Tag Archives: Thames sea trout

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!

Mitchi mayflies!


My Darling photographed this mayfly last weekend whilst we walked along the River Thames. It’s delicate wings were no match against blustery winds and at the risk of anthropomorphism, the little treasure was grateful for the chance to rest and strike a pose…

Mayflies are a dream come true for trout and fishermen alike!

Mayflies are a dream come true for trout and fishermen alike! Photo – worklondonstyle

This picture provides a sense of overall proportions:

I have a brilliant solution to sourcing the fine tailpieces... Will reveal all in due course...

I have a brilliant solution to sourcing the fine tailpieces… Will reveal all in due course… Photo – worklondonstyle

Earlier during the same walk, I had read an interesting article in one of the monthly fly fishing magazines about tabby cat fur being a purrfect (sorry!) source of dubbing material written by a highly successful young member of the English fly fishing team. Having already featured our very own Mitchi’s discarded whiskers on miniature dry flies, the next logical step was to harvest her loose fur from our couch.

Today I put all the pieces of the puzzle together to produce the following:

Cat fur dubbing provides a slim body profile and a pair of miniature hen hackles form excellent wings. What will the trout make of the end result?

Cat fur dubbing provides a slim body profile and a pair of miniature hen hackles form excellent wings. What will the trout make of the end result? Photo – metiefly

view from the top... Photo - metiefly

view from the top… Photo – metiefly

The original...

The original… Photo – worklondonstyle

The copy... metiefly Mitchi mayfly using locally sourced materials :-)

The copy… metiefly Mitchi mayfly using locally sourced materials 🙂 photo – metiefly

Mitchi is anticipating the finest cuts of the proceeds in due course…

purrfect collaboration... Thanks to Mitchi for sustainable use of materials at its best!

purrfect collaboration… Thanks to Mitchi for sustainable use of materials at its best! Photo – metiefly

Thank you for reading – please return soon!

Thames adventures and aquatic beetles in Africa


I spent several hours on the Thames over the last two days reconnecting my casts in pursuit of a sea trout, or any species willing to hunt my offerings. The wind has been perfect, allowing me to cast upstream and work my fly through riffles and runs at low tide. No bites so far and plenty of time to ponder – what a tremendous way to iron out all the wrinkles that work and commuting create.

I longed to tie a credible Walker’s Killer since my very first attempt at dressing a hook, back in 1984 when I first met my trout hunting friend Gareth. From an early age he tied flies for his family’s annual pilgrimage to the mountains of Nyanga – perfecting many techniques, trusting his instincts and improvising with locally sourced materials and colour combinations. Hooks were hard to come by in tiny sizes and I would often tie a fly, examine it for a while, then I would cut off the thread, feathers and wool to start again!

Last night I rekindled my enthusiasm for this pattern using woodcock feathers and squirrel tail… My technique needs further refining however I am confident that with continued practice and the right feathers (partridge feathers are best) I will master it at last!

Herewith my first prototypes for the time being:

This magic pattern mimics water beetles, dragon fly larvae or small fish. Have a go at tying your own and let me know when you succeed!

This magic pattern mimics water beetles, dragon fly larvae or small fish. Have a go at tying your own and let me know when you succeed!

The more I practise, the easier it gets - I discovered that a similar pattern, the Mrs Simpson is used specifically for sea trout in New Zealand, fished at night... Will mine work in the Thames this season?

The more I practise, the easier it gets – I discovered that a similar pattern, the Mrs Simpson is used specifically for sea trout in New Zealand, fished at night… Will my equivalents work in the Thames this season?

I use liquid fusion superglue to cement their heads... Make sure they dry sufficiently before you handle them or store them to prevent them from sticking to each other.

I use liquid fusion superglue to cement their heads… Remember to ensure they dry sufficiently before handling them or storing them to prevent them from sticking to each other.

woodcock feathers produce a different effect - I look forward to using partridge feathers to recreate the original in due course...

woodcock feathers produce a different effect – I look forward to using partridge feathers to recreate the original in due course…

Water beetles are ubiquitous in the lakes and rivers that I visited as a boy – perhaps this is why the Walker’s Killer is such a hit there:

Photo - Art.com

Photo – Art.com. Cybister tripunctatus is a predatory water beetle that hunts Odonata larvae… In Southern Africa There are over 200 species of water beetles in the Family Dytiscidae alone.

Thank you for visiting – I look forward to your return!

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!

Orvis – grand opening in Regent Street


Last week I popped in to the Dover Street store, only to find a closed door and empty premises. I recalled resident fly fishing expert Jimmy Boyd explain that they were due to relocate when I last visited, so I tracked down their new premises, 11b Regent St, a short hop downhill from Picadilly Circus.

Although the website http://www.orvis.co.uk/regentst is not specific, it states they will be opening in December… For those of you still undecided on where to do your Christmas shopping, wait a couple more weeks and you won’t be disappointed.

The website has a picture of the external facade, however I managed to snap this shot in a rare moment between the hordes of passers-by:

Trading since 1856 and still completely in touch - drawing on a rich heritage, Orvis are equally at home on the cutting edge of new technology and forward thinking... Straight down the hill from Piccadilly Circus, on your right hand side.

Trading since 1856 and still completely in touch – drawing on a rich heritage, Orvis are equally at home on the cutting edge of new technology and forward thinking… Straight down the hill from Piccadilly Circus, on your right hand side.

I wish the team the very best of success in their new premises.

Thank you for reading, please come back soon!

finding the perfect cast


My earliest memories of fly casting are from watching my Dad expertly feed out line, his false casts cutting tight arcs through the darkness. An eastern glow announced the new day – an invigorating backdrop while mystical swishing noises combine with the echoing barks of baboons to etch a permanent source of pleasure deep in my brain… As I write I am transported back to Udu and Mare: rare pockets of crystal water nestled in the foothills of ancient African mountains, fed by streams. Mist rises softly from the mirror calm surface, punctuated only by moving ‘v’ shapes and concentric circles whilst feeding fish feast discriminately, sometimes slow and gentle, sometimes in a frenzy.

Frenzies were either the worst, or the best: Swishes stopped abruptly when line slapped the water or stretched backwards, rudely anchored by a tree. Silence would be shattered by colourful language and muttering whilst another fly was hastily affixed. Sometimes, very rarely, a rainbow avalanche would part the waters, diving upwards to catch the feathered offering before it could float delicately onto the surface – silence shattered this time by squeals of glee emanating from the core of my spirit! My Dad savouring the echoes and deftly playing his catch on light line.

Those rare, sweet casts, when they do happen, are a culmination of many hours of trial and error, propped up by lessons gleaned from ancient books, modern videos, anecdotal conversations, ad hoc demonstrations, observation and live experiments repeated over and over. My quest to decrease the time intervals between perfect casts is fuelled by anticipation of future frenzies, and stealthy stalking as well as an insatiable hunger to know and understand every aspect of the cast.

Anatomy
Physiology
Kinesiology
Rod design
Line construction
Air resistance
Temperature dependent viscosity
Surface tension
Currents
Leader materials
Tippets
Fly construction
Water clarity

The list goes on and on…

The more I learn, the more I realise I need to practise… Like I did as a young boy casting at stones in the garden. Hundreds and hundreds of hours: aim, cast, retrieve; aim, cast, retrieve. Sleep. Aim, cast, retrieve. Now, it looks easy because I have banked the ten thousand hours lauded by Malcolm Gladwell in his phenomenal work ‘Outliers‘. If you are still reading these words, you are bitten by the same bug, maybe even worse than me, in which case I sympathise and envy you in equal measure. Which one of us will be back on the water first?

Fly fishing is a moving meditation most of the time for me... And then it's a roller coaster! (photo metiefly)

Fly fishing is a moving meditation most of the time for me… And then it’s a roller coaster! (photo metiefly)

If you are in the London area, or if you are ever passing through, drop me a comment if I can help you in your quest… I would love to assist if I can!