Thursday, 2 July 2015

Fly Fishing for Chub on the River Stour

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A new season trip to a familiar river brings both excitement and a little uncertainty to the angler. Will it be the same as you remembered? Will the fish be in the same places? I was hoping for classic river swims and aquarium clear water for my latest return journey, and I got it as I took Chris Kirkham for a guided fly fishing trip on the Dorset Stour.

Chub were our main target, although the river can and will also produce dace, roach, perch and pike on the fly. An interesting prospect really, because although it is a notoriously popular stretch, the fish don't see many flies.
It doesn't get a lot more classic, actually: think weed rafts, trees and gravel channels. Better still, craggy bits you can wade too and play a game of cat and mouse with the chub. These great fish also have a reputation for trickiness, with the regular fishing pressure making the fish notoriously spooky.
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Although we were spellbound by the river, it made good sense to give Chris a quick bit of casting tuition. With chub it is a case of short, accurate casts without alarming the fish. His overhead cast steadily got better on the day, while he also quickly picked up side and catapult casts, so useful for ducking into tight corners.

What a sight the river was too. Bravely, having no waders, Chris waded in shorts and old trainers. I think he had one or two of those "ooohhhhh…cold…" moments, but actually, wet wading can be a nice exercise on a baking hot day- and this was a record shaker.
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I'm going to be covering more on the subject of chub fishing in a feature or two, but both the fly choices and the antics of the chub are always something that fascinate me. They are so different to trout for one thing. They will often respond to a twitch, rather than merely a dead-drifted fly, for example. I was trying to reinforce this message to Chris, who then executed it nicely. We had found a couple of little pods of fish and after an early missed take they would rise up to look at the fly, but then turn away. The next time this happened,the fly began to skate a little across the current. A little twitch and those big lips opened. What a lovely way to break your duck for coarse fish on the fly, and very well fished.
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There were other takes and missed chances galore, and I was also glad Chris had booked just the half day, because it gave me the chance to get stuck in too (I don't normally fish when I guide, as a rule). So we took it in turns and spotted a real variety of life on a long walk. There were sensational numbers of damsel flies of many types, hordes of dace and even a large river carp.

And although the chub remained tricky, they continued to inspect and rise to our dry flies. We had a great explore, also casting for smaller fish and, in the case of the dace, often striking at thin air. Quite how a one ounce dace thinks it is going to eat a size 8 hopper is beyond me.
Speaking of patterns, we tried big hoppers, Stimulators and others from my Turrall chub selection, but the best was the Jasper (that's Westcountry slang word for a wasp). Quite why a fish that spooky finds such a big, gaudy fly appetising is a curious one to say the least, but sometimes the temptation just seems too much to resist.
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No world records on the day then(for that, you want "Fishing with the General" who, we heard, had an eighty-pound chub) but what a great day out. Should you be tempted to book me for a day's fly fishing for coarse species, whether here or my home in the South West, do take a look at the website. Actually, it also has some cracking flies for chub for sale too ;-)

Guided Fly Fishing on Dartmoor

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Still some of the best value wilderness fly fishing around at just £10 a day (try, Dartmoor is a beautiful place to spend a day roaming and casting. It also happens to be one of my favourite places to run guided fly fishing days for those new or returning to the sport, because the trout, while not often large, are certainly hungry and numerous.

Joining me for a ramble across Dartmoor was Nick, who is more used to coarse fishing. We stopped at the Two Bridges Hotel, where you can pick up a ticket and get straight onto the West Dart.

The terrain is boggy and quite up and down out here, so waders are very useful- and wellies are an absolute minimum. We could see lots of insect life, and in fact the dippers and wagtails were already picking them off as we approached the river. A particular delight were several of these Yellow Sally Stoneflies:
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With the water level low and clear, I set Nick up with a light four weight outfit and a simply dry fly on a 3lb tapered leader. He had a casting lesson for the first hour or so and quickly picked up a tidy overhead cast, before we tried for a fish.

The fish rose rapidly for a small emerger, so rapidly I think Nick was taken aback and it was only a few snatches later that he managed to catch a trout. Most up on the moors are not big, but they’re certainly pretty. It was also a good exercise in watercraft and reading the river. Studying the little pools, bends and sections of cover, we did spot a few better fish, including one that looked about a pound. That one spooked, but connection was made for a few exciting seconds with another slightly better trout, just beside an overhanging tree.
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By the end of the day we must have had dozens of takes and several small trout, an experience that should hold Nick in good stead. Do take a look at the guided fishing section on my website (, if you’re interested in a guided fly fishing trip on the streams of Dartmoor. From a rambling all day adventure, to a short afternoon session, I can tailor something to your needs. You don't need any previous experience and I can provide all the gear for an enjoyable day.

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Naturally, we couldn’t hope to catch a trout as big as the General this week (above), but we’ll keep trying. You can read his continued ramblings on the blog and facebook page.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Trout and Pike Fishing in Norway

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Of all the parts of Europe I’ve travelled to fish, Scandinavia always has a special pull. Followers of “Crooked Lines” or readers of “Tangles with Pike” will know about my adventures in Finland, lure and fly fishing. But this time it was Norway that drew me back, and the promise of some excellent predator fishing with my good friend Geir Sivertzen, aka "Dr Hook" because of his expertise working for Mustad.

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It was to be a trip in several parts, with boats, cars, big lakes and breathtaking scenery. First we stopped in Gjovik, on the banks of Lake Mjøsa: a monster of a place at over 110km long and very deep, trolling for big, predatory trout.

We had a brilliant welcome and beers at the fishing club in Gjovik, and it was like something out of a story book. You know the one, you probably read it in Tin Tin or something. The cabin by the lake. A crammed display of lures; a huge lake trout and a pike, mounted behind glass. And best of all, I kid you not, in the cabin next-door we met the ex-captain of the local paddle steamer, sat there playing cards and drinking scotch.

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I was also in the great company of Dutch angler Pim Pos, and Welsh actor and keen fisherman Julian Lewis Jones. The local beer was great too (can you believe my luck, Nordic IPA) , and we had a fine time trading stories and jokes. Julian had us in stitches with his comedy accents, while the crazy little Dutchman managed to start about six different fishing debates all at the same time.

As for the fishing, it was atmospheric stuff, covering miles of water in the late evening and watching the sun never quite seem to set. Myself and Julian hopped on a boat with Kim Vegarde Sunde. An absorbing, if sometimes slow game, trolling for big trout. But we waiting and talked and learned more of the lake.

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Mjøsa has some 22 species, including the usual coarse fish (roach, perch, bream, pike) but also rarities like burbot! There are also grayling, whitefish and several others, but the most numerous small fish must be the smelt. It is these fish that form huge swarms in the upper layers of the water and provide the main diet of the trout. Unsurprisingly, slim plugs of around four inches long work well here.

The night proved a test, but well into the early hours we did find our trout. Beautifully silver and deadly they were too. Ours barely raised an eye brow at between two and four pounds.

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If anything though, we were rather unlucky with the unseasonably cold and wet weather on the first couple of days on our trip. But this did give us time to relax and take a look at some other random diversions, including the world's biggest fishing hook (outside the Mustad HQ) and even a cute little crucian carp pond that I tried with Julian:
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Our next adventures took us on a whistlestop tour of two other lakes, where pike were the target. We battled lashing winds, rain and minor disasters including a buggered up outboard motor for the next couple of days- but also some fantastically wild pike fishing. When you have such a huge amount of water and so few pike anglers, the potential is huge!

For the lowdown on tackling these lakes, you can read a more extended account in the Angling Times soon- but suffice to say they are both a challenge and pike anglers dream. Searching tactics worked, casting lures most often, although I also fished the fly.

We fished both Lake Steinsfjorden (lots of islands and numerous pike) plus Krøderen (deeper and more challenging, but the pike often average ten pounds and grow into the thirties!). Some of the lakes have shallow areas where you can cast and rove for smaller but more numerous pike, but often the secret of finding the quality is to look for the drop offs, where the depth plummets from a couple of metres, to much deeper. A fish finder is also a plus if you can get hold of one.

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We saved the best right till last as it happened our trip, with this lovely long pike on the final day:
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It was a fantastic, testing, unpredictable trip, and we also learned many other lessons:

-The national food of Norway is not herrings but hotdogs
-Norway's best beer is called Aass
-Never trust an outboard motor.
-Never trust a Dutchman with a Norwegian TV presenter

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I should also give a kind mention and a link to the good folks who put us up (and put up with us!) for our stay- because the hospitality of Norway is legendary.

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The country might have a reputation for being a little expensive, but it needn’t be. For a family or small group, there are some superb self-catering lets and in both the following places boat hire is readily available too. You can also readily get to most locations by bus in Norway, right from Oslo Airport:

Bjertnes Lodges: (above) Delightful wooden lodges, right on the banks of Lake Krøderen. The clear, cold water makes it ideal for summer pike fishing. Boat hire also available if you book in advance.

Utvika Camping and Lodges: Just 40 minutes from Oslo by car or bus, this lakeside campsite has both tents and cosy self-catering lets. They have boats to hire and the nearby Lake Steinsfjorden (a part of Tyrifjorden, right by the campsite) has a great head of pike, perch, trout and other species.

Other useful resources for a real wealth of fishing are available at and

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Spring Madness

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Greetings to all blog readers and followers. Hopefully you've managed to track down more "Crooked Lines" posts on my website, where it will now live. Do keep an eye on it as the year progresses, because I haven't abandoned you- regular posts are still appearing that I hope you'll enjoy. The latest ramble, with some cracking canal fishing, can be found here:

Meanwhile there are also a couple of other bits you might find entertaining. Perhaps "least" of all in terms of size is the fresh piece of nonsense "Fishing with the General". A look at mini species (or are they world record fish?), along with a friendly slap in the chops to the modern specimen fishing scene, this should be a lot of fun. Click here to read the blog and do also check out the General's Facebook page. If you don't, I will fill your waders with maggots.

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Otherwise, you can also follow my craft beer blog "IPA MONSTER", and I'd also urge you to keep an eye out for Issue Three of Fallon's Angler. Out very, very soon this is quite simply the best read in fishing. Where else can you read Chris Yates and a host of others in one publication, bursting with great stories and free of the usual sponsored guff?

Monday, 4 May 2015

A Change of Sorts…

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A big hello to all my blog followers, along with a bit of a change this week! My blogging activities are now branching out in a few different directions. I'll be writing more new content and entries than ever, which I hope you'll continue to enjoy:

CROOKED LINES will be moving to my website, here: Rest assured, it will be the same entertaining/new/odd stuff as ever, just attached to DG Fishing.

FLY FISHING ACTION: I will also be writing an additional blog covering fly fishing for trout, coarse fish and all sorts for Turrall Flies HERE. Please do keep an eye on this, as well as their Facebook page and Twitter updates for all things new and exciting in the fly fishing world. Do give them your support, likes and follows. Lots going on and without folks like Turrall I simply cannot do what I do!
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The "Fly For Coarse" competition will also continue to run, at the usual website and Facebook group.

MONSTER BEERS: For any of you who enjoy craft beers, my newest blog might also be of interest. It's called IPA MONSTER and it will feature various great brews, pubs and more. After all, a man cannot survive on fishing alone, right? Click here for a taste of the good stuff.
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Otherwise, you can catch my latest work in the excellent indie fishing quarterly FALLON'S ANGLER, as well as pieces in FLY FISHING & FLY TYING MAGAZINE, while I'm also in every other issue of COARSE ANGLING TODAY with "The Far Bank" column and also occasionally in the ANGLING TIMES and a few others.

Any other news, I will update this blog page in due course.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Coarse surprises for spring

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I’ve enjoyed some really interesting sessions this past couple of weeks, despite much of my free time being squeezed, crunched or written off. This is definitely a huge benefit of lure or fly fishing though; you can be packed and ready to fish in seconds. Nor is a lack of time my problem solely- it’s the same for loads of my friends who lead equally busy lives and seldom manage to get a full day in. I strongly suspect this is part of the reason why the fishing world is changing, and light, mobile methods are the in thing at the moment.

Sometimes, admittedly, it can take me a good hour to forget my to do list and all the shit rattling around in my brain. But I know of no better place to throw it all into the depths than a little estate lake I’ve been frequenting for about a year now. Not the cheapest, for a skinflint such as I, but very pretty and very rich in insect life. A handful of others fish for the carp with bait, but I just love wandering about with the fly rod. I tend to take two set ups: a four weight for rudd and hybrids, plus a nine weight for the carp, which really take some stopping. On those days when nobody else is around to bother, I also sometimes take a little boat out.
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Perhaps the dry, hot days this spring are the culprit, but it hasn’t been all plain sailing due to quite coloured water- and the same goes for the canals. This makes spotting the fish harder, and also makes it harder for them to spot your flies. Bigger spiders have worked though (up to a size 12) along with red or claret buzzers with a little flash. Sometimes a tag team of two is better than one also, if only to double your chances in coloured water. If nothing else the rudd have obliged:

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Funny fish these. Shy, too, where they don’t see a lot of humans. Make a shit cast and they flee like a gun has gone off. Land it right, with the flies settling gently where they can see them and they’ll take with zero hesitation, making you wonder why you ever found it difficult ten minutes ago. I’ve yet to spy a really big one, but there are loads in the 6oz to 1lb class that kick very pleasantly on light gear- in fact, not even the lightest match rod gives a better buzz.

Other, stranger things are also stirring. I think they’re rudd bream or roach bream hybrids. I pick my words carefully because I’m not sure and I’ve never seen a true bream in this little lake. They do like forming a squadron a foot or two under the surface though, sometimes mixing with the better rudd. Sink a fly to one stealthily and they’ll often take at the first time of asking. Although a lot of anglers see them as not entirely desirable, they do tend to fight harder per pound than either rudd or bream. This one took a claret buzzer:
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The beauty of a natural, mixed fishery is that you're never quite sure what you'll encounter next. For some coarse fish, such as bream and tench, I rarely go all out for them but will usually fish for bites with an easier species like roach, rudd or perch, but always be prepared to have a cast at any bonuses that show up. The value of always being ready cannot be too keenly stressed either: when that surprise fish comes into view, you simply must be ready to make an instant delivery, rather than faff around trying to find the fly or untangle the fly line.

For the sake of my curiosity as much as anything else, I'm always scanning the water and dipping a net into the edge to see what I might be able to copy. Midges are a given, but there are also stacks of water boatmen, shrimp and -not to be confused- hog lice like this chap:
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When it comes to the actual fishing though, provided you pick flies that look naturally edible and present them in the right way, you have a chance. Hare's Ears, Shrimps and dark spiders are all useful staples that will catch various coarse fish.
The other conspicuous customers on the last session were the carp, but these can be harder to tempt. I blew it with a couple of nice fish that I got too close to, but also elicited a take from a solid looking mirror carp. Had I delayed the strike, rather than lifting too early, I might have had much bigger end to the session.
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In other news, I’ve also been mixing a bit of work with pleasure down on the edge of Cornwall. My day job is copywriting, but I also like to make the most of my photography skills to go with my words. The Jamaica Inn is one of those really quirky, genuinely different and historic places that I’ve been helping to promote. This particular photo shoot involved Murphy; not an Irishman, but a beautiful black and white-masked horse. Suitably gothic looking for one of the most haunted places in Cornwall.
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You can read all about an interesting session on Colliford Lake on the new Turrall Flies blog, which also comes with a chance to win a selection of my favourite flies for the venue. All you have to do is follow us on Facebook or Twitter and share the post.
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Monday, 13 April 2015

Spring Fishing Lessons

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Is there anything better than picking a fine spring day to go fishing? You can finally expect to see moving and rising fish. Two layers will do. And even if it's rubbish, the sun is on your back and the whole summer awaits!
A little spring cheer tends to bring even occasional anglers out of hibernation. Ben, my older brother, is usually anything but a fair weather fisher, but having a new baby to think about, it was the first time he'd been fishing in a while. What a day we picked too; the water looked lovely on the Culm (we fished at Champerhayes on the Westcountry Angling Passport).
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More out of optimism than anything, I had tied some dry flies up too. For the River Culm fly fishing, it just has to be that classic quill bodied fly, the Beacon Beige. The original is a very simple fly, but I also added a pair of wings ("Reel Wings" to be precise). These not only look the part, but make a typically small (size 16) fly easy to spot.

It was one of those days when the whole countryside seemed awake. The blossom was out, as were bees and nest building birds. The water itself was teeming with minnows and shrimp, perhaps part of the reason the average size of trout is very healthy here for Devon. It didn't take long to see lots of real flies either, mostly large dark olives:
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The strange part was the lack of response at first. We had been running nymphs in all the right looking places, but without a touch. Eventually though, there was the odd rise form and so on went the Beige. At virtually the first time of asking, I managed to flick it under a high bank where rings had subsided only seconds earlier. A positive rise and it was fish on.
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Perhaps the recent winter was kind because the fish were in excellent condition. Some were really silvery for Culm fish too, and rather fat looking for so early in the season. It wasn't plain sailing, but by fishing lots of areas and covering any risers quickly, we finished with two trout a piece. In true brotherly fashion we also made some totally needless rules and turned it into a little competition. Ben can probably blame lack of match sharpness, but I pipped him by a couple of inches with slightly bigger trout!

Meanwhile, you can also read more of my exploits this month by grabbing the new Fly Fishing & Fly Tying magazine. A great little urban river in my article, along with news from the Fly For Coarse competition and an excellent perch which fell to my friend David West Beale.

In other news, I've also just finished another of the fishing sessions for kids that I run at West Pitt Farm, Devon. Again, we were hugely lucky with the weather as the best part of twenty youngsters descended on Kingfisher Lake for four sessions over two days. Some of the stars of the show from last time caught even better than before, while others caught their first ever fish:

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What I always love is the sheer, unreserved delight that kids show at getting bites and catching fish. Excitable, funny and imaginative to the last, it was a lot of work but a heck of a lot of fun to say the least. Everyone caught a few and I also laughed at how, just like my brother and me now in our late thirties, boys love to count their fish and greet every strike, catch and missed bite with a running commentary.
All excellent fun, and in spite of long hours and a crunched pole section, I would gladly run days like these forever. For any parents or young anglers in Devon, do keep an eye on the West Pitt site for news of the next one too- we're sure to have a blast once again in the summer holidays!