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First trout of the season

The Damp Angler works off the rust with his first trout of the season

Sitting comfortably: The fish were rising beneath a gorse bush.
Sitting comfortably: The fish were rising beneath a gorse bush.

The Swale provided the first trout of the season at the same spot where last year a monster leapt high out the water, shook its head and completely straightened a Walker’s Sedge. Knowing where the fish are is half the battle. My cast is early-season rusty and landing with altogether too much commotion, so instead of casting directly into the target area; I put the Kite’s Imperial in the water a good thirty yards upstream before mending the line. By the time the fly arrived at the spot, it was on a dead drift, with any waiting fish blissfully unaware of the “adjustments” that had just taken place upriver.

March brown: One of the March Browns scooped from the froth.

Trout anglers are advised to wait and say “God save the Queen” before striking.
“Good God, it worked!” is equally effective.

Elsewhere on the river, the same fly accounted for another two trout who were feeding beneath a gorse bush a couple of feet from the bank. The only way of casting to them without snagging the bush was from the seated position using a low, improvised side-to-side action with the rod. Whipping the fly rod left and right in pursuit of a third, I spotted another fish rising further upriver that put the two I had already caught in the shade. But this one was rising even closer to the bank – no more than a foot from it. For once, I wished that I was on the opposite side of the river casting from a distance, because there seemed no way to approach the fish without spooking it. But when I peered over the grassy edge at the top of the slope leading down to the river, I saw the area where the trout was rising was covered in a layer of white froth. While this meant the fish could not see me creeping down to the water’s edge, it also made it impossible to present the fly in any way that looked natural.

Frothy puzzle: Artificial March Browns dropped into the foam were quickly swallowed up, rather than standing proud like the naturals.

The moment the fly was dapped onto the surface of the foam it was swallowed up, the hackles and wings becoming clogged with bubbles, whereas the trapped natural insects – a very localised hatch of March Browns – seemed to be standing proud, presenting a clear profile for the fish to aim at. But there was still a chance. Each time the trout surfaced, it made a hole in the froth. Perhaps if I could dap a fly into one of those windows the trout would see it before the foam closed in again. The hour that followed was thrilling but ultimately frustrating and in the end I retired up the bank to leave the fish in peace… for now.

Kite’s Imperial does the job: The trout rose to the fly at the same spot where a fish straightened a Walker’s Sedge last season.

That first trout was such a specimen that I fear I may have peaked too early. And could it be the same fish that so spectacularly straightened my Walker’s Sedge last year? No, of course it couldn’t. That would be too perfect. And besides, the one that got away was much bigger. Aren’t they always?

Trout in hand: The first trout of the 2016 season will be a hard act to follow.

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