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Snake River trout fishing, Wyoming

September 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm

A lunch stop on the Snake River, downstream from Jackson, Wyoming, gave me the opportunity to fish the upper, freestone reaches of this  river, before it slows to begin it’s 1,000 mile journey across Idaho to join the Columbia River.

I’d already fished the head waters of this mighty river within the bounds of Yellowstone Park, managing to lose, or be broken, while fishing a deep pool with hoppers, by brown and cutthroat trout, frustrating my attempts to get them in my net, before a thunderstorm stopped play and soaked my wife and I to the skin.

Access is difficult on the Snake, as it has carved it’self through a deep valley, but a boat launching site provided shady parking and shallow water to wade. At this point the river speeds over stones in a series of riffles and rapids and looks unfishable, but trout were rising in front of me within easy casting distance and I waded in to offer my hopper and gold head size  16 pheasant tail nymph. I began casting upstream to the rising fish and watched a cutthroat take a sideswipe at the big hopper, hooking, but losing the trout, when it dropped below me. In hindsight I should have tried an ant, or a klinkhammer, but the foam hopper stayed afloat in the roughest water and I could see it easily. A few casts later, another rise resulted in a fish on and a rod bending fight, as the fish took full advantage of the flow, belying it’s size when finally in the net.

Despite it’s size, the foam hopper could not be resisted by this small cutthroat and many of it’s friends, although setting the hook proved a random event. Having succeeded in putting all the trout down in front of me, I changed tactics and began drifting the hopper downstream, rising a few fish, then hitting into a hard fighting brown trout.

With a series of boats being launched, where I was fishing, it was time to enjoy lunch in the shade of a tree and ponder my next line of attack. The hopper had proved it’s worth against several smaller trout, but I wanted a bigger fish to round off my visit and dug out a Blue Flash Damsel from my box. This is a deadly lure on English lakes and with it’s bead head, it stood a chance of getting down to the larger fish further out.

On my second cast out and across, mending the line to keep the lure out in the stream, I drifted the Blue Flash Damsel downstream, while paying out line, the rod bending over, when a big fish hit the lure. All the slack line was taken in it’s first run and following a few head shaking sessions, the process of bringing it back began, countering each run with steady pressure, until the fish was only a few feet away, rolling in the current, a cutthroat of around 16 inches. My wife was poised with the camera and my net outstretched, as I reeled in the last few yards on this beaten trout, when pop, the hook lost it’s hold. We looked at each other stunned. If there was a fish more ready for the net, then I’ve not seen it.

With many more miles to travel that day returning to friends in Salt Lake City, this was my last chance to fish these big trout filled rivers, and I reluctantly put away my rod, hoping that a lottery win was waiting on my return to the UK.

Madison River trout fishing, Yellowstone Park

September 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm

At the confluence of the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers in Madison, the Madison River is formed and meanders parallel to the road all the way to West Yellowstone on it’s way to Hebgen Lake.  I fished the upper few miles of this already powerful river, where it reminded me of the Hampshire Test, a steady flow and luxurious weed growth, allowing a more relaxed style of fly fishing among spectacular scenery.

I’d intended fishing the Gibbon, as advised by the flyshop owner in West Yellowstone, but a bison on the road had caused a traffic jam, so I turned back to the nearest parking spot and got my rod out. I still had the hopper, nymph combo from the Gallatin attached and walked down to a likely looking run, where a large rock was forcing the river out from the bank. First cast, as I watched the hopper drift along the glide, it slid sideways and disappeared. I lifted and was into my first Madison fish, which promptly zoomed off downstream. The angler downstream complained that he’d spent twenty minutes there before me without a touch. This put more pressure on not to lose this fish, which was making the most of the strong current.

This was a decent sized rainbow, that fought all the way to the net and was  aware that the size 16 gold head pheasant tail could slip out at the slightest turn, giving a sigh of relief, when it was finally in the net.

This rainbow was beautifully marked, with a massive tail, it’s solid round body testament to the healthy diet available to these trout. The nymph was safely in the scissors of it’s jaw, a speedy unhook and it was back in the river, darting away. At this moment calls from the roadside made me look up to see the errant bison strolling into our parking area, quiet oblivious of the curiosity and panic that it had invoked among it’s onlookers.

With the bison continuing on it’s way, to browse the meadow downstream, I got back to fishing, having been joined by another local flyfisherman, who like me, enjoyed fishing talk. Like his friend, he had not caught all morning and had come up to see what the Englishman was doing and to advise me of the many waters I could fish, if I had time. I was casting across and drifting the hopper downstream, while paying out line, covering more water each cast. He’d just complimented me on my line mending, when the hopper was engulfed in a swirl, the line tightened and I was into my second fish, only minutes after the first. This trout exploded on the surface, before boring deep, stripping line from my reel down to the backing, as it fought across the river. These trout are all muscle, due to the conditions that they survive in and it was a while before I saw the bronze sides of a good brown, when it topped mid stream. My new friend volunteered to net my fish and as I watched him struggle down the bank on his reconditioned knees, I realized that at age 77, he might not be the ideal candidate to do so. Once in the river, however, after a few heart stopping misses, it was mission accomplished and he got his net under the trout.

Another good fish, this one measuring in at 14 inches, had taken the hopper, turned and hooked it’self, then given a fight harder than any brown trout twice it’s weight, that I’d had on my home chalkstream, making several last minute dives for freedom, once it neared the net.

With the road now clear and the natives impressed, it was time to get back on the tourist trail again and head in the direction of Mammoth Springs and Tower Falls, followed by Yellowstone Canyon, a true sightseeing fest, before finding myself with fishing time to spare on the return journey, when my wife requested a stop to view an osprey nest on the other side of the Madison. We watched as an osprey dived into the river and arose with a large trout in it’s claws. The large flapping fish proved too strong and it fell back with a splash. The search continued, another victim was selected and a one pound fish was being lifted from the river, the osprey turning the trout head first to streamline it’s flight back to the nest, while it’s partner flew cartwheels of appreciation around it shrieking.

The Madison was dotted with rising fish and I watched a large grass hopper jump as I walked, the strong wind carrying the flying insect far out into the river, it’s struggles to escape the surface ending with a plop, when the jaws of a brown clamped shut, baring it down to the depths. Coping with the swirling upstream wind was a problem, an approaching thunderstorm creating it’s own weather system in the mountains and staying in contact with the fly was difficult. The hopper was drifting down, I was retrieving slack line from my cast, when the hopper dragged under as the nymph was seized. I lifted the rod more in hope than expectation. At the extreme of my lift, I felt the weight of a fish, a pull of line through the rings and the rod doubled over with the power of a running trout. My goodness, how these trout fight, another breathtaking battle and I slipped the net under a quality brown. Holding the fish for a photo was a  fight in itself and the brown trout was soon swimming free.

Two smaller brown trout followed among missed takes and lost fish, before the hopper was hit with a crash and a rainbow was cartwheeling across the surface, diving deep and running upstream, singing the reel in surges of acceleration. Giving line when needed and stripping back, when the rainbow began to lose ground, I was in control and waiting to bring it over to the edge of the shallows, when it gave one last lightning surge, pulling the rod down flat with a ping as the hopper’s 8lb link snapped like cotton, a twist of line, where the knot had been, being all that remained. The thunder had been getting closer with blobs of rain splatting down into the grass it was time to get back in the car and head back to West Yellowstone.

Gallatin River trout fishing, Yellowstone National Park

September 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm

25 miles north of West Yellowstone, the Gallatin River turns to accompany Highway 191, growing in width and strength as it rushes north. It’s character changes in places, where beaver dams divert the river into slow meanders, but in the main it speeds on it’s way over stones and riffles and is easily waded from bank to bank.

I kept within the boundaries of the Park, plenty of pull offs allowing easy access to the river, where wading was an easy option and I worked my way up river casting to likely fish holding areas. Fish were rising to small black flies in the tail of a pool on the first section I tried and set up with a floating ant and size 16 pheasant tail nymph as a dropper. About three feet deep with a strong flow, short casts were needed to stay in contact with the fly, the first fish taking the nymph aggressively, the rod bending into the fish on the take. The trout was invisible despite the gin clear water, staying deep, then running downstream, where a flash of pink told me it was a rainbow. Not a large trout, about 12 inches, I was soon guiding it tumbling on the shallows to my net, only for it to bounce against the rim and come off. Not a good start, but splashes indicated trout were still rising and after a few misses was into my next fish, this time on the ant, the smaller brown putting up a brief fight before I lifted it into the net.

More takes followed as I worked up the pool, some to the nymph and some to the ant, the trout weren’t fussy, they were small, but scrapped hard in the rapid waters, mostly spinning off the hook before I could lift them out. I covered about three hundred yards in an hour, searching out the deeper pools and runs hoping for better fish, but none came and returned to the car to continue the tourist trail down through Gallatin Canyon and a drive up to the Big Sky resort on Lone Mountain, where a beaver was building a dam at 10,000 feet.

 Later in the day, returning along 191, I pulled the car over just inside the park and made my way up river to fish the inside of a big bend, where deep water was pushing hard against the far bank, large rocks creating swirling eddies, that looked like they held fish, while the inside  held slack water. This time there were no rising fish and the ant, nymph combo resulted in one missed pull to the nymph, when worked upstream, the ant soon drowned in the rough water. With grass hoppers scattering at every footfall, it was time to reach into the fly box for one of the monster foam hoppers bought at the fly shop, at least it would act as an indicator to the nymph. I continued to work my way upstream, but had no offers, so turned and drifted the hopper downstream, feeding line as I went. A swirl in the choppy water caught me by surprise, as a trout rose to the hopper and I failed to make contact. The next one shook my rod with a bang. Another miss. I raised the rod and put a bow in the line. This was the answer, as I drifted the part submerged hopper across the slower inside bend, the line sprang taught and I was into a rod bender, that used the full force of the river to attempt an escape. When I finally brought the brown trout to the net, I thought someone had switched fish, as it was much smaller than it had first seemed.

This proved the winning method and I worked my way back downstream, casting across, drifting down and swinging across the flow into slower water, some fish missing the hopper, me missing reel singing takes, the size 14 barbless hook releasing more fish than it held, but I was fishing for sport, enjoying every moment of anticipation. The trout were all browns around 10 to 12 inches, I’d hoped for a few cutthroat and rainbows, but I was happy to be able to adapt to a new way of fishing and get results.


Yellowstone National Park trout fishing at Hopper Time.

September 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Long on my wish list, fishing for trout in Yellowstone National Park, became a reality, when on a whistle stop tour of the tourist hot spots and springs, through Montana and Wyoming last week. Based in the old pioneer town of West Yellowstone, a place that has more fly shops, than places to eat, I was able to sample a mix of mountain free stone streams like the upper Gallatin River, the Madison, through to the massive Snake River, tumbling between the green hills of Wyoming towards the wide plains of Idaho.

August is Hopper Time on these crystal clear waters and a walk through the riverside vegetation creates showers of escaping grass hoppers, some three inches long, that inevitably are borne by the strong winds onto the river surfaces. To an English fly fisherman like myself, the foam grass hopper imitations, with their striped rubber legs, were a curiosity, bought to be shown with a smile to my fly fishing friends back home, but coupled as a Hopper and Gold Head Pheasant Tail combo, they proved deadly on these powerful river trout.

As on any river, being able to read the water, goes a long way to aiding success on these wild torrents, a good strong flow indicating deeper water below seemingly unfishable rapids. Brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout are invisible, even when hooked, as they battle the current, the bright sunlight reflecting flashes of colour from the stone strewn riverbeds, while cloaking the identities of these battling torpedoes, until they are finally in the landing net.

 Without the restrictions that apply to my local Hampshire chalk stream, which is single fly, or nymph fished upstream only, it was interesting to sit and watch the “locals” fly fishing, many styles and ranges of tackle being used to to one end, catching trout. Wading and drifting a big buoyant fly downstream, with the option of a weighted dropper fly was common, as was the use of streamer flies fished below the surface. Spinning rods with bubble floats were also in use by a family strung out across the upper Snake River, who were having a great time, the kids in competition with mom and dad, catching several small browns and rainbows on grass hoppers and wooly buggers, drifted down among the rocks.

During a three day stay, I caught trout on all of the above, fished singly, or as combos, up and downstream, losing more fish than I netted due to the barbless hook rule, while complying with the Park’s catch and release policy. In the Lamar River range on the north eastern side of Yellowstone, anglers are asked to kill all rainbow and brook trout caught, to encourage the native cutthroat trout to re-establish, while non native lake trout have also become a problem, predating cutthroats over their spawning grounds, so once again must be killed in Yellowstone Lake, whatever their size.

A three day non resident fishing license cost $18 USD, allowing access to over a thousand miles of the best fishing you will find anywhere, in some of the most stunning landscapes ever. If you can get to a river, you can fish and if prepared to trek a few miles upstream away from other anglers, then it could turn into a red letter day. I was only able to fish within half a mile of the road, due to a wife, who has a good respect for bears, but still caught plenty of trout. The bears are there, a mother black bear and two cubs passed within a 100 yards, crossing the path we were on a few minutes before. Yellowstone Park is managed for the benefit of the animals and birds, a healthy fish population is looked on as a food provider for bears and ospreys, anglers being the people willing to pay for it. Herds of bison block the roads and osprey take trout back to their riverside nests, reminding urban visitors, that life carries on regardless in the Park, when we return to our air conditioned homes.

Hot springs and geysers are everywhere throughout Yellowstone, Old Faithful erupting every 92 minutes, while waterfalls and canyons remind the visitor, that they are in a special place.

Thankful for small mercies

August 16, 2013 at 10:37 am

Recent heavy rain drew me back to my syndicate water this week, after a break of nearly a month. On my last visit, the river was desperately low, but plenty of wild browns were feeding.  One look at the river this time dashed any hopes of a busy session, bare stones visible, where a few months ago a wading stick was needed.


The stream was carrying a fair amount of colour, as I walked downstream searching in vain for rises and visible trout. I tied on a size 18 Gold Head Pheasant Tail nymph, dropping it into known banker pools as I went. With no luck and faced with crossing a meadow full off frisky young bullocks, I opted to pass through a copse on the other side of the river. This was new territory to me, but on a recent work party we had cleared the banks of dead trees, stinging nettles and Himalayan balsam, giving access to the river. This area was also devoid of rising trout, but there was good weed growth, creating several encouraging runs through the otherwise slow moving water and all else having failed, decided that wading was now a safe option on this once deep, high banked section.

Going through the motions of short casts to likely spots, then wading up a few paces and trying again, I disturbed a good fish, that made off upstream creating a V shaped wake, but could not see if it was a chub, or trout. More importantly, why had it not taken the nymph presented in front of  it’s nose? I was shaken out of my gloom, when the leader darted forward and the resistance of a small wild brown was felt, fighting for all it’s seven inches could give. Another twenty yards upstream and I was in again, when a similar sized trout popped out from a weed bed and dived away with my nymph. At least these faster runs held some small, but feeding fish. Further upstream I stopped at a deep, tree covered pool, isolated by stoney shallows.

I cast to the head of the pool, where the flow passed close to the tree roots and felt the take from a trout as the line sank into the centre of a bulge beneath the surface, my nymph firmly set in the jaws of a diving wildie, that fought round the pool, before coming to the net.

This plump brown rounded off my visit to the upper reaches of the water and with the afternoon changing to evening, I decided to return to my van and fish the river a mile downstream, where I knew of a fast flowing runoff. Earlier in the year this was too dangerous to wade, but now offered sure footing.

This section looked very fishy and I was soon missing short stabbing takes, as the nymph was swept back toward me. One fish hung on long enough to set the hook and a small dace was tumbling in the stream.

A six inch brownie followed and as I moved up to the bend, some better dace. This was addictive, these silver fish just plucking at the nymph, sometimes chasing it downstream. I lost count of the number hooked and returned at my feet, the larger fish dropping down the run, putting a bend in the rod. I’d worked my way up to the tail of the large pool above and began dropping the nymph into the slower water, another dace, then a swirl indicated the take of  a trout, which exploded out of the shallows, cartwheeling across the pool, before seeking deeper water. This was a pound plus wild brown, but fighting the flow and the rod it was soon drifting back toward my net, only to bounce off the tiny barbless hook as it crossed the stones. How annoying! Casting further up I missed another trout, probably down to the quick reactions needed for dace, it was on long enough to see the spots, then it was gone. My last fish from the pool took in the shallows and was a rare roach.

I was now late for my tea and made my way back to the road, but stopped to fish another pool, where I could now wade due to the low levels. This had been a favourite in past years, but winter floods had deposited deep mud at the edge and I’d been passing it by, now it was possible to wade.

With no sign of rising trout, the nymph was prospected around the pool, bumping a fish on the take under the trees, before another obliged with a long pull of the leader in the run and a scrapping ten inch brown was soon in the net.

This lively trout was enough for me and I headed home, no rising fish to be seen, or larger browns netted, but plenty of small fish action and my dinner waiting on the table.



CZ 452 HMR takes over from the Webley Viper for long range rabbits.

August 2, 2013 at 11:56 am

Driving past one of my shooting permissions, I saw that the hay had been gathered in and with their cover gone, a group of rabbits were feeding unaware of my plans for them over the following evenings. Unable to get on the land earlier in the year, then hampered by long grass, as the summer progressed, I’d been biding my time, until now.

The land is owned by a Knight of the Realm and acts as a buffer around his fine country house and garden. Over the years he has planted trees on the land to create a mini parkland, the only activity being haymaking by a farming neighbour. Around the extensive perimeter, he had erected a rabbit and deer proof fence, not realizing that rabbits love to burrow and that deer can easily jump their own height.

This was one of my first permissions, when I was asked to come and shoot the rabbits, that had invaded the owner’s lawns and surrounding flower beds. In those days my weapon of choice was a Webley Viper .22 precharged air rifle, this being the ideal tool for the work. At the legal limit of 12 ft lb and very accurate, most shots were taken out to 25 yards with decimating results on the furry intruders, each visit on my way home from work, supplying my local butcher with head shot rabbits.

Once the garden was cleared, a warren close to the rear fence became my target, a cammo net pegged permanently at the corner of a hedge, gave me sight over the entrances 30 yards away and having made an adaptor to take a small light weight moderator, which fitted to the end of the Viper’s silencing shroud of the Walther barrel, I was able to pop off rabbits 10 yards away without causing panic among the masses. This was when I first observed that rabbits will go on feeding, while those around are flopping over under the weight of a .22 pellet in the brain. At this time I had to find another butcher, as my first had equaled his demand. I was fortunate to buy this rifle, when Webley went into liquidation and bought it at a price, which effectively gave me a free diver’s bottle for filling the reservoir, a scope and a gun case. A bargain, which I soon paid for from my evening visits.

The land beyond the house stretches to about ten acres and is lined with hedges, but due to the anti rabbit mesh, gives little cover and after the first year of shooting, the remaining rabbits became educated to the fact that this cammo clad figure, belly crawling towards them, spelt danger and the loss of friends. With several permissions by now , I applied for my Firearms Certificate and was granted .22 lr and .17 HMR. Priced at only £100, I purchased a .22 Magtech semi automatic rifle and three ten round magazines. Armed with this, fitted with a moderator and firing 40 grain subsonic .22 hollow point bullets, I was back in business, taking on rabbits at 60 yards with the confidence I once associated with the Webley Viper at 25 yards. The heavy expanding bullet hitting with a boof, with another nine shots to rapidly follow up on any others hanging around.

The Magtech semi auto served me well for another season and firing Eley subsonic ammunition, proved totally reliable. Once the trajectory of it’s bullet was understood, 80 to 90 yard shots were possible, but by now the few remaining rabbits were getting scarce, with returns from visits deminishing, as the residents headed for their burrows, when I tried to get within range. This was the case on some of my other wide open permissions and it was time to take up the option on my FAC and buy an HMR.

Searching the Internet for reviews of HMR rifles, pointed to the CZ 452 Varmint with a 16 inch barrel, as accurate and well built, while for me, good value for money, my hobby needing to be self supporting. Sure there were known problems, a stiff trigger pull and touching woodwork around the barrel, but these were soon fixed, after a few hours in my workshop. The HMR fires it’s .17 inch diameter ballistic bullet twice as fast as the .22 subsonic round, spins faster and weighs only 17 grains, so does not drop so rapidly, carrying it’s energy further. Firing at a target set at 60 yards, the bullet rises less than an inch, before dropping and hitting the bull at 120 yards. Without adjusting the sights, or hold over, any rabbit in the crosshairs out to 130 yards is literally dead meat.

The HMR bullet on the left has a plastic ballistic tip held in a copper jacket, which disintegrates on impact, while the hollow point lead .22 bullet on the right expands on impact.

The HMR rifle promoted the pest control on this land to a higher level again and rabbit numbers dropped to them being almost invisible, once roaming free, they now stay close to their burrows, their white tails flashing back to cover at the sight of a human. Seeing the grass was now cut, I’d phoned the owner, who welcomed me, saying that there were no rabbits left, I’d shot them all. I assured him that I’d seen some and drove the few miles to prove him wrong.


On entering the field, I could see this rabbit feeding 200 yards away and used the hedge as cover to get closer, before getting down and shooting from the bipod, a single shot to the head toppling it without a kick. I needed 140 paces to reach the spot, a point where the full extent of the land is visible, from where, using the twelve magnification scope, I was able to count over a dozen rabbits dotted around the perimeter. So much for there being none left. They were certainly edgy and several melted away, before I was in position, ending with a tally of five on the first evening, all shot at ranges beyond 120 yards. A couple more trips and the number was up to eleven, a few more, then I’ll move on, until the autumn.

Trout river desperate for a drink

July 23, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Returning to my syndicate trout river, after a few week’s break, I was met by a jungle of bankside growth and the lowest water levels I have seen. The banks were to be addressed by an imminent working party from members, but the river was on it’s stones, when I arrived for a couple of hours in the evening.

A mini heatwave, enjoyed by most humans, has forced the trout in this little river to search out the faster, more oxygenated water at the tails of recently created pools, or where there is direct flow. This allowed me to target these areas, which were holding more trout than usual, although choice of fly was difficult, as despite clouds of olives, sedges and even late mayfly spinners, spiraling into the air, few fish were rising. Much of my trout fishing has been done using nymphs, but the challenge of bringing a trout up to the fly, then timing the strike, as it turns back down, brings it’s own rewards of satisfaction. My easy option choice of fly was a size 16 ribbed Klinkhammer, it casts and lands well on the water, while it’s buoyancy allows it cope with the faster riffles.

I’d decided to walk down the fishery, before fishing back up, but got tempted by rising trout in the shallow water at the tails of the deep pools I passed, the toes of my waders barely covered, as I stalked over the stones to within casting range. This is real in and out casting, the fly dragging, if on the surface for a few seconds, while the fish have to react instantly at the sight of the fly in such fast and shallow water. The action was supplied by two year old wild browns only eight inches long , sometimes a heavy cast was enough to spook them into zig zag panic back to the deeper water, at other times the drop of the fly was met by a swirl, a splash and the satisfying thump of a fighting trout.

I reached the meadow and waded up through a channel of encroaching undergrowth, a spot where a deep pool had formed around a bush, which was now shallow with reeds growing up in the middle of it. I’d had some good fish here earlier in the season, but this time my fly got no response from the hot spot and waded up further towards a trout rising at regular intervals above the reeds.  I made casts to each side of the reeds, getting agitated every time my line caught in the overhanging nettles and grass, but the fish would not move from it’s safe haven. I made a cast over the reeds, the fly drifted six inches and was sucked down by the unaware trout, which, after a short tussle, buried it’self in the reed roots and I had to wade up to get it out. Another perfect plump young brown.

The evening was getting on and I’d taken my fourth small brown, along with several on offs, while wading up the river, mudflats exposed where there had been deep water, when another rise from a small bay, saw the klinkhammer parachute down to the waiting trout. A take and the shock of a larger trout boiling, then speeding up to the pool above, awoke me from my relaxed state, line streaming from the reel, as it plunged round the depths, only for it to surface, then spin around on it’s back like Flipper. At this point the hook lost hold and the one pound brownie drifted back towards me on it’s side, before it awoke again, to charge around the pool in a panic. I can only think that the river had deoxygenated in the heat and the trout had run out of “breath”.

With the Klinkhammer now sodden, and no more rises apparent, I put on a size 18 GH Pheasant Tail nymph to continue my walk back to the van, stopping when I saw a swirl in the shallows of a small weir, where a tree grows out of the pool. I worked the pool with the nymph, taking another small brown, which I shook off the barbless hook in the water. Lifting off a few cast later, the line went solid and a powerful fish dived down into the base of the tree, with my rod at full bend, as I tried to get it out. Next thing, the rod came back and a fat perch of around a pound and a half, zipped across in front of me, dorsal fin raised and made for the faster water, pulling hard upstream. The perch was soon beaten and drifting on it’s side across the stones toward my hand, my net being on the bank. It’s striped flanks and big white mouth, were intimidating, big perch having a fixed look of being very cross about them. My luck ran out, when it jumped from my hand in the shallows, the tiny hook coming out with a pop and I watched it’s broad back disappear, as it made it’s way with a waddling motion across the shallows to the pool.

Another good photo opp0rtunity missed, the light was now fading and I made my way along the bank with purpose, stopping to amuse myself, sneaking a few more small browns out from their various lies, feeling slightly guilty for disturbing them on such a sultry evening.

Winning the match that never was

July 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Last year notices appeared, by order of The Council, that fishing on two local ponds would be banned, unless a fishing club was formed, due to a litter problem. Now, I had been fishing one of these ponds for a year and witnessed a whole variety of people leave sandwich wrappers and drinks bottles within feet of the litter bins, while walking by, or picnicing. Placing the blame on only anglers was unjust, many of whom like myself, walk round at the end of a fishing session and pick up all the litter, which is then dropped into the bin.

Under pressure to avoid losing a local amenity, a club was formed by the usual suspects, those interested in their environment and who believe in sticking to the rules, while many others refused to pay for fishing, that had been free since childhood, which is understandable. Forwarding on a year, working parties had been carried out and banks cleared by the Few, but poor bailiffing did not get the message across, that this was now a private fishery, so returning membership fell away at the start of the 2013 season. The Committee of the Club, decided that a fishing match would be a good showcase, so today’s date was decided upon and notices posted.

Having  agreed to run the match, I arrived early to do the draw and take the entry fee, it to be a winner take all pool. The car park was empty, so busied myself unloading my fishing tackle and fitting it onto my fishing trolley. The allotted time, 8 am, came and went. A lone dog walker arrived for a chat, eventually being dragged off on her way by a tree sniffing mongrel. No Chairman, no Secretary, or Treasurer, let alone an ordinary member appeared on a balmy Sunday morning, just right for fishing. 

Shrugging my shoulders, I decided to start anyway, the others would have to slot in, when they turned up, first come first served. The sun was masked by cloud, but the air was warm and the wind light, perfect for fishing a short waggler rig over what was now becoming a jacuzzi of bubbles and swirls, as carp began to home in on my feed of pellets. It wasn’t long before my float began to dip and bob, then move slowly across the surface, as a carp picked up the bait, the line veeing over the surface. I lifted into the fish, bending the rod for a moment, before it sprang back, when the bait pulled out of it’s mouth, leaving a black muddy stain on the surface, as it sped away.

With no dedicated carp gear, I’d pressed a 10 ft heavy feeder rod into service, the reel, an old ABU 501 loaded with 5 lb line completing the set up. New to this form of fishing, the local tackle shop had advised me of the terminal tackle and bait, this being a pellet held onto the line with a small elastic band, the bare hook 6 mm up the line, the carp supposed to suck in the pellet and hook it’self on the bare hook. My carp were obviously, just holding onto the pellet and not getting hooked, so after my third miss, I threaded a small piece of Spam onto the hook, which resulted in a 3 lb carp dashing across the shallow pond, with my rod arced over in response. The initial run countered, it was just a matter of a few minutes, before I was able to slip the net under my first fish. I was winning the match already, even though no other competitors had turned up yet.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, burning off the cloud, so the bites slowed down and when carp began to hover in the surface, their backs absorbing the heat, it was time to change tactics with a finer line and hook, to try for the plentiful rudd. I’d had four nice common carp to 4 lb and a couple of  stunning mirror carp, their large scales giving a metallic glint to their bodies. I started with thin slithers of luncheon meat for the rudd, but the bites were hard to hit, so white bread slices from the freezer were unwrapped and punched onto the size 14 barbless hook, bringing a 4 oz rudd first cast. The bread transformed the bites, the float no longer bobbing and dipping, but now slowly sinking away, as the soft offering was sucked in. The bread brought a few surprises, the first a hard fighting 8 oz common carp, which was no problem. The next was a gentle disappearing of the float, to be met by an explosion of water, as a larger carp panicked, when it felt the hook, speeding off in a shower of bubbles and black mud, the 2 lb hook link snapping like cotton.

By now I’d given up on the hope of another club member joining me to fish and when another big carp took the bread, I decided to enjoy the power of this fish, keeping only the lightest of pressure on, allowing it to run over to the island in the middle, before reining it in. This of course was a mistake, as once it had it’s head, there was no stopping it, my restraint being met by more acceleration and another “ping” moment from another hook link. There were no more surprises after this, the only one would have been the sight of the Club Chairman, or one of his henchmen, but no, it became a rudd a chuck, many slipping the hook, as I bullied them back to my net.

At 2 pm, the official end of the match, I pulled in my line and took stock. No-one had visited from the Club, my wife had walked down to see me, sitting on a nearby bench, but had grown tired of making conversation with someone preoccupied with catching fish “Oooh, did you see that bite!” I had around 16 lb of carp and 3 lb of silvers, not bad for 5 1/2 hours fishing and probably would have won the match anyway, although they would no doubt had more than me IF they had attended. Needless to say this will be the last match I will arrange for them and next season will join the ranks of the great unwashed and become a poacher on these waters.


River Meon trout rise in the sun at Titchfield.

July 15, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Long time fishing buddie John, made contact earlier this year, saying he’d been accepted as a member of Park Gate Fly Fishing Club, which had trout fishing on the River Meon near Falmouth. John relocated to the area a few years ago, and   following a few successful outings of his own, he secured a guest ticket for me, which saw us parking up at the Fisherman’s Rest pub on one of the hottest days of the year. 

In the lee of Titchfield Abbey, the Segensworth Beat sees the Meon meander through meadows, on it’s steady flow towards the English Channel a few miles downstream. At 10 am, a blustery wind was the only relief from an already baking sun and I was not too optimistic, that we would see any action from the native brown trout, as we made our way upstream.

This mindset was soon dismissed, when I saw the spotted back of a trout rise a few yards ahead, the fish tight to the bank on the outside of a bend, protected by cow parsley overhead and a weed bed ahead.  An accurate cast was called for and against the downstream wind, I succeeded in putting the fish down, when I piled my line onto the surface with a splash above it’s head. Getting to grips with a new, shorter rod, John fared no better, when he gave the fish a try. Putting this one down to experience, or the lack of it, we moved upstream to a clump of trees, where we could see another trout rising. John moved up to cover this, while I tried a small gold head pheasant tail nymph along a weedy channel, without success. I watched a small fly hatch from the surface and drift down back to the bend, where our trout rose and sucked it down. A year as a nymph on the riverbed , then a brief few minutes in the July sun, before it’s end in the stomach of a trout. I retraced my steps, back below the bend and sat with my boots dangling in the river, while I tied on a size 16 brown, ribbed Klinkhammer to match the doomed fly. The wind had dropped slightly and with a better angle of attack, my fly was dropping softly to the surface, just inviting a take, which never came. Between casts, it had risen again and I could see it come up from the bottom three feet below. The size 18 pheasant tail went back on and made a cast well upstream to allow the nymph to sink, then as it drifted past the trout I lifted the rod to induce a take. Second cast it worked, the leader straightening after the lift and I was playing my first Meon trout, although this was not that rising fish, but a well marked little wildie.

I didn’t try for the larger fish, feeling that it deserved to be left alone and moved up to join John, who was still trying to attract the attention of another educated trout. Typically, while I was throwing out a line onto the water, prior to casting proper, a small brownie grabbed the nymph, then came off, proof that the scorching weather had not put the trout off feeding. There was another rise up and across, so having greased the line to within 6 inches of the nymph, I made a cast just above and struck, when the surface bulged with a taking trout. This was a better fish than my first and bored deep, shaking it’s head, then came off. I cursed myself for trying to play this one on the reel, having given it too much slack, while I recovered line. The surface upstream was becoming dimpled by rises and a good hatch of olive duns was under way and moved up to join John again.

A trout was rising steadily beneath an oak to my right and a change back to the Klinkhammer, got a response first chuck, which I missed with a snatched strike, not delaying long enough for the fish to turn over the fly. A few yards up, two fish were rising together between weeds and the opposite bank. I tried for the nearest, but was ignored several times, then pulling out more line, dropped the fly on the nose of the second and saw the satisfying sight of a good fish roll, when the hook struck home. This was a very hard fighting trout and this time I stripped the line back, when it made a break for the roots downstream of me, hanging on, until the runs reduced and John slipped the net under it.

The fin perfect brown trout with a massive tail,  measured 15 inches. If a stockie, it was certainly over wintered, although with so many fish introduced to these southern streams over the last hundred years, it could have been a naturally bred fish. These days introduced stock browns tend to be triploids incapable of breeding, so that the pure strain survives; whatever that is. The fight had taken the steam out of this one and it was ten minutes before it swam out of my hands. This was a good time to return to the Fisherman’s Rest and join the packed riverside garden for a liquid lunch, watching more trout rising beneath the trees on the downstream stretch.

Despite these free rising trout, we elected to return upstream, as John wanted to check a gate, where poachers had dug underneath to gain entry to the fishery. The Club’s working party two weeks before had filled the gap with large logs wired together, in an attempt to keep them out, but to no avail, the logs had been dragged clear and the gap was back. These were strong and determined poachers, who will only be stopped by iron bars set in concrete. 

 We continued to fish on the way up to and back from the gate, both rising and losing trout on our way, but landing no others, but were content having had the privilege to enjoy this pretty little river. After a quick cup of tea, with some of Wendy’s lemon drizzle cake, I was soon making my way through the traffic back to the Motorway and home.

Chimenea for hot smoked trout

July 11, 2013 at 5:52 pm

With the BBQ season in full swing, and if you own a patio chimenea, you may wish to try my method to produce some delicious smoked trout.

Many years ago, a friend used to smoke his trout using a length of clay soil pipe, standing upright on bricks. He would light a small wood fire in the gap between the bricks, then put wet oak chippings on the embers, hanging the filleted and prepared trout down the pipe. It worked a treat. This was always in my mind, when I bought the chimenea as a patio heater and have also used it to smoke mackerel.


A 2lb rainbow trout, filleted down to about a pound, removing back and pin bones. Leave the skin on.

Two table spoons of demerara sugar.

One table spoon of sea salt.

One dessert spoon of  ground black pepper.

One cup of hickory, or oak chips (available at garden centres) soaked in water for at least an hour


Part of the smoking process is to draw the moisture out of the fish.

Mix the sugar, salt and pepper together in a bowl.

Place the fish skin side down in a dish and spread the sugar mix over the flesh, gently rubbing it in, until evenly coated. Cover the dish and leave in the fridge over night at least. I usually prepare mine the morning of the day before smoking and take it out in the afternoon of smoking. You will be amazed at the amount of liquid extracted by the mix. Wash off the salt/sugar mix under a tap and leave to dry in the covered dish. The texture of the flesh will have firmed up during the drying process.


I often smoke the trout during a BBQ and scoop out some greyed off  embers as a heat source. Place these in the chimenea and test the heat coming out of the chimney. You should be able to hold your hand over for ten seconds. Tip some soaked chips over the coals, which will begin to smoke.

The fish should be put in clamps and suspended in the chimney, using a skewer though the clamps, to allow the smoke to rise up. To keep the fire low, cap the chimney and cover the door to the chimenea with foil. Keep the smoke going by adding more soaked chips at ten minute intervals.

Depending on the heat, the fish should be ready after about 25 minutes. It is easy and chef’s perks to test the flesh by lifting and pulling off a flake. The timing usually works out, so that the fish is ready, after the meat is consumed from the BBQ. If just smoking the fish, start a small fire using briquettes, or charcoal on the chimenea and allow to burn down to embers, before putting on the chips and suspending the fish.

Food Heaven on a Plate, helped down by a glass of Pimms