We’re having a tough seasons beginning on the chalkstreams. After the April deluges that extended into early May, things are now getting off to a late start. Hawthorns in Spring just didn’t have a chance to work, and I’m told that all the chalkstreams currently have an algal bloom brought about by the intense sunlight and high temperatures, possibly aided by phosphate and nitrate wash off.
I saw on Dave Wiltshires blog, (http://www.riverflybox.co.uk/) that where he fishes the Mayfly has almost finished, and the fish have become ‘picky’, whilst on the Wylye, Mayfly hasn’t really yet begun !
Because of the recent very hot sunny days, I’ve not been arriving at the river until after six pm, there’s very little point before the sun has begun to cool and lose the brightness on days like these. My last visit was cut short because I had a minor accident. I’d hooked and was playing good fish that was giving me a fair old tussle in the fast current, for a split second the line went slack and I thought I’d lost him, then just as quickly it tightened again enabling my heart to re-start. In that instant the hook pinged out of the water back towards me and embedded itself in the back of my right hand. Now, here’s a confession I’m ashamed of, – I had failed to crush the micro barb down when I was tying, and now I couldn’t extract it from my bleeding hand, the only solution was to snip the tippet, and pack up, very carefully, so as not to catch it on anything that made me yell. I had to go somewhere, anywhere, to get someone, anyone, to remove it for me. It was painful. So on this visit, I began upstream of where I last finished.
Whilst I was fishing a nymph through a pool at the head of a small weir, I spotted a single newly hatched duckling desperately paddling and swirling in vain against the powerful current doing its best not to drown. It was directly above me, so I just passed the rod to my left hand, scooping up the duckling in my right, this was the signal for a trout to snatch the nymph. I stuffed the duckling in a vest pocket and caught the trout.
After searching upstream I couldn’t find either a distressed female mallard or a nest, but I did espy this nest and placed the duckling in amongst the eggs, I hope the owner, probably a Moorhen wasn’t too confused on its return. The duckling would probably have perished if I hadn’t picked it up, and on this small island it just might survive.
Just up from the island as the light slipped away, there was a slight ‘plop’, I looked up in time to see the rapidly dissipating rings in the half light. This is the point where carriers rejoin the main river, you can see them to the right in the picture, presumably with the higher flows, the carriers brings in numerous nymphs, emergers and spinners to waiting mouths. Carefully stalking to within casting distance, pausing to carefully watch and consider the complex surface currents – this is a one cast opportunity.
The absence of any obvious surface flies gave me some food for thought, I presumed they were Baetis, so opted for a rather bedraggled medium olive, which I thought might better resemble a spinner just before it lays its eggs and dies, but it was quite difficult to see in the dying light, – I took this picture earlier when the light was much better. An invented casting style was required, and it was one that I wouldn’t want any of my peers to witness, a kind of high upward dump, upstream and to the left of the incoming ripple, with a final rod tip wiggle as I lowered to the finishing point. This was to put some snakes in the line and leader and to keep the tippet curves close together sufficiently to give me a few more moments of drag free drift. Just two seconds and there was the tiniest dimple on the surface where I perceived the fly to be, I couldn’t be sure, was it a take or just a spinner alighting on the river. An instinctive lift, and there it was, that rewarding beautiful sense of a subsurface moving weight. I don’t know what it is about trout, I try not to anthropomorphise about them, but I often have the impression that they’re bloody furious at being hooked.
This is a reasonable fish, what I wanted to show here is the incredible depth of the tail compared to the depth of the body. An evolutionary development for living in speedy currents with the necessity for rapid propulsion in order to devour passing food items. As the light fell rapidly into almost total darkness, there were just a few occasional surface rings, hardly a plop, and not a splash anywhere. I managed another couple of trout in the last of the twilight before complete darkness fell. A few minutes later I was left with just the eerie silhouettes of trees, skimming bats and the clucking of moorhens in the reeds for company. Every fishing day so far this season I’ve seen water voles calmly criss crossing the river, sometimes less than a metre away.