28 April – River Plym

Four days ago I strolled along the bank of the Tavy admiring the scenery and marvelling at the clarity of the water. Each granite pebble sparkled in the intense sunlight streaming from a cloudless sky. The weather and scenery attracted Metal Micky, a magnet fisher, who trashed the pool I had carefully approached on all fours. He  was accompanied by aquatic dogs, mountain bikers and paddling kids. I worked several pools and riffles but left the river recollecting the advice to “fish mid-week in the rain”.

Wednesday seemed to fit the bill. A chill north easterly and the threat of heavy rain would ensure peace and quiet. I decided to fish the River Plym which was sure to be deserted. The dull overcast filtered the daylight although the bright green shoots and leaves shone brightly on the branches overhanging the river.

I was looking forward to fishing the pool below the bridge but the deep water failed to surrender a Trout. I made my way downstream, pausing at each pool and riffle to work the GRHE nymph down the bubble lines and around the eddies.

A small fish eventually grabbed the fly but fell off within seconds. The take boosted my confidence and I concentrated on the line, ready to react to any unusual movement. I found the scenery a big distraction. The highlights on the turbulent water, the lime green of the young leaves and the colour variations of the granite boulders formed a kaleidoscope that was hard to ignore.

I wandered down the path through the ancient woodland, peering into the gorge, looking for signs of fish in the deeper water. My progress was eventually halted  by a fallen tree and a sheer rock face. I retraced my steps satisfied with the combination of the fishing and the relaxing effect of the wooded river valley. It’s good to catch a Trout occasionally but it’s not essential.

20 April – River Tamar

I crossed the border into Cornwall, on a bright warm afternoon, to fish the River Tamar for the first time.  The conditions were not ideal but I wanted to walk the Beat and find the fish holding areas. I walked across the field to the bottom of the Beat and sat on the grass to watch the river. Grannom and Olives were hatching and a few fish were rising in the bubble lane along the far bank. There was a lot of Spring tree debris on the surface of the water and fishing a dry fly was pointless, the Trout would never distinguish the fly from the catkins and Hawthorn petals.

I tied on a size 14 weighted GRHE which would imitate both an Olive nymph and a Grannom. Flicking it beyond the gravel bed under my bank was tricky with a restricted back cast and a ten foot drop to the water. The new small stream line from Rio helped me roll cast about ten yards. After a few casts there was a twitch of the leader but I was too slow. A few minutes later a brownie grabbed the fly and charged around the river putting an end to the rise in that pool. It was my first West Country trout of the season and was very welcome.

I moved upstream and lost a small fish on the same fly. As I wandered further upstream the hatch seemed to peter out. Access to some of the pools was down a long aluminium builder’s ladder which was a bit hairy. The river bed was layered with rocky slabs covered with brown algae, wading was out of the question even in low water levels.

I reached the top of the Beat, turned and walked slowly back to where I had started. I hoped to see a fish moving but the hatch had ended. After the walk back to the car I was hot and thirsty, I must remember to take a flask of chilled water.

It had been an interesting afternoon. The combination of a wide river, overhanging trees and very difficult access to water level had been a challenge. I’ll visit the Tamar again in a few weeks when the trees are in leaf and the Trout have shelter from the sun.

16 April – River Tavy

I spent the morning doing boring admin and after lunch I felt that I had earned a few hours fishing. The gentle south-westerly breeze would be funnelled up the river valley and I took a Barbour jacket to keep warm. This time last year the country was locked down during a long, dry heatwave. I chose to fish the Tavy because the stunning scenery would compensate for a lack of Trout. The water level was good but the crystal clear river was too cold for the fish to move around and I would have too put a fly on the nose of a fish to get a take.

I had a new Rio line to christen. I had stretched the line and glued a 7lb tapered leader to the braid core. The short head would load the rod on narrow streams and help with tricky casts.

When I arrived at the river a couple of young lads were chucking rocks into the top of the Beat. We’ve all done it. I wandered downstream and chose a run below a big riffle to swing a nymph down-and-across. The line worked very well even with an upstream breeze. It suited my fast and low casting style.

I covered a series of pools and enjoyed the sunshine. The noise of the river was a comfort. A few flies hatched, mainly Grannom and Olives but the fish didn’t rise. I eventually reached the big deep pool below the fisherman’s shelter and sat on a rock working the nymph along the seams in the current and the clefts in the rock. There was no response despite my concentration but I was not disappointed, I knew at the outset that it would be difficult to find a feeding fish.

It had been a relaxing afternoon. The sun was warm and the mossy banks were dry. I saw a couple of buzzards performing aerobatics and a mother Mallard with two ducklings. I forgot to take the temperature of the water but with the weather forecast of high pressure and sunshine, the water temperature should soon rise and get the fish moving.

9 April – River Rother

I was inspired by tales of Grannom hatches and clear water, patience and water craft. Sitting beside a favourite river, watching and waiting. My patience ran out at 2:30pm and I fired up the Defender which signalled the start of the adventure. The plan was simple. The last two days of warm weather should produce an evening rise. I would up my game and catch an overwintered fish.

Three days earlier I’d spent an hour taking photos at the lakes. It was extremely cold and windy and although I took a rod, I put little effort into fishing and consequently had no takes. The recent change in the weather boosted my confidence and I expected success.

There were two cars at the Fish Pass and another two at Keeper’s Bridge so I headed for the top of the river along the old railway line. I wanted to fish alone, sharing a Beat would be a distraction. The river looked bleak, the bankside trees had been blasted by the winter floods and barren sand lined the bends. The water level had dropped a little since my last visit but the green, grey tint persisted. Drab flies would be hard to see. I chose a black and silver fly and wandered upstream to the pool at Ladymead. Sand had been washed into the pool and the bar down the centre extended further into midstream. It was difficult to cover the deep water along the far bank and after a few casts I returned to the bridge.

The raft of tree debris along the near bank had gone. I drifted the fly under the branches beside the tree roots but there was nobody at home. I worked the deep run below the sunken tree stump,  alongside streamer weed shoots and anticipated a take but the line failed to tighten.

The Wide Pool looked good, there is usually a Trout in the centre. A log deflected the current and funnelled the water into midstream. I spent a long time searching but despite my concentration I couldn’t get a response. The Monster Pool surely held a fish. I swung a fly down and across in the head of the pool and explored the deepest part, between the trees, with upstream casts. Nothing.

I sat at the head of the Long Pool, below the skyline, making myself comfortable on the dry sand and short grass. I spent thirty minutes drifting a variety of flies down the seams in the flow and was puzzled at the lack of action. Further downstream the Island Pool had been devastated. The Willow trees on the island had been knocked over and a heap of tree debris had been snagged on them. It looked a mess but a deep channel had been scoured out under the near bank and a long sand bar extended the island. I dropped a black and red spider into the run and worked it along the side of the sand bar. After a couple of casts I had a solid take and a strong fish dashed off downstream.

The fish failed to escape despite my amateurish attempts at netting it. The Trout was very silver and looked like a Sea Trout smolt in the final stages of transformation on it’s way to the estuary. I rested the fish in the landing net, the hook dropped out of it’s jaw and I lowered the rim of the net so it could swim away. The grey shadow disappeared and would soon be in salt water.

I was a good start to my season on the Rother. I had caught only one small fish but I had enjoyed the walk and the sunshine.

3 April – A Cold Day

I last visited the Rother on 29 September 2020, six months ago. I marked the end of last season with an exceptional fish and it would be nice to start the new season with an overwintered monster. The morning was cold, grey and windy but bright sunshine was forecast. A sunny Bank Holiday Saturday is not the best day on which to open a new season but I hoped to find a quiet corner and winkle out a Trout, one fish would be sufficient.

Flies had been sorted out, new leaders and tippet purchased, everything was in order. It was not a day for messing about, I wanted to catch something. I stopped at the Fish Pass and was surprised to see that the water was well above its normal level, slightly coloured but fishable.  I worked a black spider around the slacks, expecting a solid pull at any moment. I moved above the weir and fished down the long straight and into the bend but had no response. The wind was cruel and I decided to drive to Rotherbridge, I thought the slower shallow water would help the fish see the fly.

restored New Riffle

I fished the pool above the bridge but the New Riffle was calling me and I lost concentration. The width of the riffle had been reduced and the speed of the current increased. The water was clear and the pool deeper, the restoration had achieved the desired effect. I worked the pool carefully and after about thirty minutes, a good fish rose and took a terrestrial fly blown onto the water. It rose again a few yards downstream, the strong wind was creating a hatch. I switched to a dry fly, then a GRHE, followed by a series of different imitations. The fish had disappeared, I may have lined it.

The cold north east wind increased and it became difficult to cast, it was time to visit Little Bognor and sit in the sun. The lakes were deserted and I sat on the moss under my favourite tree. Rex Vicat Cole’s old Spanish Chestnut had been tilted by the winter storms. I flicked a GRHE nymph into the margins and after a few casts, the tip of the fly line snaked away. I lifted into a spirited brownie and eventually released it from the landing net. My first Trout for six months. I had a couple of casts and was planning to move further along the bank when another fish grabbed the fly as I was about to lift off. It was a bigger fish which raced off down the margins to my left and transformed itself into a stick. I released the stick which was neatly hooked in the middle. How do fish do that?

I wandered around the shaded side of the lake casting randomly and became uncomfortably cold. It was time to leave. One fish was sufficient. I will return to the New Riffle when it’s warmer.