Fishing Rod Decoration


By Graham Waterton

September 2013

- By Graham Waterton

My diary looked good for September, Spey, Iceland and plenty of chalkstream guiding.

As I drove north to the Spey every crossed river was dry. Those snatched glimpses over bridges told the story of the summer. The Spey catchment had seen little significant rain for nearly two and a half months and on arrival I could only remember seeing the river so low once in nearly 25 years.  However if I was to be on any beat in these conditions it would be those below Fochabers bridge on Gordon Castle. When it is low fresh fish, particularly grilse, wriggle in on every tide. They come to the fly and often stir up earlier arrivals. We found a couple but saw very few and although I would normally have great confidence that as soon as the rain came, Spey Bays residents would surge in, it felt that there simply wasn't any fish around. I really hope I'm wrong. (I'm pleased to say, I was)


This Spey team are very experienced but a few wanted to smooth out some rough edges to their technique which was fun to help them with. Lucy had yet to catch a fish and we had great fun with a 7wt switch rod catching some very feisty finnock.Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/guiding-first-fish.jpg Lots of laughs and big smiles. I think she's hooked.Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/first-fish.jpg


As soon as I got home an invite to try for some Frome sea trout with my old fishing friend Robin, arrived. The salmon season had ended but plenty of sea trout come in late, some very big and the conditions of low clear water and a warm, still, spell of weather boded well. We met up, chatted for about an hour and by 7.30 were fishing. Robin was typically generous and put me in the best pools to start and within 20 minutes I had 2 fish around a pound out, and back in. By 8.30 most of the light was gone and I moved a good fish and then landed the best of the night....approaching a couple of pounds.Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/frome-sea-trout.jpg The temperature then dropped, the mist came and we knew that was that. They catch several double figure sea trout here every year ... next year maybe.

A session of instruction and a days guiding made getting all my kit disinfected for Iceland a little tense but the vets came up trumps.

The guided day is worth a mention. It was on the Lambourn courtesy of Famous Fishing. This wonderful little chalkstream is tough fishing at the best of times and anyone who can take a brace of fish has done well. Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/lambourn.jpgTheir client gave me hint he knew what he was doing by setting up a nice little 7ft 4 wt outfit and then proved it by throwing, tight, short casts with accuracy and precision. Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/lambourn-cast.jpgHe looked doubtful but I rigged him up with a short New Zealand rig of an 18 Hares Ear 18 inches under a small Humpy. Lilliputian chalkstream fishing. By lunchtime he had 3 cracking fish and lost the biggest which must have been close on 16 inches.Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/lambourn-trout.jpg Another after lunch and he and his wife left having celebrated his birthday in some style. A good day.

The Midfjardara had, up to then, had a fantastic season. Lots of crystal clear water and an astonishing run of fish. By the start of our visit they had caught almost exactly double last years total. By mid September the Iceland winter arrived and by the end of our trip we had bitter weather, bone chilling winds, blizzards, high coloured waters which dropped to 1degree! However despite all this the 10 shared rods had exactly 100 fish...a real testament to the outstanding season most of Iceland has enjoyed this year. My personal highlight was a 99 cm hen fish, probably around 22/23 pounds.Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/iceland-big-salmon.jpg A cracker.

The last week of the month saw me guiding on The Test at Wherwell, Fullerton and Bossington, the Nadder and the Anton. Interesting to see how well these different beats fished at the end of the season. Some looked good, well kept and healthy with good heads of wild and stocked fish. Others didn't.

On the last day of the month I went down to the bottom of the Itchen and fished the first recognised pool for a late season sea trout. Being on the edge of Southhampton, the pool is bathed in urban light, and the background sounds of passing traffic and planes landing at Eastleigh give an altogether surreal atmosphere. However the sound of large sea trout crashing about in the near darkness concentrates the mind wonderfully. No whoppers but a first Itchen sea trout for me.

Altogether a good and varied month....grayling next and a chance of a late salmon perhaps.

August 2013

- By Graham Waterton


I've lived and worked nearly all my life in the country and weather wise not much surprises me. This made it easier to ride the extremes of weather the gods delivered in August.

Generally the temperatures dropped from the extremes of July and a few showers greened  up my lawn. The days I guided on the chalkstreams saw extremes of weather but we had some good days despite the elements.

Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/august-blog-client-1.jpgTypical of this was a day on the Anton with two medical men from Sussex. We spent the first 2 hours sheltering in the tiny hut from a heavy persistent shower. Although the rain stopped it was cold and consequently no fish on the top; as the clouds persisted, spotting fish in the deeper channels of the ever healthy and lush ranunculus was tough. Off to The Peat Spade for an early lunch and on our return the world looked and felt much better. Funny that.

They were both novices particularly to chalkstreams but soon got the hang of casting short, close to the margins of this pretty Test tributary.
Crouching behind the margin reeds and rolling out nymphs to deep lying trout was the early afternoon agenda and then as the temperature rose back into the high 20s, a few fish fed on the surface. There was success for both of them on tiny olive spinners and they headed home happy with trout for supper.


It's rarely difficult to catch mackerel off Chesil beach in August and although they were about a month late due to persistent cold water they arrived in large shoals within fly range of the shingle which doesn't often happen. A 6 or 7wt is enough and as is so often the case when fish are busting bate on the surface, pattern is not critical but size is and on this occasion a #6 Los Roques Minnow did the business.

Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/chesil.jpgIf mackerel went to 5 pounds we would be shoulder to shoulder on our shores. Fresh mackerel on the table takes some beating.

Another spell of warm calm weather gave me confidence for our annual trip out to Eddystone to try for big bass on a fly.  A call to the skipper the night before and the high winds forecast left us on shore. More weather induced frustration.

Would this weather system bring rain to the Spey catchment for our regular September week on the finest salmon river in Scotland?  

July 2013

- By Graham Waterton

The first 2 weeks saw continued hot, dry and still conditions which often tested me and my chalkstream clients but each fishing day normally ended up better than could have been predicted. I guided on a variety of corporate and private client days on the River Test, its wonderful tributary the River Anton, the River Nadder and the stunning but very difficult River Lambourn. Early morning and evening were often best but most days saw periods where fish took olives, midges and smuts off the surface. Many beats allow nymphs after 1st July which opened up lots of opportunities, not least to teach clear water nymphing techniques, which I love. It also, thankfully, saw the start of some good steady evening rises to spinners and sedges.


Thankfully I missed sauna Friday at the Game Fair but the cooler breezier Saturday was much more enjoyable. I met two chalkstream clients in order to test some 5 wt outfits. We tested about 5 and have bought a Hardy Zenith Sintrix for her and a Sage One for him, both excellent rods, with 2 Hardy Ultralights and Rio Golds completing these well balanced set-ups.River Oykel below Oykel Falls

That evening I drove north to Berwick where The Tweed was terribly low. A clear indicator of what we could expect further north as I headed up on Sunday for a few days on the wonderful River Oykel.
  I adore this river, particularly in the Spring...always water dependant but if you get it you will catch salmon. They hadn't had decent rain for 2 months and the river was at its lowest for over 7 years with fish very few and far between.River Oykel in very low water However it gave me lots of time with everyone in the party to help them with their casting. A really enjoyable few days. The news that Sunday rain saw 30 caught on Monday and over 100 for the following week confirmed how cruel the fish gods can be.


Back to the Test and Anton for 3 days guiding and time for their new owners to test the 2 new outfits. Tara caught her 1st, 2nd and 3rd chalkstream brownies...the last pushing 20 inches . clients big brown troutMore fish on the second day but Chris, her husband, had an intriguing battle with a good fish of over 20 inches. We spotted it late morning and had 3 separate attempts which needed some tweaking to the casting technique to get the fly under the overhanging branches on the far bank and avoiding both the high reed mace on our bank and the trees behind us. At about 7.00 pm and after many, many fly changes we were down to 7x tippet and an 18 traditional Adams. The slowest and most agonising take saw the fish hooked. Although a fine long distance release was executed after a minute or so, we were elated and felt the battle was won. We fooled him.

Personally, I had some wonderful evenings. Normally an hour before last light fish would start feeding either to BWO spinners or sedges. The first of these evenings reminded me to always take a torch. Tying on #18s with no light when there are fish begging for food is torture.

As the month ended so we had some relief from the heat wave with cooler temperatures and some much needed rain. Looking back on the month, as far as the chalkstreams were concerned the continued high levels of good cool water kept the weed growing and the rivers fishing better than the average July.

Astove, Geets and Goonbones

- By Graham Waterton

A few weeks ago I was reminiscing with Pete McLeod of Aardvark McLeod about Cosmoledo, one of the most wonderful SWF destinations. My one and only trip was one of the last before the pirates put these outer Seychelles islands well and truly out of bounds by hijacking the boat used for these live aboard trips and after the crew were released, sinking her. I wrote this article on my return, not knowing that very few have fished there since. A shorter version was published in The Flyfishers Journal in 2008.

To read more details on the hijack click here

Astove Geets and Goon Bones

Like a teardrop of coral dropped into the Indian Ocean, Astove lies 200 kilometres north of Madagascar and is the smallest of the four islands that make up the Aldabra group. Getting there is tortuous but for the handful of fortunate people who fish this most southerly of the outer Seychelles islands each year it is a most extraordinary, wild, remote, exhilarating, and prolific salt water fishing destination.

I have fished in the Seychelles a number of times and so should be used to the journey but this time it was especially grim. A two hour delay at a foggy Heathrow and a short flight to Paris led to a further similar delay at Charles de Gaulle. The next leg was the usual eight hours to Mahe.   As Charles de Gaulle is notorious for eating luggage, most of those eight hours was spent drifting in and out of a nightmare; trying to imagine how I could survive for ten days with no luggage or tackle. As I stumbled, half asleep off the plane and into the tropical dawn warmth of a newly refurbished Mahe terminal, it was a great relief to get it all back. Past experience of this journey encouraged me to have a day on Mahe to recover; the idea being to start the next leg of the journey, the flight to Assumption, wide eyed and bushy tailed. However I fell into bad company in the hotel and swapped fishing tales until far too late.

The following day and clutching my bottle of water I screwed 6ft 5ins into the cigar tube that is the twin engined Beechcraft and dozed dreaming up a torture for the seat designer. Rich Americans in the 70s must have all been snake hipped 5 footers.

Assumption is a low scrub covered uninhabited island, scarred by guano extraction with 4000 ft of Russian built concrete runway which looked ridiculously narrow as we dropped out of the low cloud and came into land after a 3 hour flight. For a while we stood in the warm drizzle and listened to some depressing tales from the frustrated out going team. Whenever you read the fisherman's pornography sent out by the tour operators remember that everywhere has bad weather sometimes. There is simply no fishing destination, whatever is promised and however expensive, that can guarantee sport. We were catching the end of a tropical storm which had ruined the week before. Wet and increasingly anxious we watched them dishevelled and a little dispirited load onto the refuelled aircraft and rise into the grey skies. A quick transfer by ancient tractor and trailer down to the beach and a splashy few hundred yards through the surf and we pulled ourselves onto the 70 year old former North Sea research ship which was to be home for the next 7 nights.Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/indian-ocean-explorer-seychelles.jpg

After a very lumpy, sleepless 10 hour crossing to Cosmoledo we got ready to fish. A number of the party including the two Russians, due to their own travel horrors, had not slept for nearly 48 hours. Amazingly none of us had suffered from sea sickness but equally none had slept and the atmosphere over breakfast was subdued. The anticipation of the first day's fishing was balanced by the weather and the warnings from the guides that conditions weren't great but as the little rubber boats tore across the lagoon towards the flats the mood lifted and although tired and a little apprehensive,
Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/cosmoledo-fishing-transport.jpg as I swung my feet over the side of the Avon and onto the white sand and felt the warm tropical water on my legs I was completely revitalised. I just love flats fishing. The next 5 days were great. Not perfect conditions, in fact very difficult and frustrating ones much of the time but a joy to be back on those vast productive flats.

If you can locate the many big shoals of bonefish it can be easy to catch very large numbers but I wanted to concentrate on the bigger bonefish and giant trevally (GTs or geets to the guides). Most of the time I fished with my 9wt loaded with a medium sized brown or green crab pattern which would tempt the larger bonefish but which the smaller would ignore. I was therefore also ready for the occasional permit and trigger fish both of which would leap on a crab. The 11wt, loaded with either a 'Flashy Profile' or a 'Brush', was stuck in a trouser pocket ready for a quick draw to a free swimming GT. A large GT is quite capable of taking a small bonefish but most of the smaller GTs on the flats feed on crabs or smaller bait fish. Many of them would follow the huge stingrays that feed on the flats, sifting sand to eat crabs and shrimps, the GTs picking up the leftovers. Spotting a stingray as big as a grand piano is not difficult and gives you enough time to switch rods and cast to the passenger GTs.  I needn't have worried whether this was the right tactics as the big bonefish shoals were absent but we did find some big difficult bonefish in singles or small groups and plenty of small free swimming giant trevally up to 30lbs.Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/ten-pound-gt.jpg
Occasionally groups of 3 or 4 smaller GTs, up to 10lbs, would be present with the bonefish on the same flats and would jump on the crab before the bonefish; a real buzz on the 9wt.

Cosmoledo is vast. Ten miles by eight with four islands at its compass points it has vast expanses of sand and coral flats which surround the central lagoon. It is difficult to describe the scale of these flats; some of which are two miles wide. On a number of occasions I found that I had moved away from my two companions, concentrating hard to catch these big, fearfully spooky fish and it was easy to lose track of time. After maybe 30 or 40 minutes I would look up for the others and be aware that there was nothing but sea. As far as you could see in all directions there was nothing but sea. The small low islands that created the outer ring of the atoll morphed into the hazy blur between sea and sky. Eventually I could make out the others, pinpricks of dark in a vast flat blue green expanse. A most exhilarating feeling of remoteness.

Although we were sheltered inside the Cosmoledo atoll, the big swell outside threw crashing rollers against the reef. Slowly as the storm drifted towards Africa, the sea conditions eased and on the fifth day it was calm enough to go to Astove. That evening after dinner the big diesel engines were fired up and we got under way. We arrived just before dawn and breakfasted to a backdrop of another fabulous tropical sunrise.

Beyond the edge of the reef that surrounds Astove the water plunges to over 2000ft, a depth that offers no safe anchorage, so the mother ship drifted untethered while we fished. This lack of parking means that the chance of fishing Astove is completely weather dependant and in order to avoid too much disappointment it is not promised and indeed rarely mentioned in the sales literature but we were going to be some of the lucky few that were to get one day on paradise.  Even though the swell had reduced we had an interesting trip in as the Avon was manoeuvred between the long lines of Indian Ocean breakers delivering us, a little to dramatically for my liking, onto the jagged and razor sharp coral on the east side of the channel.

Astove in comparison to Cosmoledo is quite intimate. Three miles long and just under two miles wide, its unique feature is that the lagoon is shallow and connected to the sea at the islands southern end through a single short narrow strip of water, the Gueule Bras Channel, the width of the lower Spey. Twice a day the tide pushes in and out, a conveyor belt delivering vast amounts of food to all the waiting predatory mouths that loiter there.

Astove, technically a raised coral island, has rarely been inhabited. Its earliest settlers were shipwrecked; a common first occupation in the Seychelles. The Portuguese slave ship, Don Royal, struck the island in 1700. The crew led by their captain struck out for the African coast in an open boat, never to be seen again. The slaves were left behind and amazingly survived for 25yrs establishing what must have been the first free black republic. Eventually they were discovered and removed by another ship which was again wrecked. This time there were no survivors. I hope the slaves at least enjoyed their 25 years of freedom. The next inhabitant was a Major Stirling who's ship Tiger was shipwrecked in 1836. He kept a detailed ship's log within which he recorded the flora and fauna of the island. Between the wars guano was mined, as it was on a number of Seychelles islands, and those hardy workers had modest shelter, grew maize, introduced pigs, now feral and the ubiquitous rat. These invaders had the usual devastating affect on the local wildlife and few ground nesting seabirds survived.

The most determined attempt to live in this seemingly idyllic but extraordinarily harsh place was by an Englishman and his American wife. Their story starts on the tiny RemireIsland, one of the scattered Amirantes group. Here Mark and Wendy Veevers-Carter farmed turtles and coconut palms with their young family. Having established a tenuous but workable community the island was taken back by the newly formed Island Development Company. The Veevers-Carters then bought Astove in the late 1960s, determined to continue there island settling experiment. Here with the help of twelve Seychellois workers they grew sisal and produced copra from coconut palms. Tragically having caught a lift from a passing supply ship which took him to Mombasa in Kenya to treat an abscessed tooth, Mark died in the dentist's chair. He took the islands only radio with him for repair, which meant the tragedy went unreported to Wendy. Despite Mombasa transmitting the news, without a radio Wendy new nothing of this for months until the ship returned; soon after she and the children moved on. Their deserted and fading bungalow and a few bleached timber and stone outbuildings survive at the north end of the long western shore, known as Grand Anse. In 1970 she published 'Island Home,' an account of her family's extraordinary lives on the islands.  She now lives in America and is still writing. Their endurance, resilience and determination to create a community on this island were quite remarkable. No one other than the odd scientist has lived on Astove since and now, as part of the Aldabra Reserve, no one is ever likely to again. Perhaps that's how it was always meant to be.

Despite these doomed occupations the island is full of life, the remaining coconut palms stand tall amongst the casuarinas and milkwood scrub; mangroves proliferate around the lagoon. There are many birds, including terns and a number of waders in the lagoon but only four breeds of land birds including one, common only to the Cosmoledo group, the Abbots Sunbird. Green turtles are common and there are still a number of the large land tortoises, also found on Aldabra. The lagoon and the sea around are bulging with fish ... most predatory and hungry and very rarely fished for.

Having landed on the island the three groups of three fisherman and their guides split up; two taking a beach walk and us getting the longest straw by fishing the channel. As we walked up the eastern side, the tide started to run hard and the lagoon started to empty of its characteristic bluey white water. At the channels narrowest point we started fishing by down and across blind casting. Occasionally GTs could be seen holding in the current or flashing close to the bank as they cornered their prey. The contrast to the Cosmoledo GTs was huge. These fish lunged and chased the fly as the tide whipped it towards the bank. One of my companions, an Italian heart surgeon, hooked up first. The fish ran to the middle of the channel and with his left hand on the upper fighting grip he leant into the fish. The 12wt snapped an inch above the grip with a crack like a rifle shot and we were entertained by him playing a 20lb GT straight off the reel. As he ran down the channel chasing his fish, the third member of our team, a Belgian banker, also got hooked up and soon after so did I. One of the commonest flats predators is the lemon shark and one of the biggest I had ever seen ... maybe 12ft ... decided that my 20lb GT was looking good for breakfast. I loosened off the drag and allowed the fish to run. It swerved and twisted like a coursed hare, the line went slack, it threw the hook and escaped. In the next 90 minutes we hooked and lost fish almost continuously.Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/fishing-astove-channel.jpg

 Frantic, chaotic and huge fun.

As the tide ran out we walked across the sharp dead coral pavement that lined the channel up to the lagoon. Although many bone fish move in and out the vast majority are resident in the lagoon. They are small; a three pounder is good, difficult to catch and known by the guides as goon bones. We split up and fished the falling tide. It was very enjoyable and very challenging; bonefish are difficult to see at the best of times but these fish seemed to hover motionlessly and in the slow moving, skinny milky water were really tough to spot. However slow and diligent the search, we were often spooking fish from under our feet.  As well as the bones there were a number of small stingrays often with their own resident small GT or bluefin trevally riding on their backs. These hungry aggressive little fish would take a bonefish fly with great enthusiasm and once again, a 7lb trevally on a 9wt in 9 ins of water is hugely entertaining. Seychelles flats fishing in miniature.

After an hour or two we followed the tide back down to the channel, this time on the west side. As we waded down, sometimes subject to inspection from inquisitive lemons, we bumped into gangs of pugnacious 10 to 20lb GTs and smaller bluefins and caught several before we reached the high coral bluff at the bottom of the channel.

We lunched over slack water but soon the tide started to 'push'. Between our outcrop of sharp dead black coral and the channel edge was a flat of about 100yds wide which extended for a few hundred yards up the channel. This was a hard bumpy coral flat, made up of large chunks of coral both dead and alive, weed and small patches of white coral sand. It was like wading over builder's rubble. As the tide moved in so did the fish, in singles and small shoals; blue and green parrot fish, emperors, surgeons, sweet lips and small bluefin trevally.  The first parrot I hooked, on a shaggy shrimp pattern called a 'Will's Skettel', (well done Will - whoever you are - it's great fly) ripped off 30 yards of backing and snapped the leader round a lump a coral. The next, about 4/5 lbs I landed but I needed to replace the frayed nylon again. Next I took a matched pair of bluefin from a shoal of a dozen or so. Soon the flat was alive with foraging, tailing fish searching the cracks and crevices for crabs and shrimps. Between me and the channel small groups of big ocean going bonefish were moving in. These are bigger than the average, broader, darker backed than the usual flats loving bones. They seem to live in the deeper water offshore but come on to ocean facing flats occasionally. They are hugely strong and the two we hooked went straight back to sea very quickly. I guess they were both double figure fish.

After a hectic hour or so this little piece of coral flat was fully flooded and we were pushed back to rocks. It was now early afternoon and true to form my continental cousins wanted to swim, cool off and rest. Whilst the preferable and most satisfying way of catching big GTs is to sight cast to free swimmers on the flats, when you find yourself on the edge of a flat and the GTs are just out of range in slightly deeper water, as a last resort they can be 'teased' in . The guides carry a stout spinning outfit with a large hookless popping lure. These are cast out to over 100 yards and retrieved as fast as possible. Often a GT will chase in the popper and as it is pulled from the water they will search for something else and snatch at your fly if you can get it in the right place at the right time.

As the tide flooded the GTs returned to the channel and the deepening adjacent flats. As my two companions swam I asked our guide to try and 'tease a few in'. The first few casts brought nothing and then a group of small twenty pounders came in and I hooked, landed and released one of them.
Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/twenty-pound-giant-trevally.jpg GTs, if allowed to, fight themselves to an exhausted standstill and should be fought forcefully and quickly; they then recover quickly and swim off well. To help this we use flies tied on strong 5/0 and 6/0 Gamakatsu hooks, 120lb straight through leader (for abrasion resistance as much for strength) and large Tibors attached to 11 or 12wt Sage or Loomis rods. These fish are extraordinarily strong. Even with the drag screwed down to the point where it is difficult to hand pull line; a big GT will strip all your fly line and 30/40 yards of backing in a flash. With this setup not many fish break you and most are safely released.

The next cast brought in an enormous GT. I could see its dorsal fin ripping across the flat towards the popper and the guide standing above me on the rocks shouting 'It's a bus, it's a bus'! I now know that in the jargon filled world of the South African guides that means a very, very, very big fish. The GT ignored my fly but swam between me and the guide and passed so close to my right leg I could feel the water push against me, and then it shot off back to the channel at such a speed its dorsal fin fizzed through the water. He said it was a fish of about 130/140cm. That's about 130lbs. Wouldn't that have been fun.

Soon we needed to head back to the mother ship and the Avon gave us another white knuckle ride out through the surf. That night we headed over a calmer sea back to Assumption and after a mornings fishing on its pristine eastern beaches, we flew out back to Mahe.

I've caught more and bigger fish in a day on those prolific Seychelles flats but that day on Astove was just very special. A truly remote and harsh place; spoilt perhaps but still wild and rugged and untamed.  Fantastic, thrilling fishing and I can't wait to go back.

First Salt Water Trip

- By Graham Waterton

Many have asked me where to take their first salt water trip. I tried to answer this with an article published in the excellent Eat-Sleep-Fish ezine, no 15. Have a look.