Thursday, 20 March 2014

Season's Opener

It happens every year! I sit at home patiently waiting for the start of the trout season here in Yorkshire on 25th March, doing all the last minute jobs in readiness for the new season. Then reports filter in from friends in the Lancashire and Cumbria where the season has already started on 15th March. Photos appear on Twitter and blogs get uploaded, all showing and describing the first trout of the season and hatches of Large Dark Olives (LDO’s) and March Browns. I take it for so long, hiding my jealousy and resisting the temptation to venture out before the ‘real’ season starts on 25th. Some years I make it all the way to the 25th, helped if the weather is particularly bad, but more and more nowadays I don’t! This year I didn’t. I can only take so many photos of newly hatched LDO’s and the first of the season's trout, so today I gave in, despite winds gusting to 40mph…

…Of course I had to travel across the border into the Red Rose County of Lancashire (well needs must, even for a Yorkshireman!), though, I don’t think anyone spotted me. I know a little urban stream not far away that seams to get better every year. Today it was particularly attractive because it is relatively sheltered from the wind and I know from past years that it gets a good LDO hatch. It was a later start than I wanted and it had reached 1.30pm before I hit the riverbank and already there was the odd LDO in the air. I stopped on a footbridge over the river and paused a while looking for rising trout. I had decided to just walk the bank with rod in hand and only to cast to rising fish. It was going to be a short session and I couldn’t be bothered relentlessly searching with nymphs, or dry even. If the trout didn’t oblige it wasn’t a problem because I’d be content just taking a few pictures.

First trout of the 2014 season
First trout of the 2014 season
Well the trout in the pool downstream of the bridge didn’t oblige so I dropped down the bank on the other side to continue on upstream. I glanced downstream and there was now a trout rising right where I’d been looking, so I climbed back up and onto the bridge and put my rod up with a size 16 Foam Dun* (which I recently pictured on Twitter/Flickr), a fly new to me that I’ve never tried before, but friends in Scotland rate it very highly. I’ll spare you all the boring details but after a couple of casts I hooked and landed the rising trout, a cracking fish of probably just over a pound and a nice way to get my season up and running.

I waited below the next pool upstream looking for another riser but nothing showed. I was about to move off again when I thought I’d cover it with my Foam Dun anyway, because it meant casting across my opposite shoulder and I could do with the practice so early in the year. It was only a small pool in any case, more of a pocket than pool, and I could cover it in half a dozen casts. A trout quickly stuck its head out approving of the Foam Dun so it was two trout in two pools. I was starting to rate the Foam Dun myself.

Brown Trout on a Foam Dun
Brown Trout on a Foam Dun
The third pool had nothing rising either so, wading now, I moved off upstream. I was almost on top of it when a trout rose mid-stream and I stopped dead in my tracks, almost as though I was about to stand on a snake or something. It was one of those occasions when you think you must have spooked it but stand motionless waiting for it to rise again in case you haven’t. I hadn’t on this occasion and the Foam Dun made it three in three pools!

The next pool had about five trout clearly rising to the trickle hatch of LDO’s. For some reason, that I can’t explain, I swapped to an Olive Jingler? Casting was awkward with trees reaching across the river from the opposite side, tall reed stems behind and the gusting wind getting ever stronger. After hooking the bank-side vegetation more than I perhaps should have, I hooked 4 of the fish and landed all bar one.

I was now heading for my banker pool. A pool where I’ve always caught the most trout and the biggest trout on this stream. On arrival there were no obvious rising trout where they normally are so I had a few blind casts attempting to pull something up. Then I spotted a rising trout further upstream in the faster water at the run into the pool. In fact right where you’d expect trout normally, but on past visits the trout had preferred the slower, deeper water, in the middle of the pool. The Jingler didn’t work, possibly a little waterlogged by now, so I tied on a fresh Foam Dun which yet again did the trick. Five trout quickly came to hand and were released.

Urban stream Lancashire
An urban stream in Lancashire sees my season
get up & running despite the wind & rain
The wind had gained strength and the forecast rain had arrived and was getting quite heavy, so I turned back downstream, more than content with my first outing of the year. There was one trout to come though. It was rising in the bridge pool where I’d started, with maybe three others, well spaced out. The Foam Dun did the business yet again giving me a twelfth trout in a two hour session. What would have been number thirteen was heavily pricked but didn’t stick.

So that’s my 2014 season successfully under way on a day when the wind was so strong it would have been easy to stay home. It was probably just in time because the rain is now lashing down outside, no doubt putting the rivers out of action for a couple of days at least. And it would appear that I have a new fly in my armoury for upwing hatches in the Foam Dun.

*The Foam Dun is a fly given to me by my friend Dave Downie. He ties it in this excellent YouTube video: