Monday, 29 May 2017

Not Gone Yet


It's been 6 months since I last wrote and posted anything, by far the longest gap ever on this blog.  Perhaps some of you thought I'd given up, gone absent or died (yes, I do go on about my age a bit).  Some might even have missed J1W.  I'm sorry, but I had nothing worthwhile to say.  I'm not one of those 'stream of consciousness' folk who inhabit the world of Twitter or the 'blogosphere' who consider their thoughts on breakfast important.  Nor do I like repeating myself: I've written before on my spring routine, preparing for the new season and so forth.  Rehashing the content of those articles doesn't appear very useful for either you the reader or me the author, so I rely on you using the index if you wish to find something out.  I try to be original and interesting, on the assumption that if it doesn't stimulate me, it will surely bore the pants off you.


Vale of York Rainfall - Spring 2017
Average - Blue  Observed - Red
Cumulative total lines showing shortfall of 60%
Over the life of this blog I've beaten the weather to death, with endless rants about the lack of rain, the reasons for it, and the consequent absence of fish. There's a finite limit to what you can write on the subject, unless of course you are a professional meteorologist.  It suffices to say that up until now, the 6 months' weather from the end of last season on 31st October has been so contrary to the needs of salmon fishing in most of the UK as to stretch credibility.  In Yorkshire we have had the driest winter since 1994-95, followed by the driest spring since 2003.  There were 27 rain-free days in March and less than half average rainfall; and 28 in April resulting in a meagre 22%.  My garden is as dry as a bone down to a depth of 12"/30cm, and I had used the entire contents of my rainwater butt before the end of April. Needless to say, the Ure and most other salmon rivers are all below their mean summer low levels, when in normal times we should be at the peak of the spring run, with happy smolts surfing off to sea on a brown spate.  Meanwhile Norway is up to its neck in snow that has only just started to melt and the Russian rivers are still ice-bound.  It's been a very strange year.  On the other hand it's the average of all sorts of years' weather that adds up to the average called climate.

I have fished only once in the past 6 months: a very kind friend took me as his guest to Rutherford on the Tweed, where I blanked.  But I've written 3 times before about the beauty of Rutherford on a blank day, and saw little merit in repeating myself.  Blanking is boring; writing about it is painful; and there are no useful lessons to be had from failure.  Without water there has been no point visiting the Ure.  The trout in the Rye have remained untroubled by my attentions because the harbinger of the dry spring - a cold north easterly air flow - has offered the prospect of discomfort and meagre results. 

Muscat suburbs
viewed from the Sultan Qaboos Knowledge Oasis

Without the joys of fishing and fish, or at least the imminent prospect of both, it's incredibly difficult to write.  I'm not a journalist and I don't get paid for this, so there's no imperative. Believe me I'd love to have something to write about, but just now, I don't.  I've recently returned from working in the Gulf - the photo was taken at 44C - and although I've previously written some good blogs from hotel rooms in the Gulf, on this trip I couldn't have been further from a salmon river geographically, climatically or psychologically.


Gaula at 2am
But there's lots of excitement ahead.  In July I return to the Gaula, with my optimism refreshed by the news of the volume of snow in the mountains and of a delayed thaw.  Things are looking much better than they did at this time last year, when there was less snow and the thaw started early.  It's too good a river not to be excited by the prospect of fishing its crystal water and the hope of connecting to one of its magnificent fish.

Tomatin House
Then in September, Just One Week returns to its alma mater, Tomatin House, where this blog began.  We've been invited by the younger generation to join their house party together with some other convival oldies.  Of course even the young aren't as young as they used to be: they've got children now, so with any luck their late night, sleep-disturbing partying may have faded into the be replaced by early morning hunger squalls, which won't bother me on jot as I'll be on the river.

House Pool looking upstream to Colonel's
I'm told that the great flood caused by Storm Frank had a major impact on Tomatin's water, changing the nature of the pools and shifting huge volumes of rock and gravel.  Having to re-learn the river and find the best spots will add extra spice and give me endless happy hours of analysis.  Although it's critically dependent on water (as are most rivers that I fish), Tomatin House is a wonderful place redolent with the happiest of memories.  It's not just about fishing: the company of friends in beautiful surroundings is the real gold.

Then in October it's Yorkshire and the Ure for the annual father and son bonding trip with HMCX.  Last year he caught a fish within 15 minutes of starting, which was the most marvellous morale booster after 2 blank years.  We have 2 days on the river and a night at the Bolton Arms in Redmire, a classic Dales village pub with good food, great beer, nice rooms and a super atmosphere.  We enjoy the beer, share a bottle of Australian Shiraz with our steaks and treasure the time.  HMCX married last spring and no doubt he'll soon have a family of his own, so we're determined to make the most of this special time while we may.  He fell under the spell of salmon at Tomatin in his late teens, and once he'd caught his first large salmon he was well and truly hooked.  He's also excellent company on the river bank.


I have to admit that something other than salmon fishing has been taking up a lot of my time of late, indeed, since last summer.  On the other hand, it's all about salmon - "what else?" my wife would say.

I'm a member and supporter of the Ure Salmon Group, a subordinate charity of the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust.  Its aim is to assist the natural return of salmon to the Dales through low-level projects that open up spawning areas, protect the fry and parr nurseries, and reduce pollution risks.  The strength of the USG lies in the leverage of 'matched funding': each £1 that they put in will be more than matched by funding from the Environment Agencies, non-public bodies and private sector benefactors, often achieving £5-10 worth of effect.  You can find out more about the USG on its website.  A good example of its work last year was the re-opening of the River Burn, a tributary that enters the Ure just below Masham, which had been closed to fish movement since 1910 by a weir.  The removal of the weir last summer allowed salmon the run up the Burn to spawn in December and January, which they did in significant numbers.  All being well, and applying the usual survival rates, this work should deliver an additional 60-100 adult salmon back into the river in 5 years' time.

The Burn experience underlines the point that, contrary to folklore, salmon don't unfailingly return to the point of their birth.  If that was true, salmon would have been wiped out in the Ice Ages.  Instead they stray as a survival strategy, going wherever the water conditions encourage them.  Opening up spawning areas is a very productive approach.  If more salmon enter the river but the spawning area remains constant, the higher density of fry and parr will diminish the food available to each juvenile, reduce smolt strength and condition, increase stress and disease risk, and cause the population to reach a premature plateau.  Nature is ruthlessly self-regulating.   Increasing the spawning area raises survival rates at each life stage and sends stronger, fitter smolts away to sea.

Cold Spring Training
Goretex & Lycra at 4C
So what am I doing to help?  Last year I decided to cycle the 100 miles from the Humber Bridge, under which all Ure salmon pass, along the line of their migration up the river to the natural barrier of Aysgarth Falls.  Actually it's 109 miles, but 100 is a nice clean number.  I started training last spring, but unfortunately events, weather and time prevented me from completing the challenge.  Over the course of the winter I did 2-3 hard sessions per week on the turbo-trainer, whilst making a plan for the fundraising.  This work meant that I was fit and ready for spring training as soon as the weather allowed me out onto the roads.

Cannondale Synapse Carbon 105

I now have two very demanding mistresses: the British Cycling training plan for long distance endurance races; and a Cannondale Synapse carbon road bike, with which I spend 12-16 hours every week fulfilling the former.  No matter what the adverts say, 100 miles on a bike isn't comfortable, even with the benefit of detailed fitting.  The tyres are at 100 psi and there's no suspension.  The Synapse is one of the best long distance designs on the market and very easy riding, but there's no alternative to training yourself to cope with discomfort.  It's all good character building stuff, especially when you're facing an 18 mph headwind for 25 miles.

When riding into the wind with my hands on the drops and my head down, I get a close-up view of the cap on top of the handlebar stem thoughtfully provided by my elder (non-fishing) son as a motivational device.  The computer (actually an app on my iPhone) goes on the clip above, showing my speed, distance travelled, heart rate and cadence (pedal rpm).  Heart rate is a key determinant in the British Cycling plan to maximise its effectiveness: burst at 175 bpm for aerobic fitness; 145-160 bpm for extended climbs; and 125-135 bpm for churning out the miles.  It's all very scientific, but it certainly works: I can now do 50+ miles with ease and am confident that I can complete the ride in good order.  There are some ugly hills in the last 20 miles, so I'll need a stock of grit and determination in store at the 6 hour point.

The fundraising is going really well via my Just Giving page,  and naturally I should be most grateful if you were to join in and make a donation.

I've got the best imaginable sponsor in Theakston's Brewery.  The insignia is of a medieval office holder known as the 'Peculier of Masham', who gives his name to their Old Peculier strong ale.  Both Simon Theakston and most of my friends consider my madness in undertaking this ride distinctly peculiar, and they're probably right.  Perhaps I'm just guilty of trying to defy the years on a basis of fading memories of exceptional fitness.  But whatever the motivation, it's a great cause.

And I'm looking forward to the pint of Theakston's XB on the finish line.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

MCX's Christmas Stocking 2016

Yo ho! Ho!  Christmas is here again.  Once more I can moan about the speed with which time passes and how awful that is for someone of my years.  It certainly doesn't feel like a year ago that I was sat in my room in the same hotel in Riyadh tapping out my 2015 recommendations for stocking fillers.  However, this year I've got a couple of new discoveries in the list, which holds firmly to its key criteria of low price and small size compatible with a normal-sized sock.  In that respect I use the term 'normal sized' with caution because Mrs MCX's Christmas stocking (and I hasten to add, the one she gives me) tests the length and more extremely the elasticity of a full length shooting stocking.  I hope that whoever packs yours is similarly generous and tolerant of buying fishing gear.

In any event it's nice to be writing again.  Yet another dry summer and autumn, the 4th in a row, led to cancelled days and poor returns.  It grieves a Yorkshireman awfully to cancel a pre-booked (and pre-paid!) day's fishing, and the more so when it removes the chance of giving hospitality by being out on the river with good friends.  But it also deprives me of interesting things on which to write: my capacity for weather or other non-fishing subjects is perforce limited: they're just not as motivating as fishing.  By the same token it deprives you of reading material, but only you can judge whether that is a good or bad thing.  The meagre 12 posts I've written since the last Christmas Stocking is an all-time low, thereby demonstrating my abject lack of creative imagination.

With that whinge over, bring on Christmas.

New Entry 1 - Small Tube Fly Box

Last year I bemoaned the demise of the Snowbee mini tube box, a tiny triumph of good design.  I wouldn't mind so much if its successor offered some improvement, no matter how hard that might have been.  But it doesn't.  Make no mistake, I like Snowbee who make some great kit, but this is now the second time they've turned triumph into disaster.  I could not recommend their new small tube fly box to anyone: its deficiencies are too numerous to list.  Indeed, I might run a small competition to test how many things my readers can find wrong with it.

Faced with the lack of a Snowbee product when I was looking for a second mini-box for Norway that could hold long Sunray Shadows, my research led me to the C&F Tube Fly Case, which retails at £24 from John Norris.  Here you see it fully (over) stuffed in preparation for the Gaula.  Despite its palm size it holds far more tubes than you're ever likely to use in a day's fishing.  The tubes are kept in check by a transparent plastic leaf that locks down on the little magnet you can see in the foreground. 

The hooks are held securely in the foam strips in the lid.  The voids are very handy as they reduce the height of trebles and doubles whilst making life much easier with the lightweight singles I use with hitched flies.  During half a season's use, including an intense week on the Gaula, nothing came loose

Overall I consider this box to be a neat little product, worthy of a place in your stocking.

New Entry 2 - Thermometer

Some years ago I replaced my grandfather's venerable, nay imperial, Hardy's nickel-silver cased water thermometer with a slim, sleek, plastic modern device.  This remains a cheap, functional and effective way of getting an essential part of the calculation of your fly size, depth and speed.  However, it has several disadvantages.  First, like all liquid analogue thermometers, it needs time in the water to settle to an accurate reading, and you spend all of that period stood in the water bent over holding the thing.  Second, when you thankfully straighten up, you then find that the numbers are too small to read without your glasses, which creates the risk of either thermometer or glasses or both ending up in the water.  Nevertheless, in pursuit of a good stocking recommendation I scoured the fishing retailers for thermometers.  I made two discoveries: most of the retailers only offer 1 or 2 models - only GAC has a wide selection; and the average price had gone up into the teens, which for something this basic is too much.  Perhaps it was time to go digital, but the Sportfish offering was around £40 excluding P&P.

I found the answer in Sheffield from a company called LABFACILITY who supply all manner of temperature sensing devices to science and industry.  This little gem weights only 25 grams with batteries fitted and sells at £12 (including a spare set of batteries but ex P&P).  It's wonderful, one of those little bits of technology that puts a smile on your face.

Gone are the extended hunchback poses.  You walk up to the water's edge, bend gently at the knees, point the device at the surface at a range of 1-6", press the blue button, read the nice big numbers and pop it back in your pocket....whilst in my case trying to remember the result.

It's one of the best things I've bought this year.

Hardy Perennials

You've seen all these before, but they remain items that you need every year, so why change?  They're cheap, compact and of proven quality.

My mitten clamps remain an object of delight, a permanent fixture on the front of my jacket.  Nothing gets the hook out of a salmon faster.  You have a good firm grip on the nice rubbery handles, lock onto the fly and hey presto, job done.  I find them far superior to finger-hole forceps in every respect.  They've gone up in price to £19.99 at Sportfish, but remain good value in view of their quality and durability.

The Snowbee half finger mittens remain the best budget 3 season glove around at £11.49 from Sportfish.  I find them perfect for everything except the coldest spring fishing when full neoprene gloves are more appropriate.  They seem to last 5-6 seasons, which makes them excellent value.

Aquasure is the item you never leave home without and is an essential part of your fishing toolbox.  I haven't needed to use mine this year, which represents remarkable good fortune, but that's no guide to future requirements.

In contrast I've used plenty of Knot Sense as a result of habitually glueing every knot.  In any event I throw away all glues that have been opened and start afresh in the new season.  I prefer Knot Sense to standard 'super-glue' on account of its greater flexibility under load and the ability to shape the blob before exposing it to the sun to cure (without sticking your fingers together and losing good fishing time in the local hospital's A&E department).

I also get through a fair number of polyleaders each season.  People will argue at length of the virtues or demerits of various brands.  Personally I've used the Airflo leaders for years and never had a problem.  At £5.99 they're cheaper than most of the competitors and jolly good stocking fillers.

After a second season using the HJ socks for wading I am firmly convinced of my recommendation.  I haven't been for a swim this season, but from last year's experience I can confirm that these keep your feet warm even when wet (I fished on for a further 4 hours).  Once you get to their website you will find an extraordinary range of socks for all purposes, so if you trek, climb, shoot or whatever, HJ Hall have probably got a sock just for you.

Father Christmas Goes Bonkers

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Barron Knights' 1980 Christmas send up of Pink Floyd's Wall anthem ('Never Mind the Presents') , which was a minor gem in its own short-lived right.  Over the past couple of years I have scoured the special offers pages of the major retailers to find discounted bigger-ticket presents that certainly won't fit in a stocking.  The 40% off at Angling Active on the Loop Multi reel was unbeatable: so good in fact that they had none left when I got around to it myself, after my readers.  Similarly the Simms cold weather trousers were great at the offer price.  However, this year is a real disappointment, in that there's absolutely nothing that leaps off the pages of sufficient quality to get my recommendation - and believe me I've been pretty industrious on your behalf. Perhaps the retailers are holding out in the hope that you'll pay full price in the Christmas rush and withholding their discounts until January.  In any event I've failed to find you anything.

As an alternative I've decided to suggest something you might like to ask for in the unlikely event of Father Christmas goes bonkers, but not infeasibly mad, in response to a great offer. Otherwise, just buy it for yourself.

Add caption

This is it, a Danielsson L5W 8/12 reel.  "What?" you cry, "I thought you were the high priest of value for money and budget reels, with all fancy spendthrift ideas beaten out of you by your father and grandfather!"  I make no apology in response to your indignation, but will explain all.

When I sold my Hardy Marksman 14 footer in the summer, the buyer was very keen to have the matching Loop Evotec reel that balanced it perfectly, so I duly obliged.  That put enough in the  bank to loosen the mental shackles in pursuit of a no compromise muscular reel for Norway.

Next, there's only one currency that seems to track the post-BREXIT pound - the Swedish Krona.  If your next reel's made in South Korea - as many are - there's a substantial price rise looming.  Moreover, Danielsson not only make the reels themselves in Sweden, but also sell directly rather than through the retail trade.  And best of all, they are currently offering this reel at a 30% discount, at about £220 UK ex P&P.

Take it from me, it's a beautiful piece of design and engineering.  Once upon a time Mr D designed reels for Loop, and you can immediately spot the spider spool clamp and 100% sealed brake system that featured in the indestructible Loop CLW.  Every element of the Danielsson is about strength, durability and reliability.  Form follows function absolutely.  The strength is not based on superfluous materials but rather on excellent design.  It's about 10% heavier than the Lamson Guru, but 10% lighter than the Evotec.  The quality of machining and finish is absolutely first class.  The brake is the stuff of legend.  The 8/12's capacity lives up to the specification of WF10F and 230 metres of 30 lbs backing.  My reel in the picture is loaded with 280 yards of 30 lbs backing, Rio Connect Core 30 lbs runner and a 37g/#9 Rio Scandi.

At £220 it's a knockout, so grab a bargain before the Pound plumbs new depths.

Have a very Happy Christmas.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

2016 - Amidst Great Joy, A Season of Anticipointment

I'm always despondent when the season ends, which is probably common to all fishermen, but this year has been worse than most.  I'd much prefer to be writing a bright, cheerful and positive post, but in 2016 I just can't do that in the context of fishing.  It's been awfully disappointing.  No doubt the effects of 4 consecutive dry years have been cumulative.  In contrast the family arena is an entirely different matter because 2016 has been a wonderful year, blessed with the arrival of two grandsons and HMCX's wedding, superimposed on its other continuing joys too numerous to list without boring you stupid.  I couldn't be happier with 99.99% of my life.  Such is my good fortune that a I frequently pinch myself to confirm its reality.

So why do I let the 0.01% niggle and get me down?  After all, I'm an irrepressible optimist who journeys in happy expectation of pleasant surprises while seeking joy in everything around me.  The latter point is pretty easy if you live amidst the beauties of rural North Yorkshire. It's even easier if like me you're privileged to meet good people who lift your esteem of the human condition.  I spent an hour with one such a few weeks ago, a charity worker in mental health, whose dedication, determination and love of her work left me in admiring awe.  As I sat in the dilapidated terraced house that serves as her office and contemplated the challenges of her work and her outstanding service to the desperately vulnerable, I inwardly chided myself for the lack of real perspective that highly privileged 0.01% represents.  I stand humbly self-admonished.

Nevertheless this is a salmon fishing not a philosophy blog, still less a personal confessional.  At the end of each season, no matter how bad, I strive to draw some lessons that might just be useful, so here we go.

1.  Anticipointment

I first heard the word 'anticipointment' on Radio 4 earlier this year.  It encapsulates the thought that the greater your anticipation of something, so much greater is the disappointment when it comes to naught.  This is what underlies the 0.01% niggle.  Salmon anglers live on anticipation: at 11/10 for months before the annual trip of just one week; 10/10 for the single day on a premium beat; and at least 8/10 for the odd days off.  Yet no one is more vulnerable to Shakespeare's 'outrageous slings and arrows of fortune' than the salmon angler, who lives at the mercy of weather, rainfall, water flows, perverse fish and even humble leaves.

275 yards of unremitting boredom
Backing loaded on
Vision Rulla #9/11

Airflo Ridge Extreme runner
Rio Scandi 38g head
The more you hope, the worse the fall.  The ultimate example of anticipointment was my trip to the Gaula.  Everything in a year's planning, booking, preparing and going raises your hopes to fever pitch.  Here's a simple example.  The locals advise you to load a positively heroic amount of backing onto your reels.  For good reason: one friend finally beached his Gaula 37 pounder nearly half a mile downstream and 75 minutes from the point of hooking.  Actually, the heroic activity is putting the stuff onto the reel: a 300 yard spool of spun gel backing is enormous; it takes ages to wind on; and by the end your wrist is knackered and your fingers shredded.  During this stultifyingly boring activity your mind inevitably wanders towards its practical application to a 40 pound silver fish in fast crystal water, and behold, your anticipation racks up another couple of notches.  Then you blank.  It's not like blanking on the Dee in spring where the odds are worse than the Lottery; it's far, far worse, and downright humiliating if you're daft enough to admit your failure in print.

The lesson is that if we wish to catch salmon we have to learn to live with anticipointment.  The anticipation is all part of the joy and how we stretch the pleasure of a week to fill much of a year.  But the enhanced disappointment, no matter how bitter, is no reason to give up the endeavour.

2.  Past Failures aren't a Reliable Guide to Future Success

We've all seen that sort of health warning inversely attached to investment products.  It's even more true with salmon.  The fact that 2016 was the 4th bad year in a row doesn't in any way increase the likelihood that the 2017 season will be better.  It can easily be at least as bad, and possibly even worse.  At least 2016 was marginally better than 2014 & 2015, in that we had a great spring run and did see just a little bit of water with some un-stale fish before the season closed.  But this gives no indication as to what 2017 will be like.  In any event I'll be writing a detailed review of 2016's weather and its impact on fishing in a subsequent post.

150 years of the North Atlantic Oscillation
There are lots of reasons for this, and weather is not a zero sum game.  In 'How Long Can This Go On'  I explained the phenomenon of the North Atlantic Oscillation and the mis-placement of high pressure between Gibraltar and Iceland.  Unfortunately these weather phenomena don't follow regular patterns.  I certainly can't see any pattern in the historical plot of the NAO, beyond noting that some of the periods of good as well as bad can be quite protracted.  Looking back, following the relatively dry years 2000-2003, we then had a run of predominantly wetter late summers and autumns in the period 2004-2012 (the exceptions were 2005 and 2009, with 2006 about average).  This spell included 3 of the best years' salmon fishing in recent history - 2004, 2010 and 2011.

Then in 2013 El Nino started to affect things; the jet stream went funny; and the summer Russian continental high pressure grew in strength as a result of rising temperatures in the northern desert belt.  It's all fearsomely large and complex, which is why the Met Office needs the biggest computers in the UK to model the impacts of things happening on the other side of the world on next week's weather in Yorkshire.  However, amidst this fog of complexity I take some heart from the fact that El Nino, having collided with Peru in 2015, appears to be moving back into the Pacific.  Cheer up: it may make things better next year; or maybe not.

3.  Celebrate Delight


Very low water
Tail of Frodle Dub
Early October 2016
I'd booked 3 days in September on the Ure at Thoresby to repay the hospitality of friends, but in the absence of water had to cancel all of them.  As my annual early October father and son salmon-bonding exercise with HMCX approached I was far from optimistic in the face of a near total absence of water.  It was, however, better than 2014 and 2015 when the river was unfishable.  In any event I was looking forward to a couple of days with my now-married youngest, staying in the Bolton Arms in Redmire and enjoying their excellent beer.

You can imagine my delight (and his) when within 15 minutes of starting, HMCX hooked and landed a salmon.  It was pretty well pickled and potted having been in the river since the spring run, but it was certainly most welcome on every score.  He'd blanked in 2014 and lost a big fish in 2015, so this was a real morale booster.  Even when your children are grown up, tower over you and give you a hug before sending you off to bed early, there's a huge pride in their achievements.

If there's a choice I won't normally pursue stale fish, but when you've only got 2 days in a year, booked 8 months ahead, you can't be puritanically fastidious.

The smile says it all.

And we duly celebrated our delight: chilled white for me; very appropriately, London Pride for him.

My fish was much uglier.  At 36 inches long he'd probably entered the river in March-April as a chunky 14 pounder.  He was now very slim, so I booked him at 11lbs.

With stale cock fish at this time of year you have to be very conservative in estimating their weight from their length.  From the outset remember that all the estimating scales - Sturdy etc - are based on fresh spring fish at maximal weight: it's all downhill from June.  The growth of the kype adds a couple of inches in length, which leads to inherent over-estimation, while all their ridiculous alpha male behaviour burns off loads of fat and protein.  So the best approach is to take 2-3 inches off the length (34"); make an estimate on that reduced figure (14lbs); and then take off another 15-20% (11lbs net).

You may rest assured that when we reached the Bolton Arms that evening, the first couple of pints were fabulous.  Better still, HMCX caught another the next day, before returning to London with a grin from ear to ear.  I was indeed delighted.

4.  If the Water's Slack You Have to Work the Fly


If the flow is weak or slow your fly will hang down without wiggling.  To the salmon it's just another bit of drifting debris to be disregarded.  If you want to catch fish in slack water you must work the fly,  All three that we caught took small flies that were being actively retrieved at above normal speeds.

Purple fish at last light in Dick Dub
(the flash photo makes the fish look much darker)
MCX Dark #8 stripped along edge of slack water

This is a scenario in which the use of a short shooting head confers a real advantage.  If you've got 20 or 30 feet of running line to retrieve, then your fly can be worked through a much bigger area of water than would be the case with a conventional line that would only be effective in the narrow main flow.  This is especially useful when fish are lying outside the main flow line in slower but well oxygenated water.

5.  The MCX Dark Shrimp Works


MCX Dark Shrimp V3 #8
It's not a statistically significant sample, but 5 days' fishing on Thorseby with the MCX Dark yielded 8 salmon, 3 sea trout and 3 salmon hooked and lost.  I was pleased with that result in what were extremely difficult conditions.  On those 5 days it caught more fish than any other pattern in use on the Ure.  As a result i'm very happy with it and see no need to modify V3 before next year.

If anyone wishes to buy this fly, please contact Peter Nightingale.


 6.  Not all Good Water is Great Water



Flesh Dub at +10"
October 2016

Here's a view to lift the spirits.  Normally I would fish this pool at this height in October with immense confidence.  In 2011 I caught a salmon here on every day that I fished, and on one occasion, 3 in an hour, the third a shining 23 pounder.  But this year was different because the preconditions for good fishing had been entirely absent.  You need some good big sustained spates to clear the summer's gunge out of the river, boost the oxygen levels and send a clear call to the salmon waiting in the Humber to start their autumn run.  None of that had happened: this was just the falling phase of a small 4' spate, which would only bump up the small run of fish that had entered the river in September

but some were moving......


Willow Bush Pool at +10"
October 2016
 This is my favourite spot on the whole Ure.  It's been incredibly productive over the years, and at its best when fish are running.  They come up the fast water under the overhanging trees on the far bank, bear right (left in the photo), and then pause in short halt lies in the mid stream in the lower half of the pool.  As I fished down towards them I was having a lovely daydream of recollection of the many bang-bang takes I've had here, when my reverie was broken by the magic bang-bang and the hard turn away of a good fish in fast water.

As anticipated, this wasn't a long term resident but rather one from the early September lift that had been in the river about 5-6 weeks. The photo doesn't do justice to the lovely purple sheen on her back: a very pretty fish, 34" long and in perfect condition for the time of year.  Aided by the fast water she gave a very good fight, and after unhooking went away like a torpedo.

The next time down I took this lovely shiny grilse from the same lie.  The mud rather spoilt his pristine appearance.

 7.  A Short Rod Year


 As a result of the very low water levels I haven't needed or used my 14 footers on the Ure at all this year.  Indeed, there hasn't been enough water to call for a sinking tip or a tube fly.  Even in Norway I did most of my fishing with the 13' MAG, reserving the 13' 8" Cult for those pools where I had to fish left hand up (an easier action is a real boon left handed).  During the summer I sold my spare 14 footer, the Hardy Marksman 2T, with which I'd only fished 3 days in the previous 2 seasons.  I was sorry to see it go, but I couldn't justify its retention.  It's gone to a good home and the new owner loves it and the perfectly balancing Loop Evotec G4 reel.

The simple fact is that the Vision MAG 13' is an extraordinary rod.  Even with the limitations in my casting I can cover all the water I need to catch fish on my usual rivers.  It loads and casts beautifully with both the Rio Scandi 33g and Vision Ace 31g heads, and requires minimum effort to use for hours on end.  No doubt some people will say that the Loomis NRX and the old model Loop Cross S1 13 footers are 'better', but the MAG's half their prices, which makes it very easy for a Yorkshireman to love it.

 For even lower water I have a fabulous little 12' #7 with a very easy action.  I've had it for years.  It has one disadvantage: HMCX and all my friends love it too.  The picture shows him bending it to good effect on a nice 7 pounder to round off our 2 days' bonding.  It was the perfect way to end our shared break.

 8.  The Advantages of Fluorocarbon


Fishing on the Gaula demanded the use of very strong leaders,up to 40 lbs breaking strain,  in order to withstand the risk of abrasion on the granite rocks.  The reasoning is simple: a 0.1 mm nick in the 15 lbs Seaguar I normally use on the Ure reduces its breaking strain to around 6-8 lbs.  Similar damage to 30 lbs Seaguar still leaves you with 23 lbs in hand.

One of the common criticisms of fluorocarbon is that "it doesn't take abrasion as well as conventional nylon".  Actually, this isn't anything to do with the abrasion-resisting properties of either material.  Rather it merely reflects the fact that at the same breaking strain, nylon is much thicker, so a 0.1 mm nick is less significant.  The extension of this flawed argument underpins the claims that fluorocarbon is "less reliable" because it can break without warning, which in reality is a consequence of undetected abrasion.

 However, if you look at common diameter the argument is reversed.  As you can see here, at 0.37 mm diameter Seaguar is almost 50% stronger than Maxima, and retains that advantage when the same level of abrasion is applied to both.

Spot the leader?
Fluorocarbon in bright summer sunlight
Worst case, directly into the sun in mid-August

If you then add fluorocarbon's lower visibility in water and its greater density, then you may agree that there are good reasons for using it in preference to standard nylon.  Yes, it's much more expensive, but in the overall scheme of salmon fishing costs the differential is insiginificant.

I've always been a believer in fluorocarbon and have used 15 lbs Seaguar for years.  The change is that in future my standard tip material for spring and autumn on UK rivers will be 3-4 feet of 23.5 lbs applied to a 8-9 feet 30 lbs butt section.

So that's the retrospective.  Coming next will be an analysis of why the 2016's fishing on the Ure was dire; and we're in November, which means it will soon be time for the MCX Christmas Stocking recommendations.