I parked the car with no real expectations, driving out the wind had been pushing quite hard and the temperature had been struggling to climb past 20 degs. I climbed out of the car and started to get organised, the moment I moved into the sun the day seemed to change. The place I had chosen to fish has a double story Georgian homestead that sits about 100 metres from the river and as I came round the back of the house I stopped dead. Behind the house and riding just out of the wind were hundreds of dragonflies, I had never seen so many together, the light just seemed to crackle and sparkle as they danced in time to the rise and fall of the breeze.
It was only now that I remembered Martin’s words, “ Just remember to look out for those dragonfly feeders and if you find them, tie on something big”. As I approached the river you could hear it before even seeing, the fish where going crazy, all up and down the river they were leaping, slashing and lunging at anything that came near.
The way that I fish means that I just don’t carry those big attractor patterns and sure enough as I fumbled through my fly box all I had that seemed big enough was a hopper pattern. After dropping it several times in my excitement I tied it on and moved up to the first fish that was working.
I worked out some line and made a reasonable cast, wait… nothing. I cast again, same result, nothing. It's at that moment doubt enters your mind but just as quickly you brush it aside, another fish was working a little further up so I moved up and made another cast, same result, Nothing.
This is the point when you have to decide, will I stick with this fly or will I do as every author of every single book that I have ever read advises, think about it and work it out for yourself. This is also the point when you wish Lefty Kreh was your fishing partner and he would simply callout “ Hey Paul! tie on one of my never fail patterns which I have here in my hand and you cant miss”.
Holy shit, can I make it any more complex ? my wife tells all her friends that fishing for me is like yoga, maybe it is, but right now it feels more like a grudge match than yoga.
All I can do is break it down to a simple choice, what is the most common food I have seen these fish taking all summer, answer? Mayflies.
I tie on a #14 black spinner and move off downstream, quickly I see another fish working in mid current, I make a cast and it seems short, pulling off a bit more line I give it a push and send it a couple of metres further on, wait… did I do the right thing? The fly disappeares in a splash and everything changes, I desperately try to haul in the slack line but the fish is too quick and with a frantic leap and a kick he’s gone.
Anybody who has seen trout feeding on dragonflies will know how aggressive they are, so when I saw some gentler rings coming off the bank downstream I knew I had a chance. I made my way down and as I came closer dropped to my knees and slid down the bank. He was still there, mooching around tight to the overhanging bushes, he must have seen something because quickly he moves out into the open current and with a mighty heave launches himself at his foe.
This is the moment you know right down to the core of your being that you where destined to be a fly fisherman, you are crouched low on the bank peering through the dry summer grass looking at a fish that is a foot out of the water, mouth agape, water dripping from his sides engulfing what appears to be a most unfortunate dragonfly.
Without thinking I unhooked the fly and with what seemed more like a flick than a cast sent the little black spinner forward, I don’t know why but some days things just work out, watching the leader roll out and seeing the fly quietly land I knew it was good.
That fish took the fly as gentle as a lamb but I knew it was him as soon as the hook was set.
That fish was my best on that stretch of river for the whole season and yes, the rest of the afternoon was wonderful. As soon as the sun went from the water the fishing just shut down. As I walked back towards the car I thought of how many days I had fished this place and how the fishing was never the same. Some days like today are beyondcompare and other days if you land a fish you are ecstatic. As an old fishing friend once said to me, you have to keep going and persisting because fishing is all about “on the day”.