With the sun still shining I headed across to a small, lightly fished chalkstream that wends its way through some serious jungle. This is strangulated fishing at its most challenging but there are some big beasts in the water so I had to be prepared – hefty tippet and a landing net are crucial. Clear blue sky, temperature around 21C and a useful little tailwind. I’m starting to take my leaders a bit more seriously than in the past and have found a handy site on the web with numerous recipes for all range of leaders. In the past I simply tied up three equal lengths of mono, typically 8lb, 5lb and 3lb. Now I find that leaders should have six or seven sections of varying length. I also took the view that the longer the leader the better, and I still take that position to some extent. However, this site did make the reasonable point that if you are only going to make short casts – as I would be today – there’s no great percentage in having a massively long leader so that you are effectively casting mostly nylon and little fly line.
So I tied up a 7.5ft leader of five sections running from about 20lb down to a 5lb tippet. I put this on a 3wt floating line on the Chas Burns 6ft rod and attached a size 16 parachute emerger. I wandered down the beat looking for some access through the bankside overgrowth. I made a mental note to avoid Mr and Mrs Swan who were guarding a nestful of eggs:
I got into the water and was thankful that I had scaled down on the kit. This was going to be tricky:
But the good news was that fish were rising. Covering the rises was a different matter however – many were under low overhangs or otherwise sheilded by straggly branches. Largely it was a case of getting the fly into any water that I could. I spotted several splashes a few yards upstream and managed to place the fly in the rough vicinity. Within a few moments I was rewarded by an enthusiastic take:
A small but feisty rainbow. There are trout farms in the vicinity and many of the residents have decided they’d rather not end up on the fish counter at Morrison’s but take their chances in the wild. This little critter was to be the first of many rather tatty rainbows.
Well, the action continued pretty consistently after that, and within 45 minutes I’d had eight or nine such rainbows, all much of a muchness and none of them looking particularly handsome:
Potential disaster struck when I hooked one and brought it to hand. I groped in my vest’s top pocket for the camera and couldn’t find it – then with horror I realised I’d left it dangling on the lanyard around my neck after snapping the previous fish. It was suspended at my midriff and I had no idea if I’d waded through water deep enough to submerge it. I scrambled up the 45 degree bank through nettles and borage like a madman, desperately groping for something to dry it with. The relief when I switched it on and it still worked. Lesson learnt.
Then I hit the monster. I could see its brooding shape, like a Polaris nuclear sub, nine or ten feet ahead of me in some shady water. I landed the fly just to its side. It lazily turned and took it. It was HUGE. I reckon 2ft long. He stayed on for maybe 10 seconds before slipping the hook. Well, I consoled myself that there wasn’t a lot I could have done. No knots went, I kept him under decent pressure and if the size 16 was too small to get purchase on his bony jaw that wasn’t really my fault.
So I still hadn’t landed a brown as I gingerly inched my way up a slippery concrete incline at a small weir. I could see fish rising ahead and put the fly over them. A big take and in my excitement I lost my footing and skidded hard onto my side. Half my body was submerged but I manfully held the rod aloft, pulled myself upright and landed the fish. It was a nice brown, maybe 13 or 14″, superb tail:
I swapped the fly for a bigger one – similar parachute emerger with foam head and peacock eye body – just in case, and then it was a case of continuing up water like this:
and simply trying to get the fly onto the surface while avoiding the trees. I bagged another four or five rainbows before I saw a big fish belt out from under a bed of weed and take the fly. This one stuck and I brought him in; mabye 16 or 17″ and another vast tail:
Another rainbow or two then another good brown, beautifully spotted:
and another couple of similar ilk:
And that was it for the day, I ran out of river. In total 23 fish of which only five were browns (all very good ones), the remainder pesky little rainbows. But that was a great three-and-a-half hours’ sport. Apart from the dunking.