20 August – Top Beat

The top of the river hadn’t been fished this season. Nobody had fished Beat A. I thought I might find a few fish that hadn’t been caught and released. Easy fish. When I arrived at Taylors Bridge a giant combine harvester with caterpillar tracks was thundering up and down the field leaving a cloud of yellow dust in its wake. It was processing linseed, an unusual crop. The plants looked dead and unlikely to yield much oil. I had lunch while watching the combine and setting up my rod.


It was warm, humid and overcast. Ideal conditions for fishing. There were no signs of fish around the bridge so I walked to Ladymead and had a few casts under the Oak tree. I was sure that part of the pool held a fish but my Copper Nymph was ignored. The top of the river was shallow, the water level had dropped after recent rain. The streamer weed swirled around in the current and mature trees, mainly Alder and Willow, lined both banks. The water was clear and I could see the ripples in the sandy bottom without Polaroids. The Trout had plenty of places to hide and I concentrated on the deeper stretches near the weed beds and under the trees.


Every cast I expected the line to draw tight but despite my confidence and concentration, ninety minutes passed without reward. As I was moving upstream looking for another deep run, I saw a good fish rise in midstream and take a fly. I crept towards the edge of the river and waited for the fish to rise again. I waited patiently but the fish didn’t show. I thought it had retreated under an Oak tree downstream from the sandy shallow. I ran a Copper Nymph along the far bank, under the branches and close to the tree roots. I kept casting for a few minutes and then left the fish to rest. I continued my journey upstream, exploring the edges of the weed beds and losing most of my Copper Nymphs in the trees.


I found a nice pool with a back eddy along the far bank, an overhanging tree and a big bed of streamer weed at the top of the pool. I resolved to stay there and cover every part of the pool methodically and with a variety of flies. Eventually a fish rose, right in the middle of the weed bed. It was impossible to present a fly in the weeds so I reluctantly moved on. I walked to the top boundary then retraced my steps. I was eager to have another attempt at the Trout I had rested.

As soon as I sat down behind the bankside cover the fish rose. It chased a fly, swirled and disappeared in a cloud of sand. I waited for a few minutes and then worked a nymph under the branches of the Oak tree. I was repeating the earlier mistakes and risked putting the fish down. After a long wait the fish rose in midstream. I swapped the nymph for a size 14 Partridge and ginger hackled pattern that I had used on my last trip.


I waited for the fish to reveal itself but while scanning the water I noticed a shadow on the bottom in midstream. It was a tricky cast between the trees, upstream and across the current. The first cast was short so I lifted off and pushed the fly another yard. The fly landed perfectly, the fish rose as it floated overhead, turned downstream and took the fly positively. I lifted the rod and the fish dashed under the Oak tree. The fly line tangled in the branches but came free as the fish went on a long run down the river. That suited me because the bank was lower downstream and the landing net would reach the water. Unfortunately, as I walked downstream, the fish dashed through sunken Willow branches, the hook pinged out and stuck in a branch. The Trout was about 2lb and I was so pleased to have presented an upstream dry fly perfectly, that the loss of the fish was not important.

It was a nice moment on which to end the afternoons fishing.