With a week off, and some seasonably still, cold and crisp weather to hand it would seem a shame not to have a go for the Lady of the Stream on the Clyde. Fishing for these beautiful fish on days like these though requires some perseverance as they seem to pod up and you need to cover water to locate them. Blanks are not uncommon. Indeed, following the threads of a number of Clyde anglers on Facebook I got the feeling that suddenly fish were becoming hard to locate with the cold snap.
I was on my own and had a moderately late-ish start to head down to the River. I dropped in at Crossford Post Office for my permit ( another laborious process that never seems to improve over time!) and was eventually able to depart for the water side. As I crossed the road bridge looking downstream it looked like no one was about, and parking the car there only seemed to be one other vehicle, so maybe not too busy. My optimism faded though as I took a wander down to the river side and could see a maggot chucker already had one position bagged. Once geared up and ready to go I headed upstream first but there were another two “bluebottle flinger’s” here too, so space was a bit of a problem.
Trotters take up a bit more room than us nymph fishermen, as they can cover so much more water with their float, but this also restricts the number of anglers you can get on a beat, I have to say I am never sure quite how far downstream is “fair game” to enter the water below them. Maybe a mile? ( being flippant here, but it’s often my experience that once there are maggoty free offerings coming down the river its kind of hard to succeed below them.) Not to worry, I decided to head down below the road bridge. There was another “larva lobber” here too! I went all the way down to a place I have had some success in the past and as I rounded the shade of a tree to get to the water’s edge discovered yet another, “insect drowner”, so I was kind of stuck now. I wandered back upstream and spied a gap in some trees, over a broken barbed wire fence and made a none too elegant entry to the water. In the process I broke my leader, so had to re-tie that before starting to fish. I had fished for about 5 minutes when I then become snagged in the branches of an overhanging tree, I struggled to release the flies but the whole leader parted leaving three bugs hanging from their thorny trap.
I waded back to shore and after a struggle got out and decided to have another peek at the section below. The trotter was gone. Yaay for me! I sat in the sun and sorted up a new team of bugs and as I did so the chap who had been drowning bluebottle progeny earlier came past on hos way back upstream from further down. He stopped for a blether and was telling me it was his first outing on the river for Grayling, and wasn’t really sure where was “good”. We chatted for a while and he said he was calling it a day and heading home. I got in the water and started to fish. I fished through most of the run until it got too deep to wade and then returned to the shore. I was toying with changing my bugs and having another run through, though I had had no indication of any fish at all, and looking upstream it seemed like I had the lower beat to myself now. I decided to head upstream and try elsewhere.
I was heading for a spot where there is a deep channel but its a fair wade and I can’t say I was keen to try, so decided instead to try a spot that my friend John had found some success at on a previous outing about a year ago, just before going for a refreshing early winter swim. As I worked down into the area, though conscious there had been maggots through here not 45 minutes earlier, I still was hopeful of a fish. With nothing doing at first I decided to change bugs and put a variant I had tied of the squirmy wormy type bug , on point. This variant was more of a jig nymph with a squirmy tail. Almost right away, within 5-6 casts, I hooked a fish as the flies rose in the water, it wanted to bolt downstream with the point fly and I went to give it some line and I think I made the fatal error of giving it too much slack and it was off, I had seen it though and it looked a decent fish. Not 5 minutes more passed when I hooked into a second. Determined not to make the same mistake I was letting the rod take the strain, this fish appeared to be a little smaller, as it showed on top, I wasn’t “making” it come to the surface, on the contrary I was trying to keep it on the bottom but it seemed determined to get to the surface. There was a tug and it too was off. I was gutted, and checking my point fly again this time I had a sliver of fish skin on my hook, it looked like I maybe nicked it in the lip and it had pulled through. Having got a further tug that felt like a fish but nearing the limit of where I could wade safely here I decided to fish further down, resting this swim and to try again later on.
There was time for tea and a bit of Mars Bar before I started on the longer run below. I also decided to take the opportunity to experiment with my set up and changed round my bugs a few times looking for a combination that would optimise the cast for the flow. By the time I neared the end of this run I was confident I was fishing much better and after another stop for a cuppa to also let the sun get behind the hills to the south I felt if I was going to catch at all, it was back where I lost the two fish earlier with the benefit of lower light into dusk. I re entered the swim and started to fish. Very quickly I had a definite knock and felt the fish headshake twice as I lifted but it wasn’t on. They were definitely here. A few more casts and I was on…… only for it to once again almost immediately come free! I was positive I had done nothing wrong, I had the fish under a nice bit tension, was keeping it down and then it simply got off. …and I only use quality barbless hooks for my Grayling bugs before you say!
I was gutted but pressed on. And then I had a take, it felt a very strong fish and put up a ridiculous fight, that seen me get the fish in line with me only for it to take line downstream 3 times! it wasn’t for coming in, some walkers stopped for a moment to watch but it was evident it wasn’t going to be quick and they were getting cold standing! After a prolonged battle I finally got the fish ready for the net and it was surprisingly smaller in length than I would have predicted but it was really heavy. I think it had been gorging on maggots! I would have put its weight at little under 2lb but its weight wasn’t in keeping with its size at all. Safely returned I returned to try again and became snagged on the bottom, and couldn’t free the bugs, and ended up breaking off the bottom two. As it was getting darker I decided to call it a day and retired to the car happy with my day that wasn’t a blank after all.