Tangling with Fish

Home Work

While working from home probably isn’t for everyone, the lack of actual contact with workmates being the one most cited by people I speak to, it has numerous advantages for the angler- especially in summer. When work is done for the day, my commute takes me from my office to my kitchen in about 3 seconds ( if that) and I can have my tea (dinner to posh folk) and be out the door as quick as I like. Last night I was fed and watered by eight minutes after six, and on the road to the river by twenty past the hour.

On the Line

Traffic wasn’t bad and I was getting tackled up by a quarter to seven. Then the phone went. I probably should have ignored it, but I thought it might be something important and so answered. The person on the line had things they wanted to get off their chest and I could not bring myself to say, “look I am busy going fishing” and so managed to get most of my gear set up while holding a mobile between my chin and shoulder. I eventually fumbled my way to the riverside still with the phone held there while I listened to the caller. I couldn’t really make a start so used the time to watch the river and fish were rising again and again in moderately fast water in front of me.

The speaker was still going strong, and I could hold back no more, what if the rise came to an end before the call ended? I managed to get my dry fly set up ready and checked there was just enough room for a short backcast and while locking the line under my rod hand made a few cursory casts over the lie of the rising fish.

The call went on. I, however, managed to tease enough line out to get a decent turnover and would you believe my quill CDC dry lured a fish, I lifted and it was hooked. However the caller was still on the line and I couldn’t really manoeuvre to keep control of the fish, and it eventually came off. It wasn’t big but welcome. After 40 mins the call ended, and I was finally able to concentrate. I decided to tackle the faster deeper water with my nymphing rod set up with a team of two spiders and a small but heavy nymph on point.

Finally a Bit of Peace

Having got into position across the river I started fishing this but it wasn’t getting any reaction despite fish rising all around. Quite what they were taking I really didn’t know there were clouds of midges, small upwings and larger upwings all around, and I never caught sight of what they were taking, I suspect the quarry was just subsurface.

CDC wet spiders

Not the best photo, but a selection of CDC spiders in Iron Blue Dun and Bloa variants

I changed flies, removing the heavy point and changing to different patterns. One of the flies getting a good rep just now on the Carron is the Iron Blue spider. I had tied a few and did a few in a CDC variant, with a CDC hackle and it sits right in the surface film, just like the CDC Greenwell’s I have mentioned here a few times. I put one on the top dropper and I am sure a few fish looked at it but something was still wrong. Sometimes it is worth studying your presentation in a critical fashion and I could see here that while the flies were dead drifting OK the tippet of the droppers was maybe a bit long and was pretty obvious round the flies even in the fast water.

Scaling Down

A total change was called for. I removed the entire set up, replacing the tippet with the finest I had, 1kg Stroft ABR ( 0.08mm) shortened the distance between the flies, and the droppers and adjusted the flies for best weight distribution to keep them up near the surface. Within about 3 casts a fish rose in the fast water and took the top dropper CDC Iron Blue. The take was pretty subtle and I initially thought it was one of the smaller fish, like the one I had earlier on the dry. But as I put tension on it, it became apparent it was a decent fish. It was heading downstream at a rate of knots and cognizant that I only had 2lb tippet I had to slip it a little line. It was a leaper and jumped clear of the river about 4 times but easing myself into slacker water I was able to get it to the net after a minute or two. I deliberately took my time and I think it was wise. This is where the problems started.

A Right Tangle

Brown Trout on CDC Spider

Second fish of the night put up a huge fight and got in a right tangle of fine tippet.

First, the fish took my tiny CDC spider but it was nowhere to be seen! The fish was totally wrapped in the ultra fine tippet and I could barely see it and the early evening gloom- it got quite dull early on last night if you noticed? I literally couldn’t work out which bit of line led to my fly, where my fly actually was- was it in the fish or wrapped around it. Luckily I recently attached a pair of old fly tying scissors to my tool lanyard and took the decision to cut through all the line and get my point and dropper flies back- tiny size 18 spiders. Now to find the top fly. It had lodged itself on the inside of the fish’s mouth right between the teeth and the fish’s scissors and only the merest portion of the shank was visible, there was no way this fish was slipping the hook! I was conscious of how long this was taking and had it not been wrapped so badly in the line would have simply cut the line and left it in the fish and returned it but it wasn’t really an option here. I did eventually get the hook out and having rested the fish in the water frequently during the “surgery” I was surprised how strongly it swam off. A fish of around a pound I would estimate.

Start over in the Gloom

I now had to redo my entire tippet ( and had lost the CDC spider somewhere! ). It took me an age. Youngsters might laugh but trust me, as someone who has had really good eyesight my whole life, getting old really, really sucks! Trying to tie up a tippet section of 1Kg line in the gloom is a real struggle

In the end, I thought “sod it”, and just tied a fresh CDC Spider on the short tippet and dead drifted this down the run without any droppers. I had one slight offer but nothing else seemed interested. There were fish rising almost at my feet preoccupied with something but all I could really see were millions of midges. in the ever descending gloom.

I finished up here and made my way back to my dry fly rod and as I gathered up my things noticed a fish rise in the slower water downstream right in the V of a dead or broken tree/branch and another overhanging branch of a living tree below. I stopped, staying low and watched and every so often a fish rose, clearly not a tiddler, in the same spot.

A Rising Fish, Challenge On!

There was not a lot of room but I thought if I could get into the river slowly and not disturb the pool too much with a wake, I could get into a reasonable casting position about mid-stream.

I grabbed the dry fly rod and slowly, so very slowly crept out. I was about half way and in line to be able to cast into the V in front of me. I readied my line and fly ( a quill CDC). I false casted once, twi…… fek!

I had taken care to ensure a clear space for casting but my fly had other ideas and snagged on the head of one of those weeds you get on the banks of rivers with the heads of tiny white flowers! I tried to pull it free and it came loose with a smack, fly off and another twist in the end of my tippet. These things are sent to try us! I tried to tie on a fresh tippet as best I could, about 3 feet on the end of my tapered dry fly leader, and a fresh, smaller, but similar fly.

Try Again- Patience!

A similar sized fish to the first this time on a CDC Quill Olive

A targetted fish on a dry in the near dark, and hugely satisfying to succeed

I had to move position again so again so slowly I edged up stream getting closer. The fish had risen another two or three times while I was here so I hadn’t spooked it. As I went to cast I reckon a smaller fish rose just ahead of where I was targeting and to get my range I opted to cast for it first, it was on my side of my real target so wasn’t going to disturb it. A rise, but it never took. So close. I had the range now though and this time targetted into the V under the branches and right into the dark, I could barely see and could not see my fly at all, I was watching and listening for a reaction.

Nothing stirred as my fly slowly drifted down and I kept gathering the slack in hand. I went to lift to ready again and the line went solid, fish on! Another great fight with this fish leaping all around me. It was very close to me and I had to watch not let it get between my own legs as it wanted to go that way- I had had enough of tangles, but at least I was able to get it to a net quickly this time and the barbless hook came out, a photo, and away, a huge amount of satisfaction I have to say after earlier tangles!