Thursday, 28 April 2011

Greater Stitchwort

DSCF1366 by GlassJet
DSCF1366, a photo by GlassJet on Flickr.

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.


Walking the hounds along the river the other day, and children had been playing. They had been fishing too, but fishing for the old pottery and glass shards that can be found like jewels in between the gravel of the bed.


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

The hounds have taken over the asylum

DSCF1362 by GlassJet
DSCF1362, a photo by GlassJet on Flickr.

Have they really? don't know what you mean, I hadn't noticed... ;)

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The urban river

I live beside the river, it is just across the lane from me. I can hear it now and if I look out of the window I can see the sunlight glinting off it where the flow is breaking around stones.

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.

Road signs...

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.

Waterlog, Spring 2011

Waterlog, Spring 2011

Take a look if you get the chance. Waterlog is a very beautifully produced publication, and I am very pleased to be in it.

Did anybody see...?

Salukis by GlassJet
Salukis, a photo by GlassJet on Flickr.

OK - which way did the cat go?

A beautiful spring morning which is more like mid-summer, a good hard run and a cool-off in the river - what's not to like?

Monday, 18 April 2011

Hatching Midge Pupa

Olive Para Hatching Midge

Here is a fly that first came into my mind as mentioned in the first post of this blog.

A couple of days after writing that post, I was watching a trout energetically feeding at and just below the surface of the river. I was watching for a long time, and afterwards went down for a closer examination of what was causing all the excitement.

It was clearly midge pupa and hatching midge that had got this trout so excited, and I went for a play at the vice to try and knock something up.

As it happens, my hounds play pouncing games in the house, and where there is a join in the carpet, the back of the carpet is starting to stray into strips. I've had my eye on this for a fly tying material for a while now, and this pupal body might just be the perfect use. Such is synchronicity.

This hatching midge is tied on a Dohiku #16, with olive underbody and my shredded carpet overbody. The hackle is a mid dun genetic cock, and bound with 5X tippet monoloop.

I've fished it a few times now and it is proving extremely effective during a midge hatch, inducing quick, positive takes and bringing up fish where none were previously rising. sometimes simple is best.

Going to go smaller with it next, and colours to match, of course. What a stroke of good luck that the hounds have trashed my carpet!


Butterburr by GlassJet
Butterburr, a photo by GlassJet on Flickr.

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


DSCF1332 by GlassJet
DSCF1332, a photo by GlassJet on Flickr.

More flowers - the hawthorn is coming out. In the Derbyshire Dales in the fields and on the hillsides, beginning to look like dollops of luscious ice-cream... :-)

Morning routine

Spring is really getting into its stride now. I walk beside the river I fish every morning, with my three salukis, and I love to see the season progress, the flowers coming into bloom, the ground cover thickening into a shroud of secrecy.

I could only now confidently identify this as an umbellifer.

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 celendine, and wood anenome:

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.

If he sees one, he is off - taking the river in a bound, and all I can do is stand and watch as he scorches across the field and crashes through the undergrowth of the bankside. He has never caught one yet, and with a hundred and fifty yard start, it would have to be a particularly stupid cat if it were to be so.

Then he comes back at a trot. He knows he shouldn't, I know he shouldn't, but he loves to run and I love to watch him. Such explosive power, you can only stand and stare and wonder at what it must feel like to move at such speed, with such confidence, to be so in your own element on land and in air.

He is saluki crossed with a greyhound, by the way.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Spring morning

There is no sight to quicken the fly fisher’s pulse more than that of a rising fish. It demands the attention, sharpens the mind, makes one minutely aware of one’s environment, searching it, questioning it, eliminating unnecessary data, picking out only that which might help that fly fisher catch his fish.

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.