It bubbles… it tumbles… it rolls. Each little corner, the long enticing straights, at every turn, it seems to call to you, its voice tinkling one moment then gurgling and gushing the next, the water drawing you forever forward. The fish love this world as much as the angler, feisty and abandoned one minute, spooky and selective the next. The heat of the day drives them on as your fly choice brings another dimpling rise. Somewhere in the distance I hear a voice calling and it funnels down the tree lined banks and snaps me out of my meditation, I look around I see Simon on the bank pointing upstream, it quickly becomes obvious that the time has come for a coffee at the café that sits right on the river — this could only happen here.
Of all the rivers I have fished this one offers the most contradictions, so accessible, so pretty, so many fish and yet it sits right smack bang in the middle of a small country town. And make no mistake I mean right in the middle. You pull into the local service station, fill up with gas then walk a few steps to the river to see whether the fish are rising. The people are friendly and are quick to ask if your fishy pursuits have been successful, and offer condolences if not. It’s as simple as pulling the car to the side of the road, gearing up and wandering past the local B&B down to the water. A move through the trees and the cars and shops are dreamily left behind as the river goes to work on all your senses, beautiful dappled light, endless bubble lines and a quietness only broken by the occasional bird call and fruit pickers playing guitars on the grass.
The farmers in this part of the world are generous enough to work with Anglers Alliance to provide various access points, opening up large sections of river through private property. Make no mistake, the regulars here are aware of the situation and will tolerate no nonsense from the uninitiated. At the main access point, near the bridge, a journal has been placed in a folder asking anglers to record their days fishing, this is a pretty amazing read and I would suggest you take a look. There is a particular local gent in there that I would be very keen to fish with. This is one of those rivers that is so picture perfect, and it feels very luxurious when you are wandering through fields of raspberry canes occasionally stopping for a chat with the farm hands whilst keeping one eye firmly glued to the river… yes, very nice indeed.
To be truthful the first few times I was taken here it seemed a little weird, everyone telling me how good the fishing was and yet there we were in the middle of town, wading up behind country houses and the local shop casting to rising browns. It certainly made me smile though after Marcus released a fish and the owner of the overlooking house came out for a chat, they quickly fell into a discussion on the merits of soil types for potatoes and other matters of a vegetable kind. When he chose to wander back inside Marcus bade him farewell, re-ginked his fly and moved on, now that’s what I call a good relationship with the locals.
There is something going on here and I just can’t quite put my finger on it, but if someone said that it was slightly addictive I would have to drop my head a little and with some kind of rough smile, say yes it is. Fishing the lakes in high summer offers some pretty tough challenges but that is when this water comes alive, low flows and warm days only bring bigger hatches and better fishing. People speak of matching the hatch; to be honest there is just so much fly life on the water it’s difficult to choose. Caddis, tiny black mayflies, beetles, dragonflies, damselflies, they’re all here swarming, dancing and fighting for space to perform their miniature routines. Natures display is a entomological sympathy and the trout miss none of it.
There is one last point to this story that I promise I am telling just to you. HE IS HERE! You know the one, spoken of in hushed tones at the local pub, the occasional photo surfacing from an angler’s red-letter day. We don’t know whether they are fugitives from the fish farm or simply a product of the masses of insects who call the river home. MAKE NO MISTAKE lurking in a deep dark pool, lying under an undercut or ogling a caddis from the safety of a log, your very own Hog Johnson lives here. Don’t worry though, the locals will be only to happy to tell you exactly where, and I am sure that one of the specialist guides will put you right, hopefully. So search this river out, fish it, love it, respect it, and most of all enjoy it!