A Tale of Two Days

A tiny ring. A single bubble. And another. And another.

The small pool, overhung with trees, lay on the right bank; in it trout were repetitively rising, feet from the rivers’ side and all along its length – about 25 yards. At least six or more trout. Impossible to guess their size. I couldn’t see them and the rise form gave nothing away. The bright sunlight was broken by the foliage; fluttering beams shone through, marbling the river with bright patches and mirrored reflections. On the riffled water it danced and its sequined lights sparkled like shattered glass.

But of fly I could see none. Nothing hatching, nothing I could see trapped in the surface film. Some daytime sedges jostled the margins and a few spinners from last night’s party hung in spiders’ webs or sat unmoving on bankside leaves. A few gnats rose and fell at the pools head where the water quickened. That’s it, the black gnat. I carry a few different gnat patterns and the first was sent on an 18 hook to just above the fish nearest to me. A side cast, horizontal and parallel to the bank saved the fly from the bankside herbage. It landed delicately. I surprised myself. But it looked huge on the water and it floated gently over the fish without reaction. Another pattern, smaller with a few strands of parachute hackle, lying lower on the water was next out of the box. Then a pattern half submerged. Then a midge pupa. Nothing. The late Oliver Kite, who I think occasionally fished the Usk, counselled to move to another fish rather than waste time over a cussed one. But I often find the next and the next can be equally cussed. So, I like to try and fathom a solution. I very rarely get the right answer.

It was interesting that no fish rose in the bulk of the river. Probably too bright. Or maybe not. Was something falling from the trees. Those little green caterpillars on their silken threads? But no, nothing seemed to be dropping onto the water with a splash. And strange that the fish hadn’t even nosed my fly or swirled or even “flounced off”. They carried on feeding seemingly oblivious to the fool with the stick. Preoccupied they certainly were.

I thought again. What did the bubble suggest? Perhaps the trout were taking something off the film and letting go air trapped in its mouth? I studied the water’s surface more intently and then spotted a flicker of white attached to something tiny and black and then the same but green, lime green, bright with a wing slight iridescence. Black and Green Aphids.

I put on one my most underused patterns. A twist of green, a sliver of pearl tinsel for the wing and half a turn of badger hackle cut flush to the underside of the body. I swear the fish took it out of my hand. A simple cast, a tiny ring and a little bubble. Then the pool was awash with spray and anger. Leaping, running, trying to get to deeper water. A fish I thought might make 10” was at least 17”. Squirming and straining in the net the tiny hook fallen from its jaw, she was quickly released. 

Often “the answer found it fails to work again”. A quote from Tom Ivens

But today it worked again and again. After the commotion had subsided the fish resumed their bubbling and I managed a second trout on the tiny fly from the same pool. In other places sometimes the fish wanted the black pattern, sometimes the green. Of course, the biggest fish of the day defeated me. Wading along the side of the river I thought I saw a splash in a deep and quick run hugging the bank. I changed the tiny fly for something more generous. More conventional, because this fish was not a repeat riser. In fact, I didn’t see it move again until my Elk and CDC on a size 14 crossed its spot. A hole in the water appeared and I was attached. No time to strike. The fish tore towards me. Heavy and strong. It was making for its lair in a labyrinth of roots undercutting the bank. Once there it was a certain loss. I pulled hard. Too hard. The fly flew back at me and the weight was gone. I never rose that fish again for the rest of the season. I suspect lockdown and the absence of tramping feet and careless wading had given him confidence, but after the short tussle he returned to grubbing the bottom and swallowing small fish. I suspect. I don’t know. But maybe this season, in its opening days, it might rekindle its desire for a morsel of March Brown or a bite of Brook Dun. I hope I can be there when he does and if I am lucky enough to hook him, I’ll turn him quickly and pull him into the stream away from his holt and let him run and tire and then take his picture and mount it on my wall. That will be a first. I have not one picture of my bigger Usk fish. Although I have come close.

The first picture of an outsize one was taken by my son on his dated camera phone. He never sent me the picture and the phone is long gone.

A second big trout taken on a dry fly on a barbarous June night with howling wind and icy fingers didn’t even get a phone picture as the technology had been left in the car. For a long time, I took it to have been a lilac silver brown trout, a special Usk strain. But now I think I know what she was; a sewin, maybe 6lbs or so ,although my second son swore it was 10lbs!

But my most memorable trout was caught in mid-April a few years ago, whilst chasing salmon. The first of the Brook Duns brought up a fish, which from its splash,I took to be a salmon. It was far away under trees in a deep hole. The river was running full and I knew I couldn’t reach it, but I retired the big rod anyway. As I took my camera off my chest, to let me get at my dry fly boxes, a procession of fly and trout appeared across and along the stream. I took up the dry fly rod and sport was frantic; although the hatch was intermittent, it was long. 

I had waded lots of water, when, in my peripheral vision, a huge dark shape glided upstream, coming to rest 30 feet in front of me. It took up position below a big stone in shallow water. It was the size of a grilse. It took one fly before mine. It took with a splash. I can still see him lifting in the water to eat to my fly. But I can’t see it on film. My Go Pro was back on the bank. It was a great tussle. But I had heavy nylon and a big hook. The place he rose was mid river, 100m from his hidey hole. A fabulous trout and one I have seen again. Not in the same spot, the floods of the last years have moved that stone and changed the pool, but I am hopeful that he will be about for a few more years yet.

These meandering memories have taken me away from my original title. A tale of two days. Consecutive days. The night after the fall of aphids, the weather broke. The long early summer was cut short by a heavy fall of rain and an overcast day. But the river was clear. Down I hopped with a dozen green and black fly fresh off my vice. I copied them from the ones eating my Broad Beans and Lettuce. But the aphid season was over. The wind and change of temperature had seen to that. At first, I was disappointed, but then elated. Yellow May Duns were hatching. I could fish a fly I could see. Trout love the YMD, mainly I think the emerging fly and its nymph, but often the dun and definitely the spinner. Sometimes a big yellow jingler will work and sometimes a quill bodied CDC. Anyway, my luck was in, fed up of the tiny aphids they took the CDC emerger; impossible to put down, difficult to miss. They behaved like Chalk stream stockies at Mayfly time, except they fought ferociously and when netted were fin perfect- very much unlike their expensive cousins.

 We are very lucky to have such fishing.