Steve Parton: Northampton Style part 3

Basic Northampton Style

Firstly you need a rudder which you clamp to the boat next to the outboard. If you are too mean to buy my book and make your own I will sell you one! It needs to be a couple of feet square, long enough in the shaft to fit underneath the keel of whatever boat you are using, removable from the water between drifts, and settable so that you can steer the boat downwind.

In very heavy winds you also need a 1.5 square metre drogue which you affix to the stern to set the boat nose down the wind and slow it down.

Secondly you need the right rods - capable at the least, of casting a selection of 33' shooting heads made up with a logical range of sinking lines and I suggest you use nothing lighter than a 10# because you are casting into the wind all day.

I carry:

  • a 10'  9#-11# General for Floater, Intermediate, Medium, Fast and Ultrafast Tungsten conventionally-made Shooting Heads
  • a 10'  11#-13# Imperator for Ultrafast and Leadcored Shooting Heads
  • a 10'   13#-15# Beastmaster for Heavy Leadcored Heads and the use of continuous Leadcored Lines to 75 metres long.

My Shooting Head conventionals are all made from Shakespeare's nice cheap graduated sinkers: Olive Slow, Brown Medium, Blue Quick, Green Quicker, and Dirty Olive Tungsten.

Cortland 13 grains a foot leadline is the right stuff for both shooting heads and continuous lines. On continuous lines all you do is dob them with a Magic Marker or Spirit based pen every 10 yards - that's quite accurate enough in the real world!

For reels I use all sorts of elderly wide drummed stuff I've accumulated over the years but the best cheap modern one for the job is the Shakespeare 2756 4' Plastic Graflite which costs around £20! For continuous Leadcore the Rimfly 140D Magnum is dead right.

If you will take sensible modern advice you will buy the shortcut we never had - a decent Echo Sounder like a Garmin 160.

Getting Started

Forget trolling - life's too short and we can all afford motors on the boats these days (which we couldn't 30 years ago!). Motor the boat to the top of the drift and bring it round until the bow is pointing down the wind - cut the motor and put in the rudder.

Next make sure that the boat is in approximate balance about the keel line - if it isn't it won't steer too well, if at all.

You need two planks that will fit across the thwarts so you can sit down if you feel like it – although most of the Northampton Style fishing I have done I have done from a standing position (unless the fish were following the fly right up behind the back of the boat before having hold of it.)  Sit the steersman at the back of the boat so he can use the rudder and sit the other partner about halfway down the boat - not at the bow end.

Putting both of you towards the stern digs the stern in and makes the boat easier to steer and a bit more stable - apart from which you don't have to shout to each other in anything of a wind and it is a good idea if you don't shout anyway since other folks can hear what you're up to too easily because sound travels a very long way over water!

Now you start the experimental part of the day. My pals and me always fish with identical setups in terms of shooting heads and backing nylons and this is critical to success because if one of you starts hitting takers the other one can get straight onto them at identical depth and retrieve speeds.

And don't forget to alter the speed of the boat, the more rudder on the slower it goes; speed control of the boat is critical to success, too fast and the gear won't get down, too slow and you won't be covering the water.

Classic Northampton Swing Style

When I started with Northampton Style at Grafham the drill was to whack out a medium speed sinker as far as possible and hold onto it as it sank slowly down and swung behind the boat. It worked well with rainbows running fairly shallow say as deep as 10 feet but it wasn't nearly as effective as it might have been a lot of the time because it just wasn't accurate enough and the fly wasn't at killing depth for long enough by far!

Fun enough on its day but fairly boring when not - and Dick was well enough known to improve its basic effectiveness by using two or three extra rods with different rated sinkers on at much the same time.

I once saw Jim Shrive (Dick's son) and a very famous fly fisherman come past me with, if memory serves, 7 outfits in the water simultaneously. And it was 4pm and they hadn't had a snifter. I was about bagged up and they told me that fishing a popped and chugged surface muddler was cheating!

To be continued...

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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