The concensus amongst the general public is that we anglers are a patient bunch, sitting quietly by a pond, idling away the hours and getting glassy eyed and poetic about Reed Warblers, bubbles and mist. Not this angler. This angler is patient on a far greater scale and if you too are a committed running water fly fisher you’ll know why. I’ve been patient for the last 29 days while the country has dealt with storm after storm and flood upon flood. It’s been a catastrophic six weeks for many and the turmoil experienced by those affected by the floods helped to contextualise my own malaise.
That said is has been really frustrating to not have chucked fluff for the best part of a month – my longest break in a while.
Patience is a virtue they say and after waiting, watching it rain endlessly and checking the weather forecast over and over the unseasonably warm and wet weather finally abated. The river level fell to a nearly acceptable level and I couldn’t resist any longer – time to dust off the cobwebs and get among some Grayling!
The morning was beautiful, the wind low and the forecast fair. The river was a few inches higher than I was comfortable with but very very clear and the gravel had a bright golden hue that is only seen after a heavy fresh. Fresh, infact, is the perfect word to describe the river valley environment after a flood as the heavy waters wash away the bankside decay of a season past and leave behind a blank canvas for the Spring to paint how and when she sees fit.
This was no time for misty eyed reflection however – there were grayling to catch and the anticipation as I climbed down in the water for the first time in a long time sent a tingle down my spine. Then down my arse, then my leg. And it wasn’t a tingle, more of a trickle and the deeper I waded the worse it got. By trial and error I established roughly where the leak in my waders was coming from and decided that anywhere past the nether regions was too deep. A fine start.
Finally, the first lob of a nymph rig across the river was carefully lined up, the point fly hitting the middle of the rod blank so hard that the “thwack” of tungsten on carbon spooked a coot which was nestled in the reeds to my right. I put the horrid technique and the resulting tangle down to nervous tension and cracked on with some newly tied droppers – more than one cast with a rig is just greedy, right?!
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They say that the key to learning any new physical activity is repetition and if that’s the case then I’ll be plucking invisible flies out of invisible branches in my sleep for months. That first hour or so was a chastening experience as four weeks of rust grated on my technique and on occasion tested my patience. Ever thrown the same rig in to the same branch four times in a row? I hadn’t either until today and might not again since I took it upon myself to remove the branch from its location and hurl it 40 feet on to the bank.
There I was on my home water with a gorgeous river full of grayling and not only could I not hit any takes from fish but quite often I couldn’t even hit the river with my flies. After a while I began to see the humour in the situation and as I laughed the rust began to fall away. Flies that had pinged in to foliage were now being pinned in to fish and slowly but surely it all came back to me.
The grayling were sat hard on the clean gravel and didn’t move from there all day – even after a good few hours of relatively warm sunshine – which meant heavy bugs and beaded nymphs were the order of the day, perfect when your technique isn’t quite on point. With all the weed and gunge washed away the flies ticked over the gravel and as soon as that ticking stopped the game was up and another fish was fooled – this was the kind of basic angling I needed!
I haven’t managed to turn off the trout magnet – it’s been a real issue through the whole of the grayling season but I’m certain that come the start of the season that will change! I had just released a brownie when a friendly chap with a fly rod stopped for a natter on the other bank. “You’re very impressive with that french leader” he said, ” I’ve never seen one cast so far before”. I chose not to tell him I had a few ounces of metal on the end… Reassured that everything was now functioning properly and having caught plenty of fish I took this as my cue to pack up.
Whether it’s a few weeks, months or years since you last picked up a fly rod – don’t worry! We all get a little rusty, as the trees of Derbyshire will testify today, but that’s all it is, a little rust. Work through it, enjoy the process and take any little progress as a victory and before long it’ll all come back to you. Remember though, the longer you leave it the worse it will get so grab that rod and get out there!