Tag Archives: Hard fighting fish

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.

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.

all aboard for Abaco!


This little pocket of flies is destined for the Bahamas… What stories will they conjure up in time?

Rolling Harbour, Abaco... All will be revealed in time!

Rolling Harbour, Abaco… All will be revealed in time!


Thanks in advance to RH – I will keep everyone posted in due course!

Looking forward to some beautiful pictures of Bonefish…

Thank you for reading, please visit again soon.

tying techniques – 7 steps to a perfect weave!


The joy of learning is that it never ends and there are so many ways to take in new information. With the internet, specialist knowledge is now available via all manner of teaching methods. People’s willingness to document and pass on techniques that were previously communicated by word of mouth or through one on one tuition provides an endless source of new ideas.

bright ideas are never far away for improving your tying techniques...

bright ideas are never far away for improving your tying techniques…


When I looked to learn how to weave flies I chanced upon many different approaches. All of them work… Having written a couple of blog entries about the fantastic characteristics of woven bodies, I will now attempt to distill my preferred method into a few simple written instructions:

1) Start off the fly by creating a thread base or a bead and wire core, adding a tail as appropriate, depending on the desired pattern. Variety is limited only by your imagination – so far I have made flies with or without tails, weighted cores, bead heads and even Klinkhamer style dry flies.

2) Tie in two lengths of embroidery thread on opposite sides of the hookshank so that the long ends hang off the back of the hook. I prefer to double back the short ends and wrap them down to add an extra layer of strength and to add some bulk to the width of the body. Colours are optional however I prefer to create two tone flies using a dark shade and a light shade, normally with the lighter shade on the bottom of the fly to mimic natural camouflage. Start with matching lengths of about 25 cm and as you gain experience, you will learn to gauge required lengths for different scenarios.

3) Wrap your tying thread to the front of the fly, whip finish and cut off. The tying thread will be reintroduced later to tie off the completed weave.

4) Twist your vice through 90 degrees so that the eye of the hook points towards you. Take one long end of the embroidery thread in each hand and BELOW the hook cross them over in an overhand knot. To create a two tone pattern, ensure the dark strand passes behind the light strand every time this overhand knot is created. Partially tighten the loop formed by the overhand knot by pulling the threads in opposite directions. Use the hook to separate the intertwined strands so that the dark strand goes over the top of the hook and the light strand passes underneath. Tighten each strand, pulling evenly and firmly on opposite directions on the same horizontal plane as the hook.

5) Repeat the above process, ensuring that the dark strand passes behind the light strand to form the overhand knot and then passes over the top of the hook shank. Each time the knot is tightened, a new segment is formed. Take care to tighten every knot firmly and evenly – inconsistent tension results in a lumpy weave!

6) When the full length of the body has been formed, finish off the weave with a final overhand knot pulled tight UNDERNEATH the hook and then cross over the long ends of the threads ABOVE the hook, allowing them to hang down either side of the hookshank. Secure both strands by clamping them together with hackle pliers, the weight of the pliers provides tension to prevent unravelling. Twist your vice back through 90 degrees to its original position.

7) Reattach your tying thread close to the eye of the hook and wrap twice behind the long ends of the embroidery thread and twice in front of it to secure the embroidery threads. For the last time, pull them tight, then cut off the embroidery threads and complete the final stages of your fly – adding wings, a dubbing collar or a hackle etc.

The symmetrical, clearly segmented pattern of these flies is achieved using the weaving techniques described above.  Have fun creating your own!

The symmetrical, clearly segmented pattern of these flies is achieved using the weaving techniques described above. Have fun creating your own!

As well as looking good, embroidery thread is durable - flies keep their form and remain irresistible fish after fish

As well as looking good, embroidery thread is durable – flies keep their form and remain irresistible fish after fish


Over time I will tweak the above instructions to make them more readable and easier to follow. I welcome all feedback and would love to hear from you if you find this helpful. Likewise please do not hesitate to contact me if you have a better way to explain it in words!

Thank you for reading, please visit again soon.

The ultimate Test – salmon instead of grayling? part one


Hallowed grounds - I heard this described as one of fly fishing's sacred places...

Hallowed grounds – I heard this described as one of fly fishing’s sacred places…

The knowledge I gained through personal experience yesterday is beyond normal measurable value: no amount of preparation, research and optimistic dreaming could predict what unfolded on the famous ginger beer beat… the first cast of the day produced a spritely rainbow for my host and after his third fish in less than fifteen minutes, I graciously accepted his offer of an identical fly… Two casts later I caught and released a beautiful brownie – fit as a fiddle and exquisite to look at in close up. A few more casts with my host’s fly, then we moved on and I switched to a size 16 gold head deer hair nymph – eager to conjure up my first ever grayling take. No bites!

First cast of the day - a spritely rainbow of about 2lbs... Jimmy went on to catch and release 14 fish despite horizontal raindrops and 22mph winds! The island in the foreground was completely submerged when we returned in the evening and all the rainfall in the test valley caught up with us.

First cast of the day – a spritely rainbow of about 2lbs… This would prove to be the smallest: Jimmy went on to catch and release 14 fish despite horizontal raindrops and 22mph winds! The island in the foreground was completely submerged when we returned in the evening and all the rainfall in the test valley caught up with us.

Salmo trutta in pristine condition - well done Mr B!

Salmo trutta in pristine condition – well done Mr B!

my first fish of the Test...

my first fish of the Test…

Fish moved in a way that I have not seen in a wild river…  Chalkstream waters renowned worldwide for their clarity seemed to magnify size and multiply numbers… Could they really be this big?

When we lost count of how many my fishing partner had landed (dare I mention his double figure sea trout that was too large for the net – freeing itself before we could come up with a suitable plan?), we took a stroll to the end of the beat so I could explore the whole territory and absorb one of fly fishing’s most sacred places…

I saw no grayling in the likely spots despite half an hour of drifting my tiny fly through riffles and channels, wondering what the grayling take would feel like. Suddenly my education ramped up a notch: I could only gawk as the “sandbar” that I had been using as a reference point in the middle of the river repositioned itself like a feeding trout does every now and then. My mouth dried and my pulse thumped – this shadow was the size of my leg. Memories of my ‘giant'(1.1kg) rainbow trout from the headwaters of the Nyangombe River flooded back to me: Back then, after an hour of trying every pattern I had, I eventually caught it on a diminutive ‘Bruce’s Bug’ tied by my friend Gareth… My reverie was broken by lactic acid burning in my casting shoulder, suggesting that I had drifted my fly past this leviathan enough times to prove that it was not going to happen soon!

I could not believe the size of the fish I saw slightly upstream of this picture... It only registered as a fish in my brain when the "sandbar"moved like a feeding fish.

I could not believe the size of the fish I saw slightly upstream of this picture… It only registered as a fish in my brain when the “sandbar”moved like a feeding fish.

Thank you for reading – the story continues in part two…