Humbled and Humiliated

Fishing can be a very humbling experience, fly-fishing probably more so, and in my own view river fly fishing tops them all. Your cup can overfloweth one day and the next  famine and pestilence can strike with no regard to the anglers feelings or efforts.

Such has been my experience this week.


I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking about my river fishing this season to really try and improve. I have made small adjustments to my tackle, I actually think about balancing my set up and I have got ever smaller and smaller in fly sizes my quest to come down to the trouts desired sized of quarry. I have made real efforts to get to places less visited on the river and seek out new seams. On odd occasions, it really seems to have worked. On Tuesday it just didn’t. I went fishing and really came away feeling very despondent and dare I say it, ( not real depression, just fishing depression!)

I went down river and I noticed there were a lot of spinners about- the type that chuck heavy metal at fish, not the upwinged mayfly relatives.

So while it was my plan to seek out these new areas the decision wasn’t hard to reconcile. So I ventured out across field and pastures until I reached an area I have visited once at the tail end of an outing, this time it would be my starting point. It was much windier than I expected. That would dictate initial tactics and I started fishing with a fairly short line to stop the wind playing with my team of nymphs and spiders. I thought very early on I might have bounced a fish off, it was quick and really it might have just been a snag but that was literally all I was to get activity wise all night. I covered a lot of water, I tried to cover it as thoroughly as I could. I read recently of a top river competition angler who when faced with unpromising looking fishing water, mentally divides his sector into 6 foot by 6 foot squares and focusses on covering each one well. If fish are there they will come. It shouldn’t be for lack of the fish seeing the fly, is the thought here.

Changing bugs

Trying to change tiny wee bugs in the late evening gloom on what was a grey evening anyway

I didn’t actually see a fish move until fairly well into my initially windy, then torrentially rainy, then windy, then finally fairly still session. One fish rose near the cover of some trees and I didn’t feel getting the dries out was worth the effort for a single riser that looked to be quite small. The river was quite high relative to recent outings and fairly coloured so you wouldn’t expect the fish to be too spooky, but one cast in the area of the riser and I never seen it again. I found some nice ledges that I really took the time to get my bugs into. Nothing.

A deer

Deer in the flash-light right by me as I clambered out, it only noticed me as I snapped the camera

I laboured through quite dense woodland and slipped into more, very fishy looking water but again never had so much as a knock. I was so quiet in my movements I actually came across and surprised two deer on my outing. One in the field at the start and one as I finally climbed out defeated at the end, a deer was literally right in front of me on the bank and oblivious to my presence until I spooked it with the flash of my pocket camera! Possibly one of the most non-event outings, usually you pick up the odd wee wild fish but not even that or a suggestion of it. I was really quite despondent as I KNOW there are fish around and (much) better anglers than me are catching them.


Trout being reeled in

One of a couple of decent though still small) wild trout I had on the dries.

I had a very sudden day off Friday and glutton for punishment that I am I headed back down the river. I nearly went loch fishing but the early quite strong wind put me off. The wind abated somewhat midmorning though and it didn’t affect me too badly on the river. When I started it was on bugs again and I was kind of surprised not to get something in the first few runs I tried. I did manage to lose and then recover an entire cast of bugs which was fortunate but no fish. Moving upstream, I saw fish rising under some trees and decided to change tactics and set up a wee French nymph under a bushy parachute fly and this did finally get me my first small but welcome fish to the nymph. I then got a second fish on the nymph in thinner water before deciding to make my way up past some flats to more deeper areas. However, I did notice a fair few fish rising in this shallow stretch and after some time of watching thought it was worth putting a dry fly over them. I had noticed a few odd pale coloured olives coming off though really wasn’t confident the fish were taking these as I saw some drift, clearly struggling to get off the surface, right over where fish had risen and they got by unharmed. I tried a quill olive in a 16 and nothing so much as looked at it. Fish were still rising as long as the wind didn’t get up, as soon as it did the activity ceased completely. On went a tiny size 20 midge and this immediately had fish rising for it, though they were not taking. I checked leader and line for being appropriately prepared both floating and degreased where necessary and then finally success with a couple of nice small but wild trout, not clonkers by any means but near enough takeable size if you were so minded.  One fishing upstream dry, the other downstream. Eventually, the activity just dried up and I headed on upstream again.

I met an old boy out fishing and he showed me the “Wee Hawthorne” he was fishing. This thing was like a bog brush tied to a hook, it was huge. But he said he had had one “wee stocky” on it. Here is me being all tactical and delicate too. Anyway, I moved up and at the next run and pool fished, losing more bugs in snags in some deep water then had another wee fish on the nymph in the slower section. The old guy returned and went in above me so that scuppered any thoughts of fishing on right to the top of the section and I called it quits and moved down to another section entirely. Here I did think I had found some decent fish rising steadily right under some overhanging trees. I must have tried 9 different flies, big small, dry, wet and nymph and they continued to rise freely for the hour I spent there and I never touched one. I think I turned a few as spotted the odd flash of a fishes flanks turning but that was it. I had a few clues as to what they were taking but despite replicating the hatch as best I could it never got any real look.

So the river has humbled me totally this week. Tonight I fish a totally different style up at Lake of Menteith in the Scottish clubs heats, I am expecting humiliation.