With long months ahead before the '09 season starts, I have been looking through the pictures and notes from last season and found this. It perfectly captures the magic of small stream fishing, in pursuit of wild, brown trout. This is a favoutite pool, only a couple of inches deep before slipping in to over three feet, tight against the far, overgrown bank where trout lie tight against submerged tree roots. Rather than cast (in a formal sense) you can only present a dry fly by flicking across the current, with a semi-roll cast. It isn't pretty, but it works at the expense of pure aesthetics.
I caught my PB of the '07 season at the head of this pool in a falling spate. Positioned upstream, I drifted a tiny nymph in to the head of the pool and was rewarded with a hard fighting trout of just over 14"
This season saw trout between 8" - 12" from the pool on #18 - #22 parachute dries.
It will be an early destination as soon as March '09 arrives, until then I can reflect on the good days of this Summer. Thanks to Cal for capturing my endeavours for future enjoyment. Here he is demonstraing his relaxed roll casting style a little further downstream.
He showed me up on this pool, catching three wild, trout using his proven method of a #16 Black Pennel, fished down and across. He's a wee star...
I've just entered my first fly swap. The idea's simple enough, a set number of tiers (40 in this case) each tie a set number of identical flies and then each contributor receives one of each submission. Deadline in this case is 14th February 2009.
This is quite an undertaking for me, in terms of time and materials. With eight down, and 32 to go there remains much to do, but I've started early and will be done in advance of Christmas. I started by preparing most of the materials, enough to tie the first half any how. I've to order extra turkey biot and another box of hooks, but the plan is going well so far.
Another issue is fly selection. There is a broad range of tiers and fishers involved, so I decided my usual style of small, simple stuff may not actually be that useful to most contributors, and I want every contributor to catch fish with my submission. So I've begun tying forty #16 Klinkhammers, each with a mylar ribbed, turkey biot body - a proven fish taker. The addition of a mylar rib adds another 45 seconds to each fly, but the effect is worth it. Peacock glister dubbing also provides a resilient thorax so each fly can take more than one fish. Size 16 is probably a mid-range size for many, small for some and massive by my fishing standards.
See also "Fade To Black" on Blackwiz Records, Brooklyn, NY (BWR9601) a Sandy Riviera production and now a rare, classic. Nothing did, or will ever sound this good on the right night, in the right company and on a killer system...
The last trip of the season is always a time for reflection, and October 18th upheld this tradition perfectly. It was a day to rediscover the magic of the season's adventures, on familiar water with trusted tackle and approach. I heard a John Gierach interview recently where he said something along the lines of, "as fly fisherman, we believe our sport is deeply meaningful. Until that is, we try to describe why it is deeply meaningful, and then it simply becomes fly fishing again..." These sentiments resonate with me.
The day started on the upper reaches of the R. Bush, a mere 3 or 4 miles from home. I know this water well, where the trout are and how to seduce them. I am never in a rush with so much natural beauty surrounding me and it was good to take the time to absorb the early morning scene, as the sun rose, with the half moon still looming in the morning sky.
First off, I sat and watched as a pod of trout, maybe a dozen or so strong I guess, sipped at the surface below a low hanging branch, in smooth, steady water. I love this pool because it demands higher standards of presentation from me than the faster, broken water elsewhere. With a DT2F, 9' leader and #20 black/pink klinkhammer fishing form a low stoop at the tip of the gravel bar, I was able to take four trout between 9" and 12" by working from the edge of the feeding zone to just below the low hanging branch. Keeping the rod low and applying firm side pressure, it is possible to hustle your catch away without breaking the surface.
These trout are amazing. The peaty water, and over grown bankside vegetation has dulled their colouration, such that as they are released, their black backs seem to evaporate in to the water, very different to the golden, buttery trout of the more open pools downstream.
With trout still rising freely, I moved upstream to darker, more overgrown water that holds an almost eery quality. This is an old river, much diminished in size since the building on the Altnahinch dam during the 1960's. Even in high water, the bones of this once large river are exposed and it's now stream status adds to a sense of history.
It was time to change tactics, to move in closer and get in among the trout. Uplining to a DT3F and 7' leader gives more control at short range. As the trees close in around you, the value of garish, but highly effective florescent wing posts is proven. With little surface activity, I stood thigh deep in cold, dark water and considered my next move. Along the far bank, and less then 20' away, the current slicked past more low hanging trees. Releasing line to carry the fly downstream enabled me to roll cast on target and as the fly, another #20 black/pink klinkhammer landed, a darkened 10" trout immediately struck. I have never experienced this before, a first cast in to a pool resulting in a fish, and it was thrilling.
For over an hour, the sport was thick and fast. On two occasions, having lost sight of the fly, I raised the rod to find a trout had taken my fly. Fishing in such tight quarters is never easy, and I estimate I lost maybe six of my neatest, prettiest tiny flies in the process. But hey, I have an entire closed season ahead of me to refill the box.
Again moving upstream, this was the scene as I emerged from the darkness in to the warmth of an early Autumn morning.
Just beyond the right-hand bend above is this wonderful, pacy pool. For the first time this season, I fished a tiny biot-bodied nymph and enjoyed three hook-ups, none of which I netted. In lower water, this is a wonderful dry fly pool as the current bounces over the shallows and trout can be taken in little more then 6" of depth on tiny parachutes, ants and beetles.
The morning ended about a mile from where it started, with more missed strikes and maybe half a dozen more trout up to just over 12". It was possible to get close-in, maybe 12' below the sun-bathed tree (below), and pick off trout as the current pulled and turned.
I returned home to fresh eggs for breakfast and an appreciation that the season was nearly over. At 17:15 I realised I had maybe 90 minutes of sensible daylight left and suggested to Nic that this really was my last chance to get on the water. Her raised eyebrow suggested Nic never had any intention of denying me...
At 18:20 I stood knee-deep in Roy's tiny burn, the scene of so much pure magic throughout the season. At 18:20 something substantial lunged at my #22 all-black dry but was never hooked. Moving steadily upstream through these familiar pools brought numerous, lightning fast strikes and maybe half a dozen hook-ups. The closest I got to catching a trout was in the last pool of the season, as a 6" golden trout skimmed across my palm before disappearing forever.
High water on the burn after heavy rain during the previous week, at normal levels this is a series of beautiful pools and runs, gliding between the rocks and weed growthand a mere 8 - 12' wide. The trout are still there, but they have lessons to teach me this evening.
At 19:40, in failing light the season ended for me. There was a strange poetry in the failure to catch during this last short, session. During the preceding months I had enjoyed good, regular sport, and returning home my respect for these wild, small stream trout was crystallised. And so was the sense that this style of fly fishing, short rods, ultra-light lines and tiny flies is about as good as it gets. It is something so deeply meaningful to me that I will not diminish it by trying to explain why this is so....
Thanks again to the guardian, Roy Christie and the dude-in-the-stream, Marc Fauvet for the magic times this season.
With a report on this season last trip still to write, here is more fly tying, an activity that will fill the long, dark Winter evenings ahead. I got a good deal this Summer on a couple of packs of Partridge K1A Vince Marinaro midge hooks. These are true small fly hooks, designed specifically for this application with an off-set bend to aid success. At this scale, I at least have limited options but the biot-bodied nymphs below is a cynch to tie and makes for a real pretty fly. A little micro Krystal flash for a tail adds all important flash at this scale. This is a #26, as small as I dare go (the eyes are still recovering...)
I have only very recently discovered peccary, via Peter Smith at Niche Products. This course, barred bristle makes amazing, segmented bodies and is very strong to make for confident tying. A new addition is the minimal trailing shuck to serve as an a additional trigger. Another Niche product.
What self-respecting trout would refuse this fly? I'll have to wait to at least 1st March 09 to find out, but my money is on this being a killer...
For more information about Niche products range of fly tying materials please visit www.nicheflytying.com and feel free to contact Peter Smith by telephone or email (details on his site) for first class advice and service. He is very particular about the materials offered, so be assured of the very best quality available and advice based on over 35 years fly tying experience.
Final fishing report of the season to follow, Fade To Black...