I snatched a few hours on the Ribble this afternoon and was glad I did. This February is so far treating us to some exceptionally good weather and although the temperatures have dropped over the last couple of days, it has remained settled.
It may be pleasant weather to be out fishing, but I expected the bright conditions and low, clear water would make for difficult fishing today. As it happened I enjoyed better dry fly sport today than I did for much of last summer....
The little fly pictured above is a large dark olive. We get lots of them hereabouts on our freestone spate streams and they can sometimes provide first class surface sport in early spring, although I've found on many occasions that a good hatch doesn't necessarily mean rising fish. I've lost count of the number of times the Eden fish have totally ignored large numbers of dark olives on the water. I don't know the reason for this - it is usually pretty cold when these flies emerge, and they tend to sit on the surface for longer than most species, waiting for their wings to dry out. Why the trout sometimes ignore these 'sitting ducks', I'm not sure. It's always pleasing to see dark olives on the water, but I tend not to get too excited by the fact!
Luckily today was a different story. I spent the first couple of hours with heavy nymphs on my leader for no return. But when I arrived at a nice looking pool which was receiving shade from bankside trees, I saw that a few olives were sailing down the current. As I slipped into the bottom end of the pool, it became apparent that there was in fact quite a substantial hatch underway.....and the grayling were rising.
I quickly swapped my nymphs for a pair of spiders - waterhen bloa and light snipe - and began working my way up through the feeding fish. There followed a frustrating few minutes where I received a number of takes, but failed to connect with a single one. Fishing the upstream wet fly can be tricky because the takes can register in any one of a number of ways. It's not always as simple as watching the tip of the fly line for twitches, the take might register as a slight rise or boil of the fish just sub-surface, or a subtle flash as the fish turns to take the fly. The angler can find himself needing to concentrate on several different places at once - something I didn't do very well this afternoon.
I fared better when I changed to the dry fly. A little olive klinkhamer attracted half a dozen gentle rises where the grayling could be watched in the clear water, moving up almost vertically from their position near the river bed to sip the fly down. I missed the first three of these, but finally got my reflexes into gear to succesfully land the following three - they were nice fish of a good size, probably just below the pound.
The hatch petered out around 4pm leaving me pleased to have caught, but also rueing missed opportunities.....and the feeling that if I had fished a little better, there might have been a red letter day on the cards.