Friday, August 15, 2008

Late summer madness on the Ribble.

Autumn has always been my favourite time of year. Don't get me wrong, I love spring and early summer too, but autumn with its crisp mornings, quiet still days and scent of gradual decay in the air, has always held a special place in my heart.
There were plenty of signs of its approach tonight; the Himalayan Balsam which chokes parts of the bank is in full bloom and its pregnant seeds pods exploded in all directions as I pushed through to the water; the bankside grass has grown long and yellow and hangs limply into the margins; the grayling seem to have finally regained condition and there are salmon in the river. It is a beautiful, poignant time of year and tonight showed me the best it has to offer.

The Ribble was fining down following midweek spates and was running at 18" and the colour of Thwaites bitter. It glowed brightly in the weak afternoon sun and bristled with life - swarms of caddis skittered over the margins, small dark olives (both duns and spinners) were in evidence......and it seemed that every trout in the river was feeding.

After searching the bottom pool with nymphs, I quickly decided that the dry fly was the order of the day and put up a single balloon caddis on a 12" tapered leader, and set about searching the foam lines and current seams. This brought a rise from nearly every pocket and crease that I plonked it into, but they were mostly small fish - borderline 'measurers' in competition terms.

Frustratingly, every better fish which I rose, I seemed to miss or drop off. And when I lifted into a trout in the 18" size class and cracked off, leaving the fly in the fish, I was becoming seriously vexed.

Fortunately things did improve. After a five minute sit-down and a slug from the hip flask, I set out with renewed composure and began to catch large numbers of decent fish from a river which was clearly on form. In one pool I returned 6 trout around the pound mark, 2 small chub, 2 grayling and a small sea trout which inexplicably found the dry fly to its liking!

The fun continued into dusk and I finished with something like 25 fish to my name, with the best going about 1lb8oz. Brilliant fishing in anyone's book and I retired to the car a very contented angler. On the way, I bumped into a couple of fellow members who had caught 6 fresh run salmon between them. They were understandably delighted with their day - a truly memorable one. It's amazing how spending time by a river with a fishing rod in the hand can send three men home with such a feeling of well being.

Incidentally, all but a couple of fish were caught on the balloon caddis (see previous post). I'll be tying a few more of these up to compensate for having neglected them so badly recently!

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