Wylye trout 2014 – first preparations

Isn't this the most alluring Mayfly Emerger you've ever seen ? - Not mine, I've copied and adapted it from an American fly tyer.

Isn’t this the most alluring Mayfly Emerger you’ve ever seen ? – you almost want to bite on it yourself don’t you.  I’ve taken the design from an American fly tyer, scaled and slightly changed components to suit what we can get here, – can’t wait to try it out, roll on May 2014

Am I suffering from some form of insensitive lunacy ? – I’m sat in my fly tying room in Somerset.  Outside it looks as if the end of the world is nigh, – 70mph winds driving rain and sleet sideways across the meadows; trees on many of the side roads to the village are down, and it seems that it hasn’t been properly light for four days.  The Somerset Levels have been flooded since Christmas, where residents have been unable to live in their homes for seven weeks now, further East towards London,  Old Father Thames is flooding his Home Counties neighbours,  David Cameron is on TV wearing wellies standing by a fire engine,  and what is it that I am doing ? – I’m sat tying size #18 and #20 small delicate olive upwing flies, larger emergers, and #14 and #16 buggy nymphs, in readiness for the Summer ! ! –  as I tie, I have an  image loop running through my head, when describing to anyone the River Wylye, clichés are unavoidable.  A classic gently flowing chalkstream, it is mid summer,  countless Swallows and Swifts swoop in to either drink or take flies from the bright babbling ripples, distorting and mixing the colours of wafting bright green melding with the glow of golden gravels.  Currently it is over the banks into the fields for some distance.  I think I need treatment.

I wind a badger hackle parachute,tie in and crinkle, a few fine deer hairs to create the impression of delicate legs, catch in the tips of a couple of CDC feathers and curve them over towards the eye, the side wisps splay out so beguilingly as it curves, one of my essential ‘trigger’ points on emergers;

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I’m planning my attack on the river as if it is some kind of warfare, which I think is how I see it, I envisage myself as a sniper.

The tail and schuck are deliberately this colour, if you've ever picked any out while fishing, you'll know what I mean to represent, these are a few wisps of Emu.  The abdomen is tied with a single Turkey biot.

The tail and schuck are deliberately this colour, if you’ve ever picked any out while fishing, you’ll know what I mean to represent, these are a few wisps of Emu. The abdomen is tied with a single Turkey biot.

The Wylye’s lower reaches, and carriers near the stables are my prime areas.  I do most of my fishing here, main river, sluices and ancient hatches, much of this area is akin to jungle warfare, fewer but larger fish, which even spook at cloud movement or if the sun suddenly peeps out.  If I fail here, as I often do, then I’m off to that overhanging willow just above the railway bridge where last summer, from less than four metres away, close in at the margins, a trouts very large head, appeared directly in front of me, under the overhanging fronds,-  slowly, timing its rise to synchronise the gulping down of a hatching, twitching  floundering  ED, – then sinking out of sight, all one smooth continuous movement leaving neither ripple nor splash.  No one would believe me if I told them of the heart stopping  fish like this one that I’ve seen on every reach of this part of the Wylye.   Emergers I’ve tied like these are for him.

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Further upstream from Wilton, there is a narrow arched stone bridge, where a muscular brooding brute of a trout appearing to be in excess of 18” holds to one side of an archway.  I’ve watched him several times for the duration of eating a sandwich and drinking a coffee, – he never moves more than a foot either side, holding just out of the main current.  I’ve begun to think of him as my ‘training fish’.  This is the fish that spurs me into trying to improve my fishing skills, trying to perfect an underhand cast up inside the arch, trying to achieve for the fly to land as close to the inside edge where water meets stone as possible, so that as it comes back towards me, emerging from under the arch with no drag or hint of an unnatural movement  hoping to entice him into making that short open mouthed move before the current swings it away downstream.  I really don’t want to anthropomorphise, but this fish exudes brooding malevolence.  I’ll have him, I just want to have that few seconds of adrenalin fuelled fear as I feel his weight, the fast deep head shaking runs as he attempts to dominate the angle of my rod and test my tippet and knots.  I just want to put my fingers round those shoulders, feel the prick of those needle teeth as I remove the fly, and I want that special lingering moments of looking down, holding him in the current waiting for the kick away – for this fish, it is one of these emergers or maybe this new nymph that will give me that experience this coming season.

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Further upstream from this stone bridge is a series of carriers, where a heart  stopping sulky  20” fish resides,  in a narrow piece of water with overgrown banks that you could almost stride across.  He’s hard up against a big Hawthorn root stock that extends out into the water.  This is a one cast fish, no one ever, within half a day will have a second cast at this fish.  Last season I chose to walk and stalk this one fish three or four times.  Only once did I rise him, Just the once, he closely inspected my fly, matching his drift with the fly and current, then I’m sure he sneered at me, hidden amongst the reeds and nettles, before sinking away below the ranunculus.   He’s a real canny one, seemingly tolerating the presence of four or five smaller fish that hang around, a couple of metres behind him.  They are his warning signal;  if anything disturbs them, they shoot upstream towards and past him, then he’s gone in a blink, leaving a very slight swirl of silt drifting and settling in the current.

The poly yarn fibres mixed with tail filaments are to represent the schuck, you can just see the three tail filaments amongst them.  Quite often I colour them with a brown permanent marker.

The poly yarn fibres mixed with tail filaments are to represent the schuck, you can just see the three tail filaments amongst them. Quite often I colour the poly yarn with a brown permanent marker.

Summer 2014 will mark an epoch in the catching of large trout.  I wish, – and yet it is precisely this kind of lunacy, more charitably described as an over developed sense of optimism, –  that makes us  fly fishermen, an unswerving belief that everything will improve and we’ll have better luck tomorrow.

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Be careful what you wish for………

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Lest it should slip your minds…..This is what we’re here for
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A passion for this beautiful, enigmatic and bloody frustrating Chalk Stream.

And why I’m here writing this blog

DSCN3939We’re all involved in trying to catch wild brown trout and grayling, but just stick with me, in this, it is my first returning post, I’ll weave it through not only with references to English Literature, Shakespeare, and modern poets, but also classic philosophy and existentialism – bear with me.
Now, don’t get on my case – I’ve had all your messages. I’m very sorry that I’ve been away, I’ve not just been ignoring the responsibility of writing, (I have been writing other things) my lack of posting was something that was nagging away at every peaceful moment; my absence is probably best explained that after fifty years of fly fishing I found myself unprepared, unceremoniously at something of a cross roads in my fly fishing life, it was a situation that I’d not quite thought through – it wasn’t a crisis, I hadn’t lost my mojo, I was just standing there, rod in hand looking around in bewilderment.

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Did you ever as a child, have the fantasy of being locked in a sweet shop or chocolate factory, able to eat as much as you want without any limits or parental disapproval ?. Well, that was how I found myself. I was fishing regularly through the summer of 2012, but the previous twelve months hadn’t been good. Some very close friends, since childhood either shuffled off their mortal coil, or were gone in the blink of an eye with no warning. Immediate family were blighted with devastating long term illness. An extensively planned fishing holiday was cancelled at three weeks’ notice.
I found myself going through a 21st century equivalent of Hamlets soliloquy, and W. H. Davies poem, Leisure, (‘what is life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare’). An English Grammar School Education of the sixties came to the fore, and I was transported to a dusty dull classroom in Manchester, where a fearsome master stood, imbuing it with a deathly silence no one dare break, making us read and understand the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, some of which I now recalled, discovering it had relevance, ‘ find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration’
During 2012, a financial opportunity arose that would enable me to retire, earlier than many hard working people are able to do. The culmination of all these matters coming together meant that I embraced it without too much hesitation. The opportunity of being able to fish, any day, any time, for as long as I wanted was suddenly available to me. After gorging myself for a month without ever breaking my rod down, I stopped dead in my tracks. This endless availability that I’d always dreamed of through my business life was altering the mood of my fishing. It dawned on me that part of the pleasure of fishing, is the looking forward, the anticipation, the planning. Without the structure of a working life, every day becomes the same; I’d find myself travelling to the river just because I could, but without a plan of which reach to fish, or how to fish, that I could do this, ad infinitum, hit me right between the eyes. Trust me on this, – it is a shock.
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How incredibly, and possibly undeservedly lucky I was, for there really isn’t a better place to be than having good health, sat on the banks of an English Chalk stream, on a summers day, just sitting, watching and listening.

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I kind of got through it, I have been fishing over the past year, but I’ve become far more discerning. I’ve spent much time writing more articles, tying more flies – lots, Shrimps, tubes, templedogs, hairwings for Salmon and Sea Trout, emergers, duns and nymphs for my beautifully cunning wild brownies, and a range of succulent grubby weighted nymphs for the graceful alluring grey and lilac flanked beauties of the Wylye.

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During all of this, I’ve had plenty of time contemplating what constitutes a good day, and it doesn’t always involve big fish, lots of fish or exotic locations. Keep coming by, – as way of an apology, I’ll post my secret fly for 2014 in the next week or so.

Cane Rods and Narrow Streams

The River Wylye has some of the most picturesque, delightful  and beguiling little carriers that you’ll  ever come upon.  True Chalkstreams aren’t found anywhere else in the world, so these medieval narrow  man made irrigation rivulets really qualify for the word unique.    Rarely more than six feet across, in places you could jump across them, were it not for the bankside rushes.  The water, genuinely crystal,  their depth can vary from a three feet to just under 12”, depending on how they  were designed to flow, flood and carry nutrient bearing silts into the old water meadows.   It is only by crawling, stalking, and occasional subtle peering,  that you will ever catch sight of some of the heart stopping  trout and grayling that control and claim parts  of each channel.  Under ranunculus, in banking undercuts, or beneath overhanging trees, these cunning and wily fish sit controlling their own piece of this narrow never ending flow of nutritious  invertebrates that chalkstreams produce in such huge amounts.    Invariably, and shrewdly, these fish seem to have positioned themselves with devious fly casting fishermen in mind.  Here there are some large uncatchable trout that will make a a fool of those who assume themselves to be expert.   Just when you think you’ve got this river cracked, it can make a muppet out of you to bring you back to reality.   Therefore, if you’re content to spend an afternoon  spooking more trout than you could ever dream of catching, there just might be a couple you can take from these carriers.   Catching a fish of any size from a carrier is no mean feat,  and those who venture to do so should mull over  John Gierach’s intelligent and eloquent phrase,  ‘….your stature as a fly fisherman isn’t determined by how big a trout you can catch, but by how small a trout you can catch without being disappointed….’

For when the masochist in me opts to pass a few hours on these small nitrate free, calcium rich overgrown streams, I have a beautiful 6’ 6” #3weight rod that after much deliberation and research  I had made for me in Michigan by the illustrious Shane Gray.   It’s an absolute delight to use, I treat it as if it’s a very special friend, there’s something about it, its almost a work of art – (and there’s a caution in those last few words)

Using a cane rod somehow makes me change my whole approach, maybe its because its made of a real living material,  cliché though that might be, but a cane rod makes me want to be a better fly fisherman,  I’m sure it flatters my casting, occasionally it teaches or makes me aware of why the fly hasn’t landed precisely where I wanted it.  Something special happens to your mind set with a cane rod,  if I’ve missed a teasing little dimple of a rise, it slows and calms me.  No hurried re-ginking and clumsy tangling re-cast.  Somehow, you can’t rush a cane rod, you become more contemplative.

Love it as I do, I think I’ve discovered an issue, though one I’m content to live with.   Late on an  evening rise, I had one of those intimate tantalising sipping takes that could so very easily go unnoticed in the dying light.  The lift, the responding moving splattering  subsurface weight indicated a good sized fish, but with the  temperament of a scorned  Mike Tyson.   In those first five seconds,  I wanted this lightweight delight to transform itself into an 8’ 6” 6 weight carbon fibre rod.   This hard fighting plunging fish in an instant had me involuntarily lowering the tip almost parallel to the water – a novices mistake.   The ‘work of art’ rod was bending alarmingly from tip to butt, I became aware that I was constantly glancing up at an extreme curve,   a thought came into my head…’ is this fish worth £X’s?’  I came to no answer or decision, and irrationally, how I’d haggled with a Customs Officer at Heathrow over whether it was a ‘used’ or ‘new’ rod came into my head.

I allowed the fish greater control than I would normally have done, realising that you need a longer rod to quickly take control and subdue better than average fish.   Eventually, longer than I was comfortable about, it came alongside for me to unhook.   On this occasion, I was lucky, it hadn’t got snagged anywhere or run further than I could manage.   Some fisherman say that cane can take it and bend forever, but it caused an hiatus in our relationship….I’m not sure that I can trust her anymore, or maybe myself with this rod.  I’m giving myself a good talking to, if it breaks then tough, I have two tips for it, and I’ll just have to buy another from Shane Gray in Michigan.  The lesson for me is that I shouldn’t endow an inanimate object with an aura of being something special, a rod is  just a tool to catch fish with.

I’ve decided that I have ten, probably fifteen, active fishing years left before eyesight and physical infirmity prevent me scrambling through undergrowth and wading swift waters, so I’m going to have another two cane rods built specially for the coming years.  A new adventure beckons, researching and meeting the craftsmen who will manufacture a thing of beauty that I’ll leave to my Grandson to fish with after my demise.

Methadone for the Fly Fisherman

The trout fisherman has at his disposal, unlike so many other outdoor activities, a fallback position.  Whilst the world is experiencing a deluge of rain, freak storms, flash floods, and complicated explanations of jet streams, we can throw a log in the log burner (essential in a July like this one) and settle down to tie flies.   Fly tying I describe as a form of Methadone for people who are addicted to fly fishing, not quite the real thing, but a passable alternative until you can do the real thing.  

The non stop sheeting rain last week had parts of the South West and Midlands  sandbagging up to the bedroom windows, uprooted trees were being swept down unseasonally high and fast Welsh rivers.  I decided there wasn’t anything I could do, things couldn’t get any  worse so I’d go fishing.   What astonished me was watching flies emerge from raindrop splattering river surface.  I couldn’t identify what they were other than some kind of upwing olive, but occasionally I could see a different surface disturbances which were fish taking emergers just sub surface.

In a desperate attempt to catch something, unable to see the end of my fly line, never mind a fly, I tied on one of these patterns more in hope than expectation, but it had a CDC bubble wing that I could see and would float, as well as making a discernible surface shape to fish.  Within seconds I had a take and a fish, followed by another couple in the next half hour.   Sometimes, there is just no logic to what fly will take a fish in unusual circumstances.  What I did realise is that the fish are less cautious because you as a fisherman are obscured.  However, by this time, I was at that stage that maybe only fly fishermen know.  Water was rolling off the hat and down my neck, rolling down my wrist as I held the rod, and wicking up my sleeves, and the occasional cold shiver had set in.

Returning home only to watch incessant rain for the next few days left me going through my end of season, sorting and re-sorting of fly boxes, until I settled into the realisation that I just had to tie flies because I wasn’t going fishing.  I tied up a dozen of these which are essentially a basic emerging mayfly, so as to have them available, because if I believe the media’s weather pessimists, this rain isn’t going to let up for some time, and these flies float and can be seen through all the dimpled surface by fish and myself.  If you don’t use them, keep them for next season, and tie them slightly different shades, not just Mayfly emerger colours. his is a standard tying process, nothing fancy.

The Hook is a Daiichi   #12.  I’ve used brown tying thread, normal pheasant tail herls for the three or two tails, whatever your choice.  As you come to the bend in the hook, catch in a piece of normal embroidery thread in a colour of your choice, this is dark olive brown.  Dub the thread with a noodle of dubbing, this is just a creamy ginger rabbit, but I’ve used other colours as well.  Stop winding the noodle at the upward bend part of the hook shank.  Let it hang, and then counter to the way of the noodle you’ve just wound, rib the abdomen in neat spacing turns, tie down the end with the thread, give it a couple of wraps, snip off all the waste.

At this point tie in two CDC feathers, inset to each other, tied in tight to the shank, with their butts towards the eye, BUT, they must remain on top of the hook, not swivel.  Dub the thread with either a Hares mask mix, or, as in this case, I’ve used some dark almost black CDC fibres plucked off a couple of feathers dubbed onto the tying thread, and then wind them up towards the eye, stopping a couple of mm (3/16ths) off the eye.  The thread must be clean for when you tie down the CDC wing next.  Use your dubbing needle to helo in lifting and curling the shape of the bubble part of the wing, and pinch and hold down while you tie it down with a couple of threads immediately behind the eye.  Snip off the waste thats extending over the eye, form a neat head and snip off the thread.    How easy does tying an emerger get ?  Ensure the eye is clear and doesn’t prevent the tippet tying on when stood in the river.

Oh to be in England, now that Spring is here….!

What is going on? – its early May and I’m wearing neoprene waders and still getting cold.  Is it my age or has the weather pattern gone out of kilter? Its May on an archetypal English stream.  The trees should be a watery pale green as young foliage bursts forth, the river should be an inviting sparkling bright babbling flow that dances and catches the light, whilst Hawthorns and Large Dark Olives hatch to slashing fish that want to feast upon them.  Yesterday the air was full of House Martins and Swifts – (no Swallows yet) hawking for the Hawthorns, but they’ve also been duped into thinking the weather would be more hospitable.  I’ve only travelled a few miles by car, but they’ve put in days and nights of unrelenting wing flapping thousands of miles from the Southern hemisphere, just in time to meet the low temperatures, gusting cold Northerly winds.  And rain.  I know we needed it but that was during the winter.  The rain is rapidly becoming of Biblical dimensions, but it is too late to refresh the underground acquifers for the summer months, so in a way its mocking us, filling to the tops of the bankings, but flowing through too fast to help the fishing for the coming summer, – presuming, of course, that there is one on the way.  

After breaking my rod last week at the beginning lower end of this reach, I decided to return and finish it.  The river is the colour of cold tea, Wrens and Robins huddle in the denser brambles for warmth,  while Gulls are blown like animated stunt kites scudding across the sky.   So, surely for fly choice it has to be something dry and brown…ever the optimist.  An hour later, no fish, so it was back to the nymph, but I only saw one fish rise during the whole four hours.

Following are a few pictures of what I caught, nothing special really but a couple of the Grayling were circa 16″ – one of which had a lesion on the flank – probably from spawning because Grayling are out of season at the moment, but Trout aren’t, difficult not to catch them when nymphing.                                                                                                       

The trout were all under 11″ but thats no matter, yes I’d have liked them larger, but they all went off like little firecrackers, performance exceeding size. Here’s one. 

Wrights Royal – Step by Step

I make no apologies for this fly.  Its my guilty secret.  I came across it in Oregon or Colorado a few years ago, and it would take cut throat trout and brown trout when other flies were proving useless, so on my return, I’d deliberatly kept a couple, using them as models, I tied some up – just to see if they had a place in the UK.  I accept that it might offend many peoples sensibilities of what a chalkstream dry fly should be and represent, but where I do most of my fishing, (River Wylye) it isn’t for the faint hearted, all wild, no stocked fish, and yet this fly has caught me a fair number of wild brown trout, and good grayling.  Its easy and quick to tie and no fly box should be without one.  On those early season cold days, when chilly winds seem to prevent any hatches, the water can look dumb and flat, no surface activity, yet this can drag them up, maybe its out of aggression, who knows, but I do know that at sometime when you’re puzzling over what to do to prevent a blank day, you’ll tie one on and it will catch for you.  I’m not actually sure of its name, Wrights Royal, very similar to Royal Trude, Royal Stewart, Royal Wulff, they’re all similar and have their regional application and minor alterations.  Basically, this fly is just a peacock herl, a red silk cummerbund, and a deer hair wing with a ginger collar hackle.   I can’t think what fly it is supposed to represent, but that is true of many of the flies in our boxes, I suppose you could say its a Sedge but it works when Sedges aren’t around.  This isn’t my best example of tying, but the suns threatening to peep out from behind the black and grey cumulus nimbus, and I’m going fishing, so here are the pics and tying sequence, I’ll tidy them up and do the editing  tomorrow.  Materials first – the tabulation and layoout of the materials list keeps appearing as jumbled up, I’ll try to resolve whats happening and make it look better soon.

Hook: #14-#18

Dry fly thread: Uni 6/0Black/

Abdomen: Peacock/Herl – single strand

Waist: Uni red silk (three strands)

Thorax: Continuation of the Peacock/Herl

Wing: deer hair

Hackle: medium ginger

Wind a thread base to just about level with the hook barb. Tie in a single strand of Peacock herl from below the eye.  Wind the thread forward to be out of the way, then wind herl forward just two or three turns, secure it with a turn of the thread, then let it hang, weight of bobbin holder should hold it firm.

Tie in a 2” – 3”piece of red silk –  it comes in strands that seperate for finer tyings.  Move thread forward again, Wind a small even waist (in this picture it isn’t even but should be) of the red silk, its profile should be lower than the height of the peacock herl.  Secure the end of thread, snip off waste.

Continue with another two or three turns of the Peacock herl, you shouldn’t need any more, remembering that you have to leave enough space for the deer hair wing and hackle.

Small pinch of deer hair, strip out the under fur, level the hair tips in a stacker, present on the top of the hook shank in flat position, with the tips of the hair extending very slightly over the bend of the hook.  Tie down, tightening with three or four turns of thread, try to prevent it flaring too much. Snip off the deer hair butts.

 Tie in a hackle stem ready to wind it on.  Leave it, but wind the Peacock herl forward towards the eye, tie down firmly, and snip off whatever bit remains.

 Now wind the hackle through the peacock herl, using thread to tie it down just a few milimetres before the eye.  Snip off the waste hackle, then form a small neat head, a touch of varnish or Sally Hansen Hard as Nails if you prefer.  Repeat half a dozen times, change hook sizes, change colour of wing and hackle, go fishing, catch trout.

First Brown Trout of the Season

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’.