Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Secret Places are the Soul of Fishing

John Gierach said "The secret places are the soul of fishing." I recently discovered a river so impressive yet so obviously under fished that I’d like to keep it that way, especially as it is a very publicly accessible place. I will refer to it only as "River X". The photos below were all taken away from the main access point. If you recognise the river from the photos chances are you are already in on the secret and will decline from revealing any details.

I shared this discovery with Spencer, a fellow West Midlands based fly fisherman. Last year, as the season was drawing to a close, I spent a day fishing with Spencer on the River Onny. Almost a year to the day I received another invitation from Spencer to go fishing. Keen to make the most of what little time was left of the trout season, I had little hesitation in accepting.

River X must be fished now and again by others - it's in too obvious a place near a town and main roads to be completely ignored. However, the distinct impression I get after fishing the river on consecutive weekends is that the trout and grayling are mostly left in peace to grow fat on the stream's abundant fly life. The fish are free rising and far from shy. The trout appear to be larger on average than trout in other rivers nearby. We visited the river in good weather on weekends at the end of the trout season, when you might expect to bump into another angler, yet we saw no other person.

The fish below was Spencer's best trout over the 2 days, estimated at about 15". I was nearby at the time and helped him release it whilst he took a quick photo.

Below is my best trout over the 2 days and of the year. Heavily spotted, it measured 14". When I released it, it swam to the bottom and held in front of my wading boots. I stood very still and watched it for a few minutes whilst Spencer fished the remainder of the pool. When it was time to leave I carefully took a step to the side which made the trout dart off towards the safety of the bank. I was pleased to see it swim away so strongly.

The first Saturday was overcast. A cold downstream wind made casting a little tricky. There had been a very heavy rainfall during the week and the surrounding meadows were littered with puddles of rain or flood water. The bank side grasses and vegetation were pressed flat to the ground in the direction of the river current so most probably the latter. The river was the colour of kola tonic but cleared marginally over the course of the day. The current was swift so I tied on a large #10 black stonefly nymph, brutal and ugly looking, in tandem with a small #20 beadhead Endrick Spider PTN. I didn’t expect the stonefly nymph to do anything other than sink the tiny nymph in the fast water, but very soon I caught a feisty little trout which surprised me by taking the stonefly pattern. Spencer had already caught his first fish, a grayling, and we knew then that we were in store for a good day’s fishing.

A little higher upstream I experienced what was probably the most enjoyable bit of trout fishing I have had all season. In the shady glide below, where the bubble line flows up against the left bank, past gnarled tree roots and under the low hanging branches, three trout were rising in a line to either autumn duns or blue winged olives. Spencer offered me an olive CDC pattern of his own creation, a pattern he calls the CDC Illusive. A few side casts to find my range under the branches and I rose and landed the rearmost holding, and smallest of the three. Next cast, a little higher up, I rose and landed the middle holding trout. Whilst releasing it the third and clearly largest of the trout rose clear out of the water at the head of the small run. Holding the prime lie for a reason, it smartly refused the Illusive.

The second Saturday was a glorious autumn day, warm and still. I fished the same pool hoping to tempt the third trout which had been clever enough to avoid my attentions the week before. The trout outsmarted me again but I did catch a smaller trout from the pool as a consolation prize.

Grayling dominated the catch on the first Saturday with small bead head nymphs being particularly successful. Trout dominated the catch on the second Saturday. They were plentiful and I lost count of the numbers.