The Perfect Session

Martin James, Lancashire, England

For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed watching trout take an imitation or the real thing off the surface of a clear flowing river. As the fish takes the fly and turns downward you often see the rainbow coloured spots on its body then the primrose yellow belly—often described as the colour of butter by some writers. It’s even more exciting to watch a trout rise up from alongside the swaying water crowfoot and take the food item. It’s done so delicately. The fish’s eyesight must be brilliant, especially when they are taking chronomids the size of a pinhead. These tiny flies are usually known as buzzers or the non-biting midge. They come in various colours. On my river they are usually black, red or have a slight tinge of green.

The size of the buzzers on most rivers or streams is usually smaller than those on still waters. A book I can recommend is Midge Magic – it’s certainly a great title. The authors, Don Holbrook and Ed Koch have certainly given us a fine book on the subject. I have been privileged to own Ed’s first book, Fishing the Midge, published in 1988. These two books tell you everything you need to know about this very important food item in the trout’s diet.

It was about 10 o’clock this morning when I got out of bed. Pulling back the curtains I could see a cloudy sky with no wind. I thought to myself that it looked good for a session on my local River Ribble fishing a dry fly. After a shower and breakfast, I checked and answered all my e-mails then opened the post. Time to head for the river, it was just after 12 noon. Driving down the track to the fishing hut I could see I had the river to myself. Parking up I changed into wellingtons then, picking up my binoculars, I walked upriver top see if any fish were moving. I’d gone no more than ten yards when I noticed a slight dimple on the surface.

Sitting down on a grass tussock I watched the swallows and martins hawking the surface. Chronomids were coming off in profusion. In the fast shallow water among the runs between the water crowfoot, I could see several fish coming up and competing with the swallows and martin for nature’s food supply. I suppose I spent half an hour watching trout of various sizes rise up from midwater to intercept another hatching buzzer These tiny flies had certainly got the fish in a feeding frenzy. It’s the first time this season that I’ve been privileged to witness a good fly hatch. It was time to put together some gear.

I chose to fish a Thomas and Thomas 8 foot Heirloom series rod in fiberglass rated for a 4-weight line. These rods cast a fly just like bamboo—in my opinion they are perfect for fishing the dry fly. A T&T catalog printed about 3 years ago stated “The delight in this fly rod is it paints the fly on the water.” That’s just about what it does. This isn’t a rod for those who want to rock and roll using muscle as they attempt to cast. This is for delicate work. Most leaders come in 9 feet or 9’6″—neither in my opinion is long enough. The minimum length of leader should be 12 feet. I usually use a 15 foot leader.

Fishing tiny buzzers (size 20’s 22’s) you need to use a very fine tippet. I use a couple of feet of 2lb fluorocarbon. When fishing this fine you don’t strike, you just tighten. With the Heirloom’s flexible tip you can easily beat the fish without breaking off. Yes, I occasionally break off when I get too excited and strike rather than tighten. That’s why I reckon, in all dry fly fishing, timing and smoothness are so important.

Putting on my fly vest and hanging my binoculars around my neck I was ready to try and catch a trout or two. The idea was to fish my way upriver targeting rising fish, and choosing fish that were in the more difficult spots. Places where I would have to cast up and across the stream where I had two or three different currents. It makes for accurate and correct line mending.

The first fish I targeted was tight to a large rock two thirds of the way across the river, The river flowed from left to right. Between myself and the fish the water swirled and boiled. As I cast I would need to put a waggle in the rod just before the line landed which would put some slack in the line allowing me to get a better drag free drift. The fly landed like thistle down some five feet above the feeding fish. I quickly put a slight upstream mend in the line then watched the fly drift downstream where it was soon taken.

As the fish turned down I spotted part of its yellow belly followed by a large black tail. The fight was on. This fish went off downstream taking line from the reel. I followed as I didn’t want to bring a fresh fish upstream against the powerful water flow. As I got near the bottom of the pool in the quieter water I fought the fish to a standstill. Then it was in the net where I was able to take out the tiny buzzer without touching the fish. Holding the net in the water I admired the beautiful coloured spots then tipped the net at an angle so the fish could swim off.

I moved upstream about ten yards to another rising fish that was quite tight to a sunken tree trunk. I made a long cast upstream, dropping the fly ten feet above the rising fish. Lifting the rod high I took in the slack line as the fly drifted downstream where it passed over the fish, which showed no interest. I made two more casts and still I couldn’t get the fish to take despite it still being in a feeding mode.

Resting the fish I moved upstream to a spot where a tiny stream flowed in from the opposite bank. I could see a nice fish rising. It was an easy cast across the river, dropping the fly into the mouth of the side stream. As the fly landed, so the trout grabbed hold. After a good fight another nice brown was in the net. For about three hours I had some of the best brown trout fishing I have experience for a long time—certainly my best trout fishing session this season.

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