Wild brown trout hard to find after the Mayfly hatch

June 11, 2020 at 7:02 pm

A late afternoon visit to the river Whitewater this week, saw me heading toward black clouds, as I drove west, but hoped that a late Mayfly hatch and a trout, would compensate for a soaking. By the time I reached the river, the clouds had parted to allow sunshine to break through, warming the air as I heading down from the road bridge. I kept my eye open for Mayfly and rising fish, stopping below a tunnel of trees to watch a brownie of a pound rise occasionally to a sparse hatch. A sideways cast was needed to avoid the overhanging branches, while a down stream wind added to my difficulties, but after several attempts, the fly line carried enough momentum to cast the fly into the shadows. As my Mayfly emerged from the gloom, the trout rose from the side and turned, taking the fly, a reflex action setting the hook, but not for long as the brownie boiled on the surface and came off the barbless hook. Struck too soon! Lack of practice.

Not stopping to fish on, I decided to walk to the bottom of the beat about half a mile down, where a work party had cleared the banks, stopping at the farm bridge to view the river, another trout rising twice beneath the over hang of a tree, safe from any angler’s fly.

Walking down to the spot, I could see it through a gap in the trees. There was faster water here at the tail of the pool, but no chance to cast a fly, even with chest waders from the middle of the river, so I contented myself by watching as it hung around at midwater, drifting up to the surface to gently sip in small flies that I could not identify, while ignoring a mayfly that scudded across its vision.

Continuing past the jungle of trees, I came to an opening, where a tree had been removed, allowing a clear upstream cast up to a gap in the vegetation, where a fish rose. There were no Mayfly about, but I cast mine to it, the fish coming up again after the big artificial had passed it by. Another cast and the Mayfly was ignored again. I tied on a size 16 Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, which is a good general pattern, that seems to work for me in most situations, sitting high in the surface film, when rubbed in with floatant and unaffected by the wind.

By the time that I was ready, the fish had risen again and I made false casts up to it. Another yard from the reel and the fly floated to the surface, drifted a foot, then disappeared in a swirl. Striking, I lifted the line from the water making contact and boiling the fish on the surface. It was not a big trout and I stripped back line to stay in contact, not wishing to loose this one, no matter how small. Zig zagging from side to side it fought well and I took my time to net it from the bank with my net fully extended.

Not a monster, about 4 oz, but a perfect wild trout all the same, proof that this little river still has a self sustaining wild trout population. After unhooking it was lowered back in with the landing net, bolting back to the depths with no ill effects.

I headed back, unsuccessfully trying my luck again at the S bend, but by now the clouds had returned and drizzle was blowing across the field. Time to go.

 

Big Whitewater brown trout, a fitting end to the Lockdown

May 13, 2020 at 9:58 pm

The UK Government took everyone by surprise, by easing the English Lockdown and allowing travel to extended periods of exercise, including angling and other fieldsports among their list of approved exercise. I had already decided that my first foray into the countryside, would be a session on Farnborough and District’s Hampshire  trout stream, the River Whitewater.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, there had been only the minimum of work parties and no stocking, so was not optimistic about catching much as I climbed the gate, the code in the club book not opening the lock, a sign of things to come? Once in the open pasture, the icy north wind was cutting through my lightweight jacket. Despite bright afternoon sunshine, the air temperature was 10 degrees C down on last week, not ideal for my hoped for Mayfly hatch and I headed straight for a big S bend in the river, which has been kind to me in the past.

The river was pushing hard round the bend with a tinge of colour, but it was good to see it rushing over clean gravel. There was no fly life visible and no rising fish, so a good early season stanby, an unweighted Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear was tied on and I worked my way up round the bend toward the main pool. Once teeming with dace, this fast run yielded no takes and I was already considering the points that I would gain from my wife for being home early for Tea. Working to the top of the pool, I considered my options, go home now, sit and wait for the Mayfly to hatch, if at all, or continue downstream to another promising area. I chose the latter.

With only sheep for company, I was alone with my thoughts. Again there were no rising fish, but it was good to be out with the fly rod among the luxuriant spring growth, although the gusting wind caused a few close calls, as I tried some of the more over grown runs, where no winter trimming has taken place.

After an hour, it was time to head back upstream again, watching a few Mayfly drift with the flow, temptingly spinning in the current, as I waited for a spotted nose to appear to suck them down to oblivion. None rose.

Walking through the copse close to the S bend, I heard the unmistakable sound of a large fish breaking the surface and as I emerged, saw the swirl of another rise in the main pool. Without waders, I had to edge along the bottom of the high bank with reeds out in front of me, the bank stopping my progress. I could now see a few light green Mayfly lifting off and being intercepted by a large fish in the middle of the river.

I took this pic just after it had risen again, a cast of about 20 yards, where the faster water entered the pool. Looking in my Mayfly box, a likely candidate stood out, a green bodied, shadow Mayfly.

With fumbling fingers, I managed a perfect improved clinch knot, licked it and slid it down to the hook, then tested it and trimmed off. This was a big fish and the last thing I wanted was to lose it due to a dodgy knot tied in haste.

Rubbing floatant grease into the Mayfly, I tried a few false casts to get the range, battling the wind that blew my 4 lb tippet off target, everywhere but down the middle, where the trout continued to slurp down Mayfly. My artificial was riding the surface perfectly as it passed out of range of the feeding trout, but a moment of calm allowed the fly to float down to the surface, where it was engulfed.

I struck, feeling the full weight of the trout, as it powered up toward the bend, screaming the reel as it took line. Not for long, it turned and rushed past me, heading for the fast water downstream. Stripping line, I lost contact momentarily, fearing that the barbless hook would lose its hold, but my 3 WT, seven foot rod was soon bending double with the run. Now the fight began, giving just enough line, letting the rod do its work, the trout leaping clear in a shower of spray and spots, shaking its head as it made off upstream again.

Last season I had lost a decent trout at the net from a high bank, but this time had extended the landing net to full length and waited for the trout to come to the surface, letting it swim in, only for it to accelerate out again! Take your time Ken, the hook is holding. This time the head went in and I lifted. It was mine! Phew, that was hard work!

22 inches of pure muscle, that tested man and rod. I did not have scales with me, but estimate that this twice over wintered stockie went about 4 pounds. Inside the scissors of its jaw, the mangled fly pushed out with forceps and I returned it to the river in my landing net, keeping the head upstream for ten minutes, it swimming strongly away, when released.

Checking my watch, there would be no brownie points tonight. I had said that I would be home by 6 pm, it was almost that now and I still had not reached the locked gate. At the van I called to make my apologies for being late. “Why break the habit of a lifetime? Dinner will be ready for 6:45” I made it with 5 minutes to spare. Homemade chicken and ham pie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

River Whitewater trout fishing revamp

February 10, 2020 at 3:39 pm

I always look forward each year to the first working party on the River Whitewater, the little Hampshire trout stream showing early signs of spring, as members began work cutting back trees and tidying the banks in preparation for the trout season opener on April 1st. The distinctive aroma of wild garlic crushed under foot welcomed us, as we made our way down to the intended work area, hazel catkins having already matured and fresh bright green leaves bursting from buds.

For the coming season, the fly fishing has come under the control of the parent club, Farnborough and District Angling Society, offering trout fishing to members at a reduced rate as an add on to the general membership. Another bonus is the removal of the nominated three day a week fishing, Sunday to Tuesday, or Thursday to Saturday, which restricted fishing time. As a Thursday to Saturday fisher, I often was forced to sit on my hands on a glorious Tuesday, only to have it rain from Thursday onward. With such a good, but brief Mayfly hatch on this river, it will give more opportunities to tempt some of the elusive better specimens.

Work intended this year is to construct more berms to speed up the flow, felled trees providing the raw materials for this work. Here’s one we made earlier.

This weekend, the same berm has been working well for two seasons, creating a clean gravel run, ideal for spawning fish and feeding trout later on.

Another good sign this weekend was to see that ranunculus weed, taken from other parts of the river and transplanted elsewhere had taken well, despite the attentions of a family of swans, that spent much of their time feasting on the luxuriant growth.

With the full resources of the Farnborough and District club at its disposal, the fly fishing section are looking to take advantage of the opening up of a further mile of the Whitewater, the long neglected downstream section, the subject of further river improvement under the supervision of the Environment Agency this year.

One of the many variants of wild trout caught in the Whitewater.

 

 

 

 

Syndicate trout stream rewards persistance

May 18, 2019 at 11:34 am

Following up on my visit to a free urban trout stream, where the mayfly were just beginning to fly, I was encouraged to take the ten mile drive to my Hampshire syndicate chalk stream. The sun was shining and a light upstream wind was ruffling the surface, when I arrived after 3 pm.

Walking upstream it looked perfect, but something was missing, flies and rising trout. I had hoped to start with the White Mayfly, that I had used on the urban river, but was not so sure, deciding to make my way up toward the wier, before changing to a nymph.

This is what I found, when I got my rod down from its rack in the garage. A mouse had eaten the cork of the handle. Although off the ground, the mouse must have considered that it was worth the climb, only eating into one side, where my fingers wrap around. Maybe the floatant grease that I use had permeated into the corks, making a tasty mouse snack. The positive side is that I now have finger grips in the handle!

Without waders, I kept well away from the bank, pausing to study the river ahead, spotting a single rise 50 yards upstream close to the opposite bank. It rose again as I neared the spot, a raft of branches that had collected at a small bush. Another rise coincided with the first sight of a white mayfly lifting off from the surface. Casting was going to be difficult from this high bank, with trees hanging over the water, but a mayfly disappearing in a swirl ahead of me spurred me on. Sitting on the bank with my legs over the river, I made side casts up to the spot, but the upstream wind caught the leader each time, swinging it back over to my side. Mayfly were still lifting off, but a vertical cast saw the fly line land heavily ahead of the fish. It stopped rising.

The artificial was soon waterlogged, sinking on landing, so I got up and moved on, making false casts as I walked to dry it out. There were still a few Mayfly about and another rise a 100 yards ahead saw me approach with caution. Here cattle had broken the bank down and was able to stand at water level to cast, although once again overhanging branches called for a side cast.

The trout was rising every few minutes on the outside of the bend below a willow and I edged closer, increasing the length of my casts, being frustrated each time that I had the range, to catch on dead, long grass and cow parsley along the bank behind me. Plenty of time, mayfly were still coming off and the fish was still plopping away. Retrieving the fly for the second time, I went grass cutting, reducing the obstacles by hand, then inched back to my rod to start again.

The artificial was regreased, rubbed between my fingers, recast and ignored. The wind was still blowing the fly away from the bank and I aimed further in, watching it float down dangerously close to the bank. The trout took in a side swipe and I was in! An initial boil and it bolted upstream, stripping line toward the bend. Side on it was a long fish and not stopping, testing the rod as it bent to the butt. Against the pressure it came back, giving repeated, but shorter bursts of power each time. Standing at the tail of the pool, I bided my time, until it was ready for the net, drifting it across the shallows to be scooped up.

Not a wild fish, but a well conditioned stockie 17 inches long, fueled by a regular supply of Mayfly. After returning to the river, holding its head facing upstream, it kicked away to swim back to the pool.

I was content with this brown trout, walking back to the road, not being tempted by the few fish now rising to another Mayfly hatch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild trout ready for Mayfly bonanza on urban river

May 15, 2019 at 7:09 pm

An ankle injury had kept me away from the river bank for over a month, but using my landing net as a walking aid, I was able to cover the short distance from the car to the bank of my urban trout stream this week. Arriving after 7 pm, the sun was close to the horizon as I made my way upstream, disappointed that there were no fish rising.

Although it was bright sunshine beyond the trees, in the shade there was a chill downstream wind and assumed that this was keeping the fly life down. I decided to start off with a size 14 unweighted Gold Ribbed Hares Ear nymph, casting along the edges of the weeds and close to my bank, the nymph just hanging in the surface film. After ten yards, a swirl, followed by a tightening of the leader, saw an automatic response as I made contact with a seven inch parr, that tumbled across the surface and came off the barbless hook. Oh well, that got my heart thumping, raising my hopes of better fish to come.

Moving up to open water below an overhanging laurel, the nymph now waterlogged, failed to get the attention of any more trout, wherever it was cast. Seeing a small rise alongside a weed bed, I tied on an Elk Hair Emerger, rubbing floatant grease into the fly, before casting above the bed. A pound trout appeared from nowhere, took one look and dashed off in the opposite direction. My other were casts ignored. This is free, unmonitored fishing and I got the feeling that these fish had been covered too many times already, my usually successful Emerger, not cutting the mustard this evening.

I decided to backtrack downstream along the road, where the sun was still on the water, seeing that Grannom flies were scudding across the surface, a rise further down among the trees confirming my choice of the Orange Elk Emerger. All I needed was a place to cast from the high bank, my sore ankle too unsteady to be climbing down to the waters edge.

I stopped at an open bank covered with cow parsley, where reeds and wild watercress grew out into the water. It was difficult casting from this point, but this was my only option, the overgrown bank making it difficult to control the line. I had brought my 7 ft 3 Weight rod, where my 9 ft 5 Weight would have been the answer to cope with the bankside vegetation. A month before, only the occasional daffodil would have been present.

White Mayflies had begun launch into the air and like a switch, the apparently barren river came to life with fish rising in front of me. A few casts with the Emerger were ignored, but a last minute grab of the Mayfly box, when leaving home, was now to pay off as I rooted through it to find a white Mayfly.

Tying this monster on was easy compared to the smaller flies earlier. Rubbing it in with floatant, saw it sitting high and proud on the surface. Not for long. It had drifted only a few feet, before it was engulfed in a splashy take. The strike was absorbed by the line caught in the watercress and I missed my chance. Maybe a small fish. Watching for the next rise, I made a long cast upstream close to the far bank, this time seeing a deep bronze flank roll over the fly. Yes! I was in, the short rod bending double as the trout bucked and dived in the clear river. The hook held and I stripped back line as the trout ran downstream past me, boiling on the surface. “Stay down!” I pleaded, fearful that the hook would shake out, but no, the gods were on my side this time and with the landing net at full extension, the wild brownie was scooped into the net.

About 12 oz, this beautiful trout was already deep and round, the early feast of Mayfly a healthy boost to its diet. Holding the trout upstream in the landing net for several minutes, I waited until it was ready to swim off, before turning the net over, watching the dark back disappear beneath the cress. The sun was now touching the fields across the river and I was glad that I had put on a sweat shirt as the breeze had transformed into a downstream wind, dragging the fly across the surface seconds after it had dropped onto the water.

As the last of the sun sank beyond the field, the wind dropped enough to allow the fly to float down to the surface close to my side, being taken aggressively in an instant by an 8 oz fish that boiled on the surface, as I frantically tried to free the flyline from the cow parsley along my bank. Soon the leader was caught in the watercress and the trout gone. Untangling the line, the Mayfly was still in place, deciding to call it quits for the evening.

I had hoped for more fish, but it was good to get back out on the river with a fly rod, the adrenaline helping me to forget the pain in my ankle for an hour, or two.

 

Positive signs for 2019 trout season

March 25, 2019 at 5:35 pm

A good turnout of members on my syndicate trout stream this weekend, was a sign of optimism for the coming 2019 trout season on April 1st, following two bad years on the north Hampshire fishery.

In 2017 the landowner diverted the river to build a new bridge, the flow reduced to a trickle, leaving trout stranded in shallow pools open to predators, such as mink and herons. This was done without consultation with the anglers, who could have mounted a rescue operation. Many trout and coarse fish were lost.

Last season we enjoyed a long hot summer with associated low river levels, after a cold wet spring. Trout were hard to reach, seeking out deeper water under banks and trees, many members not returning to the water once the Mayfly were over. Even the chub and dace were scarce during the summer months on my few brief visits. The last fortnight of September gave me hope for this year, when I caught a couple of ten inch wild browns from both ends of the fishery, plus losing a very large trout two weeks running from the same spot.

This was the last trout of the season for me, bright silver like a rainbow.

During autumn and winter, the mixed fishery is fished by coarse anglers, who reported many juvenile trout taking their maggot baits and judging by the redds created by spawning trout, observed on the working party this January, trout stocks should soon regain previous levels. 

Work on the river has involved the creation of berms to speed up flow, while intrusive willow has been cut back and overhanging trees trimmed.

This clump of willows claimed two of my best brown trout last year, the deep pool now accessible from the bank, avoiding the need for a tricky upstream cast from the tree shrouded river.

Here’s hoping that the 2019 Whitewater trout fishing season puts a few more wild browns in the net.

 

Trout stream work party feeds optimism

January 13, 2019 at 7:23 pm

The January working party on the Hampshire syndicate trout stream, that I fish, has often been flooded off, but this year the river was running clear, as I joined several members walking up to the weir to begin cutting back willow and alder, in an effort to aid casting.  It was encouraging to see several trout redds, where spawning trout had cleared  shallow troughs in the gravel to deposit their fertilised eggs.

This stretch had not been trimmed for a couple of seasons and last year had proved almost impossible to fish, due to branches hanging low over the river, while trout rose unchallenged by anglers’ flies.

The chainsaw saw plenty of action removing a fallen tree, while a couple of pole saws trimmed back overhanging branches along a 200 yard stretch. A fire was started to dispose of the cuttings, a strong wind bringing it up to furnace temperatures in minutes, as a constant supply of cuttings were ferried along the banks to its central point.

 

Calling a halt after three hours for a tea break, plans were discussed for further work parties following on in the next few weeks, more trimming back down to the roadside on this stretch, while flow deflectors were earmarked for improvement and repair. Ranunculus weed, transplanted last year, was also seen to be growing well on the gravel runs, the long fronds acting as a haven for nymphs and young trout alike.

Two years ago the landowner diverted the river to build a new bridge, without consulting the anglers, reducing the flow to a trickle and many fish were lost in this and the stretch down stream. It appears that nature is already repairing much of the habitat damage and with more sunlight now able to reach the riverbed, fly life and weed growth will improve, much to the benefit of the anglers.

Wild trout season closer

September 27, 2018 at 11:17 pm

Despite commitments all this week, I was able to take advantage of late September sunshine for a last chance trout, from my syndicate trout stream. Despite days of rain over the weekend, the river was licking over the stones, when I arrived late in the afternoon, clumps of ranunculus weed exposed on the gravel runs.

Walking down to a once productive S bend, I got into the river to wade up through the shallows toward the upper pool, seeing the tell-tale V from a fish that had been browsing the shallows, watching it dart back into the deeper water.

Leaving my van in a layby, I had stopped to look up and down the river, searching for signs of rising fish, but despite the air being full of wheeling Daddy Long Legs, or Crane Flies for the educated among us, there was zero surface activity. Keeping my rod set up in the garage, has the advantage of more fishing time on the bank, the van allowing rod and landing net to be ready for action.

The size 18 copper headed nymph would do to start. If the Crane Flies began scudding across the surface raising a few fish, it would be an easy swap.

Heavy vegetation growth at the edges, was compensating for the lack of water, speeding up the flow as it was funneled toward the shallows and I made a series of casts, moving steadily upstream, as the nymph fished deeper water, lifting it clear of the gravel to keep it bouncing along the bottom.

Ten minutes into the exercise, the leader held for a second, then dropped back, only to veer off to the right. The sharp upward lift of my rod was automatic and a silver flash broke the surface, then dived back to the pool for a short lived tumbling fight, before racing off downstream into the shallows for a more equal battle, a nice dace skimming on its side over the rapids, straight to my hand.

Holding this dace still for a photo, said it all about the strength of dace, size for size they beat many other coarse fish in the power stakes.

Crane flies were launching off from the grass banks of the river, some dipping the water as they fought to gain height, but no fish responded to this easy meal and I continued working my way upstream, keeping in close to the bank and fishing the nymph out and up in a continual search of the bottom.

Casting alongside fronds of sunken weed, the leader stopped. Raising the rod to clear the obstacle, there was a boil as the line shot forward and another silver flash clattered across the surface, pulling the rod tip down. This was no dace, although small, it arrowed upstream into the deeper water, the 7 foot rod bending to the butt, before springing a silver trout to the surface in a shower of spray. Quickly netting the fish, its purple sheen made me think that it was a young rainbow, but the large dark spots said brown trout.

This was the last fish of the evening and the 2018 river trout fishing season for me,  a season that has continued the steady decline of a once fine wild trout stream. This two year old wild brown trout is evidence in itself, that the species can self generate, although it must be looked upon as a rare survivor.

 

Trout from the jungle

September 9, 2018 at 8:01 pm

Following up on a recent visit to my syndicate trout stream, I was back again for more punishment this week. The farmer has enclosed the river in electrified fences to keep his cattle out of the river, which in turn has made fishing from the banks extremely difficult and often painful, as I found out, when the aluminium handle of my landing net made contact with the wire, while trying to stand on the thin strip of bank between the river and the fence. The intermittent shock ran up my arm, leaving me with the feeling, that I had been hit on the left elbow by a hammer. Not pleasant, when stalking a visible trout. Add to this the untended banks and overhanging trees, that require cautious and accurate casting to avoid snagging the fly. Summer working parties were promised by the bailiffs, but never arranged.

This is a typical, once productive series of pools, that is now unfishable with a fly rod. An hour with a brushcutter would transform this bank. Wading my way through this jungle, I found the room to cast, seeing the leader jag upstream and struck, dragging a minnow clear of the water.

A few more casts and the same result, another minnow. That pool could once be relied upon to produce a few dace, maybe a chub and even a trout, but now it seems to be minnow alley. I moved on.

Wading up through shallows, I made casts toward the tail of this pool, where in low water I have often had a trout. A sharp tug saw an instant response, but the nymph flew back into trees behind me. I was able to pull the branch down with my landing net and retrieve the nymph. Moving further into the pool, I searched the area with the size 18 copper headed spider, inducing movement, lifting and dropping the rod top as I brought the line back. The line went solid and a flash of gold ahead signaled a brown trout beginning an explosive fight in the clear water, as it dived for roots. It was not big, but having been catching roach of the same size recently, more powerful by far. My net was ready as it ran round the tail of the pool and I scooped it up.

A true wild brown trout of about 10 inches long, a rare sight these days on the river. The hook had dropped out in the net, being just in the tip of the nose, the trout probably activated more by curiosity, than hunger. Stepping back into the trees, I held the trout upstream in the shallows, until it kicked away.

With confidence boosted, I made my way downstream again, intending to work my way up through a section not fished this year, but found the river choked by reeds.

I continued upstream again, until I reached the pool where last time I had three perch, but this time the total was one small perch lost as I lifted off. Upstream, between the trees, a trout was rising noisily, splashing at unseen flies. Wading beyond my waist, may have got me within casting range, but the chances of extracting what seemed to be a very large fish from among the roots and fallen branches seemed very remote and I climbed back out. From the stile, I could look down into the deep pool, but the trout failed to perform, invisible in the shadows.

Time was getting on and a final dabble in a fast flowing run-off saw the leader stop and I lifted a small dace clear of the river. Close to the road, a pound plus brown waited in the stream for offers of food and I negotiated the electric fence in an attempt to make a cast, getting an electric shock and catching my line in an overhanging clump of vegetation. This is where I came in. The trout swam to safer water and I went home. Time is running out on the season. Last year I had 18 trout, compared to only a few this.

 

 

 

 

Low water trout stream rare visit

August 26, 2018 at 6:12 pm

It is months since the last visit to my local syndicate trout stream, a Mayfly imitation still attached to the line, from when I had left the fly rod leaning against the wall of the garage. The heat wave, plus almost total enclosure by the farmer of the river with electric fences and barbed wire, did not inspire me to bother with the ten miles drive, while more rewarding coarse fishing was available on my doorstep.

With only six weeks of the trout fishing season left, I had not had my money’s worth out of the river this year and with an afternoon free, loaded my waders and fly gear into the van. Recent rain would have increased the flow and I was quite optimistic that a few trout might be rising. Parking the van, first impressions were not good, an electrified fence stretching across the opening for the gate. Treading the wire down with my waders to enter the field, I could see the fence ran along the top of the bank for 300 yards to the next gate, making fishing from the bank impossible, passing under, or over the wire, leaving less than a foot, or two to stand on. Stealth would not be possible on this once productive beat. This field was always used for arable crops, the bank being open, but the farm has switched to beef production, the fence to keep the young bullocks from falling from the steep banks into the river.

Through the next gate, there was more barbed wire along the high bank, before I reached the cattle drink, where the cattle can pass between fields. Above this point is a long pool, from which I circled well away from the bank, as fish often lie in the shallow water close to the opposite side. Entering the water from the gravel dam, there were no signs of rising fish upstream of me and I tied on a size 18 Copper Head Spider to bounce along the bottom of the pool.

Casting up and across to a drainage pipe, the line set in a bow as it drifted down. Lifting off there was a tap on the line. Missed it. Probably a small dace. I cast again, even a dace would do to start my session. Lifting off, tap, tap, strike! The rod doubled over as a good trout gyrated around the pool on a tight line, throwing up spray. I thought it was beaten, but one look at the landing net, sent the trout off upstream toward tree roots, pulling the rod down and the small barbless hook free. Curses.

At least there are still a few trout in here. Wading in further, I cast up among the trees. Tap, tap. Missed it. In again, another tap. Strike. A tiny chub had taken the spider.

Time to move. Continuing down, over a stile, I entered a cattle free zone in the copse, the banks lined with Himalayan Balsam. When I first joined the syndicate, the bailiffs used to organise balsam pulling sessions, the members keen to help keep the banks clear, but now with the membership in decline, the upkeep of the river too has spiralled down. Clearing my way through the tall, sweet smelling plants, I reached a point where I could get down into the river, wading up to a deep pool named Dead Cert, where once an hour spent fishing into the trees, would usually be rewarded by a trout, or two, plus big dace and chub.

Casting into the deeper water to my left produced nothing from where trout and dace would often lie and I continued slowly up above the hop bush over the river. From here I could cast among the roots of the trees, allowing the spider to drift back to my position. With the leader greased to within two feet of the fly, I watched for any movements. It slid sideways and I lifted feeling the weight of a small fish. Definitely not a trout, hugging the bottom, a perch popped up on the surface.

Oh well, at least something was working. With a cold wind blowing, there was no surface activity, or any sign of rising fish, I stuck to working the pool with the nymph, another slow pull on the leader, putting a bend in the rod, a bigger perch coming to the net.

A couple more casts and the line straightened again with yet another perch, that dived deep on its initial run, then gave up the fight, drifting back to the net.

There was probably a shoal of stripies down there, but I was here for trout and headed back over the stile, trying my luck in various pools on the way back without a touch, ending up at the cattle drink. It was now spitting with rain, but sheltering beneath a tree, I covered the pool, another sharp take meeting resistance as a small dace took the nymph.

The rain was increasing and I made a break back to the van, passing again the electrified fences and barbed wire, this once delightful little fishery now resembling a prison camp. That lost trout has raised my hopes for more to come this season. At least it had not been a complete blank.