Thursday, 3 January 2013

An Easily Answered Question

The amount of rainfall in Britain last year was incredible. 2012 is now officially the second wettest year in Britain since records began. The summer was a complete washout and it continued right the way through the autumn and winter. Perhaps the worst effect (to me at least as many were caused great hardship and loss by the flooding) was the impact the deluge had on fishing. I did very little fishing last year. Contrast the rain of 2012 with the drought conditions, low rivers and skittish fish I wrote about in 2011. It was in March 2012 that a drought warning was issued and I saw a depressing photo of a completely dry and abstracted River Kennet riverbed. Very soon after the drought warning and hosepipe ban was announced the heavens opened and it has barely stopped raining since. Just this week a seal turned up in a flooded field 50 miles inland! Our weather patterns seem to be increasingly more extreme these days. I'm conscious that as a result of the poor weather I haven’t had much to write about recently and my blog has been dormant for the past 2 months. 

Someone recently asked me what have been my top 3 fishing experiences. I enjoyed thinking about it and answering the question that I thought I would share them (and make it a top 5). At first blush I wondered how I could possibly distinguish between the many wonderful experiences but in actual fact I didn't have to think very hard about the answers. With a little thought they came to me quickly and without much hesitation seemed to naturally assign themselves into a clear order of preference.  

5. River Test, Hampshire, England

The history and tradition that is infused with fishing this esteemed chalkstream made this trip memorable and enjoyable, coupled with the sight fishing opportunities and the beauty of the southern English countryside. The above all compensate more than sufficiently for the fact that the trout are mostly stocked fish. There are some wild brown trout to be caught and grayling, once despised inhabitants of this river, are of course all wild. Read more here

4. Los Roques, Venezuela

My first and only saltwater fly fishing experience, the lasting memory I have is of the reel-screaming runs made by bonefish when hooked. Seeing yards and yards of backing leaving the reel is an experience unlikely to ever be encountered by the trout fisherman of small streams. The food at the lodge was excellent and sipping an ice cold cerveza on the beach whilst watching the sun set over the waves was a great way to finish off each hot day. Not even having a brand new Orvis large arbor reel, fly line and sunglasses stolen from my luggage on the way there could have dampened the experience.

3. Eglinton River, South Island, New Zealand

We stopped for lunch on the road to Milford Sound next to the Eglinton River, one of the most beautiful rivers you will ever witness. It is set in dramatic scenery, flanked by steep tree covered mountains. We stopped just far enough away from Fiordland not to be plagued by sandflies. Whilst my partner was making up toasted sandwiches in the back of the campervan I made up my rod and went fishing. The wind conditions were dreadful for casting. A strong gale howled downstream making casting nigh impossible. I sat down to eat my sandwich on the rocky shore of the river, a little disillusioned. As I finished my sandwich a fish rose on the opposite bank. I moved slightly up river, but not enough to spook the fish, so that I could cast a little downstream and into the side of the wind. My first cast drew a rise from the fish but I missed the take. I didn't repeat the mistake with my second cast and set the hook perfectly when the fish, a magnificent rainbow, incredibly rose for a second time. The fish set off powerfully downstream and stripped backing off the reel before I could bring it to hand and breathe a sigh of relief. It remains my largest trout on the fly to this day. The fact that I caught it on a dry fly made the experience even better. I was later saddened to see the upper Eglinton River choked with didymo (rock snot). Read more here

2. A secret stream in the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina, USA

Catching brook trout for the first time, on a dry fly from a tiny trickle of a stream, was a very pleasurable experience. The fish were small, ethereal, vividly coloured creatures and quick to rise to a well presented dry fly. The stream was gin clear, choked with leafy green rhododendron and tumbled down the steep slopes of the highest mountain west of the Rockies in a series of waterfalls. The brook trout lived up to their reputation of being opportunistic feeders, but whilst the catching was easy the fishing was challenging in the difficult terrain. My ideal type of fly fishing! Read more here

1. Clettwr River, Wales

And finally, the fishing experience I consider to be the best of all to date... Ironically, it is the closest of the 5 to my home. The Clettwr is a little stream in Wales which flows through a steep sided wooded gorge. The resident brown trout are quick to rise to a floating dry fly but an extremely stealthy approach is needed to catch them! Once in the secluded gorge the outside world is completely shut out and the thoughts and worries of the real world quickly evaporate. I hired a car to get there, little knowing that I had booked the smallest car in the fleet, a Fiat 500. The 4 hour drive there and back was eventful, if only for the number of HGVs which overtook me on the motorway. The stream is littered by fallen trees making progress upstream jungle gym like. I enjoyed having this stream all to my own and emerged from the gorge at the end of the day exhausted but knowing this to have been a fly fishing day to remember. Read more here

I’d love to hear of your favourite or top fly fishing experience. Feel free to share it by leaving a comment.

Happy New Year. Here's hoping  for a much drier 2013.