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If you can’t be good, be lucky

With his first blog of the season, the Damp Angler examines some 'discount' flies and enjoys an unintentional piece of good fortune


Lucky grayling: The result of an accidental “induced take”.
Lucky grayling: The result of an accidental “induced take”.
Gate or fence? The winter storms have taken their toll.
Gate or fence? The winter storms have taken their toll.

My local discount store’s fishing section is a welcome diversion during the weekly shop. Odd that it should even be there, it is odder still that among the cheap spinning rods and carp bait is a rack of dry flies. Not the dry flies most of us are used to seeing, they are – as Mary Berry might put it – “rather informal”. Matching them with the contents list on the packaging is like solving the Enigma code; it being easier to deduce what they are not, rather than what they are (if it has a peacock body, then it can’t possibly be a Greenwell). The black gnat is the ugliest thing, with wings and hackles all over the place and its success would be the realisation of every fly tier’s secret fear – that their best efforts are pointless and trout will rise to any damned thing they have a mind to.

Informal flies: Their success would undermine everything.

That said; the informal flies from the discount store might have suited my first outing of the 2016 trout season, which was more or less ruined by the weather and a great lump of water arriving from upriver. The Swale at Lownthwaite was coloured and high – though not as high as it has evidently been during my winter absence; the sign urging visitors to “please close the gate” caused a moment’s confusion now that the fence to which it was attached has been washed flat. Is the gate now the fence?

There were no fish showing, so it seemed a waste to use the spring dry flies (tied and in the box by mid-January – “are we there yet?”) Instead, I drifted a few early season spiders through some likely looking spots, but it was all to no avail. During the process, a few stumbles served as a reminder of how doubly perilous wading at the start of the season can be, with the familiar shallows of last summer potted with unexpected pools and ledges carved out by winter storms. Later, when the water clears and levels fall, it may be possible to see what has changed, but with the river a deep brown, just putting one foot in front of the other is a risky business.

Spring flies: Saved for a sunnier day when the fish are rising.

That was Saturday. The following day held more promise. It was going to be much warmer and since no further rain was forecast, the river would fall – but by how much it was impossible to know. In the event, it was only slightly lower and still carrying a lot of colour. Again, there were no fish rising. Reasoning that they were deep, I fished a single gold bead hare’s ear which, after several nips and tugs, finally drew a take from a grayling just as I was in the process of lifting the line to make another cast.
Had this been intentional, I could have called it an “induced take” and a rather clever bit of fishing, but it was not intentional. Nevertheless, this solitary piece of good fortune bodes well for the season ahead.

As someone once said: “If you can’t be good, be lucky”.

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