The Ugly Duckling..

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The Ugly Duckling..

Post by Johnno » Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:32 am

Back in about 1982, when I was a (more than) slightly miscreant idiot 18 year old, I was constantly fishing my local, the South Branch of the Waimak.

I did that a lot, parked up by the road bridge overnight in the Triumph Herald (DB5743 - some things you just don't forget) to catch the morning beetle fall. Back then, it was a river (like most Canterbury rivers) worth fishing; no motorway overpasses nearby, no golf courses at the top end, a wild overgrown place between Belfast and the Groynes where a few of us (more than) slightly miscreant Cantab apprentice fishers honed our craft on a fairly good number of sometimes pretty decent trout. The only thing surrounding the river was sheep and rabbits. Below the bridge the freezing works outfall poured all sorts of crap into the lower river...

I've had a soft spot for small streams ever since.

To name but a few of the river's prime locations - The bridge pool, the Barn Pool, the Riffly Riffle, the Dope Plot (a great backwater where we made a pretty interesting discovery...), the Blackberry Run, the Fenceline, the Wild Cat Pool, Willows, the Ugly Duckling run.....

They were our names. It was Our Place. It was my fly fishing roots from the mid 1970's to the mid 80's when I started to grow up and moved away.

Fibreglass Trent and Kilwell rods, Berkley reels, Cortland 444's and Maxima mono were our tools of choice. Partridge, Sprite and Mustad hooks were dressed with natural fur and feather. Not a synthetic in sight. No beads, no foam, no genetic rooster hackle. Latex was the caddis body material of choice. And we caught a shit load of fish. And kept most of them.

The Ugly Duckling run got it's name from the fly below. I was fishing the riffle below this particular run one day with a mate who'd taken something he really shouldn't have. He was all over the place and I was essentially a baby sitter looking after this idiot hallucinating like crazy. Anyways, there was this terrific splashing and squeaking going on a little ways upstream. He thought it was a taniwha or something and went and hid under the blackberry...

I went and checked it out and found this duckling splashing and squeaking away on the other side of the river. Caught up on something. The mum was frantic upstream aways, squawking and quacking as they do, completely ruining the run. I waded over, my neoprene waistie waders (just the thing back then) getting shipped to the brim in the process. I got a hold of the duckling to find it was hooked in the beak by this fly. I couldn't get the fly out without mashing down the barb, which I did. ( fairly radical thing to do back then) I let the poor thing go and it took off up to Mum and they both took off upstream.

I have always wondered what ever happened to the duckling. I like to think it made it. And my mate for that matter; he drifted off on his own way over the proceeding months and we lost contact. I last heard of him in the later eighties. He'd made a bit of a dick of himself at the Glastonbury Festival apparently.

Anyway this is that fly. The Ugly Duckling. God knows who made it. Or why. But I kept it and thinking it was some sort of talisman made a few copies but never caught a damn thing with them.

But the original is the second most precious fly I have after the fly that caught me my first trout.

It's a reminder of the old days, the good days, the best days.


Andy W
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Re: The Ugly Duckling..

Post by Andy W » Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:25 am

Great tale - agree ugly fly.

I was in the bottom of the south branch last night - no rises at all but at least the flow is clear now that the sewerage works are gone. Buried under the Western Belfast bypass.

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fraser hocks
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Re: The Ugly Duckling..

Post by fraser hocks » Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:07 am

Great story Johnno. Ain't old fishing trip stories the best?

Bucking trends in fly fishing since 1970!

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Re: The Ugly Duckling..

Post by Jaapie » Tue Dec 19, 2017 1:00 pm

Great story mate.

I've been fishing some of these rivers and waterways and seen a dramatic decline in so many areas.
Those 'good old days' are definitely something to remember and relish.

Looking at that fly, it's amazing it caught a duckling.........never mind anything else at all.
Any idea what it's meant to be?

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Re: The Ugly Duckling..

Post by Johnno » Wed Dec 20, 2017 6:28 pm

Who knows? .....

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Re: The Ugly Duckling..

Post by Maniototoflyfisher » Thu Dec 21, 2017 5:53 pm

Only the person who tied it may know - or maybe not - probably a new fly tier happy to use one of his/her creations.

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Re: The Ugly Duckling..

Post by Southshore » Sun Sep 23, 2018 6:49 pm

I fished the South Branch many times, especially upstream towards the mill. When I last visited ChCh I went out to the Japanese Golf resort and was shocked at where this delightful little stream had gone. Another place I fished was just above the boy scouts camp, light gear with a #16 dads favourite for those fat little one pounders with lovely gold rosettes on their flanks. The water wasn't deeper than a few inches. I remember the yuk that used to go into the stream just up from the junction and opposite there in the Waimak I caught lots of searun browns on a dorothy lure. I fear that this stream will eventually disappear into the black hole of development and I will miss the blackberries rabbits and good fish that used to live there. Long time ago I penned a little poem in the now defunct NZ flyfishing mag called "Tomorrow" it summed up the destruction that is now happening.

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