John Horsey Fly Fishing Web Log

John's Fishing Blog

Cayman Islands Magic!

I have just returned from a week in the Cayman Islands - and what a week it was!

Little Cayman was our venue and the Southern Cross Club our destination resort.  The web site images gave the impression of a paradise type resort and they were not misleading.  I went with Martin Founds of Anglers World Holidays and a group of 6 anglers from the UK.  We were fishing and filming for a Sky TV programme.

Our target species were bonefish, permit and tarpon - the much sought-after "grand slam" of saltwater fly fishing.  Our bungalow looked out onto the flats inside the reef, which was literally a fly cast from the water.  Little Cayman boasts several miles of flats along it's Southern and Northern shores - narrow and easily wadable.  It soon became apparent that diversity of species is one of Little Cayman's attributes and most of the anglers were soon into fish.

I have fished for bones in several parts of the World, but targetting the Little Cayman bonefish was going to be tricky.  Most of my flies were far too large and heavy - there is a mass of rich turtle grass surrounding the island and the bones etc graze over it constantly.  Any heavy flies disappear down into the turtle grass, making weed guards a necessity.  Something else I had to contend with while out there!  Lightweight shrimp patterns cast slightly ahead of the bones was the trick - lighter leaders than usual and soft casting also pre-requisites to success.

We all caught a multitude of species on the fly, but lost some BIG fish in the process.  All numbers of Jacks took Clousers readilly, as did the odd Bonefish.  Pompano, Snapper, Rainbow Runners and even Box Fish ate the fly.  Of course, the annoying small Barracuda kept biting off our offerings, but none of us minded catching the bigger Cuda's.

Tarpon Lake is a truly unique feature on Little Cayman and was previously a red Mangrove Swamp before the devastating Hurricane Gilbert hit in 1989, tearing down all the trees and causing seawater to flood into the swamp - along with a load of Tarpon!  Now the Tarpon have bred and grow well in the brackish water, providing fantastic sport for the fly angling visitors to the Island.

In my morning session, I jumped 6 tarpon, landing just 2 - but as these were my first landed Tarpon, I was very pleased.  These fish are only "babies" but they gave me an idea of how a really big Tarpon would fight.

That was now my main aim - to get one of the huge tarpon which we regularly saw on the flats.  One morning, there was a significant disturbance on the surface as Tarpon were hitting bait fish.  I tackled up with a 9' #9 Hardy Proaxis rod and new Hardy Ultralite Saltwater Reel, kindly rigged and loaded with 80lb shock tippet by my good friend Howard Croston (who has landed several tarpon over 100lbs).  First cast I strip-struck several times into a big fish that was in the 100lb mould - it jumped and jumped, stripping off yards of line and backing in the process.  Then it jumped off!  I was destraught.

Still, Howard reckons that the catch rate is about 1 in 6 for tarpon, so I set about looking for another fish to target.  I did'nt have to wait long and soon I was into another.  Not as big as the first, but still bigger than any freshwater fish I had ever hooked!  It again jumped and jumped - ran in all directions and I battled hard against it's every move to try to throw it off balance as Howard had told me.  It worked and before long I had my fish - we estimated it at about 40lbs plus.

All this has been recorded on film, so when it is editted, I will put some snippets on the Web Site.

The Permit, alas, were still out past the reef in the deeper water and did not put in an appearance - still, I'll have to wait until next time to cast at one of those!

In the meantime, here are a few pics.

View from my bedroom
Nice little bonefish
Baby Tarpon from Tarpon Lake

Litton on form for Winter fishing

The start of my Winter guiding kicked off in great style at Litton when Chris Huston and I had some cracking sport.

This was Chris' first ever time fly fishing for trout from a boat, but he took to it really well and boated 9 fish.  Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Chris had boat fished using lures and baits, but never fly.  In fact, it was only his 4th time ever fly fishing for trout, so that made the day even more memorable.

Both Lower and Upper Litton are now completely full and actually overflowing.  The water is gin clear and most of the weedsbeds have died-off.  The morning session was great with nymphs on floating lines - gold headed nymphs were not even required.  Diawl Bach Nymphs and Crunchers took the majority of fish.

The afternoon was even better and as there was the odd fish rising, we decided to switch to dries - admittedly more out of hope than expectation.  I was amazed that we had 3 fish in 4 casts to twitched dries - the good old Hopper being the best pattern.

What a day - and if you fancy a day out on Litton - just drop me an email.

Chris playing a Litton rainbow
A fin perfect Litton rainbow trout
Chris Huston's first boat caught rainbow trout

Join me for some Winter Fly Fishing

Now that Chew and Blagdon are closed for boat fishing until next March, where can you go to enjoy a bit of guided Winter fly fishing?
Well, I have 3 main suggestions:-

The River Test for Grayling

Each Winter I frequently host guided fly fishing days on the River Test for Grayling.  There are several beats on England's most famous chalk stream that I utilise to teach people how to fish rivers.

You might have heard about the terms "Czech Nymphing" and "Bugging", so why not take this opportunity for some 1-to-1 tuition in how to practice these, and other, methods?  I also cater for small parties, depending on how many rods are allowed on any given beat.

Quite often, when the sun shines on warmer Winter days, a hatch of olives will promote some cracking rising fish.  Grayling can provide brilliant sport on the dry fly and do not always require a nymph to tempt them!

If you don't possess any river tackle then help is at hand.  I will provide all tackle FOC and also some flies.  Waders are not required as most beats on the River Test do not allow wading at this time of the year.

Litton Trout Lakes near Bristol

The beautiful Litton Lakes complex is owned by Bristol Water and for many years was only fished by the directors of the Company.  Now, both lakes are open to the public and I regularly host small Corporate Days and other bookings here. 

Upper Litton was constructed in the late 1800's and is totally surrounded by trees.  Access by boat is the only effec tive way of fishing.

Lower Litton is a shallow lake and features the intimate Fishing Lodge, which is constructed on wooden stilts and stands above the water.

Both lakes are regularly stocked with home-reared rainbow and brown trout - the best my clients have caught and released was in excess of 8lbs.  The limit bag is 5 fish per person and catch & release can be practiced on both lakes.

Farmoor Reservoir

If it is reservoir fishing that floats your boat, then farmoor Reservoir near Oxford is the only such venue that remains open all through the Winter months.

Each year I visit Farmoor and the quality of the rainbow trout here is fantastic.  Boat fishing tactics normally feature floating lines and nymphs on even the coldest of days and if we are lucky to get a mild spell, then I would expect some rising fish.  The latest I fished dry flies here was the last week in November - which is pretty extraordinary!

Farmoor is also a great place to practice your sinking line techniques in readiness for the new season.

The boats are well equipped and you can fish either on the drift or at anchor.

I will supply all boat seats and any tackle that may be required.

Simply drop me an email via the "Contact" page on this WebSite to make a booking .....

A cracking River Test Grayling
Upper Litton
Lower Litton

Pike Trials finish with a BANG!

Well the Chew Pike Boat Trials are over for another year and as usual, they produced plenty of 30's and loads of 20's.

The final 6 day session was dominated by bait anglers, but a 36lb 5oz cracker couldnt resist a lure - sadly it wasnt one of mine!  I fished the final 2 days with Ian Gregg, Stuart Clough and Keith Hendry.  We fished lures on the drift but to no avail.  So we anchored and fished static baits and wobbled smelt.  Over the 2 days, we had 10 pike - 6 to the wobbled baits and the other 4 to static deads.

Ian had 3 mid doubles, with Keith a 16 pounder and Stuart Clough a superb 25lb 8oz esox.  I only had 2 fish but one weighed 27lbs and became my biggest of the Autumn Pike Trials.

The other weighed 8lbs and what made it interesting was that it had one of my Tags in it's dorsal fin - put there the previous day when Ian Gregg caught it about 100 yards away!   That makes it 660 pike to my guided boat sessions since opening day in March 2010.

Guiding on Litton during the Winter.

Now that the 2011 season is over on Chew and Blagdon, I am still available to guide on Litton lakes - just 10 minutes drive from Chew.

There are 2 reservoirs at Litton with boats on each and a superb Fishing Lodge to cook up some warm food on a cold day. 

Stuart Clough's 25.08 taken at dusk
My biggest pike of the Trials at 27lbs
What happens when a fit and fully recovered 27lb pike wants to go!

Chew's record Brownie

Chew Valley's brown trout record has been well and truly smashed by the capture of a 22lb 7oz monster.  Believed to be the biggest grown-on brown trout from any reservoir in the UK, this fantastic specimen was returned unharmed to the water.

The potential record fish was caught after the 15th October; a time when all brown trout must be released by law.  It was banked by pike angler Justin Harrington on a deadbait during the 3rd session of Chew Valley Pike Trials from the North Shore.

The pictures show it to be in absolute fin perfect condition and apparently it fought well, but went back well after recovering.

We always thought that the Chew brownies might be capable of such sizes, particularly in recent years when so many big browns have been landed.  I am sure that these leviathans are Ferox Trout that change their eating habits to that of live and dead fish - there are certainly plenty of roach and perch for them to feed upon.

Last season I had an 11lb Brown Trout which would not recover as I tried in vain to release it.  It was an old fish, but I wanted to return it.  Alas, it went belly-up, so I took it to the local smoke house where we discovered it had 6 small roach in it's system - all in differing stages of digestion.

So perhaps we have a new species to target on Chew Valley - the Chew Valley Ferox!   Who knows, they might be feeding on the Chew pike!?!

Justin Harrington's 22.07 Chew Brownie
Justin Harrington's 22.07 Chew Brownie

Big girls feed on 3rd week of Chew Pike Trials

Wayne Adcock had a day to remember on the Annual Chew Pike Competition held on the 1st day of the 3rd session of Pike Trials.  Wayne drew top predator angler Neville Fickling and landed fish of 33lbs, 27lbs and 29lbs, plus a couple of doubles for good measure!  Adcock's total weight was over 100lbs and easily took the trophy.
Deadbaits at anchor was the winning method and 2nd placed Martin Harrison also fished deads to take 5 doubles for almost 70lbs.

I was drawn with top lure angler Bob Jones and we were really excited as the winds were low and the air temperatures comfortably warm - some pike were even showing on the surface as they targetted the roach - we were very confident that this would be a day for the lures.  How wrong we were!

After 15 minutes I had a good hit and landed a 7 .08 fish, soon followed by a couple of jacks for Bob and I in quick succession.  Then it was a case of sit back and watch the deadbait anglers heaving in pike after pike.  Returning to the Dam, I had a 10.08 fish and expected things to start happening for us - but they didn't.

Bob and I persevered however and at last knockings, I managed a 25.08 beast off Moreton point - a gnarly old campaigner which was blind in one eye!

3 twenties on baits!

Although I have supreme confidence fishing lures for pike on Chew in virtually any conditions, there are times when I stick the anchor down and watch the floats.  To me, fishing deads lacks any interaction and apart from twitching them along the bottom from time to time, you are literally at the mercy of the pike and cannot make things happen as you can fishing lures or flies.  Still, each to their own I suppose.

On this particular day, I was fishing with Barry Hawyes, who this time last year, lost the biggest pike I have ever seen on Chew Valley - right at the net - in fact, 2/3's of it's body was over the net before it slunk off into the depths!  Barry has never been the same since!

As it was cold and windy, we drifted with lures for a few hours and Barry had a couple of jacks.  Lunchtime came, so we anchored-up and stuck out 3 baits while Barry continued to fish the lures.  Within 10 minutes, he had missed a take and landed a 7lb fish.

The boat near to us had a decent fish, so we felt we too were in with a chance.  Sure enough, Barry's float started to move, so he wound down and struck into a solid fish.  After a decent fight, we got the fish into the net, just as my bait runner screamed off.  I struck into another good fish and to cut a long story short, we had 2 fish in the same net weighing 47lbs!

Barry's fish was 20lbs 8ozs and mine was 26lbs 8ozs.  Thankfully both were lightly hooked and went back quickly after a couple of pics - the rigs however were a different story and needed completely replacing.

We went off on the drift for the rest of the afternoon but returned for last knockings, where I managed another cracking fish of 24.08, while Barry had a jack and lost another biggie. 

So far, my guests and I have had 13 pike over 20lbs to my boat during the Trials and the last session begins on Friday.  Normally, the number of pike caught drops, but historically, there are even bigger fish landed - I've not had a 30 this season, so lets hope it will come next week - or perhaps even a 40 ..........


John with 25.08 lure caught pike
Barry Hawyes with 20.08 on deadbait
John with 26.08 taken on a dead

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