I had not expected to be on the river today, but as my old
friend - the Professor - was away I fished his rod instead.
A pleasant bonus.
The morning gave every indication of being the fore-runner of a
fine warm day, ideal for fishing.
When I arrived on the bank however, it was noticeable that the
wind was very strong from the Northeast. This meant that things
like casting flies upstream - as is a requirement of this
beat - was not going to be too easy because the wind was blowing
straight down the river. Why conditions can never be right for
the would-be fisherman, I don't know. We don't ask a lot!
The pleasure of fishing on beats such as this one is not confined
just to placing a fly upon the water and making contact with the
odd trout. When I arrived this morning - a sunny, crisp spring
day - I was greeted with the smell of new mown grass. The keeper
had mown all the surrounding areas the day before - not only making
it easy to move about - but scenting the air for this morning and
creating an evocation of childhood days and haymaking. An added
delight for the day.
As I had had no luck down by the Chestnut trees on my last outing
here, I decided that I would start the day upstream of the Copper
beech tree which, with it's fresh new leaves, is beginning to look
in very fine shape. The river surface showed no sign of fish feeding
or moving in any way. If it were not a contradiction in terms for a
flowing river, one could say it was absolutely still. Although it
might not be construed as being early, 10 o'clock, I have often
seen plenty of movement at this time on other days. About 11 o'clock
as the sun started to warm up the air a bit, one or two Blue-winged
olives hatched - rather reluctantly I thought - and the odd grayling
moved themselves from their somnambulance in a somewhat desultry
manner in an attempt to intercept said flies before they could take
to the wing. The grayling appeared a touch out of practice. Even
though activity was now evident, there was none from any trout and
I began to wonder why I had made the journey.
I determined that as there was nothing happening on this part of
the river, except me getting frustrated, I would move down below
the beech opposite the fishing hut and see if anything was happening
there. There were a few more rises to be seen out near the far bank,
most of which gave the splashy indications of small grayling getting
their eye in. About threequarters of the way out there was a more
positive rise to floating duns clearly showing the bulge of a trout's
head as it sucked the fly under.
To put a fly to this chap was going to be a bit of a problem. Is it
ever anything else? Well out in the river with a very strong wind
blowing the wrong way. A couple of experimental casts downstream
of where it was lying showed the problem was going to be judging what
the wind "out there" was doing irrespective of what it was doing
where I was. Nearly every time that I put the fly out in the right
direction the wind took it at the last moment and deposited it well
behind the feeding fish. If I allowed for this wind effect and cast
well upstream, with a perversity well known to fly fishermen the
world over, the wind left the fly alone and it landed too far upstream
permitting the drag of the current to take over before it reached the
fish it was intended to deceive!
As there was no other feeding trout within prospect, and little else
to pass the time, I persevered with the attempts to get the fly in
the correct place. I eventually worked out what the wind ripples on
the river should look like when the wind was giving a slight stroke
to my right side if I were to put the fly in the air without it being
blown all over the river. That took some time and all the time I
was concerned lest the flies should cease to hatch and the fish cease
to feed. With a lot of luck and a modicum of skill, I eventually put
the fly in a reasonable place and the trout turned a foot to its right
and took it. With a certain amount of mutual surprise we joined battle
for a minute or two before I managed to bring it to the net.
It was a most beautifully coloured and marked stock brown of one and
three-quarter pounds. Its flanks were a golden pinkish hue with a
metalic blue along the back all covered with clear black centred
white spots and a few brick red spots along the sides. It was in
Although I saw a couple of other trout moving about in the stream,
I did not see any taking up a station and start feeding.
After lunch I moved across to the carrier by the fishing hut where
it was very pleasant in the sun and slightly more sheltered from
the wind. I put a fly to a trout lying upstream of the dividing
wall but it snatched at the fly, just made contact, frightened itself
and shot off upstream after the manner of one in a hurry to get
During the rest of the afternoon I saw no other activity on the river
save for a pair of Tufted ducks disputing territory with an abrasive
Coot, and a more delicately natured Grey wagtail demonstrating that
its ability to catch flies was better than mine at using them. I
also heard several Cuckoos in the vicinity.
At about 4.30 I moved upstream to fish off the old garden wall because
I had seen some signs of activity out in mid-stream which looked as
though it might be promising. About 20 feet out opposite the top
end of the wall I could see what appeared to be a sizable fish
feeding intermittently. The first time I put the fly to it, it
came up, looked, and then settled back whence it had come. The
second time, it came up and obviously having thought the whole
thing out carefully, took the fly in a positive manner. I had
a bit of a fight until bringing it to the net at two and a half
pounds. On taking my fly out, I found that I was the new owner of
a small Grey Wulff which this trout had taken from someone else at
an earlier date. No sooner had I landed this fish than I saw another
rising about 30 feet downstream. I moved down and put the fly over
it and it took straight away - another fish in the net of the same
weight as the previous one.
I am always surprised that one can spend a considerable time on the
river bank with little to show for it and then in the space of a few
minutes two large trout are in the net. After this little flurry of
activity things settled down a bit and it was some time before I saw
another trout feeding just upstream of the island point. Although
I made contact with it, it was not a prolonged relationship and he
soon made off to carry out more important matters.
It was interesting that although the wind was increasing in strength,
and it was getting a bit colder there were many Mayfly hatching. Most
were males but a fair few females were appearing. The trout were
ignoring them, which was just as well as most were blown back onto
the water by the strong wind as soon as they became airborne and it
was a struggle to finally make it into the trees. It is good to see
that the strong flow of water throughout the winter has not scoured
the bottom too much and removed the Mayflys' habitat. It promises
well for the next few weeks.
It was a good note on which to pack up for the day and wend my way home.
~ Mike Pratt