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The pleasure of anticipation . . .
and eventual reward

By Mike Pratt

This was the first day on the river for this year, and a miserable start to the day it turned out to be. Typical start of the season stuff this, cold, wet and windy! The Gods' seem to be able to tell with unerring certainty the precise moment that I intend to start my fishing for the season. Although the start from home was uninviting to say the least, when I arrived on the river bank things did not seem quite so bad. Of course this could be ascribed to the enthusiasm of one who can't wait to cast a fly upon the water being able to inure himself to the conditions prevailing with a stoicism of one who knows that things cannot get any worse.

It was my first sight of the river since the end of last season, and what a delightful surprise it turned out to be. The water level was the highest that I could remember, possibly similar to the level of that in the year that I first fished these beats - 1986.

After the poor levels and sluggish flow of the last few years it was a joy to see that the deep water and fast current had scoured the mud and silt off the bottom exposing gravel patches and allowing large clumps of weed to grow. I am not certain what effect this will have on the fly hatches during the year, we shall have to wait and see. The amount of water that was about can be gauged by the fact that when the keeper on the 'opposition' bank appeared during the afternoon, he was walking on the bank where the rods usually stood, but wading in water.

As it was my first outing of the year, I decided to play safe and cast the first fly in my old and favoured spot - down at the south end of the island opposite the Horse Chestnut trees. Although the water was slightly cloudy I could make out one or two small fish lying well out near the far bank. The usual place for trout. Too far to get at easily with the prevailing wind conditions!

I watched for some considerable time but saw no sign of any movement which could, with any amount of generous interpretation, be construed as a trout feeding. Not a flicker. I thought to encourage these moribund creatures a little, and with that aim tied on a Blue-winged Olive pattern, a Pheasant-tail, and cast it over their heads. A momentary tilt of the head, a quick, almost shy sideways glance was the only reaction. Clearly these piscatory creatures were not yet in the mood to play. It appears to be my lot to encounter trout such as these with a regularity bordering on ennui.

As the wind was beginning to strike chilly, funneling its way up through the gap between the trees over the old railway bridge, I decided to move up-stream onto the carrier above the boathouse where I had been informed "there are fish", it was also a very sheltered and pleasingly warm spot. There were several trouts to be seen but only one evincing interest in food. This chap was lying right under the far bank above the Ash tree - under which I had caught my first fish on these beats long ago - and between two large tussocks of grass. There was only an occasional rise but it was worthwhile having a go at putting a fly to it. Unfortunately my first cast snagged the fly on the up-stream tussock and the subsequent commotion caused in my retrieval of said fly persuaded this timid fish to remove itself off down-stream in disgusting haste.

Whilst contemplating the river at this stage I noticed that there were very few flies coming off the water - some Blue-winged Olives and what looked like a few Iron Blues. It was possibly still a bit too cold for most of them to put in an appearance. Wise flies.

Looking up-stream above the footbridge opposite the fishing hut I could see one or two small ripples from something breaking the surface now and again. I thought that it was likely to be a grayling but decided to move up for a closer inspection just in case. It was good to see such a depth of water in the carrier there and in it several trouts and a few grayling. It was a grayling that I had seen rising to take the odd fly, the trouts were not moving.

In the afternoon about two thirty, after the sun had warmed things up a bit, joy of joys, a hatch of Blue-winged Olives started. This was the first real hatch that I had seen on the beats in recent years and it brought back some very pleasant memories indeed. The sight of those duns floating down-stream in lines, one after the other, made the whole day worthwhile.

Almost immediately a trout started to feed and with my Pheasant-tail at the ready I cast to what appeared to be a good looking fish that was rising just where the carrier divides. As soon as the fly came within its vision it took it. Splendid. The first of the season. It put up a bit of a spirited fight but I soon managed to bring it to the net. As I put the net under to lift it out of the water I realized that in my excitement I had failed to tighten the handle of my net. The handle was about to part company from the net!

It is at moments such as these that a stout heart and a bout of blind panic are required. A combination of these two resulted in me releasing the trout out of the net - but still on the rod - pulling the net in with one hand, tightening the lock-nut in very short order and getting it back in the water under the somewhat perplexed trout. A good fish at just on a pound and a half, but I could do with a little less excitement the next time. Luckily the wild flaying about had not disturbed the other fish and I was able to cast to another one which was feeding further up-stream. This one took the fly first time and then went berserk for a couple of minutes, rushing up and down and leaping well clear of the water after the manner of a Rainbow. When I did land it, a stock Brown, it weighed in at two pounds.

Almost as suddenly as it had started, the hatch stopped and fish ceased feeding. It is quite amazing how rapidly this occurs leaving one contemplating a flat, dead looking river.

Before I left for home at four o'clock I saw a solitary Mayfly come off the water and a Mallard duck with four ducklings swimming up-stream past the cottage but nothing else disturbed the scene or water's surface.

All in all it was not too bad a start to the season, and I heard the first Cuckoo. ~ Mike Pratt

More Fly Fishing in Europe:
Zulu's - By Alan the Highlander
Teal Blue Variant - By Alan the Highlander
Green Highlander - By Alan the Highlander
North Donegal, Ireland - By Arthur Greenwood
Marble Trout in Slovenia - By Tomaz Modic
Red and Cinnamon Sedge - By Alan Goodwin
Rogan of Donegal - By Arthur Greenwood
Bug Tank Benefits - By Peter Lapsley
River Piddle, U.K. - By Paul Slaney
A Day on the River Test By Mike Pratt
Ladyís Fish Finder Fly By Mike Pratt
Cast Again? - By Mike Pratt
Just Good to be There - By Mike Pratt
Why Fish? - By Mike Pratt
The pleasure of anticipation . . . - By Mike Pratt
A Pleasant and Surprising Day - By Mike Pratt
Donít duck the issue! - By Mike Pratt
To Russia with Love - By Ron Gras
Just Simple Pleasure - By Mike Pratt
Rich - Beyond the Dreams of Avarice - By Mike Pratt
The Good Place (Ireland) - By Jim Clarke
The Elusive Lake - By Jim Clarke
The Big Rod - By Jim Clarke
The Bank Manager's Fish - By Jim Clarke
Catch and Release . . .or not - By Jim Clarke
Fish On Half a Rod - By Jim Clarke
Sockeye the Easy Way - By Jim Clarke
The Odd Couple - By Jim Clarke
Fly Fishing Scotland - By Franz Grimley
The Artist - By Jim Clarke
One to Remember - By Jim Clarke
The Italian Secret - By Ralph Shuey
Opening Day on an English Chalk Stream - By Roger Ellis
Kolpakova River, Western Russia - By Rob Merrill
Fishing in the Czech Republic - By Tim Baldwin
2004 Fishing Season in the Czech Republic - By Tim Baldwin

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