A new season begins

Matt Irvine

 At the end of a damp winter the emergence of buds on the trees and the greening up of hedgerows tells us a new season is on the way: the fishing season. However, this year the eagerly awaited start of the trout fishing season was put on hold across the UK due to the Coronavirus outbreak, a day on the water a distant dream.

Then the announcement came – fishing may commence again from May 13th – with caveats in place from the fishing clubs based on the latest government advice: fish at your own risk, take precautions and socially distance (the latter being relatively easy when wading in a river). Did this return to angling mean droves of anglers turning up on the riverbanks struggling to socially distance? Well from what I have seen, the answer is no.

My first foray out was on Sunday 17th May, just in time for the start of the mayfly hatch. It was a warm, sunny evening and I arrived at my chosen stretch of river expecting the car park to be busy, yet out of the twenty beats available only four were taken. Great news for this eager fisherman, and I was able to get my favourite beat; a lovely stretch of river with streams of ranunculus and clean gravels underfoot.

Disappointment though was my overarching feeling as I arrived at the bridge overlooking the river; as I attempted to look below the surface of the water I noticed the clarity of the water was terrible, with visibility of around 18 inches. No rain for several weeks and no beasts in the river upstream meant the river should be crystal clear, but it wasn’t, it was suffering from an algal bloom.

Once I’d got over the initial disappointment it was time to try and see what lay beneath. I couldn’t see any flies hatching, and there were no discernible rising fish, but I love the dry fly, so opted for a Klinkhammer version of a Partridge Adams (emerging olive imitation). It took me a few casts to get the control back into my casting after a few months without my fly rod. It didn’t take long to rise the first fish which was quickly missed, as was the second and third. Fourth time lucky and I was into a nice well-conditioned (but little) out of season grayling, which was quickly unhooked and returned. Two casts later brought a better fish, my first trout of the season, and what a beauty. After a few leaps through the air it was safely into the net and unhooked: a beautifully spotted wild brown trout of around the 1lb mark.

As I made my way upstream a few mayflies were dancing through the air, but the trout weren’t paying any attention to these early hatchers, and they were able to go about their business unmolested by the fish. I wonder how long that will last.
I slowly made my way upstream through the beds of ranunculus, and although there was no hatch, fish had begun to rise readily to my Klinkhammer pattern and I was rewarded with a few more beautiful fish around 1lb.

What a first outing to the season it had been, and although far from ideal conditions with it being warm and sunny with very little fly activity, this hadn’t put the fish off. Maybe that extra 6-7 weeks of no fishing has helped the wild trout populations fatten up a little before they become more hook-wary as the season progresses and spring moves into summer.

As I left the river I reflected on the evening’s fishing: initial disappointment with the lack of water clarity, morphing into elation at the six beautiful trout who succumbed to my dry fly tactics. A fantastic start to the season.