For my birthday this year my wife asked me what I would like, usually I would ask for a piece of fishing tackle which the other half is well used to. This year though I wanted to get some instructions in the art of river fishing. I have been fishing the rivers for about six years now and still count myself amongst the ranks of a novice. I have been fortunate with my friends being talented and experienced river anglers but when we go fishing they want to fish and not just watch me scare every fish in the run! So, I arranged a day out with John Tyzack or JT as he is widely known, his river fishing credentials are unmatched in this country so I was really looking forward to the day. I have family in the North West and stayed overnight with them on Sunday, I had a day to kill on Monday and had hoped to have a day out with Del Spry but his recent appointment at John Norris scuppered that plan. So it was off back to the River Don that Clark had kindly shown me in August. It was a little chilly to start but promised to warm up quickly. I walked down from the car down a very good path for about a mile and started to fish my way back up the river. On my previous trip I had struggled to catch many Grayling but this time it was the complete opposite, the ladies were more than willing to join in. I took some fantastic fish of a good stamp around the 30cm mark fishing Duo. The odd Brown did make an appearance but from the 34 fish taken I would say less than 10 were Brown trout. By the time I had made my way back to the car it was 1500hrs and I made the journey back across the country to sort my kit out and get an early night before my day out with JT.
John had arranged to meet me at a service station on the M62 and I was already there when he arrived. He offered two options a hammer or the black bag puzzled I picked the bag, he told me to put it on my head so I would not know where he was taking me. This was going to be a problem as he also wanted me to follow him in the car. Joking aside the location is to remain a secret, we arrived at a car park and proceeded to rig up I put together a dry fly rig on a 9’ #2 and JT set up a French leader on a 9’ 6” Sage SLT, I think. As we walked down to the start line John explained what we were going to do for the day and a little about the local area. John went on to say that we would at no point be fishing Duo which is invariably the method I nearly always fish. I was a little apprehensive I have toyed with the French leader in the past but did not take to it as something I enjoyed, a confidence thing I suppose. Anyway, we arrived at the start line and a likely looking run, John showed me at the very tail of the pool what he wanted and then handed me the rod. It seemed a little strange at first and it took me several goes to get the mechanics of casting with no fly line. I think I must have missed the first few takes but when I eventually nailed one it was a cracking fish which was photographed and sent on its way. John continued to correct my form and various other errors, loch style fishing has not aided me with river fishing. As we paused for a moment to discuss the pool we were interrupted by a passer-by who was telling us this part of the river belonged to a club. However, he could not tell us the name of the club or indeed any contact details of the secretary, we bid him a good day and cracked on. My confidence with the French leader began to grow and on the next run through my take detection had improved significantly and a number of good fish came to the net. John kept me on my toes by asking probing questions about the setup and how to tackle certain stretches of water. The odd occasion would arise where we spotted a couple of rising fish and decided to give them a go with the dry. These fish proved rather difficult and were easily spooked by bow waves moving up through the canal stretches of the river. John himself had a couple of chucks but to no avail.
We carried on with the double nymph and continued to take plenty of fish. As we got to the head of a pool and it started to shallow up John would explain that I had to shorten right up and only give the flies the time they needed to sink in the shallower water. This was deadly or it would have been if I could have locked up with even half the takes I was offered in this sort of water. Take after take went unanswered by me and I think a few curses spouted forth in frustration caught Johns ear, I had been on my best behavior as well! After fishing through a number of fish-filled pools we came to a section where fish were regularly rising and switched to the dry fly. My casting was poor and I need to put some time in on improving this, John was very patient and I eventually I got my fly in front of a taker. The fish rose I struck and John spent the next five minutes recovering leader and fly from the tree behind me. Not a word of complaint from the guide he sorted me out and indicated to try again. A fish rose away from the area our attention was drawn to and for once I flicked a cast in its direction. I thought I was a bit too far in front but a boil under the fly and a fish tearing downstream was a good indication that I had not been that far away. Landed and returned safely I continued to cast at the area of rising fish to be rewarded with yet another cracking fish. We moved on and fished the double nymph some more to great effect. The day was drawing to an end and as we finished up near a bridge John was lucky not to get drenched as a passer-by poured a bottle of water over the side of the bridge she was standing on without looking. Well, I would have laughed, she was mortified and apologised profusely. The day was at an end and what a great day it was.
So, is hiring a guide worth the money and effort? I would say a resounding yes having an expert analyzing your casting, thought the process and challenging what you think you know can progress your fly fishing, if you are prepared to listen! Regardless of ability, I would defy anyone with an open mind and a desire to improve not to take something away from a day out with a professional guide. That said I have seen guides operating on some of my local waters that spend most of the time fishing themselves and not coaching. Choose your guide well and ask around, any guide worth their salt would be happy to let you speak to previous customers so don’t be afraid to ask or get a recommendation from a friend. For me anyway this was time and money well spent, roll on next birthday.