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At this time of year you cannot be sure if there will be a hatch or not. It has been said that somewhere flies will hatch every day of the year but through the winter you will be very lucky to see one, especially here up north. Through the winter I use a 10ft 2 weight rod with a specialised 0.55 mm nymphing line as I have never mastered the French leader but in March I switch to my trusty old 10ft 3 weight Marryat with a normal floating line and a Louis Noble style hand tied tapered leader because this casts a dry fly much better than the 2 weight set-up. It is important at this time of year and in the late autumn when hatches are sporadic and sparse to be able to react quickly to rising fish and to be able to revert back easily to nymphing when the hatch dies away. I am prepared to accept some impairment of the nymphing technique in return for the flexibility described below.
For a few weeks now I have seen a short lived sparse hatch of Large Dark Olives but not in sufficient quantities to get the fish feeding so the default mode has been nymphing. However this week I was fishing the Lancashire Fly Fishing Association water on the Ribble, as I was nymphing down a pool a fish rose below me. I realised that there was a slow hatch of LDOs that I had not spotted. My preferred method is dry fly, I enjoy the mechanics of casting, persuading the fly to drift properly and seeing the take so I don’t need much encouragement to switch from nymph to dry. My nymph rig is described in some detail in an earlier blog, “Short Line Nymphing”, so I won’t bore you with the details but in summary I use a FlyTek BB indicator with 1 metre of fluorocarbon to a dropper fly and another ½ metre to the point fly. The upper end of the indicator is tied to the tippet ring at the end of my tapered leader with about 40cm of mono the same thickness as the leader tip.
So, having seen the rising fish, I made my way to the bank where I cut off the nymph rig at the tippet ring and replaced it with a metre of mono tippet and my default dry fly, a Deer Hair Emerger. I hung the nymph rig from a convenient spot, a twig on a bush or a fence post. As it has a bright orange indicator it is easy to find later to either put back on the line or put away in a pocket. I then waded downstream a bit and then out to a spot below where I had seen the fish. After a few casts I caught the fish, a nice fit 30cm Grayling, which I released in the water. The Grayling was out of season but it is impossible to fish for trout and avoid catching Grayling if they are present in the river. As I only fish with barbless hooks, bring the fish to the net as quickly as possible and release the fish in the water I don’t feel guilty about catching o-o-s fish. As I continued to fish the pool I became aware that I was being watched. In the tree roots on the bank a mink was watching me intently, possibly sizing me up as a food item or more likely taking note of where I caught and returned the fish. Along with cormorants and goosanders mink are the last thing you want to find on your river.
No more fish rose in the pool so I sat and watched the next pool downstream while drinking a cup of coffee. I could not see any surface activity so I put my nymph rig back on and carried on fishing down the long pool. It was lunch time when I reached the tail of the pool. As I was sat on the bank eating my sandwich a fish rose just upstream of me where the water slowed and deepened. The hatch had started again so it was off with the nymph rig, on with a dry and back in water leaving half a sandwich on the bank and hoping the mink had not followed me down. This time I able to catch two more Grayling and lose a third one before the hatch petered out for the final time.
© Bill Beddows 22/03/18