Wednesday 1 June 2016

Terminator - The Return of the Oscillation

Over the past couple of years I have devoted inordinate amounts of time and words to explaining why I've got nothing much to write about, with adverse weather conditions most commonly to blame.  I've always been averse to churning out words just for the sake of writing, but since 2013 I seem to have written as much about the weather as fishing, and sadly this edition continues that trend.  Over the past 6 weeks I've had one day on the Ure - primarily for casting practice - and tragically work forced me to pull out of the guest day at Rutherford on the Tweed with Tony the Master Netsman (so called on account of his outstanding job landing the Beast of Wensleydale).  It's enough to put you down in the dumps.

The new MCX rain gauge

Here's the reason, clearly seen in the new MCX rain gauge reading just 20mm on 31st May.  It's new because my daughter's feisty characterful Puggle ate its predecessor, heedless of the digestive hazards of polycarbonate shards.  Indeed, Zizou is totally oblivious to digestive hazards, which makes his survival both a happy miracle and a financial delight for the vets of north London.  But I digress: 20mm of rain is only 1/3rd of the May average, so there's no water in the Ure and many other rivers too (John and Patrick have just returned from a blank week on the Tay).

A previous occupant of my house didn't subscribe
to the idea of catch and release

Nor is there anything significant in prospect.  The MCX weather vane is pointing firmly northwards into an airstream that will reliably deliver low temperatures and little or no frontal rain.  We're forecast to receive some showers, but they won't trouble the Ure gauge at Kilgram.  In any event I don't like bothering resident fish in low water unless I'm on a pre-booked session.  What makes it even worse is the combination of an arctic 10C air temperature and 20mph wind - when I got up this morning I thought I'd slept for 4 months and woken in the autumn - which stops me from venting my frustration on the Rye's trout this week.

The reason is the dreaded North Atlantic Oscillation.  Long term followers of my writings may recall its explanation in September 2014's "How Long Can This Go On" post, which included a similar view of the old rain gauge.  In essence the oscillation is between the atmospheric pressures prevailing at each extremity of the North Atlantic, Reykjavik and Gibraltar.

Atlantic atmospheric pressure
C. BBC 2016
As you can see from this screenshot of today's BBC weather site, we're in distinctly negative territory, with a large anti-cyclone sat on top of IcelandAs a result our seasonal rain fails to arrive and goes elsewhere.  Indeed, parts of Europe are having some seriously dodgy weather at the moment, with huge thunderstorms and the quarter finals of the French Tennis Open washed out.

Wind at 13.5km altitude 31 May 2016
If that wasn't enough to get you down, our old friend the Jet Stream is misbehaving - again.  In the screenshot you can see the main flow in light blue coming south from Greenland before heading due east up the Mediterranean.  In 'normal' times it pulls a left turn in mid-Atlantic, where it picks up the rain-laden cyclones generated in the tropics off the coast of Brazil and delivers them directly to Manchester.  All this is connected with El Nino - abating but still influencing things - off the coast of Peru, where we can do nothing about it.

We just have to console ourselves that it could be worse, like it was in 2014 and 2015, when ultra-dry February - April periods stopped the spring run in its tracks.  In Yorkshire, after 280mm of rain in those 3 months in 2016, we've had a strong spring run and there are good numbers of fish in the rivers that may become catchable given some rain and a sustained rise in water levels.  Needless to say I'm desperately keen to get some fishing done before we go to Norway in mid-July.  Rest assured that I shall write about the preparations, the inevitable requirement for rain-dancing, and of course the trip itself.

Wading Jackets - Yet Again! - Vision Keeper & Vector

 With the absence of rain, water and fishing my new bizarrely-sourced Patagonia ST jacket remains untested on its hanger in the garage.  However, an acquaintance asked whether I would write a short review of some wading jackets at the cheaper end of the spectrum.  As this doesn't merit a separate post, I've tacked it onto the end of the meteorology lecture.

Vision Keeper

HMCX demonstrating the dog-retaining
qualities of the Keeper jacket
Tomatin 2013
I bought a Keeper for HMCX about 6 years ago as it met all the key requirements of practicality, durability and value for money.  Much as I love my youngest son, a Simms G4 wasn't in prospect, so the £89 Keeper was the ideal solution for someone who fishes for about Just One Week annually.

The features are basic but the materials and construction are sound throughout.  There are 2 front top-loading pouch pockets; 2 hand warmers; and a single zipped key pocket.  There are no front D rings, but the fabric loops alongside the pockets provide anchors for zingers that could be easily improved by the addition of larger split rings.

The Keeper is generously cut (HMCX is 15 1/2 stone of shoulder and muscle), light (but passably warm) and completely wind and water proof.  The velcro adjustable cuffs are concealed under elasticated wrists. The collar and cuffs are lined with a pleasantly comfortable fabric  After 6 seasons the keeper shows no signs of wear. 

Based on this evidence and HMCX's satisfaction I would recommend the Keeper as a bargain '2 season' jacket without any hesitation. 

Vision Vector

 During the Great Jacket Hunt someone recommended that I should look at the Vector, which I did during an unrelated visit to my local Vision dealer.  These are my  impressions after inspecting the jacket and trying it for fit.

Immediately you can feel that the £109 Vector is a clear step up from the Keeper in terms of materials and construction.  Its robustness is obvious.  The breathable lining is heavy duty, multi-layered and substantially taped along all its seams.  The external material is similarly tough and seemingly durable.  The cut is several inches longer than the Keeper: whilst not perfect for deep wading, it would make an ideal dual-purpose boat and wading jacket.

The pockets and features are broadly the same as the Keeper, with 2 chest top loaders, handwarmers and fabric tabs in lieu of D rings.  Another improvement is the hood, which is capacious, stiffened and fully adjustable, a serious bit of work designed for foul weather.

If you want a '4 season' jacket that is tough, durable and can withstand anything the weather throws at you, all at a budget price, the Vector would take some beating.  In my opinion it's a far better jacket than the £199 Guideline Kispiox I inspected during the Great Jacket Hunt on virtually every count: durability, breathability and water proofing (the Kispiox doesn't have a membrane).

Other Affordable Options

The next steps up the budget ladder lead to the £145 Snowbee Prestige and the £160 Greys Strata.  Based on 15 years' use I rate the Snowbee very highly for its all-year-round comfort (lovely cuffs), excellent pocket arrangements and durability.  It's also a great jacket if you fall in, a feature I've tested extensively.  I haven't used the Greys, but trying it on in a shop immediately suggested that it would be an excellent choice for low-temperature spring fishing but much too warm in summer and autumn.  For all but the most serious and frequent fisherman there's not much point going further up the price range, as the next group of jackets is clustered around the £250 price point, which I covered in detail in the first 2 chapters of the GJH.

The Bottom Line

 If you fish in Scotland or England for just one week in the summer or autumn, then the £89 Keeper will meet 95% of your needs at a bargain price.  

If you fish more often and in colder periods with bad weather, spend another £20 and upgrade to the Vector.

If you fish 20-30 days annually and want more pockets and somewhere to stow your lunch, spend another £40 for the Snowbee.

You need not spend a penny more.  Perhaps my involvement with expensive jackets upset the weather......


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