April 1st may be All Fools Day, but it is also the first day of river trout fishing in my neck of the woods, an event that gets the heart beating that bit faster, with anticipation of balmy days to come, watching trout rise on a pristine river. The reality of that first day is usually at odds with the dream, March Winds combining with those inevitable April Showers to sting eyes and numb fingers, while trying to present a fly to a wary trout, from a bank stripped bare of cover by winter frosts. It is also the day that ice cold water seeps into waders, that were dry, when hung up in September.
While going shooting the other day, I detoured for a look at my favourite urban river, where it runs between factories and a recreation ground. Trucks thunder by on one side, while cyclists, dog walkers and kite flyers go about their preoccupation unaware, that, despite the annual encroachment of more housing and industrial development, this little chalk stream continues to provide free trout fishing on a par with many exclusive syndicate waters. Wading this 200 yard stretch on a late spring evening, has never failed to enchant me, the hard fighting wild brown trout a bonus to be savoured.
Appetite whetted, it was time to check out my river fly fishing gear, knowing that I would be looking at a six month time warp since it was hung up and abandoned. I’d had many good intentions over the period, but despite a perfectly adequate heater, bench and light in my shed, there was always something else more important to distract my attention. An easy job is cleaning the fly line, which of course should have been done on my return from fishing, but like the rest of my gear, it had been ignored and I was looking at a tan line, stained grey by the swollen river of my last visit. At least I still had some cleaning gel left and heated the container with boiling water to melt it back to a fine liquid state. As the cleaning process was started, the line run round the back of two seats to keep it off the ground, a tissue moistened with the fluid, worked over it, I was reminded why I hadn’t bothered with it before. The plastic coating was cracked and picking up tissue, the coils now a series of flats. When asked about Christmas presents, a fly line was not on my list. New shirts and underwear cannot compensate for a state of the art line.
Next on my list was a browse through my various fly boxes, including a round plastic container with a secure flip top, carried in my fishing waistcoat, which became a deposit box. Successful flies were snipped off and dropped in to join many others, often wet and coated in mouth slime. Over time this became a ball of entangled hooks, only to be unravelled, when stocks were running low of the current favourite fly. This did not look good and mildew had set in. More hot water, a dessert bowl and some washing up liquid soon separated the sticky mass and individuals could be picked out and left to dry on some tissue, the dry flies among them will need retreating with floatant. Saddest sight of all was my Mayfly box, left closed for nine months, it was just a collection of hooks with the odd bit of fur, and feather. There was no sign of the mites, that had gorged on these once beautiful creations, while locked in their metal prison.
It was time to get the fly tying box out, to replace flies lost to trees and rocks, while others were chewed, but repairable. I’ve given up tying winged dry flies, such as mayflies, but most nymphs are within my scope, and have found that variations of Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear (using rabbit fur) and my own Black Devil, weighted and unweighted are all I need for the season. The only dry fly I do tie, is a Deer Hair Emerger on various coloured dubbed bodies, which again works year round. Like most anglers, I have too many flies, having been tempted by internet offers over the years and doubt that I will ever need to buy another Klinkhammer. My basic flies do work and was grateful for a couple of wet mornings to replenish my stocks.
This wild brown could not resist a Black Devil on a cold early season afternoon.
Through the wonders of the Internet, a fresh range of pretty mayflies were installed in a long forgotten fly box, found while searching through my pike fishing gear, my reel was greased, ready to accept a reasonably priced No 5 weight floating line, that was on special offer and the flies were reorganised into groups. I’m ready.