Squat­ter’s rights!

Iain Barr crouches low to tar­get Grafham’s shrimp-feed­ers with his new flies

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

GRAFHAM Water was once fa­mous for its pro­lific daph­nia blooms and ex­cel­lent fish­ing through the open water. Nowa­days, it is more well known for its shrimp fish­ing around the mar­gins, as epic swarms of th­ese killer crus­taceans mass around the edges. As a child, I would go there with my dad, and the banks, espe­cially the Graf ham dam, would be full of an­glers: mem­o­ries that came to mind to­day. It might not be quite so rammed with an­glers but there are 13 of us, none­the­less, lin­ing the south side. I ar­rive just be­fore 5am and let an­other an­gler’s car through the gate be­hind me. We meander up the sea­son-ticket hold­ers’ path in our cars, to find an­other ve­hi­cle al­ready parked and its owner cast­ing away. A good sign: three mad an­glers fish­ing at daft o’clock? It must be fish­ing well…

Adding CDC to Shrimps

I’d been keen to ar­rive early, given the re­cent heat­wave, as the early morn­ing al­ways of­fers your best chance of some sport. Ru­mour has it that a few days of cooler weather and thun­der­storms have fresh­ened the top lay­ers of water, putting fish on the feed. Over the last few years, I’ve cre­ated some deadly shrimp pat­terns for this place, no­tably my orig­i­nal Graf ham Swim­ming Killer Shrimps, which helped me win two Bob Church Clas­sic ti­tles and be Eng­land’s top rod in a Home In­ter­na­tional here. I’ve now taken this pat­tern fur­ther and cre­ated some other lit­tle killers! Fish­ing in the World and Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships since 1998, I was ex­posed to many river pat­terns and, while not a reg­u­lar river an­gler, I no­ticed many had CDC added to them. Ob­vi­ously, dry flies have CDC to keep them afloat but many of th­ese gold­head nymphs had hack­les of CDC, to cre­ate movement. With this in mind I’ve added CDC to some of my Killer Shrimp pat­terns, ty­ing it un­der the body, to act as legs. I’ve also added CDC to my foam-back shrimps: as they drift around in the wind, the CdC flut­ters, adding some more ‘nat­u­ral’ movement. Lend­ing out some of my boxes of bar­b­less river flies re­cently, prompted me to take a look at my river shrimp pat­terns, many of which were tied with partridge hack­les to im­i­tate the lit­tle legs. With this in mind, I tied my new G Buoy Killer Shrimp (a nod to where it was

tested…) in three sizes, from 10-14, and on one ver­sion, the partridge hackle has been re­placed with CDC. Each has its time and place but the pat­tern gen­er­ally is so life­like and has been a favourite for me and my com­pe­ti­tion team-mates. Armed with my new flies, on this oc­ca­sion I’m tar­get­ing the shrimp feed­ers which of­ten pa­trol the con­crete dam, as its paved slabs of­fer crevices in which the shrimps can take cover.

Take a seat

I’ve no­ticed that the army of an­glers who now fish Graf ham’s dam sit perched on lit­tle seats, as much for com­fort as for a low pro­file. Stand­ing on con­crete all day takes its toll on your feet and back and this is ag­gra­vated by the slop­ing sur­face ex­ert­ing un­nat­u­ral strains on the body. I don’t have a seat with me this morn­ing so I sit or crouch, keep­ing a low pro­file to avoid ‘sky lin­ing’ (hav­ing my head and cast­ing arm jut­ting above the dam wall para­pet be­hind me, like the prover­bial sore thumb). Oc­ca­sion­ally I stand and cast, just to stretch the leg and back mus­cles. Cast­ing isn’t as ef­fi­cient when you’re sat down but there’s usu­ally no need to cast far as the fish are cruis­ing just a few feet out. To­day, though, they lay a lit­tle fur­ther off the dam than usual, with most fish tak­ing seven to 10 yards out. In­deed, I hook a small branch off the bot­tom, 10 yards out, which is cov­ered in shrimp. The mar­gins’ tem­per­a­tures are pos­si­bly too much for them this sum­mer, so they, too, are ly­ing deeper, just as the trout have been. It’s im­por­tant to keep your flies in the range of the fish for as long as pos­si­ble, so in­stead of cast­ing straight ahead, I cast along the dam at an an­gle, to keep my flies at that seven to 10 yard range. In less ex­cep­tional tem­per­a­tures, when fish are even closer than to­day, it’s also crit­i­cal to max­imise those last few feet of water. When lift­ing off, it’s nat­u­ral for you to raise your rod ver­ti­cally, yet this mo­tion could see you miss out on the last 15 foot or so be­tween your fly and the water’s edge.

“Keep your flies in the range of the fish for as long as pos­si­ble, so in­stead of cast­ing straight ahead, I cast along the dam at an an­gle.”

In­stead, when lift­ing off, tilt your rod to one side and over the bank so that the flies come through the last few feet of water to­wards you, to within inches of the shore­line. That way, you fish your flies to the very end. By 6.30am, I’d landed just one fish and missed sev­eral sub­tle takes, but I then hit a pur­ple patch, land­ing three or four quickly and drop­ping sev­eral at the net, while try­ing to oblige pho­tog­ra­pher Peter Gather­cole! I had po­si­tioned my­self with a good 100 yards of ‘free’ dam space ei­ther side of me, al­low­ing room for the fish to feed close and within range. A tall an­gler in light-coloured cloth­ing fishes up­right to my left, so I keep a wide berth to make sure he doesn’t spook my fish. When he even­tu­ally winds in and picks up his kit, he drops his net just 12 yards or so down­wind of me. He stands high and there­fore casts while sil­hou­et­ted against the sky be­hind him. I had taken some very quick fish with plenty of of­fers, yet it’s telling that in the 30 min­utes af­ter this ‘sky­liner’ en­tered my airspace, I didn’t get an­other of­fer. With an­other dozen an­glers around him, clearly stay­ing low, I’m sorry that he doesn’t take the hint.

Small flies in clear water

I move a fur­ther 100 yards along, to give my­self some open water, to which the fish will hope­fully re­turn, and it soon pays off, as I take five more fish, thanks to a size 14 Hedge End Hare’s Ear (an­other pat­tern named af­ter a Graf ham land­mark), CDC Shrimps and G Buoy Killer Shrimps. The water is very clear and it’s no­tice­able that the fish pre­fer the size 14 flies, with a cou­ple tak­ing the size 12s, while none took the size 10 that I had placed on the point. In clear water or against fish that have been caught and re­leased, the smaller size flies will bring you more re­wards. I opted for 8lb fluoro­car­bon in this sit­u­a­tion or the sup­ple 8.4lb Air­flo G5, which al­lows the ty­ing of a smaller knot, espe­cially on the size 14 and 6s. An­other an­gler is also catch­ing well and I learn he’s gone one smaller than me by fish­ing a team of three, size 16, sparsely-tied Shrimps. At the other end of the size scale, ‘sky­liner’ has ap­par­ently taken a bit of a shine to me, mov­ing along the dam and once again drop­ping his gear no more than 10 paces away from me. I hope it isn’t just me who no­tices the im­me­di­ate halt in ac­tion that fol­lows his ar­rival. Of­ten, bank fish­ing is all about cast­ing large dis­tances, at places like Far­moor, for ex­am­ple, where cast­ing range is at a pre­mium if the bank an­gler is to have any suc­cess. When the Graf ham shrimp ar­rive, on the other hand, it’s the an­gler who stays low and con­cen­trates his flies in the mar­gins who en­joys more suc­cess. The new flies cer­tainly did their job and I’ll con­tinue to mod­ify them as I watch and learn more about th­ese lit­tle Graf ham crit­ters. Tie some up and see how they work for you!

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