Tag Archives: Fly fishing river thames

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!

enter the sea trout!


There are a number of reasons for my radio silence of late, with fewer blog entries than I’d prefer… forgive me and I promise you it was well worth the wait! Pressures of work are actually a privilege in these times and there are so many exciting things happening in London as we shift fully into spring.

I have been looking forward to this bank holiday weekend to further educate myself on Thames River fishing… Before I continue I would like to say a massive ‘Thank You’ to my Wife for being so understanding and supportive of my crazed antics… Late nights and early mornings at the vice developing an ironic, collaborative relationship between the furs of the Arctic Fox, Hares and Rabbits, topped off with bead chain eyes. What about my incessant gazing into “dirty” waters each night as we take our evening strolls? Your support is much appreciated my Darling, from the depths of my heart.

Saturday’s tides allowed me to time low water perfectly – whilst I’m not yet clever enough to know when the best times actually are, one of the major constraints of fly fishing in populated areas is the back cast. I have no desire to hook a human or one of their best friends, so I check behind me almost every cast, and low tides give me space to walk away from passers by.

I explored the dry riverbed and scanned the shallows for baitfish as I made my way towards a spot I’ve wondered about for at least seven years. Conditions were perfect… Blank day! Not one bite. Only fish seen was one dead elver approximately 25 cm long and the width of my finger, lying in the shallows of a rock pool.

Elver trapped at low tide, perfect meal for a wandering heron, a seagull, or possibly a fox?

Elver trapped at low tide, perfect meal for a wandering heron, a seagull, or possibly a fox?

Yesterday was equally challenging, with low tide at 20h10… I fished for about three hours until 20h00. Not one bite. Only fish seen was a 4lb bream in a bad way, floating on its side past me in the current. It looked as though it had been caught and released by some angler upstream. I tried to keep it moving towards the current and deeper water, it mustered the energy to wiggle off into the darker water. My second consecutive blank day – no one said this was going to be easy!

Today I worked on a theme that I came up with whilst designing saltwater crab imitations. Using my much cherished, recently received rotary vice, I discovered how to tie furs and hairs in one plane, creating all manner of shapes and opportunities for legs, pincers and eyes. I took that knowledge into a streamer pattern that produces a similar effect to the matuka style flies famous in New Zealand. I realised that two tone flies with fibres that are extremely soft (rabbit and hare fur is more durable than marabou) are almost too good to be true in the water, especially when tweaked and skipped through a current.

At lunchtime I ran along the Thames at high tide, planning my last venture before tomorrow’s work routine kicks back in. I formulated my game plan, spent some quality time drinking tea with my Wife and watching the world go by, then down to the beach at 18h00. My casting has improved (as it should, given this many blank days!) and I made extra effort to get back to the basics. I treated every cast with my full attention, varying the speed and depth of my fly, trying my utmost to squeeze every ounce of fishing experience into every presentation. Not one bite!

I do not give up easily… Especially when surrounded by Nature. Sunset over the Thames on a clear evening is a unique experience and I marvelled at how time seemed to have stood still. Fast flowing water is fairly easy to read. When the water level is constantly in a state of flux, this new layer of complexity makes it tricky. At 19h30 I was still about 90 mins from low tide, and the shoreline was changing shape rapidly. I decided to cast into the wind to some almost imperceptible rises on the seam between the main channel and the slacker water in a bay slightly upstream of where I stood. My reasoning was that if baby perch are sipping morsels at the surface, my fly may attract one of their worst enemies:

It simply does not get better than this... Unless you're thinking what I'm thinking - Salmon?

It simply does not get better than this… Unless you’re thinking what I’m thinking – Salmon?

I cannot find words tonight to describe how truly phenomenal it was seeing the first flash of silver, with those brilliantly defined spots, so I’ll let the pictures finish up for now. These are pictures of my camera’s screen as I need to wait until the weekend to download my original pictures. This is history in the making. If anyone tells you the Thames is dead, show them this!

anadromous salmo trutta up close and personal. Length = 53.4cm 6th May 2013 19h30 90 mins before low tide

anadromous salmo trutta up close and personal. Length = 53.4cm 6th May 2013 19h30 90 mins before low tide

I returned this beauty back into the river – it is a wild environment and we need to do everything we can to help all the birds, fish and animals that live here.

Thanks for reading, please come back soon!