Oliver Edwards Footprint Dun is as much a game changer, and as essential to have in the fly box as the Klinkhammer. I’ve had many days on the river when its been menacingly warm early in the day, and I knew in advance thats it wasn’t going to be an easy or very productive days fishing. The heat builds continuously from mid morning to glaring brightness that makes it tough for even the darkest polaroids, and then its steady until early evening. This is only tolerable because I know that it will be a fabulous few hours 7’ish through to sunset, and darkness.
The sad thing is, we can’t always choose the day when we’ll be able to get away fishing, and we just have to make the best of when we can. Bright hot days such as these are a torment. On the river, the give away clue that confirms the apprehension is that its easy to have sight of fish, many are specimens, holding station, tail gently fanning, right on the edge of bright green waving fronds of a ranunculus bed, tucked under the far banking or an overhanging tree, not even bothering for passing nymphs. Easily spotted pods of grayling, any one of which would make it a red letter day, if only you could get just one of them to take a fly or nymph.
I had one such day on Reach 10 last season. R10 is one of the shorter reaches of this wild trout chalkstream. Single bank fishing only because of the trees curtaining one side, most of which overhang half way across the river. The true right bank is a wheatfield, the farmer leaves an access strip which is overgrown with meadow weeds occasional thistle, and compulsory nettles. Its all wadeable, not deep at any point, crotch deep most of it, but casting has to be carefully thought about. Occasional vertically hanging fronds. If you’re left handed this must be really tough.
The reach is accessed down a dusty track past an old water mill that is now a B&B, over a rattley old slotted tractor bridge spanning the river, where I pause for a moment to look up and downstream, pondering whether its going to be 9A or 10. Near the top, there is an intriguing short stretch where a number of willows lean further across forming a 30’ green shaded tunnel under which it is very difficult to cast a fly, in there, occasional powerful swirls, or teasing small dimples which is an indicator of the larger fish. One day, I’ll explore the overhanging branches, there must be many a cursing anglers lost flies. Here I disturb a Kingfisher on the lower branch tips surveying the margins, from where methodically during the day it picks off fingerling minnows and grayling. Tackle up by the rattley bridge, before setting off I examine the metal uprights of the bridge, where spiders webs reveal the previous days and nights flies, Another minute sampling and examining the contents of what is coming down or up from the gravelly bed, – nothing of any significance…Mmmmm.
Its about three hundred yards downstream where the reach begins, its important to keep well back into the edge of the wheat field, somehow resisting the temptation to go closer to take a peek at the river, walking past water without looking is just unnatural.
An hour and a half later, after my usually dependable emergers, small olive duns, black midges I’m becoming concerned that I hadn’t had a fish. Several had rose, examined, almost sniffed the fly but decided it wasn’t for them, today. Even the tiniest flies have proved fruitless, high temperatures and bright sunlight makes them unwilling to exert themselves.
The usually dependable Grey Goose nymph, is only glanced at, GRHE causes a momentary half turn off station, nothing more. The river is so rich in subsurface invertebrates, its was going to take something special, different or interesting to unpin them from the golden gravel.
I tied on a pale olive Footprint Dun, the splayed legs make a wonderful dimpling effect, and the forked tail filaments confirm it is a genine fly. I don’t know if its aggression or interest, but it had an immediate impact. I cast it up to where a riffle finished and a reasonable smooth but speedy glide ran towards an overhanging willow. The FD lands beautifully on its four legs. The trout I could occasionally spy as the weed waft exposed it, didn’t move, but from a narrow channel between two weedbeds, a previously unseen fish detached itself from the cover of the overlapping green ribbons of weed, and without hesitation, in once synchronised move, intercepted, gaping flash of white mouth, completed the turn showing a thick spotted flank before sinking downwards again, leaving a blur of olive brown and spots that instantly punches adrenalin into your bloodstream. Actually it hooked itself, all I did was hold the rod, I don’t think I lifted or tightened. Outraged or frightened at the sense of its chosen line of progress being restricted. Careering up and down the pool, trying to get under the willow, plunging for the ranunculus roots on the periphery of my vision I recalled numerous smaller fish scattering. Eventually it came towards me, three times finding renewed engergy to make a break as it came within a rods length. I’d had several of those nerve shredding moments that trigger the ‘please don’t come off’ anxiety. I do my best to try to never remove a fish from the water unless I have to, I drew it in to me, tucked the rod butt under my arm, ran my fingers down the leader and tippet, felt for the hook, realising but disregarding that I was cutting my fingers on its teeth in the process. Barbless hooks make the unhooking easier, my wet hand holding it gently by the wrist of the tail while it recovered. Measured against the whippings and markings that I’ve tied on my rod, nineteen inches. Thats not a fish to be sniffed at. It kicked and flicked its broad tail, heading under the nearest weed bed, and I relived the feeling of its thick tail. The footprint dun accounted for just another three fish that difficult afternoon, not as large, but all very welcome.
Here is my step by step tying guide for Oliver Edwards superb fly, don’t be frightened of by the thought of microfibbets, its nothing a little practice wont overcome, and you really do need this innovative fly by one of Englands most accomplished fishermen in your box.