Late season with a dry fly…..

It’s a bit of a lazy start to the day. I watch Ireland start their rugby world cup campaign by dispatching a very poor Scotland and then an unconvincing England flatter to deceive against Tonga, but a bonus point win is a good start. I’m nervous as Wales will start tomorrow.

In spite of the showers and growing breeze, mid afternoon I head to the river for a few hours. The season is almost done and it’s weeks ago that I cast a line.

I sit on the bank and wonder if my time could be better employed. The drizzle is getting stronger but no matter how much it rains it isn’t going to change the water level over the next few hours! It’s very low and clear.

In these conditions I would usually think that trying to winkle a few trout out of the faster runs with a nymph might be the only option but I’m just not in the mood. On the last day of last season I fished a dry all day and caught a hat full of trout on a small stream not far from here. I resolve to try the same again.

Wandering to the bottom of the beat I experience three seasons in a fifteen minute walk as rain and bright sunshine combine to briefly show me a rainbow. It fades all too quickly and the breeze increases. A lone sheep in a vast empty field, clearly unwell, makes no attempt to avoid me and I hope the shepherd realises it’s missing. There is something unsettling about a sheep on its own, they just don’t have that antisocial gene. Ominously, a buzzard is sat watching from a convenient perch.

As I step into the water I notice a few shapes I hadn’t seen dart away. This will be a challenge. I select a small elk hair CdC to prospect the far bank and quicker riffle at the top of the pool. I have my Sage 4 weight and a long 15ft leader.

Part of me is convinced I’m just practicing casting when a little trout makes a grab for my fly but misses. I resist the temptation to snatch it away and wait a minute before attempting the same drift. This time he’s accurate and so am I.

Couldn’t resist the elk hair CdC

To my surprise another four similar trout and one grayling are tempted over the next couple of hours, all from similar runs.

I rise nothing from the slower, deeper pools although I clearly see one larger fish circle and nose the fly twice before rejection. Another better fish, perhaps 15″ or 16″ swims slowly upstream just a metre from my feet as I’m tying on some fresh tippet. Whatever’s on his mind it’s not eating.

I’m also treated to a display of low level speed flying by a couple of kingfishers. They remind me of silent versions of the military jets that fly over our valley and like to rattle the tiles on my roof.

I’m hoping to get out one more time before the season ends, maybe after some rain has flushed the river and levels are up a bit. Another dry fly day perhaps.

Now, can Wales keep my blood pressure down and avoid a first match upset? I have learned that when following the oval ball, hope and despair usually take it in turns.

Mr Notherone

Autumnal August

Of all the trout season months, I struggle most with August. If it’s not too little water it’s too much and on day’s when I expect to enjoy some wet wading, I’m as likely to need the thermals. I’ll have to rethink my assumption that August is a summer month.

Low murky water and a strong wind

Today the river is falling after some heavy rain and coloured. It’s not particularly inviting. Intermittent showers has me putting on my light weight jacket and then packing it away half a dozen times. Tiresome.

A strong wind is gusting and swirling making it hard to keep a good drift with the nymphs and I can’t see me using the dry fly rod that is tucked into my waders.

For nearly two hours I fight the elements working upstream through the faster seams and pocket water. Nothing, not even a knock. My motivation is waning and as it’s the middle of the afternoon I decide to eat some lunch, although I’m not really hungry. I notice the kingfisher that I’ve seen twice already, settle on a perch directly opposite me. He’s joined by his mate and over the next twenty minutes they come and go several times before I’m treated to him diving three times into the pool. I’m not close enough to see if he’s successful.

It would be easy to call it a day but I persevere with the pheasant tail in the next pool and I catch a small brown trout quickly followed by a grayling.

As the grayling is sliding back, to my surprise I spot a rise about 25ft upstream under a tree. I’m going to have to cast backhanded or with my left arm to have any chance. I edge a little closer and decide backhand is more feasible. The size 16 Adams in the keeper ring will do.

My first effort isn’t bad but a little short. The second cast is just right and a good fish is on. I’m taken by surprise as he runs straight at me and I can’t take up the slack fast enough. Neither can I hide my disappointment and my curse startles a pheasant on the far bank.

It’s the only rise I see all afternoon but as the wind drops the fishing improves and I net more trout and grayling, including two 14″ browns, on some pheasant tail variants. It’s just before six o’clock when I leave and I notice another angler has arrived to try his luck. I hope he’s not expecting a balmy summer evening.

September is around the corner and when I get home I find my daughter actually doing some school work. She must also be sensing that summer is drawing to a close. I wonder if there’s time to squeeze in one late mini heatwave?

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 phone 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, 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

 

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 here 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

 

 

Sizzling on the Monnow

It’s the warmest day of the year so far and as I leave home around mid-morning, the car already feels like an oven. A forty minute drive finds me parked up beside the upper Monnow and peering over a little bridge trying to spot trout.

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The Upper Monnow

The beautiful spring day feels more like mid-summer and although I can’t spot any fish, I’m looking forward to an afternoon and early evening on the river. A white land rover pulls alongside and I chat with the most stereotypical farmer imaginable.  His look is of a man who has never spent a day indoors in his life. He seems knowledgable about the local rivers and he’s telling me to look out for a pair of kingfishers just below the bridge.

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Water Temperature Is Still A Little Low

The beat is under a mile long and I’m going minimalist. This is partly because I’m always trying to carry less but mostly because it’s so hot. I’m greased up with sun lotion and with a small shoulder bag and a handful of essentials I’m off.

I’m carrying my 8ft 3wt and starting with a specialist nymph line and a pair of lightly weighted pheasant tails. I have another reel and regular line with me and whatever happens I’m determined to spend time with the dry fly today.

As I walk down the beat I meet a family on a weekend break. The little lad has a bent pin, piece of string and a stick and is trying to attract the fry with bacon rind. He looks at my rod and reel with envy and so rather than tell him he’s poaching, needs a rod licence and that it’s fly only, I give his Dad a couple of little flies and some tippet and tell the six year old to be careful waving it about in front of his sister! I’m genuinely hoping he catches a tiddler but I’m also hoping he’s moved on by the time I’m fishing back at this pool.

Given the recent rain, the river is lower than I expect but still a little cloudy. All in all I think the river is about a month behind where it should be. There are various sporadic hatches throughout the afternoon but I see just one rise all day.

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No Net Needed Today

I spend several hours leisurely working upstream, exploring each likely spot and bring several lovely little fish to hand. It’s hard work though, and I’m constantly swapping flies and changing depth. Today I’m in no rush and I spend plenty of time just watching the river, soaking up the sun.

All the fish are similar, beautifully marked and full of fight. Both the lighter dropper and heavier point fly have taken fish. As I run the nymphs though a deeper pool I see a slab of silver and then the sighter straightens a little. I tighten up and for a few brief seconds I feel a better fish and then he’s gone. I relax back out of sight and after about 15 minutes I try again, but to no avail.

I fish the whole beat picking up small brownies from the faster top of the pools, but on the slower glides I see nothing. The boy with the stick has disappeared.

Back at the car I dispense with the bag and just stuff a small box of drys, tippet and floatant in my shirt pocket. I’m going to fish the whole beat again targeting any rise and prospecting a few likely haunts.

After an hour I’m done – just one rise and in spite of me creeping on all fours and kneeling to cast, he gets away.  My cast is on the money, but I can’t get him up and I suspect I’ve spooked him. Today is not the most prolific, but a day to remember none the less.

The Crown offers a very welcome drink and a few locals enquire after my fortune.  My mind wanders to the little lad with the deep brown eyes and how his face lit up when I showed him my fly box. Who knows, perhaps I’ve caught more than small brownies today and another would be fly angler is hooked already.

Mr Notherone

Kingfisher Dilema

I have lost count of the times I have shared with this magnificent bird, have you?  Often the first indication is a flash of blue in my peripheral vision and I’ll do my best to track it hoping to catch the landing.  I will watch the bird on it’s perch, often to the detriment of my angling.

kingfisherAs our rivers have generally improved in recent years I suspect kingfishers have benefited.  I ‘feel’ my sightings are increasing but I can’t be sure.  I’m no ornithologist and can’t claim much knowledge and yet the kingfisher mesmerises me and makes me feel privileged.  Paradoxically, I’ve also come to take these encounters for granted.

This was reinforced the other day when my partner casually commented, whilst watching a clip of a kingfisher on TV, that she’d never seen one.  I was genuinely surprised.

The conversation evolved and she was equally surprised that I’d watched so many whilst fly fishing.  (There’s a side point here about the obvious poverty of communication between us and our respective interests, but best not go there).

Turns out, my partner has a significant ambition to see a kingfisher.  The obvious solution is for her to accompany me on a days fishing to the Monnow or Usk.  Well, perhaps not so obvious as now I have to wrestle with my desire to help her fulfil a heartfelt ambition and the potential intrusion into my private retreat that is fly fishing.

For the first time in perhaps twenty years, I sense that neither of us is now looking forward to the approaching season with the usual gusto!  I think we’ll work it out… without too much drama.

Mr Notherone