Mayfly fishing between the showers

May 28, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Being a member of a syndicate on a small Hampshire river, my fishing days are Thursday, to Saturday and reports of larger trout now falling to the Mayfly, had me itching to get to the river on my opening day. However, heavy overnight rain and thunderstorms during the day made me doubtful, that the river would be fishable, when I finally ventured out in the early evening, encouraged by a break in the clouds.

Driving over the river, a look upstream confirmed my worst fears, it was the colour of Cadbury’s and up at least six inches. Hopeless. Parking up, I decided to walk back to the bridge and peered over. Downstream the air was filled with criss-crossing mayfly, having run the gauntlet and survived at least half a dozen trout dining on their brethren in the soup below. Back to the van in quick time, I was soon pulling on waders and grabbing my tackle, ready to cash in on this surprise bonanza, climbing the fence, before wading through wet, chest high cow parsley to reach the bank.

Last season’s No 1 artificial for me last year was the Shadow Mayfly, which was my choice today, it’s delicate palmer style body floating high on the surface. Float it did and ignored it was, trout rising all around it, but none taking. Try something different. The opposite in the box, a long bodied Mayfly Spinner, was cast among the feeding frenzy in front of me and equally ignored. Spoilt for choice, the trout seemed preoccupied with the mayfly still within the surface tension of the river, before they climbed out of their shucks to inflate their wings. Snipping the body in half, I cast back in to an instant take, an 8 oz brown tumbling beneath the surface, before being lifted clear of the high bank. At this point I realised that in my haste to fish, I’d left the camera in the van, so fish returned, I walked back to retrieve it. The pitter patter of rain, turned to torrential before getting back to my rod, sheltering against a tree trunk, while waiting for the storm to pass.

Five minutes later the worst was over, but so was the hatch and I headed off downstream through long grass to an S bend, where the river opens out to a large pool, seeing on my approach steady rises across the shallows at the tail. Swallows were swooping across the meadow and a white barn owl silently patrolled the hedgrows, as I worked my way round in a wide loop to keep out of sight of the trout. On such a wet evening, my chest waders allowed me to push through the fresh growth of nettles without a soaking, although waves of light showers were rapidly dampening my top half.

Despite constant false casting, my clipped spinner sank each time, so another was tied on and cut short, to disappear in a boil, the second it touched the surface. I’d not recovered from the cast and missed the take. It could have been a dace, there are plenty here. More casts, another boil and a silver fish was on, a V shaped bow wave spilling over into the run below. A hint of gold and a solid rod bending fight, revealed a chunky brown, that was soon planing against the current to my net.

The rain came on again in earnest, but the trout were still hitting the mayflies as they drifted down, and with fresh shortened Mayfly Spinner tied on, another trout had fallen to the artificial.

I’d never experienced catching trout on dry flies during a rainstorm, let alone with added hail, as in the above picture, but it was happening and not putting off the fish, or the flies. With cold, wet, hands the soaked fly was removed, a new spinner clipped down, then tied on to be cast up and across to deeper water, where a better trout was showing. This was in the area where I’d missed the first take, this time it smashing into the fly with a wallop that was unmissable. What a difference another six ounces makes to a fish, this time it was a two way fight, with no guarantee, who would win, as it dived back into the depths of the pool, before surfacing, then dropping down into the fast water below me, where I allowed it to take line, until it stopped. Reeling the trout back upstream, as it bucked and dived is a pleasure, that has often resulted in a lost fish, but this time the size 10 hook held on.

My last fish of the evening, again another very fat, silver, brown trout, that fought all the way to the net. The rain was falling steadily and the light was waning, as I struggled through the waist high greenery back to the van. You don’t have to be mad to do this, but it helps!









Urban river trout rise to evening mayfly

May 26, 2014 at 3:06 pm

With the hope that the mayfly had begun to hatch on my urban trout river, I made the journey against the main flow of rush hour traffic, for an evening of action with free rising trout along the roadside. Heavy rain during the day had given way to a blue sky and a golden sun was already low in the sky, as I made my way through a housing estate to the river.

The local council maintain the banks here and the upper section is lawn down to the water’s edge allowing easy fishing, although back casts have to be watched for pedestrians and passing cyclists. Mayfly were still lifting off and the trout were sucking them in with confidence, when I targeted my first fish, which obliged first cast, leaping clear of the water, when hooked.

This was the first of three from one gap between the trees, as I made my way up towards the boundary bridge, where a larger brown was rising steadily close to the opposite bank under the cover of overhanging trees. I got into the water to allow a side cast to place my fly, the apparently shallow water coming halfway up my thighs, the clear water pushing hard against the waders.

This was not an easy cast, avoiding a willow behind me, while shooting the line between the branches, constantly falling short. Once I had the range right, the line skated and the fly was ignored, while the trout continued to take the naturals that drifted over it’s head. A change of tack was needed and I took off the Shadow Mayfly, replacing it with a large Elk Emerger pattern, which being more aerodynamic, cast with ease and dropped onto the surface just ahead, to be taken in a swirl, with a flick of the tail as it headed back down.

Pulling hard against my seven foot rod, there were several heart stopping jumps, following rapid runs that lead me to think the silver sided fish was a rainbow trout escapee, it being a relief to finally persuade it into the net. Not wishing to hammer this upper section, I backtracked downstream, peering over the riverside greenery looking for feeding trout.

The light was now fading, but a few fish were still dimpling the surface, as they took spent mayflies, the urgent splashing rises of earlier gone. The emerger was replaced by a bodied mayfly, which was soon engulfed by another fiesty brown, that boiled it’s way to the net from the middle of the river.

Another awkward cast to a fish feeding behind a tree close to my bank, resulted in my sixth trout on the bank in the 90 minute session. I’d hoped for some bigger fish, but I was happy to catch and release all I caught, while I know that others have no qualms at taking these home for the pot, using whatever methods available.

I rang the changes on flies used, all on size 12 and 10 hooks, the most realistic rising the fewest and catching no fish, while the scruffiest caught the most. Some flies catch more anglers than fish.




Small river trout wait for the Mayfly.

May 22, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Still recovering from the winter floods, my local syndicate trout river failed to produce it’s spring bonus of hawthorn flies this year, despite the trees being heavily ladened with haw blossom, this big black air borne fly, usually getting the trout in the mood to rise to the mayfly later in the month.

Parking at the middle beat of the river, I made my way down to the water’s edge with anticipation. Was the river still running high, but clear and was there a hatch of mayfly in progress. It was no to all of these. The river was down six inches on my last visit, but with more than a tinge of colour, although the stones were just visible on the shallows. Following the line of the river downstream, the surface was untroubled by rising trout, although a few olives were making their way into the air. Another black mark. Tying on an olive bodied elk hair emerger, I made my way to an easily accessed pool with plenty of casting room, working my way upstream trying all the likely looking holding areas.

The buoyant emerger happily rode the ripples of a run along the opposite bank and disappeared in a splashy take, when an eight inch brown grabbed a meal, only find it’self battling my rod and the current. A frantic one sided fight followed, to end at the net minutes later.

Moving up the pool, covering water as I went, another splash and another fat wild brown was kiting all over the shallows, a heavily spotted trout.

While returning this fish, I heard the unmistakable “plop” of a rising trout in the pool above and watched a ring of water spreading from the nearside bank. Wading up slowly through overhanging trees, I kept my eye on the the bank and saw another casual rise.

With a tree at my back, but clear enough for a cast, I false cast enough line out and shot the cast to the spot. The emerger landed and was taken within six inches of travel. A firm strike and the best fish of the evening was diving back to the pool.

Again not a large fish, but a true wild trout, spawned and hatched without the aid of man, surviving against all the odds of pollution, mink, herons and the occasional perch and pike, our water being managed for the benefit of all species.

My progress downstream was brought to an abrupt halt at the sight of a herd of  bullocks in the shallows below me, this beat of the river passing through a working farm, where these beasts were free to roam the two meadows downstream, effectively blocking my path. These young bullocks can be quite frisky and I didn’t fancy being squashed between two of these half tonners. Downstream the river would be muddied from their wading in the river, so I turned tail and concentrated on another pool upstream. After searching the pool with the emerger to no avail, I tied my early season favourite Black Devil nymph on.

The nymph soon had a stabbing response and I struck into a five inch brown, that was released at my feet. Moving up to another pool, where the emerger had been untroubled, I cast along the bank on my side and watched the leader pull to one side, lifting on instinct to feel the resistance of another small trout, pleased that my hand tied creation could still catch fish.

This last brownie had been a bonus to end the 90 minute afternoon session, and gave a good fight, but I couldn’t help wondering how fat it would get in the following couple of weeks, when “Duffer’s Fortnight” will see rising fish across the river, as clouds of mayfly take to the air. The now invisible quality fish will also come out to feed and I hope river conditions will allow the chance to try for them.






Farmoor Reservoir washout

May 15, 2014 at 8:31 pm

When my friend Peter said he’d booked us a boat at Oxford’s Farmoor 2 Reservoir in mid May, I had visions of vast hatches of flies from a calm surface on a balmy day, a far cry from our previous visit in the middle of October, when the wind had tried to blast us from the reservoir.

What greeted us on our arrival was much the same as before, a cold gusting wind whipping up the surface. The day before all boat bookings had been cancelled due to the wind, but today conditions were safe enough for a few of us to venture out.

Heading south, we tied up on a buoy 50 yards from the bank and began to fish, I with a bloodworm nymph 4 ft beneath a floss indicator, while Peter fish a team of three flies on a 20 ft leader. At this stage the wind was manageable, with the waves giving life to the static nymphs and minutes after tying up, Peter’s rod arched over with a good fish.

The long leader limited Peter’s ability to bring the fish close to the net and the rainbow dived under the boat, before exhausted, it was brought into the boat.

This 2lb 8oz rainbow was in perfect condition and had taken a buzzer. Twenty minutes later Peter boated it’s twin, while I had seen no sign of a fish, changing my setup to a three nymph rig. Another hour passed before Peter’s rod bent over and sprung back. A fish had hit a nymph so hard, that the leader had snapped like cotton. Meanwhile I’d missed a take on a Blue Flash Damsel and decided to set up my heavy No.9 rod with a No.10 HD line to fish a streamer lure on the bottom, but abandoned the idea, when the wind began blow a gale, rocking the boat to the point it was impossible to stand to cast.

It was time to move to the lee of the windward side of the 160 acre water catchment, arriving at the start of the causeway in time for a heavy shower of rain to halt activity for another twenty minutes. With no buoy available, we put out the anchor, only for the wind to blow us away from the shore. We decided to cross the reservoir to another buoy and tied up, again being rained on as the heavens opened. In between showers, the sun would return and fish began rising to clouds of small flies. I’d changed to a Deer Hair Sedge on the point and a Diawl Bach nymph six feet from it, managing to miss a trout that head and tailed away with it. Later I watched the line arching away from the boat and struck into thin air. Missed again! Seeing this, Peter set up with a Pale Olive and minutes later a boil at his fly resulted in another rod bending fight, much to the annoyance of myself, who was still on a blank. This was a recent stock fish of 2lb 12oz, again in perfect condition.

An approaching cloud system, which suddenly gave out a flash of lightning, followed immediately by a clap of thunder, had us stowing the rods quicktime, letting go on the buoy and attempting to start a reluctant outboard motor. The other boats also had the same idea and we queued to tie up at the jetty, just in time for a wave of hail and rain to put a final seal on a washout day for me. The other boats had also struggled, one finding that the only method to work for them was to troll lures behind their boat with the drogue out, managing to take five rainbows between them. Driving back down the motorway, through a wall of rain, we discussed the possibility of another visit in the near future and for me the jury is out on that one.



Urban trout river gives up it’s treasure.

May 9, 2014 at 11:40 pm

With my syndicate trout stream flooded and unfishable, I turned round and headed towards a truly urban chalkstream, where no matter how much rain falls, it runs clear from the chalk hills surrounding the town, while also acting as a flood drain to the housing estates that crowd it’s banks.

I arrived just as the local first school was finishing for the day and had to wait until a parking space became available, while the mums collected their little darlings for the drive home. As a young child, fresh from the bomb sites of London, I was turfed out of school to find my own way home, and along with my short trousered friends, it was time for discovery and adventure. That feeling is returned whenever I stand on the banks of this river. Each year it changes in subtle ways, it’s trout finding new places to feed and just getting the fly onto the water can be as difficult as a world championship snooker shot.

My first visit is usually when the daffodils are still in bloom, but they were long gone today, the banks already lined with cow parsley eager to catch my line. With this in mind, I set up with my 9 ft No7 rod to fish from the bank, opting for my Black Devil nymph, fished on a greased line just below the surface.

There were a few olives and May flies about, but no sign of rising fish, the  strong gusting wind would have restricted the presentation of  a dry fly, so the nymph was the best option. Parking half way along the stretch, I walked upstream keeping my eyes on the water for fish, seeing the spots of the first trout before I observed it’s outline, the deep brown fish in position a yard from my bank behind a bed of streamer weed. This was at least a pound and I measured the line to one side, before committing to a cast. The wind caught the leader and dumped it in a heap above the brownie and I watched the fish drop down, then fade from sight. This was soon forgotten, when a cast upstream to the middle brought a bulge, where I thought the nymph should be. The line hadn’t moved, but I lifted on instinct and felt the welcome resistance of a small trout, bundling it out of the water to be returned immediately. Moving up a few yards, the line zipped forward seconds after it hit the water and a slightly larger trout needed the net.

I moved up to a gap between two trees growing out across the river from the far bank. This looked promising, with an arch formed over the water. A couple of casts and I was in again, but put on too much pressure trying to keep it out of the lower tree, where it dashed downstream and lost it. Above the tree, the river opened out and several casts later another seven inch brown was being swung to hand. Behind an overhanging laurel, I was taken by surprise when the line sank into an expanding ripple, the line tightening slowly as I lifted into a heavy fish. There had been no sign of movement on the line again, the trout dropping back with the Black Devil in it’s mouth. The fight was a slow starter, but soon got going, as the near pound brownie rushed downstream, bending the rod double. Worried that I may pull out of this trout too, I gave line until it turned and began to swim upstream, continuing past me to turn again, then boil on the surface, before diving into the streamer weed at my feet, where it slipped the barbless hook. What do you do? I prefer barbless hooks to cause as little damage as possible to a fish, but two good trout lost, had me thinking of tying on a barbed version of the nymph.

It was time to move down to the bottom of the stretch, where a grannom hatch was in progress and a few small trout were making splashing rises. The Black Devil has caught well fished shallow in such a hatch, possibly mistaken for the grannom caddis nymph and a few casts across to a gravel run saw the leader pull straight, followed by another small trout launching out of the water to finish at my feet. At this point a van stopped at the roadside and the driver came over for a chat. “So there are trout in here!” He lived a few miles upstream and didn’t realise that there were hidden treasures swimming within feet of one of the busiest urban areas west of London.

A rise in the shadow of the far bank saw me respond with a long cast up to it, the wind neatly placing the leader above the spot in a downstream curve. Splosh! An audible boil and side strike, saw a better wild brown flashing in the sunlight beneath the surface, before being safely netted.

Hooked in the bottom lip, this 4oz trout gave a good account of it’self in the fast flowing river, swimming off like a dart when released. It was nearly time to go and I made my way up to another gap in the trees. There were now rises along the length of the river and I watched for a steady riser, seeing regular boils alongside a far bank bush. The wind was still bad, with the vegetation on my side, dense, but the longer rod kept the line clear and I made false casts to get in range, the fish turning as the nymph skated on the surface, taking with a splash. Better still, this one was about 6oz, not a monster, but still a challenge as it bucked and turned, staying in contact to the net.

If I was to get home by 6pm as promised, I had to resist the temptation to continue, cutting off my nymph and breaking down the rod, as I walked back to the van. Next visit should see Mayfly on the water in numbers and those rarely seen lunkers coming out to join in the feast.