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Chilly start; Michael Gove keeps quiet; the great hackled fly

Enduring the Beast from the East, Malcolm follows up his letter to the Minister, and speaks up for the traditonally hackled fly



I know that we English have the reputation of always talking about the weather, but the weather this March needs talking about! Global warming?

Yvonne and I were in Fuerteventura until the 6th, thank goodness. So we missed the Beast from the East that brought bitterly cold winds and deep snow to much of the country. There, we did spot the much sought-after houbara bustard. Indeed, on one expanse of desert I stopped the car to look for the bustards, cream-coloured coursers and black-bellied sandgrouse to find one of the elegant bustards only a few yards away and close to the track on which I was driving the hire car. [Note: hire cars can go where most privately owned cars cannot!] The bird slowly strolled past the front of the car and then had another pecking session before wandering off. I didn’t find any corpses for Steve Cooper (Cookshill), but I did manage to send him a snap of that bird.

Back home, bitter winds and lots of rain then dominated the climate. I had planned to go with some pals on Opening Day (March 15), but an early morning call from son, Pete, (who lives by some great beats and crosses a bridge over the Ribble on his way to work) reported that it was pouring down, and the river was rising. So we planned to go the following Monday: strong easterly winds and a coloured river. Then on 25th and 26th the weather was perfect, but I couldn’t go because of other commitments. Pete phoned from the river: huge hatch of large dark olives (they had been waiting just for this climate change) and lots of fish rising. “I’ve just had a nice brownie of about the three pound mark!”
And as I write as the end of the month draws nigh, a Mini-beast from the East is forecast for Easter!
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I have still not had a reply from Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for the environment regarding my open letter to him about with widespread spraying of vast quantities of slurry, generated by the factory farming of dairy cattle. So I have sent him a reminder. I will keep you informed.
As it is, I am getting reports from elsewhere in England on the problem, and discovering that some in the English fly-fishing world want the problem to be kept a bit quiet on the grounds that they don’t want to upset the farmers who are polluting the bits of river that they fish. Oh well, I suppose they will be happy when there are no fish in the river, in part because that there is little in the way of aquatic invertebrates for the fish to eat. Interestingly, a consortium of the six Welsh Rivers Trusts is taking their government to the European court on this very issue. No backbone, you English Trusts?
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I have just been looking through my fly boxes and reflecting on how irrational we fly tyers and fly fishers sometimes are when it comes to choice of artificial fly to match real fly. And the large dark olive was the trigger in my cranium.....
Yonks ago, having been greatly influenced by the writing of Oliver Kite – he is still well worth reading – my mainstay dry fly for large dark olives was his Imperial. A simple fly: tail and hackle ginger cock (originally honey dun before Kite couldn’t get a new honey dun cape), body heron herl ribbed fine gold wire, and all tied with purple thread. For years that fly, in sizes 14, 16 and 18 caught me lots of trout that were feeding on large dark olives, blue-winged olives, other olive duns, pale wateries, and, in a size 12, even March browns. And the first fish that I caught for a TV camera, way back in the end of February 1988, were grayling that were eating LDOs and happily grabbed my Imperials.
Then, through the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, voices off told us that such hackled dry flies didn’t really match the real flies. “With a hackle like that, it doesn’t sit right on the water!” “The colour’s all wrong!” “The tail fibres need separating!” “You need to add wings, because it is the wing tips entering the trout’s window that the trout see first!”
I do recall one particularly stupid trout, on the Derbyshire Wye, that I was filmed trying to catch. It refused a fairly perfect imitation three times. Then, when I put on an Imperial it took it first cast! What a fool of a trout!
A suggestion if you are new to fly fishing and want a dry fly that does catch lots of trout and grayling, provided it is presented perfectly: buy or tie some Kite's Imperials in sizes 14, 16 and 18. And use them!

Tight lines!

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