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MALCOLM GREENHALGH'S REPORT MAY 2009

First of all I must apologise to you, the reader. Mark Bowler (Flyfishing & Flytying magazine, UK), our noble editor, tells me that I have been ‘blogging’ and writing ‘blogs’ for you all to read.  I would never stoop so low!  Neither would I ‘face book’ nor ‘twitter’; at least not deliberately.
 
At the end of April I implored the Good Lord to slow down the progress of this year, for it seemed to me to be going too quickly.  The Month of May has gone even quicker, despite the Month being dominated by cool easterly winds that diminish the hatches and trout feeding at the surface.  Yet, for me, it has been a great month.
 
My good friend Geoff and I now fish one day per week on the lovely limestone streams of Derbyshire and Staffordshire but concentrate on a very narrow brook that is a feeder of the wonderful Dove.  This brook is in places only three or four feet wide, at its widest about seven or eight.  But it has depth and we have learned that the best way to fish the narrow brook is to get in with chest-waders and work slowly upstream.  The brook is also heavily treed in places so a short rod is the ideal weapon (six foot if possible, eight foot maximum) taking a #4 WF line.  I thought that I could forget my long leaders here but that was a mistake.  Even on such tiny streams, a leader of 12-feet-plus GREATLY outfishes a leader of 9-feet; I use 12-foot tapered Rio leaders with a tip BS of 3.4lbs and a tippet of the same strength.  I dry fly/emerger fish here all the time; if I was fishing a weighted nymph my leader would be much shorter.
 
Geoff and I headed south to Dovedale four times.  The first three visits were early in the month. One had to be aborted as the river was up and mucky; the other two visits were marked by a very cold breeze, sparse hatches (of olive uprights and medium olives) and few rises.  In fact, my catches were one brown trout and four brown trout; they are all wild, for the brook is never stocked, hurrah.  
 
But then we returned on the 27th.  At 1 o’clock I sat by the water, feeling quite chilled despite thick jacket, fleece and woolly pullover. ‘ Waste of time!’ said I to myself.  ‘The trout won’t feed in this weather.’  Then, suddenly, the breeze fell, the sun tried to break out and the temperature rose.  A few olives started to trickle off and a trout rose at the tail of the pool.  I waded in below it; even though the stream here was only four yards wide, the water level reached my navel.....and I was standing up!  The trout rose again and I got it on a size 14 CDC dry.  And then began a tremendous hatch of mayflies, the big real mayfly Ephemera danica.  Trout appeared, as it were, from nowhere. Every corner had a rising trout.  The outcome was that I caught eighteen lovely brown trout on a variety of mayfly dun imitations, from CDC to Grey and Olive Wulffs.  One trout I will remember for the rest of my life.  It was lying at the edge of some tangle by the bank, about three yards upstream and one yard to the left of where I was standing.  It was too close to cast fly-line in its direction, so I flicked my dry fly ( a size 10 olive CDC Mayfly) over it using only the leader.  Happily the fly alighted exactly where I wanted it to land and the fish had it.  It was my biggest trout of the day, 11 inches in length and probably around 14oz in weight but as I watched it try to escape, I noticed its ventral fins that had white leading edges, then a black line and then the remainder brown.  ‘Brook trout?’ I thought.  But when it came in it was a wild brown trout, with the brightest red spots I think I have ever seen on a brown trout; they glowed in the weak sunlight as I slipped the barbless hook from its jaw.
 
As I will be boring you about it next time, I must tell you that I will shortly be going for a week’s fishing in Slovenia and for that reason I have had to buy a new pair of chest-waders.  So my son Pete drove me up to John Norris’s Emporium in Penrith.  The shop manager is one Julian Shaw and he took me under his wing to show me what was available.  ‘You fish too much for them waders,’ he growled, waving his hand along the line of waders in the ‘up to £200’ mark.  ‘These are the best.’  And he sat me down under the top of the range of Simms waders.  What else could I do?  Julian would have held me hostage had I disagreed.  He helped me into a pair of very comfortable waders.  ‘I need a new pair of wading boots,’ I added, meekly, as I sat there in my new expensive breathables.  Julian asked me the size and disappeared, returning with a box of Simms wading boots.  ‘Now these are the best!’ he announced.  ‘You know the problem of felt soles; that some countries are stopping you taking felt soled waders?  These are not felt but are better than felt. They are a snip at £150!’
 
And so it was that, on the 2nd May, I spent over half a thousand pounds on a new set of waders. The only consolation is that I can set that off against tax.
 
On the way home Pete and I stopped off at our beat on the upper Lune.  There, despite a breeze with an edge to it, there was a great hatch of fly, from false march browns, brook duns, olive uprights and iron blues.  This bit of water usually does not get under way until later in June, when trout that have wintered far downstream migrate slowly back.  But I did fine four lovely wild brownies feeding at the surface.  The best weighed 2lbs 4 oz, the second 1lb 11oz in the wet net (I took off the weight of the net) and I did consider taking one home for supper, but didn’t.  My successful fly?  Size 16 black-bodied CDC and size 14 olive-bodied CDC.
 
At home I also fished the Hodder, catching my first sea trout of the season (water has brought them in early, for I normally expect the first arrivals about 6th June) and the Ribble at Paythorne, where on the 11th, a temporary lull in the cold breeze brought on a huge hatch of fly and made the trout quite suicidal.  What would it be like if we had a warm spring, with overcast skies but not too much rain?
 
Jo Ripper joined me for our usual week in May on South Uist, fishing the wonderful machair lochs. In terms of numbers of trout, Upper Kildonan was the best; here we caught 15 and kept eight in the pound-plus category.  One of the fish we killed had a gut full of sticklebacks (it took my Peter Ross); the others were full of snails and freshwater shrimp (one of them took my Peter Ross, the others a sparkly Soldier Palmer tied by Ian Kennedy).  The biggest fish came from Loch Grogarry (2¼ pounds).  The most fascinating loch was East Bee.  This is a vast shallow water with connections to the sea at either end, so that it is brackish.  So instead of the usual Potamogeton pond-weeds we have bladderwrack and instead of caddis crawling on the bottom there are shorecrabs!  We had 14 trout here, in not very good weather conditions....too bright and a cool wing.  The best weighed 1¼ lbs, and had a stomach crammed with a small estuary mud-shrimp called Corophium.  
 
Our last day was our saddest, on Loch Bornish.  We set off on the first drift with a light cloud cover and in half an hour I rose nine fish and landed five.  Then the cloud vanished, the breeze fell to a near calm, and that was it.  We flogged on to mid afternoon and then went back to our host’s B&B where I read more tales of our pompous, lacivious, greedy, snout-in-the-trough MPs in The Daily Telegraph.

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