The early morning air was still and the bright overcast spread uniformly across the sky. It was cold and damp but the BBC were predicting sunshine and for once, I agreed. The rising sun would gradually burn away the cloud and it would be a lovely Spring day. My morning started badly. I waited patiently for the recovery low-loader to drag the Defender off to the local 4×4 specialist for the clutch master cylinder to be replaced. Once upon a time I might have attempted the repair. The YouTube video made it look easy but I had struggled to remove the screw top on the fluid reservoir and I took that as a sign… ‘Leave it to the experts, go fishing‘.
The river had risen a little after Wednesdays rain but would fall over the weekend and be fishable on Monday. I decided to have a relaxing afternoon at the lakes with a split cane rod. I hoped the Mayfly would be hatching and the stunning quality of the Sharpes seemed appropriate for such an occasion.
The lakes looked beautiful. I had tea at the hut while watching a cloud of male Spinners rise and fall over the grass between Little Springs and Great Springs. I wandered around Little Springs for two hours, searching the grass and looking for Duns under the leaves of the big Oak trees. I found a few small, dark coloured females hiding from the birds. A Blue Tit dived from under the ridge of the fishing hut, caught a Spinner and quickly returned to the nest.
I watched a newly hatched Dun flutter from the lake margin, a sudden breeze caught the Mayfly and it rested on the grass. Its size, big eyes and claspers meant that it was a male. It rested and posed for a photo then fluttered up into the trees above me. The Americans call all the upwinged flies ‘mayflies’ which is a bit confusing. Ephemera danica is the true Mayfly.
The female Duns are bigger than the males and have small eyes but I don’t think the birds or Trout worry about the difference. Nymphs were wriggling to the surface of the lake and struggling to break through the surface film. When they emerged they seemed to pop out of the shuck and become airborne in seconds. The Duns fluttered vertically into the breeze, trailing their long tails, seeking shelter high up in the Alder trees around the shallow end of the lake. Most of them made it.
I crept to the first point and sat on the grass behind the little seat. I sat still and watched the Trout cruising along the margins of the bay on my left. Fish were also rising in the main body of the lake. I chose an imitation of a spent Spinner with a white Neoprene body and black hair wings. It looked good and would float for ages. A Trout rose just beyond the Potamageton, I flicked the fly out and it was immediately taken. The fish was about 1lb 8ozs and it had a hook mark in its lower jaw. It did not recover and I kept it for dinner.
After catching a fish so quickly I assumed that the rest of the afternoon would be easy. It was not. My imitation was rejected by several fish. I changed flies a couple of times, tried nymphs and a small emerger but the fish were fussy. My casting became frantic and after a couple of tangles and a rod-wrap, I decided to rest and change rods. My arm was hurting.
I set up the Hardy and dropped a nymph along the line of a big fish cruising down the centre of the lake. I watched the fish turn, open its mouth, shake its head a couple of times and swim away. It had taken the fly and I had not reacted. I laughed but felt gutted. Trout continued to rise near the rushes in the bay on my left. I converted a white Neoprene mayfly pattern into an emerger by chopping off the wings. It hung in the surface film and was taken but I was so surprised that I missed. I flicked it out and allowed the wind to drag it round. The fly floated but the tippet sunk and a fish took hold. I released the Trout and moved to the sunny side of the lake.
The margins in the corner of the lake under the two big Oak trees were covered with hatching, dying and dead Mayflies. The water was a soup of shucks, crippled Duns and spent Spinners with a side salad of buzzers and Olives. The Trout were feeding very close to the bank and although I kept a low profile, I think I put them down. I drove home smiling but wishing that I was in the Defender.
It had been a great afternoon, the most enjoyable trip of the season to date.