I left home early for our regular Monday morning meeting to discuss the catch returns for the river and lakes. I peeped through the bars at Rotherbridge and saw a trout rising amongst the trees. After degreasing the tippet I flicked a nymph into a low hanging tree branch and pulled for a break. The fish disappeared. Another trout rose slightly further downstream and after several casts took the GRHE nymph. It screamed off down the river but after a very determined battle, it found the back of the net. It was about 1lb 8ozs and swam away strongly. A good start to the day.
I drove to Great Springs and had a cup of tea while watching the fish rise, there were very few birds about. The Mayfly were not hatching but I saw a few Olives. I found a male Mayfly spinner posing for me on a bluebell in the gusty wind. I went pond dipping in both lakes to see if the weed removal had reduced the numbers of upwinged flies.
I found lots of daphnia, hog louse, corixa, olive and damsel nymphs. Even a tiny fresh water mussel. The numbers in each lake were similar, the weed removal and treatment in the top lake doesn’t seem to have affected the pond life. The lakes were all stocked while I was messing about.
After another cup of tea I drove back to the river and had lunch at Keeper’s Bridge. The North wind was gusting upstream and it was difficult to cast but once the fly was in the water, the wind helped reduce drag. The river looked lifeless, no fish rising and no flies hatching. As I walked towards the new riffle I found several pools where the Mayfly were coming off but there were no fish rising.
I sat on the grass for half an hour. The bend in the river enabled me to watch about a hundred yards of water in each direction. Nothing. I wandered down to the new riffle, there were lots of Mayfly and Yellow May hatching.
The wind was helping the Mayfly to dry their wings and lift them off the surface of the water. There were very few birds about so most of them made it to shelter. I didn’t see any swallows. I walked to Rotherbridge and found a fish rising just below the big Hawthorn tree on the far bank. It took a dry Pheasant Tail and the bright silver dashing around immediately told me it was a sea trout smolt. There were several rising in the pool opposite the farm but I couldn’t tempt another fish.
I went back to the riffle, there were several fish rising but not to my fly. I swapped it for an Adams, my ‘go to’ fly when the fish are difficult. Andrew arrived in his Land Rover on the far bank and photographed me as I hooked another sea trout smolt. I worked the pools below the riffle but the fish were spooked by my casting.
I made my way back to Keeper’s Bridge and saw lots of fish rising, mainly small trout. I eventually found a big fish sipping down Mayfly in midstream under a tree branch. It was a tricky side cast that needed a twitch to the left as the leader curled over. Miraculously I didn’t hook the branch. The fish came up slowly, opened it’s mouth and gulped the fly down. I lifted the fly out of it’s mouth and laughed loudly at my incompetence. Frustrating. The fish will be there tomorrow.
Convinced that I had spoilt my best chance, I decided to leave for home. As I was walking back, berating myself, I saw another big trout circling in midstream taking Mayfly. The bank was very high and there was plenty of cover. I watched the fish for several minutes and tied on a spent Mayfly imitation that I had tied the day before.
I was looking down on the fish as it took. I waited a few seconds then lifted the rod. Success. It was a scramble netting the fish without falling in the river. It weighed about 2lb. I was exhausted but on the drive home I replayed the day’s events in my head. I had been driving and walking for over nine hours. A long but rewarding day.