Sunday, June 03, 2012

A river sleeping

There is a river not too far from here which has for many years been completely overlooked by the trouting fraternity. It is a big, famous river but has fallen on hard times and these days barely warrants a mention amongst even the most adventurous of fly fishers. I paid it a visit today.

You see for a while I have been hearing rumours: a recovery of sorts, fish rising, odd big ones coming out, that sort of thing. The river is almost untouched by serious trout anglers and so the perceived lack of quality sport might well be a result of virtually no angling effort; the trout that isn't fished for can never be caught right? Further investigation was surely warranted, so I made the drive through some of the finest scenery in the north to arrive, overlooked by a quintessentially English estate hall, at the banks of a promising looking spate stream.

It turned out that I had stumbled upon a river sleeping. Either that or a river with little to offer the trout fisherman. Or a combination of both. I walked the banks diligently for the next three hours and saw nothing to persuade me to even piece the rod together. Long shallow glides interspersed with deep dubs presented a sylvan scene of great beauty, but the surface remained undisturbed by trout throughout - despite a stiff breeze shaking a feast of terrestrial insects out of the bankside trees to form a constant line of food along the current creases.

A shuffle amongst the stones told an interesting story: an almost complete lack of invertebrates was surprising and disappointing. Nothing much seemed to be living down there save for a few heptagenids and stoneflies (although a couple of airborne pale wateries betrayed the presence of at least some baetis nymphs). Messing about in bankside vegetation turned up a couple of caddisflies, one small yellow sally stonefly and a load of nasty, biting cleggs. Nowt else.

There was a time when I used to fish the upper reaches of the river, finding the exercise to be almost a complete waste of time. The only trout worth catching then were the ones stocked each year by the local angling club (and are such fish ever really worth catching?). I was disappointed to find a similar story down here on the meadow-lined, apparently fertile middle reaches.

Of course it's not possible to form a true picture of a river's potential from a couple of hours stalking the banks on a sunny, windy afternoon. I know that. But there was a strange feeling of emptiness to the place - the sense that I was knocking on the door of an unoccupied house. I will return at some point, desperate to be proved wrong.....and in the meantime keep my ears pricked up to any more of those rumours. But time is short and I will be more inclined next time to head for what Bob Wyatt refers to as a place known to contain trout.

Skeletal information (abandoned skin of a perla stonefly).......


Regular Rod said...

I love your photographs there Matthew. Are they old images or have you gone back to, or maintained, or newly found your interest in film and monochrome? I ask because I have just taken up film again after a long time with digital and hadn't really considered it for blogging - until now that is!

As to the river - everything relies on water quality and the ability to support life. Some places are destined to be sparse as far as trout are concerned but maybe it is, or was, or should be, a river for migratory species?

Regular Rod

Phillip said...

Sad story, beautiful river but no life.

Matthew Eastham said...

Thanks Richard. Cheated with the photos - taken using a retro iphone app called hipstamatic....sorry!

Spot on re the migratory species....yes it is.