Dog day afternoon start to Duffer’s Fortnight.

June 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm

A short evening visit to my syndicate river last week, saw more trout rising to the fly and more mayfly present, though ignored by most fish, the browns preferring to mop up waves of the smaller olives. Highlight of that evening was a fish rising hard under the bank foliage, which sipped in my Klinkhammer with barely a ripple, only to erupt into life  on the stike, the low sun on the water blinding me to the whereabouts of this large fish, as it dashed round the deep, root lined pool. I’d already extended my net to cope with the high bank and soon had this 17 inch stockie in my hands.

There were several bursts of activity typical of olive hatches, again mayflies were being ignored and I took wild browns up to 12 inches on the Klinkhammer from between the trees, the water was like glass, as the sun set.

Mayflies were settling on my van, as I pulled on my waders a few days later, the midday sun already 10 degrees centigrade higher than then, typical of English weather, giving the promise of free rising trout to the mayfly. Duffer’s Fortnight being the usual duration of the mayfly hatch, when even the most wary trout throw caution to the wind, to gorge on these large protein rich flies, giving fly fishermen a chance to catch the biggest fish in the water. The duffers are not the anglers, who still have to present their mayfly imitations among a constant supply of the real thing, but the trout slurping down two or three a minute in a feeding frenzy.

Once again my optimism was tested, as I looked upstream from the road bridge at the lower end of the fishery, to see mayfly drifting around in the breeze, but no rises to those lifting off the water. Emerging from the trees and walking along the meandering banks, the full heat of the sun now blasted down on the fields, which a few months ago had been covered by flood water.

Polaroids on, no fish were visible in the first five hundred yards, but a plop and a spreading ring on the water from under a tunnel of trees, was the first sign of a feeding trout. To get a chance at this fish, I continued upstream to a clearing, waded across, then hugging the bank, made my way down to to a bend, where a large tree formed an eddy, the trout stationed against the bank sucking in flies as they drifted in range. A normal cast was impossible, so I made several roll casts, until my upbodied mayfly landed just right and disappeared, leaving a bubble on the surface. I pulled into solid resistance, the river boiled and a very determined trout rushed out of the pool and made off downstream round the bend, where rooting along the bank, it snagged me and the leader snapped. Twenty minutes to present the fly and the fight over in seconds! Another fish had begun rising yards upstream, so a new length of 4 lb line was tied on along with my last remaining upbodied may fly and cast to this trout, which obliged with a slow take. I pulled out of it’s jaws and the fly pinged back and snagged in a tree out of reach. Snap! My two upbodied mayflies, bought in Colorado last year, gone in five minutes.

The afternoon was not going well and the sun was even hotter, when I climbed out of the river to continue my search for rising trout. Another few hundred yards on, I reached another small pool, where two trout were rising and taking mayflies from behind a bush. I got back in the river and waded up the shallows and managed to raise both fish to my Shadow Mayfly, twice each, without making contact. This pool is very deep, so continued up along the bank again, wondering if I would actually net a fish that afternoon, stopping at footbridge, where tell tale rings showed mayfly were now on the menu of several fish. My fly floated down to the surface, a dark shape slowly rose to take it, turned and I struck, the brief fight telling me that this was not a trout, but a chub and I swung in the red finned coarse fish. This released I cast again, same result, another chub about six ounces.

Above the bridge I could see a large fish was now feeding with abandon on mayflies and I approached low from the bank to see the swirling takes behind a bush on the other side. Getting as close as I could, this was not an easy cast with reeds on my side of the river and the bush to lose my fly in on the other, but the sight of a full, spotted tail each time the fish rose, spurred me on and my fly was snatched down seconds after touching the surface. After the initial battle was over, I had to find a way to net this big stockie, getting into the water off the steep bank was not on, with deep mud from the reed bed at it’s base. The only option was to play the brown to a standstill and steer it through the reeds to my extended net.

This well conditioned, overwintered stock fish measured 18 inches and needed ten minutes held upstream in the well oxygenated shallows to recover and certainly brought a sweat to my brow during the fight. I’d now broken my duck  and continued upstream, but saw no more rises, until I reached a tree shrouded pool, getting down into the cool, shaded river, where a pair of trout were rising line astern between the trees. The first took and fought well, netting a 12 inch silvery wild brown. This released, I tried for the other rising fish and was soon playing a very strong trout that stayed deep in the pool, being much smaller than the first impression given, another silver wild brown at 14 inches.

I now moved up to where I’d finished up a few days before and had caught a small 6 oz wildie, when my mobile rang, my wife curious to know when I would be home for our evening meal, this being a reminder that it was time to make my way back downstream. I passed numerous rising trout on my way back, the hot afternoon bringing clouds of mayfly spiraling into the air, but I managed to walk on by, until another big tail broke the surface below a bush on my side. My mayfly was again on the water and soon deep in the jaw of a spectacular stockie, bending my seven foot rod to the butt, as it made repeated dives, refusing to be beaten, but giving and taking line, I netted him from the high bank.

An inch shorter at 17 inches this heavily marked brown fought harder than the first, a just reward for persevering in the heat of the day and as I climbed back to the road, the river was echoing to the sound of rising trout taking mayfly. It could all be over by tomorrow.