Sunday, 10 June 2012

High Water: Time for the 'Garden Fly'.

High and murky.
The weather over the last week has been, from the trout angler's perspective, frustrating. In fact, the whole season has been so far. First there's no water at all, and now far too much! Still, at least it'll be giving the gravel a flush and ridding it of all the horrible green slim which makes wading so hairy in periods of drought. The problem has been that every time the rivers look like dropping, another system blows over and sends them up to their bank again, so yesterday, as expected, the Wharfe was still high and brown, with all manner of god knows what being carried downstream.

What's a guy to do? Well, if an angler is willing to abandon the aesthetics of the fly in favour of something altogether more practical, there's still fish to be caught. During this flood periods, trout will gather along with all manner of fish in the slacks and back eddies, feasting on a banquet of slugs, catepillars, worms and whatever else is washed into the river. So, the intrepid trout botherer must match the hatch. This found me in my garden yesterday morning, hastily digging up as many worms as I could before my mother (not a sympathiser with the angler's plight) discovered what I was doing to her beloved lawn. I then took my time in getting the rest of my gear together, allowing myself several cups of tea and a lengthy breakfast before eventually leaving to catch the train at about 11 o'clock. I was in no rush the reach the bank, for the longer the river had to drop, the better.

By the time I arrived at the river, thanks to one of Northern Rail's daily cock ups, it was well past lunchtime, and the river in front of me was in a far worse state than I had initially envisaged. In most places it was tearing past, and there was water in places I'd never seen water before. The bank behind me wash strewn with debris, and the vegetation had obviously been steamrollered by the current over the previous days. This could be tricky - I would have to pick my spots carefully and fish well. The set up could not have been more straight forward. 5lb line straight through, with a single swan shot pinched about a foot above a size 6 hook baited with a juicy lobworm. Tentatively I began to place searching casts here and there. Many fly anglers would have you believe worming is a mindless 'chuck it and chance it' technique... the fact is most of these people have either never done it or not done it properly! Worming can be a highly enjoyable and thoroughly absorbing way of fishing. You feel every bump and scrape of the bait as you twitch it through the swim, and the rap-rap-rap at the fingers when a fish strikes can be utterly electrifying.

A nice trout to the garden fly!
After a while, halfway through an interesting looking crease in the current, the line halted. I waited a second before twitching the bait to move it along, at which point the rod unexpectedly sprang briefly into life before the line again went slack. Well, there was a chance today then. I moved along in search of new spots to fish -  not easy with so much water about, but there were enough likely places to focus my mind. I came to a deep, steady area beneath an overhanging willow and proceeded to work my worm through. Nothing after a  few minutes, but I was convinced there was a fish to be had, so I set my rod in the rest, lit a cigarette and waited for things to develop. After a while, a twitch.. hmm... a sharp jag on the rod tip - that's the one! I lifted into a strong, satisfying resistance, then the rod sprang straight again. Bugger. I wound in to find the battered, mangled remnants of my worm, but nothing else amiss. I quickly sharpened the hook just to be sure, then made another move to a deep area with a strong crease in the current. I flicked my bait in, and immediately the rod wrenched downwards. A brisk fight followed before a plump brownie around the pound mark surrendered to the net. This was soon followed by another fish of about the same size further upstream after I put my rod in the rest and left the worm fishing under the near bank. Not a bad result for a short session in tricky conditions! Interestingly the mouths of both fish were stuffed with caterpillars, presumable washed in from low hanging trees.

A fine brace of Wharfe trout - a reasonable reward on a tricky day.

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