Welcome to ‘Fishing For Trout’…..

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I have a passion for fly fishing for trout.  Mostly this involves time spent with the beautiful rivers and streams of Monmouthshire, but occasionally I venture further afield.  I write here about my fishing, experiences and what I learn.  Sometimes I will throw in some personal anecdotes and when feeling bold perhaps even offer a little advice. 

My blog is for my enjoyment – and hopefully yours.  I’m not an expert but I am an experienced angler and each time I go fly fishing I learn something new.  I’m just getting started writing, so hopefully you’ll find something interesting, stop by from time to time, and please do share any thoughts.

Thank you,

Mr Notherone

 

Celebrating Thanksgiving on the Lugg

Once again I take a couple of days off for Thanksgiving.  With so many American colleagues disappearing to consume turkey, it’s a perfect time not to work.  So I give thanks in my own way, by searching for grayling on the beautiful river Lugg.  I get the bonus of knowing that I will come back to no email backlog and no wasted time playing catch up.  An American holiday to which I don’t relate, is something I now look forward to.

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The Lugg Valley

It’s been too many weeks and I’m eager to get on the road, but first thing this morning I’ve got a touch of the ‘grumpy old man’ about me.  The bathroom has more bottles of stuff in it than the local branch of Body Shop, but I still can’t find some simple soap and shampoo.  I don’t want to come out of a shower smelling like a fruit salad, I just want to be clean!  The dogs share my opinion and I swear I can see Ollie screw his nose up as he wonders what I’ve been rolling in.

It should be a seventy minute drive, but traffic in Hereford has me wishing I’d picked a less direct route.  The Lugg rises in central Powys and after meeting the Arrow flows into the Wye ten miles south of Hereford.  I’ve fished it several times but I wouldn’t say I know the river.  It’s a dry day, bright and bitterly cold.  After heavy rain in the last few weeks, the river has fallen but is still pushing through and has a grey tinge.  The low bright sun makes visibility in the fast flow very difficult.  I set up my Hanak Superlight with a shrimp on point and a red tag hare’s ear on a dropper.  I step carefully upstream – there are some deep pools and it’s way too cold to get wet.

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Quick Return For OOST

My first take is at the tail of a deep run, but it’s a 10″ OOS trout, as is the second and third fish, all from the same run.  Funny how fish feel bigger pulling against a strong flow.

An hour in and I find no grayling.  I decide to go back to the car and change gear.  The open ground has given way to overhanging trees and the long nymph rod is proving a challenge.  My 8ft Sage gets the flies to those fishy places and I alternate between nymphs and the duo.  One more small trout and still no grayling.  I’m not convinced by the method and my patience is running out.  I think it’s a myth that anglers have an abundance of patience, I have none.  I constantly fiddle with flies and depth and the grayling don’t respond.

I decide to go a bit old school and fish a couple of lighter nymphs on a traditional longer line upstream.  Cast, retrieve line, a few steps, repeat.  Probably more by luck than judgement, I bring three small grayling to hand in quick succession.  Two take a pink shrimp and one the red tag.  They are feisty for little’uns.

I really enjoy this beat.  It’s out of the way with a variety of water, easy to access and in a beautiful valley.  At the upper limit is a weir, below which there is plenty of promising water.  I explore every likely area and collect two more small grayling and then a better one of about 12″.  I fish for four hours in total before the cold gets the better of my fingers.  On the valley floor the frost hasn’t lifted.  I enjoy Winter fishing and usually don’t mind the chill, but today it’s starting to find a way in and I’m becoming uncomfortable.  Why spoil a nice day by hanging on for an hour.

I warm up in the Land Rover, munch a sandwich and take in the view for ten minutes before driving away.  The sun is already disappearing through the conifers on the far ridge.  Day’s are short on the valley floor.

Tomorrow I’m taking my father to a concert to celebrate his ninetieth birthday.  I may not be that interested in an American public holiday, save for a day off to go fishing, but I’ve plenty to be thankful for.

Mr Notherone

 

Thoughts on another season behind me…

I can’t be alone in thinking each trout season disappears faster than the one before.  It seems only weeks ago that I was sat planning a few winter grayling trips and yet here I am a year later doing the same thing.  I wish for more time on the rivers.  I wish for less time earning a living.  One day, I know exactly how I will spend more time and it won’t be getting under someone else’s feet.

The past season proved a mixed bag.  Some truly memorable moments, some easily forgotten and a lot of frustration on route.

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The Upper Wye (end of season)

Spring

Snow, driving rain, rivers unfishable and impossible to wade.  Just what we want when the lines are all dressed, the fly boxes are full and the child like anticipation for the first brown trout of the year is not being contained at all well.

Winter won’t give up and it’s almost April before I slide into a raging river Usk and wet a line in anger.  I share the day with a few small trout, a playful otter and one very decent trout of 16 1/2″.  The season is up and running, but this year it resembles a middle aged ‘couch to 5k’ novice, not a well trained sprinter.  Boy it’s hard going.  A few more trips through April sees me picking off some of the Monnow tributaries with varying degrees of success and wondering where the fly life is.  The rising trout is a rare sight indeed.

I will regard May as the best month of the season by far.  Spring has finally sprung and the weather and water levels are just right.  The fish are tricky though and still have an aversion to the surface.  People talk of the rivers being at least a month behind where they should be, so I confidently add this to my list of more trusted excuses!

During the month I fish the Monnow, Usk, Wye, Honddu, Escley and Olchon and at last I’m catching good numbers….but fewer than previous seasons.  I’ve never been that motivated by catching a lot of fish, I’m too easily distracted by just being there.  I have spent recent seasons improving my nymphing technique which has significantly upped the number of fish caught, but I frequently opt to just fish a dry fly.  It’s hard to beat the satisfaction of the hook up to a well cast dry.  May ends up as one of the wettest for a while, but the fishing picks up.

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Seasons Best Brown Trout

The end of May also sees me land what turns out to be my best fish of the season.  The 18″ Usk brownie falls to a pheasant tail in the pool where the Grwyne brook tumbles into the Usk.  It’s up there as one of the best brown trout I’ve had from any river.  In all these years I’ve yet to hit that magic 20″ brown trout – maybe next season.

I also can’t reflect on last May without a passing mention of the Monnow Social.  A superb gathering of the good, the bad and the ugly, spending a weekend fishing and drinking in support of the Monnow Rivers Association.  It’s hard graft but someone’s got to do it.  I’d like to offer more detail but my recall is literally still lost in some scotch mist.

Summer

Late spring rolls into early summer and initially I’m optimistic.  The Usk continues to give up some bounty and I enjoy a few evening sessions.  Only on one occasion though, for around 20 minutes, do I experience what you might call a ‘good hatch’ with trout rising and gorging on natural olives.

Then comes the dry spell.  A heat wave and lack of rain for weeks makes for great barbecues but challenging fly fishing.  I’m still catching but in low numbers as the water temperature rises.  One evening I fail to see or find a trout, but manage a dozen dace on a size 18 F fly, a strange but enjoyable hour.

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Avon Grayling

By mid-July the Usk is a trickle of a river and kids are strolling across at Usk town barely getting their feet wet.  I register a water temperature of 24 degrees one evening and give it a break for the next six weeks.

An opportunity to fish the Wiltshire Avon presents in August and there is more water and flow than my regular freestone rivers.  A fabulous day sees me land a lot of fish but it’s a similar story to home with a distinct lack of brown trout and many more grayling.  The Avon is a beautiful stream though and to complain would seem rather churlish.  Particularly at a time when pictures of my local Monmouthshire rivers show some with almost no flow at all.  It’s late August when I get back on the Usk and after some rain I’m able to pick up a handful of brownies from some of the faster heads.

Autumn

Following a late summer family holiday, I stumble into September and a crazy busy month at work.  My hopes for some late season trips to the Wye evaporate and I have to wait until the last day of the season to finish on a dry fly high on the river Edw.  My personal triumph is a cast directed through a narrow gap and under an overhanging tree, to where I know there will be a trout.  The stuff of small stream dreams.  The Adams is taken immediately and a feisty little brownie poses for a quick photo.

Then it’s gone all too quickly.  The fish and the season.

On the way home that evening, I cross the Wye and stop for a quick look over the bridge.  I imagine where I might be standing on a cold frosty morning in some weeks time, no doubt trying to find a shoal of grayling.

It’s certainly not a stand out season and I don’t enjoy the drought.  It also feels like there are fewer trout around.  I think back to a conversation I listen to at the Game Fair back in July.  Nick Hancock (he of TV presenter fame and a keen angler) is part of a panel discussing the impact of FEB’s across the country.  The consensus is rather gloomy and worrying.

With a little luck though and fair wind, I’ll still be back in the spring.  By then fed up of the cold and fickle grayling and ready to chase my first trout of another season.

Mr Notherone

 

Season ends on a small stream high….

Late start….hot dry Summer, very low water levels – maybe a season to forget?  

With work ramping up, a daughter moving up to GCSE’s and a new puppy in the house, September is proving stressful.  Fishing takes a back seat, but I’m determined to get out one last time.  I’m given a pass and I decide to take it scrambling up the Edw valley.  The River Edw is a small left bank tributary of the River Wye, with its source on the fringes of  Radnor Forest.  It winds its way over bedrock and loose stone through Aberedw and into the Wye between Builth and Erwood.  

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The River Edw

Turning off the main road it takes only a few minutes to feel remote.  No signal, no people and little bridges over the river that are better suited to a horse and cart.  It’s overcast, a little cold and the water level is low.  At no time today am I wading over my knees and frequently I’m kneeling down trying to make that cast under a tree, to the water that looks most fishy.  This small stream is not going to hold any monsters but it takes all of my strength and guile to winkle out the wild brownies.  I’m carrying a small box of dries and an equally small box of nymphs but I decide to only fish the dry.  I’m reducing my chances, but it is the last day and I’m in the mood for a trade off.

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Travelling Light

After wasting ten minutes in the pool at the bridge I move upstream and start prospecting the food seams trying to be as quiet as possible.  I can see fish scatter ahead of me and it’s almost impossible to move undetected.  It’s only in the faster water at the heads of the pools where I can sneak up.  With the river this low I also make use of a few exposed gravel banks to get into position.

The light makes tracking the fly tricky so I tie on an Adams with a hi-viz parachute.  In these small streams I find the little trout none to fussy and takes are usually aggressive.  Today I’m using a 7ft 3wt and most casts are little more than a flick of the wrist.  At times I have to reduce the leader to just 7ft to get under the overhangs.  I land the fly in the slack behind a boulder and the first fish is on.  Small they might be, but they don’t half hang on.  The fish are lean and strong and beautifully marked – some quite dark, others lighter with bright red spots.

As I work upstream, my fly gets slammed in most of the runs I think there will be fish, but in only one pool do I catch more than one.  They bolt for cover instantly and I’m forced upstream to the next likely spot.

I sit on a rock and grab a drink and something to eat.  It’s probably eighteen months since I fished the Edw and I wish I’d made more effort.  It’s a stunning valley.  A kingfisher flashes past at terrific speed.  I’ve seen quite a few this season but not managed to get close to one.

I continue up the beat, picking up the little trout that give me a runaround.  I’m impressed with my little Streamflex XF2.  As one of my least expensive rods, it’s perfect for these conditions, protecting the fine tippet and playing these tiny brownies firmly and gently.

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A Real Beauty

The Falls at the top of the beat is another ideal place for a pause.  The creeping around, rock climbing and fallen tree scrambling has taken a toll.  Recovered, I catch two more from beneath an overhanging branch and I’m feeling smug when the fly makes it through a small gap to land just where it’s needed.

As I trek back down river, I even pick up a couple fishing a downstream dry.  It’s just one of those days.  I enjoy catching trout on nymphs, but nothing beats a hook up on a dry.  I see only one rise today and it shows that these hungry little’uns are looking in all directions for food.  I lose count too, more than 15 but definitely not 20.

I pick my way back through the tiny country lanes, feeling at home in the Land Rover and reflecting on the season.  True it was a slow start.  Getting out has proved difficult and then I stayed away when the water temperatures hit the mid twenties.  I’ve caught fewer trout on the Usk and Monnow than for a good while and some days struggled for just a few fish.  There have been moments though – and most came on these smaller rivers.  Today is one of those highlights and a great way to end the season.  You may have guessed, but one of the pictures below was not taken on the Edw!

Now, where shall I go for my first post season grayling trip………?

Mr Notherone

A Lesson Learned…..

It’s funny how after all these years I can still miss the obvious.  I spend a couple of hours on the Usk this afternoon and waste the first ninety minutes fishing where there are no fish.   I think ‘fishing where the fish are’ must be one of the golden rules of fishing…. and I break it.

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The Usk is a big river and with no discernible hatch, the trout spread out.  I aim for a little stretch, a long bubble line where I have caught on several recent visits and with little thought I set up to prospect with a dry.  It’s mid afternoon, overcast and with a good chance of a shower. There are no fish rising.  After a while I switch to the duo, with the same spectacular lack of success.  I’m happy to be out fishing and continue going through the motions.

I assume that because we’ve had some rain and the temperature has dropped I will find trout in the long tails where I have caught them before.

For an hour and a half I see no fish and get no interest on any fly.

I take a break and sit on the bank.  Looking down on the river I realise that I’ve got it all wrong.  The water temperature is still high and although we’ve had some rain the river is still relatively low.  Trout are going to seek out the oxygenated water or lie deep in the cooler pools.  I wander upstream to the first stretch of quicker water.  I switch tactics to two nymphs, a Jon Barnes black magic on the point and a pheasant tail with a red tag on the dropper.

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I’ve also switched to the sunray line and I’m targeting the pocket water and food seams as they fan out across the river.  Today I only have my Sage SLT with me, a fantastic dry rod but not renowned for tight line nymphing.  I make do.

I need to cross the river to get into the best position on the drift and just two casts in, I hook and net my first brownie.  In less than twenty minutes I catch three more from the same run.  Three are about 12″ with the best at 14″.  I should have thought more and started here when I arrived.  The last hook up is the most satisfying, even though the fish throws the fly.  I cast over my left shoulder and manage to land the nymphs just to the side of a prominent boulder.  As they drift below I lift the flies a little and induce an aggressive take, probably the best fish today, but I can’t control his initial jump and he’s gone.

I head back, as today I can’t stay and fish into the evening and this season most fish have come late in the day.  It’s true that from the start of the year I’ve caught less trout from the Usk per hour fished than any previous season.  I’m not the only one to experience this.  I also realise that today I’ve had a bit of a lazy session and wasted a lot of time.  It’s still fun though.  There’s nowhere I’d rather be for two hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Mr Notherone

 

 

Chalk Stream…but where are the trout?

I oversleep.  Not the start I want and I’m annoyed at falling asleep after the alarm rings.  Nothing I can do now, I’ll just have to catch fish an hour later than planned.

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The Wiltshire Avon

Despite my tardiness, I make good progress towards the Wiltshire Avon and stop at services to pick up a few things for lunch.  Absent any breakfast I’m also hungry now.  The large gentleman in front of me buys the last two ‘pan au raison’ and I’m stuck with an ugly looking plain croissant (the French have a lot to answer for).  I wonder if this is a sign for the day ahead.

It’s another hot one, bright sunshine and high twenties by lunchtime.  I look for a shady spot to park and chat to the river keeper.  He’s been feeding the stockies in an adjacent lake and wishes me well without giving too much away.  It’s a decent walk to the bottom of the beat.  My last visit was in Winter and now in August the vegetation is in full flow, making access difficult and impossible in places.  Unlike my regular freestone rivers, the Avon has a good flow – lower than I remember but just as clear.  A peer into the water shows just how skittish the fish are.

I’m armed with my 9ft 4wt.  I want to use my 8ft 4″ 3wt but I broke the tip section a few days ago and so needs must.  Today is a dry fly day.  There are a few pools where I’m better off with a nymph or spider, but I’m going to persevere with the dry.  I’ve not had enough dry fly action this season.

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I start with a small klink and work upstream, hitting the food seams, gravel runs and margins.  It’s not long before the first small grayling comes to hand, quickly followed by a few more.  Can’t be long now until the first brownie shows up.

The small grayling keep coming.  I switch flies a lot in one pool where I see several rising.  My reliable f-fly and olive emerger attract no attention at all.  The klink and a small elk hair caddis are preferred and catch everything today between them.  I notice a better fish at the head of a pool, rising in a narrow channel between some ranunculus.  I lengthen the leader a little and get into position.

This is one of those casts that I should make with ease.  Twenty five feet, no wind and no obstructions, but nerves can strike under a hot sun.  I’ve become a strong proponent of the importance of the first cast, particularly in these conditions.  I used to rush in for glory whereas now I spend more time watching and planning.  A kingfisher takes my attention for a moment as I’m getting ready.  The take is almost instant and I’m into a better fish and certainly a brown trout.  Well actually it’s a 12″ rainbow.  I’m not sure if he has been stocked here or if he’s an escapee, but either way he’s not the fish I came for.

I grab some lunch sitting on a small hard bench.  I resist the urge to use a comfortable looking chair in a garden on the opposite bank, placed temptingly close to the water.  Being run off someones property will surely spoil my afternoon.

The top half of the beat is a much harder prospect.  Access is very difficult and short roll casts need pin point accuracy.  A few more small grayling oblige until I spot a trout rising upstream in the margin just out of the main flow.  The stream is no more than three meters wide at this point and I need to negotiate a tree and high bank vegetation. IMG_1448

Perhaps a bow and arrow cast from the bank, but I’m not too good at those.  With an effort Robin Hood would be proud of, the fly lands just up from the last rise and is greedily taken.  At last, a lovely little wbt, perhaps 10″ comes to the net.  He recovers quickly and bolts for cover.  I manage just one more similar trout from the next pool and although I catch and miss more of the ever present grayling, I see no signs of trout anywhere else.  It’s hard to be disappointed on such a beautiful day with the Avon.  My catch is sixteen grayling, two brownies and a wayward rainbow – all on the dry.  I don’t fish chalk streams often and I have this notion that they are stuffed with brown trout.  Perhaps I’m unlucky, perhaps it’s the conditions, perhaps I have the wrong tactics.  Perhaps the little grayling are simply winning the race for my fly on a mile of prime trout water.  Perhaps if I’d had the pan au raison instead of an ugly croissant.  Who knows.

It’s a great day in beautiful Wiltshire surroundings, on a special little stream.

Mr Notherone

 

Pinch, Punch, First of the Month..

My daughter is first off the mark.  She delights in pinching and punching dad and I can’t help noticing her punch is getting stronger.  I take her for a sports trial in the morning and I plan on a couple of hours on the river this evening.  She’s nervous, plays well, and I enjoy the morning with her. 

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A few miles above Usk

It’s another day in our current heat wave and we have no rain to speak of for weeks.  So much for my little rain dance last weekend.  With river levels this low, the trout will seek out the oxygenated water, lay low in the margins or hold in deeper, cooler pools.

This beat, a few miles above Usk, is a lovely place to spend a few hours.  It’s a long track down to the river and I’m surprised to find no other cars at the bottom.  A fine Summer evening, and I’ve got a mile of the Usk to myself.  As I ease myself into the water , there’s a huge splash near the bank below me and I turn just in time to see what looks like a good fish, bellyflop back into the pool.  Encouraging.  A few clouds roll in, and the evening will be a mix of bright sunlight with overcast intervals.

There are small and frequent rises all along a food seam where some faster water trails away.  I work my way upstream and one by one the trout hit my dry fly.  I’ve struggled at times this season with the dry.  Not so much hitting the hook up, but rising fish have ignored fly after fly as I hunt for the right pattern.

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Small Usk Brownie

Not this evening.  I start with a tiny Klinkhammer pattern and straight away I get a take and a lovely little wbt is to hand.  Several more follow to the same fly.  Unusually, I’m on my game and I’m 100% on hook ups, not even a long range release!

I notice a larger fish about 40 feet directly upstream.  I creep up and after several reasonable casts, fail to get a take.  I guess maybe he’s onto something different and there are little midges everywhere.  I look for the one of the smallest black patterns I have.  It’s probably technically a Griffith’s Gnat, size 20.  Second cast and I’m in, but rather than the thump I’m expecting, a relatively modest 12″ brownie comes to the net.  He has a nasty looking wound on the flank and probably thinks he’s down on his luck, but I get him back in the water in a few seconds.  Unsure if this is the larger fish I think I see, I cover the same water, pick up a couple of smaller fish, but no sign of Mr Big.

 

My best fish of the evening also falls to the black gnat.  It’s a well marked 14″ fish that literally jumps into the net.  I hook him directly across stream and he immediately runs below me.  With a size 20 hook and 010 tippet I adopt the ‘gently persuasive’ rather than ‘full on bully’ approach.

Two hours on the river, 9 fish and a very pleasant evening.  This is why I love fly fishing the Usk.

On the short drive home, there’s an interesting sound from the Land Rover.  More like a transmission problem than engine, is my gut.  If you drive an old Defender, these things become expected and nothing to worry about.  After all, a worrier doesn’t buy a Defender.

It’s a Sunday to remember for all the good reasons.  Let’s see what Monday (and the rest of July) brings.

Mr Notherone

 

When that extra effort pays off…

This sunny spell is lovely.  A family barbecue yesterday and now as I open the bedroom blind, this morning looks much the same.  One of the wettest May’s has given way to one of the driest June’s.  Gardeners aside, perhaps not many are hoping for rain, but I suspect I’m not alone amongst river anglers in wishing for a bit more flow.

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Pen y Fal.  The Monnow Valley in the distance.

The family is busy without me today and very early I find myself with just the dog for company.  I want to go fishing but the rising heat and brilliant sunshine will make a day on the river a challenge.  Perhaps an evening session is the best bet.

I head off in the land rover for an early morning walk with Ollie and thirty minutes later we are heading up Pen y Fal (more often known as the Sugarloaf).  For a while I think we are the first to make the climb.  Then I spot a couple ahead of us on the western most path – still, I calculate that we will be up and back home in time for breakfast.  Certainly not late enough to call it brunch.  Although it’s early, it’s hot.  Even Ollie is slower than usual and by the time we are back at the car we both are wacked and share a litre of water.

The day drifts away and I potter around avoiding some jobs that need doing.  I make a business call and get a few things ready for an overseas trip this week.  I can slide into the evening, put my feet up and wait for the family to get home.  I tell myself that it’s not good enough and I should grab my kit and head to the river.  I’m right of course, I always am when I talk to myself.

It’s 7pm when I stroll along the bank.  I’ve my 9ft 4wt, a long leader and a trusted olive emerger tied on.  I’ll probably only fish until 8.30pm and I’ve decided to just use a dry fly.  I select a spot just below some faster water.  The seam tracks towards the far bank and deepens a little.  It looks fishy and there is a gradual shelf where I can edge out without making too much of a disturbance.  I spot a rise and position to cover the fish.  My first few casts are good with no drag – no take.  Over the next forty minutes, I try half a dozen patterns targeting several fish within range, but nothing.  Then quite suddenly there is a hatch and fish feeding in every direction.  This is the first time this season when I’ve seen this much surface action.  As none of my flies has caught yet, I’m unsure what to use and it’s not obvious what has turned them on.  I reach for a ‘tups indispensable’ in the top corner of my Wheatley.  It’s tied and given to me by an angler I met on the Monnow a few seasons ago and as yet, not been wet.

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Fell to a Tups Indispensable

Over the next fifteen minutes I catch 3 brownies and hook two more that I use to practise my long range release technique.  Then as quickly as it started, all is quiet.  The little size 18 tups did just the job.

I’d like to say that my growing entomology knowledge helps me crack the feeding code.  Actually I just get lucky.  All the fish are only about 12 inches, but they put up a good fight.

I’m pleased I make the effort this evening.  Funny how I always am after the event.  I resolve to keep making the effort and remember this evening when next the lazy gene start to win through.  As I’m traveling this coming week, I also do a little rain dance.  Just enough to make sure it’s nice and sunny again when I get back on Friday.

Mr Notherone

 

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