Urban trout river gives up it’s treasure.

May 9, 2014 at 11:40 pm

With my syndicate trout stream flooded and unfishable, I turned round and headed towards a truly urban chalkstream, where no matter how much rain falls, it runs clear from the chalk hills surrounding the town, while also acting as a flood drain to the housing estates that crowd it’s banks.

I arrived just as the local first school was finishing for the day and had to wait until a parking space became available, while the mums collected their little darlings for the drive home. As a young child, fresh from the bomb sites of London, I was turfed out of school to find my own way home, and along with my short trousered friends, it was time for discovery and adventure. That feeling is returned whenever I stand on the banks of this river. Each year it changes in subtle ways, it’s trout finding new places to feed and just getting the fly onto the water can be as difficult as a world championship snooker shot.

My first visit is usually when the daffodils are still in bloom, but they were long gone today, the banks already lined with cow parsley eager to catch my line. With this in mind, I set up with my 9 ft No7 rod to fish from the bank, opting for my Black Devil nymph, fished on a greased line just below the surface.

There were a few olives and May flies about, but no sign of rising fish, the  strong gusting wind would have restricted the presentation of  a dry fly, so the nymph was the best option. Parking half way along the stretch, I walked upstream keeping my eyes on the water for fish, seeing the spots of the first trout before I observed it’s outline, the deep brown fish in position a yard from my bank behind a bed of streamer weed. This was at least a pound and I measured the line to one side, before committing to a cast. The wind caught the leader and dumped it in a heap above the brownie and I watched the fish drop down, then fade from sight. This was soon forgotten, when a cast upstream to the middle brought a bulge, where I thought the nymph should be. The line hadn’t moved, but I lifted on instinct and felt the welcome resistance of a small trout, bundling it out of the water to be returned immediately. Moving up a few yards, the line zipped forward seconds after it hit the water and a slightly larger trout needed the net.

I moved up to a gap between two trees growing out across the river from the far bank. This looked promising, with an arch formed over the water. A couple of casts and I was in again, but put on too much pressure trying to keep it out of the lower tree, where it dashed downstream and lost it. Above the tree, the river opened out and several casts later another seven inch brown was being swung to hand. Behind an overhanging laurel, I was taken by surprise when the line sank into an expanding ripple, the line tightening slowly as I lifted into a heavy fish. There had been no sign of movement on the line again, the trout dropping back with the Black Devil in it’s mouth. The fight was a slow starter, but soon got going, as the near pound brownie rushed downstream, bending the rod double. Worried that I may pull out of this trout too, I gave line until it turned and began to swim upstream, continuing past me to turn again, then boil on the surface, before diving into the streamer weed at my feet, where it slipped the barbless hook. What do you do? I prefer barbless hooks to cause as little damage as possible to a fish, but two good trout lost, had me thinking of tying on a barbed version of the nymph.

It was time to move down to the bottom of the stretch, where a grannom hatch was in progress and a few small trout were making splashing rises. The Black Devil has caught well fished shallow in such a hatch, possibly mistaken for the grannom caddis nymph and a few casts across to a gravel run saw the leader pull straight, followed by another small trout launching out of the water to finish at my feet. At this point a van stopped at the roadside and the driver came over for a chat. “So there are trout in here!” He lived a few miles upstream and didn’t realise that there were hidden treasures swimming within feet of one of the busiest urban areas west of London.

A rise in the shadow of the far bank saw me respond with a long cast up to it, the wind neatly placing the leader above the spot in a downstream curve. Splosh! An audible boil and side strike, saw a better wild brown flashing in the sunlight beneath the surface, before being safely netted.

Hooked in the bottom lip, this 4oz trout gave a good account of it’self in the fast flowing river, swimming off like a dart when released. It was nearly time to go and I made my way up to another gap in the trees. There were now rises along the length of the river and I watched for a steady riser, seeing regular boils alongside a far bank bush. The wind was still bad, with the vegetation on my side, dense, but the longer rod kept the line clear and I made false casts to get in range, the fish turning as the nymph skated on the surface, taking with a splash. Better still, this one was about 6oz, not a monster, but still a challenge as it bucked and turned, staying in contact to the net.

If I was to get home by 6pm as promised, I had to resist the temptation to continue, cutting off my nymph and breaking down the rod, as I walked back to the van. Next visit should see Mayfly on the water in numbers and those rarely seen lunkers coming out to join in the feast.