Wild brown trout few and far between on the summer river.

August 22, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Weeks of bright sunshine, interspersed with heavy thundery showers, had kept me away from my small Hampshire trout river, and with more heavy showers forecast for the afternoon, I drove the ten miles from my home to arrive before 11 am, detirmined to catch a trout, or two. Walking from the gate down to the river, the corn had been cut and the hay bales were awaiting collection, life on a farm never standing still and it was clear from the well trodden banks, that fellow syndicate members had been busy too. Ignoring these hard fished areas, I made my way down to a beat unknown to me and judging by the untroubled vegetation along the banks, not visited by anyone else so far this summer.

An overgrown tree barred further progress downstream and I parted ranks of himalayan balsham to lower myself down among reeds into the river. The reeds had grown out from each bank, leaving only a yard gap for the river to surge through and I was taken aback it’s force, the restriction pushing the water up to my waste. I was now committed to wade upstream, the banks here are too steep to climb out again and I used my landing net handle to test the depth, as I pushed through the reeds towards a clearing, that opened up in front of me. This looked so good, that I was tempted to take off the size 18 gold head Hares Ear and tie on a dry sedge, even though there were no fish rising, but it had already taken me almost an hour to get to this point and I was itching to fish this virgin territory. The nymph had barely touched the surface, when a fish swirled with a splash and straightened the line, boiling on the surface, as I stripped back to stay in contact.

Not my expected trout, but a fighting fit dace, that continued the struggle in my hand. Another dace, then a small chub took with gusto. A longer cast dropped the nymph beneath a bankside shrub, it drifted alongside a clump of weed, then was engulfed, as a fish took. This was definitely a trout and a good one at that, diving back into the deep pool to it’s right, pulling hard against the rod, before breaking the surface in a shower of spray, then steaming past me into the reeds below, being carried by the strong current down towards the overhanging tree. The slack was taken up in seconds and the rod doubled over again. The trout was still on, hugging the bottom and taking line in surges, assisted by the flow. A bigger fish would have broken me, but this was under a pound and once turned, was fighting the funnel of water too, seeing a flash of gold, as it neared the surface, before diving again. Taking my time, I played it back on the reel, a pleasure for all flyfishermen, the wild brown on it’s side by the time it reached the net.

A perfect jewel of the stream, from a dreamed of pool. I have friends, who only fish heavily stocked lakes and rivers and expect a trout a cast, but for me this is the ultimate fishing, a true wild fish, hatched in the redds among my feet. The barbless hook had dropped out in the net and the trout stayed still long enough for a photo, before being released with it’s head upstream. I continued to wade, searching out the deeper runs, spooking a couple of smaller trout, that I failed to spot in time for a cast, but also tumbling another, that I did.

 A firm take resulted in a bustling fight from a tiny perch.

This equally tiny chub made a meal of the nymph.

Clouds had been gathering and now the slow pitter-patter of rain falling on the foliage all around me, turned to a full blown hiss as the heavens opened, two hours earlier than forecast. I took cover under a tree, trying a few unrewarded bow and arrow casts, while I waited for the deluge to ease, then, once the rain dripping from the leaves was worse, than the rain outside, I ventured out.

A deep run along the outside of a bend looked promising and casts were made as close to the overhanging greenery as I dared. I’m not sure what I saw first, the flash of gold, or the leader darting forward, but the result was the same, fish on. Smaller than the first brown, this one was almost luminous, it’s green-gold body clearly visible as it fought among the stones ahead of me.

The forceps had to come out for this one, the nymph embedded in it’s tongue, the very reason I only use barbless hooks. A push back with the forceps and the hook was out, this beautiful trout swimming free, rather than lying dead on the bottom.

The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started and the warming sun came out again, bringing with it rises further upstream in calmer water. By the time I’d made my way up to the area and tied on a size 18 Deerhair Sedge, the rise had stopped. Knowing that fish were here and waiting for another hatch, I dropped the first cast above the tail of the pool, where a bold take made instant contact with a boiling dace, that was soon in my hand.

The dace released downstream, a cast further up into the pool gave the same result. Where were the trout? There were two decent browns in this pool earlier this year. I can only assume they have been caught so many times by other members, that they have cleared off. Maybe they were taken by mink, there have been reports of four killed in our traps recently. I continued my upstream wade into a previously prolific area without tempting a trout to rise, another small chub being my only consolation.

Rain began to fall again and the nymph went back on, as I climbed out of the river to make for cover in a spinney, getting back in the river, when it eased.

I’d made a few blind casts under the left bank, when I spotted a slight bulge beneath the surface to the right and dropped the nymph short to the spot. A take as it dimpled the surface, had a feisty ten inch brown scurrying around in front of me, as I frantically tried to retrieve slack line. It came off at my feet. At least there were some trout in this barren looking stretch. Further up a smaller brown tumbled off without setting the hook, this time from a pool, once protected by an alder, that fell victim to the farmer’s chainsaw this year. My final cast into a deeper run along the left bank, met with a snatching take from yet another dace, that had me hoping that it was a trout. A hard fighting fish, but not what I paid my money to catch.

Signal crayfish and mink are both on the increase on our water, despite the best efforts of the voluntary bailiffs to reduce their numbers, which may be the reason for so few trout taken this session. It had been hoped last year, that the rapid growth of the wild brown trout, would provide a bumper season, but that has not happened, the prime feeding areas being occupied by coarse fish. A rumble of thunder brought my visit to a close, I had still caught trout, had caught on nymph and dry, while fishing in the heart of the English countryside on a clear chalkstream, what had I to complain about?