Saturday, September 17, 2011
Things didn't turn out how I had planned. It had all looked so promising a couple of days earlier when the weather man predicted that a temporary break in the recent stormy weather was on its way, scoring a direct hit on the day I had put aside to go afloat in search of wild brown trout. What I hadn't bargained for was that this break in the weather would turn out to be so extreme that I would be faced with acres of flat-as-glass water, stubbornly sulking beneath a glaring, brassy sun.
Not that I was completely surprised. When I went to load the car that morning, I had opened the front door onto a day of complete misty stillness; and later on, driving up the valley, I looked anxiously to the treetops for signs of a breeze but was greeted instead as I passed through the villages, by steeply rising chimney smoke from the year's first woodfires.
This wasn't what I wanted. I wanted a warm wind to push the boat along briskly, to tease the wavetops into spits of foam, bringing the trout up into the surface layers where my wet flies would be, darting and glooping about in the oxygenated confusion. I wanted to ride the swell, dance the dance of the loch style flyfisher.
None of that was going to be possible of course, not today. The best I could hope for would be an occasional slight wiffle across the surface. Variable in direction and short lived; not enough to grip the boat and push it along in anything like an organised manner. Yes, a day of frustration surely awaited. I had seen it all before - suffered the ignominy of chasing wary shadows upon the stagnant horse latitudes of a flat calm lake. I had no appetite for it, so I loaded my kit into the boat, then left it behind and headed off up the hill instead.
I spent the next couple of hours sitting in the warm fellgrass, my back propped against the summit cairn and soaking up the quiet atmosphere of the moorland, silent for miles around and stretching far into the distance to all four points of the compass. It might not have been what I'd planned, but it wasn't a bad circumstance all told. This summer has been abysmal around these parts. Not particularly wet, admittedly; but cold and windy for long periods, with an almost complete dearth of the long, warm summer days which we spend most of our winter dreaming about. But here on the top of Great Close, was the opportunity at last to recline with the sun in my face and only wheatears and meadow pipits for company. I took my time and absorbed every long minute with relish.
Around lunchtime, I decided that some fishing might be in order. The surface was now slightly disturbed by the gentlest of easterly breezes and although I knew the boat would fail to find purchase, would lazily yaw about untethered, I decided to give it best and set forth onto the still expanses. I had noticed an odd rising fish here and there. They would be nearly impossible to approach and likely melt away into the depths long before getting within casting distance. No matter, I like a challenge. I resolved to spend the afternoon mooching about quietly on the electric motor and make it my business to fool just one of those sporadic risers.
It turned out - not unexpectedly - to be the fishing equivalent of plaiting sawdust. With the motor running at quarter power, I odged along, flying my stealth bomber solo, one hand on the tiller, ten footer in the other. Whenever a fish popped up within range, I quickly shot the #16 crippled midge out into the slick, the motor still running - a kind of drive-by dry fly. And it worked...sort of. Four fish succumbed to this tactic, although none were large. They were all - to use a friend's terminology - skerrits; trout too small to know better. Their older brethren stayed well out of the way.
It was hardly satisfactory and I will be looking to return at least once before the season is done. With appropriate conditions there are few more invigorating pursuits than fishing from a drifting boat and I'd like to think that the end of September could yet throw up one or two last memorable moments before thoughts must turn to grayling and warm clothing. But I had enjoyed myself in a way. Upon reflection I think that after several weeks of working all hours and juggling various commitments, it was enough purely to be away from everything; and if that short lived dead zone in the weather had been the vortex which sucked me away from life's extraneous bullshit for a few hours, then it might have been poor from a fishing point of view, but it had served its purpose right enough.