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Head for the headwaters

Persistent rain and high river levels have driven Allan Liddle to seek fly sport high in the headwaters of the tributary streams


Head for the small streams.
Head for the small streams.
Search all the lies, including right under the trees.
Search all the lies, including right under the trees.
Some small fish, and the occasional surprise.
Some small fish, and the occasional surprise.

In between Ark building (as I’m becoming more and more convinced this current spell of almost incessant heavy downpours of rain is the start of something ‘Biblical’  – luckily, I’m a joiner by trade) I’ve still managed to find time to gab an hour or two with the fly rod.

Making the most of the conditions is all part and parcel with what we do, and sadly it can’t always be big fish supping away on emerging duns, or searching out the deep holes and pockets with weighted nymphs on a low river. In fact, this September has come with our north eastern waters being ‘blown out’ more often than not, so it’s a case of scratching around in search of water in a fishable state.

Taking advantage of the higher than normal flows I’ve been recently looking at, and fishing some of the headwater streams we have in abundance, the ‘forgotten’ and ‘overlooked’ wee bits; all overgrown and wild.  Fighting through undergrowth and trees in search of a piece of water you can actually cast on might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve always loved fishing wee burns and really actually enjoying my recent forays, the heavy water giving me the perfect excuse to miss out the usual haunts and concentrate on these tiny, wild waters instead.

Duo nymph fishing is certainly effective in these places and the hard fighting but generally small residents don’t often pass up the chance of a fly as it drifts past them. The skill in this type of fishing is all in the presentation, getting your flies into those wee holes and pockets, behind that tree-root, or down into those deeper runs tight to the shore with those restrictive, overhanging trees just waiting punish you for a poor cast. ‘Bow and arrow’ style casts are effective in the tightest of places with the fish often hitting your fly quickly as the fly drops down past them (competition amongst fish to get to food can be high in these places).

Finding hidden gems and some surprising places right under our noses, as well as re-visiting old locations you’ve not frequented for years also gives you a great sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. Made even better when a bigger fish comes along to spice things up a little.

So next time it’s raining cats ’n dogs and you can’t get near your preferred river, have a wander way up into the normally trickle-sized headwaters, you might be in for a surprise.

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