Trout Duffer’s Fortnight gives way to slim pickings.

June 12, 2015 at 2:13 pm

A motor touring holiday in France, over the past two weeks, driving my classic MGB in the company of like minded souls, ranks high in my list of enjoyable holidays, but returning to find that I had missed one of the best Mayfly hatches for years, put a tarnish on the gloss of treasured memories.

A warm breeze blowing east to west, meant an upstream wind on a streamy stretch of the river Kennet, known for it’s head of wild trout and I made the 30 mile trip west on the motorway this week in the hope of a few late mayfly supping trout.

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As a new member of the club, that owns the fishing rights to the water, I first had to find the car park and unlock the gate, the van only just clearing the height bar. That was the first plus point of the evening, balancing out the rush hour drive to the venue. The fishing was upstream of the car park, which meant dodging the traffic on the main road, weighed down with waders, rod, net and tackle, finding myself looking at the river flowing down to the bridge, without any sign of access to the bank. Consulting the club map book, the instructions were to pass through the farm to the river bank. There may have been a farm there 50 years ago, when the map was drawn, but now a retail outlet was in it’s place, with warning signs of gates being locked at 6 pm. This had to be the place and I gathered up my equipment and waddled my way through the bemused customers, scissors and fly boxes rattling, as I progressed through the throng. I startled a weasel in the customer car park, the two inch high predator scurrying off at the highest speed it’s short legs would carry it.

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Arriving at the riverbank, I was confronted by fresh vegetation, that reached up to my chest and began pushing my way through, but soon thanked the stars, that I’d put my waders on, as it was obvious that I was the first angler to visit this year and wading was the easier option, than trying to force my way through the jungle of bramble and willow. The book states, that there is 400 yards of fishable bank and could hear a weir in the distance, but it would take a week of chopping and strimming to reach it at this rate. As a club with perfectly manicured carp waters, it is easy to see where their priorities lie, regarding working parties.

Moaning over, I got down into the river and began wading up toward a long pool, which looked perfect, as it ran round the outside of a bend, with sedges fluttering across the surface, although the tell tale rings of rising fish were absent. I opted to fish a Flash Back Hares Ear gold head nymph and once within range, cast to the tail of the pool, drifting the nymph back across the shallows. Just as I was about to lift for another cast, there was a swirl and I was splashing a small dace across the stones. For the next dozen casts, there was a take, or another dace, these fish lying in the last few inches of water, before the river broke across the gravel. I’d either hooked them all, or scared them off and I moved up a few yards at a time searching out the deeper water, casting up and across, retrieving the nymph through the slower water on my side. Several times the line darted forward and a few more dace were hooked, the largest giving a good impression of a trout, as it fought it’s way across the river.

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This was all good sport, the handbook referring to the stretch being noted for it’s plentiful roach, dace and small barbel and I made a mental note to try to fit in a session on the stick float, once the coarse season begins. The willing dace did not make up for the fact that I’d not even caught a trout parr yet and my last shot would be casting up under the trees at the head of the pool.

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First cast I missed a swirl at the nymph, as it dropped in just short of the overhanging branches, of course never to be repeated, ten minutes of running the nymph along the far side yielding a blank. I waded in deeper, up to the edge of the willows and made tricky casts upstream among the branches, seeing the line zoom away to a solid resistance, followed by the gold bronze flash of a hard fighting brown trout. At last, what I’d come for, but now I had to get it out from among the branches, laying the rod over flat and not giving line, until the trout turned to run downstream. The brownie ran along the opposite bank, before diving to the middle, making head shaking runs, that can easily throw a barbless hook. With a relatively short line out, I was able to play the fish on the reel, bringing it to the surface to pose for a picture, although it had dived again before I was ready.

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My net was leaning against a willow midstream and had to walk the brownie back across the shallows to get it, if I was to lose the fish, now was the time, but it came to the landing net with the minimum of fuss.

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Two weeks ago the river would have been alive with fish like this taking Mayfly, but was pleased that perseverance paid off, this pound wild fish swimming free minutes after. My desire to catch a trout from the Kennet with a fly rod satisfied, this being my first, I was soon back on the bank, fighting through the undergrowth, reaching the car park of the retail shop, as the shutters were being lowered, saving me a climb over the gate at 6 pm. The traffic was now queuing both sides of the road, these frustrated drivers unaware of the natural wonders only yards from their cars, as I threaded my way through them with a smile on my face.