This was the first day on the river for this year, and a miserable start to the day it turned
out to be. Typical start of the season stuff this, cold, wet and windy! The Gods' seem to
be able to tell with unerring certainty the precise moment that I intend to start my fishing
for the season. Although the start from home was uninviting to say the least, when I arrived
on the river bank things did not seem quite so bad. Of course this could be ascribed to
the enthusiasm of one who can't wait to cast a fly upon the water being able to inure
himself to the conditions prevailing with a stoicism of one who knows that things cannot
get any worse.
It was my first sight of the river since the end of last season, and what a delightful surprise
it turned out to be. The water level was the highest that I could remember, possibly similar
to the level of that in the year that I first fished these beats - 1986.
After the poor levels and sluggish flow of the last few years it was a joy to see that
the deep water and fast current had scoured the mud and silt off the bottom exposing
gravel patches and allowing large clumps of weed to grow. I am not certain what effect
this will have on the fly hatches during the year, we shall have to wait and see. The
amount of water that was about can be gauged by the fact that when the keeper on
the 'opposition' bank appeared during the afternoon, he was walking on the bank
where the rods usually stood, but wading in water.
As it was my first outing of the year, I decided to play safe and cast the first fly in my
old and favoured spot - down at the south end of the island opposite the Horse
Chestnut trees. Although the water was slightly cloudy I could make out one or two
small fish lying well out near the far bank. The usual place for trout. Too far to get at
easily with the prevailing wind conditions!
I watched for some considerable time but saw no sign of any movement which could,
with any amount of generous interpretation, be construed as a trout feeding. Not a
flicker. I thought to encourage these moribund creatures a little, and with that aim
tied on a Blue-winged Olive pattern, a Pheasant-tail, and cast it over their heads. A
momentary tilt of the head, a quick, almost shy sideways glance was the only reaction.
Clearly these piscatory creatures were not yet in the mood to play. It appears to be
my lot to encounter trout such as these with a regularity bordering on ennui.
As the wind was beginning to strike chilly, funneling its way up through the gap between
the trees over the old railway bridge, I decided to move up-stream onto the carrier
above the boathouse where I had been informed "there are fish", it was also a very
sheltered and pleasingly warm spot. There were several trouts to be seen but only
one evincing interest in food. This chap was lying right under the far bank above the
Ash tree - under which I had caught my first fish on these beats long ago - and between
two large tussocks of grass. There was only an occasional rise but it was worthwhile
having a go at putting a fly to it. Unfortunately my first cast snagged the fly on the
up-stream tussock and the subsequent commotion caused in my retrieval of said fly
persuaded this timid fish to remove itself off down-stream in disgusting haste.
Whilst contemplating the river at this stage I noticed that there were very few flies
coming off the water - some Blue-winged Olives and what looked like a few Iron
Blues. It was possibly still a bit too cold for most of them to put in an appearance.
Looking up-stream above the footbridge opposite the fishing hut I could see one or
two small ripples from something breaking the surface now and again. I thought that
it was likely to be a grayling but decided to move up for a closer inspection just in case.
It was good to see such a depth of water in the carrier there and in it several trouts
and a few grayling. It was a grayling that I had seen rising to take the odd fly, the
trouts were not moving.
In the afternoon about two thirty, after the sun had warmed things up a bit, joy of joys,
a hatch of Blue-winged Olives started. This was the first real hatch that I had seen on
the beats in recent years and it brought back some very pleasant memories indeed.
The sight of those duns floating down-stream in lines, one after the other, made the
whole day worthwhile.
Almost immediately a trout started to feed and with my Pheasant-tail at the ready I
cast to what appeared to be a good looking fish that was rising just where the carrier
divides. As soon as the fly came within its vision it took it. Splendid. The first of the
season. It put up a bit of a spirited fight but I soon managed to bring it to the net. As
I put the net under to lift it out of the water I realized that in my excitement I had failed
to tighten the handle of my net. The handle was about to part company from the net!
It is at moments such as these that a stout heart and a bout of blind panic are required.
A combination of these two resulted in me releasing the trout out of the net - but still
on the rod - pulling the net in with one hand, tightening the lock-nut in very short order
and getting it back in the water under the somewhat perplexed trout. A good fish at
just on a pound and a half, but I could do with a little less excitement the next time.
Luckily the wild flaying about had not disturbed the other fish and I was able to cast
to another one which was feeding further up-stream. This one took the fly first time
and then went berserk for a couple of minutes, rushing up and down and leaping well
clear of the water after the manner of a Rainbow. When I did land it, a stock Brown,
it weighed in at two pounds.
Almost as suddenly as it had started, the hatch stopped and fish ceased feeding. It
is quite amazing how rapidly this occurs leaving one contemplating a flat, dead looking
Before I left for home at four o'clock I saw a solitary Mayfly come off the water and
a Mallard duck with four ducklings swimming up-stream past the cottage but nothing
else disturbed the scene or water's surface.
All in all it was not too bad a start to the season, and I heard the first Cuckoo. ~ Mike Pratt