Contributed by Richard (05.09.2018)
Seasons ’16-’17 and ’17-’18 were the two toughest personally on our waters since I started fishing them in 2005. Although I managed trout on most occasions, hatches were generally poor. More worryingly, stretches that I know intimately had previously held big trout which I know devoid of them in the usual obvious lies, even in ‘ideal’ conditions...such as mid-May, light breeze, cloud cover and plenty of terrestrials about.
It was not just myself, but my mate who confirmed my fears. What was happening to our river? Part of the blame seemed (to us) to lie in the large numbers of cormorants present (my friend saw up to 40 on a pool once). We don’t have the numbers/density of trout that may exist further downstream, therefore it is more vulnerable predation. I also noticed a decrease in footfall on the banks. Whereas in previous seasons I was concerned that there were too many anglers, the tough fishing we have had seems to have put off many, who no doubt have gone to pastures new in search of easier sport- and who can blame them?
My concern is now the opposite, and the more anglers we have the more human presence there is and this is anathema to cormorants. Having said this, some of the upper stretches seem to have such a small head of trout that even the cormorants may have learnt that it is not worth the effort! If I am right then hopefully natural recruitment will replace those specimens we have lost through avian predation.
A conversation with our secretary revealed a concern within KSAA over lack of hatches and it is true that these seem to be very hit and miss, with more miss than hit over the last few seasons. Having said this, I recall some epic hatches of iron blue duns, large dark olives and blue-wing olives when big trout have revealed themselves. Many is the day however, when I have traipsed the banks, scanning the surface for feeding trout. Sure, I could nymph, but choose not to. I prefer to seek those larger visible, rising trout...each to their own eh? I recall days where several hours may have passed with only a handful of trout to show for my efforts, then suddenly things have switched on. Of course, this means surface food, and as often this will be a fall of terrestrials as a hatch of upwings.
This season has been frustrating due to lack of water, meaning a 10 week hiatus, where I did not fish anywhere.
I have a 120 mile round trip to KS, so unlike locals, if conditions are not favourable, it is not so easy to just jack it in and go home, after taking 90 minutes to reach the river in the first place! However, this can also have advantages in that sometimes a seemingly dead-ish day can just switch on....and if I had been local and gone home due to it being quiet I would have missed the good stuff which happened later! I recall a day a couple of seasons back in summer where I had only managed 5 trout in probably at least 7 hours fishing. All of a sudden at about 7pm, a mega hatch of BW-O started and was still going strong till it was too dark to see and I had to pack in at 11pm. At one pool, there were 3 trout one behind the other within the space of maybe 3’, such was the density of hatch and so keyed on were they that I took each in turn despite the water erupting each time I hooked one...all were between 2 and 2.5lbs.
Given the curtailed nature of our fishing this season, nevertheless on the visits I have had, some results have been reasonable (some have been awfully quiet though)and on several trips trout of over 2lbs have been landed. My 3 best trout have all fallen to terrestrial imitations and all were taken when they were seen to take some sort of terrestrial insects from the surface. A size 14 foam beetle, size 18 shuttlecock gnat and a size 18 black Klinkhamer were the successful patterns. Two of the trout were over the 20” length, though not by much. So they are there, but catching them needs care in approach and casting and whilst we really should approach all trout the same, I have to admit my delivery to smaller trout sometimes leaves a bit to be desired. The big lads get the care they deserve and more often than not (up to now, fingers crossed) end up in the net. Having said this, there are still those that give me nightmares when I have messed up, but no one can be 100% successful! Funny that because I always think “at least I know where you feed and I will get you next time”, but how often does this happen??
The trout in the shots are 18.25” and two just over 20”. Magnificent trout from a magnificent river. Cherish it and don’t give up!
3lb 0oz. 20". APT Size 18. (4.6.18)
2lb 10oz. 18.25". MCB Pool. Foam Beetle (20.5.18)
3lb 0oz. 20.25". Corner Pool. Black Klinkhamer Size 18