It's far too early in the year to expect consistent evening sport on our rivers, but I was very lucky tonight. My visit coincided with a substantial fall of ovipositing grannom sedge which ensured some sport with trout and large out of season grayling.
It would have been nice just to get out and walk the banks tonight, regardless of whether I caught or not. Spring seems to have just about arrived and the many signs I saw all about gave my spirits a much needed lift after the long winter; the sandpipers and sandmartins have returned and the sun was warm enough to allow me to fish in shirt sleeves right up to darkness.
And of course there were the grannom - for me, no fly better sums up spring river fishing in this part of the country. These little caddis are the first to appear on our streams and their flight is all too brief, lasting a couple of weeks at the rear end of April. Sometimes I get lucky with a visit which coincides with an emergence, sometimes not.... happily on this occasion, it was the former.
The egg-bearing females tend to crawl underwater to lay, using any partially submerged object they can find - and that includes a wading angler. They crowded around me in swarms tonight, crawling down my waders to the river bed. The longer I stood still, the more of them I attracted until I must have looked like some strange bee-keeper!
The only other insect evidence I could find, were the empty shucks of some stoneclinger nymphs (most likely brook duns or uprights), so I put up a two fly cast of shaggy caddis pupa on the dropper, and a clinger nymph on the point. Unsurprisingly though, it was the caddis that proved the winner, taking all but the last fish of the evening (more of that later....).
So working upstream in bright sunshine and clear water conditions, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself attracting some interest. Two nice trout of 12" apiece were first to oblige, before a tired post-spawning cock grayling of around 2lb came to hand. In the next pool, a good fish was lifting to the grannom in a distinct pattern of nothing for a couple of minutes, then two or three quick rises. I quickly swapped to a grizzly emerger and covered the fish and when it took first pass, I lifted.....into thin air! This process was repeated a further two times, before the culprit decided he had seen enough of my comical efforts and disappeared.
Perseverance with the pupa then paid off further upstream when another trout and a cracking grayling of well over 2lb succumbed to its charms. The latter was in very good condition for the time of year and posed for a brief photo before returning to his watery home.
Darkness was beginning to fall now, so I put up a team of spiders and fished my way back downstream through a couple of likely spots, keeping the rod tip high and watching the bow in the fly line for lifts. This failed to produce a pull, so as I arrived back at a deep pool near the car, I decided to try one last throw of the dice. Purists please look away now:
Since watching on Ollie Edwards DVD on the subject, I have been curious about the use of lures on rivers (streamers or baitfish patterns, if you prefer!), and have had one eye on giving the method a go to see what it could dredge up from the deeper pools where 'conventional' fly fishing techniques cannot be employed. There is no doubt that these spots can hold some of the largest trout in the river and I intend to see if I can nail one or two of them this season......provided no-one else is watching!
Anyway, initial impressions are positive after a brief experiment this evening. As darkness fell, I put up an olive woolly bugger (minnow maybe?) and hurled it across the dissipating current and into the black depths beyond. On the second cast I received an almighty wallop as a fat brownie of about 1lb attacked the lure with venom; the final fish of an enjoyable evening, and certainly providing some food for thought.