Where would we be without a PTN…….?

I get a rare chance to spend a second day on the river this week. With the trout season around the corner this is my last effort to catch grayling and I head for a little stretch of the Avon in Wiltshire.

I’m not a scholar of the history of fly fishing, but there will be few devotees of the art, unfamiliar with Avon river keeper Frank Sawyer. He is accredited with inventing the pheasant tail nymph and I came to the conclusion a while ago that when it comes to nymphs, variations of the PTN are pretty much all that’s needed. So it proves again today.

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The Avon above Upavon

It’s six months since I was last here and today the river is pushing through strongly with a dark colour to the water. This is not one of those chalk days when you can count each grain of gravel in six feet of water. Every river looks different in each season, but this stream is unrecognisable from last August.

I decide to fish traditional upstream nymphs and just vary the weight to suit the flow. The banks are accessible and I can cast to many pools without wading; an impossibility in summer. My 8ft Sage SLT is perfect.

In the past, I’ve had as many as thirty grayling on this beat, but something is telling me this day will be different. As I make my way downstream, I can’t resist stopping at my ‘banker’ pool. I’ll fish through it again on my way up but I’ll just run the fly through a few times now. No response.

After nearly an hour, I’m still at the same pool and after several fly changes, I continue south with just one small grayling to hand. It doesn’t feel like a red-letter day is in the offing.

Things look up when I get back in the water and first cast I have another small but perfectly formed grayling posing for a snap as he slides back in. I continue upstream but I get no activity from the suspect lies. At the next pool, I’m convinced it’s holding fish but after a dozen drifts, again no interest.

I have little patience and keep tweaking the presentation. I switch to a size 16 PTN with a red tag and straight away I have the best fish of the day at around 14″ and it’s followed by another two smaller grayling. The fishing is not prolific but it’s fun.

The red tag stays on and lands two more grayling from my ‘banker’ pool and four OOS small trout from the next glide. I check my watch and I’ve only an hour before I need to head home. I spend the rest of the time on the upper beat, mostly kneeling trying to hide my profile whilst prospecting likely water. If anything the water is colouring up more and I’m fishing blind.

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I have half a dozen boxes of nymphs, mostly variations of pheasant tails and hairs ears. The majority have never been wet and I’ll guess that goes for a great many fly anglers. We all have our go to patterns. I wouldn’t dream for one minute of denigrating the ‘match the hatch’ approach, but here’s my reality. I have seen precious few hatches in recent years and most of the time I can’t identify the chosen food. I catch my share and when I’m not fishing a dry, the PTN variations work more often than not.

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I find that red, orange and pink tags work well with grayling and won’t escape a passing trout.

I catch everything today on the red tag PTN and a shrimp, both size 16. For those of you watching in black and white, the red tag is the one next to the pink shrimp (yes I’m old enough to remember Ted Lowe and Pot Black).

I think the count today is eight grayling and four trout. I’m not sure when I’ll get back to the Avon. This coming season, I’m planning to spend as much time as possible on the Monnow, her tributaries, and of course the Usk. Alas, there are only so many days for fishing.

On a few chosen occasions, I’m fortunate to be able to get to a chalk stream within a reasonable drive and for a reasonable price.

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 seem to 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. Winter day’s are short in this part of the valley.

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

 

 

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