The Long and Short of it

May has been a beautiful, if busy month so far. The sudden arrival of summer hasn’t been the only rapid change either, as I’ve started a new part time role at the Angling Trust. I’ll be getting behind the scenes at the trust to see all kinds of projects around the country and report on where your EA license money goes, as well as helping with social media and other online content to try and improve engagement and participation. Take a look at the AT “Lines on the Water” blog for a little introduction if you’re curious.

Otherwise, slotting some fishing in has been a case of trying to maximum fun out of minimal amounts of time! I’m sure a lot of you are in the same boat. After all, modern life seldom seems to get any less complicated. Perhaps for this very reason, I’ve been back on the Tiverton or Grand Western Canal (above) or down to the coast for literally the odd hour here and there, rather than longer sessions.

The gear is extremely basic for much of the time and stays in my car ready set up. It’s no coincidence I only buy two or four piece rods these days, which can be neatly broken down, still rigged up and ready. Apart from an unhooking mat that slots down my fly vest, and stuff like forceps, the pic below shows my whole setup.

The Tivvy canal is still looking a bit green, to be honest. Unfiltered ale, rather than lager. Spring normally follows the same process each year: days lengthen and the algae grows back, before eventually the tiny organisms bounce back and the water clears again. That’s not to say you can’t keep catching fish though, with a bit of legwork. I’m also heartened to see that several others are also getting out there to enjoy this beautiful water. At £30, a season ticket from Tiverton & District Angling Club is silly good value.

When it’s clear here I swear by dark flies, but at present a pale fly seems to be easier to pick out. With not a lot of time to tie, I’ve just been using Turrall’s little Rudd Bugs (below), which sink very slowly and are easy to spot. If you don’t tie your own flies, a set of six roach and rudd patterns is just a fiver from this very site (click here).

Both around Minnows (just off the M5) and out in the sticks on the way to Tiverton, I’ve managed to find visible fish- although they can be there and gone in seconds in the murk. I also found bream crashing around and indulging in what looked like some X-rated behaviour (now that would be quite a “specialist” genre of photography!). They can do silly things and get aggressive in this mode, taking things they wouldn’t normally look at. Nobody likes to be interrupted while they’re in the mood for love though, so I left them well alone.

Otherwise, though, the rudd are in good fettle and very willing to take. I had several small ones last time out, along with a couple of better roach to around 6-8oz. Not huge fish, but lovely on a 3/4wt rod. As explained before, I like a long rod to get over the vegetation- and my flies are barely retrieved, just let the fish react and strike as quick as you can!

In fact, even with just an hour or two of fishing, you can walk a mile or two and get really lost in your own little world. Which is the point, I guess! If some of you read these blogs and wonder what’s the best way to get the net under the odd better fish, my main weapon is no special fly but simply being bothered to walk. In fact, quite often that better fish you come across is no harder than the smaller ones to catch; a bit more cautious perhaps, but the bigger the lips the less lightning quick on the take!

The fish below was basking just a couple of rod lengths out. I missed him first attempt, striking too early, but he came back for a second chew and that was that. Between 12oz and a pound I would guess. It doesn’t really matter, it was just great to watch him move for the fly.

I had to pack up only a couple of hours after starting, but perhaps that’s another pleasure of the short session- that it leaves you still hungry for more and thinking about your next trip.

Other than the coarse fish, I have also snuck onto some urban rivers for short sessions- which you can read about on the Turrall flies blog HERE.

Aside from a trip to the Usk then, I think the longest session I’ve fished in the last three weeks was about two and a half hours! Lure fishing fits the quick hit approach every bit as well as the fly, hence I also snuck a rod with me to the coast when out with the wife and friends in Cornwall for a day. Again, just a couple of one hour forays in different spots were enough to get bites- and the beauty of the sea is that you can let non-fishing pals try without needing to sort licenses out!

There’ll be some more on these quick hit fishing sessions in my Angling Times column in the coming weeks if you’re curious, but catching a few fish really isn’t rocket science! The smallest jig head you can find (down to 1g/ size 10), with a little section of Isome or Gulp is a really easy way to get bites in just about any harbour setting- or you could try a dropshot rig with a size 12-14 hook to search right under walls and features. Even the tiddlers kick up a stink on fine gear and I find the whole “lucky dip” element fascinating. How’s this for a cute little flounder?

Most of the time then, I am perfectly content catching fish of all sizes provided the tackle is nice and light. But you might also have seen my catch from a couple of weeks ago on the River Usk, my biggest ever wild trout in the UK at 21.25 inches and around four pounds. Very possibly the fish of a lifetime!

Again, more on that story to come, but suffice to say it was a hair-raising experience on the same 10ft 4wt outfit I use to catch roach and rudd! I had it from a deep run on a tungsten beaded red tag nymph, tied for me by young Ben Beckwith at the BFFI (I’d actually poached some of his heavy flies with the intention of catching grayling- but they are just as good for trout in deep flows). The key on the day was in getting the fly really nice and deep, with a long leader and short casts. I had three others too, but it’s this one I’ll remember for obvious reasons. Credit has to go to Ben Garnett too, for keeping a cool head and not rushing with the net!

For the record, I caught it from one of the Wye and Usk Foundation‘s day ticket beats. I’m not going to tell you the exact spot, because you’ve got legs and eyes to explore. Suffice to say that anyone can fish these spots for between £15 and £25 a day, making the experience an affordable treat open to anyone. Not easy fishing, but there are some fabulous trout in every stretch.


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