Tag Archives: Baitfish

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!

Fishing in Holland Park… Naturally!


I had occasion to visit one of my favourite haunts today, grateful for the opportunity to charge my batteries in bright sunshine and (albeit in the middle of the city) surrounded by Nature.

I had my iPad with me, ready to take the odd snap if the right moment arose…

The quizzical look on the drake's face begs for a comedic caption!

The quizzical look on the drake’s face begs for a comedic caption! Photo – metiefly

I strolled on a bit

A closer look will reveal some tiny blue spring flowers... Details, details!

A closer look will reveal some tiny blue spring flowers… Details, details! Photo – metiefly

These creatures always take my breath away…

I have a fly tyer's appreciation of this exquisite beauty. Form and function, together with unsurpassed aesthetics...

I have a fly tyer’s appreciation of this exquisite beauty. Form and function, together with unsurpassed aesthetics… Photo – metiefly

What happened next was quite remarkable. I was humbled to bear witness to the rawness of Nature at it’s cutting edge:

I was pleased to get this delicate pose from the heron... Little did I know what was about to unfold :-)

I was pleased to get this delicate pose from the heron… Little did I know what was about to unfold 🙂 photo – metiefly

What a strike of luck - fortunate timing! I love the structure of this amazing bird's wings. It had something else in mind...

What a strike of luck – fortunate timing! I love the structure of this amazing bird’s wings. It had something else in mind… photo – metiefly

Still gazing...

Still gazing… Photo – metiefly

Look at the focused intent in it's expression!

Look at the focused intent in it’s expression! Photo – metiefly

Entering stealth mode... In my mind I'm thinking: (Bet he wishes the fish were smaller...'

Entering stealth mode… In my mind I’m thinking: ‘Bet he wishes the fish were smaller…’ Photo – metiefly

What's that over there...?

What’s that over there…? Photo – metiefly

This is going to be like taking sweets from a little child... In front of everyone!

This is going to be like taking sweets from a little child… In front of everyone! Photo – metiefly

I could not believe the opportunity I was being given! Time stood still at this point... Was the aim correct?!

I could not believe the opportunity I was being given! Time stood still at this point… Was the aim correct?! Photo – metiefly

This is a picture of a frustrated, humiliated and very embarrassed heron!

This is a picture of a frustrated, humiliated and very embarrassed heron! Photo – metiefly

He's thinking: "Do you think anyone saw me?"

He’s thinking: “Do you think anyone saw me?” Photo – metiefly

Still embarrassed - moving the crowd along! I'm fascinated by the oil slick left behind on the surface of the water... Did not realise how much oil or wax is on a heron's feathers. No animals were harmed in the making of this series ;-)

Still embarrassed – moving the crowd along! I’m fascinated by the oil slick left behind on the surface of the water… Did not realise how much oil or wax is on a heron’s feathers. No animals were harmed in the making of this series 😉 photo – metiefly

I hope you had a chance to get outside today – tomorrow is another gift… Make the most of it in the Great Outdoors if at all possible!

Thank you for your visit as always…

adult damselfly prototypes


I was delighted when Orvis had exactly what I was looking for this afternoon! A brisk walk into town paid off when I was able to source some blue closed cell foam and some navy blue hackles. The prototypes of my blue damselfly are not ideal yet, however each time I tie another one, I am a step closer to unlocking the perfect formula. I was impressed with the wrapped deer hair tails on some of Orvis’s flies however they lack the sparkle of the Krystal Flash.

I might try some of these tomorrow in the hope of coaxing an unsuspecting trout into thinking he’s getting the first one of the season!

A variety of different techniques show certain promise however I'm not there yet - looks like I still have some exploring to do!

A variety of different techniques show certain promise however I’m not there yet – looks like I still have some exploring to do!

Early days - they need some field testing to see what O. mykiss thinks so far...

Early days – they need some field testing to see what O. mykiss thinks so far…

On our return walk from Central London, I picked up a piece of orange Organdie ribbon, which I turned into streamers for the Thames – orange is a hot favourite when water clarity is not great.

Remember to keep your eyes peeled at all times - tying materials are not necessarily expensive and you never know when your next breakthrough ingredient is about to reveal itself!

Remember to keep your eyes peeled at all times – tying materials are not necessarily expensive and you never know when your next breakthrough ingredient is about to reveal itself!

If you click on my link to the Featherbender blog on the right hand column, then search the site for 'organdie' you will find an amazing pattern for saltwater shrimp... Enjoy!

If you click on my link to the Featherbender blog on the right hand column, then search the site for ‘organdie’ you will find an amazing pattern for saltwater shrimp… Enjoy!

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

finesse


There are days when everything just clicks into place and the fishing is almost too easy… How many times have you heard of anglers describing conditions where the fish just gave themselves up? When I was a boy I recall dozens of incidents when I had to rescue fish that leapt straight into the canoe I was paddling or the boat I was rowing – before I had even cast a line!

The truth is those days are rare. There are many, many more occasions where patience and hard work result in nothing at all… the stories in the bars and pubs or around the fire afterward switch to the lengthy litany of familiar excuses and conspiracy theories. How many times have we heard about the one that got away?

Some people – and they know who they are – have an uncanny, almost freakish ability to catch fish when conditions are tough, or so-called impossible. They can do it again and again, regardless of where in the world they fish or what species their quarry may be. These sage-like individuals have learned and perfected what so many others do not: it is all about presentation.

Fish, especially trout, cannot read English – otherwise Mepps would have stopped branding their spinners, and Heddon, Rapala, and all the others would have gone out of business years ago. Fish actually can and do read infinitely better than us – their metabolism and biology dictates that they have to spend the vast majority of their time feeding in order to survive, and they must eat even more if they are to grow and thrive. At the same time, as well as feeding voraciously, they have to learn how to keep out of harm’s way. Every body of water has it’s own set of threats – from above the surface, such as fish eagles, a kingfisher or a heron, or from below it in the form of other fish or diving birds, otters, crocodiles or sharks.

This unbelievable picture is not mine - I found it on Pinterest and cannot track down the original photographer... It demonstrates the dangers faced by all small fish years before they are big enough to reach 'keeper' size

This unbelievable picture is not mine – I found it on Pinterest and cannot track down the original photographer… It demonstrates the dangers faced by all small fish years before they are big enough to reach ‘keeper’ size

Know this: By the time a fish is big enough to bite your lure or your bait, it has successfully learnt how to survive… Every single day it has sharpened its skills and added more with practise. No fish will give you the opportunity to catch it unless you completely outsmart it. You have to make it feel like your offering is the best meal ever – something worth throwing caution to the wind (water?) for!

Presentation, presentation, presentation! If you get this right, others may consider your ability to catch fish bordering on the supernatural!

Presentation, presentation, presentation! If you get this right, others may consider your ability to catch fish bordering on the supernatural!

Understanding this is what separates the true masters from the rest… Tackle choices, initial approach and complete adaptability once at the water are all affected. With this in mind, I spend a fair amount of time making tiny flies. Two weekends ago, when I posted “Singing in the rain” I described yet another example of success against all odds. I doubt I would have caught that beautiful rainbow with a large, unnatural looking fly.

Size 16, green and white embroidery thread, ring necked parakeet feathers, white size 6 uni thread tying silk.

Size 16, green and white embroidery thread, ring necked parakeet feathers, white size 6 uni thread tying silk.

Tonight’s pattern revisits my ring-necked parakeet theme, this time with a woven body in the same style and colour of the auburn fly’s body. Every wrap of thread counts, every fibre of feather is important, so that when the trout are skittish, they can examine my fly for as long as they want, before it moves away in that tantalising, mesmerising manner that triggers the take.

Go ahead, make your own flies and remember that the more refined your approach, and the more lifelike your presentation, the greater your chances will be.

Thank you for reading, please visit again soon!

sea bass on the rising tide…


As yesterday was a whistle-stop tour of discovery, I did not pack my rod, however that did not stop my pulse from quickening when I spotted two decent sized sea bass (circa 1.5 to 2 pounds) in the shallows. They come into the harbour on the rising tide, in the likely hope of eating the scores of baitfish that thrive in the clean water. I stopped in at the local tackle shop to meet Keith – a friendly man with a lifetime of the outdoors sparkling in his eyes. When I return, I can fish anywhere on the rocks or in the surf – my Environment Agency licence is sufficient to cover me in all parts of Cornwall.

Go ahead and see if you can spot the fish that caught my eye – they’re given away by their shadows!

These two sea bass were not part of a much bigger shoal I saw minutes later in the back of the harbour... About a hundred fish all circa 1lb to 2lb had swum in on the rising tide to clean up on the myriads of baitfish swimming in the shallows...

These two sea bass were not part of a much bigger shoal I saw minutes later in the back of the harbour… About a hundred fish all circa 1lb to 2lb had swum in on the rising tide to clean up on the myriads of baitfish swimming in the shallows…

Thank you for reading

sea bass in Cornwall


A picture tells a thousand words… Today my gorgeous wife and I woke up at 05h30 and we drove to Penzance and then St.Ives. It took us just over 5 hours to reach our destination and perfect weather smiled on us throughout – do you agree with me that is this what Teddington’s robins had in mind when they sang in the change of seasons back in March?

 Today we spent more than ten hours in the car for six hours of this: low tide, clear water, no wind... what a joyous discovery we made!

Today we spent more than ten hours in the car for six hours of this: low tide, clear water, no wind… what a joyous discovery we made! (photo – metiefly)

Imagine hopping in the little rowing boat with your favourite rod and a handful of specially tied streamers for sea bass. It's only a matter of time before I make this happen...

Imagine hopping in the little rowing boat with your favourite rod and a handful of specially tied streamers for sea bass. It’s only a matter of time before I make this happen… (photo – metiefly)

Taking in the excitement of future plans at St.Ives... What a day!

Taking in the excitement of future plans at St.Ives… What a day! (photo – metiefly)

Thank you for reading, please come back soon!

summer solstice – surreal sightings of sea trout


I have fished several times over the last six weekends, each time adding another blank day to my ongoing fishing adventure. Yesterday fine weather marked our longest day of the year… Many people gathered outdoors at various waterholes along the Thames to make the most of the evening which culminated in another brilliant sunset. As my wife and I walked along the river I noted with glee that the tide was low and still dropping as darkness fell.
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Today’s weather was not ideal for fishing – blustery winds skidded dark clouds across the sky and rainfall never seemed far away. After a wonderful day out and about, I took the chance to make a few flies before heading out just before 18h00 to fish the outgoing tide.
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Soon after I began casting, I witnessed one of the most exciting sights I have ever seen since I arrived in London: a wild sea trout twice the size of the one I caught on 6th May leapt completely out of the water, in the middle of the river and well beyond my casting range. As my mind turned over and over the question of whether it was actually a sea trout or a salmon, I increased the tempo of my fishing to cover as much water as I could. Standing almost knee deep in the shallows, I was surrounded by small fry. Surely there must be predators about?

I moved to where the outgoing current speeds over a bar and creates a back eddy in the same pool where I had caught my first ever sea trout. Imagine my adrenalin spike when I saw a bow wave heading upstream straight towards my fly… I struck too soon! Missed the fish because it did not get a chance to bite properly. Wow! I popped my streamer right back into the strike zone and let it hang still in the current. My polarised sunglasses and the clarity of the water allowed me to watch as THREE sea trout swam up to examine my fly. I was besides myself in anticipation – if there were a shoal of them, would they compete amongst each other for a mouthful? Sadly not. I changed my fly and tried again: more follows… I switched from a streamer to a beautiful deer hair muddler minnow in the hope that a smaller fly may be the answer… Nope! I kept casting and retrieving, working the fly all the way back to me then lifting it to the surface, pausing for a while in the hope of coaxing a reaction. One decent sized sea trout rushed it, only to turn away at the very last moment, spraying me with water splashed by its tail.

As the water level continued to drop, I rested my spot by moving further upstream. When I returned, no more bites or sightings until It was time to pack up. Tonight I will dream of leaping fish and yet again, I am grateful that we have a thriving population of wild sea trout in the Thames this summer – long may it continue!

Thanks for reading, please visit again soon!