Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Confidence Is Key

After a generally poor fishing season in 2012 I, like most flyfishers, was chomping at the bit for the 2013 season to arrive. I generally keep my diary reasonably clear at the start of the season so that I can do a bit of fishing myself. It's my favourite part of the season with good hatches and usually good dry fly sport. As it happens, with this Siberian weather, my diary ended up clearer than normal, bringing opportunities to get out fishing myself. The flip side is that if conditions are bad enough to cause cancellations then they're not going to be ideal to venture out on my own. I couldn't muster the will to go out on opening day, but sat at home feeling sorry for myself and pondering my options I dreamt up a theory...

The problem was the biting cold easterly wind and freezing cold water temperatures. This was sure to put a stop to hatches and feeding trout. My theory was 2 fold; the easy bit was finding a sheltered stretch of river out of the wind - a few options there. Clearly water temperature is impossible to work around, you might think, but I had a cunning plan! I know a certain urban stream that is reasonably sheltered and.... the bulk of the flow in the stream issues from a sewage works! Nice! OK not nice, but surely this would raise the temperature a little and might just make a difference at this most unusual of starts to a trout season. OK it's a long shot but it might just work and so off I went at a time that I thought should coincide with any Large Dark Olive (LDO) hatch.
I tackled up with my Hardy Lightweight 7' #3 and my new Tenkara Centre UK 11' Masu Rod. The former for dry flies and traditional upstream nymphing and the later for nymphing the deeper pools. I set off upstream fishing with nymphs using both rods, alternating between the two as required. The first two pools drew a blank; no fish and no hatch and doubts started to filter into my head. I crossed the river and headed upstream, but stopped dead in my tracks. There in a long glide was my first rise of the season. Deep drifted snow on the banks, snow falling lightly and a bitter NE wind and there was a rising fish!!! I stood there a good few minutes waiting for a repeat, but he didn't show again so I moved on, but now feeling slightly better - at least I'd seen a rise.
One on the Masu Rod
First trout of the 2013 season on my new
Tenkara Centre UK Masu Rod
I fished quickly through numerous pools, taking a little longer over the deeper, more promising ones, all the time looking for signs of a LDO hatch. I came to a pool that I know holds fish and usually a few decent ones. I waited there a while, staring at the water, scanning for flies and rises. If there was going to be fish rising this would be the pool, but nothing was prepared to stick its head out into the freezer. I decided this pool was best left alone completely. If a hatch did happen I'd leg it back ASAP and capitalise, hopefully, and so I pressed on upstream.
The next pool was made for nymphing with tenkara. With various flows and channels a tenkara rod would allow me to lift all my line from the surface and let my nymph drift freely down each. And so it was that my first trout of 2013 came to the Masu Rod on a pink tungsten bead nymph. The line just stopped and I instinctively lifted. In a few weeks time I'd expect the pull of a fish but this fish came as a surprise. It was a good fish, one I'd be happy with all season, but a cracker to get off the mark with. The rest of the pool was empty and again I pressed on upstream. It was then I saw my first LDO, drifting downstream through shallow water, this was followed by a rise further upstream and another LDO - the hatch had started! If I stopped now I'd consider it a success in the conditions - 2 rises, 2 LDO's and a first trout of the season.
Rising trout
Trout rising in the snow indicated by the arrow. The
streaks are falling snow! (click to enlarge)
I fished a couple of decent looking pools with half a mind to return to the pool I'd 'saved' and reap any rewards that might come from the sparse hatch. I saw no more flies, or rising fish, and the water was starting to get too shallow I felt, so I did turn around. In the glide above the pool I was heading for was another rise and now more LDO's. Again I waited and watched as the flies hatched, but the trout weren't playing so I pressed on to my target pool. Immediately I could see trout rising, at least 4 of them towards the tail, taking a steady trickle of LDO's. My hands were cold and it seemed to take an age to swap to a dry fly leader, tie on my Jingler dry fly and get into position. The down and across wind made casting slightly awkward, but by aiming off target the wind would do the rest, placing the fly on the right line two casts out of three.
Best fish of the day on a Jingler. Note the
ultra-portable Masu tenkara rod
stuffed down the waders & Greys Strata
Quilted Jacket - perfect for this Siberian
I lost the first fish. I think it was down to the rod! A poor workman always blames his tools I hear you cry. You're right, it wasn't the rod as such, it's just softer than I'm used to and I don't think I hit it hard enough on the strike to set the hook. There was no such mistake with the second fish - a lesser fish would have been on the bank behind me! This was a good trout and he took my weigh net down to just over 1½lb and there were others rising. I made the same mistake with trout 3, which after a brief splash about dropped off the hook (it's the first trip of the season and I'm allowed to be somewhat rusty!). I landed the fourth, and probably the smallest of the day, before moving off downstream towards my waiting car, but still on the lookout for further rising fish.
The pool in which I'd seen that first rise of the day still had trout rising to the LDO's which were persisting with their attempts to get airborne*. I dropped into the river and caught my last trout of the day, still on the same Jingler dry fly, and called it a day, more than satisfied with my lot in such Siberian conditions: a good hatch, rising fish, 4 landed and 2 lost all in just over 2 hours fishing.
A Large Dark Olive sits on my waders
probably glad of the warmth!
So was my theory about shelter and water temperature the reason for my success? Well I think the fact that this stream is protected from the wind was definitely a factor. Had that bitterly cold north easterly been hitting the river then I think it would have been a non-starter. As for sewage works and water temperature I doubt it, but it certainly worked for my confidence and confidence is everything in fishing. But who knows...?
*Interestingly, I didn't see a single LDO in the air all day despite seeing in the region of 30 to 50 on the water. I think it was just too cold for them to get off the water and they were easy pickings for the lethargic trout. There's an important lesson there, i.e. the nicest of weather is often the poorest for dry fly fishing, because the flies hatch and get off the water too quickly to be taken; conversely, the worst of weather is often better for dry fly because the newly hatched flies are on the surface (and available) longer.