Sunday, February 09, 2014
In a Black Mood.
Well, not a black mood, but a black mood. How could I feel down after a trip down to the BFFi at Stafford yesterday? Considering that Gary Hyde, Stuart Minnikin and I were originally due to spend the weekend fishing the Nith for grayling, when adverse weather and water conditions forced a change of plan, the fly fair initially felt like a poor second best.
Nevertheless, we met up as planned and instead of heading north into the Borders, set the sat-nav for the Midlands and resigned ourselves to a day of staring at small packets of dubbing and hooks, amidst a sea of olive and khaki-clad flyfishers. Except that the whole thing turned out to be rather a good laugh as it happened.
I'd not been to the annual fair for a few years - since it was last held at Stoke - and recent reports suggested it had gone downhill. Certainly I was very disappointed to learn that Lakeland Fly Tying no longer participate. It's a poor do when the country's top genetic cape supplier isn't represented at the BFFi.....but then again, given the parlous state of my finances at present, it was probably for the best. I had heard some complaints about the venue, but it looked ok to me. Certainly bigger in plan, so more room to browse rather than the previous arrangement where it sometimes felt like you were just slowly dribbling along, part of a thick flyfisher soup. But on the other hand, it also felt as if there was less to see. Maybe that is true, maybe just an illusion; whichever way, by 1pm we were done and dusted and on the way to a very welcome pub lunch.
Each of us had picked up a few odds and sods: some dubbing here, pheasant tails there, nothing particularly interesting. What made it worthwhile though, was the chance to catch up with so many friends, and to put faces to the names of a number of fellow FF forum members. Sometimes, when faced with conditions unsuited to fishing, then talking about fishing is the next best thing.....and it was a day which involved an awful lot of talking about fishing! There was also a lot of talk about plans for the coming season and in that respect, the organisers got the timing of BFFi 2014 absolutely spot on. No middle of the summer nonsense like recent years, you could sense the excitement throughout the hall for the prospect of the year to come.
And so to my black mood. Well, a conversation with Stuart got me thinking ahead to high summer in the Lakeland Fells, a few favourite spots of mine, and one or two more which I've always felt might warrant investigation. So when I sat down at the vice today, it was not just the usual river fare which occupied my thoughts, but the contents of my wild stillwater boxes too....and when considering fly patterns for the high fell tarns, it doesn't take too long before the black stuff rears its head.
I started though with river wet flies - black Stewart style spiders to be exact, in hooks sizes 16 and 18. No doubt these would do a job on a wild stillwater given calm-ish conditions, but it was with my local trout streams in mind that I tied these flies. Stewart style tying is a great way of getting a spider to linger in the surface film, with a few more turns of hackle than is usually called for, and then spaced a bit more openly in what amounts to a semi-palmered fashion, back from the hook eye. I used black hen neck for these but starling (which I think was prescribed in the original), works equally well, and possibly better, being that bit more 'webby' in its nature. My starling supplies are exhausted though, so hen will have to do for now.
I then took one foot out of running water and placed it in still, with the tying of some black and peacock spiders. These are absolutely deadly on the Cumbrian tarns and I often fish just a pair of them when the conditions are kind enough to present a warm overcast and light cord ripple. Sometimes it feels a bit unsatisfactory to fish flies which are so plain in appearance and simple in their construction, and the temptation is to tinker at the vice, adding all sorts of bright tags and appendages. But the B&P spider is a superb fly just as it is and it's a rare day in the hills when I don't land a few fish on one.
Next came the ever reliable bibio hoppers, tied on #12 black nickel Hayabusas. I fish these wet, as part of a team of three and as with the B&P spider, they can be counted upon completely to bring sport on wild stillwaters...and even more so if heather flies are up in late summer.
Finally, I tinkered a little and knocked up a trio of black and red creations based loosely upon the Crippler template popularised by Rob Denson. This isn't a style of fly I've ever tied before as I usually manage to cadge a few from Rob's flybox (naturally he ties them a lot better than I ever will)...and in all honesty I haven't done much stillwater biased tying for quite some time now. The fly at top left started life as a simple black palmer, but got inadvertently 'cripplerised' when I found myself reaching for the dyed red golden pheasant skin.......I can see it doing a job - a sort of bibio with added 'buzz'!
Black very much the colour today then. As Charlie Higson's Fast Show character once proclaimed "The gulls have plucked out my eyes!"