I spent a few days in a darkened room recovering after my recent day when fishing on a beautiful stock trout fishery. A few people made contact to chastise, berate,or abuse me for my attitude to stocked brownies, much was presumptious because they didn’t know me and probably never would. A brave few tried to explain to me that stock trout were more difficult to catch, and fishing for them was an enigmatic and complex challenge (!) – but overwhelmingly, more people were in agreement with my observations to a lesser or greater extent.
Upon recovery, I ventured out onto the river in between the gales and incessant rain. I went to a stretch that doesn’t seem as popular with club members, and yet it has yielded some significantly good fish in recent seasons. The renovation and flow improvement work of recent past couple of seasons has partially matured, and there is half a mile or so of quite variable fishing. Very deep, unwadeable slow pools, fast shallow riffles over large cobbly stones
whilst on each side there is head high vegetation, thick patches of nettles, genuine thistles, and beautiful greeny purple teasels amongst the variety of other meadow flora up to the waters edge where a metre or more of rushes overtake and provide a serried bariier right along the bankings, growing through soft ground, residual silts and shallow water. In this picture, you can just about see the rings, mid picture, that have been left by a good sized trout, he moved only in a small area, just below the surface, sweeping and mopping up the emerging mayflies, mostly without hardly breaking the surface, taking them with delicate sips. The approach was going to be quite difficult, the rushes at the waters edge are rooted deceptively in deep muds dropping quickly into waist deep water. Getting behind the head height rushes wasn’t the problem, but there is no solid foothold, just the mud and shallow water that would quickly, easily, give out a pressure warning rippling bow wave that would put him down and away. An upstream twitch wiggling lob of a cast getting surplus line onto the water, and onto the side nearest to me essential, to give five or possibly ten seconds of drag and suspicion free presentation of my emerger. Before I’d arrived at this point, I’d already lower down the reach, spooked three or four similar sized trout when making my first cast. As with those, this was a one cast chance, then I’d have to move up a short distance and begin watching again.
I crab like wriggled and crawled through the undergrowth to the edge of the where the solidity gave way to sloppy wet, this was the difficult bit. Raising to a raised crouching, casting position took a minute. I began giggling thinking I must have looked like someone practicing Tai Chi in a bog. Peering through the rushes, I could just about see him snootily sorting the ones he’d take and those that would be untouched to float downstream and maybe fly. With a whispering silent prayer I made my cast, instantly looking down to ensure I’d not made a compensatory warning ripple. Emerger a couple of yards upstream of the trout, then suddenly he switched to his left, and with his nose right under the emerger, gently emitted an air bubble and it disappeared. I tightened and felt the fast moving weight. You know when you’ve hooked a good trout. It goes wherever it wants and you just keep it tight…ish, trying to coax it away from any obstructions and giving an impression of exerting your authority. As I’d hooked it, I’d stood fully up, step plunging into the water causing disturbance which I thought would force it upstream into the shallower riffle. During a short delectable thrill of the fish’s plunges and powerful runs, (not without an underlying fear of loss) I don’t think I breathed until I had him coming towards the net. A couple of last moment plunges and in the net he toppled.
Cheapo camera out of vest pocket, trembling wet slimed fingers, couldn’t remember how to focus it, two pictures with the wrist cord in front of the lens ! – (couldn’t be bothered slipping it on my wrist, concerned about time and returning the fish, thats how I came to drop the last expensive one in the river) and then I was cradling him and feeding my eyes on his immediate camouflage as I submerged him and waited for his break for freedom. My holding hand could only partially encircle his solid powerful girth.
He didn’t hang about, after five or ten seconds and he robustly lunged away and into the depths. I guesstimated his weight about three to three and half pounds, (sounds better than 1.5kg) and for his length on the Sturdy Scale this fish should have been much lighter, so the extra weight possibly comes from gorging in the past couple of weeks on Mayflies.
Compared to my previous fishing day, this was a deeply satisfying catch, even if it had been a much smaller fish. I’d actually had to observe, think, calculate the possibilities, present the appropriate fly, in difficult circumstances to a fish that would have melted away if he’d been momentarily aware of anything in his surroundings being untoward. Its a fairly safe bet, and I offer my apologies now for the unavoidable characterisation, not one of the chortling chaps who had nonchalantly strolled along the manicured bank of the stocked fishery, waving an expensive rod at the river, occasionally calling to each other, would have caught even the most suicidal of fingerling trout on this river.
Again, to quote one of Bob Wyatts beautiful analogies. (And I hope this doesn’t bring a law suit from his publishers)….. ‘Just to make worthwhile the inevitable indignant comments of elitism and snobbery or differerences of taste, stocked trout fisheries are so badly off plumb, that it isn’t trout fishing at all, it just looks like trout fishing. Its similar to going out to for a romantic dinner with a woman who you have found to be attractive and interesting, one who you have chatted, wooed and charmed over a period of time before inviting out, against the option of hiring a hooker by the hour. There may be superficial similarities, and a certain amount of fun may be involved, in one case its a possibility, in the other its an absolute certainty, but the distinction is very important, and its not only a matter of taste.’
Back to the fly tying and crawling through nettles, – I know my place, its the River Wylye, a sinously beautiful but challenging chalk stream populated by some of the most ‘ornery’ and difficult wild trout, some uncatchable, in the South of England. It isn’t for the faint hearted, nor those with mental image of creels of fat buttery trout, Masochists only need apply.