fly fishing sport fishing freshwater fishing
Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


A Day On The Lune

The size 20 black buzzer landed like thistledown, as it drifted pass the washing machine size boulder it was swept into the pool The fish was waiting. It sucked down my artificial with gusto. I tightened then felt the hook go home the rod tip was pulled down I shouted "Got You"

I sat watching and listening to a pair of oyster catchers, their black and white plumage looking resplendent in the Spring sunshine. The orange bill and pink legs make it a bird you cannot miss. Its also the only wading bird in the UK that feeds it young. Other wading birds feed themselves. I was high up the river Lune Valley near Drybeck just a few miles down from Killington. The countryside was magnificent. There wasn't a single building or power line in sight.

Behind me was a small copse it looked as if the ground was wreathed in a blue mist from the thousand of Bluebells. Looking across the river I could see the sheep and lambs on the hillside, at the waters edge were five mallard two ducks and three drakes. In a nearby oak tree I could see and hear a Great spotted woodpeckere hammering away. I had come to seek the wild brown trout. Sitting in the warm sunshine looking for a rising fish I heard the haunting call of the curlew, soon a herd of some fifty or sixty of these the largest wading bird in the United Kingdom appeared on the horizon. They were diving, twisting and circling over the riverside fields as they went though the mating ritual. All thoughts of trout were gone as I watched these beautiful birds. Sadly many of the young or eggs get chewed up by farmers silage making. Its at times like this when I could stop eating meat, if it meant we could get rid of modern farming. Let's return to farming of the fifties. It was far more environmentally bird and animal friendly. And of course our rivers didn't have the insecticide, phosphates, nitrates and other fertilisers.

The weather was as near perfect as I could have wished for with a light warm south-westerly wind, It wasn't too bright I had enough cloud cover to give fleeting glimpses of the sun which was ideal, Fish don't like bright sunlight, they don't have any eyelids. When the sun is shining bright our leaders, lines and flies are magnified. As an advisor to Thomas and Thomas fine rod makers of Massachusetts I use their fly rods. I make no excuse for doing so as I rate them the best in the world. I first met Trevor Bross of T&T in Northern Sweden during the World Fly Fishing Championships. Trevor was representing one of the two sponsors, the other was JEEP. I was doing the interviews for several TV companies and fronting a programme on the championships. Some weeks later Trevor invited me to the factory as their guest. I had a great two weeks, the staff were very friendly, helpful and above all they loved their job which told in the quality control and workmanship.

The rod I had chosen today was the LPS model in nine foot for a 5 weight line. I find this model perfect for fishing small dry flies with light tippets. My reel a Ross was really a small reservoir for holding the fly line and some backing. We don't need backing in case a fish might go off at a fast rate of knots. Our river trout don't do such things. The most they do is take a few yards of line. The backing is to fill the reel, though I leave enough room to get a pencil between frame and line. Looking at my watch it was 11 o'clock I didn't expect much action before 12 noon. It was time for a brew. I soon had a pot of boiling water which I poured on a Yorkshire Gold tea bag, after it had brewed to a nice shade of brown I added some milk. Sitting there at peace with the world I thought how much fun and enjoyment fishing had given me over the past sixty four years. Come June 16th I will be starting my 65th year doing this great pastime. Towards the centre of the river I spotted a swirl, I watched the area more intently then another. Focussing my glasses on the area I tried to see what the fish was eating. I couldn't really distinguish any insect life. Several times the fish sipped insects off the surface. On my backside I slid down the high bank then crouching low I made my way slowly to the waters edge. I sat there watching the surface. The fish was still eating. I glassed the water for about ten minutes, then I spotted some tiny black flies. "Buzzers" I said to myself. I bet you talk to yourself when your fishing.

I climbed back up the bank then picking up my rod I walked off downstream keeping well back from the waters edge. As I got to the other side of some hawthorn bushes a deer jumped off and leapt over the stone wall heading off towards a copse on the hillside. A hundred yards below where the fish was sipping down insects I made my way down the bank towards the waters edge. I then walked slowly upstream, Two oyster catchers disturbed from their resting spot screamed some obscenity at me. Within forty feet of the rising fish I waded slowly out into the river. The fish was rising close to a large boulder. I could see some dark like insects drifting downstream With my landing net I swept it through the water collecting anything that was floating or was just under the surface. Gathered up in the fine mesh I could see some tiny black insects on closer examination I could see they were buzzers, Chironomid is the Latin name. They are a non biting midge. These tiny insects are not only a food source for fish, but they are also an extremely important food source for swallows, swifts, martins and ducklings.

I tied on a 12 foot leader with a 2lb tippet, from my fly box I took a size 20 black buzzer which I tied on with a five turn tucked blood knot. I waded upstream another fifteen feet, I was now in a position where I could make a nice cast and drop the fly ten feet above the rising fish. The rock was the size of a washing machine with a foot of it above the surface. A few inches behind the boulder I could see a small whirl pool the size of a saucer. As the water flow hit the rock, the current spit in two. The fish was taking insects off the left hand lane.

Perhaps twenty minutes later I was ready to make my first cast, It dropped it in the right spot, the fly drifted downstream I lifted the rod tip, then retrieved the excess line. I heard its shrill whistle before I spotted the kingfisher flying low to the water. As the fly went just below me I lifted off and dropped the fly upstream again for another drift. Half a dozen drifts later with no interest from the fish. I stopped casting I stood watching where the fish every now and again sipped down another insect. Half an hour later my brain clicked into gear. How had I missed it I thought. The fish was only taking those insect that drifted into the tiny whirl pool. I watched the area for another fifteen twenty minutes. Each time a fly was sucked into the whirl pool the trout sipped it down. It was time to catch this fish. The light upstream wind helped as it slowed down the drift. I suppose I had a dozen casts, non of which drifted into the saucer size pool. I decided to rest the area, I didn't want to spook the trout.
I spent the time watching curlews and oyster catchers, racking my brain, if I have one, for an answer to catching this fish. It had got under my skin I wanted it above anything else at this moment in time. How could I get the fly to drift naturally into that tiny size pool? I waded away from the spot and looked at it from various angles, if I dropped it from XYZ spots would it be the right drift I asked myself on several occasions. I then waded to the other side of the boulder, the water was now just an inch or two from the top of my chest high waders. As I moved into the deeper water so I noticed an increase in water pressure. I couldn't maintain this spot without hanging on to my wading staff which meant I couldn't really fish it properly. I moved back to spot Y. I would be casting upstream and across with luck I might drop the fly right and have it drift into the pool. Ten or more casts later. The size 20 black buzzer landed like thistledown, as it drifted pass the washing machine size boulder it was swept into the pool The fish was waiting. It sucked down my artificial with gusto. I tightened then felt the hook go home the rod tip was pulled down I shouted "Got You"

A few feet of line was taken, but I was in control. A few minutes later the fish was mine. I suppose I had spent some two hours trying to catch that fish, but it was well worth the effort as I returned a fifteen inch wild brown trout.

I slowly waded back to the bank then after a tough climb I reached the top, feeling pretty exhausted, it was time for a brew and sandwich. As I walked upstream I thought how much effort and intense concentration I had put into catching that fish. Back at my base I boiled some water then with a fresh brew and a salad sandwich I thought how great life was. I didn't need to fish anymore I had achieved what I thought at one time was an impossible task. Finishing my tea and sandwich I laid back on the grass and drifted off to sleep with the haunting call of the curlews.

Martin James Fishing