Pleasant light, thundery showers and a weary sense of resignation accompanied me to the river this week. With the willowherb in full bloom and bankside meadowsweet drooping and tired, I was reminded of how quickly summer - the best of it at least - slips from the angler's grasp, leaving us to contemplate all too suddenly the prospect of quiet autumn days in pursuit of sipping grayling.
The Ribble treated me to the doggest of dog days. Pushing my way through beds of shoulder high balsam, I came upon a river in excellent condition and with all signs suggesting decent sport would be had. The recent hot and dry spell has kept me away from my local river, knowing that it would be pathetically low and choked with thick swathes of filthy silkweed. But a spell of heavy showers early in the week, put a 4' flood through our northern spate streams - a much needed flush, which would return the Ribble to a viable trout fishing prospect once more.
Decent ply the river might well have been in, but the resident trout and grayling didn't seem too excited by the newly invigorated flow. I toiled away for a few hours with very little to show for my efforts - just a few small specimens of each. Nymphs, spiders and the prospected dry fly were all given an airing, with none proving particularly effective. Perhaps the upstream nymph had the slight edge; the pattern below tempted the majority of fish, especially when lifting into a roll cast at the end of the drift - the sudden acceleration of the flies upward through the water column inducing a number of fish to move.
With this in mind, I switched to a team of spiders with the same nymph adding ballast to the point. Fully expecting to capitalise on the aforementioned induced take situation as the flies swept around in the current, I was somewhat surprised when the tactic produced only a couple of immature trout.
Finally, and in vague hope of a dusk fall of spinners which would never materialise, I put up a tapered leader and and fished dry fly (a large balloon caddis) through some pocket water to nobble a couple more, including the 'biggest' fish of the session - a 12" brown trout. Hardly satisfactory all in all.
With the nights now drawing in, my opportunities to fish evening sessions after work are becoming limited. It's always a bit depressing to arrive at the first week of August in the knowledge that there are but two or three weeks left before the light has gone by 8pm and the gradual transition back to daytime invertebrate activity and feeding is complete. I love fishing on quiet, late summer afternoons but can count on one hand (sometimes one digit), the number of times each year that I get to the river in such circumstances. I looked ahead to a couple of possible sessions this afternoon, with blue-winged olives at the forefront of my thinking.
Last season saw some exceptional back end sport to intense hatches of Serratella ignita, with large numbers of duns emerging on many afternoons. Quite what the little blighters do through the cream of the summer months remains a bit of a mystery and whilst we may be lucky enough to chance upon a fall of the spent adults at dusk, it's probably safe to conclude that the duns emerge during the dead of night most of the time. However, by September we have the chance to imitate the emergent fly in earnest: a situation which comes with its own challenges.
I have a bit of a homespun tinpot theory as to why dry fly fishing during B-WO hatches doesn't always conform to what we expect. It is based upon no scientific fact at all, but whatever the validity of my hypothesis, it does seem to be the case that quite often when the blue-wings are hatching, low riding emergers and/or shallow fished spider patterns seem to reap rewards where the conventional dry dun does not.
I tied a few flies with this in mind today. Doffing a cap to Paul Procter's pearly butt bloa (a north country spider pattern which is deadly in just this type of situation), I spooled together a few combinations of tinsel, mole's fur and spun cdc. Fly and dressing are below.
Hook: Varivas 2200 #16
Thread: Pearsalls yellow
Butt: small mirage tinsel
Dubbing: fine mist of mole furWing: cdc, spun (split thread method)
That's the simple part. Much more challenging will be actually getting to the river to make the most of any back end daytime hatches, especially with a project deadline looming large on the horizon. In the meantime I might just be able to squeeze another couple of evening sessions out of this glorious summer. And if the fishing continues to be as slow as this week on the Ribble, then so be it - compared to the washout we were enduring twelve months ago, just being able to cast a line over a quiet river at dusk is sometimes enough for me.