Saturday, July 31, 2010
River trout on streamers.
The concept of fishing streamers - lures - for river trout is not new. Our cousins Stateside are more than au fait with the method and although in this country more and more anglers are waking up to its potential, the use of attractor and baitfish patterns tends to remain the preserve of stillwater trout fishers. Regular visitors here may recall that a couple of summers ago I had a brief dalliance with the 'dark side' when I spent a few minutes here and there chucking huge 'poodles' around the deeper pools. I caught a few fish - nothing special - but struggled to come to terms with the beefed up tackle that was required; I absolutely refuse to take two rods to the river! So I left well alone for a while. Until last night in fact.
In truth the idea never went away. It just got filed in the back of my mind under the section marked 'methods which require further investigation when there's nowt else doing'. Over the last few weeks it has repeatedly cropped up in conversations with fellow anglers, embedding itself into my consciousness seemingly by osmosis, always lurking in the shadows like an embarrassing secret. I can recall several incidents which have ultimately led me to try the method again: a morning on the Eden where I fished nymphs into pocket water and found fish willing to move some distance to attack a fly pulled across their noses at pace; a friend's endorsement of the clouser minnow as a high water river pattern; a 3 minute kick sample on the Ribble which yielded no fewer than 14 bullheads.
But a discussion with Yorkshire counterpart Fred Bainbridge last week sealed the deal. Fred described how he has had success with a small tadpole/woolly bugger type pattern - one small enough to conform to international comp rules.........and one which I imagined could be comfortably handled by my normal 5 weight river outfit. Immediately I felt more inclined to give the streamer a go, safe in the knowledge that if and when the fish started rising, I would be able to switch techniques without having to hike back to the car for another rod. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right?
I tied up a couple of patterns loosely based on the template Fred described, and with a 5 foot Di3 polytip and 6 foot leader of 0.18mm Stroft attached to my normal #5 floating line setup, I set off up the Ribble with dirty deeds on my mind.
The offending article: purists please look away now....
One of the things which draws me back to fly fishing time and again is the challenge of attempting to solve a puzzle. There are so many variables which affect our sport that we can never be certain of the reasons for our success or failure - more so when trying to get to grips with an unfamiliar method. I asked myself: am I doing this properly? Is the fly choice correct? Should I be be waiting until there is more water in? Is the poor weather and falling barometer going to affect things? How would I fare using more familiar methods?
In truth last night probably wasn't the best of occasions on to which to air the streamer method and I was fully aware before I started that I would be unlikely to draw any solid conclusions come the end of the session. Awful weather was always going to make life uncomfortable and I didn't see sign of feeding fish all night. Factor in my recent lack of success on the Ribble - it really hasn't fished well for me for a while now - and the odds looked stacked against a productive session.
As it turned out, I did find a handful of fish although the going was predictably slow. The first hour passed without a tap. Then I tempted a decent fish from the thin water at the top of a run and later on another couple of nice trout from fractured, rocky pocket water. The most successful ploy seemed to be to cast square across, or up and across, and twitch the flies back rapidly. Relaxing fishing it most cetainly isn't. No gentle rolling of casts and drag-free drifts here - a constant sequence of haul, haul, shoot, strip, twitch, twich, strip, twiddle and so on had me completely knackered by the time I had covered nearly two miles of water. A return of three fish for combined weight of probably little over 2lb seemed like a meagre reward for such concerted effort, but the session as a fact-finding mission was most definitely worthwhile. All the time I was asking myself, would conventional methods be producing the goods? I doubt it honestly. To my mind the streamer worked about as well as I would have expected - it winkled a few fish out in tough conditions, no more or less successfully than any other method would have, in my untalented hands at least.
But the feeling of being struck hard by a trout out of the blue is a hard one to beat and I have to say the method is quite exciting. Bearing in mind that by all accounts it fishes best when the river is fining down from spate, I will cetainly give it another go in more appropriate conditions.
In the meantime though, it would be nice to see a return for a while,to the glorious settled weather of earlier this summer, and the quiet evenings of dry fly sport that came with it. July has turned out quite unsettled and whilst the moisture is welcome and gave the rivers a good flush through a few days ago, it would be a shame to think that summer is done and dusted for another year. With grey skies and the nights drawing in again, it certainly feels like it at the moment,
Bloody anglers eh? Never happy.