Brown trout hard won

July 12, 2016 at 2:04 pm

What a difference a day makes. Having enjoyed a couple of hours roaming the banks of an urban river, where the fishing is free for all to fish and losing count of the trout caught, the next day I travelled ten miles west of my home to compare the fishing on my private syndicate trout stream. Like the urban river, the syndicate water has a natural head of wild fish and with good growth rates, plus a policy of catch and release, there has been no need to stock the river, although limited numbers of larger fish are introduced for the members to catch. Last year poor returns and reports of few rising fish were put down to a “bad year”, but this season some members are yet to land a trout.

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Arriving in the early afternoon, the weather was perfect for fly fishing, slightly overcast with a light July wind and I entered the river to fish what was always the best pool on this stretch. Running deep under the bridge, the river here held a head of very large trout and even better chub, which could be seen sipping in flies at any time of the day. Protected by surrounding trees and the bridge, a long cast to these fish was always difficult, but not impossible and for those who succeeded in hooking one, the deal often included a broken line.

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This trout had been the result of one of those long casts beneath the bridge, when a Hares Ear nymph was taken with confidence. Today there were no ripples, or top and tails, just a flat surface undisturbed by fish. With the same rig as yesterday, topped by my Black Devil nymph, I approached slowly toward the tail of the pool, casting to the shallower water and watched a V of raised water speed toward the submerged nymph, culminating in a splashy take, as I lifted a small dace clear of the surface in a shimmer of spray, only for it tall fall back, darting into the pool seconds later.

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Wading deeper, I gradually extended my casts, seeing a few short taps on the leader, but failing to make contact, putting this down to more dace. This shallow end used to be home to juvenile trout, but the dace seem to have taken their place. Although small, at least these trout hung on long enough to hook. Several casts had landed in the target area in the shadow of the bridge, the nymph drifting back unmolested under a slow retrieve, when at last the leader sank, moving upstream. Lifting swiftly, the rod bent into a fish, but after a brief surge it eased, as a small chub came to the surface, which I swung to hand and released. A few more casts and I was done with this pool.

Downstream another banker pool failed to excite and I stopped fishing, making my way down peering over the bank searching in vain for a trout of any size in the clear water. The day before, junior trout had been everywhere on my urban river, with the occasional better fish stationed among the weedbeds. Five years ago, when I joined the syndicate, this had been the case here too, each visit an education rewarded with trout on the bank.

Having failed to attract interest at the confluence of another stream, I began a fruitless search upstream of other hotspots, one such a couple of years ago had yielded eight fish from 6 to 16 inches in fifty yards. Today not a twitch of the leader. It was now late afternoon and the air was filled with various flies, even the odd mayfly straggler, but the surface remained unbroken by trout.

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The pool above looked inviting today and I worked the nymph through all the areas, that had produced in the past, moving slowly upstream as I did. As if in a dream, the line dived to the the right and I was playing a trout. Not big, but hard fighting. I took care not to bully the brownie, although aware of the barbless size 14, keeping up pressure, until it was safely in the net. Phew! So few wild fish have been caught this year, that I felt that I would not be believed without photographic proof.

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The river has suffered with an invasion of signal crayfish and mink. Now the mink have run out of trout to catch and are fatally raiding the crayfish nets in search of food. My own theory of  the demise of this once productive stream, is that slurry from the cattle sheds along it’s upper lengths, have leached out into the water course, during it’s many flooding events recently, causing deoxygenation and the migration of the resident trout to lower reaches. Whatever the causes, the parent club need to get advice and act, before the members vote with their feet.