I’ve always felt that the “take” is what keeps true fly fishers coming back to the water. For me the fight, although exciting, is a worrying and stressful business and I can’t wait to get the fish to hand so that I can start over again and experience that exquisite moment when you know you’ve fooled the fish. Which is perhaps for the best, since my first proper outing this season was a catalogue of fluffed chances, which I put down to the enforced lay off caused by the weather and domestic duties. I don’t know about you, but a bad day always has me impatient to get back on the river to prove to myself I can still do it.
As I tackled up in the Locked Bridge Car Park, my eye was drawn to a quiet rise in a sheltered little eddy just below the tree on the true right bank. I was chatting to Tim O’Connor as he also made ready, keeping the fish in my sights all the while. It continued to rise in a most leisurely manner, looking like it might be taking midges rather than the Olives, which, although hatching, were taking to the wing rapidly in the breezy conditions. I’m afraid Tim stood no chance against my speed-tackling and I was soon addressing the fish while Tim struggled to retrieve his leader, which looked like it had blown underneath his car. The fish was between the bank and the fast run, in relatively quiet water. It kept rising, but in a slightly different place each time, making fly placement problematical. I had on one of Crofty’s little midge patterns which he’d shown us at the recent Fly Tying Day. A rogue gust dropped my fly on the crease of the faster water and it was taken immediately. A modest fish, but not, I think, the fellow I’d been after. He was now long gone following the disturbance.
I proceeded upstream, now plying an Olive Klinkhamer which was easier to see in the ruffled water. Keeper Moores arrived at this juncture and after he’d rescued Tim’s leader, he came down to the water’s edge to say hello. This momentary distraction left me unsighted and when I looked back, the KLink had gone. I struck anyway and disbelievingly felt the pull of a fish. Another modest brownie which had taken the fly well down. I should have noted this and remembered to give the next few fish plenty of time to turn down. As it was, I missed several offers by striking too soon. One really good fish did connect, a rainbow of 3lbs or so. It porpoised up to the neck of the pool and got under one of those tufa rocks with inevitable consequences.
I made it up to the Stones by mid afternoon, but the wind was increasing steadily to the point where I could barely keep the line on the water. A cup of tea seemed in order, so I trudged back to the hut to put the kettle on. Ron Lacey was there, having had the same idea after a good morning on Beat 8. It was also good to see Tom Richardson there, helping Chris on his rounds. We had a good natter about old times and the rather unorthodox keepering methods of Tom’s predecessor, Raymond Lupton. A glance out of the window revealed a bending rod and Steve Rhodes into a good rainbow he’d fooled with a Pheasant Tail Nymph just below the Bridge. It seems to me that most of the better catches have come to the nymph fishers during the past week or two. The dull, still showery conditions beloved of Upwings seem to have been absent this Spring and the water has been dropping steadily until it is now at summer level and gin clear. In these conditions bright silver and gold beads are best avoided, the fish seeming to find copper or black more acceptable. Or you could take Oliver Edwards’ advice and bury the beads entirely under the thorax.
Andy Middleton had a good fish in the same pool recently. Unfortunately it didn’t count as it took his bite indicator instead of the fly! Andy struck involuntarily and hooked it in the outside of its jaw. It was between 4 & 5lbs. Talking of good fish, that ace fish-taker Ron Lacey had a brace from Duffers recently, jointly weighing in at 6lbs.
Peter Hayes found the fish willing to take a small fly he has christened the ‘ooky Rat, for reasons which will no doubt be explained in his forthcoming book. It sounds similar to the innominate fly given to me by Gary Hyde last year – a curved shank hook, lapped in black or olive-brown thread, a small spiky thorax of brown rat fur and a single plume of CDC. This had done very well for Peter on the Usk and gave him 15 on the same windy day that had frustrated me. He also made contact, albeit briefly, with the resident whopper in Duffers – on a black bead head Itchen Nymph.
Steve has been conducting his invertebrate surveys recently and I’m attaching his Riverfly Partnership Reports for those who take an interest in these matters. Do not be concerned about the low numbers of some of the species such as the Mayfly and BWO. The former are buried deep in the substrate at this time of year and the latter are so tiny at the moment that they evade detection.
One very pleasing report came from Peter Radford, who witnessed a short but intense hatch of Grannom on Beat 8. I’ve seen odd cohorts down there at this time of the year for the past few seasons, but never in quantities to interest the trout. We are probably at the upper limit of habitat for these insects, which are prolific on the Derwent below Darley Dale. It would be marvellous if we started to see a serious increase in Brachycentrus Subnubilis over the next few years.
I’m not sure where we are with the Hawthorn since Spring has been so late this year. They should appear any time soon and if they get on the water in serious numbers, birthdays can be had. The trick of course is to be on hand when this happens, something I have signally failed to do in recent years.
If you do happen to have a good catch, or experience a good hatch, do let me know. And a photo or two and details of the fly wouldn’t come amiss either.