Sunday, 29 September 2013

If you’re not fishing London is the place to be!

My son Daniel’s business trip to London provided an opportunity for him to meet up with my wife and I and a couple of his sisters.  The chosen meeting point was the Tate Modern.  This is a modern art gallery housed in what was a huge power station on the bank of the River Thames.  Normally you would not find me in Central London on a Saturday so the crowds as we walked from London Bridge railway station through Borough Market came as a bit of a surprise.  All along the river embankment there were crowds of happy people strutting their stuff and even a group (probably from Wales) singing. 

Here is our little group, yours truly on the left, then my wife Rosalind, then Daniel and finally Rachel and Lorraine.  In the background you can see the famous Millennium Suspension Foot Bridge.

We met up outside the gallery where there was live music and various street performers doing their things!

This anti- gravity man nearly had us fooled, but we worked out how it was done.


I like creating bubbles for our youngest grandchildren but this chap has taken it to a whole new level.

The art galleries and museums in the UK are free although they do charge if you want to visit their special exhibitions.  I must admit to having a bit of a sceptical response to modern art, some of it is clever, some even skilful but I think a lot of it is a con, and it reminds me of the “Emperor’s Clothes” fable.


Daniel said that he was taught during art lessons that letting the paint run was something to be avoided; obviously this artist missed that lesson!

If you are going to visit an art gallery or museum try to join up with a conducted tour given by someone who knows about the exhibits as that can really enrich the experience. 

This video clip was taken from one of the Tate Modern’s balconies and shows a panorama of the river.  On the extreme right (and not completely shown) is the new tower block with concaved glazed elevations which during sunny days have focussed the sun’s rays and melted the plastic on cars and set fire to the paintwork outside shops.  Sadly they obviously don’t teach basic physics to architects!

Having exhausted ourselves looking at art and the skyline we crossed the Millenium Bridge to walk to the Museum of London.

Another interesting way to see London is by doing a river tour on a river bus.

The main interest for us in the Museum of London is the Lord Mayor’s coach; this is because we understand that Rosalind’s cousin, Fiona Wolfe is going to be made the Lord Mayor of the City of London in November.  She will be the 2nd female Lord Mayor, lady Lord Mayors are a rare breed.

Then we jumped on the tube (underground railway) and headed to Covent Garden where there are lots of good restaurants.  As you can see from the view up the escalator the tubes that the trains run through are a long way under the surface.  During the Second World War they were a popular place to sleep to avoid the German bombing.

We ended up at Covent Garden somewhere that all visitors to London should experience. There are street performers and musicians and the place has a real buzz.  It is a good place to eat so we enjoyed a busy Mexican restaurant where the food was very good.  Then we went to watch the buskers and eat ice cream.  Sadly we all had to part company and wend our different ways.  Fortunately Rosalind remembered she was coming home with me!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Fly Fisher Back at Bewl Water and some thoughts on tying knots

So to celebrate BT finally getting my Broadband back up and working I decided I needed to check on the trout fishing at Bewl Water personally. I shelled out on an eight fish ticket and an evening boat (£40, say $60).  Spoke to Rob Nixon on the jetty who said try the area near the dam.  It was 3.30pm before I started fishing but it was over cast with a nice breeze producing a ripple and I could see fish moving on the top.  I had a floating line with a long leader and a team of three flies.  Small booby on the point, hopper on the middle dropper and a daddy (crane fly) on the top dropper.  I had put the small white booby on because in the August Issue of the Bewl Angle, the Editor, Ray French had mentioned in one of his brillant articles that competition anglers were finding them very effective.  Well my third cast proved that to be true as the booby disapeared in a splash and I knew I was into a good fish.  It rapidly stripped loose line back onto the reel and then went seaching the depths.  Eventually I got it to the top and was glad I had my long handled landing net with me.

As you can see it was a lovely 3lb blue trout, in tip top condition.  Sadly he had destroyed my one and only small booby, but I solved that problem by taking my scissors to a larger booby, snipping away at the boobs!
It was half an hour later before I hooked my second fish, a 2lb rainbow also on the booby.  Then the sun came out and the wind veered and things went quieter.  There was still the odd fish showing, sometimes right next to the boat, when my flies were 30 yards away!  Eventually, and rather belatedly, I decided to fish sub surface and put a cats whisker on the point but I did not get any further action and time ran out.  I also got rather cold. I am a fool, I know it is always worth wearing plenty of layers when you out on the water.  So now as I write this I am developing a sore throat!  Still it was great to be out on the water and feeling a couple of good fish pulling a bend into the rod.  I shall be back for more as the autumnal sport hots up.
Footnote:  As I get older I find my fingers seem thicker and my eyesight dimmer.  This makes tying knots more challenging especially with the fine tippets I use on the streams.  This summer, I saw Rowland, one of my former fly fishing pupils, quickly tie a knot using a pair of small long nose pliers.  This reminded me that I had inherited from my American stepfather an old original Orvis Cinch Tie (a rather clever knot tier). See picture.

I checked the Orvis catalogue and they show a different version called a "Winder" which comes with a DVD presumably to show you how to use it.  It is priced at £22.50. Remember time spent messing about with knots means less time that your flies are doing what they are meant to be doing i.e. attracting and connecting with fish!

Fly Fishing Blogger versus BT (British Telecom)

Have I needed some fishing to calm me down?  Yes I have!  It all started on 19th August when I called BT to tell them that:-
1.  Two years ago my daughter and her husband moved into our house and took over paying our phone bill so she could transfer her BT Vision service in to our house. (I had been a BT customer for 27 years on that number).  Now as she was moving out because her husband was changing jobs, I wanted to start paying for the same line and number, and I also wanted BT Vision.
2.  I advised BT of the above on 19th August 2013 but because it seemed complicated to them I spoke to half a dozen different people till I finally got someone who took the order, with me paying in advance.  The changeover was to take place on 16th September 2013.
3.  I called BT on the morning of the 16th September to check it would all happen.  Eight phone calls later, and having been cut off three times whilst being tranferred, I was told that the line would be cut off and that due to a "BT data issue" my order to take over the line had been lost and that a specialist BT team would call me on my mobile. I never received a call.
4.  Sure enough at 12 noon I lost the line. 
5.  I decided the only way I could get anywhere with BT was to phone in as a new customer using my mobile.  So on the 16th September I spoke to a helpful lady called Lawrence and signed up for a phone/internet/BT Vision deal, sadly I did not have a record of what I had previously requested on the lost order, so I fired from the hip.  I was advised that none of it would go live till 23rd September so 7 days without any service!  She was adamant that was all they could offer.
6.  The phone went live on the 23rd as promised and I phoned in to change the line number back to our original number that we have had since 1975. Amanda told me I could not change it immediately as the order was not complete and I would have to wait for the broadband service to be completed.
7.  Sadly the broadband refused to work.  I was re-using the router and openreach box that had previously worked well for 2 years.
8.  I then ended up with several long calls to India over a couple of days where some helpful and some not-so-helpful people promised to check lines and talk me through resetting the router etc.
9.  Several times I was told there were network problems in my area and they would be resolved in a few hours each time the broadband icon remained orange and never turned blue.  I think I was being misled because I had been calling the Service Status number only to be told there were no issues in my area!
10.  Finally a BT engineer (Mark) called on the 27th September 2013 and immediately spotted that I had the Openreach box connected.  Apparently you need this if you have a "fibre" cable supply but you don't need it for a "copper" cable supply!!!!!  He disconnected the box and plugged the phone line straight into the router and "bingo" it worked!
11.  I then called in and requested the phone number changed.  It has been promised for the 30th.  I will not be holding my breath!

I am going to send the above account to Warren Buckley, the MD of BT Customer Services in the hope they can improve responses for others.

In spite of all the above I managed a few hours on the River Wylye and the Wiltshire Avon and caught a few brownies and grayling.  I think I need to quietly watch some of the chalk stream experts to improve my success rate.

Then I called Bewl Water and was told the fishing was starting to improve so I slipped down there for a couple of hours in a boat.  I am going to post that next.

Friday, 27 September 2013


This is the news we have all been waiting for.  Having exhausted myself on the chalk stream over the last two days I thought I would check on Bewl.  I spoke to Rob Dixon, one of the fishery managers and he said a change in wind direction has brought the food and the fish to the top of the water and anglers are catching on dries! Apparently the best action is along the dam and both bank and boat fishers are getting pleanty of action.  My guess is that hoppers and daddies will do the trick.  You heard it here first, now I need to get down there before you do!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Fly Fishing a Chalk Stream Paradise, worth every mile!

As things slowed down on the M25 motorway I asked myself “Is it worth driving over 100 miles for some fishing?”  My answer to myself was “I am going to a beautiful river, with crystal clear waters and lush vegetation.  I will probably meet the odd friendly person fishing and see wonderful fish and enjoy the solitude of standing in or by the river.  If I can trick a few fish into taking an artificial fly, steer them safely through the river’s obstacle course and bring them to hand for a quick photo opportunity and a safe release then it is all worth the miles!  For a few brief hours I will be in paradise.

So what happened?  I parked up at the recreation ground, noting another vehicle with a club sticker on the windscreen.  Having donned waders etc and decided to use my old Sage 9 foot 4wt rod I headed for the river.  At the bridge over the Ham Hatches I could see the monster fish darting back and forth as they fed on the nymphs jetted towards them by the water rushing through the hatch restrictions.  Normally you cannot get a fly to them, but I decided to try using the Czech nymph approach.  I have never used that much as generally the waters I fish are not deep enough.  In the space of 15 minutes I had hooked two twelve inch grayling, both released to grow on.

I then walked downstream only to find a grandfather and his son in the river at the beat I had fancied fishing.  No problem, there is plenty of river; I think the club has something like 26 miles of water.  I asked if they minded me fishing 100 yards upstream of them and they agreed.   Having entered the water I then had a frustrating time of hooking trees and vegetation and losing flies!  This was exasperated by the fact that my eyes were watering in the breeze and I was having trouble getting the fine leader through the eye of tiny gold headed nymphs.  Whilst all this was going on I kept quietly moving upstream conscious of the two anglers downstream of me also wanting to move upstream.  Eventually it all came together as having spotted a few brownies lying close to the bank I managed to tempt one into a take.  She immediately (yes I think it was a female) took to the mass of vegetation and I managed to swim her downstream through the ranunculi (up-steam would have been fatal, with everything catching up).  There was still a bunch of vegetation wrapped around her head so rather than using my net I brought her to hand and with the rod tucked under my arm proceeded to lift the debris off her head.  In doing so I also must have released the hook because with one violent movement she was back in the water, heading for safety!  So no photo opportunity for either of us!

I then decided to take a break and drift back to the car for a sit down and a sandwich.  As I got back to the bridge I found a middle aged lady standing on the bridge trotting bread down over the very excited monsters below.  I wasn’t sure how to react, was it poaching or was there some local tradition that allowed non club members to fish from the bridge?  Anyway she was very pleasant and I wasn’t going to spoil her day or mine by challenging her.  So I watched.  Eventually she hooked up and landed a nice brownie of around a pound, after a quick photograph I released it for her having made sure it had fully recovered from the experience.  By this time another couple of fishing gents had arrived and I joked with them that I would probably be sent to prison for aiding poaching!  The lady then departed to e mail the picture of the fish to her son on the other side of the planet and I got to eat my sandwich. 

After a brief lunch I walked the bank upstream spotting fish lying in close to the bank and trying to tempt them.  When I got to the wading section I quietly entered the water and slowly moved upstream.  At first I didn’t see much but there were fish there and as my eyes adjusted to the light and conditions I started to see plenty of fish.  Whilst standing next to a large bush, changing a fly, three large fish moved in, right in front of me just a rod’s length away.   They were in less than 18 inches of water.  Keeping my movements to a minimum I started casting trying to get the fly in the water a couple of yards upstream of them.  Then the phone rang and like a fool I answered it.  It was an update on a burglary that had happened at a church I am an honoree facilities manager for.  I then tried to make a call and got my old fishing pal, Richard by mistake.  I told him where I was, he was at work.  I mentioned the fish in front of me and he kindly recommended trying the “induced take” method.   I didn’t tell him that the water was coming towards the fish at around 5 miles an hour!  The lesson worth learning is “leave the phone in the car”!

It was a big fish just under my rod tip.
Eventually I spooked the fishes and returned to the car.  I popped in to see my daughter and family at Andover on the way home.  In the car I had what we use to call a soap box cart I had built and I wanted my seven year old grandson to get to drive it.  My session with him was a great success; he started out a bit nervous about driving it but after about an hour had mastered steering and was fairly good at stopping!  So finally a rather tied granddad headed for home.

What a wonderful day it had been, well worth the driving!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Lovely company and dragon boats, but frustrating fishing at Bewl Water.

My internet access at home is down and I am trying to post this from the local library pc. They have just up dated their systems and now I can add pictures.
Tony Hern of Fishability and Ian Thomas of Telereal Trillium

Last Saturday I had an interesting but frustrating day at Bewl Water.  I was supporting a “Fishability” event organised by Tony Hern, the Fishery Manager from Albury Estates (a splendid fellow).  Fishability is an organisation that supports people from the military services who have suffered trauma resulting in mental or physical challenges.  Tony had a dozen or so military or ex-military folk sharing boats with an equal number of experienced guides. 
I drew the long straw having Martha, a charming military nurse, assigned to my boat.  (This was a far more attractive proposition than sharing the boat with some tough and rugged squaddie!) 
Having had a bacon bap for breakfast we loaded up the boat and set off, conditions looked perfect, overcast, reasonable breeze rippling the water the temperature of which had dropped to 17 C.  However, Rob Dixon, one of the Bewl staff had warned me that the fishing would be hard.  Apparently, there was a tremendous amount of aquatic insect life in the water and the fish were stuffing themselves with naturals and avoiding anything suspicious!   This was confirmed by the number of house martins working the water.  Rob recommended drifting between the cages and the dam, so that’s what we did.  The good news was that, in spite of it only being her second go at fly fishing, Martha, who was bursting with enthusiasm, could cast quite well, certainly well enough to cover fish on the drift.
Well Martha maintained her enthusiasm and we fished our socks off and all to no avail.  At one point Martha spotted a pike on the top of the water right in front of her, when she moved her rod it spotted her and did an impressive “crash dive”.  We saw fish but in spite of changing flies, lines, locations and speed of retrieve we didn’t even get a touch.  The trout definitely had other things to distract them.
However, entertainment was provided by the dragon boat races down by the dam.  We must have heard the Hawaii Five O theme tune five hundred times!  Lunch was excellent, and the whole event was kindly financed by Telereal Trillium, with Ian Thomas signing the cheque and him and Richard Becksmith both from TT also acting as fishing guides.

Desperate to provide some excitement for Martha I asked her if she would like to drive the boat.  Well she jumped at the chance and we did a grand tour of the lake at full speed.  She even brought us into the jetty with finesse!   I was sad I had failed to deliver the goods, and get Martha hooked up with bar of pink or blue silver, but she did not complain once.  She has a bright future as a fly fisher.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


My friend Christa sent me this and I just had to share it, you have to be approaching my age to fully appreciate the changes.


Pasta had not been invented.
Curry was a surname.
A takeaway was a mathematical problem.
A pizza was something to do with a leaning tower.
Bananas and oranges only appeared at Christma time.
All crisps were plain; the only choice we had was whether to put the
salt on or not.
A Chinese chippy was a foreign carpenter.
Rice was a milk pudding, and never, ever part of our dinner.
A Big Mac was what we wore when it was raining.
Brown bread was something only poor people ate.
Oil was for lubricating, fat was for cooking
Tea was made in a teapot using tea leaves and never green.
Coffee was Camp, and came in a bottle.
Cubed sugar was regarded as posh.
Only Heinz made beans.
Fish didn't have fingers in those days.
Eating raw fish was called poverty, not sushi.
None of us had ever heard of yoghurt.
Healthy food consisted of anything edible.
People who didn't peel potatoes were regarded as lazy.
Indian restaurants were only found in India .
Cooking outside was called camping.
Seaweed was not a recognised food.
"Kebab" was not even a word never mind a food.
Sugar enjoyed a good press in those days, and was regarded as being white
Prunes were medicinal.
Surprisingly muesli was readily available, it was called
cattle feed.
Pineapples came in chunks in a tin; we had only ever seen a picture of a

real one.
Water came out of the tap, if someone had suggested bottling it and
charging more than petrol for it they would have become a laughing stock.

The one thing that we never ever had on our table in the fifties …. Was
I am still amazed when I offer to give a friend or neighbour a fish to cook and eat how many people say no thanks I wouldn't know where to start!

Saturday, 7 September 2013


Well I finally managed to steal away from family, projects and chores and headed for the Whiltshire Avon.  As I had not been on the SADAC club waters for something like three months I headed to "The Cart Shed". This is the club's office and home of Andreas Topintzis, the General Manager, and very helpful top (what's happening where) guru! Following a friendly greeting Andreas proceeded to recommend I fished the Avon as the Whylie was a bit "hit and miss" at the moment. As the weather was going to be very warm, with bright sunshine he suggested beats with plenty of tree shade and he made it clear that during the day it was "nymphing" if I wanted success.  So I settled on beat 18 as I had fished it before and knew at least half of it had good tree cover and could be waded.
Beat 18 has at its top a hatch pool.  The hatches are used to control the level of water in each section of the river.
The hatch lifting mechanisms are a tribute to old fashioned engineering and have weathered the passage of time.
With summer flows low and only one hatch passing a lot of water the hatch pool is one big whirlpool and I could see some big fishing waiting for food to be jetted towards them.  Sadly I have never found a way of getting a fly or nymph in front of these monster fish.
As it was so hot I decided to forego my chest waders, and having forgotten my thigh waders, so I decided to "free wade".  I unzipped the lower half of my fishing trousers and laced my wading boots up tightly.  I then forced myself to walk quietly down stream to the start of the beat, watching out for fish.  Having seen plenty of fish I started to work my way up stream on the bank covering the water that was in full sun.  I caught a few "little fellers", then when I got to the wading section I slipped into the cool water (which is always deeper than you think) and commenced to creep up on some decent fish.  I found I had to relearn my nymphing technique as I was out of practice coping with the fast currents. I caught a couple more fish and got to familiarise myself with more of the beat and then had to quit around 6pm so as to get to my daughter's for supper!
The next morning saw me fishing at West Amesbury and I had a blast.  I parked in the recreation ground and walked down to the Ham Hatches bridge where I watched the huge trout dancing (and presumably feeding) in the deep pool just below the hatches. 

I had a look upstream but the ranunculus looked a bit daunting so I headed downstream checking out the water for fish as I went. Enroute I found clear evidence of someone poaching!

I picked up the can as I hate seeing litter on the river bank and it's a club rule that you are responsible for collecting any litter even if it is not your litter.  I did wonder what would happen if the bailiff saw me with the can.

Having got down to the Allenby Bridge I decided to walk on a bit further as I had seen a splash!  As often happens fish seem to show where getting at them can be quite challenging or even potentially dangerous.  Fortunately being a well run club warning signs were in place.

Eventually I managed to cover a fish without any drag and was rewarded with a half pound brownie. So I walked onto the next beat and watched a gentleman laying a nice straight line on the water in classic upstream nymphing style.

We exchanged a few pleasantries and names and he kindly allowed me to take his photograph.  Sadly, I didn't write his name down, I do hope he forgives me and the picture compensates.
Now you have been waiting for the action and this is when it starts.  Working my way upstream I soon spotted some serious sub surface activity in the wading section.  Entering the water and using a tiny gold-head nymph I started to get touches.  Refining my technique with a very straight up stream cast and a quick retrieve, so there was no slack between my hand and the fly, I started to pick up good-sized fish, mainly brownies, but one whopping grayling.  Sadly I also caught a large brown that had one side split open by a preditor!  He put up an energetic fight and was obviously feeding so I decided to return him to the river.

After a frantic hour in which I caught five good-sized trout and four grayling, things calmed down and I had a break.  Whilst wading elsewhere I first noticed a heron banging around in a tree on the edge of the river.  At first I ignored it but then roughly under where it had been I noticed a twitching reed with something really bright flashing where the reed entered the water.  This went on for sometime so I decided to investigate.  Well the flashing was caused by a vertical reed moving in the current lifting a horizontal reed lying on the water.  As the reed was lifted the film of water on it was catching the sun and flashing like a natural heliograph.  Having solved the mystery I was just about to move away when I saw a movement in the water between the reeds and the bank. Wow, there were between fifteen and twenty large torpedo shapes quietly swimming there and some of them were honkers!!!  Concious that I was in full view of them I eased myself away downstream putting a bush between them and me.  I then started on developing my strategy.  How could I cover them when I had to fish upstream, dodge overhead branches and avoid the massive weed bed with the reed sticking up out of it between them and me?  After a few minutes deliberation, you cannot rush opportunities like this, I felt I had a plan, albeit a risky one.
Having manouvred myself into position I cast a few metres upstream of them and as the line drifted downstream towards the vertical reed I flicked the line gently over it. The next thing was one of the fish broke ranks and presumably chased the nymph as the line went tight and I was in and he was on!  Before the fish realised what was happening I managed to get him to the top and over the weed into open water where he went ballistic.  Eventually I got him under control and brought him to hand where I used the old trick of turning him upside down.  This disorientates the fish and they stop struggling enabling easier unhooking.  The crucial thing is to turn them back the right way up before letting them swim off  your hand.

I was pleased to see that the quick exit of their companion had not disturbed the other members of the shoal so I decided to see if I could manage a repeat performance.  Well I spent the next hour and a half trying to cast to these fish to no avail, I just could not get the presentation right, but it was great fun trying and as I close my eyes I can still see them there.  I retreated exhausted, concious that I had a long drive ahead.  It was a priceless experience I will always remember. Thanks for letting me share it.
Incidentally as I was leaving the fishery I was politely stopped by a club bailiff who asked to see my membership book.  This I gladly handed over for him to check and sign.  This friendly policing of the water helps maintain the quality of the fishing.