Every season around this time my fishing seems to hit a wall. Much like the amateur marathon runner who, after 16 miles of enjoyable running (is that even possible?) finds it hard to continue and has no enthusiasm to keep going. My wall is less to do with leg cramps and fitness issues, more to do with sunny weather, family commitments, gardening to be done, and most significantly a case of fly fishing over load from earlier in the season.
It happens every year, the season finally arrives after months of anticipation and I come out the block like Usain Bolt; 2 or 3 sessions a week, over the moon to be finally out on the river and wetting a line.
Fishing Over Dose
The season hots up and I get more and more into it, March Browns and Mayflies abound, trout going nuts, happy days indeed. We then get to the end of July, there’s a lull in the fly hatches and I suddenly loose a little enthusiasm. The urge to drag myself off to the river is lost and I miss a week then two, before I know where I am the season is coming to a close and I cram in as many trips as I can before it’s time to down tools.
What I needed was something to kick start my season again…
The perfect tonic
The week before last I received an email from my good friend Phil to say he was hoping to book an guide for an evenings fishing on the Derwent, and would I fancy joining him?
This was the perfect tonic to get me back on the river, an evening being show some new techniques and hopefully some improvements to the things I think I already know.
The guide Phil booked was Jon Barnes. Most of you will have seen the great videos Jon puts onto YouTube, several of these are filmed on the Derwent, others on the Tees. Jon also has a website to provide a little more info about himself and his guiding services – onstream-guide.com.
After a few emails back and forth, we booked for last Friday evening. During the email exchanges Jon passed on details of what we’d be doing, the techniques we’d learn and asked if we wanted to cover anything specific. He also enquired about our abilities and tackle so he had an idea of what to expect.
We set a venue, The Sneep, and a time. To say I was looking forward to it would be an understatement. As coincidence would have it the following Monday was my birthday, so present sorted!
We met up at the small dirt lay by at the bottom of The Sneep (see the map at the foot of this post), there was just enough room for three cars so the tackling up begun. Jon talked Phil and I through the evening, sharing with us some killer flies for the Derwent, and providing us with the furled leaders we’d be learning all about later in the evening.
Dinner for 300
As all this was going on, we couldn’t help noticing the fly life all around us. Not fly life that fills you with anticipation and the knowledge there will be a hatch on the river of biblical proportions. No, the fly life around us was the type that covers you in red dots as the little bleeders eat you alive within minutes.
We finished up going through the evenings objectives, covered ourselves with jungle formula and headed off to the river.
My goal was to learn how to fish nymphs more effectively, especially gaining the confidence to fish duo’s through the pocket water I often saunter past on my way to the more obvious fish holding pools further on.
Jon creeping up on some midges
The river was very low, understandably as we’ve not been blessed with much rain recently (I’m not complaining!) with no fish showing at first look. We headed down stream and began with a few casts in likely spots to let Jon see what he’d let himself in for. This was followed by lots of great info on French Nymphing.
Duo confidence boost
Moving back upstream I put on a dry on the dropper (in all my years fly fishing, this was the first time I’d ever used a dropper) with one of Jons black magic nymphs on the point. Casting into the tail of the pool I immediately raised (and missed) a fish on the dry. A few more casts and a couple of missed takes I decided to target a fish I’d see rising a few yards further down stream. First cast and I was on the money, waiting for the dry to disappear in a splash I was surprised to see it slide quickly under the surface without any drama. I lifted into the take expecting a 6″ trout to be on the other end. I was a little out with my estimations, what I’d hooked into was 1.5lbs of fitting fit Derwent brownie! He gave a good account of himself, towing the line around the pool, eventually giving in to the net. We thought he looked like a stockie, I didn’t think stock fish went in this far upstream so he must have had a long swim!
What a looker, and the fisherman’s not bad either
We carried on along the river, Jon pointed out likely locations in the pocket water for the duo to score – each time he was proved correct.
More midges, helping themselves
The midges were relentless in their pursuit of fresh meat. After dowsing myself in deet they’d hang back a couple of feet, hovering out of reach and waiting until the fly spray faded. Soon as it had they were back on it, biting away and giving me more spots than a Dalmatian with measles.
Phil and Jon target rising fish
I also spent equal parts of my time fishing and retying my fly/tippet through my keenness to catch trees rather than fish – much to Phil and Jons amusement!
More new techniques shown, more fish caught. Watching the brownies chasing a small black lure across a pool was something I didn’t think I’d get so much enjoyment out of, what an incredibly effective method that is for water that has no obvious appeal to a fly fisherman.
We finished the evenings fishing with Phil and me leapfrogging upstream through a boulder strewn stretch of the river, perfect duo water. We both caught fish using methods we’d previously not tried, and certainly improved our existing skills no end.
Cracking evenings fishing
Fishing done (it was after 10pm!) we headed back to the cars. The evening ended with a good chin wag and a very welcome bottle of beer, kindly supplied by Phil. The midges on the other hand had not finished their evening just yet, and took a good few lumps out of me before I left.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, and would happily recommend anyone thinking about booking a guide on the Derwent get in touch with Jon.