Monday, 21 June 2010

'The Aquarium'

Looking across the rippling stream, I could see a beautiful rising trout gently sipping 'Procleon bifidum' in the distance. Careful, quiet walking like a deer in the forest, making less sound than a gliding otter was the approach needed for my success. I stopped and peered as a king fisher flew by, and then from nowhere felt the draft of breeze blow onto my face as a passing barn owl sawed passed me. I stopped, knelt down and evaluated my approach. As I knelt in the cooling evening sun, I saw another rise. Staring like a wiley fox, I knew this fish would be mine. Making my way, step by step, creeping and ducking under overhanging branches to subdue my silhouette I carried on watching, staring and learning the feeding habit of my chosen fish. It rose again and again. My heart started to beat a little faster. I was nearly in range and my prize was in the prime feeding flow. Should I cast or let her settle down for a while? Should I re-check the size and choice of fly again or have the confidence that my selected pattern would fool this beautiful elegant fish? Attached to the end of my tippet was a perfectly tied pale watery dun pattern. It had fooled many Salmo-Trutta in the past, but would it work this time? As I looked around to check for casting hang-ups, everything seemed clear to make a cast. Again I paused as my old friend the barn owl breezed back down stream in my direction. It hovered, as to tell me to "make the cast".

I decided to hold back a little longer to think my plan. Pulling my pipe from the upper pocket of my tweed fishing waistcoat, I turned my back to light and smoke my favoured tobacco. The scent and smoke began to drift downstream indicating to the me the wind direction and strength. Again as I looked, my fish began to feed. This time it looked to be taking an emerging 'Rhitrogena Semicolorata' or Olive Upright for the non-fly fisher. I quickly pulled my fly box from inside my fishing bag that was draped over my left shoulder and began to study the contents in it's entirety. Running my finger along each row, I was looking for the perfect fly for the perfect cast, for the perfect fish. Most were the wrong shade of olive. Some were too dark, some were too light. Some were too big and some too small. I was looking for one with the correct mix of grey/olive with a hint of brown dubbing running through the abdomen. Hook size and overall fly size meant everything. I had a lovely looking Kite's Imperial tied on a splendid size 16 up-eye hook which seemed perfect for the quest ahead.

Snipping off my original choice pattern, I attached the kite's Imperial dry fly and prayed it would rise my butter coloured beauty once again. Taking my time to make sure everything was correct, I used my favored half blood knot and degreased the tip of the cast and applied a drop of quality floatant to the fly. I once again crept into position, this time to witness a family of otters making their way down stream of me. I held my breath, hoping that they would keep moving and not change their direction and head towards my feeding prize. Surely they must of picked up my scent and had opted to keep a wary distance. I just hope the trout wasn't as wise to my presence. It was now or never! Taking to one knee, I pulled five foot of floating fly line from my loaded fly reel and placed the fly perfectly upstream of the last rise. I looked on as it drifted into the feeding zone, and without warning my old split can rod buckled over. She had taken! Now it was down to me to make sure she was played in a manner that Mr Frank Sawyer would of been proud to have witnessed. She knew her lair well. Spending years cruising, swimming, living and feeding in that area, she was wise old creature.

Sounds pretty good. I wish my day's fishing was as thought provoking as that! In fact it was written by a non-fisher who had a browse through a fly fishing book and had a good thought of how fly fishing usually is. In reality, or in my case anyway the only reality to the J.R. Hartley style writing is that I will be in a stream somewhere trying to catch trout. It's a good point to prove that it can be easy to try and pull the wool over peoples eyes. I have read countless articles that reveal themselves more when you read between the lines. On of the last articles that I read was about fly fishing for pike. Having spent the last twenty five years searching for, fishing and understanding the species, I'm as keen as the next guy to learn more. But when reading it, you could see, or rather read that the author had only recently started fly fishing for them. Giving people advice on how to do things should be right if you are going to write about about it. Maybe it wasn't the authors fault that there were quite a few points that weren't right. It perhaps should of been down to the editor of the magazine to make sure that the facts were correct before printing.

So how have things been down here in sunny Devon. Hot and sunny! The rivers and streams are still as low as I have seen them. The fishing has been good since writing the last blog. I was pleased to catch up with Ollie again the other day for a look in the river Okement. Not the best of fishing weather, but like most I'm sure the trout are getting used to it by now. I had spent the morning fly fishing on the East Okement struggling to find too many willing fish. It is surprising that two similar streams the are only half a mile apart can fish so differently. They both start near and run through Okehampton Artillery Range, passing either side of Yes Tor and High Willhays, before the West Okement is dammed at Meldon reservoir. Meeting up with Ollie, we set up a couple of light weight fly rods and headed off from the old park and headed towards one of the deeper pools on that stretch. I had been down there a few nights previous and had seen a good number of decent fish in there. There was plenty of food around and the trout were busy feeding on sorts sort of fly life including midge, yellow sally and olives. It was good to sit in the sun and watch what was going on. I'm no Bill Oddie, but watching a couple of Damselflies going through their mating ritual took up a few minuets whilst Ollie got into fishing position. It was a shame that a trout grabbed the female Damsel fly from the leaf just after taking the photo. At least it's main aim in life had been carried out. Leaving a nice conveyor belt of food for the following season or two.

Even Damselflies need a bit of privacy during the moment!

The pool that we chose is often affectionately referred to as 'The aquarium'. If Ollie could manage a few fish out of it, then the name would probably stick.

The 'Aquarium'.

It is a weird pool to fish due to the nature of the flow. Basically it is one big back-eddie, so the usual rules of fishing don't really apply. The first thing that you notice is the way in which the fish are holding and searching for their food. Unlike the usual downstream flow where the fish tend to look upstream and swing around a cruise around the pool feeding. Probably 80% of the fish are facing downstream or across, looking to feed as the food passes them by in an upstream direction. When fishing these types of pools, I find it best to keep the casts short and pick off the front fish first and then extend the length of line and fish for the further fish afterwards. Otherwise you end up pulling fish through the rest of the shoal, spooking most of them in the process. Typically on this pool, the better fish were the furthest away tucked in under the bushes and hanging off the main flow that pushes through the edge of the pool. Just like most types of fly fishing, it comes down to catching a few and loosing a few before you get your head around the way that is the most productive.

Ollie decided on the fly choice and spotted a fish that he wanted to pick off. I just gave him a couple of pointers on the type of cast he should use, as there were plenty of overhanging tress willing to catch the fly. First cast and a fish took straight away. It's nice when that happens. His fly choice was a duo set-up with a small olive klink and a small Pheasant tail hanging underneath. For some reason there was a bit of colour in the river, but you could still see as at least half a dozen fish shoot over to the fly as it hit the water. Unfortunately for him, it was one of the smaller fish out the shoal that was the quickest (or daftest), to grab the fly first. But that's fishing. It sometimes takes a bit of luck to home in on the bigger fish. I have seen it countess times especially when pike fishing, watching a large fish follow the fly in, only to have it taken by a smaller fish that rockets in from nowhere.

First cast, first fish of the day!

It was a lazy day of chilling and fishing the pool and joining runs. I know I have been going on about how low the waters are at the moment, but there are now trees starting to sprout where the water usually runs. This is where all of the fly casting practice pays off. With all the bank side vegetation, plants growing in the middle of the river, exposed stones and rocks, twigs and logs poking out of the water, it doesn't take much for a stray cast to get snagged. It was good to watch Ollie figure out the flow and the cast, that would cover the fish. We fished until dark, with Ollie catching a good number of fish with a couple of better trout grabbing the dry fly as it drifted back up-stream.

Going back to the beginning of the blog. The person who wrote it mentioned all the types of wildlife that they thought was the norm. In fact I don't rally see that much during a trip out. I manage to see the odd crow or seagull if I take my eyes off the water. But what was nice was to catch a glimpse of some feeding deer in the old castle meadow as we were walking back down stream towards home.

Catching up with Derrick the other day, it was good to hear about his recent sea trout expeditions. Things have been tough and I give him credit for the effort he has put in. He has driven hundreds of miles, coming down this end of Devon to have a crack at the Lyd sewin. There are some good fish in there and good fish come out every season. But due to the conditions it has been a little bit hit or miss of late. But sticking it out with Tim Smith from the Arundell Arms they have managed a few fish. Next week Derrick is back off home to Wales for a few days sewin fishing on the river Towy. Fingers crossed for him that the conditions are good and he catches a few good fish.

A nice Lyd Sea-Trout for Dek.

Along with the river fly fishing that has been going on, we have been over to the coast again for look at the bass and mullet fishing. The mullet numbers seemed to have shrunk though since our last visit, but according to Derrick he knows where they are and we will be out for them specifically next week. The bass on the other hand are around in good numbers. They were happy chasing clousers and thunder-creeks around. Nothing big came out, but there were a few nice fish spotted amongst all the basslets. I decided on a 4 weight out fit, so most things still pulled back a bit.

Not many chips needed with these.

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