Tag Archives: Outdoors

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!

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.

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!

metiefly – adult damselfly


Since I first watched the ‘Damsels in Distress’ video by Sharptail Productions (see my blogpost ‘catching up!’), I have been contemplating how to tie my own version of an adult damselfly… The blue has to be eye catching, yet the form of the fly must be slim and lifelike – at least the proportions have to work.

Browsing in the bookstore yesterday afternoon, I read a section about sinnets (plaits or braids). I began thinking about how to tie one strand of Krystal Flash just so, in a way that creates the desired effect. I will experiment with twisting another time, for now, allow me to indulge in this evening’s adventure:

1) learn how to tie a Portuguese Sinnet:

Google search to learn the technique

Google search to learn the technique

2) practise on a suitable length of cord:

Once you figure out the rhythm, symmetry is easy to achieve...

Once you figure out the rhythm, symmetry is easy to achieve…

3) practise on a single strand of Krystal Flash – in this case, Pearl Blue

Patience is a virtue... This will definitely help you exercise it!

Patience is a virtue… This will definitely help you exercise it!

4) make sure you have a good approximate size – how big are your local damselfly adults?

Size and shape are key - trout will definitely let you know if you get it wrong

Size and shape are key – trout will definitely let you know if you get it wrong

5) make the fly so it sits in the surface film, keeping a slim profile

I can hardly wait to test this in the spring and summer... More tweaking is necessary to ensure the correct proportions and buoyancy  - there is a fine balance between too much deer hair and not enough

I can hardly wait to test this in the spring and summer… More tweaking is necessary to ensure the correct proportions and buoyancy – there is a fine balance between too much deer hair and not enough

Please let me know your thoughts and if you can help me name it, I’ll gladly post one to the reader who proposes the winning name. Better still, if you can improve the look and feel of the fly using this technique, please share your ideas!

Thank you for reading – please return soon…

…catching up!


Today we attempted to visit a far flung spot that I had marked in my mental mapbook about three Augusts ago. Back then I had been walking with a friend, collecting lost golf balls and enjoying the great outdoors despite being firmly within London’s giant sprawl. Lured by the sound of gurgling water, we chose a path that meandered down into a tightly wooded valley and suddenly we found ourselves alongside a beautiful stream.

As most readers may understand, the instinct to look for fish in likely spots never fades and although the chances were improbable, I peered keenly through the leaves and twigs into a perfect lie behind a large rock. A fallen tree arched across the river onto the rock and the current had gouged a hole about a metre deep. Imagine my joy and disbelief when I saw, neatly contrasted against the pale gravel stream bed, two trout silhouettes lightly sculling in the backwash. We tried to edge closer, to get a proper look… As my friend crept cautiously towards the fallen tree, he slipped awkwardly, hurting an injury he’d been nursing. We prudently decided to call it a day.

This morning the sun shone brightly, glinting off surface water that has flooded every low lying piece of land. Puddles in unusual places bear testament to how high the water table is after all the rainfall earlier this week. My Darling and I tried our best to pick our way through the muddy trail, always keen to explore new places. It was not long before we faced the truth: sometimes it is best to stop before a leisurely stroll becomes an ordeal. We retraced our steps and planned to return in better conditions. The whole of spring and summer lies before us and today it was not meant to be: the stream was in full spate and muddy, scuppering the likelihood of a photo of a gorgeous urban trout.

Returning early gave me a chance to catch up on some of my favourite blogs – what a pleasure to see their inspiring pictures and read through their recent posts. Currentseams and SwittersB both shared some stunning footage that resonates perfectly with one of my recent posts “flying Tigers, hidden dragons”.

I humbly suggest if you have not yet seen this video, invest your next two and a half minutes wisely and click on this link:

http://www.orvis.com/news/fly-fishing/video-damsels-in-distress-on-a-new-zealand-stream/

http://vimeo.com/85147880

Turn up the sound and enjoy the experience…

It is a dream of mine to be able to capture such high quality footage, hopefully on the Zambesi River in order to share some of the stunning memories that I carry with me from my childhood days. Thanks very much to SwittersB and Currentseams for sharing this link and huge congratulations to Simon Perkins, the photographer.

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

The ultimate Test – salmon or grayling? part two


Continued from part one…

I made my way upstream to find Jimmy and catch up with his progress… He smiled ear to ear when he heard me describe what I had seen and shortly after that he caught a giant brown trout, larger than the sea trout that I had been unable to net successfully for him earlier. We had no scales however we both agreed it was definitely a double figure fish. This time we made sure of landing it and after a few quickly snapped pictures, we returned it to the now rising waters.

More than 10lbs, this fish is Jimmy's largest brown trout so far - safely returned in perfect condition!

More than 10lbs, this fish is Jimmy’s largest brown trout so far – safely returned in perfect condition!

I witnessed several boisterous upstream runs by giant sized fish, pushing bow waves ahead of them and seemingly oblivious to my presence on the riverbank. I switched back to the fly provided earlier, designed for rapid sinking and bumping along the bottom. It took me four or five casts to acclimatise to the heavy plop and then I started probing the opposite bank, casting slightly upstream and letting the fly work with the current in a slow arc…

Just as my thoughts turned to the effectiveness of this fly’s design, rendering it almost weedless despite having no weed guard, I got stuck on the bottom. Understandable, I suppose, given the pace of the river and the weight of the fly – I raised my rod tip, pulling gently, then harder as I tried to gauge what I was stuck to. Two solid shakes signalled to me that I was actually into a fish, and the fight was on! Mindful of the 6lb breaking strain tippet, I guided the fish towards me and into the current – my 5wt rod traced a perfect hyperbola as my line started to disappear. Having watched videos of sea fishermen handle permit, bonefish, tarpon and GTs, I played the fish off the reel, moving with it as it stayed low and out of sight… Eventually, after more than ten minutes, it showed, not on the surface, but close enough for me to realise this was the biggest fish I had ever had on the end of my line. It was wide and deep, much thicker than my thigh. Just before then, Jimmy had urged me to move the fish in a certain way to gain advantage – when he saw it, everything changed! Now it was a matter of holding on for dear life and working out how to access it – our landing nets were far too small. I said the only option we had was to move towards the end of the beat, into the shallower water where we could handle it and release the fish without bringing it to shore… When we eventually got there, I stepped into the water, eagerly anticipating a good look at this monster fish. The Salmon had different plans. It saw us in the water and changed direction. Far from being tired, it accelerated towards the opposite bank and into the root system of some large trees – when it arrived, it snapped my tippet like gossamer… WOW!

We were fortunate to have the whole river to ourselves - I ran with the giant salmon more than 200 metres downstream in search of shallow water because our landing nets we far too small. When I got there, it reversed, heading across to the deeper water and the trees on the far bank, whereupon it promptly snapped me off.

We were fortunate to have the whole river to ourselves – I ran with the giant salmon more than 200 metres downstream in search of shallow water because our landing nets were far too small. When I got there, it reversed, heading across to the deeper water and the trees on the far bank, whereupon it promptly snapped me off.

Jimmy and I were speechless for a moment, both humbled by what we had just seen… He said “it’s gone!” I said “we would have released it, it is safe now – we released it!” And then we started laughing as we climbed the riverbank, still in awe of the size and power of that fish. When we eventually returned to Jimmy’s rod we had talked ourselves out of an early lunch because the fish were biting too readily and there was a lull in the wind and rain. It was the right decision to carry on, for it was not long before Jimmy’s rod bent double and we watched a silver sea trout treat us to an aerial display. Fresh from the sea, we admired it’s exquisite beauty, took a couple of pictures and returned it. What a day we were having!

Feisty and silver, a freshly run sea trout was the 4th species of Salmonid we caught that day - unbelievable!

Feisty and bright silver, a freshly run sea trout was the 4th species of Salmonid we encountered that day – unbelievable!

After lunch, the rain and wind increased in intensity. Although we continued to catch, floating debris and rising floodwaters provided a different challenge. I played another very large fish for a while, thinking it to be a 10lb salmon, however Jimmy pointed out that it was a huge rainbow trout – as he said the words, it spat out my fly and shot off into the deeper water. I landed a stunning 3.5lb brown trout, similar in size and muscle to my Thames sea trout:

what an honour to catch this beautiful fish - almost identical in size to my Thames sea trout in the summer. Safely returned to the river!

What an honour to catch this beautiful resident brown trout – almost identical in size to my Thames sea trout in the summer. Safely returned to the river!

As the light started to fade, we walked back up to the top end of the beat, returning to where Jimmy had started the day off with such flair. Determined to bring his tally to 15, he made cast after cast into turbulent waters, the little island we had walked across now completely submerged… It was not to be – before it got too dark we saluted the River Test, thanking it for an experience of a lifetime and we packed up for the day. I have still not seen a grayling up close and personal, however I am happy to swap this experience for now – there is always an opportunity for grayling on another adventure!

I took a photo of the memorial plaque on the door of Orvis’s cottage – pausing to reflect how proud Mr Edwards would be, knowing that this landmark venue continues to be lovingly maintained and guarded by its custodians and visitors alike. Long may it last. As I finish this blog entry, I wish to thank Jimmy Boyd for the most incredible fishing experience and for his fantastic companionship throughout the day. It is deeply appreciated.

paying respect to the late Michael Edwards

paying respect to the late Michael Edwards

Thank you for reading and here’s wishing everyone around the world a truly special festive season – Merry Christmas! – metiefly

The Orvis Cottage at the ginger beer beat - Kimbridge, River Test. Thank you for the privilege.

The Orvis Cottage at the ginger beer beat – Kimbridge, River Test. Thank you for the privilege.

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…