During the course of yesterday I learnt what it must be like to be an Olympic athlete. At around 8:30pm in the evening Victoria Pendleton and myself shared something common; not our mutual love for being clad head to foot in body hugging lycra (too much? ok pretend I never said it) but that horrible gut wrenching feeling of being able to almost touch the big prize only to have it disappear almost as quickly as it arrived.
What am I on about I hear you say, well let me tell you…
After a busy day at work, and coming home to an empty house (wife and kids on ANOTHER day out!) I decided to skip tea and get straight off to the Derwent. The weather was superb, 23 degrees according to the ever reliable Renault thermometer in the car, sun shining with a hint of a breeze.
Ebchester was the destination of choice. It’s not the closest to home, that’d be Lintzford, but it doesn’t have Satan’s Killer Horse to deal with, so on the whole a good compromise.
I arrived a little after 6pm, after sitting in the car listening to Sir Chris Hoy win his 6th gold medal I donned my waders, tackled up my rod, threw on my trusty dry emerged and plodded off down the path to the river.
I didn’t know what to expect of the Derwent, we’d had some heavy thunder storms two days earlier, so I was half expecting a river of milky Nescafe but pleasantly by the river carrying only a smidgeon of extra colour.
There seemed to be some fly life coming off (cue my highly trained entomologist self) mostly small brown ones with upward facing wings (good eh?). So the brown hackled thing I tied on at the car looked to be an inspired choice.
Having stood at the end of the path surveying the river before me, I was struck by the distinct lack of any rising fish. All the signs were looking great – warm weather, not too coloured water, levels around normal, flies coming off in regular waves, but no fish showing. Bugger.
Still, I’ll give it a try anyway – the Derwent trout are usually up for a bit or red hot dry fly action, even when they are conspicuous in their absence.
For the next 30 minutes I trashed that water to within an inch of it’s life. It was like a scene from Indian Jones, only I had a 6’ 6″ 3# rod and line, not a bull whip. And for all that effort, nowt. We’ll I tell a lie, one tiny (even by the Derwent’s standards) trout rose to my fly as it dropped into the water after being retrieved from some bank side veg. I’m sure it was doing that to wind me up.
So off went the dry fly and on went the wet. A size 14 leaded olive and claret seals fur nymph, with a bit of flashy mylar ribbing. Who could resist?
The piscatorial residents of the Derwent it would seem, could and sadly would resist.
Now as I’ve stated before, my wet fly fishing skills are untried and relatively untested – so the lack of action could be far more to do with me than the Salmo trutta, either way round I was getting more and more frustrated. The conditions were near perfect, which led to “EAT THE BLOODY FLY” (said whilst shaking a fist in the direction of the river).
My last hope was taking a stroll down from the faster water to the slow-moving, meandering stretch – there always seem to the 3 or 4 fish down here breaking cover and sipping the odd fly of the surface. Fingers crossed they’d be there this evening.
As I hacked through the undergrowth to the start of the slower water, I spotted not one but two regular risers! Back on goes the dry and onward to find a good vantage point to try for one of the pair.
Suffice to say, neither of them were obliging enough to be rising in an area that was suitable for forward cast. My roll cast has, even though I do say so myself, come on quite nicely over the last few weeks, so roll cast it was.
Whilst on the subject of roll casting, I find the dry fly ‘drowns’ very quickly when roll casting, and I can see why, what with the lack of ‘air drying time’ – is that your experience too?
Anyway, I cast to the nearest fish, and on the third attempt got a rise; which promptly turned into a missed fish. Fortunately I hadn’t pricked him so on to the next and leave him to settle down for another cast a little later.
As the evening wore on there were more and more trout rising within casting range of where I stood. It’s a good job they did as I must have struck and missed half a dozen by this time. I tried striking quickly, slowly, gently, with aggression. I sometimes had a fish on for a while, but ultimately they all came off. The hooks are new (and sharp, my thumb can testify to that) so I don’t know what’s going on.
By this time I’d waded out almost half way across the river, and was feeling quite nervous. I’m not very good at wading, or staying upright whilst wading. To compound the problem I’d had the bright Idea of bringing my SLR along with me this evening, and having it in the back of my pack whilst wobbling about in 4’ of water was getting me more than a little worried.
I finally managed to get the fly on the far side of the river, and on a drag free run inline with one of the rising trout. He was only 18″ off the far bank, under a very big overhanging branch. I bet he thought he was safe. Ha!
Wait for it, wait for it, nearly there, any minute now – BANG! a big boil of a rise and the fly disappears! I strike (medium speed, and with a slight delay after the rise if you’re interested) and can immediately see from the bend in my rod that this is, what in common parlance is called a “lunker’. I’ve had this rod for a couple of seasons now, and in all that time and all those fish I’ve never seen it bent double. But bent double it was, and this fish was taking line. I had the rod up as high as my arm would go, giving it line when it insisted, taking it back when I could. ”Don’t loose it, don’t loose it!” I said to myself, shortly before I lost it.
What followed was a string of expletives I cannot repeat here, but I’m sure you can image what they might have been and how many there were. I’d guess it was at least a 3lb fish from what I saw of it and the way it went. My only solace was I know where he lives, and in the words of the Austrian advert for steroid injections “I’ll be back”.
After getting myself together and spending a moment to look for my next target I saw a rising fish up stream and about the same distance from the far bank as the monster I’d just lost. Waded (gingerly) 10 yards upstream and readied myself to roll cast over him.
Rise, strike, miss. Cast, rise, strike, miss. Cast, rise, strike, splash! Bingo, it wasn’t as big as previous fish, but this was no tiddler. He was off like a rocket, down stream and zig zagging across the river. Taking line and putting a good bend in the rod, I started my don’t loose it mantra.
This time the trout was obliging enough to stay on. It was indeed a belter of a fish (as you’ll see from the photo below), and possibly a PB from the Derwent for me.
So after far too much waffling and babbling (are you still reading? Really? blimey you’ve surely got better things to be doing?) you’ll find that just like our Queen of the Track Mrs Pendleton I oh so nearly got my hands on the Gold (golden brown?) then had to deal with the frustrating disappointment of seeing it disappear in front of me only to end up with a ‘still worth having’ second best.
See, just like being an olympic athlete.
Apart from the Kebab and chips I got on the way home, of course.