Harrogate FlyFishers' Club

since 1887

since 1887


Newsletter December 2019

The deluge continues, but winter approaches!

November has provided a fairly full river, as the autumn often does. It was in the ‘typical range’ of water depth throughout the month, often in the upper half of that - at 1 metre at Birstwith, subsiding later in the month to the current 0.5 metres. 

I had a nice walk down the river this weekend. I guess that access conditions have improved in that the footpath by the river, while muddy, had an icy crust on top, early on! 

A photo shows Darley Beck with a very good flow, entering our river above Duffers Pool. It was nice to see some blue sky and bright sunshine for a change.

.Working Party

The first Working Party of the season took place on Thursday November 14th. Hugh, Charles, Ian, Peter, Rosemary and David got stuck in, with the brambles in the stretch above the stepping stones taking a bit of a hammering – especially from the petrol-powered strimmer wielded by Ian. The rest of us made do with a variety of medieval tools that made it seem harder work! Enjoyable chatter though among all the ‘workers’. The photo is an example of ‘Afterwards’!

Other working parties will be held – in fact the next one is due this week on Thursday December 5th at 9.45, starting from Station Road

From The Club’s Archives

Ian Dodd has unearthed a cache of historic documents about our club, and will be putting some of them onto our website over time. Here’s one from 1955!

A Winner in Winter – and All Year Round!

Clark Colman  has kindly provided us with another article on fishing for grayling. 

I’m writing this after a very pleasant (if still rather muddy!) hike along our stretch of the Nidd with Timmy, my Parson Russell Terrier.  It’s the first bright, crisp morning we’ve had for a week or two, which certainly makes a welcome change from the dark clouds, lung-chilling fog and lacklustre-but-persistent rain that have been a constant feature of our riverside walks for days on end.  It was minus one when Timmy and I left the house; however from a fly fishing point of view we’ve yet to experience the sustained sub-zero temperatures that often drive Thymallus thymallus closer to the riverbed in ‘pods’ to seek out more comfortable winter quarters.  Then again, the elements haven’t exactly been conducive to end-of-year hatches and rising fish, either.  Factor in higher-than-average river levels and the increased current paces they bring, and it’s made more sense of late for North Yorkshire’s grayling to seek both food and shelter ‘down below’ – even if they aren’t exactly gathering in numbers just yet.

Nymph fishing forms the mainstay of my approach in such conditions and most of my time at the vice is currently spent in replenishing fly boxes for tuition and guiding.  At the moment, about sixty percent of my teaching takes place on northern spate rivers and streams with (the odd expert or two aside) predominantly beginner-to-intermediate level anglers.  However experienced the client, the patterns we use (weighted ones in particular) can take a real battering in and around our fast-flowing, stony, rocky, boulder-strewn and often tree-lined systems.  An inaccessible branch, deep-lying snag, snatch-take or mistimed strike will occasionally claim one or two flies, and where presentation’s concerned both grayling and trout alike frequently don’t have a great deal of time to inspect both naturals and artificials before they’re swept on downstream towards the next hungry, opportunist mouth.  A red-letter day can see dozens of fish landed, and I usually give away a few of the most successful offerings at the end of a session in the hope that clients who dress flies (and maybe those who don’t!) will copy and use them to even greater effect in the future.

All of this has inevitably had a formative effect on the contents of my fly boxes.  As an instructor and guide I need consistently-effective patterns that are attractive in both fast and slow-moving water, whilst also being low-maintenance, robust, easy to stock up on and which can be replicated by clients without too much difficulty.  Newcomers and more experienced fly fishers alike can also be daunted by crowded boxes filled with creations of all sizes, shapes and colours.  Close-copy subtleties, although pleasing to the dresser’s eye, are usually lost on trout and grayling in situations where “to take or not to take” can be a split-second decision – as it so often is up in this neck of the woods.  Far better, then, to rely on a pared-down selection of simpler, generic offerings (whose sizes, weights and colours can be ‘tweaked’ if necessary) and concentrate on getting the presentation right.  

For me, the Copperhead Partridge and Hare’s Ear Jig fulfils all of these requirements better than any other sub-surface fly I’ve used.  There certainly isn’t much here to tax anyone at the tying bench and a dozen or so can be produced in no time at all.  ‘Buggy’ and mobile, with natural trigger points enhanced by the visible but not-too-garish bead and ribbing, it’s caught fish from Cumbria to Cornwall in running waters of all characters, and many of my clients owe their first-ever trout or grayling to this pattern.  I certainly can’t claim any credit for inventing it; however it’s certainly been a good friend to me over the years (the fly equivalent of my little pal Timmy the Terrier!) and I hope it will be for you, too.

Copperhead Partridge and Hare’s Ear Jig

Hook: Partridge Wide Gape Jig (it works best in sizes 16 and 18).

Bead: Slotted tungsten, copper (size to suit). Thread: Semperfli Nano Silk 12/0, olive.

Rib: Copper wire (gauge to suit).

Body: Hare’s ear fur, natural (a good mix of softer underfur and spikier guard hairs).

Legs: English Partridge, brown back feather; Collar: Tying thread.

The photos show my preferred proportions in terms of appearance and profile.  I like a tapered body, to mimic that of many aquatic invertebrates, with no more than four or five turns of ribbing.  These aren’t, however, hard-and-fast rules – especially given the fast current paces in which I and clients often use this pattern.  

Years of experience have, however, taught me that although fish will take a more heavily-legged dressing (especially in quicker or more turbulent areas), they tend to prefer legs formed from no more than two turns of partridge feather.  Longer feather barbs aid greater mobility, especially in the deeper water with slower currents where we often find grayling at this time of year.  About one-and-a-half times the width of the hook gape seems fine to me.

By all means experiment with different coloured beads, threads, tags, ribbing, thoraxes, collars and such like.  I certainly have; however I find myself coming back to the above ‘original and best’ dressing time and time again.  It works all year round, is taken with equal gusto by both trout and grayling, and has consistently outscored any embellished variant.  That said, I’ve also used an olive hare’s ear body to good effect.  A gold-headed version (substituting the copper bead and wire for gold equivalents, and the natural hare’s ear for dyed yellow) often comes up trumps in late spring and summer, whilst the silver-headed pattern is particularly appealing to autumn and winter grayling.  The latter retains the natural hare’s ear body but sports a silver bead and ribbing, and uses an English partridge grey neck feather for the legs.  Next month I’ll describe one of my favourite ways to present this pattern in the depths of winter, when takes can be rather gentle and difficult to spot

A Happy Christmas to all HFFC members – whether it’s with fishing or with family and friends!

David Clayden HFFC Hon. Sec.

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