Tag Archives: Biology

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!

drakensberg delights


Recently I received a request for advice on fly selection for the Drakensberg. The question evokes memories of brown trout from pristine waters, day after day walking through stunning surroundings, breathing perhaps the cleanest air that has ever filled my lungs. Rather than attempting further description, I encourage readers to click on Peter Brigg’s masterful blog http://callofthestream.wordpress.com to see his amazing pictures of Drakensberg paradise.

Back then I found success with tiny Coch-y-Bonddu style wet hackle flies: no tail or a short tail of hen hackle fibres, a double strand of peacock herl wrapped to make the body and a soft hen hackle in olive or black. I was not sophisticated in my technique at first however my enthusiasm knew no bounds and I caught a lot of fish. I learned quickly that the trout were wild and hungry: if I could present my fly without being seen myself, they would devour it.

Big brother, little brother... Metiefly damsel nymphs destined for the magical mountains of South Africa.

Big brother, little brother… Metiefly damsel nymphs destined for the magical mountains of South Africa.

Last night at the vice, I created two versions of a fly I just know would have worked perfectly in my endeavours almost 20 years ago. The larger versions are weighted for deeper pools and fast runs, the little ones are designed specifically for crystal waters and smaller tributaries… Tiny feeder streams became my personal favourites – several times I pitched my fly where no other human had been in the lifetime of the fish I was after… My ultimate reward on the final evening, in the last vestiges of sunlight I landed two 1 kg brown trout on consecutive casts. Time stood still in that moment as I thanked the Universe for such a rare and Sacred Gift!

Close up - well defined segments and strong materials ensure guaranteed performance for many fish (photo - metiefly)

Close up – well defined segments and strong materials ensure guaranteed performance for many fish (photo – metiefly)

Tying these gems is easy and the result is pleasing to my eyes – most importantly I know this pattern works wonders and will withstand multiple attacks from feisty predators. I’ll add in a couple of small Walker’s Killers and two Emerald Spiders in case of muddy water…

Only time will tell whether this mix of flies will work in the beautiful waters of Drakensberg streams - I'll let you know the outcome in due course. Tight lines to their recipient!

Only time will tell whether this mix of flies will work in the beautiful waters of Drakensberg streams – I’ll let you know the outcome in due course. Tight lines to their recipient!

Thank you for reading – please return soon!

emerald treasures in the evening


The following pattern is simple and fun for beginners…

* Fine ultra wire – I used chartreuse this time
* Soft feathers – one per fly
* Tying thread – I used 8/0 Uni thread in olive
* Hook – I used a size 14 long shank for damselfly nymph proportions

For the soft feathers:

I picked these up under some trees where the ring necked parakeets spend most of their time...

I picked these up under some trees where the ring necked parakeets spend most of their time…

All you need now is a hook, some chartreuse ultra wire and some olive green tying thread. I complete the process with a dab of superglue on the head. Here’s how it went:

easy does it! take care on the hackles... small feathers call for dexterity and a light touch.

easy does it! take care on the hackles… small feathers call for dexterity and a light touch.

delicate shadows from soft hackles play in the late evening sunlight...

delicate shadows from soft hackles play in the late evening sunlight…

I strive to create symmetry and uniformity even though each one is unique…

Verdant green, yet another nod to the ring necked parakeets... how well will they mimic damsel fly larvae?

Verdant green, yet another nod to the ring necked parakeets… how well will they mimic damsel fly larvae?

The simple, soft hackled wet fly with no tail is often called a spider pattern. Have a go tying your own using feathers collected from the grounds surrounding your favourite lake or stream.

Good luck!

Thank you for reading.

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!

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!

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…

celebrating Nature’s palette… Mr & Mrs Mallard


I just love this picture… I read somewhere that globally, Mallards are the most widespread species of duck. They always make me smile when I see them.

striking a pose... completely at ease with my proximity these two were enjoying Spring in the Serpentine in Hyde Park

striking a pose… completely at ease with my proximity these two were enjoying Spring in the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Photo – metiefly

Thank you for visiting, as always.

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!

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!