Following months of floods, a couple of last minute working parties revealed many changes to the flow of our syndicate trout stream, where trees had been washed out from the banks, creating new pools, while existing pools had been gouged out deeper, depositing banks of gravel at the tails. Known eddies were gone and fresh ones born. On my first visit of the new season, I was greeted by a different river and decided to walk downstream for half a mile then fish my way back.
Last year this was one of my most productive stretches, where the pool above spilled against the bank forming a deep eddy, but part of the bank is gone and much of the eddy is now a gravel bar. A new challenge yet to be tested.
Most of the rocks from the small weir have been washed downstream. More holding spots, or snags?
Although early April, it felt more like February, with a cold wind blowing downstream, but the sight of swallows, back from Africa, sweeping across the meadows and tortoiseshell butterflies mating among the nettles told a different story. Before I reached my intended starting point, where a smaller stream enters our river, I passed a previously ignored stretch, that now had more character, clumps of weed between clean gravel runs looking very fishy and decided to stop and give it a try.
Getting down into the river, even through my waders, the river was very cold and not expecting any airborne fly life, I tied on a heavyweight version of my Black Devil nymph to get down to the gravel bed, this usually working well, bounced along the bottom in early season. I didn’t have long to wait for a response, when the leader darted forward, as the nymph passed beneath an undercut bank, a small brown briefly flashing gold in it’s struggle to successfully throw the hook. The downstream wind and too much slack line caused me to lose contact. More concentration and work was needed. Casting up and across as I moved upstream round the bend, there were more stabbing takes and another tumbled seven inch trout. This was an area, where we saw several spawning redds last year and these small fish are probably the result.
I continued up until I reached a deep pool, where the river cut round the roots of a tree and began prospecting the nymph, missing an easy take, that ran upstream. I was convinced that the size 14 nymph was too big for these small trout and rooted through my flybox for something smaller and came out with a size 18 tungsten copper wound Pheasant Tail. This looked very much like a mini version of the Black Devil, that I’d just taken off and began casting hard into the corner to sweep round the roots. Getting too close on one cast, I lifted off to avoid getting snagged and the line went solid. My heart sank. Roots! Then it fluttered, when the line rebounded slowly, and the white belly of a good trout began a zig zagging roll, deep in the pool. You couldn’t do it if you tried! A flash of golden green was all it took to turn and exit the pool at speed downstream, doubling over my seven foot rod, as the ratchet on my reel screamed. In survival mode, I gave line until it turned, then began to reel the fish back, as it searched out both banks for a snag, getting it close, before it rushed off again. Thinking I had it beat, I began to bring the possible 2lb brownie back, only for it to start rolling and thrashing on the surface out of control in the current. The barbless hook lost it’s hold. Another fish lost!
Shortly after I’d begun fishing again, I heard a “plop” behind me and turned round to see what looked like a rise. I discounted this, as there were only a few grannoms scudding across the surface and continued with the nymph. On hearing another “plop”, I saw the surface downstream was dotted with rises. I managed to get out of the river and made a hasty, wide detour of the bank downstream and re-entered the river below a band of dimples and swirls over a sandy run. The pheasant tail was repeatedly cast among these rising fish with no takes. Tiny black black flies were in the surface film, while grannoms and the occasional olive were airborne. A small elk hair grannom emerger was tied on, the leader greased to within a few inches of the fly and cast in. Due to the strong current, the fly could only travel a few inches before it dragged, so short flicking casts was the name of the game. The rise was over, but a swirl and a solid strike soon had the first trout of the season in my hand.
Not the biggest fish in the world, but after a difficult afternoon, I was happy with this one. Back in again, there were more takes, misses and on/offs, before a more solid resistance was felt and a ten inch wildie was giving a good account of it’s self all the way to the net.
While this one was recovering in the net, the rise started again, dimples and swirls. A good fish was rising close to the bank, where after a few casts he took and I dragged the trout across to set the hook, before it, like the others, zoomed off with the current. About twelve inches and ten ounces, I was enjoying the fight from this beautifully coloured wild brown, as it dived and rolled in the clear river below me, when once again it was free. The hook had broken at the start of the bend on the body. I had another emerger, but felt that I’d done enough damage for one day and it was time to leave.
Flies used on the day, with the broken emerger centre.
Walking back, I passed several individual rises, but nothing like the mass hysteria I had just witnessed, which resembled a mayfly hatch in it’s intensity. Whatever they were feeding on, probably grannom nymphs by the way they took, I was lucky to be there at the right time. With warmer weather forecast. I’m looking forward to my next visit.