10 May – Keepers Bridge

This would be a serious day, no mucking about with vintage rods. The trout would be hard work and I needed to be on pole position. Hardy carbon fibre, a long leader and a GRHE nymph sat on the grass beside me as I looked upstream and downstream from the first bend. It was a short wait, a fish splashed just above Keepers Bridge. It was not the rise of a feeding fish but it was somewhere to start.

As I walked downstream towards the rise, I realised that I had left my landing net leaning against the car. By the time I fetched the net and settled into position the fish had departed. I worked the nymph beside the weed beds and along both banks but there was no response. I heard a fish rise upstream but couldn’t see anything. I crept back to the line of alder trees and saw another rise. I sat on the grass and worked the nymph down and across under the trees.

GRHE nymph

While concentrating on the leader, my peripheral vision caught a gentle rise among some floating branches. The target was only a square-foot patch of water in the middle of tangled flood debris. Very risky. I was about to dismiss the temptation but auto-cast kicked in and I flicked the fly about 10 feet to my left. It landed perfectly and a few seconds later a golden flash and an open mouth signalled the start of the battle. I dragged the fish to my right and forced it into snag free water, it was taken by surprise. The trout was about 2lbs and left the landing net with a burst of speed.

Alder beetle

The plan was working and if I could find another fish, I would persevere until it was hooked. I visited all the alder trees and ran the nymph under the branches, close to the roots. As I approached a bend there was a tremendous splash under an alder tree, beside a raft of flood debris. It was such a commotion that I expected to see a moorhen or duck emerge. I waited for a few minutes, impatient to start casting and eventually a fish rose. I wondered if they were taking alder beetles, the trees were full of them and the wind was gusty. I flicked the nymph just upstream and used the long rod to work the leader around a near-bank bush. I induced a take by hanging the fly and lifting occasionally. Another golden flash and thump on the rod had me struggling to stand up while keeping a tight line. I was high above water level and I could watch the fish as it attempted to find refuge in the roots. It was a better fish, about two and a half pounds.

After returning the trout I contemplated a drink and a sandwich. I’d chosen a lightweight Barbour in the early morning drizzle but the overcast had burnt off and in the jacket, I had become hot and dehydrated. Just one more fish. I walked downstream to a favourite pool. A branch on the alder tree hung over the river and a big willow bush forced the current along the far bank. A trick-shot side cast under the branch was required. A flick of the rod tip as the line uncurled would put the fly close to the willow. All or nothing.

As I was summoning courage to cast, a big brown nose surfaced, followed by a brown fin. It looked like a chub or carp. I waited. An alder fly fell into the water and fluttered on the surface. The nose and fin reappeared. I cast the GRHE under the branch and curled it nicely. Not getting snagged in the tree was pleasing. The fish showed no interest and I changed the fly to a wooly brown nymph with a ginger hackle and tail. The back eddy below the willow bush helped me work the fly and inducing a take produced a third satisfying thump on the rod. The fish stayed deep and went for the bushes, a typical chub response. It was another trout, about 2lbs, in extremely good condition.

I walked down to the New Riffle and fished through the fast water but the heat got to me and I lost concentration. Back at the car I felt that I had worked hard for the fish and that persevering with the tactics had paid off.