It was 3:00pm on a Saturday afternoon and the river was deserted. A glorious Autumn day with blue sky, high wispy clouds and still air. What were people doing on such a lovely day ? Shopping ? The days were getting shorter and it would soon be time to put the rod away. Every Autumn day should be cherished not squandered in Waitrose.
At The Badgers I had a pint of Cornwall’s favourite beer, now brewed in Birmingham, while deciding where to fish. The Beats at Keepers Bridge had not been fished the previous day. It was sad that the river had been ignored but it was nice to know the Trout had been given a day off.
I walked downstream from Keepers Bridge on the South bank. Only fifty yards below the bridge a fish was rising in the long shadow cast by the big Alder. I thought a dry fly would guarantee results but the fish followed the sedge and rejected it. The tippet was too visible. I had a big swirl under a Black Gnat which was an improvement. I trimmed the Neoprene wing to make the fly sit lower in the surface film and missed a good take. I thought that would have spooked the Trout but after a short rest, an Adams with pinched-off wings was also closely examined and dismissed as an obvious fake.
To avoid the problem of the floating tippet, I tied on a size 14 copper and Pheasant tail nymph. A cross between a Pheasant Tail and a Sawyers Nymph. With such a pedigree how could it fail ? I cast to the fussy Trout and as the fly swung round at the end of the cast, a fish flashed at the fly just behind a bed of streamer weed. I thought the fish had followed the fly across the river, quickly flicked it back out and immediately made contact with a good fish. The Trout fought deep and flashed gold in the low Autumn sun, all the signs of a big fish. It was about 2lb 8ozs, possibly bigger. As I was releasing it from the landing net, the fish under the Alder rose again. I had caught the wrong Trout ! I made a note to return later.
I thought I might repeat the ‘hanging-from-bush’ trick from a previous visit but at the first bend, the cover above and below the Alder tree had been neatly mown to stubble. I spent a while working the nymph among the tree roots but the leader refused to tighten.
I remembered the fish I had previously found in the wooded stretch and walked downstream to the Tree Tunnel. The Impossible Pool had changed. The branches on the young trees had sagged and the gap through which I had flicked a fly was more challenging. Nevermind, I could see a couple of fish shadows and there were several splashy rises while I was selecting a fly. It took many attempts to get a dry fly in the water and when I did, the fly was ignored because it dragged. I tied the nymph back on and after several botched casts, two fish followed it. In the confusion the two competing fish missed the fly. I tried the other, much narrower, gap in the bushes but the fish moved away, scared by my antics untangling the leader from the overhanging branches. I had found a group of fish in dense cover whereas the pools with neatly mown banks had been deserted. Although I hadn’t caught a Trout in the woods it had been fun trying.
At 6:00pm the sun was setting and the air temperature dropped. I ambled back upstream and found a fish rising in the middle of a long straight pool. I well remember the Monster that stripped my fly line and crashed into the Willow bush at the bottom of that pool. It had been a couple of years earlier but I would never forget the day I nearly lost the tip of my rod trying to extract what was probably a Sea Trout. The rising fish nearly took a Black Gnat in midstream. At the end of the next cast the Trout jumped at the fly as I drew it towards me for the lift off. I swapped back to the nymph and had a nip but the old, deeply coloured fish was too wise and went down. I moved upstream to the Old Riffle but although there were a couple of fish moving, they would not take a nymph.
At 7:00pm the sunset was spectacular. All the birds were calling and the still evening air amplified the sounds. The Pheasants out sung the other birds by sheer weight of numbers but the Owls came a close second. I even heard a Nightjar churring in the woods across the field.
The water was mirror calm and the Trout randomly rose for invisible morsels. I cast a nymph to a good fish that rolled over in the reflection of the sunset but it was not interested. The air was cold and a thin layer of mist was rising from the water meadows. It was time to leave. It had been a memorable day.