Photograph by Steve Barnett

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Independence and Influence from the USA

First of all, a Happy Fourth of July to you readers in America!  It is customary for your faithful blogger to wish you all well on this day each year and this year is no exception. 

Today is a good day to acknowledge how, in less than 100 years after your independence, American know how and improvements in materials had already influenced fly fishing in general and dry fly fishing in particular here in Great Britain.  It was two way traffic though, because the new materials led to changes in rod design here that wended their way back to the USA where they were then developed even further on both sides of the Atlantic, to the benefit of dry fly fishers everywhere.

"What the Devil is Regular Rod on about?" you may wonder.

You may recall mention in these posts of James Ogden, a Victorian fly fisher and entrepreneur who set up in business in the 1840's to supply his floating flies by mail order.  His business grew and by the 1860's he was supplying much more than his flies.  By then he had trade links with manufacturers and suppliers of materials from around the world including the USA.  Of particular note were the new silk fly lines that were available from makers in several different countries.  Most of these lines had an inbuilt flaw due to the manufacturing process.  They had little bits of silk sticking out along their entire length due to the sections of silk each having a start and an end.  This was not a big deal to anglers at the time because for centuries they had used and many still did use, lines made of lengths of horse hair, which had the same problem of bits sticking out.  The style of casting a line then was to lay the line out in one go using a long rod, a boy may have an eleven or twelve foot rod and a man's may be as long as eighteen feet although rods of sixteen feet were more commonly seen.  It worked.  Fish were caught.  The pleasures of angling were enjoyed.  So why worry?

The art of selling sometimes relies on helping folk realise that they actually do need what you have and that a new way may be better for them.  James Ogden did this for fly fishers.  He imported his silk fly lines from America and these lines were dressed with a tough coating that sealed in all those sticking out ends of silk.  They were smooth.  Unlike the other lines they would pass through the rod rings (guides) very easily and didn't jam up.  Some anglers discovered that it was possible to extend the cast by shooting these smooth running lines through the rings.  James Ogden noticed this and realised that a long rod was unnecessary if you used the "shooting a line" technique.  So he introduced a range of short rods, some only eight feet long, under the name "Multum in Parvo" ("Much in Little"). 

American idea of six sides, English made rod, American FISH!
The combination of the smooth American fly lines and a rod of around eight feet became the rig to have.  It was a small step from the first Multum in Parvo rods of solid timbers such as Greenheart and Blue Mahoe to the beautiful built cane versions of the 1880's, which were in turn based on the American idea of using six strips of cane, built to make hexagonal section rods.  The influence of the Multum in Parvo rod stretched back to the USA and nearly all single handed fly rods became "short".  In the middle of the next century this influence was to come back over the Atlantic with Lee Wulffe (Joan Wulffe too) and Lefty Kreh demonstrating that very long casts were possible with even shorter rods (only six feet long), thanks to their double haul casting techniques.

Below are a few snippets from an Ogden catalogue of the period.  It would seem fly lines have always been pricey items.  6/6 in labour content in those days would be £183.10 today ($236.80) !!!

Well here is at least one dry fly fisher who is very glad of the American influence on our Sport, wishing you all another "Happy Fourth of July"!

Regular Rod

Monday, 3 July 2017

High Summer Puzzle

Yesterday was a lovely day.  A short bike ride in the morning to get the legs buzzing, luncheon with family and then downriver in the afternoon and staying on for the evening rise with Henry.  It was hard going in the heat as there are no connecting "rides" mown into the very long grass in the top meadows, so we walked briskly down river by the waterside, scaring the fish as we travelled.  Never mind, by the time we turned to work our way back up river the fish would be calm again and feeding in earnest.


"There!  Did you hear that?"

We had some fine Sport in Elliott Holme Wood.  Your blogger with fish eating midges. Henry hearing pheasants (but, in obedience to his friend, not going after them).

"Sneak in here Dad!"

He knew that a pause by the run above Elliott Holme would be likely and kindly waited for me to sneak in on hands and knees as usual...

Experiments in the past with attempts at making the perfect fake midge have all so far ended with the Scottish verdict "not proven".  The conclusion being it might be better to simply carry a choice of tiny Sturdy's Fancy and Grey Duster flies instead of the new experimentals... So a small Sturdy's Fancy was deployed and the grayling and wild rainbow trout conveniently tried to eat it. 

Sturdy's Fancy - A "midge" on a "Mosquito" (the rod's name)

The grayling seemed to follow the fly for a yard or two before taking it and the fly had to be correctly placed on the conveyor belt before they would begin to follow it.  On the other hand, the rainbow trout would move almost as much as a yard to intercept it and an almost sloppy cast would do.  Quite distinctive differences in the way the two species behaved.

The sun went below the horizon just as we reached a pool where we face into the west.  This is a very convenient position to be in during an evening rise, as the water reflects the colour of the sky and the fly can be seen quite well even though it is going dark.  The rise forms were now clearly the oval shape of fish feeding on spinners so the Poly Prop Sherry (PPS) was put into service with a fresh length of tippet just in case the older length had picked up any damage, such as abrasion, during the previous few hours.


At last we found brown trout.  Much appreciated as the wild rainbow trout and grayling are, some brown trout make the day perfect.

Here is the puzzle though.  During the day not a single Blue Winged Olive dun had been seen.  The fly on the menu was midge. 

So where did all the adult female Blue Winged Olives (the Sherry Spinners) come from?

Where were the duns in the daytime?

The answer is that the bulk of the duns round here. in high summer, seem to hatch at two or three in the morning.  Those Sherry Spinners are the adults from at least the previous night.  It will change again as the summer ends but right now, if you see a dun flying about in the heat of the day it is unlikely to be a Blue Winged Olive.

(As ever just click on a picture for a closer look...)

Regular Rod

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Those Three Basic Principles Again (and Again)

Today was a beautiful sunny one with just enough occasional cloud cover and breezes to prevent your faithful blogger and his dog from overheating.  We walked downriver for a mile or so with the intention of fishing our way slowly back up and eventually home for tea.

Our first interlude was to be on the delightful Ogden Island where the careful approach nearly always leads to success.  It is more difficult these days to get to the bottom of this mini-beat as the path round the back and away from the fish is no more.  We now have to carefully hide ourselves as we pass by right next to where we intend to fish on the return leg upstream.

Having reached the bottom end it was a case of "Observing", "Being Stealthy" and then "Fishing Where the Fish Are".  The policy worked well, of course it always does and some fine sport was had as soon as the Hair Wing Mayfly had been removed and a fake of the small olives that were being eaten was carefully tied on. 

A sunny day, with olives on the fishes' menu, inspires your blogger to choose the Kite's Imperial (Variant) over the equally excellent Grey Duster (preferred on dull days) and it was certainly sunny enough today.

The fish rose steadily and it was a small matter to catch one from each pool on the way back up to the little footbridge and back to the main river 

One particular run was too difficult for a mere Regular Rod as the clawing fingers of overhanging alder just would not allow the line and fly to get under.  Fair enough!  Someone, with more ability, will reach those fish one day and merit will be rewarded.  That is how it should be on a river.  Many are called but few are chosen...

After Ogden Island it was a matter of walking in as straight a line as possible down past Elliott Holme Wood to enjoy that lovely tangle shewn in a previous post.

On the way there, a couple of anglers were hard at it!  Standing over the fish and casting repeatedly is not a good plan on this river...  One chap came over to exchange pleasantries.  He had fished this water for fifty years and averred that it seemed harder these days, but it was probably old age that had something to do with it.  My reply was that it certainly gets harder to creep and crawl as each year passes.  The hint was there but probably missed.  Frankly, I cannot catch any fish at all if they are aware of my presence.  Those three basic principles are the only way to earn satisfaction and success.

So please, do hide yourself, observe what the fish are feeding on, and fish where the fish are!  You will never regret it...

It will soon be time for festivities with the Drake.  Plenty around today but only one was observed being eaten!

Regular Rod

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Last Fish

This story is true and I'm only telling it now because of a recent, poignant post about getting old, from a blogger whom I respect...  

Some years ago now, I met a very nice old chap, George and over time we became friends.  He was a wonderful old man who fought in WWII for King and Country, in tanks, and became a judge in civilian life until he retired.    I learned from him that he used to love going fly fishing but lamented that his legs were no good on rough ground so he had given up his beloved sport.  I knew a place where the river bank was as smooth as a garden lawn and the fish were abundant.  So I persuaded him to come with me for a few hours.

On the Autumn day appointed we arrived and there were fish rising nicely.  He managed well leaning on his walking stick with his left hand and casting with his right.  Through the morning many fish came to his fly but he was out of practice and couldn't connect with them.  At luncheon I apologised that he had not yet managed to catch a fish.  He wouldn't have any of that.  "Goodness me, I haven't seen a river for three years.  This place is glorious.  It's a joy to be here regardless of catching any fish!"

After our meal I took him upriver to another spot where he wouldn't be able to wander but he could stand behind a thick hazel bush unseen by the trout and make his cast.  First cast a fish seized his fly and my pal connected well.  I was delighted (and relieved) to land it for him. 

Just then another friend arrived with a new camera and was in time to photograph us with the trout.  "Do you want to keep him George?"  "No!  Put him back please."  So back went the trout and we went back home.

With his confidence boosted, George agreed that we should make another trip the following year. 

It was not to be.  That winter George was victim to a stroke.  He worked hard at getting back to normal.  He was a pretty strong cruciverbalist.  He lost none of his skill.  His faculties were in order but his body was not completely his to control anymore.  All that summer, fishing trips together were joyfully planned and anticipated and then sadly cancelled.  George was summoned from this sublunary abode before he could fish again.  That trout in the picture was his last fish.

Please miss no opportunities to enjoy doing the things you love...

Regular Rod

Seasonal Changeability

We are experiencing a slow start to what we euphemistically call "Spring" round here.  Each day seems to give us moments of promising sunshine, but for the majority of the daytime the cold winds and mainly heavy clouds have kept things dull and cold for anyone not wearing some insulating layers.  It has had an effect on the flies and on the fish.  There is good sport to be had all the same if you stay alert to the changes throughout the day, as well as hanging around as dusk approaches because even in cold conditions some flies will be there and sometimes the fish are happy to feed on into dark.

This Saturday your blogger and Henry his pal took a casual couple of miles down to Duck Holds Wood.  There had been hawthorn flies in abundance over the previous two weeks but on this Saturday morning there were very few to be seen and none were crashing onto the water.  Nevertheless, trout seem to be aware by now that black flies on the surface make good meals but these flies have to be grabbed quickly as they have a tendency to recover their powers of flight and get away so... they hit them and they hit them quite hard.  So a Charles Cotton's Black Fly was put to the test.  The technique was to simply sit down next to the river where it was possible to watch the feed lanes for rises or signs of fish. 

"What's happening?" Henry seems to say when, after a few minutes sitting, there are still no casts being made.  All is forgiven though as soon as he sees the rod arching over into its battle curve...

After a few hours it was time to start fishing our way up river back to Bakewell and home.  As we went along things changed.  For a start the light became quite dull.  The wind changed to NNE.  It was strong and cold.  Then in the feed lanes there were rises.  Closer examination confirmed that there were flies appearing, the fish were keen on them and so were the swifts, swallows and sand martins!  Sure enough they were that little foul weather friend of birds and fish, the Iron Blue Dun.  Now do you remember me saying that you must have a suitable fake for these when they put in an appearance or the chances of success will be greatly reduced?  I was sure I had some in my box but couldn't find them.  I hadn't stocked up before coming out!  Fortunately there was a battered example in the hat band and the fish didn't seem to mind its less than perfect condition.  So, as the cold breezes did their worst, the change was made and the sport continued nicely for another hour or so, before it really was time to go home.

On the way back, seeing Henry among the King Cups (sometimes called "Marsh Marigolds") was too good a photo opportunity to miss.  Roll on summertime.

Click the pictures if you want a closer look.

Regular Rod

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Flood Giveth And the Flood Taketh Away

Remember this wonderful thatch from last year?  A brilliant hidey hole given by the flood.

Well here it is after the most recent flood...

The Flood Taketh Away...  Ah well, not every thing turns out the way we expect, but look here, just a few yards upstream!

The Flood Giveth!!!  An entire alder tree complete with root ball and a little of the promontory that it used to stand on!  Every single pocket behind this amazing gift of Nature has a trout in it.  This large woody debris has delivered half a dozen or more little feed lanes and the fish love it. 

Throughout the beat the fish also loved the Grannom, for about three hours, today.  It was a joy to witness and the Fresh Grannom proved most acceptable to the rising fish. 

Even battered and a little torn the fly kept convincing them that it was another of the flies they were feeding on.  It was a boost to the ego that the fly worked so well.

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with Henry and his love of working.  He was his usual self today bringing me a fine collection of balls that The Flood Giveth.  Imagine the astonishment of your blogger when Henry arrived carrying a very dirty neoprene pouch with the legend "HARDY" on it and a loaded fly reel inside it of the same brand!

The Flood had certainly Taken Away for some unfortunate fly fisher!  One can only imagine the horror and disappointment of losing such a treasure.  Never mind, thanks to Henry it can now be returned to its rightful owner.  If this pouch contains your reel, simply drop me an email and let's get it back to you.

Who's a clever boy then?

At this part of the season, it is worth going out for the two hours before and the two hours after noon.  Just keep your eyes open for the Grannom, they only have a short season...

Regular Rod

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Opening Day - Peacock Fly Fishing Club - Haddon Estate - Derbyshire - England...

A solitary sport like fly fishing means we may hardly ever meet our fellows, let's face it, not everyone wants to meet others whilst actually fishing.  The Peacock Fly Fishing Club invited all members to meet for an opening day breakfast at the Baden Powell Fishing Hut, which is perfectly placed on the right bank of the river Derwent in the Haddon Estate.  It was a chance for us to meet and wish each other well.  Henry was happy to help in disposing a little of the splendid breakfast and your faithful, although absent of late, blogger was very happy to beat Henry to the bacon, egg and black pudding.  It was comforting to be so well set up for the first few quiet hours of the new season, on a favourite tributary of the mother river, the Derbyshire Wye.

The Haddon Estate is a wonderful thing.  Nothing in this world is perfect but much of the way this place is run is very near perfection.  It's almost ancient history now how the river keeper, with the blessing of the owner, revolutionised the fishery as the first commercial operation to rely entirely on wild fish to satisfy its anglers.  The project worked amazingly well and, as an angler here since 1969, your blogger can vouch that there are now many more fish, in a greater variety of sizes and the biggest are now very big indeed, with a few gaining such ascendancy that they weigh in the teens of pounds and match Henry for length if not girth.  There are other excellences about this estate that maybe do not get the headlines that the fishery earns.  How about this?

Snake's Head Fritillary

Snake's Head Fritillary
This delicate, vulnerable, wild flower is now rare.  England has lost 97% of its wild flower meadows since 1948.  Once common enough to be collected and sold in Covent Garden, in the wild, Snakes Head Fritillaries now only occur where the landowner has neither drained the meadows, nor fertilised them, nor changed them into monoculture silage and haylage fields.  These places are few and far between.  Haddon Estate is one of them.  Imagine the delight of finding these this morning, on the walk down to the bottom of the beat.  What a great way to start the season.

The fishing wasn't an anti-climax either.  Here's the first.

First of 2017

Tenth of 2017
Above is the tenth.  The photograph does not do it justice.  A beautiful "red" trout, typical of this stream. Any fish after this would certainly have been an anti-climax so the decision was made to head for home and tea.

The water had been as clear as gin.  The wind kept the angler honest.  The flies were abundant during any spell of sunshine and the fish were happy to eat them on the surface.  Days like today remind me how lucky I am to be an angler...

Here's a little puzzle.  In this picture, notice the tree is potentially a hazard whilst casting, especially on a day of breezes.  It's no good settling in down river to make a long cast upriver, as there is a chute of fast water here on the right.  That fast current will whip your fly line down in no time and your fly will be a helpless water skier, frightening all the fish in the vicinity.  The remedy is simply to sneak in to the tree and sit next to its trunk on the upstream side.  You won't tangle in the tree because you will side cast under the branches and you are far enough away from the fast water to keep your fly line nicely under control.

Fritillaries in the meadow, King Cups in the margins, Henry in everywhere and everything...

Here's wishing you all a wonderful 2017 fishing season.

Regular Rod

Sunday, 1 January 2017

January 2017? My Word How Time Flies...

Winter is a quiet time of year for the dry fly fisher in the Northern Hemisphere.  You may recall from earlier posts that your time now is best spent on securing some fishing for yourselves to enjoy when the season starts again.  Other worthwhile investments in your time include stocking your fly box in readiness and (a particular favourite) reconnaissance.
A typical Henry Haul from the river.  It even includes a Duck (yellow plastic duck that is)
Henry enjoys reconnaissance too.  He enjoys his winters working on shooting days and it must be admitted your blogger enjoys these days out together too.  On non-shooting days Henry continues to work when we nosey round the riverside.  His instincts are to always be investigating and retrieving things he believes may be of interest to me.

Well here’s hoping you all enjoy great success on your fishing forays through 2017.  It is not a New Year’s Resolution, but more blog posts can be expected through this year than of late.

Happy New Year to you all. 

Regular Rod

Monday, 4 July 2016

Happy Fourth of July!

240 years old, that's a lot of candles.  Here's hoping all the readers of this blog in America have a grand day and celebrate with some dry fly fishing if you can...

Regular Rod

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Sixtieth Anniversary - A Quiet Celebration

Sixty years ago to this very day, your faithful blogger was taken fishing for the first time with a "proper" rod and reel, instead of a stickleback net, or a garden cane, cotton and bent pin. 

The method was float fishing and the bait was maggots and worms.  The quarry were "coarse" fish.  "Coarse" is a silly name we English give to fish without adipose fins.  There is nothing "coarse" about these fish.  They include some of the most beautiful fish on the planet.

The young tyro was being introduced to the art of angling by his paternal grandfather and the method was known in those days as "Sheffield Style".  "Sheffield Style" means fishing with very fine line, tiny hooks and floats that need very little shot to cock them.    Coarse anglers had distinguishable, regional styles of fishing in those days and you can find out more of this phenomenon by reading the book "Fishing. British Sports Past and Present" by Bernard Venables, Published by B T Batsford Ltd, in 1953.

Today I was the lucky guest of a very good friend on a private estate lake and the method used was exactly as it had been on 16th June 1956.  Grandad would have been familiar with every aspect.  He would have certainly been familiar with HIS Speedia centre pin reel that was being put to use on this special occasion...

All went well.  The first fish was a roach, the next seven were perch, the ninth was a rudd and two more perch finished the day nicely.  The landing net was needed for just one fish, exactly as it had been sixty years earlier.  The net would have been unfamiliar to Grandad as modern knitted pan bottomed nets had yet to be invented in 1956.

It was a good day, in despite of the rain, and it was a pleasant change to be watching a float instead of a dry fly.  A change is said to be as good as a rest, in this instance it was much better than a rest!

Regular Rod

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Mayfly - Time and Place

These first (poor quality) video snippets are of female adult mayflies returning to the river Lathkill (a very important tributary  of the Derbyshire Wye) to lay their eggs.  They are doing this from 4:00 pm onwards...

This second pair of (poor quality) video snippets are from the Derbyshire Wye the day after.  They are of male adult mayflies dancing to attract mates.  Most of the females are yet to have their eggs fertilised.  The main egg laying activity for the mayflies on this river begins at least an hour later.

Do you remember this post from My 2012?  On that day things started much earlier on Hampshire's river Anton...

Get to know your river and it's own timekeeping.  Over the years such knowledge will pay you back handsomely, again and again.

Regular Rod

Thursday, 2 June 2016


Arrived at the water and begun fishing, the rewards of our glorious sport soon became manifest.  The fish had taken a second remove at their dining by almost instantly changing over to snaffling newly appeared Iron Blue Dun, in preference to the Drake which were still fluttering about.  One wild brown trout had such a remarkably coloured adipose fin that a photograph just had to be made for a memento, before moving on.

Sport was brisk with a fish being caught at every station attempted.  Wondering over the little bridge that links the right bank onto Ogden Island and making for a favourite place to peep through a gap in the fleur-de-lys in the search for rising trout, something was noticed that meant fishing would have to stop for half an hour or so. 

Duty called!

Some of you may be aware that the British Isles are infested with Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS).  Among the foremost of these is Himalayan Balsam.  You may recall this previous blogpost about it. We anglers have a duty to prevent this stuff spreading.  We can do this by ensuring we don't become vectors of its seeds AND by pulling it up when and where we find it.  It is our DUTY.

Here are the plants growing.

Here they are after pulling and being left with roots exposed for the sun to kill them.

If you find Himalayan Balsam where you fish, do yourself a favour by pulling as much as you can before it flowers and starts pinging seeds all over.  One plant can have several hundred "children" so do your Duty, please...


Friday, 27 May 2016

Gaining Leave To Fish

If you ever get the chance to become a tenant or even an owner of some nice fishing water, it is highly recommended that you find the money somehow and take it on.  Today in Duck Holds Wood, only three furlongs long but big and meandering so you never feel restricted, being alone with Henry was especially joyful.

The dry fly fishing here is very good.  Monsters are rare but the numbers of "lesser" fish are such that, now May is with us properly, one couldn't imagine failing to catch a few nice wild brown and wild rainbow trout.  Whilst setting up the rod a drake landed on Henry's head for an instant.  Your blogger took the hint and put on a Hair Winged Mayfly (HWM) to begin proceedings.

Seated on a silted gravel bed, peering contre jour up river at the Bridge Weir Pool it was clear that mayflies were coming off the water and some were being eaten by the trout.  First cast proved the fly was a good choice and here was this year's first fish on the mayfly for your faithful correspondent.

Not a monster but perfect nonetheless and a joy to behold.  Henry was his usual concerned self that the fish had "escaped" mysteriously after it had clearly been safely trapped in the net.  "How and why does this happen every time?" he must wonder...

The only "skills" needed today were stealth, some quiet, contemplative observation and a few careful casts to "where the fish are". 

There was one fish, however, that defied all attempts to trick it.  Its lair was so well protected by clawing fingers of vegetation that every cast missed completely or was momentarily caught up in the twigs above.  Never mind, it was great to see a boss fish in a boss place.  Next time I will remember the camera and a polarizing filter.  The telephone, although remarkable for a 'phone, is just not as capable as a good camera would have been,

Don't let anything get in the way of your fishing in the next four or five weeks!

Regular Rod

Thursday, 12 May 2016

This Year for 12th May Think 20th April...

The season really is three weeks behind its usual self for development.  Fly life is still at April proportions. All is not lost though.  We still manage to trick a fish or two in most Aprils so there is sport to be enjoyed although not yet at the volume we normally expect in the second week of May.

Today was almost perfect for your faithful blogger.  The morning was spent cycling with a good friend and the afternoon was spent dry fly fishing with another good friend, Henry.

Hawthorn flies are around and in the brisk winds, some are being ditched in the drink and the trout are waking up to these shiny black victuals. 

One spot that is always worth a look had been visited already this day.  Judging by the footprints I believe the angler had stood up to fish.  So... it seemed worth trying the place again but fishing it as you would expect. 

The sun was ready to cast a shadow just where it was not wanted so stealth was used to creep unseen by the fish into position and SIT DOWN.  The rises were observed and so it was a simple matter to fish where the fish are and catch a couple.

A lovely day all round and it will get better over the next couple of weeks.  The season will catch up with itself.  It always does.

Don't forget to click the pictures if you would like a closer look.

Regular Rod