After looking to get out for a few hours on the river all week, I finally made it yesterday evening. The weather report for the weekend wasn’t looking great, and my wife is out on the lash with the girls all night Friday so Thursday was going to be my last chance for a while.
I’ve been to Lintzford quite a bit over recent weeks, so decided a a change was in order. Heading through Hamsterly I turned right just after the Low Westwood signs, down the hill turning right onto the dirt track and parked up next to the football pitch 50 yards further on.
This was one of the first places I fished when I joined the DAA – I have fond memories of catching every tree, bush, weed and blade of grass along the half mile stretch. I very occasionally caught the odd fish back then too.
You know what they say about Bankers…
The pool in the bottom left corner of the football field was always a banker – I could rely on there being fish there and rarely came away without at least raising one to a dry. The fish in this pool always seemed to be that bit bigger than everywhere else on the Derwent too. As I tacked up I wondered how many fish would be sipping their dinner off the broken waters surface, would I be better with a bright post parachute fly, or something a little more traditional.
Marching diagonally across the footie pitch, I was a little surprised by the height of the weeds and nettles along the backside, things have really shot up over the last week or two – I’m reasonably tall and these things were well past waist height. Certainly not the well manicured banks of a southern chalk stream!
Negotiating my way into the banker pool, all the while trying not to get stung to bits by the nettles probably made me look like a right ballerina, but after threading my way through I eventually got to the water. There before me was the river, decent height and flowing nicely. What didn’t seem to be evident was the random splashes of trout dining on the evenings hatch. That’s not right, thought I, this place always has fish rising! I ran my chosen dry fly through the pool a few times, nowt.
The water downstream of me was quite calm before another riffle section after a couple of hundred yards. further down stirred the water up again. Whilst casually gazing into the distance day dreaming about where the fish were, I noticed one or to ripples in the calm water – so there were fish in, just not taking flies where I was.
I noticed one of the ripple patterns was quite a bit more substantial than the rest – not only that, but this one was like no rising fish I’d seen on the Derwent before. Rather than the Exocet (which means ‘fly fish’ in French by the way) like little brownies that launch out of the river at a passing fly, or the splashy fly drowning rises we often see, this one was a steady rolling dorsal fin first then tail fin rise. This was no small fish, this was a big lad.
Trying not to get 3rd degree nettle rash as I clambered up the bank I pondered how best to tackle my assault on Moby Dick. The bank behind him was totally untouched by humans. That means it’s a thick sea of nettles, brambles and thorns. I made my way through (With minimal injuries) until I got to the waters edge, dropped in about 30 feet further down from my quarry.
I kept the Parachute fly on, there were a number of flies coming off the river, most where a similar size to my fly.
First cast and I was a little to the side of where he last made an appearance. Second cast, on the money. Gently keeping pace with the line, the fly made it’s way over the fish and towards me, nothing. Third cast not quite in the right place, but close enough, still nothing.
At this point I decided to wait a moment – see if I’d spoked him or if he was still in a rising mood. I didn’t need long to find out. As I stood up to my waist in water the biggest fish I’d seen on the Derwent casually rolled out the water, dorsal fin first followed by the tail.
A change of fly was in order. Something a little more meaty to appeal to his hearty appetite. I’d not seen any mayflies at that point, but they’d certainly been around during the last week. So I tied one on, hoping he’d remember them and take a chance on mine.
Two false casts and bingo, my fly landed exactly where I wanted it. split second later and SPLOSH! He rose, he took it, I struck. For a second the water around the fly turned a golden brown colour as he thrashed about, clearly not too pleased at his current predicament.
My 9’ 3# streamflex was, pretty much, bent double. He sped up then down the river in front of me taking line and looking indignant.
As the balance of the fight slowly tipped in my favour I reached behind me to get my scoop net. But it wasn’t there. I’d left it in the car. Dick (it was at this point I may have uttered a few more choice words).
If it’s good enough for Tom Rosenbauer…
Ironically, I’d been listening to the latest Orvis podcast on the way to the river where Tom Rosenbauer described how he rarely takes a net with him to small rivers, preferring to only use it on the bigger rivers with bigger fish. I thought at the time how I much preferred having a net, and wouldn’t feel comfortable not having mine with me. How right I was.
I’d have to do this the Rosebauer way, sans net. He was ready for the
net hand now, the fight in him had subsided to the point where I fancied my chances at un hooking him.
As you can see from the picture, this bit went surprisingly well. After his initial hostility towards me I think we were starting to become friends. That, or he was too knackered and angry to care anymore. He had a few scars down his flanks, but other than that was in good shape. I held him steady under the water for a while before he swam back to the other side of the river. If he had hands, it was at this point I think he would have turned round and stuck two fingers up at me. As he didn’t have hands he did it by way of a grumpy flick of his tail.
I’d estimate he weighted in at 2lb, maybe a touch more. That is by far the biggest fish I’ve had from the Derwent, and the biggest fish I’ve caught for some time.
I remember someone else telling me they’d taken a 2lb fish from this section of the Derwent, I wonder if this guy is a bit of a local celebrity, the Benson of the Derwent?
I fished on for a couple of hours, taking another 4 fish, none as big as this fella.
If the backside vegetation is anything to go by, the river at Low Westwood is quite under fished. Give it a try, it’s very different to Lintzford or Shotley Bridge but good fun and has at least one monster lurking in it’s depths.