Interesting day yesterday. Finally, after some weeks of high water, I was able to get back on the river. Project grayling. Still just a little high, but certainly very fishable, the water having cleared quite well, and only a few centimetres above the normal level for this time of year. I had decided to fish a few different swims for an hour or so each. On any smallish river it seems rather pointless to remain static when after grayling. They are not too difficult to catch as a rule, and after a couple of hours without one, I usually conclude that they are either not feeding, not there, or else the Gods are against me on the day.
I had intended to be at my first choice of swim as soon as it was light enough to see a float, but I misjudged again, and was perhaps 30 minutes too late. But I don't find that grayling feed much better in that first half hour, so it mattered very little. I travelled light, tackle and bait in a small landing net, one rod, a long handled small landing net, for I would, in one swim, have to stretch over extensive bankside vegetation, straining to reach and net any fish hooked there. Too good looking a swim by far to ignore. And a small folding stool... a small folding stool... a small...Damn! I reached the first swim and realised I had left the stool in the car. I had travelled even lighter than I had wished. The water is too deep for wading, and being on the sunny side of the stream I did not wish to stand up, illuminated in full view. Glancing around I saw, on the bank, something bright pink in colour. Investigating, it proved to be a Disney Store food mixing bowl. In perfect condition, still with the sticky price label attached. Someone must have thrown it into the river upstream. No idea why. Although a bit garish in shocking pink, adorned with Mickey Mouse graphics, it is now in use in the kitchen. On the bank it became, upside down, my seat for the day. Not very generous in its level of comfort, but better than sitting on the grass, which was still coated in the residue from recent spate conditions.
Travelling light, with the rod already made up, my almost ubiquitous 12 foot travel barbel rod ( I use it for almost anything except barbel) , makes for a very rapid deployment of tackle, and I was fishing within five minutes. I was playing a fish within ten minutes, second cast. It was an out of season brownie of about three quarters of a pound. But a very healthy and fit looking fish.
No sooner had my third cast hit the water than the bait was taken, and a fish charged downstream against the four pound line. I caught a flash of a fair fish as it turned sideways. That was the last time I saw it for quite a while. It stayed deep, but was very lively, refusing to be drawn to the surface, and I had visions of a huge grayling in my head. Only in my head though, for the fish, after a lengthy and utterly superb scrap, proved to be another brownie. A brown trout of no less than three pounds eleven ounces. Again, out of season, and looking rather thin, but at that size it was my biggest trout from the river, and so it had to be weighed for interest's sake. Its slim body did not stop it putting up that brilliant scrap. Very entertaining. After a photograph it was returned safely, swimming off strongly. The small landing net was quite inadequate for the size of fish. Another lesson driven home ( one I should have remembered well) : forget the size of fish you expect to catch, and gear up for the larger ones that might just appear unexpectedly.
I usually find that the trout are quickest to find the bait, and that unfortunately, even out of season you often have to catch a resident trout or two first, before the grayling move in. Unfortunately the theory failed on this occasion, no grayling coming to the net from the swim.
About 9 o'clock a jet black mink stole cautiously along the riverside edge other bank. It was in deep shadow, and being black, a good photograph was out of the question, even had I had the correct lens fitted. So I still have not managed any good pictures of mink. Seeing it though, once again emphasised how surprising it is that some people still mistake them for otters. More like an all black squirrel. I should probably apologise to all those who saw and groaned at the joke earlier in this paragraph, but I am not going to...so there, tough! .
I fished another four swims before heading home. At about half past two my hands started to turn blue, and I deemed it advisable to retire gracefully, with all my fingers intact. Three of those swims were to give me a single brown trout each, all around the half pound mark, but the grayling remained stubbornly absent. The grayling are not prolific in the river, and so I shall not complain too severely.
But to come back to the big trout. Its spot pattern was very different to all other trout I have taken from the river. Like the grayling the trout are not prolific, and to catch five in one day has quite astonished me. What a shame it was the close season. They are most probably wild fish, none ever having been stocked into the stream locally. That I know for certain. Ten or fifteen miles or so upstream is the nearest that any trout are likely to have been stocked, and I must suspect that the fish I catch have been born in the river itself.
There follow four pictures of trout I have caught from this stream. The first is an absolutely stunning looking fish. Such gorgeous evenly spread red and black spots, all with white surrounds on a fabulous greeny gold background. Not a huge fish but an incredibly beautiful specimen.
|Utterly Gorgeous Brownie Looking Surprised|
The second fish is a very spotty fish, lots and lots of black spots, and if those spots are encircled with white, then the white blends in as a background, rather than as individual rings.
|Many Black Spots|
The third fish is the three pounds eleven fish from yesterday. It carries an absolute mass of both black and red spots, all very small, and is most unlike the other fish. It is the only fish I have caught that looks even remotely like this.
Enough Spots to Make a 1960's Measles Epidemic Quite Jealous.
The fourth fish is the first trout I ever caught from the stream, and actually my first fish of any species from it. Different again. It was also the first fish I caught after a break of more than 30 years not touching my rods. At the time I caught it, I suspected it might be a sea trout, but I have little knowledge of sea trout, never having knowingly caught one. I have had several fish that I thought might have been guilty, but always, when asked, a more experienced sea trout angler has diagnosed the fish to be brown. I really don't know myself, and suspect that, until I have seen a definite sea trout or two, I shall remain confused. But at least, to judge from reading the odd forum and web site, I am not on my own struggling for positive IDs. That makes me feel a little better that, after more than 50 years with a rod, I still struggle to identify some of our native game fish. Then again, I might just be damned annoyed that I have yet to catch one!