A strong cold wind gusted and swirled downstream enough to make my eyes water. In between the heavy but brief rain showers with occasional clattering hail, there were all to brief periods of that beautiful intense sunlight that highlights the fields and trees in startling vivid spring colour and clarity.
My wife had announced that she was away for the weekend visiting our daughter and grandchildren, so I was a free man, Friday to Sunday for fishing – how good is that ? Unfortunately it coincided with the BBC’s weather forecaster announcing that this weather pattern was settling in until the end of the month. Just perfect for my first days fishing I griped. I didn’t have to go fishing, my wife asked me to replace the fence around the vegetable garden to keep the rabbits out, – ‘….any time in the next two weeks would be fine…’ she’d called across the yard to me as I loaded my fishing gear in the car. For a nanosecond I juggled between the two options, fishing won.
I’d have to use a nymph endeavouring to cast a dry fly on a #5 weight 9’ leader and 3’ of tippet upstream into this wind is a fools errand, besides, I had a new Hanak Nymphing 10’ 3# rod I bought in December, from their UK agent, John Emerson of Unique Flies, so come hell or high water, this was going to be its christening. I chose the three meadows reaches, very pretty at the end of April early May when wild Irises in yellow and blue peer through the bankside rushes. The rod was everything I wanted it to be, and despite the wind, I was able to flick a single nymphs on a long leader quite precisely into specific holes and riffle holes exactly as I wanted, I drew a deep breath and complimented myself.
A satisfying number of small trout under 11” prevented me from becoming obsessed with the cold water leaking through my waders and into my crutch. I moved quickly further along as a number of out of season small grayling found the GRHE particularly attractive.
At one point there were waves coming downstream, which stopped instantly the wind dropped, causing the flat surface to have a ‘brushed feathering’ effect. A twitch of the leader and then a momentary steadying, and I lifted into a very lively wild brownie that made me completely disregard my now cold and sopping wet crutch inside my waders.
Minutes later, fishing left handed from the TRB to counteract the wind and to prevent disturbing where I wanted to fish, I had another from the foot of the riffle just over the bright golden gravel.
I brought it gently onto the waters edge bright green vegetation and slipped the nymph out of the scissors, dropping it behind me in the water.
Two clicks with my £15 ebay camera on ‘muppet’ setting, and then he decided enough was enough, and with a flick of the tail, splashed and slipped through the weeds back into the river. I saw him seemingly sulkily slide into half a metre of water between two rocks and hold his position, possibly contemplating what the hell it was he’d just eaten to cause such an unusual experience, and resolving not to eat one of those kind of nymphs again, I’m quite sure that I saw the words ‘from now on I’m sticking to Gammarus’, encapsulated in a bubble of air he emitted before disappearing into deeper water.
Picking the rod up to begin to sorting out the line, I was intending to move upstream a short distance, but the nymph that casually tossed behind me only a couple of minutes earlier , had been taken by the current, no more than about15 – 18 feet downstream, just the length of the leader and a little line extending from the rod tip. Possibly, because of the movement of my boots in the shallows, I’d disturbed some invertebrates, but as I was passing line between my fingers feeling for the beginning of the leader to examine the nymph, there was a noticeable tightening that became positive live resistance, and then I was half handlining, trying to get my rod into a manageable position whilst a good fish used the midstream current to slice line away between my fingers.
A sturdy and healthy grayling eventually thrashed and twisted onto the surface. My chest pack was still wide open, camera precariously balanced on the top, my landing net had caught in bankside vegetation retractible retaining cable stretching at full length, suddenly released and with some velocity hit me in the back of the head. Talk about Muldoons Picnic, I grabbed the camera, and took another couple of clicks of the grayling as I pulled it towards me.
If I can, I try to avoid handling fish wherever possible, however, sometimes , particularly with grayling under 12” this isn’t possible because they continue to flex and contort themselves right up until the moment you release them. I removed the hook whilst holding him steady in the current, a few moments recovering and he kicked and slid sideways and forward into the deep pools.
The wet crutch, increasing wind, and more frequent hail stones made me review my days choices, and I felt that it was quite unreasonable for me to have not put the rabbit fence up. No complaints, this junkie had had his couple of hours fix and could now temporarily return to civilised society with those not addicted, or needing to, as John Geirach put it, ‘stand in a river waving a stick’.