a tail of black dyed squirrel tail fibres, a red chenille body and several paired sets of double sided wings. Literature mentions up to eighteen striped partridge feathers per fly tied opposite so as to present a slim, almost flat profile. This allows for streamlined casting and straight swimming once submerged.

Trout guzzle this fly when conditions are perfect, when conditions are awful, and wherever conditions may fall in the whole spectrum inbetween!

In London most of the people I have spoken to about this pattern are unaware of it. Time for one of the most wonderful blasts from the past:

There was a time when this fly needed no introduction!

There was a time when this fly needed no introduction!

Beautiful construction - if one parts the wings a body of scarlet chenille is revealed.

Beautiful construction – if one parts the wings a body of scarlet chenille is revealed.

The slim profile allows it to cut through the air during casts and to swim straight as an arrow underwater.

The slim profile allows it to cut through the air during casts and to swim straight as an arrow underwater.

Please drop me a comment if this fly stirs up great memories, or even if it piques your anger - the pattern was so successful that some traditionalists even considered it to be cheating!

Please drop me a comment if this fly stirs up great memories, or even if it piques your anger – the pattern was so successful that some traditionalists even considered it to be cheating!

This fly happens to be my only one, still treasured after I discovered the hook had snapped off during one of my early adventures many decades ago. I strive to learn how to tie such neat and robust flies… This one is my motivator because it still looks good after more than thirty years!

I look forward to teaching myself to tie this pattern… Thank you for reading as always.

season finale – ending on a top note


The spring in my step as I carried my kit to the car yesterday morning was for several reasons: I had crafted some neat flies in the hope of bringing together all the lessons I’d learned since October. The weather was fresh and Spring was urged on by a sweet cacophony of birdsong. Every season we are privileged to fish brings opportunity to grow and develop our knowledge and understanding – and if we are inclined to, to share this responsibly. Would my latest flies work well enough to reach my quota? The stakes were high as we are rapidly approaching March 31st and I had more fish tickets than I had anticipated at this late stage.

The lake was empty of other anglers when I arrived, and full of fish. A steady southerly breeze was already blowing however bright sunshine created perfect conditions for my pattern. Previously off-coloured water was now crystal clear, allowing the gold bead to draw attention from a distance. Armed with my 7/8 weight rod, I chose the near side bank to cast facing into the wind (I do this often in preparation for sea fishing conditions) and it was not long before I saw a trout rise near the middle.

In my previous post I outlined the key attributes of my latest fly design. Added weight and a slim profile helps long distance casting significantly. Extra momentum helps extend the tippet to its full length on a decent cast. Using the wind to drift my final shoot of line, my fly dropped into the zone – my senses on high alert as I began a slow figure of eight retrieve… Only a couple of seconds passed before I felt a telltale knock – an almost imperceptible bump on the end of my line! I paused for three seconds, glad I had resisted the instinct to strike, then increased the speed of my retrieve – the bite was strong and I was fighting my first fish of the day within minutes of arriving.

perfect rainbow in crystal waters - sincere gratitude to the custodians of Syon Park and Albury Estates

Yet another perfect rainbow in crystal waters – sincere gratitude to the custodians of Syon Park and Albury Estates

3lbs of power - these are hard fighting fish especially when the water is cold!

This time 3lbs of power – these are hard fighting fish especially when the water is cold!

Each fish was unique and exciting to catch – in rapid succession I had confirmed beyond any measure of doubt that last night’s pattern is highly effective. Equally important in my book is hardiness – the ability to catch multiple fish and retain its form. Here it is after fish number seven:

Still together after fish no. 7 - sturdy and effective design is what I strive for and this pattern definitely delivers.

Still together after fish no. 7 – sturdy and effective design is what I strive for and this pattern definitely delivers.

My previous record number of trout on the same fly is eight. I matched that yesterday and whilst aiming for number nine, I lost the fly on a poorly timed back cast! Glad I had made more than one, I tied on another in an attempt to use my last fish ticket of the season.

Whilst I had been enjoying non stop action all morning, I watched as a father and son took their first fly fishing lesson with highly respected AAPGAI instructor Robin Elwes of Farlows. Now they made their way over to fish nearby and I greeted them as they walked past. Soon after I had tied on my new fly, I landed my final fish of the season. Immediately, I cut my fly off the tippet and made my way to the gentlemen along the bank… Greeting them, I asked Robin to please use my fly on the young man’s rod – I introduced myself to Oscar, shook his hand and suggested for them to rather use my spot as I was finished for the day.

Just imagine my joy as whilst I packed up, I watched Oscar catch his first trout ever, his Dad bursting with pride and dutifully capturing the moment on camera.

magic moment - I wish Oscar and his Dad  a lifetime of safe and exciting fly fishing adventures together

magic moment – I wish Oscar and his Dad a lifetime of safe and exciting fly fishing adventures together

I bid them farewell and made my way home. As I drove, I slowed down to watch from a distance as Robin hurried to grab the landing net for Oscar’s second fish… Words cannot express how happy I am for him and I wish him and all new fly fishers around the world tight lines and a lifetime of adventures. May we all protect and serve the Great Outdoors together.

To honour my Dad’s Birthday tomorrow, I hereby name this pattern the “metiefly damsel” and I have added it to my design page due to it’s proven success.

three of the finest - coarse deer hair tips and a striking colour combination. In the morning of 22 March I caught eight fish on the middle fly in this picture then lost the fly on a bad back cast. I tied on a replacement, caught a ninth and final fish to end my season... What happened next was even better than I could have dreamt: a young man caught his first two trout ever on it - hopefully the beginnings of endless adventures for him and his Dad!

three of the finest – coarse deer hair tips and a striking colour combination. In the morning of 22 March I caught eight fish on the middle fly in this picture then lost the fly on a bad back cast. I tied on a replacement, caught a ninth and final fish to end my season… What happened next was even better than I could have dreamt: a young man caught his first two trout ever on it – hopefully the beginnings of endless adventures for him and his Dad!

Thank you for reading, as always I look forward to your next visit.