Steve Parton: Northampton Style part 1

As near as I can figure Northampton Style Boat Fishing came into being from 1968 and developed over the next decade. Its devisor was Dick Shrive - maybe the most creative stillwater boat fly fisherman there has ever been and certainly far and away the most devious!

There is no doubt in my mind that the impulsion in development of the style came about from Dick's long involvement with illegal trolling. As a young rascal I had my very first trip out in a boat at Grafham with one of his close associates - it was a misty morning and the nice man had a couple of lines in the water as we rowed away from the lodge as soon as we were out of sight of the jetty - my very first lesson in coarse trout fishing as it were and there were others during the day! I was shown the drill (which I later refined) that he had been taught by Dick. Frankly I fished at Grafham for a number of years thereafter and never once rowed back up the wind without trolling illegally - all the regulars did - probably without exception. Some days we caught all the fish that way and some days we never had a snifter!

When Rutland opened we went over to using motorboats and the illegal trolling business (which was largely to give us something to do as we rowed laboriously back up the wind) stopped. Apart from which I had taken serious thought about the matter and concluded that it was a foolish and antisocial aspect of flyfishing that was better off done without. I personally haven't trolled legally or illegally for about 28 years - it was very boring it has to be said though!

Because I wasn't part of the inner circle I only got shown leeboarding that first day. A simple technique involving sticking a seat board down into the water at the bow end and then fixing it to the thwarts with a G cramp. It had the effect of making the boat track rapidly across the wind at around a 45-degree angle just like a keelboard on a yacht. Dick got the idea from his job which was as a modelmaker - he had made models of Dutch and Canal Sailing Barges and both craft used side keels (called leeboards) to extend reaches between tacks.

They basically fished by casting a WetCel2 shooting head at right angles to the track and then to holding on as the line sank and was swung round behind the boat - only retrieving when he felt it had sunk about as far as it was going to. We didn't get that many fish all day.

I distinctly recall him being startled by the fact that I was able to cast a leadcored shooting head and fish it.

The year previous at Draycote, I'd read that Bob Church and Dick's son Jim had had a bonanza on deep lying Browns with leadcore but they had fished it by lowering the gear down behind the line of travel and just hanging on to it. (And I wonder just how much trolling they'd done as well!) I'd spent much of the following year casting leadcored heads at anchor at Draycote - easy enough it was when I'd found a blank that was up to the job - the blank in question being the old Northwestern FR11 glassfibre carp blank set up as a heavy fly rod.

Not difficult, but in the year I'd acquired an echo sounder and a stopwatch and had taken to accurately anchoring my boats on the top of the Draycote Shoals and fishing up the slopes as it were. The stopwatch was the key to it because without it I inevitably lost the fine edge of the countdown and as I found out in very short order - they won't have it with weed and muddy bits of rotted straw attached!  Big singles and tandems were the order of the day nothing very complicated - black or white worked depending on the day or the time of year - and a silver body helped sometimes.

And one wicked little trick with leeboards I got shown has to be told – in those days the nice man was banned from International competitions because he was a  'PROFESSIONAL' and he was vaguely pissed off by it! - So when at 10 am a line of boats formed (they did that in those days for a Le Mans sort of start) he quietly motored up about 50 yards in front of the line and set us going nicely with the leeboard - in the next half hour every single boat in the match had to stop fishing and back out of our way as we cruised across the front of them - and the whole lot thought it was their fault - except it wasn't, and my how we did laugh! It was in fact Dick's idea and I subsequently saw him use it a number of times to good effect before they banned the leeboard a few years later!

I fished out the rest of that season at Draycote, Pitsford and Eyebrook mainly leadlining off the leeboard or anchor leadlining in the day and buzzering over the front of an evening. Great fun and occasionally rather profitable in terms of numbers of fish caught but the real education started the season afterwards by which time I had met and arranged assorted fishings with Nottingham locals much the same age as myself.

Steve Parton needs no introduction to the UK readers. Midlands reservoir angler, obsessional float tuber, author and "in the trade", Steve owns Sparton Fishing Tackle (drop by for a visit!) and is well known in the UK for his in-depth flyfishing knowledge.

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