18 & 19 May 2020 Two rivers, soul healed!

I do count myself fortunate in these unprecedented times that I am lucky enough to get out and still do what I love. I am also really fortunate to have numerous good friends that invite me to their venues to have a go. So, Monday afternoon I was invited along to the river Loddon by Sean Doyle a fellow Whisky Club member and a fanatical fly fisherman. He is a member of a number of syndicates but the Loddon is only 30 minutes from where we live. He told me that the Loddon is one of the first rivers to see a good hatch of Mayfly. Sean also explained that the river is stocked with Rainbow trout but not this year due to Covid.

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It was a little bizarre shouting across to each other after travelling in separate cars even though we only live a mile apart! This time of year, it is dry fly only and I set up my brand spanking new 9’ Wychwood RS2 I had been mightily impressed with it after trying it out on the Avon the week before. The Loddon is a pretty river but it was not in its usual crystal-clear fettle Sean was telling me that usually its much clearer. We split further apart to start fishing. It was not long before I heard the tell-tale sign of a decent fish rising. I looked around to see the evidence of where it was and was not surprised to see that it was tuck into the far bank under a tree.

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There is no wading on the river and getting a cast to the fish would be difficult. I surprised myself by actually putting the fly where I wanted it and was rewarded with an immediate response. The rod buckled over then went slack almost as quick, time to up the tippet strength then the .10 I was using just wasn’t going to cut the mustard! I retied with .12 and was soon prowling up the banks again looking for rising fish. There was so many flies hatching off Sedge, LDO and of course as billed the Mayfly. It was not long before I was covering another rising fish and this time the tippet held and I immediately got the fish onto the reel.  A strong spirited fight from a two and a half pound Rainbow put a huge grin on my face.

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Sean and I only had a few hours he was under strict instructions from the long haired general and I was to be up early to fish the Avon. A really enjoyable session though and he has promised to take me back to see more of the fishery. I managed four of the Rainbow Trout and four wild Brownies so not to bad. It had been a hot afternoon and despite it only being a short session I was knackered so an early night ready for the next day on the Avon.

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I have been a guest on the Services Dry Fly water on the Avon more than a few times they have some amazing water and I was really looking forward to catching up with Ian. I did however miss my usual McDonald breakfast before commencing the days sport! When I got there Ian was already fishing and doing not to badly after a quick chat I went to get kitted up. As I walked back I could see Ian was playing what looked like a good fish and I reached for my camera and moved a little quicker towards him in the hope of getting a photo of the fish. Unfortunately for Ian the large swan was closing the distance faster than me!

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If I knew he was going to put on some swan wrestling I would have brought a bigger camera! After the swan kicked Ian’s arse and yes, I would have to say the swan had the best of it I did get a photo of the fish. It was in great shape and it was a hint of things to come. We decided to walk downstream and then fish our way back up. Ian was on fire and I could see out the corner of my eye his landing net going out time and time again. Although this was not needed as my ear was being continually bent by a jubilant Ian I had yet to catch a fish. Ian called me to his honey hole but he had fished it out…… that’s my excuse anyway and I only managed a small Grayling.

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As we moved upstream though I spotted some little wild trout rising on the far bank and hit my stride. You just feel it every cast hits the mark, you can almost predict when the fish is going to come and you are completely lost in the moment! That’s where I was fantastic and normal service had been restored! We worked our way up the bankside stopping at likely looking spots or if we spotted a rising fish. It had been a very productive opening session. We were back to the car for a bite to eat and something to drink before a move up to Charlie Crossing.

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We were expected to be joined by Ian’s son and other club member Mark and Greg. We were well early though and thought to wander downstream for a bit. I don’t think I can recall a time the river was so high at this time of year. Many of the bankside paths were either underwater or like a swamp. With very little rain in the South I am at a loss to explain this. Still it did not deter us and we both did fairly well there was the very odd Mayfly coming off but the fish were taking something much smaller that I could not really pick out.

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It was back to the car to meet up with the others at a safe distance of course and we were also joined by Ben Worley who wanted to have a go of the Hanak Superb 10’ #3. I don’t think Ben was disappointed and dare say he will be upgrading soon. The river was busy with other anglers and finding a stretch to accommodate four cars was no small feat. In the end we ended up at the pump station which is the home to Frank’s bench. The day was pushing to an end and it was just after I had planted my backside on the said bench that something strange happened.

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The river came to life, it was not what I would call a full-on evening rise but there was much more surface activity than I had seen all day. I hastily stood up and covered a fish with my fly nothing! The fish rose again, this time I took a little care and dried the fly out degreasing the leader and tried again. No mistake this time the fish took the fly down as sweet as a nut. It was a quick fight I had learned my lesson the previous day about using too thin a leader. The fish safely returned I targeted the next one, the fishing was hectic I was back in that moment it’s like time stands still and nothing else matters. I was snapped from my thoughts by a huge splash a little downstream of me when I looked around it looked like someone had thrown a brick in the water.

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I got out of the water and moved down the bank eyes fixed on the far bank and I watched in disbelief as a huge trout rose from the water like a Polaris missile to take a fly from the surface. I slipped back into the water downstream of the fish and checked everything was right. Fly dried leader degreased line on the reel and drag set properly and inched into position. The cast was spot on and just when I thought it would this leviathan of a fish shot out the water its whole body now visible right where my fly once was. Not even sure if it had taken the fly I lifted my rod and was rewarded as the rod bent into the fish. It was on the reel and the fight had begun.

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The fish was not a happy bunny and it carted up and down the river but the wading was easy and I was on him and in control. What seemed like ages but probably only minutes the rod went slack and my fly propelled back towards me. Gutted does not really cover it, this would most certainly have been a new PB for the Avon but that’s fishing! It was an absolutely amazing days fishing and I cannot wait to get back on it.  

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