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Monday, 8 August 2016

Wild trout; the third way. Part one.

My brother Alex and I try to get together once a year for a camping and fishing trip in the Yorkshire Dales.

Our small campsite has a beck running by it, so we can brew up and watch the trout at the same time. Millions of insects hatch from the water on a summer's evening and many settle on the alders, rowans, birches and oaks that line the bank.  The flies attract a lot of birds including flycatchers and redstarts, while swifts, swallows and martins swoop along the valley to catch the bigger caddis and mayflies. Grey wagtails, sandpipers and dippers bob on the beck-stones as they search for insects in the water. It's pretty idyllic - except for the midges.

I would say that the insect life is positively "prolific" but our fellow campers; English, Dutch, French and German; have other descriptions. You don't have to be a linguist to understand expletives. To most people the flies are "a bloody nuisance".

Alex working upstream.
The trout in the beck are small, but there are a few larger fish in pools downstream. They confidently sip flies, deep under the cover of low branches, fallen trees or beneath waterfalls. The best chance of a fish for us is to go all the way downstream to where our beck flows into the main river.

It's a bit of a walk; too far to go in waders, so we carry them with us through the village and across the fields to the river-bank. Leaving our shoes amid the wild garlic we ford the river and carefully approach the junction pool which is just below us.

The pool is deep and black, but it has shallow rapids at the head and a long shallow glide at the tail. We sit high on the bank, well back from the water, to look for fish. The beck falls over stones into the deepest part of the pool, right opposite us, but it's more of a drip than a trickle and it hardly ruffles the surface of the pool. All the same, there are fish there, making little dimples in the surface. If you hadn't fished here before, you would think that they were minnows or maybe infant trout, but it's impossible to tell how big a fish is unless one shows its tail.

The pool may look black, but the water is really very clear and there is no breeze. Stealth will be required and we will need to use fine tippets and small flies. But which flies?

Stealth and patience!
Watching through binoculars, I can pick out some iron-blue duns and a few caddis flies but the fish are not chasing them. In fact they are not really rising, just sipping in tiny creatures from the surface film; flies that I cannot see. Midges perhaps? My brother thinks they may be greenflies that are falling from the alders above, so we tie on little green and grey flies. It takes me ten minutes to thread the line through the tiny up-turned eye of the hook, by which time my brother is already fishing.

Alex has a prefered way to fish for wild trout. He looks for a fish that is consistently rising in the same place and he stalks it from downstream. Once he is close enough, he pays out some line and makes a few practice casts, well short of the fish so as not to spook it. These fish are most often in a tricky spot, under trees, close to the far bank. They are usually confident fish, having been holding the same spot for days. As long as you are careful, you can cast at the same fish for hours trying different flies until you get a result, or until you give up.

Every fly in the box, and no fish!
That first method is exactly what we both did, except that there were no fish that were consistently rising in the same spot. If I covered a rise, the fish would disappear, only to pop up somewhere else. We tried a dozen flies including emergers, nymphs and wet flies, all with the same result. We needed a change of plan.

The second method is to start at the tail of the pool, casting up and across in an attempt to find fish that are not fixated on the mystery fly. We covered the whole pool, taking a step upstream after every cast. There were fish in the shallows on our side of the pool too, but we only found them when they shot off into the depths as we approached.

Today, the last resort will be to walk back to the village pub where we can gaze at the stuffed trout on the walls and plan for the next day.

By chucking-out time we will have hatched a cunning scheme.
To be continued.....

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