19/05/2020 - A welcome few hours on the bank

I suspect that many people, myself included, greeted last week's announcement about a phased relaxation of lockdown, particularly with regards to the rules on fishing, with a degree of optimism. However, based on my own lockdown experiences, I am sorry to say that I do not entirely share Mr Johnson's trust that common sense will prevail when it comes to the Great British public. So, whilst I am now keen as anybody to wet a line, I am not going to risk my health, my family's health, or anybody else's health for the sake of my hobby. Canals and stillwaters are therefore off the agenda for me for the time being. Instead, I'm looking at this as an opportunity to get the fly rod out again and explore some of the more remote and neglected waters on my club books - some old, some new, but all with the common denominator that hardly any bugger fishes 'em! 



First on the list was a small, overgrown tributary of the River Derwent near Derby that I'd fished a few times in 2014. My first trip of that year was my most successful with a hatful of wild brownies and an immaculate, overwintered stockie coming to the net, so I was hopeful of a similar result. Got to the venue just after 6 am and made my way across the field to the river, pausing to make an offering to the local totem! Whilst there were plenty of reminders of the February floods in the way of debris festooning the overhanging trees, the river that greeted me was very low and clear. In addition, apart from the shallower, faster runs where the flow was keeping the gravel clean, the bed was already covered with a film of snot-like, brown diatoms. 



Whilst it was still early in the day, I could feel a distinct chill through my chesties as I lowered myself into the river. I therefore opted for a single, generic "tungsten taddy" on a barbless size 14 hook. These had been tied for me by a friend of "Skateboard Dave", Leicestershire-based pioneer of fly-fishing for neglected urban trout and coarse fish. With a bit of sparkle in the dubbing, a sparse hackle and a marabou tail these represent anything from a mayfly nymph or a caddis fly larva to a small fish. Pitched it up into the head of the first fast run with the 7 ft brook rod and thought I felt a little bump as it came back towards me. Second cast, the same. Third cast I had a more positive take and hooked into a fish that shot downstream past me before coming off! 




Cursed myself for botching my first chance, as I suspected that bites would be at a premium given the conditions.However, I wasn't disappointed for long. Moving upstream to the next run I had a chance first cast as my fly drifted under an overhanging willow and this one stuck -  a proper little, wild Derbyshire jewel. The very next cast I had another similar one and I began to think that I was going to catch a few. However, I was a bit premature! Next spot I hooked a much better fish that again did the trick of shooting downstream at warp speed, making the reel fizz briefly before it reached the sanctuary of some tree roots and slipped the hook. Unfortunately, that was to be my last chance for quite a while despite me fishing any likely looking spots hard over the next couple of hours.

It didn't help that my progress upstream was severely hampered by numerous blockages caused by trash dams and fallen trees, some of which looked like a giant game of "pick up sticks"! I had been prepared for a bit of jungle warfare after my previous visits, but I was getting a real workout clambering out of the river and forcing my way through the bankside brambles to find a suitable re-entry point. By the time I reached the upstream limit I was hot and sweaty, but hadn't had another touch.


Slogged it back downstream to my starting point and decided to give a spot that I'd missed the first time 'round a quick go before I headed back to the car. Flicked the fly into the fast water where it was immediately grabbed by a fish that again shot downstream, but straight under a trailing strand of barbed wire and through a tangle of tree roots! Dropping the rod I grabbed the leader and managed to hand-line an angry little trout back through the roots and into my net.  Headed home for lunch at this point and, whilst it had been hard work, I had enjoyed my few hours of normality. As well as winkling out a few fish in difficult conditions (who would have thought that we'd be needing some rain after such a wet start to the year!) I'd shared the morning with a kingfisher that had buzzed me several times on its trips up and down the river, a dipper and a pair of Mandarin ducks. Definitely good for the soul!

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