Contributed by John Garner, Secretary (15.04.2007)
Saturday was a scorcher. I didn't even rush to get out - it was almost 12 when I left for the river. Having decided that even leafless trees might offer just a bit of shade, I parked at Eastfield Bridge with the intention of working my way upstream. After spending half an hour or so talking, I set off with little in the way of expectation. Walking up past the falls and on to the first bend I'd seen neither fish nor fly.
This was not looking promising. I sat and had a leisurely lunch beside the pool on the bend. I did see a couple of rises but nothing that was reachable without wading. With the river as low as it was that didn't seem like a good idea. Past experience suggests that, when there's little water, the fish are aware the minute that first foot goes in and don't hang about within casting range.
I started fishing at 1:30 and, not far upstream, I sat and watched for a while at a spot where I'd managed to extract fish previously. Before long it was obvious that one or two fish were cruising about and taking something unseen from the surface. As a shot in dark, a black Paradun was tied on and rolled out - several times but to no avail. I sat and watched some more. A few minutes later I dropped the fly in the path of one of the cruisers. The first fish inspected the fly and refused. I hadn't spotted the second one close behind it. Despite giving the fly a twitch, this one also refused at the last minute.
The third one also appeared from nowhere and was definitely having that fly. Whether it had seen the twitch or I'd managed to sink the tippet I don't know but the first that fish new something was amiss was when the hook went home. It was not a happy chappy and started to protest. It continued to protest for the next few minutes but was eventually brought close enough to net - or so I thought. What I hadn't realised is that, since the last fish I caught in this spot, the tree had grown slightly and I couldn't get the rod high enough to pull this one over the net. At this point I began to wonder about the wisdom in debarbing hooks.
Desperate measures were called for. Have you ever tried sliding down a steep bank on your backside, rod in one hand and net in the other, whilst trying to keep some tension on the line to prevent the debarbed hook from dropping out? Call it luck - I don't care, it worked. The result - 19 and a half inches of trout in the net. I just hope that I don't have too many like that to deal with. I can assure you it's potential heart attack material.
Measured and photographed, the fish took a bit of nursing but eventually swam off when released. I sat and smoked while the shakes subsided. I'd just beaten my previous best by an inch.
Working upstream I managed to spook several more fish but failed to add to the total. At one spot I noticed a fish rising and lined another monster that was 3 yards closer in the process of trying for it. At that point I gave up.
During the walk back to the car I began trying to remember just how many big fish I'd seen in the last 3 and 1/2 hours - and couldn't. While this is far from the easiest stretch to fish, if you're chasing the big ones this has to be the place to try.
Just as a matter of interest, as it was my idea to put the cash prize up for the biggest fish returned, I've no intention of claiming it. Keep putting them back - the 25 quid's still up for grabs.