Category Archives: Thames Trout

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!

nature really is our best friend – bees and flowers in the city


When I wrote my first blogpost (appreciation and sharing) I wrote the following:

“Conservation and appreciation of Nature is the primary focus of my blog – sustainable use of the outdoors with a view to unearth and hopefully master long forgotten traditions, celebrating experiences and, through teaching others, paving the way for new pathways into the future.”

It seems fitting to post something that brings all these elements to the fore amongst the hustle and bustle of London’s Sloane Square. I salute people who think in terms of flower superhighways and who take the trouble to hand out seeds that will help build them…

respect to J. Crew for taking the initiative and building walls of flowering plants on their Sloane Square outlet... If you are in London, go and get some of their seeds and plant them this summer...

respect to J. Crew for taking the initiative and building walls of flowering plants on their Sloane Square outlet… If you are in London, go and get some of their seeds and plant them this summer… Photo – worklondonstyle http://worklondonstyle.com

I thank my Darling Wife for her infinite patience and support of metiefly over the last 15 months. As we sip our Twinings English Breakfast, I wish to share a strong message on behalf of fauna and flora all over the world… Thank you J.Crew for this fabulous project!

a picture tells a thousand words... What can you do to make your own little corner of the universe a better place for all living things?

a picture tells a thousand words… what can you do to make your own little corner of the universe a better place for all living things?

Lastly, on my 100th blogpost, I wish thank you, my plethora of very special readers for joining me in my little adventure… I look forward to your next visit.

27 July update... Fantastic to see the flowers opening, just in time to help the bees through the late stages of summer and into autumn. Please share your results if you also grew some this year!

27 July update… Fantastic to see the flowers opening, just in time to help the bees through the late stages of summer and into autumn. Please share your results if you also grew some this year!

August update - a picture tells a thousand words!

August update – a picture tells a thousand words!

Mitchi mayflies!


My Darling photographed this mayfly last weekend whilst we walked along the River Thames. It’s delicate wings were no match against blustery winds and at the risk of anthropomorphism, the little treasure was grateful for the chance to rest and strike a pose…

Mayflies are a dream come true for trout and fishermen alike!

Mayflies are a dream come true for trout and fishermen alike! Photo – worklondonstyle

This picture provides a sense of overall proportions:

I have a brilliant solution to sourcing the fine tailpieces... Will reveal all in due course...

I have a brilliant solution to sourcing the fine tailpieces… Will reveal all in due course… Photo – worklondonstyle

Earlier during the same walk, I had read an interesting article in one of the monthly fly fishing magazines about tabby cat fur being a purrfect (sorry!) source of dubbing material written by a highly successful young member of the English fly fishing team. Having already featured our very own Mitchi’s discarded whiskers on miniature dry flies, the next logical step was to harvest her loose fur from our couch.

Today I put all the pieces of the puzzle together to produce the following:

Cat fur dubbing provides a slim body profile and a pair of miniature hen hackles form excellent wings. What will the trout make of the end result?

Cat fur dubbing provides a slim body profile and a pair of miniature hen hackles form excellent wings. What will the trout make of the end result? Photo – metiefly

view from the top... Photo - metiefly

view from the top… Photo – metiefly

The original...

The original… Photo – worklondonstyle

The copy... metiefly Mitchi mayfly using locally sourced materials :-)

The copy… metiefly Mitchi mayfly using locally sourced materials 🙂 photo – metiefly

Mitchi is anticipating the finest cuts of the proceeds in due course…

purrfect collaboration... Thanks to Mitchi for sustainable use of materials at its best!

purrfect collaboration… Thanks to Mitchi for sustainable use of materials at its best! Photo – metiefly

Thank you for reading – please return soon!

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!

urban trout wanderings…


Today’s bright weather seemed ideal for me to return and search for the completely unexpected trout that graces my memory so often since I saw it four years ago. Up early, I enjoyed an invigorating walk, admiring the clean water in the Thames as I went. I left the river wondering how soon I will meet another sea trout, or perhaps even my first Thames salmon this season… Amazing thoughts!

I cannot help thinking that all the rain we received earlier this year definitely helped flush out our waterways. The Tidal Thames seldom looks crystal clear, however the water is in the best condition I have ever seen it at the moment.

I cannot help thinking that all the rain we received earlier this year definitely helped flush out our waterways. The Tidal Thames seldom looks crystal clear, however the water is in the best condition I have ever seen it at the moment.

As I made my way towards the magical stream, my excitement grew  – is it too much to expect a small population of fish to cling on to survival, despite all the potential threats? What about all the rains we had in the winter? I peeped into the water as I crossed the first bridge, delighted to see it running clear and full, ample sign of aquatic life in every nook and cranny. In stealth mode, I walked quietly and swiftly, eyes peeled and tuned into my surroundings… Springtime is such an intoxicating gift, so full of promise and abundance!

Embracing the joy of Springtime - definitely worth the long winter nights...

Embracing the joy of Springtime – definitely worth the long winter nights…

The first shoal of fish gave themselves away, scattering as a breathtakingly beautiful pair of mandarin ducks sneaked along the far shoreline. About thirty fish slightly longer than my hand darted with such speed… I think they were common dace, conspicuous by their fast movement and the reddish tinge to their fins. Glad that I had spotted some fish, I was even more eager to locate a trout!

This pair has a massive territorial range, unless there are multiple pairs along this stretch of river - I saw some at the top end of my walkabout, as well as near the start. They are literally breathtaking especially when the sun shines on them so perfectly.

This pair has a massive territorial range, unless there are several pairs along this stretch of river – I saw some at the top end of my walkabout, as well as near the start. They are stunning to behold, especially when the sun shines on them so perfectly.

I pushed further upstream until a large, deep pool gave me reason to feel that there must be a trout here if there are to be any in the river… Shadows criss-crossed the calm water and I was grateful for my polarised sunglasses, peering into the depths. Almost imperceptibly, a shape loomed up from the darkness… About 30 centimetres of exactly what I had been searching for! Two others joined it and I savoured the experience of watching them frolic in the slow moving current. I caught myself wondering what the passers by thought I was staring at so intently. Clear pictures would be tricky to take because of the reflections in the water so I marked the spot mentally for future visits and walked on upstream.

The following video was taken after I had witnessed countless trout in several sections of the stream… Ideal habitat is limited, however from this short clip you can see for yourself that numbers are strong for the time being:

I spent a couple of idyllic hours filming and photographing these amazing fish… Enjoy the footage and if you want to see more, please visit my urban trout page.

There were about four species of fish schooling together... I would love to know if there are a mix of brown trout and rainbow trout in this population! Perhaps the need to conduct some catch and release research in due course

There were about four species of fish schooling together. I would love to know if there is a mix of brown trout and rainbow trout in this population! Perhaps a need to conduct some catch and release research in due course!

Considering the number of pictures and videos I took, there are not many that show them up close and personal... But then again most of my readers will know how hard it is to get within close photographic distance on a clear sunny day!

Considering the number of pictures and videos I took, there are not many that show the trout ‘up close and personal’… then again – most readers will understand the challenge of getting within close photographic distance on a clear sunny day!

I am still struggling to contain my excitement - and to think that I saw fish from at least three different year groups. I will have to catch and release a few to ensure correct identification... Will they be resident browns, sea trout or rainbows?

I am still struggling to contain my excitement – and to think that I saw fish from at least three different year groups. I will have to catch and release a few to ensure correct identification… Will they be resident browns, sea trout or rainbows?

Once again I sincerely thank all the wonderful people who toil so hard to keep our rivers clean – please let’s all continue to do whatever we can too.

Thank you for reading, I look forward to your next visit!

cracking the code…


Greetings to all and apologies for my long silence… I spent many hours at my local lake recently in an attempt to use my season tickets before the end of March. I have thoroughly enjoyed working through myriads of challenges – bright sunshine, howling gales, cold fronts and different crowds of like minded anglers.

I am fortunate to have caught some stunning fish over the last few weekends. Each one is a cherished experience and a wonderful reward for hours spent first at the vice and then at the water’s edge. I take special interest in what the trout are biting, especially on days when conditions have been tougher than normal. I am not surprised to know that the real stalwarts have not changed and after careful consideration I spent tonight preparing myself for further tests tomorrow.

I know what the trout are looking for – will I be able to provide it in the correct place at the right time?

Herewith the fruits of tonight’s labour at my vice:

three of the finest - coarse deer hair tips and a striking colour combination. In the morning I'll find out how well they work

three of the finest – coarse deer hair tips and a striking colour combination. In the morning I’ll find out how well they work

I catered for the following requirements:

1) Size is key – larger than usual flies worked better last weekend, perhaps due to the slightly coloured water. These are size 12.

2) Depth is key – these flies have a bead AND a wire core. I used the very tips of the deer hair fibres which are less buoyant and highly durable.

3) Distance is key – I used sparse, short deer hair tips for the tails and the collars to minimise drag whilst casting. Higher than usual numbers of fishermen standing at the edge of the lake have chased most fish into the middle. All three of my fish last weekend took at the end of a long cast, shortly after I had begun my retrieve.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to your next visit!

deer hair parachutes


Huge respect to Mr Barry Ord Clarke – thefeatherbender – a masterful professional who has more than accomplished the mission statement of his blog:

“THEFEATHERBENDER The aim of this blog is to connect fly-tyers all over the world, to share, techniques, patterns, information and knowledge.”

I follow many incredible online sources of inspiration and this one is right up there amongst my favourites. I strongly suggest clicking on Barry’s link in “blogs I follow” on the bottom right of this page.

Tonight I improvised slightly, exploring an ingenious deer hair parachute technique in my ongoing search for my ideal adult damsel fly pattern. The Fender Parachute fly is as slick as it is effective and I believe I am almost at the stage where I can bring all the components together. As I did not have any moose mane fibres in my kit, I used some elk hair fibres to produce my first attempts. Bug bond is another ingredient I do not have (yet!) so I used some liquid fusion superglue instead.

thank you Mr Clarke - these variants are close approximations of the Fender Parachute... I hope the technique transfers well to my adult damselfly pattern next weekend!

thank you Mr Clarke – these variants are close approximations of the Fender Parachute… I hope the technique transfers well to my adult damselfly pattern next weekend!

Next weekend I plan to tie a couple of metiefly adult damselfly patterns using this technique. What will my local rainbows make of them when the temperature rises? Only time will tell…

A drop of liquid fusion will keep the parachute open... Less is more on tiny flies.

A drop of liquid fusion will keep the parachute open… Less is more on tiny flies.

I used tiemco size 13 fine wire dry fly hooks in this prototype for maximum buoyancy

I used tiemco size 13 fine wire dry fly hooks in this prototype for maximum buoyancy


Thank you for reading – I look forward to your next visit.