I’m not prone to feeling the cold, but for some reason this morning is already different. I’ve the usual layers on, feeling as bulky as ever and yet I’ve got the shiver that won’t go away.
It’s about half an hour after first light and I’m picking my way across the field to the river. The temperature gauge is only reading 0°C but it feels lower and the frosty landscape is contributing to the mind-games.
It’s the end of the trout season and I keep telling myself that trout like it cold – they’re bound to be voracious for my fly today.
I’m going to split the beat up and start at the top end where the water is faster and explore the food seams and holding areas where I suspect the fish with lay up. Two nymphs will be the way to start. Later, when it’s warmed a little I’ll venture down to the slower glides and see if any fish are looking up.
An hour in the river and my feet are cold (surely its lower than 0°).
It’s uncomfortable but bearable. I’ve hooked and lost one trout and I’m struggling to find fish. A change to a little pheasant tail with a small red tag on the dropper brings reward. Three fish in quick succession, all small but perfectly formed. I should have changed flies earlier but I’m distracted and now my feet are even colder.
For the first time that I can remember I spend time on the bank just thawing out. It’s a chance to pause, take in the surroundings, enjoy just being here (if only it was a little warmer).
I’m joined for a few minutes by a friendly walker who enquires after my success. “Three small ones I offer”, followed by a detailed explanation of why he can’t see them. Many don’t understand angling and this bloke gives me that additional bewildered look when learning that I might spend all day standing in a river returning the fish I catch. He walks off and I’m sure he’s concluding I’m a little bit crazy.
Back to the task. The pheasant tail lands me a few more trout and two grayling can’t resist the heavier olive shrimp on the point. Wading is getting tricky and I’m trying to find the good positions without slipping off the bed rock into what look like impossibly deep pools.
It’s not long before the pain returns to my feet and now I’m starting to shiver again. The quieter water lower on the beat can wait for another day.
As I backtrack along the bank, I notice a rise just above a prominent boulder and wait to see him rise twice more. I figure I can reach him without wading and so I cast out a small olive up-wing that’s engulfed almost as it touches down. I’m in and it feels like a better fish. I turn his first run downstream but then he jumps and throws the fly. He is definitely a better fish – and this day he’s better than me. He’s clearly decided not to succumb to an angler who has already given up and is nursing his feet back to life along the river bank. Anyway, I’ll get him next time.
I peel off my wadders and throw them in the Landy. I discover both my socks are soaking wet and my suspicion that these wadders are reaching end of life is confirmed.
I’ve had better days fishing, I’ve had warmer days fishing, but this one will certainly be memorable. It’s a frustrating day but not a disappointing one. Does any day spent in the company of the Wye ever disappoint?