Friday 7 March 2014

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We're having a lovely fine end to an unusually warm winter, with sharp night frosts followed by clear skies and increasingly warm sunshine.  You can feel the onset of spring but the memories of last March's snow are still fresh enough to temper the optimism that bubbles in all anglers.  Nevertheless, when you combine the effects of the weather with a day on the Tweed at the weekend; reports of the first springers in the Ure; the approaching trip to the Dee; and good water in most places, the bubbles are pretty lively at the moment.

Let's face it, screens like these do make you feel better.  That said, it's an unusual spring run in some places, with fish running strongly and further upstream than normal.  On the other hand, every spring is different - think back a few years to the succession of cold dry springs with very low water levels and correspondingly reduced runs.  Indeed, the run nowadays is such a small proportion of the annual total, that it's perhaps unwise to proclaim patterns and deviations. 

 The simple fact is that spring fishing is even more of a lottery than the summer and autumn.  There are many fewer fish; the cold water can make them torpid and resistant to stimulation; and the fishing days are still short.  But despite - or perhaps owing to - the adverse odds, the pursuit of the perfect silver fish has an attraction all of its own.  My father and grandfather were both devotees.  Indeed my grandfather, a stern and determined Yorkshireman we addressed as "Sir", braved the spring elements annually until he suffered a stroke on the Exe in his 80s.  Sadly he fell backwards onto the bank rather than forwards into the water to be carried away in a manner he would have have far preferred to the subsequent degrading slow decline to death.

With rising morale comes the outload.  In my last post I showed off the Great Fishing Chest and with it my orderly traits (no it's conditioning not a condition).  Now the time has come to disturb that elegant order and transfer the contents to the pockets of my wading jacket and the car boxes.  We originally bought a collection of stacking polythene boxes to store the children's toys.  They've grown up into serious professionals and their most precious childhood toys are in those boxes in the loft, waiting for the next generation to wake them from their hibernation.  But there were two boxes left over that were natural candidates for fishing.

One takes wading boots, folding staff and waders.  The other takes the serious stuff, although you may be surprised by the small volume.  I removed the tube fly and polyleader boxes to give a clearer view of the reels (Koma + Skagit, CLW + GDC; Guru AFS #8, Evotec + AFS #9, Konic #7), one CLW spare spool (full length Spey line), shooting heads, tippet spools and the small tool box (another item purloined from the children).

It's a compact Aladdin's Cave: clockwise from the top right, WD40 and Vaseline; utility tools; spare shock cord; pliers, knife & Ketchum Release (sea trout); hook sharpening stone; spare wading stick ferrule; treble and double hooks (you don't want them coming open in the main box); super glue; wader studs & key; reel spares (& a Koma circlip); and the wader repair kit of Aquasure and patches.  There's everything I need to cover the reasonable worst-case scenarios I might encounter in a week's fishing.  I find it much simpler just to pack the kit and keep it in the car box for both day trips and longer excursions.  Then it's always there and you don't have to remember whether or not you've packed it.  If the boxes are in the car, you're ready to go.

Finally there's my jacket.  It's nothing special - the basic Snowbee with the minimum array of packets.  On the left side are a fly box (outside), polyleaders (intermediate, slow, fast, very fast) and tippet spool (inside).  On the right, the waterproof camera (inside), tube fly mini-box, soft tape measure, knot glue, water thermometer and priest.  In the centre, spectacles, sun glasses, forceps and scissors.

Here you see the car loaded with 3 rods (14', 13' & 12'), with the jacket folded into the tackle box at rear and the wader box in the foreground.  The landing net goes in the back seat foot-well.  You will note that my orderly traits don't extend to my car, which shows the effects of 4 months of muddy dog and boots, and has yet to undergo its end of shooting season annual clean.  It's a good thing that the bossy German Frau who lives in the dashboard can't see what's behind me.

At last!  Oh joy!  In my next post I shall be able to write about fishing.  Let's hope I don't fall in.  If all goes well and the water level is suitable.........(written on Wednesday)

But on Friday, Murphy strikes back at excessive optimism.  You will recall my vulnerability to the vagaries of meteorology from last September's posts.  Now you see it again: here is the SEPA Tweed chart on Friday, showing a wall of water making its way downstream.  My host rang at 11 this morning to tell me there was no point travelling up - the river was big, brown and rising at 4 inches per hour.

Having built up my anticipation to fever pitch, I now have the prospect of spending tomorrow in the garden, or worst of all, doing something about the inside of my car (or both).  I quite enjoy gardening, but nowhere near as much as fishing.  Moreover, I suspect that you would sooner be reading about fishing than my domestic organisation.  Looking ahead:

  • I had planned to use the Tweed trip to carry out a comparative evaluation of 2 sinking shooting heads - the Guideline Scandi Power Taper 1-2-3  and the Loop GDC 2-3 - kindly supplied by Michael at AM Angling.  This will now have to wait until the Dee trip in early April.  Their headline specifications are identical, but having laid them out on the lawn and photographed with the macro lens there are visible differences in weight distribution, profile and taper that suggest that the practical test on the water will be very interesting.  Also, having not previously had a requirement for sinkers, I hope to be able to give you a view on whether they might be a useful addition to your armoury.
  • At the end of March I'm having a casting coaching session with Alan Maughan (Modern Spey Casting) on the Tyne.  I remain a firm believer in the value of such sessions: eliminating bad habits and embedding good casting technique leads to more pleasurable and productive fishing, and fewer aches and pains at the end of a long day. There are few people who have given as much thought as Alan to the science of casting and its effective communication to the student. There's little point spending lots of money on good kit if you can't get the best out of it, so why not take some coaching?
  • And no doubt I shall find something to write about in the interim.

If you're lucky enough to get onto the water, tight lines.

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