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The fickleness of sea trout

How can consecutive nights on the same beat be so different? Mark Bowler doesn't know, and he doesn't think sea trout do either!

At last! How can two consecutive nights be so different?
At last! How can two consecutive nights be so different?

Enigmatic, fickle and cussed are all descriptions for the moods of sea trout, and last weekend was a typical demonstration of them at their most compelling and frustrating.

Travelling south, I called into the Annan at Kirkwood to see Anthony Steel and discuss our autumn Salmon Schools (which are filling fast!) Anthony's going through a 'living off the land' phase at the moment, and he disappeared off with his rifle to get some meat (his Thai-curried rabbit is excellent, by the way) whilst I concentrated on fish.

I needed to be away early next morning, so had only got two hours until midnight before I'd have to pack in. It was enough though. It was action all the way down the run with a couple of wet flies: two fish lost, numerous plucks and thumps, and three fish (to 3.5lb) walloped the fly. Oh, and a brownie of at least 2.5lb did the same. Even a two-inch grayling managed to latch onto the fly. To be honest, I've never experienced that sort of sport on the Annan and - judging by my following visit, the very next night - probably never will.

Starting at 10 pm again, I started down the same run eagerly. Fish on and off almost immediately. "Here we go again", thought I, confident of another good result and with the whole night stretching ahead of me.

However, rather like England playing Iceland there was an inevitability of that missed chance, and - just like England versus Iceland – confidence and complacency gave way to frustration. For a long time, nothing happened. Even at my favourite taking spots, and where I'd connected with fish the previous night, it was as silent as the grave. I started going through the motions mumbling, "Where are they?"

Time for another pool, and a different tactic.

Reluctantly, due to the obscured light of the moon, I tied on a Surface Lure. I prefer it to be darker for Surface Lure and was using it more in the hope of locating a fish rather than catching one. Sure enough, within a dozen casts I'd had one pluck at the lure and one boil at the fly, which I could see clearly in the dimly lit river. Was it too light? At least I knew where a couple of fish were lying.

OK, try them with a sunk lure. Out of the river, back upstream, run down with a Waddington. One pluck… a few casts later… another pluck. How can two fish tug at a small treble and not get hooked (and actually pluck at it in exactly the same way), yet whenever that same treble comes within two feet of my landing net it becomes inextricably enmeshed in it?

Ok, back upstream, try a sinking line with small wets and a Secret Weapon on the point. Ha ha! I chuckled at my deviousness, and figure-eighted them over the two lies with anticipation.
Not a nibble, not a pluck.

"Why is it so quiet?" Over the last two evenings I had heard just one fish splosh.

"OK, time to try another pool". As if by magic, a fish jumped directly opposite me, two rod-lengths out.

"Must be fate", I decided.

I clambered out of the water, and headed back upstream for a fourth pass, this time a Snake lure was charmed right over the fish's lie. It was unimpressed. So, it wasn't fate. It wasn't magic either.

By now, I was beginning have that nagging feeling that something was wrong. It had rained heavily during the day: was the river rising? I drove down to look at the gauge in the torchlight. No, if anything, it had fallen since last night.

"OK, there's another pool which is everyone's favourite. I'll try the sunken wet flies and Secret Weapon there".

I don't get to fish this pool much – there's usually someone on it – but tonight it was all mine… probably because it was as silent as the grave.

By now, dawn began to break and I'd nothing to show for my efforts. Wearily, I trudged back to where I'd started, and back on went the floater and the wets.

Bang! A fish from almost the exact, same spot where I'd lost a fish five-and-a-half hours earlier. A nice looking sea trout of two pounds, and one I'd remember for quite some time. Enthused, I fished down another run in the light of a fabulous dawn. Dawn's always a good time for a sea trout. But not this morning. Nothing.

Why were the two nights so different? Perhaps the fish had moved on? Possibly, but there were still a few fish present. Perhaps the rain that fell during the day had coloured or cooled the water fractionally? Was there a change in air pressure? I don't know, and – you know what? – I honestly don't think the sea trout do, either.

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