When these begin to flower, it is a sure sign for me that hot, summer days are on their way. The petals really are whiter than white - they demand the sun to make them dazzle.
Thursday, 28 April 2011
I've no idea how long these pottery fragments have been in the river, but worn by water over the years, all their rough edges have become smooth, and the colours taken on a beautiful, muted character, more water-colour than oil.
I used to collect these shards myself, when fishing, and send them to a friend who made jewellery from them.
The irony is, if I caught someone now throwing a bottle into the river and breaking it, I would call it an act of vandalism. Yet after a hundred years of water-wear and grit, it becomes a thing of beauty, a jewel for a child.
But what a great way for a kid to spend a morning, and what a superb resource is a river to its town.
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Tuesday, 19 April 2011
That might sound like I live in some country idyll, but I don't. I live in a town in the Peak District, UK. It is quite a busy town that was built on its mills, its textile industry - built on its rivers. No river, and there would have been no power for the mills and there would have been no town.
This urban river cuts the town in two. It can have a hard time of it, the river. There are not just the natural hazards to contend with, like the last harsh winter and flooding that is eating its way at its crumbling banks. There are the other, man-made hazards too. We have fiddled with it for centuries now, from pumping up its weirs to chucking in our rubbish.
I was talking to the fly-tyer and fisher Roy Christie the other day about this. Roy has done a fair bit of urban river restoration in his times. As he says, everything ends up in the river. And so it is with mine.
Bottles and bags...
Traffic cones... and sometimes even ducks!
But it is not all bad news. I've had some beautiful little brown trout out of this stretch, that runs alongside the factory:
I have written a story about this which appears in the current Spring 2011 edition of Waterlog Magazine. It is called 'The Urban Angler'. Briefly, despite the short-comings of fishing my industrial - or post-industrial stream, I would choose to do so over the pristine and famous Derbyshire waters that may be less obviously contaminated with the results of human activity.
I like the constant reminder of human endeavour as I am fishing, of necessity, the remnants of the industrial past that surrounds me. It reminds me of why I love fly fishing so much myself - that hunting instinct, a different facet of that same struggle, that need to survive, to eat.
Monday, 18 April 2011
Here is a fly that first came into my mind as mentioned in the first post of this blog.
The butterburr is starting to come up now in the wetland beside the river. The pryramid flower spikes first, followed by the leaves that just seem to get bigger and bigger as the summer goes on.
Butterburr are put on this planet for two reasons: the first is to use the leaves for shade on hot summer days, like handily positioned bankside parasols.
The second is for children to use the leaves as boats, put insect passengers in them, and float them downstream and out for far off adventures at sea.
Providing they don't get in the way of my cast while they're doing it, I'm cool with that.
Sunday, 17 April 2011
There was a time when I would be out in the field with my hand lens and wild flower book to sort them all apart, but these days the only one I can identify with absolute confidence is sweet cicely, as it fills the summer days with the delicious scent of aniseed. Actually I think the photo is cow parsley, but umbellifer is good enough for me, these days.
And here is my hound, returning more than a little shame-facedly, from another run on a cat. He stands on the edge of the river bank, scanning the field opposite that ends in a steep bankside, scanning for signs of feline life.
Saturday, 9 April 2011
If he only had his rod with him.
Fishing or not, if the fly fisher sees the ring of a rising fish he will catch it, if only in his mind. He will determine the lie of the trout, the speed of the water, its colour and depth, the insect that had tempted that fish up to break its cover.
Then having determined all this, he will take out his imaginary fly box and select from it a fly fit to fool the feeding trout, and tie it on to the finest tippet the river will allow. Twelve feet long for a delicate presentation.
Then, as if by magic, in his hand will appear the perfect rod for this small stream, and he will watch the rise, time the rise, then cast a line so delicately that the fly lands gossamer on the water, a siren call to that feeding trout.
Then the wait. The tenter-hook wait. Then he just sees the nose of the trout approaching his fly and in an event faster than his thought the trout has sipped and taken his fly, and the fly fisher has lifted his rod and the fish is on. The deception complete. All is release.
This morning, walking my three saluki hounds beside the small stream I fish, I saw the first trout of the year rise.
Just as I caught it (it was on a small midge pupa pattern) one of my hounds saw, on the other side of the field on the other side of the river, a cat, stalking mice in the grass. With two bounds he was across the stream and was off, muscle and sinew effortlessly straining, relishing in the purpose of his pursuit.
Just a Spring morning, and we were all at it.