Long journey to troubled waters

Bob Smith's angling column (www.bobsmithflyfishing.co.uk)
Bob Smith's angling column (www.bobsmithflyfishing.co.uk)

Last weekend saw me travelling south with a fishing mate to link up with my good friend Chris in Northampton.

Willie, my travelling companion, has fished for many years, but has never caught a grayling. Okay, he could catch one in Northumberland, but Chris and I thought it would be fun if he caught one on the River Dove in Derbyshire or another of the rivers in that locality.

Willie and I travelled down in my car and what a journey. Apart from miles of roadworks with average speed cameras covering miles and miles of the journey at 40 and 50mph, the rain was hammering it down.

Just as well the speed limit was so slow over long stretches as the wipers could hardly cope with the amount of rain. Although it stopped by 1pm, I was very apprehensive about our chances of fishing the rivers.

The following day, we set off and Chris was not so sure of our chances without seeing the rivers for himself.

We picked up another fishing chum, Stephen, but once we saw the rivers, there was no way it would have been safe to fish with the volume of water washing tree trunks and branches along.

The colour of the water was poor too, similar to liquid chocolate, actually.

We went to a small local still-water and, although it had coloured up, we wanted to cast a line. It was really foggy and it was just possible to see the other side of the lake, which was only 80 yards away.

There was no wind and not a ripple on the water. We stayed for a couple of hours and none of us had a pull, except Stephen who landed a beautifully-finned rainbow which was about 2lbs. The fish was quickly returned to the water.

To make up for the disappointment of the river fishing, Chris booked a meal for us at a terrific Thai restaurant for the evening. The food was first-class, so was the company and conversation.

Sunday morning saw Chris, Willie and myself heading off to Elinor Fishery as the rivers were still coloured. What a lovely fishery and the water, in contrast to the previous day’s fishery, was crystal clear. It was not deep and trout were rising steadily. The locals were catching on cat’s whiskers but I tried buzzers, nothing. I changed to pheasant tails, same response, nothing.

I then tried something smaller, a black pennell, and cast into the wind, the line tightened and I was into a fish. It peeled line off the Hardy Perfect Reel and made it sing. I played the trout towards the net, but it threw the fly eight feet away from me.

Distance release, my friend Alan calls that technique. I know what I call it. I must have done something not quite right.

The journey home was much better, with Willie and I talking non-stop about the weekend, fishing in general and planning other expeditions together.

The grayling, well they can wait, fishing is not about rushing around and meeting targets. As somebody once said, I think it was a Prime Minister when the Government did not meet their target, targets are something to be aimed for, not necessarily achieved.

Thrunton Long Crag Fishery has had a terrific week with anglers catching lots of trout and big ones too. Wayne Angus had three fish, totalling 31lbs – quite a haul.

Brown trout are taking the fly regularly and a number have been released by anglers that weighed between 3lb and 6lb.

The best bag was caught the day I was there coaching – 16 trout were returned by a guy I have known for years. He was using an intermediate line and his successful flies were buzzers and bloodworm. Another five trout over 10lbs were caught this week too. Trout in the 7lb bracket are being caught regularly too.

As Christmas approaches, people are already thinking about presents, I have sent out six fishing vouchers for presents this last week already. They do make ideal presents, something different and something to use when the weather is warmer perhaps.

I received a lovely old photograph from Tom Pattinson and the Balliffgate Museum. It shows an angler holding a beautiful salmon. The angler was Willy Grey who lived at Thirston and he apparently had a joinery business in Felton. The salmon was in the 20lb range and was caught at Crag End on the Coquet in 1950. Salmon like this one are rare these days, with the average Coquet salmon weighing around 8lb to 10lb.

No doubt the Coquet salmon anglers would like to hook a salmon like that 1950s Crag End fish and maybe, just maybe, that will happen in 2015, fingers crossed.