I’ve been a member of the Salisbury & District Angling Club for a couple of seasons now but for various reasons (work and a global pandemic), I haven’t got on the river much early in the year. With our waters opening up on time from 1st April this year, I was keen to get out as early as possible.
I don’t like crowds on the river, so I ignored opening week and scheduled an afternoon in the second week of April. The weather had been nice before easter but a cold northerly had settled in since then. I assumed that, and the time of year, would mean that hatches would be thin on the ground so I went to one of the beats that allows nymphing all season.
The beat was free when I arrived, so I slipped on my waders and tackled up while slowly watching the river. I heard a splashy rise but couldn’t see much hatching and decided to stick to nymphs. For a while I just stood by the side of the river, watching the water and soaking up the peace and quiet. It was a joy to be there after more than six months away and especially given what we’ve lived through recently.
I started with a size 14 pheasant tail tied in the original style with just wire as weight. The flow was quite strong and I realised quickly that the fly was not getting deep enough so switched to a beaded version. The water here was a little murky and difficult to stalk any fish, so I fished some likely spots whilst working my way upstream. I had a couple of little takes which were on and off again quickly, before I could strike. These may have been small grayling.
I skipped a slow, deep section and moved upstream to a wooded section where the water was shallower. There’s much less weed growth here but the water is clearer and its easier to see the trout. I changed to a beaded hares ear nymph with a pinch of peacock dubbing at the head and managed a couple of takes but still couldn’t get them to stick. I have found this a lot with upstream nymphing; if you can’t see the fish take, they are often on and off before you have chance to strike.
As I wandered up this section I noticed a few sedges dipping across the water which I assumed must be grannom. I dug around in the box and found a deer hair pattern with a dark body. Within ten minutes, there was a decent hatch on and some splashy rises announced the location of some decent fish. One large brownie in particular was rising consistently and jumping out of the water to take the flying adults, more like rainbows on stillwaters during a sedge hatch. I cast to him a number of times but with no interest and he stopped rising, a good sign that I’d managed to scare him off.
A little further down the beat I noticed a few small rises in the same place and managed to cast into the spot. As soon as the fly touched water, a small, wild brownie devoured it and I managed to lift into the take quickly enough. My first brown trout of the season and a wild one to a dry fly as well, perfect!
As I left the wooded section the hatch petered out and so did the signs of fish. It’s still early and the river flow seems a little too strong in places to be holding feeding fish, certainly ones looking up but it was lovely to get out and get the net wet.
I didn’t have any specific grannom flies, so I’ll have a go at some – particularly emerger patterns which the fish might take more readily at this early stage – and post my results if I get out in a grannom hatch again.