During my first four days back home I was kept very busy working on programmes and my new book. Come Tuesday I was back on the river Ribble with Stephen Ainscow to record some material for my At The Waters Edge programme - BBC Radio Lancashire Thursday evenings at 7-30pm Saturday mornings at 6-00 am and shortly to be available on the Internet. Of course I would do some fishing but it wasn't the best of weather. We had to contend with a very cold easterly wind blowing downstream. Not a single fly could be seen.
Under these conditions you can fish two styles of angling. Wet fly fishing down and across and upstream nymph fishing. Both styles of fishing will work with upstream nymphing probably the more productive style.
Fishing a team of wet flies is a style of angling that has been practised on northern rivers for many years. Fish an Orange Partridge on the point then tie in one or two short droppers to which attach a Snipe and Purple or Waterhen Bloa. There are other patterns you can use but those three patterns should make a good team..
Another good fly to fish on the point is a Black & Peacock Spider. The Black and Peacock can also be fished on its own, either wet or as a dry fly. I suppose if I could only have one fly pattern, then that choice would probably be the B&P Spider. The way these wet flies are often fished is by casting across and downstream allowing the flies to drift across the current coming to rest down stream on the dangle - often you will find a fish grabbing hold at this point. I think what happens is, as the line tightens, the fly lifts in a natural manner and the trout grabs hold.
Some anglers seem to think that upstream nymphing is a new style of fishing. Not really, it's been around for a long time and it's a very good way of angling. Some of the nymphs I have found effective are Pheasant Tail, Mayfly, Damsel Fly, Stonefly and Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear. When I choose to fish an upstream nymph I only fish one nymph and not a team. The tackle I usually use is a nine foot, four or five weight rod with a double taper floating line to which I attach a nine foot leader with a three pound point. Several of my friends who do a lot of wet fly and nymph fishing use a ten foot rod, feeling they have more control and no doubt they are right. All my flies are barbless patterns, I don't carry a landing net, I just run my fingers down the leader then slip out the barbless hook.
When fishing the upstream nymph I cover every likely looking spot, casting a few yards upstream then retrieving the line as the nymph trundles downstream at all times keeping in touch with the nymph. After fishing out the cast, I then take a step upstream and repeat the process. This is also an excellent way to catch grayling. If, like me, your eyesight is a bit poor then mark the end of the fly line where it meets the leader with a tiny ball of orange Biostrike. It helps me spot those gentle takes and it will help you. When fishing your nymph do not neglect running the nymph alongside big rocks, fish often wait just downstream and out of the mainstream waiting for food items to drift bye.
The Fish Grab A Dry Fly
Back on the river Ribble I decided I didn't want to fish those two mentioned styles of angling, I wanted to fish a dry fly despite no flies coming off. I decided to follow Stephen's example. He was fishing a dry fly and catching despite the lack of insects coming off the water. After a chat with Stephen he gave me a Klinkhamen Special
"Try that" he said.
I made my way upstream to where I had seen a fish rise to the surface some time before. Casting upstream and across I watched the fly drift downstream. Nothing happened. I made another cast still nothing happened. The fish didn't want to eat. On my fourth and final cast the fly drifted ten feet, then disappeared, leaving a small ripple to spread in ever-widening circles. I tightened and a good fish was hooked. I quickly bought the fish in close, then bent down and unhooked a nice brown of about fourteen inches and watched it swim away. It hadn't been touched by hand.
During the next hour I had three more fish - two on a dry fly, the other on an Eric's beetle fished just an inch under the surface. It then got to the stage where it was so cold I decided I had had enough of this winter fishing in May.
Wednesday I was on the river Ribble upstream of Mitton Bridge, known as the Edisford Hall estates fishery with river keeper Ivan Duxbury. I had come armed with frying pans, eggs, bacon, potatoes etc etc as I would be cooking lunch today. I was also going to record a programme about the fishing available on this fishery. For just twenty pounds a day you can fish for browns and seatrout with salmon fishing at thirty pounds a day. A season permit costs three hundred pounds.
After a mug of tea and chat with Ivan I got kitted out in chest high waders and fly fishing vest. I then made up a four weight rod with a double taper line and attached a nine foot leader with a nail knot. A few olives were coming off, so I chose a size 14 Olive pattern. Clipping on a throat mike, I made my way upstream, recording my thoughts and telling the listeners all about the fishing on this delightful stretch of the river Ribble in the Ribble Valley in the delightful countryside of Lancashire.
Arriving at the Pipe Bridge swim I met up with Ivan. He pointed and said "Go up to the stile then work your way downstream so you can get below that fish, you might have a chance" I did just as Ivan suggested.
Some forty feet below where the fish was seen I waded slowly and carefully out into the stream. Pulling off some line I made a couple of false casts then let the fly drop some six feet upstream of the fish. It was a perfect drift but no offer. On the third drift I had the perfect take, one you couldn't really miss. I tightened a good fish was on, it stayed deep then moved upstream. All the time I was telling my listeners what was happening - I did say, if it wasn't a good brown trout it might be a chub, then I thought perhaps it might be an early seatrout. After some minutes I started to gain some line. It was certainly a fit fish, it had even taken a few feet of line which is unusual with river trout. When I spotted the fish I realised I had got something special. It was a brown trout of twenty one or twenty two inches. That's a big river trout! It wasn't a stocked fish.
Bending down I ran my fingers down the line then removed the barbless hook; the fish disappeared with a flick of its tail. What a super fish. I had three more fish then decided it was time for lunch. After lunch I sat in the cabin reading the Daily Telegraph before hitting the river once more. I had several more fish, all taken on a size 14 Olive pattern. At five o'clock I decided to call it a day.
If you're interested in fishing this water call River Keeper Ivan Duxbury on 07973-268131.
Thursday I was booked to record a programme at Barnsfold Water near Chipping in the shadow of Beacon Fell. It's a two lake trout fishery of about twenty two acres where you can buy a full day, half day or sporting ticket. For further details telephone Frank or Richard Casson on 01995-61583.
Frank was going to teach coarse fisherman Mike Osborn from Cumbria the basics of casting and answer dozens of question that Mike would no doubt have. I was the fly on the wall, all I had to do was record all what was said. My job would start back in the studio when I had to edit all the recorded material. It was a fascinating day watching and listening to Frank and Mike practising the casting and discussing all aspects of stillwater trout fishing.
After lunch Mike went back to the waters edge to practise his casting. When I caught up with him later in the afternoon, he was fishing a fly pattern that represented a Hawthorn fly.
"How are you getting on Mike?" I asked
"Not bad Martin, I've had three takes but missed them all, This fly fishing is certainly very addictive".
It was about five pm when I arrived home; I was ready for a mug of tea and some food. Tomorrow and the weekend I would be in the studio working a ten to twelve hour days but it had been nice to get out into the countryside.