Dates for our Florida 2013 trip are now available:
The day might have dawned bright for our stillwater course held at Bigland, but a chilly easterly had all of us reaching for a decent overcoat. Putting an emphasis on the “fly” in fly fishing we focused on natural insects and their imitations. Even this late in the season the likes of damselflies were discovered, which constitute and important part of the trout’s diet. From there, discussions turned to tackle and the importance of leader set up. Following a hearty lunch and brush up on casting techniques, participants dispersed to put theory into practice. Obviously, a niggling breeze pegged back surface activity, calling for nymphs and sunken flies. That said, trout seemed receptive and Paul Bagshaw “Baggy” quickly found the mark with a colourful imitation… Interestingly, come late afternoon many tempted trout by fishing large dry flies blind, proof that even on a raw autumn day fish are willing to look up.
~Paul Bagshaw “Baggy” with his first fish which had been chomping shrimps deep down~
~Baggy piles on the pressure as another fit rainbow nears his net~
~Tony Riley edges forward on a feeding trout during the dense hatch~
A welcome respite in our horrible weather allowed Eden tributaries to drop just enough for a cast or two. Richard Tong, Tony Riley and I were quick out of the blocks to take advantage. Admittedly, we were greeted with high-ish water, but of more concern was its cold temperature, would this have knocked any late season hatches or fish activity? By 1pm all was quiet, except for one 12 inch fish that took a fancy to my olive Klinkhamer. Thirty minutes later someone had flicked that proverbial switch as suddenly trout were going bonkers to tiny stoneflies and olive duns. If that wasn’t enough, terrestrials too tumbled to the surface. Knowing rain was forecast the three of us made hay in this brief window. A number of our fish topped 2lb the best of them a 2lb 14oz (18.5 inches) beauty which fell to Richard. So focused were we, none of use cared to I.D. the exact upwinged species hatching, what better excuse for a return visit! However, we’ll have to bide our time as heavy rain is lifting levels once more…
~One of the better trout taken in that magical window~
Thursday dawned with storm clouds clogging the horizon. As we prepared for Westmorland County show held close to Kendal with so many events falling victim to summer rains it was touch and go as the whether Westmorland went the same way? Despite a deluge the day before, thankfully a strengthening westerly kept rain clouds at bay, encouraging organisers to go ahead. Though demonstrating fly casting into a swirling wind kept me on my toes. Catching up with old friends was far better fun, especially when you bump into folk like Ken Harrison who I happened to be sharing a stand with. His fly tying kept the crowds entertained throughout the day and we even made it off the show ground without our cars being bogged down.
~Ken Harrison about to embark on another one of his wonderful creations (note the silver dish in the foreground)~
~A close up of said dish, which contains Ken’s hook collection and is best described as a “tangle of iron”. No wonder he’s known as Captain Chaos…
Although dry fly fishing topped our agenda the rural parts of Bosnia have a certain charm that encourages one to drop a gear and kickback. In fact compared with our hectic life in UK’s fast lane, life here ticks over pretty much at snail’s pace. Things like cattle strolling along a country lane are your only obstacle when heading to the river that or a farmer carting hay across shallow parts of a stream. Aside from timing your strike to connect with lightening fast grayling, our experience was perhaps best described as “relaxed”. Come our final day, I had the task of rounding up the troops for the flight home, not that easy when certain members seemed reluctant to leave...
~When in Bosnia, be prepared to share the river will all kinds of flora and fauna~
With dog in tow, a young farmhand negotiates the river on his way to collect hay
~Pedja our host (left) and Mita ace guide (right) made sure things ran smoothly on the ground. As ever, Mat Mchugh of Fly Odyssey did sterling work in putting the trip together, he’ll be finalising dates for our 2013 visit to Bosnia soon~
Talk about riding your good luck… Our penultimate day on the Ribnik and olives still poured off in droves. Admittedly this hatch wasn’t as prolific as previous days, but no doubt sensing winter, grayling fed like no tomorrow. Thankfully, we’d prepared well to maximise our chances and this time Mark Whitmarsh found a shoal of hungry fish. At least two of them dragged him round the pool, leaving him no option except to give chase.
~Mark managed several fish of this ilk and claimed he’d never come across grayling averaging such an impressive size~
Who could tire of catching such fish using lightweight tackle…?
Breakfast time wasn’t just about fuelling up for a busy day by the water, it gave us an opportunity to stock up on killing fly patterns. Over coffee, Mark Whitmarsh (right) adds the finishing touches to his fly as the boys look on.
What better way to enjoy lunch than right on the banks of a pristine Bosnian stream. And as tempting as it was to forego this meal, thankfully everyone obey the 2 o’clock dinner bell, making it a social event too. Though I suspect with such tasty recipes served up, we might just have put on a few pounds...
An afternoon session on the Ribnik produced a string of fat grayling for our intrepid party. First to strike was Gavin Walsh with a handsome fish measuring 48cm. Next up, Bosnia ace Renate rattled out another 48cm specimen. Brian Garner hit the jackpot too and what astounded him most was the sheer guts of these fish, which sprinted away more like trout than grayling. Eventually, my turn came when I stumbled on a pod of large fish averaging 45cm. Needless to say, all these fell to dry flies with the sparse CdC olive patterns coming up trumps.
~It’s not everyday you encounter solid grayling like this~
~Brian AKA “Mr Smiley” displays another cracking hen fish~
Our second visit to the Ribnik turned out to be a day few will forget. Not only were ants on the menu, but come 11.30am, Blue winged-olives decided to put in an appearance beyond our wildest dreams. By noon the surface was littered with duns and fish could be seen topping from bank to bank. A quick change to slender CdC shuttlecock type flies or the Pearly Butt version had us back in business. Of course, with such a dense hatch in progress the fish weren’t a push over. Though once you got your eye in and focused on a single fish at a time (not that easy when confronted by dozens of dimpling grayling…) the action was as good as it gets.
~The smiles say it all for Brian as he prepares to release yet another plump Ribnik grayling~
~Bosnian grayling seemed very fond of the Pearly Butt CdC in sizes 18-20
Granted the UK might have produced modest ant falls, in comparison however, Bosnia was off the scale. Funny then that we’d prepared ourselves for a spot of nymph fishing only to arrive at the Ribnik and find fish rising everywhere. Given such circumstances only a fool would consider subsurface tactics. So armed with tiny ant imitations we set to work. Having the correct fly is only half the story though. With so many naturals to choose from, trout and grayling are spoilt for choice. Equally they can spot an impostor more easily now. So fine tippets where the order of the day with 0.09 or 0.10 mm considered the norm.
~That telltale signature on natural ants is a bulbous abdomen and thorax separated by a tiny waist~
~A good imitation should have the “hourglass” figure so apparent on winged ants~
After driving through the night to Gatwick and following a lengthy transfer we eventually arrived in the Pliva valley that little bit worse for wear. Though rather than plunge in, all agreed to recover by talking a stroll by the river. This gave us a heads-up on what fly life to expect. Digging out a handful of weed produced scores of freshwater shrimps and turning over stones revealed huge cased caddis. At least if the fish aren’t rising we know what kind of nymphs will be needed to tempt trout and grayling.
~Every stone yielded an impressive number of Cased Caddis~
Usually, during the fishing season I’m reluctant to drag my backside far from home waters. However, with all the awful weather we’ve suffered of late the prospect of more settled conditions in mainland Europe sounds inviting. We’re off to Bosnia first thing tomorrow and with reports of good hatches I can’t wait to reacquaint myself with the Pliva and Ribnik…!