It appears that restrictions on our freedom will be gradually lifted in time for the start of the Trout fishing season, just like last year. I have over a month to prepare. Lockdown caught me in the latter stages of moving house. I left all my rods and reels behind, 250 miles away, safe and secure while furniture was delivered and much decorating took place. Although the season opens on 15 March it will be early April before I can retrieve my gear and flick a nymph about.
The weather is distinctly warmer and I feel that a short Spring will merge seamlessly into a long hot Summer. In Devon the Winter has been wet and mild, the rivers are full and Dartmoor is saturated. Most days I look over the parapet of the 13th century bridge into the crystal clear water but there are no little fish darting about. Where do they hide during the spates? There is no gravel under the old bridge, the bedrock is exposed and the weeds have all been ripped out by the January spates. Perhaps the little Trout have all been washed downstream into the estuary.
A walk beside the river is almost as good as fishing. In fact, sometimes it’s nicer without the distraction of choosing a fly and trying to flick it into an impossible gap under the overhanging branches. Yesterday I walked slowly along the banks of the River Walkham, my local river. The spates had left lines of driftwood on the short, green grass. The river had been cleaned out. The gravel and rocks had been polished and some of the pockets had become pools. It was quiet, even the birds were silent. The trees in the valley were not in bud and the Spring flowers were hiding under the bracken debris.
Today I chose to explore the River Meavy. I have walked the Beat many times but never with a rod. The scenery is stunning and it is a privilege to walk up the valley between primeval Oaks dripping with lichen and ferns. Huge granite slabs the size of cars are scattered around the Dewerstone side of valley amongst the trees. Little springs emerge from the peat and trickle down a hundred feet into the river. The sunlight slanting through the trees catches the white water in the riffles and illuminates the crystal clear water. There’s so much to see. A few small upwing flies hatch and midges buzz around the swampy patches of waterlogged peat.
This year I plan to use my fishing time carefully. I intend to keep in touch with both the waters in Sussex and Devon, a tricky balancing act. The Mayfly season on the Rother in Sussex is not to be missed. To watch a 3lb brownie appear under the fly and gently sip it down is a rare thing, memories are made that way. I will visit Little Bognor and celebrate Elgar Day on 15 June. The Trout in the moorland streams won’t become active until the water warms up in May. I’ll need to start training for the long hike across the moor, lockdown pounds must be lost.
I haven’t tied any flies or bought a supply of leaders and my only spool of tippet material is half empty. My reel needs cleaning and the silk line ought to have a dressing of Red Mucilin. I must get organised.