Monday, 20 December 2010

Cormorants And Sawbills - A Serious Threat To Salmonids

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling a sense of utter despair when I arrive at a favoured fishing spot only to be met by a flock of Cormorants or Goosanders flapping across the top of the water trying to take off with their fish filled stomachs.

Not so long ago this was a scene that you would never have dreamt could happen on a tree lined small tributary but nevertheless it has now become quite a common sight on some of the waters I fish in the Welsh Marches.

I'm aware that these birds have been feeding on our inland waters for many many years, but the concern is that numbers have increased dramatically in the last couple decades to what is now an over-wintering population in the region of 25,000 birds in the UK

An all too familar sight above the rivers of the Welsh marches

The fact that these birds are now feeding in quite substantial numbers on our smaller tributaries will undoubtedly have a severe effect on the future wild fish stocks, these rivers & streams are the spawning grounds for Salmonids and the sanctuary and protection that these streams once offered has now diminished.

A survey by Swansea University found that most fisheries have a problem with Cormorants. Dr Dan Forman, who led the study, said that just eight birds could kill 100 fish in a single session. The birds will return to sites three or four times a day, until stocks are exhausted.

When you consider these facts then you begin to realise how the finely balanced eco-system of these rivers could well be on a road to ruin if left unchecked.

The remains in the stomach of a culled Cormorant

The purpose of this blog entry is to further highlight the problem...I don't confess to having any surefire solutions but I feel that this is potentially a far bigger problem than the likes of DEFRA, Natural England, RSPB and some of the other decision makers even realise.

The non lethal deterrents suggested to help fisheries protect their fish such as underwater refuges, noise generating scarers and automatic scarecrows are extremely difficult to implement on rivers and the existing limits that are licenced to be killed seem to make very little difference.

An amazing sequence of photos captured by amateur photographer Stewart Canham

 I would suggest that a big step forward might be for these organisations to consult more closely with angling clubs whose members are encountering first hand the numbers of birds on these rivers and the effect they are having.

 Very informative reading on the subject here

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

River Arrow - Herefordshire

Managed to fit in a mid-week excursion to the delightful River Arrow near to Leominster thanks to an invite from fellow blogger Peter Anderson.

The river here meanders through the Herefordshire countryside creating some very interesting water with many riffles and deep pools to search out.

Things started very slow for both of us but as so often happens when Grayling fishing at this time of year you find a pool with some feeding fish in and can take quite a few fish in no time at all.

We ended the day with some very nice Grayling between us and Peter managing to net a real beauty which we estimated at around the 2 1/2lb mark.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

My Inspired Project

I've been tying flies for almost 2 years now and have been using a rotary style vice bought off eBay for about £15. To be honest it has served me well and has helped produce many flies in that time, but there are one or two things that annoyed me with the design and the ergonomics of it.

Fly tying is a hobby that is destined to be a part of my life for the foreseeable future so I'd planned to use my visit to this years BFFI to have a close look at a couple of the vices I'd chosen to be potential candidates for replacing the old model.

To be honest I was impressed with what I saw and found it hard to walk away without a purchase but I think that looking at the vices gave me the realisation that for someone that has spent his whole working life involved in engineering then I should really try and come up with my own creation.

Its a thought I had considered before but the awareness of the amount of time that such a project would take had led me to the route of considering a purchase rather than making my own.

Anyway...after plenty of thought and scribbled sketches and a few weeks of working 'after hours' on the vice I came up with a prototype which was later tweaked to produce the finished product. I have given it some quite extensive testing over the last week and I am finding it a joy to use.

Regardless of how happy I am with the vice I have to report that the quality of my flies has unfortunately remained at the same standard, but I'm sure to enjoy the practising that little bit more.

                 A few of the recent flies tied on the new vice

Monday, 1 November 2010

The BFFI & Autumn On The Clun


The annual British Fly Fair International 2010 was again held at Trentham Gardens in Stoke over the weekend and put on a fine display of all things fly-tying.

This is a great event for catching up on what new materials are available and stocking up on a few supplies...I normally end up leaving with far more than I planned! I managed to resist the temptation of walking away with a new vice but I'm sure its only a matter of time.

This event also gives you the opportunity to watch some of the elite fly-tyers and quiz them on some of their techniques. For me 'tyers row' is what makes the show special with Dave Wiltshire & Andy Baird demonstrating some extremely eye-catching flies, its was also nice to put a face to a few people I met from the Flyforums.

Andy Baird - Master at the art of micro flies.

Seasoned favourite at the show - Oliver Edwards

Next year's event sees a change of venue to the County Showground Stafford and will now be earlier in the year in June.


I couldn't resist rounding the weekend off with a little Grayling fishing on the superb River Clun. Warm temperatures, little wind and the most stunning Autumn colours paved the way to a very productive few hours.

The warmer temperatures had spurred on some flies to hatch which led to a few fish coming to the surface, although a change to dry fly with a small nymph below proved that the majority of these fish were out of season trout so it was back on with the tungsten bugs to get down to where the Grayling were feeding.

Out of season but fighting fit and in beautiful condition

With the clocks going back one hour it all seemed to end too early but the drive back home gave me time to try and think of a possible new Grayling fly to tie up using my new stock of materials!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Grayling On The Rise

After some recent heavy rain it was going to be a close call as to whether the planned fishing on the River Wye & River Irfon was going to be a bit of a struggle. Myself and fellow club member Nick had arranged to visit both these rivers on Saturday and after walking along both rivers on Friday evening I was hoping that some of the colour would drop out overnight.

When we met in the morning the Irfon was looking almost perfect but the Wye was still carrying quite a bit of colour but the level was was OK to enable some relatively safe wading on the gravel areas.

The plan was to fish the Irfon first then head to the Wye in the afternoon giving it a chance to improve a little...those plans went out the window when we spotted rising fish in one of the pools we were observing on the Wye, too much temptation to resist so we carefully waded in and began to pick off the rising fish one by one. It turned out to be quite a large pod of Grayling and on a big river like the Wye this could be in excess of a couple of hundred fish.

We later headed on to the River Irfon where the Grayling were also eager to feed of the surface and dry fly tactics were again taking many of the Grayling...Grffiths Gnat & Caddis patterns doing most of the damage.

Sunday afternoon I returned to the River Irfon but this time a fair bit further upstream and found the river in perfect autumn condition after a heavy frost overnight, Grayling were again willing to take flies off the top so I started with a size #18 Griffiths Gnat which had been very successful the day before but the Grayling were reluctant to take it so I switched to a caddis pattern tied by Nick and given to me the day before.

It seemed to make the difference with many decent sized Grayling finding it irresistible. It floated extremely well in the faster turbulent water and Grayling were taking it with some aggression.

A very successful weekend on rivers that a day before would have been almost impossible to fish.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Memorable End To The Season

I was itching to get back to some small stream fishing after a few weeks of flooded rivers and other commitments that keep me otherwise occupied. I had to visit Fishtec in Brecon early on Saturday morning and decided to fill the rest of the day indulging in my favourite passion.

I choose to target a small Usk tributary that I'd never fished before although I had previously walked along parts of it and spotted fish rising fish so anticipation was high. Conditions were absolutely perfect with plenty of water still in the river after the recent floods.

This river had everything I liked in small stream riffles, deep pools, plenty of cover and as I soon found out a good concentration of wild brown trout.

Nearly all of the likely looking places yielded some pristine wild brownies with some fish measuring up to 15". Moving up stream was slow due to the sheer amount of 'fishable' water and the willingness of the trout to take what I offered.

The trout were some of the prettiest I've had the pleasure to catch with many red spots and also bright red markings on the tip of the Adipose fin and the lower side of the Caudal fin.

After working my way through a few different fly combinations I settled on a duo method comprising of a #18 klinkhamer with a #16 tungsten bead head pheasant tail nymph below fished at depths between 12"-36" depending on the depth of water.

All this as well as a spot of Grayling fishing on the River Irfon and a short spell Salmon fishing on the River Wye (no hook ups unfortunately) made for a very memorable weekend.

Friday, 13 August 2010

To stock or not?

Recent outings have been based around the Rivers Wye & Irfon mostly fishing the 'French Nymphing' style, last weekend I choose a more gently flowing stretch of the upper River Wye and after seeing a few fish rising I opted for the Duo approach fishing a caddis for the dry with a tungsten beadhead nymph below.

I started connecting with quality fish immediately but here's the problem (and the reason for this post) the majority of the fish were stocked fish and of a really poor quality with little fight in them due to the lack of properly formed fins.

A couple of the stocked fish suffering from deformed fins

I have fished this bit of water many times but never encountered such a glut of 'stockies' in fact this is normally a very productive area with lots of natural fish to catch (I once caught 50+ fish here including Grayling, Trout & Dace!). I did manage to also hook a few of the natural residents but felt they were struggling to compete for the offerings.

My point really is: what is the purpose of introducing so many of these large stock fish to a relatively healthy river when they are obviously going to be competing for most of the natural food normally taken by the wild population.

Small...but beautifully formed wild Brown Trout

The enjoyment level from an angling point of view is very short lived and you end up trying to find ways not to catch them...with an eventual exit from the river in frustration. Fortunately the stocked fish do not seem to stray to far from the place they were introduced so I will now target the areas well away and get back to nature.