Despite the low water conditions the rivers have been producing some great results for my own rod and my clients this last few weeks using ultra light tactics, french leaders and heavyweight bugs. It has resulted in some excellent catches of Grayling and also a bunch of decent Browns, plus I have been messing around with a few alternative dry fly tactics.
Everything was going just great until I met up with Henry Gilbey for a trip to the River Culm last week, a stretch accessible via the West Country Angling Passport.Armed with lightweight Greys XF2 Streamflex #2 or #3 outfits the plan was to extract one of the Culms large Trout for Henry’s lens using bugs. This venue has become a firm favourite and just a couple of weeks ago produced some far better than average Trout during an evening session. The fact that most of them took dries should have told me something! Unfortunately I forgot that session and blindly went about the business of flicking a heavyweight team of bugs into all the likely looking nooks and crannies. I did bump a few fish, but obviously my tactics were not right during the blustery wind, intermittent showers and harsh sunlight. Even so I continued to fish, blind to the conditions and with very little success!
Of course the plan to extract a big fish was not the right one for such changeable weather conditions although I did blow it on one fish which would have pushed over a pound. It took a small Retirer Sedge fished on a double dry rig and blew up my leader after an all too hasty strike! The take was also a little hesitant, which was not surprising in the conditions and also because these fish see a lot of flies.
So what should I have done differently? Well it would have been sensible to head to the venue in the evening, this is when the large fish are likely to play ball, often showing themselves at the surface. My second mistake was to blindly fish with bugs for so long. Some venues, the Lyn being a classic example, respond incredibly well to this technique, but the Culm is a very different river. Meandering with cut banks and the odd riffle, plus slow deep pools … perfect dry fly water! And one more thing, that wind! It was howling and yet even when I decided to adopt a dry approach my leader remained at 14’!
This year in the low water conditions it has been necessary to fish longer leaders than ever before and I must admit to being blown away by the Varivas Yamame versions, but in such a high wind I needed to go shorter. As soon as I cut the leader down, scaled up my size of fly (good silhouette in the ruffled surface) and went looking for an opportunist Trout hoping to intercept a surface meal the rod began to bend … although to add insult to injury most of the fish then managed to slip the hook! But who cares, I came away with a lot from that session and it will be a long time before I second guess what the fish are up to again … and next time I will get one of those big fish for Henry’s camera!