So throughout the season I arrange to fish with friends up and down the country. We get them in the diary early so that they do actually happen. Last weekend I'd arranged to meet my good friend Tony and fish a river in the Scottish Borders. The chosen river is well known for great hatches of fly, including the iconic March Brown, and wild brown trout that can reach specimen sizes. Our trips are normally arranged to coincide with far from ideal fishing weather. In March 2011 we met on the River Ure at Hawes with it showing its bones, sun shining brightly in a cloudless sky and a cold easterly wind. April 2011 we fished Stocks Reservoir in bright sun and 30mph easterly winds. Our September 2011 trip was arranged with even more impeccable timing - it coincided with Hurricane Katia battering the UK! Well on this occasion we fell lucky, extremely lucky. The Yorkshire Dales had rain lashing down most of the preceding week and rain was forecast all through the weekend. The rain was accompanied by strong winds, hail and thunder, and the rivers were bordering on being unfishable. Miraculously the Scottish Borders missed all this . The river was in perfect condition, winds light and little to no rain. If it had been a couple of degrees warmer it would have been absolutely perfect, but I'll take what we had any day.
There is always something exciting about fishing a new river, especially one with a good reputation. It's the mystery, anticipation, not knowing what's around the next corner. It's because it's different; you don't know the good lies, the places where you can always avoid the dreaded blank. You need to work, observe, your senses are heightened because you're out of your comfort zone. Are the stories you've heard true? Will I catch a specimen trout? Have I chosen the right beat? Should I have fished one of the other beats? Will my flies be effective away from home? All this is going on in your head and at the same time you know you are only there for a few days. You can't return the day after to put right your mistakes. But that's what makes them more enjoyable than your bread and butter fishing at home. It's all those things I've listed, and more besides, that create that "new river buzz"!
|Mega hatches - the surface is littered with hatching flies|
You'd see the odd fly hatching in earnest from the start, but the trout knew there was no need to waste energy chasing single flies, they knew what was coming. When the hatches did start they were awesome. I thought we got good hatches in the Yorkshire Dales, but here in the Scottish Borders they were on a different scale, in another league totally. Not only a hatch of a particular fly, but various flies hatching in massive numbers all at once. No wonder the fish didn't take the early flies that were sampling the air. On the first day I saw possibly the biggest hatch of flies I've ever seen - a hatch of Iron Blues, a fly I rarely encounter in the dales. They were everywhere and just as I'd read in the past, their emergence was seemingly triggered by rain. The problem with a hatch such as this is getting the fish to see your fly amongst the thousands of naturals - like "trying to catch a cow with a blade of grass" as an old angler I used to know would say.
Flies would hatch all day, pulsing in intensity, though most of the time the fish weren't going mad for them. I simply can't understand how a fish can rise to a natural, then let loads more float by without touching them? Not just any natural, but big juicy March Browns and Olive Uprights. These fish would sometimes rise 15 minutes later when you'd moved off upstream, or just not rise again, despite the continual flow of food items just waiting to be taken. Mystifying!
This is a list of the main flies we saw in 3 days fishing: March Brown, Olive Upright, Large Dark Olive, Iron Blue, Mayfly (single specimen - very early), Large Stonefly, Hawthorn (saw about 20 - quite early for the north), stonefly sp. (unable to catch and identify). With the exception of the Mayfly and Hawthorn all were hatching in massive numbers.
|Tony's 2lb 12oz trout|
That brings me onto what was quite an amusing episode on our second day. It was around 3pm and we'd still not had lunch due to the hatch intensity and fish activity, so you can imagine we felt pretty hungry when a lull in proceedings came along. We had decided to sit down for lunch when we found the next good looking pool, so we could watch for risers as we ate. As we rounded a bend in the river we came across a pool with fish rising towards the tail. The rises were so close together we agreed that they had to be grayling. Grayling tend to live close together, whereas trout prefer to be further apart and this can often tell us whether it's trout or grayling rising. In other words, if you get a lot of rises very close together it is a good bet they are grayling and not trout. So that's what we deduced in this case. They were clearly big fish from the water they moved when rising, but they just looked 'graylingy' and even left the telltale bubble on the surface as grayling often do.
|Yours truly with 2lb 6oz trout in the rain|