After three non-existent evening rises, I decided to try something different for my next visit. I picked one of the longer stretches which had a couple of wading sections and went out in the afternoon. I was also trying out a new rod. My five-weight was just too much, given the size of the water and the fish, so I’d purchased a Wychwood Drift 3-weight with a Barrio Smallstream line to go with it.
It was a warm, sunny day again as I wandered slowly down to the bottom of the beat, checking out the river as much as possible. I slipped down into the river and waded carefully out into the middle of the current. There was nothing rising, again, but I scanned the water and, inbetween the weeds, I saw the shape of a mid-sized brown lurking near the bottom. I tried covering it with a dry but it didn’t move. I then tried an unweighted nymph but it wasn’t sinking quick enough to get down to the fish in the swift current, so I switched to a gold bead hares ear. It was a difficult cast, to get the fly inbetween two clumps of weed at the right distance to enable it to sink in time but eventually, and surprisingly without scaring the fish, I got it just right. Following the expected trajectory of the fly, I saw the fish move sideways suddenly and lifted the rod, feeling the weight of the fish on the end before it dived into the weeds. After a short fight, I slipped the net underneath it, removed the fly and let it slip gently back into the current.
Being in the water was lovely and it was nice to have relatively free casting back down the river. The new rod was working nicely; it has a lovely soft feel and casts very well at both short and long distances. There were no rising fish but there was an odd blue-winged olive hatching off, so I put a hares ear parachute dry on and decided to work my way up the river prospecting. I loosely fan cast across the water, putting the fly to the left bank, then down the middle and then to the right bank before taking a couple of steps and repeating. I had shuffled about ten yards upstream and aimed a cast down the middle of the current when something appeared from nowhere and walloped the fly. I struck into a lovely little Grayling who shot off downstream and tried to hide in the weeds. I managed to get it to the net and gently released it.
This was already a success but I was encouraged by the approach and wading down the river was lovely, so I continued prospecting. A couple of casts later and the fly was sipped down again through a slower moving section closer to the bank. This time is was a beautifully coloured gold brownie with red spots, around 7 inches long. A couple of casts later and I cast down the centre of the flow in the faster moving current. As soon as the fly touched the water it erupted. This was clearly a better fish and after a decent fight I brought another lovely brownie to the net, this time around 10-11 inches long. Another small brownie followed before things went quiet.
Wading that small section had taken a good couple of hours so I decided to take a break. As I was having a bite to eat, I noticed a fish rising steadily further down the river. I slipped back into the water and gently waded up to my waist into the main current. I watched until the trout rose again and then aimed a cast. I was too short and left, then too far right. Finally, I got the distance and direction just right and as the fly floated down over where the fish had risen before, there was a gently swirl. Unfortunately, I struck too soon, or it was just a swirl rather than a take but I must have scared it away as it went quiet then.
As dusk was approaching and it was a fair walk to the car, I decided to call it a day. But what a brilliant afternoon it had been. There is something joyous about being in the water and with fish coming to dries, it was almost a perfect chalk stream fishing experience. Still not much rising but I had learned that the fish will come to the dries even if you can’t see them rising.