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.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Meet the MCX Family

Don't be deceived by the title.  This post isn't about my wife, children, their spouses and our grandsons.  It's about the MCX Shrimp Family, which for the first time has been tied in its entirety.  I should love to be able to report that I had tied them myself, but I cannot.  I've never learned how and as I have a hand tremor caused by Focal Dystonia, exacerbated by injury, that gets worse when doing fine work under pressure, I lack the confidence to start.  I can do the science, the analysis and the conception, but not the execution.  Accordingly I sought the help of others: Darragh Digney who tied the Version 1 prototype; Martyn Roberts who developed V2; and now Peter Nightingale of Classic Flies who has tied the full family of V3.


The Design Process


Followers of my ramblings will be aware of the amount of time I have devoted to the study of light, contrast and colour in water of differing colours and brightness.  In Eye of the Beholder I demonstrated that once in the water it was almost impossible for us to differentiate between the most popular shrimp patterns, and I very much doubt that the salmon can either.  Indeed, if they're minded to take there's a fair chance they'll take whatever half way sensible fly you put in front of them.  My grandfather always opined that most salmon flies were tied to catch fisherman and not fish, and to be frank there's an awful lot of lily-gilding goes on amongst fly tying that isn't to my taste.  You give someone a brief for a simple design and the prototype comes back with a jungle cock 'eye' on each side and a load of sparkly floss stuck to its backside.  After a bit of deft scissor work I get back to what I wanted, although I do have a small pang of regret about vandalizing someone else's art.

All of my research, Yorkshire genes and inclination lead me towards simplicity that verges on austerity.  I carry very few fly patterns - see Inside the Box for the evidence - and only change my fly when there's clear reasons for doing so.  After all, there are more reasons for a salmon not to take than just the choice of fly.  The proof of that statement is simple: for 99% of the time they take nothing at all.  If you do change the fly and then catch a fish, you have no means of knowing whether the previous pattern would not have delivered the same result.  Of course, the blindingly obvious conclusion from this line of reasoning is that I shall be unable to prove that anything I come up with is demonstrably more effective than anything else.

By the end of the research, design and analysis phase I had a clear mental picture of a simple fly in two variants: for higher water, a predominantly dark design to achieve strong contrast to enhance detectability, with enough orange (remember that's grey underwater) to break up the details to achieve the desired "impressionist" effect; and for lower clearer water, a light design in which its pale grey anonymity prevents the salmon getting "too good a look".


Version 1


MCX Dark Shrimp V1
(Darragh Digney)

The sparsely dressed V1 had a brief but useful career before being snatched by a hard bit of Yorkshire rock.  It proved utterly lethal on Ure sea trout, even in broad summer daylight.  The austerity of the design and the modest aesthetics appealed to me and it inspired confidence.  However, the abject lack of salmon in the Ure precluded gathering any evidence.  Of course the downside of austere dressing is fast sinking, which is what caused its loss.


Version 2 


MCX Dark Shrimp V2
(Martyn Roberts)

The more heavily dressed V2 proved to be a highly effective fly against a small number of fishing outings and salmon caught.  It looks pretty bushy here, but after a bit of light pruning and use it becomes somewhat more conservative in appearance, as shown below.









MCX Dark Shrimp V2
Pruned, swum and salmon-chewed

In fact this fly caught a salmon on every day that it was used, but the sample was too small to count as evidence.  However, on two days it was the only fly to catch fish on the Ure, one of which was the Beast of Wensleydale, which was good for morale if not for statistical discipline.

Sadly, when Martyn had to close his business All Water Fly Fishing - another expert small tackle shop throttled by the web heavies - he was unable to tie further examples and recommended that I approach Peter Nightingale.



Version 3


MCX Dark Shrimp V3
Pre-production prototype
(Peter Nightingale)
The development of V3 involved lengthy consultation and discussion as Peter is a perfectionist who wished to be absolutely clear as to exactly what I wanted.  The pre-production model arrived in time for Norway, but had its first UK outing on the Ure in mid-September in almost unfishable conditions - near 30 degree heat, ultra low water and finally a violent lightning storm.  As the fish came awake towards last light I had one good take and loss as the lightning arrived before I fled the scene.  A week later in better conditions but turbid water (+8") I had 3 takes and landed one fish.  Overall I was happy with the design and had the confidence to ask Peter to tie me 4 examples of every member of the family.





Here they are in serried order, working away from the camera:

  • Light double #14, 12, 10
  • Dark double #10, 8, 6
  • Light 0.5" Conehead & 0.5" ultra-light
  • Dark 1" conehead plastic, 1" conehead brass, 1.5" conehead copper
Of course opening the envelope was a matter of much excitement - even my art historian wife was aesthetically impressed.  Beyond the art they are beautifully tied and look suitably rugged and durable.  I'm delighted, so for your delectation here are some of the individual family portraits.  


Light #12

















Dark #8

















Light alloy mini-conehead


















Dark 1" conehead

















Out of the envelope - the whole family

Bring on the next outing, even though there will be no water, following a September with less than 1/3rd of average rainfall, and a cold dry east wind to boot.  I probably won't catch anything, but I shall have the great pleasure of sharing 2 days on the Ure with young HMCX, staying in the outstanding Bolton Arms at Redmire, enjoying good beer and eating too much, and all the best bits of father and son bonding in a balanced life.