Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year Resolutions!

I tend to put on weight during the close season. Simply I dont do enough exercise, when the fishing is slow, and the chances of cathing are low. So my resolution this year 2009 is to lose some weight, and get fit!!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Heron in action!

Fly fishing friends.

I'm a member of a very small fly fishing club, in my local town. We are few members, and fewer 'keen' members. The club meets during the winter months for fly tying, and a spring barbecue, just before the season starts. The members are all very welcoming, and understanding of my very poor French.

One of the members is exceptional at stalking the wild trout on the chalk stream. He has helped me very much over the past few seasons with understanding the very difficult fishing we find on the river. The techniques needed on the river are very different from most trout rivers.

First the river is exceptionally weedy, and by mid July true dry fly fishing is near impossible!

The trout sit under the weed all day completely camouflaged, and so hidden from the angler,
even when they move out to feed, the slots are often so small, presenting a fly of any kind is extremely difficult. A weighted nymph is the only trusted method, but seeing the fish take in such weeded conditions is really difficult!

Mathieu my friend has such good eyesight, and is such a good stalker, he can spot just a tiny part of a trout in these difficult conditions, and present a nymph direct to a fish, with a high degree of success. Many times when we fish together he will spot a fish, and point it out to me, "saying look its under the weed there". I will strain my eyes, pull my hat lower, readjust my sun glasses, and still fail to see the fish.

Over the past few seasons I have got better at spotting, its just practice, like casting, but Mathieu's ability is natural. A passionate fisherman, nature lover, and some time hunter, his gifts are very special indeed!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

December and Winter Rain

I had planned to go fishing today, but when I awoke this morning, it was raining really hard. This is water the river's really need. Vital winter rain, the most important rain of the year.

This water will soak into the land, before old dry tree roots can soak it all up. Its water that will seep back into the rivers in several months time. On the Charente it can flood over the banks, if we continue get such heavy amounts, but it makes little difference to the our chalk stream.

In this part of France, it seems the winter's are getting milder, but wetter. During the summer both the Charente and Touvre (and many smaller rivers in the area) suffer badly with abstraction for farmers crops. So this turn around in winter weather is really welcome in my view, plus my wood pile does not go down as quick, and the central heating has a rest, at least for some of the winter!

I did go fishing earlier in the week, the day was bright but cold with a sharp morning frost. I started high sticking on a slightly flooded river, and hooked a nice barbel. It took the bead headed nymph with urgency, and gave a good account of itself, before I released it back into a coloured Charente.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Touvre a Trout river holding on, just!

If I could transport you back 50 years, you would see a river in all its glory. Full of large Trout, living in crystal clear water, free from pollution, farm pesticides and abstraction. Sadly today its a different story.
I have fished this lovely river for four seasons now, and never tire of walking in its cool water. Its a true chalk stream in every sense, rising from a bed of pure chalk in the village of Touvre.

Traveling then through several small villages, ending its short life by joining the River Charente in Angouleme. However all along its journey it has to fight for survival.
First against three large fish farms, that grow grotesque, and malformed rainbow trout for the dinner table.

The high protein diets these fish are feed, is directly responsible for the huge toxic waste that's returned back into the river without any kind of filtration!
No weeds grow directly below the farms, and Mayflies are absent in there parts of the river. Instead large midge populations now populate, the heavily silted areas.

Next it has to compete with a toilet paper factory, that annually pollutes the river, leaving tissue paper trailing in the weed beds.
During the summer months, local farms drain its like blood to water sweet corn crops. Day and night you can hear the pumps going, and still the river hangs on!

Finally after the brave Trout have survived all this, they can meet a swift end at the hands of local fishers, for a simple meal?
No catch and release rules on this river exists!

So it amazes me how this river manages to produce any Trout at all for the fly fisher? But it does, and many of the fly fishers are returning there catch in an effort to support the self sustaining Trout population.
My local fly fishing club, now promotes catch and release, and we are starting to convert many of the dead bait, and spin fishermen to our point of view. But its hard work trying to change old habits, and many of the older fishers still believe is ok to kill, large wild brown trout, for the table?

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Gentle Giants

My local trout river is the Touvre. The river is a true chalk stream, that begins its life from out of a huge (almost bottomless) hole in the ground, the size of a football pitch.

Flowing some 11 kilometre's through villages, and a small town, it ends its short life joining the River Charente. The river is not stocked, and holds a small, but healthy head of wild brown trout, that can grow to a large size.

But its not the Trout I'm going to tell you about today, the river has another resident, in even smaller numbers.

Roach, not the little fish I use to catch as a boy, with an old cane rod and worms, that would weight 6oz maximum, but true giants.
These giants take advantage of the vast head of Gammarus, that this rich chalk stream produces. They are difficult to find, harder to approach, and almost impossible to tempt!

But this summer I did catch one, it took a medium weighted shrimp pattern.

I spotted the fish from a bridge over the river. At a distance it looked like a small carp, at the back of a small shoal of these wonderful fish. I took a chance and cast from the bridge, some 20 yards. I saw the nymph land, and watched the big fish follow the nymph to the bottom.

I struck, and found myself attached to this gentle giant of 1.4 kilo. My biggest Roach, and the biggest I have ever seen out of the water!

The photo does not do it justice, it was almost as fat, as it was long! A true Gentle Giant.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Winter Carp

Many years ago, Carp fishing was only considered worth while in summer. The species was known as a warm weather fish. But over the past 20 years or so, more anglers have fished for, and caught carp in winter.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the river Charente holds a fair number of Carp, and they are little fished for in the middle reaches of the river. Yesterday I had a walk with my 6# fly rod, and a small box of nymphs. The idea to cast to any visible fish I could see.

Now at this time of year, I know I'm on a hiding to nothing on most days, but during the warmest part of the day Carp do move, and feed!

One of my favourite places to fish is not surprisingly, close to my home and just a 10 minute drive. The river here is modest, and wadable, but during the winter with low light values, it is better for fish spotting from the bank.

Here you can get a height advantage, and see "into" the river, and still retain cover from the trees, and shrubs that cover most of the the river in this area.

I didn't see any Carp, but did find a few large Chub (around 4lb) under a large, part sunken tree, on the river bend were a small side stream joins the main river.

I crept into position, behind a small tree for cover and waited until the bigger fish came into view.

In my full neoprene waders and waterproof jacket, I was warm, and comfortable, soaking up a few last rays of winter sunshine.

I knew I would only have one chance to place the fly, as the place was a nightmare tangle of branches and sticks. Once the big fish came into view, I did my best catapult cast, and allowed the nymph (weighted cream caddis) to drop to the fishes level.

It took it instantly, I struck ,and the fish turned over powerfully. Then simply the fly come shooting back towards me, and the fish was gone?

I glanced at my watch, and realised I had been standing, half squatting for over an hour, waiting for the one chance.

The coffee in the flask back at the car, was still warm, but with the sun now behind the clouds it felt rather cold.

No I didn't catch any fish, but I had seen a flock of Long Tail Tits, and a Kingfisher, after two weeks inside with flu, the trip was most welcome!

Man Flu!!

There can be nothing worse than being laid up with flu, while the rivers are coming into there winter best!

For the past two weeks, I have been suffering with flu, not just normal flu, but "real man" flu.

In one way it was a blessing, as I have been able to read some great fishing books (whilst keeping warm, and taking antibiotics for the rattling cough on my chest!) by authors such as Ed Engle, John Gierach, Dave Hughes, and the late Gary Lafontaine.

Its also been a time to tie a few flies, and dream of summer, and Trout fishing!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Winter Pike Fly Fishing.

My last two Pike trips have been blanks! It would be nice to say I had some action, but simply I could not find any fish, and the river looked empty.

I know this part of the river holds fish, but on such a large river, most of the fish are rovers, and they move long distances in search of prey.

Its been such a mild autumn, with temperatures in the upper teens most days, the prey fish dont seem to have shoaled up yet?

Whilst its nice to be out on such days, I much prefer cold and bright conditions for winter pike fishing!

But the again, the mild weather does mean my wood pile is lasting, and the central heating has not been called upon.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Local Rivers. The Charente

The Charente is a river worth fly fishing fishing around Civray and Charroux, were its small and interesting.
Were I fish it most however (around Angouleme) its a little bigger, has a more even depth, and holds plenty of white fish.

In the low reaches it is deep, with strong currents. It contains fish through all the reaches, a good head of Chub, Roach, Pike, Perch, Zander, some huge carp, and Barbel are all along this pretty river.
I have taken carp to 16lb on flies, but they are very difficult to tempt. Chub to 5lb and Barbel to 4lb, all on nymphs or dry flies.

Barbel again a really difficult to catch on flies, but because you can get very close to them (from behind) you can see them take the fly. Next to carp I think pound for pound, they fight the best of any coarse fish?
Chub are not too difficult, as long as you dont scare them. Competition is normally there downfall, as they hate another fish to get the fly first. So casting to pods of fish is best!

The river ends it life in the sea at the resort of Rochefort, but just upstream near Saintes I'm told some huge Carp and Barbel live. Carp over 30lb are no strangers in this section!!

Wow, I wonder how much backing you would need for one of them?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Grayling on the mighty Dordogne

I have made several trips this Autunm to this wonderful river. Each trip has found a wonderful hatch of Blue Winged Olives taking place early morning, thining out by lunch time.

The dry fly fishing is difficult, particularly on the catch and release part at Argentat. But the fish will take a well presented Para Dun. Cdc flies seems to be the most common fly used by the French anglers, but I think the fish wise up very quickly to flies all looking the same?

I have taken as many fish on heavy nymphs fished ' high sticking' on a short line, and they have been the better fish!

I would warn anyone about the wading, in the mighty river. Take care, and wear a life jacket if your unsure on your feet, and a wading staff is essential!!