Trout Fishing in Spring on the River Usk.
What a fantastic time of year this is. The end of the winter has almost come with the usual upsets in the weather but the long dark nights are starting to draw out and those feelings of excitement at catching the first wild fish of the season start to take over.
Times change however and many different things affect our river that result in a change to the behaviour of fish. One such change is the reduction of the great March Brown hatches that the river was famous for.
I often read in some of the fishing magazine’s and I am amazed at some of the articles that still promote the March Brown hatch on the River Usk as being the story of legends.
Well the truth is it used to be one of the most prolific hatches of the fly on this river and was renowned as the place for people to travel to and catch early season brown trout with abandon.
I for one who has regular access to many areas of the Usk have seen only a few small hatches of March Browns in the last five years but don’t let that put you off fishing this great river.
For those of you who do not know what to look for then view the photograph below.
Photo by Kind permission of Dr. CJ Bennett.
The fly is big and once seen on the water cannot be mistaken for anything else other than what it is at this time of year (March/April)
Where confusion reigns is when an angler sees a great hatch of Grannom Sedge which occurs usually in April. These flies come up out of the water and dance and fly about but always upstream. They hatch in literally thousands and cover the angler.Trout will be seen moving and rising amongst them, but please look carefully and see how many of the adult flies are eaten by those rising trout. You will find it’s not that many.
Left is the Nymph.
Look closer and you may see that they are in fact taking dark olives that are hatching amongst them or better still the emerging Grannom pupa.
This hatch of fly used to be a real mystery to me and I would rarely bother fishing a specific pattern. That is until a great friend Dave Collins taught me better and introduced me to his emerging grannom pupa. This fly often produces some of my biggest trout of the season. 8 over 2lbs the year before last in three days fishing.
The best way to lift your confidence at this time of year is to get down at the river bed and start to do a few kick samples.
To explain all you have to do is get a bit of fine netting and get it to the shape of your landing net and ensure that it fits tightly over the rim. Now put it into the water and hold the handle upright with the rim on the gravel/stones and gently kick your feet disturbing the bottom. The rubbish will settle again to the bottom of the river but the fine netting will collect the nymphs and aquatic life that the trout feast upon.
You will see that the majority of food that the fish eat is a lot smaller than the flies and the colours are a lot darker than you expect. What you will also notice is that most of the insects will be some form of caddis larva or worm.
Last year in April I went out and did just what I have explained and here are the results.
Below are pictures of Olive nymphs. Note the different colour changes of olive. It is worth remembering that olives come in all shapes and sizes but the nymphs of these different types of olive are either agile darters (baetis) or stone clingers (Heptagena)
The nymph below on the right is a stone clinger recognized by its wide flat head and on the left is the slimmer baetis nymph or agile darter
Other insects that will be evident will be caddis larva in their different forms as well as gammarus shrimp.
Here is a photo of a Cased Caddis.
Here is one of a Caddis Larva (Hydropsyche Larva)
A May fly nymph (Ephemera Vulgata/ Danica)
The other insects that prevail at this time are the two types of Stonefly first shown here is the wingless Stonefly.
And now the winged stonefly.
The photograph below is of a Dark Olive.
The best thing you can do is to get in the river and have a good reference book to hand. Pat O Reilly’s comes to mind with stunning photos by Melvin Grey. What about fishing and what flies to use. For wet fly fishing on a dead drift I would suggest a three fly cast with a Wet Olive Quill on the top dropper.
An Usk Naylor on the Middle dropper.
And a Pheasant tail nymph on the point.
More traditional patterns such as a snipe and purple, Greenwell’s spider and a Waterhen Bloa should also be considered and for upstream dries then you cannot beat a Hares Ear Dry or my own “Snowshoe Emerger” for an Emerger. You can learn how to tie “The Snowshoe Emerger” on my video under the “Video” title on this website.
- Other patterns to consider are a Kite’s Imperial and an Olive ‘F’ Fly.
The time to fish is between 11am and 4pm each day and any rise in the air temperature will see a hatch of olives. Watch nature and it will tell you when to get ready and in spring just look out for the wagtails as they appear like magic when a hatch is about to start.
My last bit of advice for you is not to dive straight into the river. Watch from the bank first and see where your fish rise. More often they will be in a few inches of water next to the bank and only go a sulk in the deeper water when a careless footfall or splash of line send them scurrying away. Think about short casts and drag free drifts. Fishing for wild fish is not easy but I think one wild fish is worth 20 stocked.
Well it is up to you now. Go softly to the river and look before you jump in.
It is the careful and considerate angler who often catches the most fish.