Summer Soft Hackles

fishing spiders, flymphs & nymphs

a lot has happened since April

A lot has happened since the end of April and not all of it planned! The first week in May saw me finally succumb to Covid after a family get together; the first time I had seen any of my family since this damned Covid thing first appeared. Fully vaccinated, fortunately my symptoms were merely flu-like; but it did leave me feeling very tired for some time afterwards, and especially after any activity, even light activity had been undertaken.

Thankfully my energy levels have now returned to normal again and I was able to begin fishing last month, gradually building up the number and duration of my sessions. I had a short session on the river at the end of May, more as test session that anything to see how I would get on. It was a short session, with a strong, blustery cold wind and bright skies; no fish but it really was great just to be on the river again.

Fishing the river on 08 June, my first session of the month, resulted in another blank session for me; ‘what is going on?’ I thought to myself in jest. It was another warm and windy day but this time with heavy rain showers.

June 10 saw me exploring a section of river I hadn’t fished before. It was a much deeper, slower section of river with high banks, difficult access points, high grasses, thick brush, and difficult terrain underfoot; this was going to be a test! Add to that the wind; it was very gusty and strong and was alternating between coming from the NW – N – NE every other gust. It was so strong at times that it was bending the tip of my #5 trout rod as it gusted back and forth relentlessly. Then an odd thing; with the wind creating a series of ripples and wavelets that moved against the flow of the river, it created the illusion that the river was flowing one way, from left to right, but then the occasional subsurface leaf or strand of weed would drift by from right to left, seemingly moving the wrong way along the river!
I had just about reached my limit of exploration for the day in these adverse conditions, when I rounded a corner in the river that allowed me to fish the bend with the majority of that tricky wind behind/left of me. There was a small tree upstream of my position and fish-less, I decided it had to be worth a go. It meant I had a shoulder-high bank behind me to cast over, but it was fairly level at the top.
Just changing flies in these conditions was a feat in itself and I had earlier opted to set up with a fly I have great confidence in; the Black Spider. Then a fish showed here and there in the vicinity of the tree. On my next cast, the wind caught my forward cast and caused the tip of the flyline to land with a slight splash and the fly to ‘plop’ into the water. Then a slight subsurface bulge by my leader point, saw me tighten the line instinctively and I had a small, but very welcome trout to hand in a few moments. Trout safely released, I had a few more casts but the sky behind me had grown suddenly very dark and angry looking; time to head for home. Feeling that I had caught a fish against the odds; it was definitely a case of a ‘quit while you are ahead kind of day’! - soft hackle wet fly - Black Spider
Black Spider

The following session on 16 June couldn’t have been different; sunny, warm and very little wind and fishing the shallower, faster water downstream of my last session. Before I began my session, I spotted an insect crawling of the pebbles by edge of the river and it was big, around about the size of your small finger in length and width. An olive-brown colour with wings lying flat along its back and two prominent tails formed into a flat ‘V’ shape (similar to a mayfly), I can only conclude that it was a stonefly. Shortly afterwards I felt something tickle past my ear and along under the brim of my hat; I put my hand to up catch whatever it was and it too was one of these insects. They do look quite scary but they are harmless enough. I also saw a large, yellow coloured insect flutter by, similar to how a sedge would fly. Later in the day walking through high grass I caught a flash of yellow out of the corner of my eye and then a shape on the brim of my hat; and once again it turned out to be one of these insects landing on it; I can only conclude that the yellow fluttering insect and what I took to be stoneflies were both one and the same species of insect.
In the shallow pools by the edge of the river I decided to stop and have a look into the water and see what I could see. Suddenly, I was a child again peering into a seaside rockpool. After a moment or two my eyes became adjusted to the shapes and patterns of the rocks, and there I witnessed cased caddis and snails grazing over the rocks; truly magical!
It was wonderful to be out fishing, just casting and allowing the wet flies to drift downstream and enjoying the gentle breeze and warm sunshine. I will remember this session for some time. I even managed five fish to those wet flies, three on a hares ear type soft hackle and two on a trico dubbed flymph. The fish were taking the flies at the end of a run, just where the water began to slow, from the edges of the run and also from behind various rocks and submerged stones. In many was it was simply delightful to be fishing that day, one of those extra special sessions we are fortunate enough to experience from time to time. – Soft Hackle Wet Fly – No Nonsense Flymph
No Nonsense Flymph – Soft Hackle Wet Fly – Trico Flymph
Trico Flymph

A couple of days later saw me back on the river for my last session of June. The wind was very changeable and it was a very warm, sunny day, almost too hot to fish really. I targeted the shaded, faster water and managed three fish to hand but missed many, many more takes; they were taking the fly in a lightning fast manner and seemed to be nipping at the flies. The Black Spider featured during this session too along with a #16 claret spider with a peacock thorax and black hen hackle. Had I managed to hook and bring to hand all the takes I’d missed, I would easily have been into double figures with the number of fish. But that is fishing, and you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way! – Soft Hackle Wet Fly – Claret Peacock Spider
Claret Peacock Spider

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