Wednesday, 19 April 2017

April trout fishing

In the words of T.S. Eliot, April is the cruellest month, stirring dull roots with spring rain. Well, true enough, except for the rain, which has been totally absent for the month so far. Some nights have been cruelly cold, frost early, to be swept away by a hard bright sun, not exactly what the fisherman would order, but then, it is April. A symptom of the cold conditions has been the number of grayling still being taken by trout fishers - as the water warms the grayling become preoccupied with spawning and are seldom caught, but are still featuring regularly in catches on our rivers. 

The staring eye of a grayling, taken on the River Ottery yesterday on a nymph. Note the overshot top jaw, indicating the primarily bottom- feeding habit of the grayling.

 David Pilkington about to land a cracking two-and-a-half pound rainbow on Tinhay lake for young Hugh Shilson, fishing on a four-day beginner's courses. Note that we are huddled in winter coats. 

Total focus and concentration on the lad's face as the fish veers away from the net.

Marilyn Whitmell with a five-pounder from Tinhay.

The moment a trout fell for the nymph on the Ottery, necessitating a rapid strike.

Grannom ( Brachycentrus Subnubilis) are still the main hatching fly, although the first of the Black Gnats are already on the water in small numbers - when they really get going, so will the trout,

Superb footage of a dog otter feeding in the shallows at the tail of Willow Pool on the Tamar. Otters regularly work the shallow stickles for loach and bullheads, if you watch this one carefully you can see his jaws chomping. Darren Saunders, fishing wet fly on our beginner's course, was concentrating so hard on his fishing that he failed to see the competition in his pool for several seconds.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The trout season is upon us!

March on the river - spring sunshine and the chance to fly fish once again. Realistically, the fish are still recovering from spawning, and very little fly will be hatching this early in the year. The water is still cold, and we have been close to freezing overnight. However, who could not enjoy a day like this?

In the absence of a rising trout, David tries a nymph in a tempting little pool on the river Wolf.

A nymph of the stone-clinging variety, a heptagenid.

This stone was crawling with Simulium larvae. These little guys will soon pupate in their distinctive flat-sided conical cases, before emerging in swarms as Black Gnats.

A close-up of another heptagenid. The head and leg segments are all angled downwards like the spoilers on a racing car, to allow the nymph to cling onto stones even in a fast current.

The sight of a rising trout prompts a change to the dry fly. A dry Grannom Emerger - how could any trout resist this? 

Here's one which couldn't!

The barbless hook held well, but came out easily.

Absolutely stunning colours of a wild river Wolf brown trout - the adidose fin is always bright red, but the spot on this one is quite unusual.

Winter is not really gone while the blackthorn blossoms.

An underrated flower, the blackthorn is so pretty at close quarters.

Alex really likes photographing nymphs!

Daffodils will very soon be over, but the riverbanks are a riot of them at present.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Preparations are afoot

Meteorological spring is now officially upon us. Dog's Mercury and Purple Toothwort are in flower on the riverbank, and all thoughts are being concentrated on the season ahead. Some lovely and deadly flies are being tied in anticipation, quite how any fish could possibly resist them remains to be seen. The river trout season opens again on March 15th, and for some it cannot come soon enough.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Frogspawn in the ditches

Frogspawn in the ditches, snowdrops on the banks. A new sense of impending Spring is creeping through the woods and fields. A blush of bright fresh green is now showing as the new leaves are breaking on the hawthorn, and the wild honeysuckle is flushing a delicate sage-green as the life of another season starts to appear. The first Grannom were seen on the Tamar, and a fish was seen rising last Sunday. It took a dry grannom emerger on the very first cast, not the hoped-for grayling, but a brownie. A few more brownies, along with a peal kelt and a couple of very silver ( and quite early!) sea trout smolts, took the nymph intended for grayling. A brace of grayling did oblige, along with a better one which wriggled free of the barbless hook before the leader could be touched - under accepted rules of engagement, this fish definitely lost, not caught.

Can you see this man? If so, he would like his money back from the Army surplus store. Fortunately, the cormorants were lulled into a false sense of security.

Mankind may have thought himself very clever when he hit on the idea of using a hook to catch fish, but as ever, Mother Nature was there long before. This is the last thing many smolts and other fish see, prior to disappearing alive down the gullet of our least favourite waterside bird. Our licence from Natural England allows us to shoot one cormorant per calendar month, during the winter period only, so that is it for February. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017


It had to happen - after one of the driest winter periods on record, heavy rains have put all our rivers into bank-high spate. The Tamar reached 2.5 metres by mid-morning, with the Thrushel covering the fields on Beat 5. We can only hope and pray for the safety of all the eggs in the gravel, but with the potentially named storm 'Doris' due tomorrow with more heavy rain and 70m.p.h. gales, who knows how much damage could ensue.
The little gang of Tufted ducks on Tinhay Lake, varying almost daily in composition but up to 3 drakes and 3 ducks at times, have now disappeared. They have been around for a good couple of months, but have obviously been tempted elsewhere by the now prolific flashes. The level of the Lake is still well down, and hopefully should not cover the grass for the start of this season. Reservoir levels throughout the South west are also still remarkably low, no doubt South West Water are feeling slightly relieved by this rain.
Alex is at this moment on a plane somewhere this side of New Zealand, he has suffered from some severe gales out there in the past month, so the lad should feel quite at home when he returns to Lifton tomorrow.
Hazel catkins are well out, currently almost horizontal in the wind. Having caught a pilchard on a fly a couple of weeks ago, I feel very content to rest on my marine laurels for a while, the sea can wait for calmer times.
Cheers to all. David

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Slowly but surely, the World turns

Late January, still remarkably dry, and pretty cold. At last, the axis of our planet is tilting back towards summer, no longer is it pitch black at 8 in the morning, and the sun is now setting at 5 in the evening. Despite the cold (ice and frost most mornings) and the slow pace of change, Nature is beginning to acknowledge the encroaching new season. Mallard are all paired up, and woodpeckers are drumming in the Lyd valley, informing any other bird about who is nesting where, and with whom.
The midday sun now has a little more presence, enough to make yours truly strip down to shirt sleeves while wielding a post banger on Bottom Beat yesterday. The broken fence, maintaining shade and cover on Hairy Mary pool, is now back up after being demolished by a tree last season. Alexander Jones is still locked in mortal combat with some huge trout in New Zealand, he will need to re-adjust to our little brownies again soon.
So far the settled dry weather has kept the rivers nice and steady, great news for the salmon and sea trout eggs buried in the gravels, and the low temperatures are actually just what they need for correct incubation. It has been quite chilly when immersed to the groin in the Tamar trying to catch grayling, but a lot of fun, enlivened by a few out of season brownies and an odd peal kelt, along with a grayling or two. Bruno Vincent showed us all how to do it, with seven grayling to 12 inches from the Lyd last weekend. Memo to self; 'Must try harder'.
Tight Lines, David Pilkington