Picky Pike!

Two sessions of Pike fishing since we last spoke – both strange for different reasons – both occasions I have been using my Loop Pike Booster with a floating 9WF line, 3 foot 30lb leader and a bizarre EP fibre monstrosity.

The First Session (overcast, warm – lasted 3 hours)

Scanning with Polaroids

Scanning with Polaroids

I spooked Pike – lots of them – I counted over a dozen – big ones – all spooked by lining them as I cast in amongst weeds, they shot off like rockets – they were not amused. I lost two Pike – I worked hard for those takes and both were unlucky. The first broke me off at the braided leader, I have no idea how this happened as I check all my connections before commencing fishing for the beasts. After tying on a new leader I then dropped my scissors into the murky depths, it then started raining.

Added Insult - Rain

Added Insult - Rain

Have you ever tried to cut 30lb mono with your teeth?

However the Gods were not against me for long as the second beast I cast to was spotted because its tail was sticking out the water – I cast towards it and there was another huge displacement of water behind my fly – “take it take it take it” I chanted as I continued the retrieve – it took and then dive bombed into some weeks taking several yards of fly line off my reel in a few seconds – it then broke free and my fly flew back in my face.

Weeds on the Loch

Weeds on the Loch

The Second Session (bright, sunny, stayed until dusk)

At least I caught two pike on this session – however this time I spooked no pike – like none at all – I have no idea where they were. I took along Paul (KAA Secretary) – he blanked for the first time this season, obviously due to the infamous curse of the first time fisher at a new spot.

Paul Reid - flailing away!

Paul Reid - flailing away!

Both Pike were fluked caught with extreme skill and knowledge – no picture of the first however it was a few pounds bigger than the second.

Acrobatics

Acrobatics

The beasts fought hard even though they are summer fish – on returning to the water they shot off like angry tigers!

A Beast!

A Beast!

At the time I decided to not go back until Autumn however maybe I am being a little quick – I am being spurred on by Scott’s excellent adventure on his secret loch.

I need to tie flies!

Cookshill Interview

Steve Cooper of Cookshill Fly Tying is “the man” when it comes to natural fly tying materials – I once telephoned him about getting some cdc, he picked up the telephone (a mobile) and said “wait a moment” BANG BANG “I am just out shooting some ducks just now”

Quality action!

A Classy Pose

A Classy Pose

I bought some deer hair off him for Comparaduns and Deer Hair Emergers – tying with his  good quality deer hair made me realise just what I had been missing – the fur was really nice to work with and made tying with deer hair almost bearable great fun.

I decided to interview Steve so over the last few months he patiently answered some sporadic questions fired at him between nappy changes.

Steve also organises the highly successful British Fly Fair which is on the 7th and 8th November in Stoke on Trent.

Is selling Fly tying materials a full time job?

Retired as a full time secondary science teacher in 2003 – now split time between Cookshill, The British Fly Fair and some supply teaching

The British Fly Fair looks like a job in itself – what exhibitors are you most looking forward to in 2009 ?

Difficult to say – we are very particular about exhibitors ( its not just a free for all ) the emphasis is on quality – the BFFI does not support a bargain bucket mentality so prevalent at other shows. All our exhibitors are fly fishing and fly tying specialists so it would be hard to single out any one set up.

 

The BFFI is a massive undertaking which relies on the efforts of my family and friends – the real heroes of the show. Also of vital importance are the fly tyers who travel from across the globe to demonstrate.

Do you see the format or itinerary of the fly fair changing over the next few years? For example, in the USA they have the AEG Film Tour which is very popular – http://www.flyfishingfilmtour.com/ Do you think this type of media could be incorporated into the fly fair?

I like the current BFFI format and will keep it similar with a few tweaks along the way.

I think the key thing is to maintain the great atmosphere.

 

No reason why something along the lines of the US media idea could not be done – as long as someone took it on board ( too high tek for me!!)

So how long have you been fishing?

Since before I can remember – my dad was a keen coarse angler and I fished from being 3 or 4. Spent all my childhood coarse fishing – caught lots of nice fish 2lb Roach, 20lb Pike, 8lb Bream etc etc.

When I was 16 my dad took up fly fishing – I followed – mainly fising the large reservoirs.

You ever fish for coarse fish on the fly?

Not deliberately – something else I need to do!

What is your favourite ? Rivers or lakes ?

Like both but fished lakes more

Now lets talk about your materials – what got you started in selling materials?

Used to tie lots of flies on a semi pro basis when I was a kid 18 +. Also did a fair bit of beating and shooting so I could get loads of pheasant tails etc . Realised what I got myself was way better than you could buy so started selling a few bits and pieces to our club where I was tying instructor. Went from there.

So where do you get most of your materials? I remember phoning you once and you were out shooting – your source most of them yourself?

Anything UK origin I source myself, from Gamedealers, game keepers, pest controllers, shooters etc. I do all the selecting, skinning, packaging etc. This gives me total quality control – hopefully resulting in a better product. I also buy in and import a few items. I do a fair bit of shooting myself and this also contributes a few bits and pieces.

I have all the dyeing custom done for me.

You must get a lot of orders – do you ship worldwide – ever get any strange requests?

Yes get all sorts of weird requests. Especially from tyers of Classic Salmon flies and North Country Spiders. Many are trying to tie flies from over 100 years ago which rely on materials from species which are now strictly protected – obviously it is not legally possible to resource such materials except from old materials collections and old taxidermy specimens. The two spider fly materials I regularly get asked for are Landrail (old name for Corncrake) and Dotterel both of which are now really rare in the UK – but were once more common and were then shot.

So do you have sources for old taxidermy specimens ?

Anywhere you can find them Ebay, Auctions, antiques fairs – usually the best finds you just stumble across.

So do you actively look for hard to get items before you are asked?

Just keep an eye open for the unusual stuff – if you find it their are always people on the waiting list.

Anything strange on your list just now?

ALL SORTS

Florican Bustard
Blue Chatterer
Quetzel
Colobus Monkey
Landrail
Swift
etc etc

Most will never be obtained unless some old collections come available

Got any final words?

Just that I think that flytyers sometimes fail to appreciate natural materials – they are all beautiful in their own right – not just something to use with careless abandon in the pursuit of catching more fish!

I have got to ask you to explain that one Steve – you mean that there is more to materials than catching fish – like the beauty of a nice feather or the softness of fur?

Correct – and they come from living things which are pretty amazing too!

Is there anything you have ever refused to supply?

Not really – as long as its legal

So there ya go – Steve can get you just about any legal fly tying feather you are after – he also puts a lot of hard work into organising the British Fly Fair.

Imagine having Steve as your teacher at school – probably one of the most enjoyable lessons going (between smoking sessions behind the PE block)

A Contemplative Man

So Sunday evening I had a big family meal – full of fajitas I decided I wanted to go and catch some fish – problem was I could not be bothered getting my shit together to catch some trout – I stringed up my Loop Pike Booster and “ahem” boosted a few hundred yards from my front door to the Forth N Clyde canal.

The Pike were not playing ball – even the perch were just chasing my fly – every now and then I would spook tiny jacks by just walking past them.

I had one hook up and that was too a cruising Pike that was just simply swimming along in plain sight – it was maybe three feet long (you measure Pike in feet not inches) and was cruising a few inches under the surface at walking speed. I walked along next to it for 20 feet and then I ran ahead – no pictures of the green submarine as my heart was pounding like a steam engine – I cast at the beast and stripped my fly past its snout – it changed direction and snapped at the fly – it was on.

Here Be Monsters

Here Be Monsters

Two things happened.

1. I thought how the hell am I going to land this beast as there was about 3 feet of vegetation between us and I was two feet above it

2. The beast jumped clean out the water – gave me a glare straight from the depths of hell and spat my fly back at me.

I walked home a contemplative man.

The last time I fished…

Bemused at lack of trout action...

Bemused at lack of trout action...

Sea Lamprey’s in the Kelvin (Sex Show)

I was given this lovely video of Sea Lamprey’s  in the Kelvin last night by Charlie Dunn - he braved the “Heebie Jeebies” to follow them and film them having sex on his mobile phone.

More info on Sea Lampreys can be found here.

This has got to be a good sign for the cleanliness of the river.

What could have been!

Thursday – hot – roasting hot – Glasgow was boiling – overcast and oppressive – Kelvin has no water so we headed to the big sister/brother The Clyde in search of some kind of evening rise – it was even hotter out that way with the added problem of there being no clouds – we cast to spooky sporadically rising trout (possibly huge) which were not interested in my huge flies – and only a couple of smaller ones were interested in my fishing buddies molecular sized flies.

Spooky Water

Spooky Water

At dusk into darkness the long slow pool came even more alive with trout – big ones too – at one point I looked down the long slow pool and could hardly count the number of rising trout – we could not work out what they were taking – we could not see anything on the surface – no spinners, duns – I suspected they were taking something just under the surface – when I tried casting a fly which sunk just under the surface the trout ignored it.

Spiked

Spiked

Finally a trout took my fly – I had put on a deer hair emerger out of sheer desperation – I spotted some nervous water and drifted my fly downstream over it – a trout nosed towards my fly causing a v and gulped it down – I set the hook– it ripped 20 yards of fly line before jumping all over the pool – when I landed it I estimated it to be around 2lb – a monster brown in anyone’s book.

More than Two Location shots mean no trout caught!

More than Two Location shots mean no trout caught!

Hang on – that story was totally fabricated – what actually happened was I had put on a deer hair emerger out of sheer desperation – I spotted some nervous water and drifted my fly downstream over it – a trout nosed towards my fly causing a v and gulped it down – I set the hook and with an almighty splash the trout was gone.

What could have been eh?

From the urban – to the not so!

It is sometimes easy to see why some people think the Kelvin is not an urban river – especially from the pictures that I post on this site. You see – there is a green corridor that cuts through Glasgow and down this passageway the Kelvin runs – the corridor has its own compliment of wild animals including its very own deer population. The whole length of the river is covered in bruises from its industrial past – a lot of the river bed is not just made up of gravel – it is made up of masonry from old mills and destroyed bridges.

Kelvin Maryhill

Kelvin Maryhill

I love walking along this green corridor – you feel as if you are doing something secret – when you see the ruined bridges and old abandoned mills it makes you think of what the river will be like in another hundred years – in fact it makes you wonder what the whole city will be like !

While fishing the river you feel as if you are doing something secret – especially if you are somewhere only an angler can get to – this is why I like to find wee spots that are not easily accessible - you are still guaranteed solitude.

To the not so Urban..

I took reader Ewen Thomson out for a trip to the Clyde on Friday night – rumours of my death from swine man flu have been greatly exaggerated  by the way.

(Ewen is a TV Director – his current show is on Sky 1 and is called “Ross Kemp in Search of Pirates” – seeing as how he faced up to pirates I reckoned he was man enough for the Kelvin however it is desperately needing rain – the last time I fished it an evening rise just did not occur)

Turned out the Clyde is in need of rainfall as well- the rocks stuck out parched like bones…

Bones of the River

Bones of the River

Still, we both managed to catch some trout on the dry fly and Ewen managed to catch his first Clyde trout within a few minutes of starting which took the pressure off things.

Ewan Thomson

Ewan Thomson

Ewen is sporting a rather nice pair of Polaroids bought using the discount code I mentioned a few posts back – I forgot to ask him what he thought of them – I found them great in the low light conditions – this section of river has treacherous wading which means a good pair of quality Polaroids are a must to see ankle breaking boulders never mind your fly on the water.

At around 11pm the wind picked up blowing sedges and upwings into our faces, hair and mouths – the trout responded for a few moments and were then gone.

Talking of sedges – they are out in force on the Kelvin – now where is my cdc and deer hair – I have a dozen sedges to tie up!

Friends of the River Kelvin – Gala Day Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxRpxwag71w

Total Respect!

I headed out with fishing buddy Alan Atkins for an evening session on Tuesday night – the conditions looked perfect: overcast, warm and flies on the water – sure the river was low however this exposed a lot of pocket water where I suspected the trout would be sitting. As it was it was strange evening – as dusk settled there was a lot more flies on the water, drowned Yellow May spinners with a lot still in the air. The rising trout peaked at around 1030 and to be honest it really was not what I would call a proper evening rise – usually when the bats are on the water you see a lot more trout rising in the slower water and they are a bit braver at taking slower moving dry flies when an hour before they would not even consider it.

Alan did two  things which deserved ultimate respect.

1. He caught a trout in poor conditions – a nice trout at that – certainly around the 3/4 pound mark – it fought like a devil and ran absolute rings round him – we had a good chortle about it and I promised not to write about or humiliate him publicly.

2. He ate a drowned Yellow May spinner – he picked it out the water and I asked him to taste it (half joking) he popped it in his mouth and “chewed” before staring off into space and said “tastes sweet” . I feel he now has a definite advantage when flies are on the water !

Still it did not give him any advantage over the next hour –  he text me today and has not mentioned anything to do with stomach cramps or hospital admissions so the pluses of eating insects are still on the positive side.

All very Zen!

Indeed!

Indeed!

JVice Review – Hot Rotary Action!

It was a couple of seasons ago that on a long trip with some pals I watched Mike (Tamanawis) scramble around looking for a piece of wood for his vice – he needed to tie some flies for the session.

mike-with-his-tying-station

There has got to be a better way of doing that I thought – especially as I had to wait until we had booked into a hotel to tie some flies (and we only did that as a cold front moved in nearly causing us to have a severe case of the “freeze to deaths”) – it turned out there was a better way, a much better way in fact – Jay Smit from South Africa had already seen the problem and put his engineering skills learned from years of dismantling all things mechanical into action and thus the JVice was born.

Jay says:

“I found that most tables and surfaces at fishing lodges often weren’t suitable to take a clamp and often in an unsuitable location. The base (of Jays vice) is designed to allow laptop tying while sitting on a deck chair preferably with an ale or whiskey close at hand…I figured that if thousands of businessmen could tote laptop computers around the world a laptop sized base would work well and fit into a standard PC laptop bag. The problem was that laptop bags are pretty pricey and often cost as much or more than the vice so I had to design a cheap bag to keep every thing together “

I emphasised the part about ale and whisky by the way – just to show Jay was getting his prioritise in the correct order – first a convenient way to tie flies, second a good way to have a drink in the sun.

A nice way to spend the time between hatches!

A nice way to spend the time between hatches!

You can tell Jay is a professional drinker engineer – designing a vice to allow his friends the ability to multitask drinking whisky and tying flies – I like this man already never mind the vice!

Yikes – I have to review a vice!

How do you review a fancy clamp for a hook anyway?  It turns out it is quite easy, you look at what you have got just now, what you would like to have, what you need it for, does it fit the purpose and will it fit your future needs?

The reason most people want a high end vice (and this is high end) is because they now want a vice that they can use for the rest of their lives – basically one vice that will tie in any situation and with a wide range of hook sizes.

Well, my own current Snowbee vice cannot clamp to the table (thanks to the wife buying from IKEA) so I needed something with a base – the JVice has one. I wanted a rotary vice that would last for several years  - Jvice fitted the bill – Jay also makes all his vices by hand on his own machine (trying getting Waldron to make you one of his) which I think is kinda snazzy. I found big Pike hooks slipped in my Snowbee so was looking for something that would hold them steady when winding those tight mono ribs against the Pikes Teeth.

You see the thing is I tie flies for Pike (bloody enormous) and for 6inch trout (ridiculously small) so I need something that is going to take a wide variety of hook sizes without any grumbling  - when I received the vice the first hook I put in it was a pike hook, no problems at all – I have also since tied up numerous tiny dries without any difficulties – so far it has coped with everything I have thrown at it.

Jay gives a lifetime guarantee with his vice – his lifetime – do you keep yourself fit? I asked him - yup, keeps himself fit and is an active  young man – I reckon the vice will wear out before he does.

I have read other reviews of this vice and it has been described as “over engineered” which is fancy talk for it is a bit clunky – personally I like clunky – it is solid and feels strong in your hand.

So what do you actually get for your cash?

First just to whet your appetite, here is a photo of the fully assembled tying station before we look at what you get in a little more detail. This was taken just the other day when I had to scramble around and tie some nymphs.

JVice Station

JVice Station

The Package (First Impressions)

Lets have a look at the vice with base and how they packs away when being transported:

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The vice comes packed in a laptop style case (the one Jay designed) – the vice is attached to the base using a unique locking mechanism (more on that later) – Jay recommends placing the wastebasket underneath the vice to protect the wood.  Also included is  some bubble wrap for its travel from South Africa which you can probably discard – I kept it and still use it for some extra padding.

Packed inside was the JVise with oak base/pedastel, extension arm, material waste basket and gallows tool.

The case also has extra places to store tying tools. Up until now I kept my tools in my orvis materials bag – now what I do is keep them all in the JVice case – I have also found there is enough space to keep some materials packed away in their too. This is great as I may only want to keep a few materials handy as I need to tie a lot of flies of the same general pattern over the space of a few days in short bursts (during baby sleeps for example) – say a dozen comparaduns and Deer Hair Emergers – in the case I can keep deer hair, dubbing, hooks, tail fibres together and easily transport or tidy away the gear at the end of a tying session. In practical terms, for example marital family relations, it means one small case can be kept in the kitchen for a lightening quick half hour of tying during some girly soap fun.

Interestingly, I have noticed that I can keep the vice and base set up on my kitchen table for approx 1 week before I get asked to “tidy that damn stuff away”

Impressive!

The Jaws

Ok – the serious stuff – the jaws – the jaws are operated by two mechanisms – a knob on the side of the jaws to adjust for size and a lever to open and close them on the hook. There are two small pockets to secure larger hooks – I banged a size 6 prototype Pike Popper in that baby and it did not budge a millimeter. Jay says the jaws can take a size 6/0 to 22 and I believe him – I got down to a size 18 without any problems.

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A note on the hook pockets – I have never seen these on vices before however I found them great when tying up big pike flies – it means that the hook does not slip at all in the vice – the picture below shows a size 4/0 pike hook in the pocket nearest the tip of the jaw (essentially to show that bigger flies can be tied just as easy..)

Hook Pockets are the biz!

Hook Pockets are the biz!

Of course I do not need to tell you this vice is rotary!

Rotary tying is particularly useful when dubbing as you can turn the jaw system thus positioning the dubbing much more accurately around all the fly – makes for a neater fly (to be fair the fish probably do not mind however it certainly is satisfying). Dubbing is just one use of a rotary tying vice – the many benefits are beyond the scope of this review.

The Base

The Base - sturdy and with four wee feet that do not slide!

The Base - sturdy and with four wee feet that do not slide!

The JVice is supplied with an oak wood tying station which doubles as a pedestal base. It rests on four silicone feet and measures in at a cool 14.5″ x 10.25″ – there is absolutely no slippage when tying flies.

As you can see there is plenty of wee dockets to place your materials, hooks and tools when not in use.

The drilled holes for the tools were nice and clean however the larger recesses felt a little rough at the bottom – A bit of time spent with sandpaper would sort this out – saying that, I can see how difficult it must be to actually make these recesses and I would say in the grand scheme of things it means very little considering you are receiving a hand made product.

Yea sure – I have read in magazines that you could use a wooden chopping board and carry that around with you however have you ever actually felt the weight of a chopping board – they are very heavy. Also chopping boards have the tendancy to be flat with no edge meaning your materials will roll or get blown off.

The Locking Mechanism

The locking mechanism is pretty important as it is the main way the vice attached to the base in the various positions.

The vice arrives locked on to the base using the wee cam lever – this lever is the main way you attach the vice to the base in the two different positions – lap fly tying and table top tying.

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The cam lever is a great wee widget – I was worried that there might be some slip in the mechanism however the vice is as steady as a rock no matter what position you are tying in.

Table Top or Laptop?

An extension arm is used to attach the vice to the front of the base. This means the vice height can be adjusted for table top tying . .

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As explained you have two options – table top mode or laptop mode – you use the cam lever fix the vice in whatever position you want. You can also tilt the vice using the extension arm – this may give you a little more room when tying small fiddly flies.

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To be fair though you can use the vice on the table in laptop mode without any difficulties – this is what I do as my new kitchen table is round with a very thick edge.

The vice also comes with a waste basket – this can be fixed on to the vice easily using a thumbscrew.

waste-basket

Waste Basket

The waste basket can really only be used when in table top mode – I guess the thinking is that your materials will just fall on the base (or get blown away in the wind) – being the stingy type I like the waste basket as I can then keep any stray bits of “stuff” for dubbing other flies.  You can of course position the basket underneath any table you are working on which keeps things nice and neat – like this..

Photo courtesy of JVice

Photo courtesy of JVice

My table top is especially high and thick making this impossible so another way of tying is to have the vice in laptop style with the waste basket away to the side – sure it will not catch falling debris however you can still drop stray deer hair instead of messing up your workspace – the wife likes this!

Extra Thingamyjigs

You also get a handy very simple gallows tool and a bobbin rest – they are both functional and do the job.  You can of course buy the parts individually at a very reasonable cost!

There are several addons that do not come as standard – for example midge jaws – I suppose at some point in the future I will want to tie flies that are truly microscopic so they will be particularly handy.  I also like Jay’s salt water streamer attachment – it holds tail fibres in place to add epoxy – that should do the trick with those enormous pike flies that I have so much difficulty with – I will get my hands on these at some point in the future and add to this review.

With any top end vice you think about what you might tie in the future as well as what you tie just now – for me the Jvice ticks all the boxes.

Conclusion

I suppose I had better say something else other than I love it!

The construction and the quality of the vice are excellent –  like I say I have heard this vice described as “over engineered” – I think it is made to last a life time. The jaws and adjustment screws are designed and machined to a high standard and I can’t imagine them wearing out.

How does the vice actually look? well lets just say…

No Lasso of Truth Required!

No Lasso of Truth Required!

I have not tested the C Clamp so cannot comment on it however if it is anything like the actual vice then you will have nothing to worry about.

You can only buy the vice direct from Jay in South Africa.

At the time of writing June 2009 the costs are:

Standard Package (Vice + oak base, waste basket, material springs x 2, gallows, bobbin cradle and carry bag) £220
or Standard package + Midge Jaws + (Old Style) C Clamp £275
or Standard package + Midge Jaws + (New Style) C Clamp £299

Exchange rates being what they are it might be best to check with Jay)

These prices might seem expensive however if you are thinking of buying a high end vice you have probably already shelled out a couple of hundred on a rod. The price puts it in the same league as a Waldron however I doubt you will get him to make you one at that price -  Jay is making this himself in his workshop especially for you. You can contact him with any special requirements and he will do his best to accommodate you.

Long term readers will be aware of a recent life changing event which means I get to stay home a lot more – staying at home when the boy is napping has never been so much fun – and my fly box has never been so full – another boon is that the whole set up is compact and plain old sexy looking which means my better half does not mind it taking up space fully set up and ready to tie.

Tying flies on this vice is a pleasure – I have never looked forward to winter tying so much as I am now!

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