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


River Trout Fishing On The Enborne

I must say from the start I reckon one river trout is worth ten from a stillwater. On the upper reaches of the River Lune, there are not many trout, but I enjoy it immensely. The water I fish at Drybeck is controlled by the Prince Albert A.S. Its certainly excellent value for money. When fishing Drybeck I stop fishing once I have caught a fish. I then spend the rest of my time walking the river, clearing away rubbish watching the birds, wild animals and admiring the flora and fauna, perhaps have a sleep.

Recently David Jones and me had the pleasure of fishing with Glyn Freeman, Clive Mitchelhill and Chris Bowman of the Complete Angling Experience and one of their pupils Alan Ball on the River Eden. It was a great day on a river where we caught a few wild brown trout to 14inches on small olives in beautiful surroundings Thanks guys for a great day.If your looking to improve your angling experience these guys are for you. Coarse sea or game they cater for everyone.

I was also fortunate to meet Rob Coleman of The Eden Rivers Trust. Rob isn't a local lad, he hails from Reading in Berkshire but he certainly knows the Eden Valley and its inhabitants both in and out of the water. The Eden Rivers Trust in my book is a wonderful idea, it gives everyone the chance for a small fee to enjoy some wonderful fishing in delightful surroundings. The Eden Rivers Trust also teaches non anglers all about the river, its aquatic life, flora and fauna. Another rivers trust with the same aims are the Wye and Usk. Hopefully more river trusts will be formed in the coming years.

This year I have cast flies for trout on the Rivers Ribble, Calder, Aire, Wharfe, Kennet, Enborne Swale, Wenning, Colne and Ure. Recently I travelled down to the River Enborne where condition were not at there best when Robert Palmer and me pulled into the Wasing Estate car park for a days trout fishing on this delightful Berkshire trout fishery near Woolhampton. We had to contend with a very cold westerly wind gusting to 30 mph with bright sunshine.

It all started when Robert's partner Lesley asked if I could take him fishing as one of his Christmas presents. She told me that Robert was an avid listener to my 'At The Waters Edge' programme on BBC Radio Lancashire. I said 'Yes' I would take him out for a day. She then asked me about cost's I said I didn't charge to take people fishing, but she could make a donation to Crossroad Carers one of the charities I support. Within a few days Crossroads had received a cheque for 100-00

The Enborne is a delightful river straight out of a Crabtree book. Its a narrow twisting river with slow deep sections fast gravel shallows, undercut banks with lots of over hanging trees and bushes. On one bend in the river stands a magnificent Horse Chestnut in blossom, there are oak, beech, sycamore, birch, alder, popular etc. The river bank was a riot of colour. Wild garlick, bluebells, marsh marigolds, red campion and forget-me-knots At the base of a beech tree was a clump of purple toothwort which is a parasitic plant. The hawthorn's were a mass of creamy white flowers.

After a mug of tea we tackled up choosing 5 weight Thomas and Thomas Helix rods, matched with floating lines and 12 foot leaders tapered down to a three pound tippet. Hopefully we would be able to fish dry flies rather than nymphs. Today was special, It wasn't just a belated Christmas present for Robert. We were celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the surrender of the German Nation in 1945. Before going off fishing I stood at the waterside for two minutes of silence remembering all those who had given everything so I could live in freedom and fish for trout today on a delightful English stream. Ten minutes later a Spitfire flew overhead giving Robert and me a display of the flying skills that had enabled us to celebrate this anniversary. Many times me and my schoolboy friends would jump, scream and clap whenever we could see the Spitfires and Hurricanes having dog fights with the hated Germans.

As fish sit in the flow facing upstream I suggested we should walk downstream and start at the bottom of the beat. We then slowly walked upstream looking for feeding trout. As we did so an occasional fish could be seen sipping down some unseen insect. Now and again a small olive fluttered over the stream, but there was nothing like a hatch of insects. Rounding a bend in the river we could see a small bridge and a feeding trout. Suddenly two mallard jumped skywards, the feeding trout was spooked at this disturbance. A pair of partridges worked the edge of a field of oil seed rape looking for insects. Sadly with insecticides and herbicides the insect population today is rather low. The bird life is suffering.

As we quietly walked towards the bridge Robert spotted a pheasant's nest with a dozen eggs. We pulled the nettles closer giving the nest more cover from the prying eyes of crows, rooks and jackdaws in the family of corvidae's. Reaching the bridge we looked upstream at the wind ruffled surface. Suddenly a kingfisher with a minnow in its mouth swept under the bridge, quickly followed by another kingfisher. No doubt feeding a hungry family. Early in the day as we walked downstream to the bottom of the beat we had seen the tunnel like kingfishers nest. .
Fifteen yards upstream on a bend, I could see an area of smooth water sheltered by a high bank. A trout swirled, a minute later it swirled again. I said to Robert "There's a good trout feeding in that calm water on the bend" In a matter of minutes, it swirled several times. Suddenly half way between the bridge and the bend under a pollarded willow, a good trout took an olive.

As we watched the area we noticed a few more olives floating downstream. This trout was feeding avidly. "Its your fish Robert, I suggest, you creep up that far bank to those reeds, then make a long cast up and across so the fly drops five or more feet above the feeding fish" .As we chatted I said "You need to make sure your fly is dry and floats well".

Robert slowly moved upstream to a spot where he could make the cast, then hopefully drop the fly above the feeding trout without spooking it. After a few minutes Robert pulled off some line, two false casts, then the fly dropped like thistledown well upstream of the feeding fish. It was a perfect drift. I was ready with the camera.

The trout was fooled by the well presented olive. It took with confidence. Robert tightened into the fish, I captured the image on my camera, then continued shooting pictures until Robert was able to net a beautiful brown trout. As a spectator watching from the sidelines I had watched an Robert make a text book cast and drift. From the trout it was the perfect rise. Filmed, it would have made the perfect teaching aid.

As we prepared to move on upstream a fish moved tight to the bank very close to the bridge. I quickly dropped a small olive it was quickly taken. After a couple of minutes Robert netted a nice brown trout. Slipping out the barbless hook without touching the fish we admired the beautiful colours then watched the fish swim off strongly. Moving upstream we spooked three deer which went off across a cornfield to the woods.

Half a mile upstream from the bridge we could see some buzzards working the thermals. On a bend the water flowed slow, deep and dark looking, the pool over hung by an alder tree. A trout sipped down a fly. We sat watching and talking in hushed tones. The peace and quiet was broken by a loud splash. Thinking it was a good fish Robert crept around the tree to have a look. In doing so he frighten off a cormorant.This fish killer was in about two feet of water. I must say, they are a horrid looking bird. Not the bird I would want to spend any time looking at.

We moved further upstream knowing the cormorant would have spooked any trout. Two hundred yards further upstream we could see a trout rising close to some trailing willow branches, it looked a good fish. "Your turn Robert" I said. Sitting on the bank among the bluebells I watched Robert wade across the river to the far bank. He made a good cast dropping the size 16 olive a couple of feet upstream of the feeding trout. Within seconds the fly had gone. The answering strike connected, in the blink of an eye the fish had broken away. Roberts line fluttered limply in the strong wind.

Back on my side of the river we prepared to move off upstream, suddenly a fish rose then took an olive off the surface. We were surprised to see a fish rise in the spot where a fish had been hooked and escaped. It was now my turn, I waded across the river to get a better cast. The fly got caught up in a trailing willow branch, I was lucky the pull of the water on the line pulled the fly free. Within a second it was eaten by a fish. The fight was on, I soon netted a nice brown trout. After unhooking the fish, I looked inside and around the mouth of the fish for signs showing the fish had been hooked previously. I reckon two fish were working the same food lane.

Meanwhile Robert using my Nikon digital SLR had captured all the action from the cast to netting the fish including the take. A few minutes later I was shooting some pictures of a spitfire, we then we watched a fly past of several aircraft. It was the end of a beautiful trout fishing session in some of the most beautiful English countryside one could wish to see.

Martin James Fishing