The bead-head Prince nymph landed in the slack water close to the far bank. I gave a small upstream mend and the fast water pushed the line downstream and across to my bank. As it did so I retrieved line, imparting some life in the nymph. As it bounced its way across the bottom I felt a savage take. The strip strike met solid resistance as a good fish powered off downstream. The strong wind whistled through the bent rod and pulled string - I was a happy angler despite the strong wind and lashing rain.
After an eye test and picking up some home cured bacon and fresh baked bread, it was off to the river. Within ten minutes I had left the busy main road for the quiet of the Lancashire countryside.
As I drove down the long drive to the river Ribble I spotted the white crow of Mitton. It was the first time in two years I had seen this bird, which seems to come and go. What amazes me about this white crow is that it doesn't get mobbed by the other crows. It certainly seems to live a charmed life.
For the first time this year there were lots of swifts hawking the riverside fields. They are certainly magnificent birds who live, sleep and feed on the wing. In the fields I could see some hundred or so starlings, swallows were about in profusion again - it was nice to see so many birds.
We anglers are certainly lucky to be able to spend so much time in the countryside. My friend Stephen Ainscow from Ramsbottom Lancashire was a lucky angler last week, he was fishing a northern river when around dusk he spotted a badger swim across the river to his bank. It spent several minutes roaming about before going back across the river. Stephen thought it had picked up his scent. It's these highlights that makes it so enjoyable being at the waterside.
I arrived in the car park on the banks of the river Ribble at Edisford Hall Fisheries as the rain started the sheet down and as I opened car door I was greeted by a strong southerly wind. The river was two feet above normal and the colour of medium dark vinegar. I was hoping to fish a dry fly, I had no chance today.
After putting on the kettle, I unloaded the car, tackle, clothing and the food for lunch. No stodgy sandwiches, luke warm tea or coffee from a flask. It would be fresh brewed tea or coffee and a cooked lunch. As I waited for the kettle to boil, I glanced through the Anglers Mail. Ivan Duxbury the river keeper turned up.
"Good morning Ivan, you're just in time for tea and a bacon sandwich" I said. As I climbed into my chest high waders we chatted about the fishing prospects. Ivan said "You will need a fast sinking leader today" This news came as a bit of a shock. When it came to river trouting, I was a dry fly river man or upstream nymphing. Ivan said it would be fishing down and across with heavy nymphs if I wanted to catch today. I accepted his advice knowing full well Ivan's knowledge on this stretch of river was spot on.
I tackled up with a Thomas and Thomas nine foot, five weight rod and a reel loaded with a double taper floating line. To this I attached a fast sinking braided leader that Ivan had given me, finally tying on a size 12 Prince beaded nymph. Then I broke off the barb. With the strong southerly wind whistling up the river I thought to myself that it would be nice to have a six weight rod today.
After getting everything ready I asked Ivan "Where we are starting today"? he answered "The Minnow Pool"
After shutting the car park gate I climbed into his wagon and we made our way upstream to the first pool. As I carefully waded out into the fast flowing river I made a mental note of the rivers height. The river was flowing left to right and the strong wind was blowing right to left, making casting very difficult. As the wind increased in strength I changed to casting on the back cast.
It was typical down and across fishing; cast, make a mend allow the line to drift down and across working the fly all the time. After every cast I took a step downstream. After a dozen or so casts I had a savage hit but missed on the strike. Two casts later I had a gentle pluck, the strip strike connected with a nice fish, a brown trout of some fifteen inches. Bringing it close to hand I bent down, retrieved the fly then watched the fish depart quickly.
Three casts later I hooked into a powerful fish I had to give a few feet of line. "Have I hooked a seatrout" I wondered to myself. But no - it was a good sized and very fit brown trout. This wasn't a stocky! After a few minutes I had the fish close to hand where I could bend down and slip out the hook. It was a cracking brown trout of some twenty inches. I punched the air and turned to Ivan with a grin a mile wide. Though it hadn't been caught on a dry fly it was still great fun.
I fished on down the pool until I reached the tail, and the riffled shallow water where I hooked another nice fish which shed the hook after a minute or so. I glanced at my watch; it was 12-45 pm, time for lunch and a mug of tea. I waded ashore and suggested to Ivan it was time for lunch, he agreed.
We made our way back to the cabin; the first job was on with the kettle followed by two frying pans, one to cook the bacon and eggs, the other to fry up the mashed potato which had been prepared the night before. We also had some excellent bread baked in the old fashioned way by Crabtree's of Clitheroe who had also made some excellent Ginger cake for our desert. Over lunch we discussed the mornings fishing and how anglers must be prepared for change when we arrive at the waterside. Ivan told me I had fished well under the windy, fast and dirty water conditions.
"For one who normally fishes the dry fly, you fished that nymph as it should be fished under these conditions"
I said "It wasn't a new way of fishing as I usually fish down and across for seatrout". After a second mug of tea we went off fishing.
The afternoon session proved harder than the morning session. The wind was much stronger and very gusty, the river had come up about six inches during our lunch break, making wading a bit more difficult in the fast swirling water. Thank goodness for a good strong wading staff I thought. After fishing out each cast, I would take a step downstream, this continued for some twenty minutes before I hooked a nice fish, a brown of some fifteen inches. After a brief struggle it was released.
As I fished through the tail of the pool I allowed the fly to swing into the slow shallow water close to my bank. In five casts I hooked three good fish. All were hooked as I retrieved the fly with a figure of eight retrieve; nice trout, all around fourteen - fifteen inches and hooked in the scissors making it easy to unhook them. I moved off downstream to the Bridge Pool. I spent some thirty minutes getting only one take, which was off within a few seconds. With the wind increasing, the heavy rain being blown in my face I decided to call it a day. I had caught a few fish and lost one or two. We had eaten some good food and enjoyed a few hours in the countryside doing what I love best and that's fishing. Nothing beats it.
After fishing it was back to the cabin for a mug of tea. I sat there thinking back over the day's events. First lesson I learnt was, be prepared for change when you arrive at the waterside. I had planned to fish a dry fly, if I had done so I would have been fishless. Secondly I should have carried a couple of interchangeable leaders, thankfully Ivan carries plenty of gear. All my nymph were for fishing the river under normal conditions and fishing upstream. In future I will make sure I have a few heavy nymphs in my box. Apart from the fishing it was nice seeing all the birds going about their business. Let's hope your next fishing day is as interesting.