Monday, November 25, 2013

The Mysterious Case of Vanishing Grayling

For closing of the 2013 seasion I decided to visit the river Střela, which holds a special place in my fishing heart. This is the river on which I discovered the grayling as a game fish years ago and where I smelled my hand after releasing a fish for the first time to discover that peculiar thyme odour.

I was unable to visit the river for some time, but as I had intimate knowledge of the stream from the past I soon recognized familiar pools and started fishing with fly patterns I expected to be of liking to the local fish - I remembered that gold ribbed hare's ear nymph with a tip of orange and a smallish pink gammarus were particullary effective.

To my surprise these known grayling magnets produced: exactly nothing. I was unable to convince a single grayling, despite the fact of catching a number of off season brown trout. The occasional brownie was sort of expected, but the total absence of grayling was puzzling me deeply.

After persevering for some time I proceeded to catch a couple more brownies, but the grayling remained conspicious by their absenece.

I did not wish to disturb the brownies - who by the look of their mating colors had obviously other things on their mind - too much and as no grayling seemed to be in sight I retired home early.

Still puzzled after cutting my last season's outing short I made some inquiries on the health of the local grayling population. My fears were confirmed by a local friend, who confirmed that the grayling have indeed vanished from upper Střela following heavy floods. Their absence was confirmed by electrofishing. Their disappereance could not be even traced to the cormorants, as is the case with some other Czech rivers suffering decline in fish numbers - the Grayling simply were there in the winter and were gone after the spring floods.

As I have very fond memories of fishing this river as a young novice of the dark art of Grayling fishing I sincerely hope that this fish, being short lived species with good population dynamics, recovers from this setback and returns to the river where they were once flourishing.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Belgian & Orange micro

With the Czech salmonid season fast approaching its end there is just about enough time for a dramatic finish, before I retire to my tying den to contemplate the 2014 season.

In late November it is unreasoneable to expect any hatch, and even though hope springs eternal - and unlikely is not the same as impossible - it is reasoneable to prepare for a season finish in the nymph fishing style.

For this opportunity I prepared two dressings: one is new for me, of pattern well liked in the competition fishing circles and introduced to me by Slovak master tier Peter Durišík, and the other is a long time favorite of mine.

The Belgian / Belgičanka:
#16 Hanák 130 BL hook
2.5mm tungsten bead, copper plated
prominently orange Danville's thread, 70 dernier
pheasant tail body
counterribed by copper wire

Orange tipped micro nymph:
#18 Hanák 130 BL hook
2.0mm brass bead, gold plated
4 strands of orange Glo Brite floss
red fox dubbing body
ribbed with 1/32" (i.e. rather thin) gold tinsel

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Crane Goldhead

This is a fly from the Bandits category - named after Hrajnoha and Uhorčík, two legendary folk heroes from Slovakia. It is a style that has served me well over the years.

Normally I make the shortish body of hare's fur, but to make it more interesting this time I used a herl section of a crane feather. It adds a nice contrast to the green butt and gold tinsel. The collar / thorax is from a home made mix of hare and fox squirrel - plain fox squirrel just does not seem to stick to my thread, but it becomes much more pliable when mixed with some hare in a coffee grinder.

The tie:
#10 Kamasan B160 heavy short shank hook (debarbed)
3,3 mm gold tungsten bead
tan elastic tying thread
red rooster hackle fibres for tail
elastic fluo green floss for tag
gold Gütermann tinsel (counterwrapped)
herl from a crane feather
fox squirrel / hare dubbing collar

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dark Olive & Claret Bobeš

The recent trip has put a dent in my Bobeš box, so a resupply tying session was in order.

This color combination is not as popular with Czech fly fishermen as the medium olive with red accent, but it got me some very fine fish.

The tie:
#8 Gammarus hook
a layer of flat lead
light cream tying thread
brownish scud back ribbed with 0.16 mm spinning mono
body of rabbit fur dyed brown olive
thorax of mohair dyed claret and black
a light finishing touch with black CD marker

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Strange October

This autumn the weather has been even more unpredictable than usual. A cold and wet September was followed by a warm and dry October, with the temperature rising to the levels my Scottish friends normally associate with high summer.

It is my habit to visit the river Úpa around October 28th. These two photos were taken a year apart, and I hope you notice the one big difference between the two (and I don't mean my friend Standa, who joined me for the last years's trip). I have to admit though that the last year's snowstorm was also unusual, and the snow melted in a couple of days.

With no insect activity I had to settle for a nymphing approach. This was not helped by the low and clear water, and the "normal" Czech style short nymphing style was not feasible. I had to approach the fishy spots carefully and fish at a distance, using a modified "French" style with an indicator and a long leader.

I was fishing a team of two flies - a heavier beadhead at the point to help me with the casting and sinking the team down to the fish level and another "catching" fly. I experimented for a while with the catching fly, trying initially a couple of smallish nymphs normally associated with the Grayling. The smallish flies did not work so well though, and the best results I got from a rather substantial Czech style Blešoun.

I suppose I should not be too surprised by the fact: the river has a substantial Caddis population, and various caddis larvae are a staple on the local grayling menu. The fish are used to see them drifting by and know how to handle them. The meaty looking nymph promised more nutrition than an anorectic mayfly. The fact that I added a little violet attractor to the thorax of the fly likely did not hurt either.

Later during the afternoon a light hatch of brown olives started, and the fish became active at surface. I swapped the nymphing rig for a dry fly setup and proceeded to fish a BWO emerger. I had some success with it, but while the sight of a fish striking the dry fly at surface was surely rewarding the fish seemed to be smaller than their brothers who fell for the Czech nymph earlier in the day.

Even though the stretch of water I was fishing is not considered a good trout water I proceeded to catch a few out of season brownies. Due to the strange weather they were not in the full spawning mindset - the river temperature was still above 10 °C - and they were still feeding actively, but their color already showed the approaching season of procreation.