Tag Archives: Thames

…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:



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.

fish out of water

Thriving ecosystems are characterised by a plenitude of signs, tracks and evidence of hard fought battles of wits, stealth and cunning as different species clash in the never ending dynamic of survival of the fittest.

Yesterday whilst walking, we crossed the bridge over the Duke of Northumberland’s river in Isleworth and my wife stopped suddenly – as if by magic, six little fish were neatly arranged on the pavement, still moist and upon closer inspection, slightly digested by the stomach acid of a predatory bird. As we took pictures and tried to work out how they got there, on top of the side wall of the bridge, we noticed an even rarer surprise! A tiny specimen of a Thames flatfish had been regurgitated yet, because of its shape, it had not rolled off the wall onto the pavement below. I have no idea if the predator had been a heron, a cormorant, a grebe or even possibly a kingfisher – whilst trying to solve the riddle, it struck me how extremely fortunate we are to have such abundant biodiversity in our waterways that run through the heart of this immense city. Many species of birds and fish have been here for aeons and despite our ever encroaching threat, they still carve out their existence alongside us.

I feel privileged to share this message – enjoy the pictures:

six little minnows - I'd love to know how they got there... Did a cormorant, or a heron get a fright and cough them up? Was it a kingfisher or a grebe that had eaten too much? Leave a comment if you think you know the answer

six little minnows – I’d love to know how they got there… Did a cormorant, or a heron get a fright and cough them up? Was it a kingfisher or a grebe that had eaten too much? Leave a comment if you think you know the answer

I'm not an Icthyologist, I'm an Icthyologist's son... Please tell me if this is a baby flounder, plaice or sole?

I’m not an Ichthyologist, I’m an Ichthyologist’s son… Please tell me if this is a baby flounder, plaice or sole?

Wherever you are in the world, contemplate how you can increase awareness. Can you make further little adjustments (or big ones) to your lifestyle to live in better harmony with your surroundings? The more we look after Nature, the more it will look after us!

Thank you for reading – please visit again soon.

Tried and tested – discovering true champions is always fun!

One of the joys of modern times is how quickly available information is on the Internet. More than ever before, there is an immediate and unprecedented wealth of knowledge, advice and practical demonstration at the touch of a screen or only a few buttons. I am grateful to all my fellow bloggers, the many professionals and the talented amateurs who generously upload their videos from all corners of the globe – I salute you all!

My recent pioneering into the realms of tying flies for sea trout and sea bass resulted in some great winners and some even more fantastic flops along my steep learning curve… What glorious victory I savoured when my very own pattern produced the fish of my dreams out of the Thames! Since that day I tweaked the formula several times in different directions. Hook size? Dumbbell eyes? Bead or bead chain? Arctic fox or buck tail? No flash, lots of flash or just a little? I enthusiastically ventured down all these paths and more. Once I felt I knew enough to confirm I have SO much more to learn I researched the tried and tested patterns that have been the go-to patterns for so many for so long: Lefty’s Deceiver, the Clouser Minnow and the Sand Eel.

There’s a reason why they work so well. They do exactly what they need to… No more, no less. Simplicity of design and ruggedness are key. I produced some mini Clouser minnows and swam them in the Thames last weekend. No bites, however water conditions were not ideal and I can see from the way they move and sparkle that they’ll produce takes whenever I’m able to put them in front of a fish.

Thank you Mr Clouser... Simplicity of design and ruggedness. Everything I look for when catching the fish of my dreams

Thank you Mr Clouser… Simplicity of design and ruggedness. Everything I look for when catching the fish of my dreams

Thank you for reading – please visit 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!

ebb and flow

Here’s a present: http://www.tidetimes.org.uk is a handy bookmark for anyone planning coastal excursions in the UK. As strange as it may seem at first, this includes those who wish to fish the tidal Thames (everywhere downstream of Teddington Lock). Whilst I’m dishing out handy hints, here’s another: Make sure you purchase your appropriate Environment Agency rod license from the Post Office website rather than paying additional fees to some third party site elsewhere online.

Today marked another spring tide, with low water at 12h39 fitting perfectly with my plan to complete my chores beforehand. Weather conditions were mainly clear, intermittent cloud cover releasing only a couple of very brief showers. The wind was kind to me, leaving barely a ripple on the water most of the time. I enjoyed a few wonderful hours casting and retrieving, playing my Foxy Baitfish through the current and anticipating all manner of scenarios. When the tide changed I was fascinated by how quickly the dynamics of the river switch. I very quickly developed awareness of how many millimetres I had left before my Wellies became buckets, gently stepping towards higher ground before it was too late.

Water clarity was surprisingly good. I could see the white flash of my fly from quite a distance, with a hint of yellow and orange as it drew near. I was surrounded by evidence of fish: three corpulent cormorants actively feeding in the channel, one crested grebe sporting his dashing summer kit and three other humans casting bread and various morsels in the hope of connecting with carp or bream. One fisherman showed me a picture of him with a 15lb common carp caught and released last Sunday. He regaled me with a story of another 10lb mirror carp. I quizzed him on the topic of sea trout and rainbow trout as he mentioned catching them by accident whilst fishing with bread. He is adamant that they are  in the river, however he did concede they are not caught as frequently as other species.  

I met Taz, the owner of a long boat who was working against the clock busy blacking the bottom of his hull before the water came up. Last week, whilst en route from Reading, he and his friend saw a dead salmon floating in the water… Circa 8lb in size, apparently – more anecdotal evidence of Salmonids making their way up the river. Taz is an avid fly fisherman who makes his own flies too… He shared some with me (flashy streamer patterns tried and tested on sea bass in Devon) and I insisted that he have at least one of mine in exchange. As always it is hugely refreshing to experience the generosity and camaraderie between fellow anglers.

Eventually when the size of the beach and my options for a back cast rapidly diminished, I dismantled my rod and took a few pictures with my camera to capture my 2013 Thames debut. To sum up: A very satisfying blank day today, providing me with  a million questions and a few ideas to take back to the vice.

On the Foxy Baitfish pattern, in windy conditions, there is an increased tendency for the main bunch of arctic fox fibres to wrap around the hook. Tonight I tied an alternative pattern that carries the bulk of the streamer at the tail end of the fly. My hope is that this modification greatly reduces the potential for hook wrap complications… I’ll let you know how that works out in due course.

This prototype is designed to mitigate the risk of streamer materials hooking across the hook bend

This prototype is designed to mitigate the risk of streamer materials tangling across the hook bend

Thank you for reading, please visit again soon!

Scaling up for the Thames

The River Thames is a complex environment. Gone are the days when the only feasible expectation of a catch was an old boot or an old tin can, so often described in cartoons. Where I live, tidal surges bring the current to a standstill and reverse it twice a day so water levels are constantly in flux and estuarine species could venture up as far as Richmond, or even Teddington Lock.

In the last two weeks, fewer rainy days than normal mean water clarity has improved considerably. Rising temperatures and increased daylight hours trigger the breeding season for perch and other small freshwater species, providing fry and baitfish in huge numbers.

Larger fish will usually stick to deeper channels, especially at low tide, so casting weighted flies into holes should hopefully provide better odds. Tomorrow I’ll be making footprints in my Wellies at low tide, plumbing the channels with a specially tied JLM Special and a Foxy Baitfish to see if anything latches on!

Scaling up for the Thames - these are tied on size 10 hooks and I'll be practising my casting in preparation for my dream pursuit of bonefish and permit on the flats

Scaling up for the Thames – these are tied on size 10 hooks and I’ll be practising my casting in preparation for my dream pursuit of bonefish and permit on the flats

Without doubt many people will think I’m nuts – so far the only fish I’ve caught in the Thames were some small perch downstream of Kew… I’ll take my camera along just in case – who knows what I’ll be posting on my blog in the next few days?

Thanks for reading, please visit again soon!

Birdsong calling Spring along the Thames

If you’ve watched the movie Australia you will never forget Nullah’s words “I will sing you to me.”

Today my Darling wife and I walked along the river Thames up to Teddington Lock. In stark contrast to last weekend, sunshine was intermittent and not a drop of rain or snow… Puddles were fewer than normal and the air was crisp. Along the river signs of the new season are all jockeying for position – for me the most endearing of them all was a fiercely sung duet between two robin redbreasts. What a song! We marvelled at the fact that whilst we humans keep slogging ourselves relentlessly in the City with our 24/7 mad rush schedules, Nature is quietly (sometimes noisily!) going about it’s business. Crocuses and daffodils abound and leaf buds are swelling rapidly.

Sure, we hear remarks about the never ending winter… We’re almost in April and still have to wrap up – when will it finally push on? After our relaxing yet invigorating walk today I can confidently predict it’s already happening! Birds, plants and the animals are singing it to us.

At Teddington a sign caught our attention and sent my mind racing… Thanks to my Love’s nifty photography skills I can share it.

This sign caught my attention and sent my mind racing!

This sign caught my attention and sent my mind racing!

I can tell this year I’ll be “practising my casts” in the Thames more than ever in the hope of meeting and releasing my first sea trout – wouldn’t that be a refreshing headline in the papers?

A MASSIVE thank you to all the unsung heroes who toil so hard to keep the Thames in wonderful condition. Wherever you are on Earth, let’s continue to play our part in it’s ongoing restoration and preservation!

Thanks for reading, please visit again soon.