Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so they say, but with a lack of rain still affecting my syndicate chalkstream, it was almost a call of duty, that drew me back for the last days of the trout season, deciding to visit the upper weir pool at the head of the fishery for the first time this year.
As I waded upstream from the tail of the weir, Daddy Longlegs were skittering across the surface, but there were no signs of any interest in them, the water and probably oxygen levels remaining low despite heavy showers in the week. A Daddy dry fly was cast up towards the weir, but it’s slow drift back was ignored. Twitching the fly did likewise. A Gold Head Hares Ear was the next choice. With the lack of flow, I worked the pool with various rates of figure of eight retrieve. It all looked right and every cast had that anticipation, which keeps us fishing. Last year one such cast saw a vicious take and an aggressive fight that took me round the pool, until I netted a fin perfect rainbow, an escapee from an upstream fishery.
With no sign of a fish this time, I decided to cut my losses. I made my way back downstream to the van, making a few half hearted casts to places, that had held good fish earlier in the year, to no response, keeping the rod set up and driving downstream to the one fast flowing bit of river, where I was confident of a take, or two.
Just standing in this run filled me with a spurt of enthusiasm, the short stretch offering a range of fish holding pockets. Tying a size 16 Pheasant Tail nymph onto the 4lb tippet and making short upstream casts, I prospected the river in front of me, the line jagging out, when a small dace took the nymph, the silver coarse fish getting airborne for a moment, before coming off the hook and splashing into the water behind me. A small brown followed in much the same way, then another dace. At least this was fun and moving up to the bend it became dace alley, with fish bumping the nymph at every cast, some better ones fighting hard in the shallow water.
The pool above this run had provided some big trout earlier this season and keeping low, I made casts into the tail of the pool. A bulge as the line stopped, indicated a better fish and the frantic run upstream, followed by a leap, confirmed it as a wild brown, not big by this pool’s standards, but a rod bender no less.
As I slipped the trout back, there was a slow rise in the faster water to the outer edge of the pool fifteen yards up, the first I’d seen all afternoon. The late autumn sun had come out, sedges and crane flies were scudding about. Was it time to try the dry fly again?
I scanned the pool for more rises, but apart from dimples of minnows and fry, there were none. I moved a few yards upstream, then measuring my casts away from the edge, not wanting to disturb this precious fish, I cast above where I’d seen the rise and the nymph dropped gently to the surface, sinking slowly. I let the leader drift beyond where I’d seen the rise, lifted to recast and the line tightened as the nymph was seized. An accidental induced take. A flash of gold from the tumbling fish and I was playing a larger brownie, which kited across the shallows and down the run, bending my seven foot rod with the full force of the stream. I let the fish pull line from the reel, then wound it back against the flow and netted the well marked wild brown trout, the nymph dropping out in the net. A quick photo and it was swimming free.
Giving myself another ten minutes fishing time, I decided to try the deeper water at the top of the pool, making longer casts to cover more water and retrieving with a figure of eight to stay in contact. Several drifts later, the leader gave a pull back and I lifted into solid resistance and a large fish accelerating away upstream, round the bend. One of the big stockies at last I thought, as line stripped from the reel and I followed, rod raised, expecting to be broken in that first rush of power. The rod eased, the fish dropped back, plunging round the pool, then surged to the far side through the reeds. Keeping pressure on, it wallowed beneath the surface, another flash of gold and it was away again. A big brown? Then another wallow and I saw the large scales of a monster chub, my biggest ever. Soon it’s massive white mouth was open and being drawn across to my net to be scooped up and carried to safety.
Judging by this chub’s fins and scales, which were perfect, this was possibly the first time that it had been on the bank. At twenty inches from nose to fork of tail and four inches across it’s back, with no weighing scales, I estimated it to weigh 4lb, not my target trout, but a fish well worthy to close the season with.