Last season I had a day on the river Bure as the guest of a friend and when we left the river I had risen nearly 20 fish, all of which had missed my fly. An extraordinary number. But I had caught fish as well. But why is that so many fish were missing my fly? Little wild brown trout will often fling themselves at flies that are probably too big for them, and other fish seem determined to drown Mayflies by swatting them with their tail. But whatever the cause, the result of all these missed fish is very frustrating.
But back to Saturday on the Wensum. Over the years I have fished when the air has been full of Hawthorns – drifting in the air legs dangling – but I have only on about one occasion seen fish feeding on them. The late Oliver Kite was someone who always caught a lot of fish on Hawthorns. But the last week or so the fish have been gorging themselves on Hawthorn and I saw my first fish caught on an artificial Hawthorn – by my elder son! We have had a strong north or north-east wind, blowing downstream, which has made live difficult for anglers but has had the benefit of blowing the Hawthorns onto the river. But only in certain areas it would seem. And in those areas fish were rising with real enthusiasm.
Anyway, I started the day with a nice fish caught on a nymph which I managed to lose just as I was about to net it. The next two hours were nothing but frustration. Fish after fish threw itself at my Hawthorn artificial. And missed! Others rose and had a jolly good look. One, I am sure, touched my fly with its nose before turning away in disgust. But nothing hooked. I tried various Hawthorn artificials, some small black sedges and even a big brown one. Nothing. I then tried a black gnat artificial, with white wings. More a pair of mating gnats which are much loved by grayling in Swedish Lapland. At last I hooked a fish. And there were more to come.
I decided that the trigger the fish was looking for were the translucent wings that were quite distinctive as Hawthorns floated past me.
This must have been the best April on the Wensum for many a year. We haven’t had a drop of rain, we have had some very hot days and for the last week or so, strong winds. But an extraordinary number of fish – both wild and stock – have been caught. And to crown everything, the first Mayfly were seen on the Royal Wedding day.