Monday, 1 June 2015

Feast And Famine Together

A long winded post as it'll be covering two days.

Chalk Stream Delight

Continuing from Wednesdays success I fished another river on Thursday. Arriving in the morning the river looked pristine; during the short walk upstream I spotted a few fish, nothing big, but it's always encouraging to see some. I arrived just down from the pool I planned to start on. Tackling up it was disappointing to find my French leader missing, I was planning to fish a mayfly nymph with it. With that option now ruled out the standard five foot furled leader was reattached, upstream nymphing it was.

Ephemera Danica Mayfly Nymph
Ephemera danica nymph
After setting up I crept back down the river a few meters in order to cross over the other side; I have found that this pool is easier to fish from the opposite bank. I spotted a very nice fish a few feet from the bank just where I was about to enter the water, luckily I hadn't spooked it although its demeanor suggested it wasn't likely to take anything - the fish was laying behind a small rock hard on the bottom.

With a mayfly nymph already tied on a bow-and-arrow cast flicked the fly upstream of the fish although I wasn't really expecting anything. The fly slowly sunk as it drifted towards the trout, it turned and looked at the fly; it repeated this once more and then refused to inspect the nymph any more. I began trawling through my fly box, a pheasant tail nymph failed, a gammarus pattern failed, even the legendary JP pupa failed. Running out of all options I even tried a Mohican Mayfly which surprisingly caused the trout to rise up and have a look. Eventually the fish spooked and disappeared leaving me to enter the river. I saw a the occasional mayfly dun emerge and a rising fish inspired me, despite it being early still I left the Mohican Mayfly on. It wasn't until I reached the pool did I catch a fish, nothing big, but a plump little trout was welcome; another fish fell to the mayfly by the time I left the pool. Before I moved on a female tufted duck plopped into the river on the far bank and immediately flew off when it saw me.

Just About  Big Enough
First of the day
Moving up-river I caught fish frequently enough to warrant my choice of method, I always prefer to fish a dry-fly if I can, don't get me wrong I'm no purist or dry-fly snob, but I don't think you can beat taking a fish off the top when conditions allow. The clear water meant I could see the fish ahead of me, although not all, and it wasn't unusual to see the odd trout dart up stream occasionally spooking others. When this happens I take a few minutes to let things settle; an excuse to have a drink, a smoke (if you do) and spend time observing.

I could see a fish rising ahead of me, it moved a lot of water without the splashing often associated with smaller fish. Another fish was rising below it and I was fortunate to catch that and quickly pull it down to avoid disturbing my intended target. After a couple of casts the fly was taken with purpose, I knew then it was a good fish. Lifting in to the fish, it shot downstream towards me and the woody debris to my left. Unable to prevent it from getting underneath, I stripped in the line reaching the furled leader with probably no more than six or seven foot of line out. Keeping the rod so low the tip was under water and using as much side strain as I dared, I was thankful for the 0.15mm tippet. Patience won the game and the fish saw my way of thinking as I eased it out from under its shelter. Continuing the fight in open water ahead of me it became one sided and the trout was safely in the net.

Looking Menacing
A menacing looking brute
I was elated, this was a superb fish and nothing else had come close to the size of this.

Plump Handfull
A proper handful

Baetis scambus Small Dark Olive
Baetis scambus - Small Dark Olive
Carrying on, I came across more rising fish as the day wore on, there were also a number of olives hatching off. I caught one and later identified it as Baetis scambus - the Small Dark Olive. I'm sure a few of the fish where taking them instead of the significantly larger mayfly, but probably out of laziness I persisted with the Mohican Mayfly, a sort of do or die, there were enough fish for me to get away with it.

A little further up I caught another good fish, it too tried that same trick as the previous large fish heading for more woody debris; not quite as big as the other trout but a lovely fish regardless. I didn't catch any trout over twelve inches last year with an average size of eight to ten, it made a pleasant change to latch on to a few decent sized fish.


Bathed In Golden Sun

By this point it was half one and I wanted to fish the stretch where I had parked my car. I find this stretch very productive at mayfly time, there is also a large fish that lives under a road bridge spanning the river here.

Tufted Duck Nest
Tufted duck nest hidden so well I nearly stood on it.
I walked back downstream and crossed the river at the pool I started on. The tufted duck I saw earlier exploded from the bank-side cover, as it was a female I figured there must be a nest near by. I did find it, only a foot and a half away from where I had walked out of and back into the river, very fortunate that it wasn't stepped on.

The trout from earlier this morning had slipped my mind, until I saw it again whilst walking the bank. Creeping up the bank it was still holding station behind its rock. Peeling off a little line it only took one cast, I watched the trout drift up to met the fly as it gently departed the fly from the surface film - epic stuff to watch. I firm lift and the fish was on, it left me surprised as it powered off, turning out to be much bigger than I thought. The trout was a peculiar looking beast, pewter with a hint of yellow, a small number of very large black spots and a mouth like a conger eel. I released the fish triumphant, it may have taken me two attempts but I at least I caught it.

An Odd One

An Odd One #3

An Odd One #3

An Odd One #2

Walking down to the bridge I stood upstream, waiting and watching. It wasn't long before my prize revealed itself taking mayflies as they emerged and drifted under the bridge; it was taking flies all over rivers surface. Not wanting to disturb the fish I opted to cross the road rather than the usual route under the bridge. My plan was thwarted, I wasn't the only one who wanted to fish this part, and so it was I left the pair of fishers. I felt a little disappointed to not be able to finish the day trying for the horse that lives under the bridge, however, I was due to fish that evening with Tom so it wasn't the end of the world.

Swans On A Chalk Stream
Time to kill after leaving the river I went and had a look another.
Tom and I had previously arranged to fish our smaller club river in the evening. He made his way there earlier as I had to wait for the wife to get home from work. Arriving after seven we met in the lay-by at the bottom of the beat. Tom suggested an area to try as there had been activity on a previous evening, because he had already caught three fish before I arrived Tom kindly gave me first chance to fish.

Where the the frustration began.
This is where it all went wrong.

The wind from earlier had dropped allowing me to using the Lexa. We slid down the bank at the bottom of a long glide, there were several fish rising all the way up. A few mayfly spinners were in the air but overall there wasn't much activity. Hoping the trout wouldn't be selective and wanting to continue the mayfly theme of the day I tied on a spinner pattern.

And so my problems began. Fish after fish was either missed or hooked and quickly lost. I think I lost around five fish, some of them substantial. I struggled to control my rage and frustration at constantly failing to hook these fish. I can only put it down to the fly, a spent spinner pattern with foam wings tied on a longish shanked hook; the fly is pliable in the hands but something was preventing the hook gaining hold, probably the wings - back to square one with that fly.

After fishing through the glide and round into the pool I admitted defeat and allowed Tom to fish. He had a Mohican Mayfly tied on from earlier and as he had good results into the evening a few days ago with this fly, why not keep using it. Fishing up some good runs and pools there weren't any fish showing and Tom didn't manage to tempt any. We moved on to a deep pool on a tight bend. Tom ever the gentleman was adamant that I had to catch, especially with his tally being on three.

Balloon caddis varant
Moser's Balloon Caddis - a variant of course.
There is a short narrow run below the pool, the water is smooth due to its depth. After the continual failure with the spinner I had changed flies and tied on a Moser Balloon Caddis, a fly that has proven its worth in the past when fishing in the evening. I caught nothing in the run leading up, and after searching the lower part of the pool it wasn't until I had started to cast into the top of the pool that a fish nailed the fly.

Several leaps and powerful surges followed as the trout resisted the efforts of the Lexa to control it. Once in the net Tom reckoned it was a fish he had caught previously in the week, a quick reference against the net was made and I worked it out to be seventeen inches, I was happy now.

Blank Saviour
A welcome capture
17" On A Balloon Caddis

Moving up river, we arrived at the run that provided some epic sport to a hatch of medium olives. I gave Tom a Mouflon Marauder to try, an interesting pattern with an elk hair wing and mouflon hair providing a straggly thorax - mouflon is a type of mountain sheep with hair superficially like deer. Fishing up the run, Tom lost a small fish, round the corner at the top of the run is a small S-shaped pool that has yielded a number of fish previously including a good fish that measured sixteen inches.

Mouflon marauder
Mouflon Marauder
At almost the head of the pool a fish took the fly, and after a strong fight, was soon in the net. A good fish that I think we have both caught, neither of the pictures I have are of the same side so I wasn't able to compare the spot pattern.

One For The Mouflon Marauder
Tom's fish
By this point it was getting late and the light was fading fast, I suggested we head back down to where we started, hoping that those fish had had time to settle. Easing back in at the same spot I cast the Balloon Caddis along both edges and along the center, twitching it occasionally to try and provoke a response, I was starting to think it wasn't going to happen. Reaching the top of the straight before the river curves around a  root ball, a fish took the fly. I was taken by surprise when line was ripped from between my fingers, the fish made a dash for the roots and as I frantically stripped line in I dropped the rod down to the side and applied steady pressure trying to pull it out. As the fish was forced out from its sanctuary I lifted the rod back up, unaware that it then shot over the other side into a tangle of over-hanging vegetation. There is where it remained, the line wrapped around a tuft of grass. Wading over to release the fish I was genuinely surprised at the size of the fish, not the horse I was expecting, perhaps barely making twelve inches at best. No pictures as the light had virtually disappeared by this point. We left, both happy with our results, even though it ought to have been better.

Friday marked the last of my three full days of fishing, I was completely knackered and I really struggled to get out of bed, even for some more fishing.

Friday was planned at the beginning of the week, I was going to fish with Steve Morrison, but as he was car-less I had to chauffeur him around. Our plan was to fish in the town and try and catch an urban lump. The forecast for the day wasn't great, a strong Westerly and rain expected, we still stuck with our plan. On the drive to Steve's the rain started, and continued through most of the morning.

Arriving at the river we used the shelter provided by an enclosure with some benches to allow us to get waders and jackets on without getting too wet. The eight foot four weight was dusted off because of the gusty wind and to cover most options I set up a klink and dink, size 12 klinkhamer (new Partridge sizing) and a size 12 cream JP Pupa with a standard copper bead. The water had a slight tinge to it, although we could still see far enough down; an outflow was discharging the rain water from the drains and coloured the river heavily downstream so we headed up. To cut a long story, it rained all morning, Steve managed a trout and a grayling and I caught a single trout. We left to fish club water further downstream not knowing if the river conditions would make it possible.

Thankfully the river was in much better shape this far downstream. The direction of the river also meant it was an upstream wind, I however stuck with the four weight as it was already set up. Walking down to the very bottom of the beat we spotted several good-sized trout that were generally holding mid-water, we also spotted the occasional rise on the walk down.

Matching the hatch
Ephemera danica with its imitation the Mohican Mayfly
Creeping down to the river from the high bank I changed flies to a Mohican Mayfly, I also gave Steve one to tie on and had one spare, I warned him not to lose it! Ahead of us there were several rising fish, they weren't easy by any means. I put down two fish before I finally fooled one, a plump little fish of around thirteen inches, at least there wouldn't be a blank entry on my catch return. Steve then tried for a fish that was rising steadily in the main body of a small pool. After many casts we saw the fish swim up and confidently take the fly, it wasn't on long before it came off however, and the commotion had put the others in the pool down.

Off To A Nice Start #2

Off To A Nice Start

Whilst Steve had been fishing, I had heard and seen a fish rising behind us where I had just been fishing. After Steve lost his fish I went back down to try and tempt this fish again. Steve heard fish rising even further down and went of to investigate. After a ridiculous number of casts to a fish that kept moving, it finally took my fly - at the same time Steve was playing a fish and I could hear it jumping around. Then came the cry that fisherman, and women know only too well, the sound you make when I fish comes off - it was to be our soundtrack of the afternoon; Steve had actually lost three fish altogether whilst he was below me. My fish stayed on and was almost a replica of the first, I worked hard for that fish.

Hard Won
A hard won fish.
The length of time we spent away from the main pool meant the fish had returned. We counted at least two fish rising, possibly three, a smaller fish at the back end and a larger one in the middle, we suspected it was the same fish as earlier. Not wanting to spook the larger fish, I advised Steve to try and tempt the smaller fish behind the main target. Steve hooked and landed the smaller fish, the larger fish was still rising, which was lucky.

A well placed cast just on the edge of the main current we watched the fish take, Steve struck firmly as the trout bolted for the brambles trailing in the edge of the river, perhaps holding on too hard, the rod sprung back - minus the fly - it was a seriously good fish. One Mohican lost, two remaining, I gave Steve the last spare fly.

Danica PhD
Danica Phd
I had already mentioned about moving up to a tantalising pool further up; rising fish around the corner changed that. We spotted about five or six fish ahead of us, most sitting and rising on the edges of the river. I missed a fish and then myself got snapped off on another. Steve caught a small trout and I caught one further up on a Danica Phd. Steve finished the run and round the next corner, without success.

Going Back

Exiting the river where I had caught my last fish I began walking the bank ahead of Steve, he told me he had seen some fish rising further up. After he joined me we saw a fish rise, a quick cheeky cast from high up on top of the bank produced another fish which Steve netted and released for me. The next pool was the one I had wanted to by-pass directly to.

Steve's turn, and we had high hopes for this pool, we could see two substantial fish rising subtly and with purpose, showing their tails as the went back down after raiding the surface of its goodies. Steve was pulling line off his reel when he made a short cast to get the fly line beyond the tip, as the fly landed on the surface a small trout instantly took and was on briefly before shedding the hook, it gave us a chuckle, it was barely a couple of yards in front.
Fishing properly now, Steve searched the pool, the Mohican floating beautifully as its wing sailed upright down the current. A hefty fish took the fly and shot of as if propelled by a motor. The fish was instantly recognisable as a fish I caught in April but looking far fuller in the belly. This fish measured sixteen inches and still held its lovely reddish golden brown colour.

We Meet Again

Filled Out Nicely

Golden Brown

16" Brown Trout
The same fish when I caught it six weeks ago looking a little leaner
My turn saw me latch on to something equally big, powering around the pool it made a run downstream. I had to follow before managing to ease it back in front of me. Safely in the net the fish was simply stunning, a full seventeen inches long, I was feeling satisfied with my lot. I had caught the last two fish on a Deer Hair Mayfly that I had concocted, tied on a long-shank hook the tail is moose body, trimmed bleached deer formed the body and picric dyed roe deer for the wing.

Deer Hair Mayfly Working Well

Mini Horse

17" Wild Brown Trout

This Is Why We Love Mayfly Time
Trophy shot, 17" of wild brown trout perfection.
The rest of the day continued much the same, missed fish, lost fish and a few landed. We changed over to spinners and Balloon Caddis' in the evening, one of my notable losses was a trout I hooked on a downstream drift using a spinner; not a technique I usually fair well with. The final tallies were seven for me and five for Steve. The day proved equally as frustrating and delightful - a feast and famine together. Who ever said mayfly time was easy!


  1. Hi Ben
    smashing write-up and a personal thank you from me just for taking the time to compose it. Snap shots were spot on too. At present I'm batting down the hatches awaiting the bad weather to arrive, but if the boys at the MET have got it right then I shall hopefully be out there chucking the Mayfly about come mid-week. cheers

    1. Some beutiful looking fish , love the gotcha picture and the mouflon marauder looks the business.

    2. Thank you Peter and Col.

      Peter I should be out Wednesday afternoon by which point I believe the weather will have changed then.

      Col the marauder isn't i fly I have used much, it could represent many things, notably either an emerging or spent caddis, it does sit low in the water.

  2. I too am amazed at the difference in form and colour trout can take. One black fish eluded me for years. I took a wonderful trout with an orange hue fish this year and the camera just does not do it any justice sadly.
    Nice post Ben.