Autumn arrived with attitude. A strong east wind tore the curly brown leaves off the Chestnut trees. Grey skies and jumpers indoors. It was time to put my waistcoat away and get out the Barbour jacket. I retrieved my old Border from the back of the cupboard and re-waxed it. Good as new. Thursday is a popular day at the river and I resolved to get there early. At 1:00pm the conditions looked perfect, the journey seemed to take longer than usual.
The river flows west to east and an upstream wind would help with presentation. It makes it easier to throw a ‘curve ball’ cast so that the leader lands upstream of the fly. It’s easier to mend the line upstream and the ripples help hide the leader. When I arrived the sky was leaden and the wind was blustery.
On my last visit to the river I fished upstream of Rotherbridge and caught a few fish. I parked near the bridge and looked up and down the river for signs of Trout. A good fish rose below the bridge under the trees and I decided to stay on that beat. I tackled up and was minded to save the pool below the bridge until later, perhaps as the sun went down. Improvements to the new gravel bed and river banks were ongoing above the bend. That limited my travels upstream. I formulated a plan. I would fish the pools upstream until I reached the bend. Then work back downstream, ending by the bridge at sunset.
I explored the shallows above the bridge, convinced there was a Trout in residence. I tried casting under the bridge and under the trees on the near bank but to no avail. At the top of the shallows I had better luck. A good fish seized the fly in midstream and charged around leaving fronds of streamer weed everywhere. The weed is dying and is easily cut by a taught leader. The fish was a beautiful colour and when I released it, swam away into the weeds. I had trashed the pool so I moved up and fished around another weed bed for thirty minutes.
I saw a fish swirl amongst some clumps of streamer weed just upstream so I crept along the bank. I hid behind some rushes and Himalayan Balsam. The casting was awkward but the fish hadn’t seen me, it rose again close to the bank. I chose a Black Spider and put it above the fish. The Trout came up, circled the fly twice and disappeared. I changed the fly a couple of times but the fish had gone. It had seen the leader.
I’ve noticed that when a fish rejects a fly it usually seeks shelter upstream or under the far bank. The gardeners were pruning the bankside trees opposite me. I thought that the fish would have hidden in the next pool. I moved upstream a little and the tree pruning stopped; silence once again. Sure enough the Trout splashed on the surface. There were Autumn leaves floating in midstream, held there by the stiff breeze. The fish was testing the debris to see if it was edible. I tried a dry Daddy-Long-Legs but the Trout ignored it. It’s been a bad year for Crane Fly, I haven’t seen any on the water. I sat behind the rushes for a while and had a toffee, thinking about my next fly. I chose a size 12 Amber Nymph but chopped the tail short. I used a little piece of florescent orange floating putty squeezed on the tippet knot. It helped me see the leader in the ripple.
I was watching the speck of orange drift downstream against the breeze, when it paused. I lifted the rod and an angry Trout screamed across the river and downstream alongside the far bank. The line was catching clumps of weed and I had to get to my feet and follow the fish. The rod bent into an alarming curve as I gave the fish the butt. The fish felt big and I thought it might be a Sea Trout. Two members came to see the action and one gentleman offered to net the fish for me. I was grateful for his offer because my landing net had run away. I eventually saw the fish which was foul-hooked in it’s side. An embarrassing situation made worse by my inability to control the Trout. It charged around, visiting every weed bed. It’s difficult to subdue a foul-hooked fish because it can keep it’s mouth closed, swim fast and get broadside on to the current.
I unhooked the fish and it was released unharmed but a little wiser. I think the fish may have swirled at the nymph, the turbulence causing a slight movement of the sight indicator. When I lifted the rod the fly probably dragged across the Trout’s flank. The chemically sharpened hook just catching in it’s shoulder. We discussed the merits of using a sight indicator. I don’t think my explanation was convincing enough but I know that I would not have seen that ‘take’ on a bare leader. Some people regard sight indicators as unsporting and several fisheries have banned them. Each to their own.
The leaden skies had been swept away by the east wind leaving fluffy white clouds in a bright blue sky. The low sun threw long shadows and the contrast gave depth to the landscape. The river looked stunning but it was getting colder and the constant buffeting of the wind had worn me out. I left the other members and took refuge in The Badgers. I got home before sunset.