One of the best things about being a fly fisher at this time of year, is that there is so much to see at the water's edge. The river and its surroundings are well and truly alive and it's easy to spend more time fussocking around in the undergrowth and turning stones, than getting down to the serious business of catching a few fish.
Tonight was such an occasion. The river was fining down after midweek rains and still carrying colour - possibly a touch too much colour to be ideal. Soon after starting to fish it became apparent that the resident brownies were very much on the fin and although few rising fish were to be found, searching the pools with either a brace of nymphs or small balloon caddis brought regular interest and made for an entertaining session.
It wasn't long before I got distracted though; a ten minute spell spent trying to work out what the hawking sandmartins were eating, was followed by some messing about trying to get a close up shot of a pale watery dun. A little further along, I accidentally flushed a female sandpiper off her nest under the bank. I sneaked a quick photo while she stood on guard, slapping the water with her tail and whistling at me angrily.
The nest was only just above the tide line of scum which marked the high water maximum from earlier in the week. Another six inches of water on Wednesday afternoon and Mrs Sandpiper's offspring would have been history....
Back to the task in hand and fish were still coming regularly, although nothing bigger than 1lb. There were many different species of insect on display, but none in any great number. Apart from the large spinner below, a few pale wateries and yellow may duns were the only upwing representatives; I collected specimens of four different caddis species; some midge and black gnats were in evidence.....but despite my balloon caddis continuing to pull fish up, only very occasional, very sporadic rising fish were noted.
I decided to leave the main river and have a look up the beck for a bit of a change - and was glad I did. Where the beck enters the river, it is barely a trickle and doesn't really invite further exploration. But it seems this impression is misleading; once I had wandered a hundred yards or so upstream, I was surprised and delighted to find a very fishable little stream of bright, clear water, meandering back and forth across lush pasture. Bankside erosion has obviously been an issue here for in several places, the undercut banks had collapsed into the water and everywhere I looked, extensive beds of loose, exposed gravel were spread thickly within a channel of much wider dimensions than would normally be occupied by such a minor watercourse.
Every convolution in the beck's course was accompanied by a small riffle and pool sequence and every such pool seemed to hold an eager half pounder; they pounced on my dry fly as if it were the first food seen in weeks...... and I felt myself drawn upstream continuously, curious to see what lay around the next corner. It was trout fishing in miniature and thoroughly enjoyable, although the 9' #5 Sage I had been using on the parent river was far too much rod for such a stream. I will return in the future with a more appropriate setup.
Eventually, the light began to fade and I headed back to the river to see if dusk would bring about a rise of sorts. It didn't.
A quartet of swifts accompanied me as I waded midriver in the gloaming. They scythed to and fro silently, feeding on the tiny insects above. And when I reached for my net to catch a good sized sedge which was fluttering downstream not 5 feet from my face, one of the swifts beat me to it and plucked the luckless insect out of the air, so close to me I could almost count the feathers on her back.
It's at times like this that to be a solitary fly fisher, on the edge of warm darkness, in a northern trout stream which bristles with life, can feel like one of the greatest privileges of all.