Urban brown trout save the day

May 13, 2016 at 8:09 pm

So far this year, my river trout fishing season has been a near nonevent with visits lucky to see a take, let alone hook a trout, the sum total for at least half a dozen outings on three different waters, being three fish lost. The cold snap, that came with the first weeks of official summertime saw low water temperatures and little fly life. The rivers looked perfect, but nothing was moving.

In the last week the wind changed round from the cold north to the south, with a double digit increase in temperatures bringing out shorts and T shirts from the draw, while the air was suddenly full of flying insects. With a three day ticket and unable to fish my nearby syndicate river until Thursday, I hoped to finally christen my new rod and reel, but then the rains came, then came again, causing flash flooding that changed the clear waters to muddy chocolate. Thursday was full of warm sunshine and determined to fish, I took on the task of crossing evening flows of traffic exiting London, to get to an urban river that is rarely affected by floods, although I had my doubts, when I saw the river Thames rushing by in spate, during my hour long journey.

The chalk stream, once power for many mills and factories along it’s route, looked clear as I drove over it to park among the houses, seeing a wading angler already fishing downstream.

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I usually start downstream and walk up, but without wanting to intrude on the other fly fisher, my only option was the fifty yards above the bridge. Stopping to look upstream, the surface was covered by zigzagging grannoms, while here and there mayfly were lifting off, although nothing was rising to them. Looking down to the clean gravel, trout are often visible, but there were none on show in the evening light. At this point I realised that my trout bag clear out the other day had not resulted in the return of my polaroids.

Tying on a size 16 mini gold head, gold ribbed Hares Ear, I began searching out the runs between the early weed growth, casting up and across, watching the greased leader as it drifted back with the rapid flow. The line sped upstream and I lifted the rod to see the grey outline of a trout appear like magic above the gravel bed, as the hook took hold, then a flash of gold, when it turned to rush downstream. So far this year, this has been the time when the barbless hook has come free, but it stayed firm, putting a satisfying bend in my 7 ft 4 WT rod. The run was stopped, then turned, the brown running back upstream past me, before drifting back to the net.

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Signs of a late spring, this wild brown was very lean, the 13 inch fish full of fight, but well down on weigh for May, the tiny gold head nymph firmly set in the scissors of it’s jaw. Returned immediately after this pic, it was held facing upstream until it kicked away to freedom.

The nymph soon struck gold again, with a 9 inch brown running away upstream, fighting well beyond it’s weight. Unhooked, I held it up for another pic, only for it to flip back into the stream to be gone from sight. Twenty minutes into the session and I’d already had two trout, restoring the faith in my ability. Moving further upstream, a laurel bush grows out across the river, acting as an upstream barrier and a safe haven for larger fish. Making casts to the base of the bush, the leader zipped forward and I was playing another good trout, which boiled on the surface, then thankfully got it’s head down, pulling hard upstream to the bush, before giving up to run in the opposite direction, eventually bringing the wildie onto it’s side and the net.

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At 12 inches , this was another thin trout in need of a few mayfly hatches to pack on some weight. I’d been on the water for half an hour and had covered my stretch; the other angler had gone, having worked up to the bridge, so walked back downstream two hundred yards to where the river passes under another road bridge and out of sight behind houses. The sun was already hidden by the trees as I fished upstream, the light not penetrating the river, not ideal for the nymph. There were no more takes, possibly the wading angler had put them all down.

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As I walked, mayfly began to lift off, skating free of the surface and trout began to rise all over the river. I had no mayflies with me, not expecting a hatch until later in the month and looked for something bushy with a wing, finding a size 12 Deer Hair Sedge. The light was going fast and the trout were rising, a combination to make the tying on of the Sedge a matter of  “more haste, less speed” as the line refused to enter the eye, then once successfully passed through, the line had a mind of it’s own forming the knot.

The trout waited, many jumping clear of the water in a desperate bid to gorge themselves before the hatch finished. I made a cast to the general area of splashes, the fly disappeared in a swirl and contact, a trout was on, cartwheeling across the surface toward the bank. I swung it in, the four ounce brown sliding through my fingers, rustling through the bankside stinging nettles, before falling back with a plop. A few false casts and the fly landed again, the wind dragging the line, a better fish taking as I lifted off, which fought unseen by me, applying pressure to bring it to the surface, it’s splashes guiding my net. A more plump brownie hooked in the nose, which was lowered back to the water in my net to swim free. The light was fading and my picture was blurred, but I’ve posted it anyway.

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I had broken my duck with some exciting fishing and the new rod had performed as I’d hoped. Next visit will include polaroids and a box of mayflies.