A look at the river levels on the Government flood warning service not only confirmed the earlier, combined impact of the snow melt and rainfall, but also a rapid return towards normal levels. Knowing that more rain was on the way and that I potentially only had a brief window of opportunity (possibly my last before the end of the season) I bit the bullet and provisonally booked a day off. A final check first thing in the morning showed that the river was still on a reassuring downward trend so, after dropping the daughter off at work and popping into the tackle shop for a pint of mixed, I headed west on the A50. My only concern was that other like-minded (and desperate!) anglers would have the same idea and as I got closer to the venue I got more and more anxious. However, as I pulled off the road down the access track I could see that the parking spot was empty - result!
Got togged up and set off across the water-logged fields, eager to see what the river was like and at first glance it looked pretty good! Whilst it was still slightly above normal level and carrying a tinge of colour, I was pretty confident that the conditions would only improve. Unfortunately it seemed the grayling had other ideas, as it soon became obvious that they weren't properly on the feed. Didn't have a bite in my first few "banker" swims, so I was pretty relieved when I eventually slipped the net under my first fish of the day.
Worked my way downstream, and started picking up the odd grayling here and there. However, as the day wore on, it seemed that these were the willing few, but at least they were of decent average size. Got to one of the more productive swims, a fast riffle with a sharp drop-off into a pool, followed by a long glide. Had a couple of fish from the head of the pool before the float buried and my Drennan Ultralite hooped round. Couldn't see what it was due to the tinge of colour in the water, so let it plod around the pool making some nice, big tail patterns on the surface. Eventually it tired and I caught a glimpse as it rolled on the surface. Already had an inkling from the fight that it wasn't a big grayling and this confirmed it. The fish made one last, unexpected dash that tangled the main line in a hawthorn bush. Luckily that was its last act of defiance and I dropped the rod and was able to scoop a decent brownie into the net.
It was 2lb 6oz on the scales, but was long and hollow and perhaps should have been nearer 3lb. Didn't have a pronounced kype like some of the other big brownies I've had from the river, so assumed it was a hen fish. Took a quick picture then let her recover in the net while I sorted out my tangle. Slipped her back and watched her disappear, the apex predator in that particular little pool. Moved downstream once more, winkling a few more grayling out before getting to my favourite swim towards the bottom end of the section. A recent working party had removed a fallen tree that had got lodged in the head of the pool, allowing me a clear run through with the float. However, I couldn't capitalise and only managed to add a couple more to the total, taking me up to 18 grayling and that single brownie. Called it a day after that. Had been pretty tough, but I was glad to have got out before my season potentially came to a premature end.
I also got thinking about those big brownies on the way home. With the absence of any pike in the river, it would have been nice to try a bit of ultralight lure fishing. However, club rules are float and fly only, but a bit of searching on the web threw up an article on streamer fishing in the UK. Whilst fly fishing purists might throw up their hands at this point, I'm willing to try anything so watch this space!