Have you ever had one of those days when you couldn't decide whether to go fishing or not, but you decide to go and immediately catch a fish which makes it all worth while? Today was just such a day for me.
I've been giving a few casting lessons on the River Wharfe recently and witnessed good hatches of Large Dark Olives (LDO's). Spring is finally starting with birds starting to move through and calling in the morning, the sun's getting warmer and the days longer. So I'm starting to get itchy feet and wanting the trout season to start. Today is the last day of the grayling season. In Yorkshire this means we can't fish rivers until the trout season opens on 25th March. Over the Pennines there is no break; the grayling season closes on 14th but the trout season starts on 15th - how convenient!
I decided to make the most of a day off and go fishing. By the end of the month I'll be flat out guiding and struggle to find a day when I can fish myself, so needs must. I chose the River Ribble at Arnford, one of the waters controlled by Settle Anglers Association. It has a mix of trout and grayling, and for those interested, salmon and sea trout. It's not a water I know well but always looks promising. A fellow member once told me that the grayling fishing in November is fantastic. Despite starting out in Yorkshire the Ribble comes under the control of the NW Region of the EA, so tomorrow the trout season will have started and grayling will be no more.
I took with me a Greys Streamflex XF2 11' #3 rod, with which I planned on French nymphing, and my new Tenkara rod (which I've only had out of the tube once and found it nearly impossible to cast), for duo and dry fly fishing. Looking at the first 3 pools I decided to French nymph the bottom, slightly deeper pool; duo in the second because it had more pocket water; and then spend time looking for rising fish in the third pool - a long glide with a foam line down the far side under a row of trees.
Pretty much straight away I hooked into 3 small grayling on the French nymph rod, so small in fact that I couldn't keep them on the hook. Then the indicator braid pulled under again and I struck into another fish, fully expecting another small fry, but no, this time I was attached to something sizeable. I immediately thought grayling with its throbbing fight as it tore off downstream, first into the calm water in the margins, then back out into the main flow. Whenever I hook a decent fish my first thought is always that I just want to see what it is, and how big it is, in case it gets off (does anyone else do that?). With a bit of side strain it was quickly back in the margins and I could see it was a grayling, not just any grayling but one of the biggest I have ever caught. Luckily I had my weigh net and it pulled the scale down to 2¼lb - my biggest grayling for a few years. So there you go, one fish made it all worthwhile, just wish I'd taken my camera! I tried to get a photo with my phone but the grayling wasn't playing ball and it wasn't worth risking dunking my phone.
I moved up to the next pool and set up the Tenkara rod with a duo rig. Last time out I struggled to cast the thing, but that was with level leader, this time I was armed with a Tenkara furled leader and what a difference... It cast beautifully, landing the duo delicately and precisely every time. I immediatly had a splashy rise to the dry from what I presumed was a small trout, same again next cast. Then I saw it rise again but not to my fly this time, it took something else and I immediately thought LDO. Then I saw a LDO in the air and so the hatch had started, it was 12.30pm. Next cast a fish hit my dry, a different fish, solidly this time, and I was into a trout of ¾lb - I had christened my Tenkara rod!
I had a sandwich and coffee overlooking the glide above, looking for LDO's and rising fish (something I love to do when fishing). I saw neither so pressed on upstream French nymphing in any water that looked half decent. I had a few of those tiny fish that shoot out of the water, attached to your fly and leader, and land in the water or bank behind you when you strike. Then the line stopped and again I was into a good fish. It was large enough that I started to think it might actually be a kelt but then I saw the unmistakeable doral fin of a large grayling. I played it for a minute or so before the hook pulled out. I saw enough of it that I could tell it was at least as big as the earlier fish - seriously big. I just love big grayling! I wasn't too bothered to lose it; I'd seen it at least and didn't have to sit at home wondering whether it was a big trout, big grayling or small salmon kelt - but I do wonder just how big it was?
I continued upstream following the same pattern, alternating between Tenkara duo fishing and French nymphing, depending on the type of water. I took 2 more trout, a half pounder and a slightly bigger one before calling it a day. At this time of year the river just switches off late afternoon; experience tells you when, and that it's time to walk back to the car. I was happy with my lot. It would have been good to see a few more olives, but it was a cold, grey day in mid-March and I don't want to push it.