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July evenings

July evenings offer the best sport for trout, sea trout... and salmon

I love July evenings. On a river they can mean caddis hatches, b-wo rises. And sea trout – my favourite fish So, I spent last weekend filling up my sea trout box: Stoat’s Tails, Dunkelds, Silver Stoats, and the ever-reliable Teal, Blue & Silvers, all in sizes 8 to 14 - you never know what the water height might be. Last night, after work, I got to the river about 7pm. As I sat on the wooden bench, pulling on my waders, my eye was drawn to a constantly rising fish way down at the pool-tail. As I munched on a pear, there it was again. And again. Now, this season has a good one, but cool evenings, high waters and an often chilly wind have not been conducive to good evening rises. So, when I saw another fish rise in the same area, I suddenly forgot all about sea trout, and reached for my three-weight.

As I walked downstream, I noted a cloud of dancing spinners in the shelter of the trees. Delicate and slim, I guessed they were probably blue-winged olive spinners. Luckily, over Lockdown, I had tied up a few of my favourite Spinner patterns, and one was already on the line, Ginked and ready to go. To get to these fish involves a precarious wade across, around, up, and then straight into the pushing tail-flow water. You have to get directly downstream of these fish in order to get right onto their feeding line with a drag-free drift – the pace of the tailing-out water is too fast, and causes instant drag if you approach from the side. So you are wading, casting and fishing directly into the main flow of the river. The mantra is: ‘don’t slip or stumble, and don’t drop anything, otherwise you, or it, will end up in Dundee’.

The fish were still rising. There was a good number of them, and they were going well. but whatever they were taking, wasn’t my Spinner. After convincing myself I’d covered a few, a change was due. Try the Deer Hair Emerger, my new favourite, trendy fly - a size 14 one. Bang! Bang! Bang! Three come in quick succession, all kiteing around the pool’s heavy pace and an exciting and wobbly fight on a 3-weight, the tight line shuddering in the heavy current.

Then, the rise intensified, and the DHE was ignored cast after cast. How can they be so fickle? Back to the box, and back to the Spinners – including an Orange one – and Midges, in a few different sizes. All were now invisible, apparently. By the whorl-type of rise, they seem to be taking the nymph as it emerges, so OK, switch back to a DHE, but this time a skinny, thread-bodied one, dressed on a size 18.

Suddenly, we are back in business with five more in a hectic 20 minutes. Fighting these fish on 3-weight in rapid, sweeping flow is a test, especially with the inviting lip of the next pool, just ten yards downstream. Letting the soft blank absorb most of the fish’s dives and thrashes is the answer, along with a drag that is set on the limit of 5x breaking point. A gentle draw to the waiting hand or net is the moment when the game is won or lost. So patience is the key word at landing time.

The final fish is the best, going just over a pound. It runs all the way along the sill of the pool exit, before, thankfully turning and heading back upstream. This fish actually bow-waved slightly before taking the fly, probably because the hatch was petering out and the emergers suddenly had became scarce. Lucky me, after this, there was barely another rise. Like a switch had been flicked.

The sky was getting duller, with a brassy glow. Sea trout time. I walk back up to the neck, pick up the 5-weight, already armed with a little Black Muddler with a size 12 Teal, Blue & Silver trailing on the point. I deliberate over changing to a Dunkeld in this golden orange glow of the evening, but instead switch the trusty TBS for one a size bigger, just to hold better in this sweeping, powerful flow.

Casting square, I work down the neck of the pool. A trout bangs the line, probably hitting the Muddler, but doesn’t stick. I work my way into the main part of the pool where the current flows more evenly. I’m holding a loop of line in case something intercepts the arcing flies. I’m glad I do this because, in the next instant, the loop has disappeared, the rod is almost jerked out of my hand, the reel is fizzing, line is pouring off the spool, and a big silver fish cartwheels on the opposite side of the river. In the gloom I make out a big, square tail. “Sea trout”, I whisper to myself, “Big one”. And then, “Don’t lose it”.

The fish cavorts around the pool and the 5-weight bucks, thumps and doubles over as the fish runs and leaps not once more, but twice, and then again. It’s only when, rod bent to the maximum, line singing, and I’m trying to persuade the silver torpedo into my net that I realise that it: a) has taken the TB&S, and b) isn’t a sea trout, but a grilse, about six pounds. Beautifully silver, fresh from the sea. Patience, patience… and it slides into the net. As I collapse the net in the shallows to photograph it, the fish has one more jump in its repertoire and, as it somersaults into the air, it leaves the Teal, Blue & Silver in the net and me without a photo. I bid it good luck for the rest of its journey, and decide that I didn’t really need a photograph; I’ve got enough memories already deeply etched in my mind from this evening to last me a very long time.

Ah, July nights. Good time for a grilse, too.

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