Some tips for the small river fly angler...
Here are the steps that I go through when flyfishing for trout. They are born out of long experience, so you might want to take notes.
1. Arrive full of confidence and expectation, the disappointment of the last trip now long forgotten. Set up your rod, thread the flyline through the rod rings and then attach the leader. Notice how you’ve missed at least one of the rod rings and rebuke yourself for wasting valuable fishing time as you start again.
When the fish aren't playing ball, you'll be glad you put extra Glenfiddich in your coffee.
2. With the equipment set up, quietly approach the river, taking care not to frighten any trout holding in the open water. Observe how the good-sized trout is put down by the unnoticed smaller fish which shot upstream when you waved your rod around.
3. Spend time considering fly selection. Are the fish feeding on the surface, or taking nymphs from below? Look for signs of a hatch. Are there any terrestrials around? Having ‘read the water’ and considered one hundred different variables, tie on the same dry fly you used last time. That’ll do nicely.
4. See that brown trout sipping spinners from the bottom of the riffle? Stalk him, moving carefully among the dense bankside vegetation until you are in a position to cast. It is common to snag your landing net a few times as you do so. Once in position, alight your fly on water, observing how it floats beautifully in the surface film. With the delicate fly rod now flicking the line back and forth, remove the loose line from beneath your left foot until you have sufficient line in the air.
Nothing doing? Become distracted by artistic river shots.
5. With the rod loaded, make your final backcast up into the nearest tree, catching the fly around a selection of branches. Feel the sudden strain on the rod as the delicate tippet is overstretched. This can be stretched further with a few quick tugs, each one more vigorous than the last.
6. Five minutes later, broken tippet mended and another fly (preferably the same pattern as before) selected from the fly box, you’re ready to start fishing in earnest. If the rising trout has decided to have his dinner in more peaceful surroundings, seek out another specimen. It is usual to start wading at this point, your left hand finding the stinging nettles as you gently lower yourself into the current. As you begin moving upstream, feel the cool water rush against your legs. Express your surprise that the marginal weeds could shelter such good-sized trout as you watch them swim panic-stricken into the run you plan to fish next.
Damselfly on a reed
7. Having spent an hour or two trying to fool a fish into believing that the feather and fur tied to your hook is an appetizing meal, it is worth pausing to take in your surroundings. There may be no fish in the basket as yet but there were a couple of near misses, and, anyway, see how beautifully the fly sits in the surface film. Consider the landscape around you and reflect that fishing in such a place is a pleasure in itself; catching something is a bonus. If you have a camera with you, become absorbed trying to photograph a damsel fly, or perhaps some ranunculus flowers. And as you stroll back to your car, lift your spirits: you will be back again next week, when the river won’t be so out of sorts. And the gold-plated, limited edition thermometer which you ordered from the fishing mail order company will have arrived by then. Next time you’ll surely be filling your creel to the brim.