My brother and I are no Paul Maclean’s. We won’t win any fishing competitions, certainly won’t win any casting competitions, and neither of us is likely to marry Jennifer Aniston any time this year. What we lack in those departments we do however make up for in the ‘bullheaded determination’ category. To this end we got up at 5am on Sunday morning to go and see what was happening down our favourite river.
A pal of mine mentioned to me a while back that during the hot summer months he’d had most success on his local rivers very early in the morning. At such times the water temperature is lowest, and coupled with a steadily increasing air temperature as the sun comes up this may lead to good fly activity. I used to fish for tench very early in the morning, but what about trout?
We arrived expectantly awaiting a kettle of feeding fish, but of course we found a rather different river. Just the occasional gloop broke the smooth surfaces of the glides, and the bubbling runs busily chatted away to each other, the trout eavesdropping somewhere else.
I tried casting to a couple fish I saw rise, but after cycling from a DHE to a Shipman’s it looked rather like the fish couldn’t really be bothered. So we both switched to nymphs, vague haresy jobbies with black or gold noggins. I set things up with a little tuft of sheeps wool a couple of feet from the fly, perfectly happy that I was going to disown myself later for this terrible act of heresy. About 500 false strikes later I was ready for a DHS again. A size 18 brought a handful of takes, but it was obvious that things weren’t really happening. I began to wonder whether some rivers are naturally better ‘evening’ or ‘morning’ streams. Perhaps their orientation to the sun (as in directly upstream/downstream) has an effect. Certainly this matters to fishermen..!
This cracker took a size 8 Royal Wulff. At one stage, as the backing knot wizzed ever closer, I felt a pang of doubt over my abilities as an angler.
Further upstream I caught a couple of pretty trout to the DHE, fished with almost only the leader on the water. The more we fish here the more we realise this is the way. Charles Jardine had an article in FF&FT a couple of months ago about this. It’s got to be the best way to fish fast pockety water.
We had breakfast at about 1pm. Madcap dedication I say, considering we hadn’t really caught very well. But it was a lovely morning, a wee breeze and some flittering clouds adding to the yellow sunshine. A few sedges milled around landing on us and generally looking sleepy.
This chap caught my eye with his tigery patterns. John Goddard tells me he’s a brown silverhorn sedge, and is very common on streamy rivers.
Afternoon and nap time. Nothing like a kip on the river bank, especially after a couple of hours sleep the night before followed by 7 hours straight fishing.
About 4pm we stirred and thought about heading back to town for our evening arrangements. Wondering down the river we noticed that the breeze had strengthened and there were rain clouds on the horizon. What followed was totally unexpected.
A hatch. A big hatch. Of blue-winged olives.
It was fantastic to see little explosions in the riffles as trout broke the surface. Careful weighing up of the maths and we decided that the following formula had been applied by the trout:
Big BWO hatch + howling gale = loadsa flies on the water
We furthered this with:
Loadsa flies on the water + loadsa trout = a cracking rise
Which turned out to be spot on. Only it took me a short lifetime to realise exactly what was happening. First I managed to go through about 7 fly changes, from red-tags to bibios to double badgers, with thoughts of a terrestrial fall. The fish, however, were definitely experiencing some tunnel vision.
Finally I began to wise up and put on my never-fail CDC F-fly in a size 16, and started hooking fish. It was odd, it almost seemed like they were so clued into the duns that even the standard emergers were being ignored. I’m sure this had something to do with the strong wind, and slightly inclement conditions. This meant that the duns were really struggling to get airborne, so that many more ended up on the water than usual. Fascinating stuff I thought, and very exciting to be a part of. Next time I’ll try not to be caught so unawares. I suppose you don’t expect such good surface activity in the middle of the dog days.
As my brother pointed out, our takes-to-hookups-to-landings ratio was totally horrendous. I had so many fish splash at the fly, with my bullet-strikes failing to connect. I hooked quite a few despite this, but lost all before ‘proper’ release was possible. I was a little frustrated by this, especially as we had to leave while BWOs were still stumbling around on the water. But in hindsight, it was just great to be in a proper hatch again, and casting to rising fish with at least a vague idea of where the fly was.
It was amazing to witness how a really difficult fishing situation can suddenly become almost ‘easy’. A writer called Bob Wyatt (the guy whose fly patterns I usually use) wrote an article about this very thing in last months FF&FT, and to me it just makes more and more sense the longer I’m a fly fisherman. If there’s food, there’re fish. If there’s no food, use a wooly bugger.