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One to Remember

By Jim Clarke

It's not the trophy fish on the wall you remember. It's not the stretch-your-arms-out-to-the-camera fish you remember. And it's not the big bags of fish either.

If you are a dyed-in-the-wool, fly-is-the-only–thing-to-catch-a-trout-on angler, then it's the hard fish. The fish somebody had tried for and couldn't rise.

The fish on the wrong tackle.

The fish on too small a hook and too light a cast.

Like this one!

A few years ago a local fishery had become noted for its huge rainbows. This is a put and take fishery situated in the beautiful mountains of North Wales. No bomb crater this. A lovely cottage of Victorian vintage had a lake beside it since it was built. The previous owner had dabbled with ornamental wildfowl on the lake when he wasn't playing with his vintage motor cars. The subsequent, and present, owner felt trout were more to his taste, and as the lake was about two and a half acres, would probably be to other peoples taste as well. And so a business was born.

He put fish in. He put good fish in. Anglers came and caught them and came back for more. A stocking of about 150 fish between 2lbs and 5lbs. Worth fishing for!

It turned out that this old lake offered trouty manna from Heaven. The feeding was so rich that the fish grew and grew and grew. As more fish were stocked, customers kept coming, taking their allotted 2 or 3 fish, (or not as the skill would have it, and therein lies the profit.)

Our new, very sensible owner decided to dig two more lakes downstream from the old one. These would be filled by the overflow from the old lake and benefit from the rich goo in the water that their upstream relatives so enjoyed.

Dave (it's time we gave him a name) also found that, and in retrospect it seems obvious, that a small number of large trout accompanied by a smaller number of even larger trout would beneficially leaven the mix. Once a flyangler had seen, hooked, or even just heard about a twenty pound rainbow he would never go anywhere else on his day off.

So now there are three lakes in perfect sylvan surroundings set in magnificent scenery with fine –conditioned 3 and 4 pound fish to catch. The added spice of knowing there are giant rainbows in there as well is a constant lure and excitement.

It is a fact of life that fishing here often and not connecting with a monster softens the approach a little. The philosophy becomes, "I know there are big fish in here but I am just fishing for normal fish." Fishing on the surface with buzzers, nymphs or even dry flies. The giants are all on the bottom and are only likely to be caught if one were allowed (by ethics if not by fishery rules) to drag a lure through the depths.

I fish these lakes on a regular basis. I have had good fish, most between 3 & 4 pounds as the stocking levels would suggest, a few in the 6 & 7 range and one lovely fish of just over 16 lbs.

One day this summer I was happily fishing the old lake. I had seen fish rising in that sipping twisting way they have when taking something small in the surface film or in the top two inches of water. Buzzers!

I caught one fish of a two fish limit, a three pounder, on a size 12 black buzzer, but then came a lull though fish continued to rise.

Down in fly size I hear you say ? OK, down two sizes I went. Size 16 epoxy-coated buzzer, and green for variety. 3lb nylon goes through the eye of a 16 nicely and shouldn't be seen too readily in crystal clear mountain water. Out it went, cast greased to 6 inches from the fly to slow the sink rate and perhaps keep the fly in the surface for just long enough. A nice straight cast, landing without visible disturbance on the water, just at the edge of a weedbed. Let the buzzer sink and watch like a hawk.

You will realise I was now in that happy, euphoric state we all know so well. All is right with the world. The sun is shining, a fish on the bank for supper and maybe another to come for the smoker. A mallard and her brood of ten fluffy ducklings paddle about on the far bank, a buzzard mews in the clear air over the mountain. Peace . . . and then . . .

Something like a nuclear submarine sailing out of the weeds intent on my buzzer. It was one of those occasions when a split second action seems to take hours. I watched this fish, or at least the shape of a fish at some twenty yards, slowly, it seemed, take my fly and turn away with the fly down its throat.


Within seconds all my line and most of the backing have gone out and I have as yet done nothing to stop it. The fish, which must have been over twenty pounds, has reached the far bank and is turning. But he is turning behind the island I forgot to mention! If he gets round there it's curtains.

I have as much strain on as I dare, but may as well blow bubbles for all the effect it has on this fish. He turned and came back towards me as if he had so intended all along. He has now become somewhat annoyed and is beginning to take this minor irritation rather more seriously. There is an air of the business-like about his movements. I could not retrieve line quickly enough. My hand seems to have gone onto automatic. I am stripping line back through the rings conscious of the fact that it is falling in coils around my feet, storing up disaster for the immediate future.

Ten yards away the fish comes to the surface and turns away again as I get my first real glimpse of him. I have caught salmon in the 30 pound range, and this fish is that big!

Now I remember, somewhat belatedly, what fly I have on. A size 16 buzzer!

I was fishing for three pound fish! Had I known . . .I know what you're saying. But had I remembered there were leviathans in here I might, just might, have fished a bit heavier. That, of course, would have made the fish for the smoker very unlikely indeed.

Back to the fish . . .It came towards me again showing no real signs of concern, a little temporary inconvenience seems to be the message.

Then, and this is the bit I will never forget, he came to the surface, shoulders like a bull, bright pink gills and stripe, full tail waving almost lazily in the water. Next, and I swear this is true, he looked me in the eye and opened his mouth. Contemptuously opened his mouth. The fly, of course, just fell out.

I can see it now, in slow motion. The tiny fly, sinking slowly through the clear water alongside this scornful fish who slowly and majestically drifted away into the depths, leaving me shocked, annoyed, disconsolate and above all shaking like a leaf.

That's a fish I will remember. ~ Jim Clarke

About Jim:

Jim Clarke

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, longer ago than he cares to remember, and on leaving school went into his family's business - Gunmakers and Fishing Tackle manufacturers. By the time he joined the firm it had become more retail than manufacturing , though the history and reputation of the company was somewhat patrician, which stood them in good stead in the face of the modern, retail only, fly-by-night businesses which proliferated in the fifties and sixties in the climate of leisure time explosion. A few years later, feeling somewhat stifled in a company run by father and two warring uncles, he left to take over an ailing gun maker in Chester, England. He was to stay there for thirty pleasant years, retiring some six years ago, ostensibly to have more time to fish. He had given up shooting, but in reality appears to have retired to garden, decorate and construct THINGS in the garden. He has, nevertheless managed to fish in Ireland, Scotland Wales and England, with trips to Sweden and Alaska thrown in. You will find more of Jim's writing in our Readers Casts section. He welcomes your email at:

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