Wonderful March Fish at Blagdon with Alex

There are friends and then there are Fishing Friends: you may be as "chalk and cheese" but when it comes to fishing, it is a joy to be together and no matter the challenges faced, some how, the day works out so well.

And so it is with Alex and I: we met as we became Angling Trust L2 Licensed Coaches: I'm a Fluff Chuckers and he's a Worm Drowner, although he has a fixation on the Pike and is a member of the Pike Anglers Club ( and like me does a lot of charity work especially with the Leonard Cheshire organisation ( Importantly, he also enjoys fluff chucking and is, if I say it myself, rather good at it.

We meet when we can for a day on the water and have taken a liking to Blagdon Lake, nestled at the foot of the Mendip Hills. Many of you will know Bristol Water ( manage and maintain a number of reservoirs just South of Bristol as fisheries. These are Chew Valley, The Barrow Tanks and Blagdon Lake. I much prefer Blagdon - Why!? because it is "What it says on the Tin!" It's a trout fishery - beautiful, scenic, peaceful and well kept. There are friendly and helpful staff but most importantly you meet people who have only come to fish! Chew's a watersports area if you don't mind sharing with sail etc and the Barrows are big concrete tanks; both are very different and may enthuse you.

Alex and I met up on 22nd March to kick start our joint stillwater trout fly fishing year. It's always a real pleasure to shake hands in the car park and allow the banter to flow. It's also important to go through the safety induction as you book in - afloat on a large body of water in a small boat, you do need to understand what keeps you safe and how to deal with the unexpected. Still chatting away, we loaded our gear in the boat and set off. The weather would be kind throughout the day, overcast but not too cool, a variable light wind and no rapid changes in conditions or rain.

We often decide initially, to fish different methods: the signs on the surface suggested that buzzer fishing would be best - there were shucks everywhere. We are not keen on this style of rather static fishing at this time of year, although it can pay real dividends on certain days, so Alex started with a fast sinking line with a single fly and me with a sink tip with 3 buzzers/nymphs. I prefer to fish with flies that represent the natural insects that the water might contain but at this time of year and with so many buzzers showing, Alex decided on an "attractor fly": more importantly one tied by his daughter: a black and chartreuse Viva with a bit of sparkle.

We will call it the "Ellie Fly": we had anchored up in a likely spot but there was little action until Alex tied on this fly. An aggressive take saw a brown trout of over 3 ½ lbs come to the boat after a really good fight. This was an overwintered fish as were many that followed. All gave an excellent account of themselves as hard fighting fish.

My first fish came to a copper headed red pheasant tail nymph with sparkle fished on the point as slowly as anyone can whilst eating lunch but it was evident that the fish were deep and feeding aggressively so on went a fast sinking line and the "Ellie Fly". We had a number of plucks but only Alex connected with another brown of over 3 lbs. One of the most important factors when fishing an "attractor fly", or any other fly, is to identify the right rate of retrieve - do so and you will have so much fun. I'll discuss this in greater detail in another blog.

As you do, we decided to move towards the eastern end of Blagdon and anchored up: there was insufficient wind for a reasonable drift. Sinking lines and the "Ellie Fly" soon saw us both into good fish with many more to come. We are always impressed at the fighting quality and standard of the fish stocked by Bristol Water in Blagdon: they are a real credit to those who run the fishery especially when compared to other specimens encountered on certain stillwaters.

Days such as these soon come to an end and with a number of fish in our boat we headed for home: several of the fish have already been eaten and they were delicious. As Fly Fishers we often enjoy the peace and solitude of a day on the water but remember a fishing friend can share wonderful memories. Now to plan another day.

Ellie - what's the next fly going to be? 


A beautiful winters day - not so cold this year!

A beautiful winters day - not so cold this year!

Hello, its an exciting time as the trout fishing season on some rivers has already started and I have been receiving "overly animated" telephone calls from friends and clients of success here and there and, of course, a few calls of "What am I doing wrong?"  But more of that later in another blog.

I'd like to highlight a call I received yesterday. A friend, new to fly fishing, who enjoyed several coaching sessions with me over the Winter, could not contain his excitement after a great day out on a river in South Wales: he had enjoyed wonderful sport and was really looking forward to the following day fishing another river. Some people are so lucky: I was unable to join him due to another fishing commitment.

As we chatted, I suddenly realised that he was moving from one catchment area to another: I had that "light bulb moment": Had he remembered "Check, Clean Dry" or more importantly "Getting into Hot Water".

"WHAT ON EARTH IS THIS MAN ON ABOUT, I HEAR YOU SAY!!!" Many will already understand where I am coming from.

Let me explain with the help of some exceptionally talented scientists at University of Leeds (UL) and CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science). They have been studying, and still are, the "hitchhiking" ability of aquatic invasive species. Invaders such as the killer shrimp, zebra mussel, floating pennywort and many others cause massive environmental damage and there was an estimate that they cost the British economy £1.7 billion per year to manage. As importantly, these invaders are not friends to our fishings.

New research by UL and CEFAS (I won't go into the scientific details but they stand up to scrutiny) has identified that Eight (8) of the UK's worst aquatic invaders die if they are submerged in hand-hot water for just 15 minutes. In contrast, if they are left in damp nets, waders and other fishing tackle they can survive for over Two (2) weeks and therefore you are giving them a lift wherever you go and helping them spread if you do nothing! PLEASE DON'T!! 

I can hear someone laughing over my shoulder and saying "So how do I do that, my Wife/Husband is going to be really pleased if I fill the bath and submerge my boots, waders and landing net in it!" Well, you don't need to fill the bath: I bought a large plastic storage box and use that. It takes my boots, waders, landing net and reels. Yes, the best place to fill it is the bath but when your done you can gently pour the water out with minimal mess and then take your gear out of the house to dry. Easy really and it leads to greater harmony in the home.

The really important point is that your tackle and equipment needs to be submerged in hand hot (+45 degrees C) or hotter water for 15 minutes and the "Unwanted Travelling Bugs" are NO MORE - 99% of then will perish - it might be called a "disinfectant moment". You can then feel content that you are doing your bit to protect our fishings for the future. If you are concerned that hot water will affect your tackle, it hasn't with mine including my fly lines. Remember you can't always see the "invasive bug" you might be giving a lift to or hopefully killing!

On the same theme, in 2011 the Government in partnership with a large number of environmental NGO's launched the Check, Clean, Dry” campaign in an effort to reduce the spread of aquatics invasive species and encourage anglers to clean their kit before moving to new areas to fish and thus stop the accidental spread of unwanted "hitchhikers". You might like to have a look at this. 

Remember if you are going abroad to fish, many Countries now have strict regulations on the tackle and equipment you can take and if they have been suitably cleaned. Some insist on "Certificates" to show that your tackle and equipment has no "hitchhikers" and is sterile. Do check before you travel. You have been warned. Sorry, rather officious but better "safe than sorry"!

Tight lines and aquatic invasive species free fishing.