Mayfly slow to hatch on the River Whitewater

May 27, 2021 at 2:29 pm

Cold winds and torrential rain have kept the brakes on the annual Mayfly Hatch on the River Whitewater this year, but with the promise of warmer weather to come, prospects could change for the better by the weekend. Getting down to the river on the first decent afternoon for weeks, I stood on the road bridge looking upstream hoping to see a few Mayflies hatching, or fish rising, but was disappointed. The river was still slightly coloured and it looked like more rain was on the way.

This was only my second visit since a cold windy open day in April and had tied on a small yellow Mayfly pattern in my optimism. At this time last year, the Hatch was in full flow and I set off upstream in search of rises. A few hundred yards on, the unmistakeable splashy rise of a decent trout, then another further up got my heart racing and I managed to get down into the shallows to wade the last few yards. On the waiting list for a new knee, this was an effort, having to make do with wellies instead of waders.

There was a strong downstream wind adding to the line drag and I needed an accurate cast to reach the first fish under the left hand bank. My back cast caught in the alders above my head and I lost the fly. By the time that I had tied on a replacement fly, the short hatch of a dozen flies was over and my imitation was ignored.

Continuing upstream small yellow mayfly were fluttering across the river and another trout was feeding close to a sunken branch. From the high bank I could see a wild brown of about 12 oz and measured my casts, the first few ignored, while the trout continued to feed as a steady supply drifted down. On my next cast, the trout moved toward the fly, then turned to the right to slurp in one closer, before darting to the left to scoop up mine. It was on! Initially diving beneath the branch, I pulled it out, only for it to start tumbling on the surface, coming close to my bank and the shallows. I had no control and reached forward with my already extended landing net, while the the trout continued to thrash on the surface. It came off and darted back to safety. Not a big fish, but it would have broken my duck.

This part of the river was always a good nursery for juvenile trout, while holding a few rod benders, that only come out from their deep pools, when the Mayfly are on the water. There were still a few crayfish nets secreted along the banks and it is hoped that the reduced number of crays will result in more surviving wild fish.

I continued upstream to the weir, but with no sign of rising fish, I tried my luck with my Blackdevil nymph, casting to likely holding areas and runs.

Casting up between the post of a berm, the line arced round into the eddy as it passed, but I lifted into thin air, the weighted nymph flying back. Too late, or too early? A missed fish all the same.

I saw one more crashing rise on the way back, plenty of fly life of all sizes, but few mayfly. Crossing the road, I entered the next beat, seeing another member Steve wading up to his waist, casting up under the bridge, where fish were rising. He reported netting a 2 lb fish above the bridge at the weekend, which was encouraging news. I continued down to the next pool, seeing several rises among a hatch of small white Mayfly. Removing the nymph, I tied on a bodied Mayfly and cast among the rising fish, only for the fly to be attacked by a small fish, which I missed. A few more tries and a small chub of six inches took a flying lesson before falling off. Move on.

More Mayfly were now in the air and I watched a big trout sucking them in from an eddy among the safety of roots and a fallen tree. If I could get the fly in there, it was unlikely that I would be able to get it out. The sound of another fish rising further down saw me enter the river again, almost falling in, when I used a dead tree for support, it crumbling in my hands as I gripped it. Fortunately I avoided a soaking, my heavy aluminium extendable landing net coming to my aid as I stumbled.

I have had many fine trout from this pool in the past and as I waded through the shallows, a good fish rose among the roots on the left at the top end. Keeping close to the edge, I cast to the area. The fly sat for only seconds before it was engulfed and I was playing a hard fighting trout, that was charging toward the roots. I have been lulled by catching chub lately, this was no chub, the power of a trout is up several levels. It turned and rushed back, rolling in the shallows, before another long run. With a dark back and silvery sides, I was reminded of a seatrout as it rolled again. Tightening down the line, it fought in diminishing circles, until it turned on its side and drifted back to my net.

A sleek wild brown trout of about a pound and a half, that rewarded persistence, a beautiful fish that my camera could not do justice to. The barbless size 12 fell out once the pressure was off and I held the trout facing upstream, until it swam back out of the landing net. Another member Richard had stopped, while I waited for the trout to recover and he extended a welcome hand to pull me up the bank to save my aching knee. My cancelled operation would have been a few days before, so good came of it in the end, as I would not have been able to catch this fine fish, if it had gone ahead.