Most years my birthdays comes and goes in a blur, off late with alarming regularity! Often the day falls on the Interservice competition or the National final. This year I made a pig's ear of my qualifier and was not selected to fish in the Interservice. In fact usually, my busiest fishing month has been rather quiet. My friend Richard Thorpe very kindly invited me to pop along to the Avon for the day. I know most of the water well and opted to fish the Charlie Crossing point stretch. I thought it would be a bit of fun to see how many fish I could catch in a day, then it occurred to me as I was going on my 48th birthday I should aim to catch 48 fish in the session. I would give myself four hours from the start of the fishing. This all seemed pretty reasonable until I was on the A303 thinking about the day. I had given myself a tall order really, 48 is a lot of fish. As well as this I had left the killer flies I had tied in the house right beside the guest ticket for the river, dumbass!!! I dropped Richard a text to let him know I would not have a ticket with me and was assured when he said to crack on and just phone him if there was a problem.
I tackled up with a single Mary nymph tied on a size #18, one of my favorite flies for the chalk streams. There had been a bit of rain the night before but the river looked largely unaffected running clear with only the lightest tinge of colour. I walked down to the back of a large house which is a super spot for Grayling. Unfortunately the houses to very vocal Labradors where out and on fine form there continuous barking was too much to take and I moved upstream a little. 1000hrs I was off and what a start the first fish came on the first cast a 25cm Grayling, bonza! Another three followed in short order and I began to think that 48 was not such a big number. The next fish was a cracking Brown Trout that led me a merry dance up and down the river but eventually succumbed. I had moved up a little and cast under a low overhanging branch. The water exploded in front of me and an angry trout tore off downstream at a rate of knots. The thrill was short lived as the fly was pinged back at me to be lost in the tree above. Oh well on another day I would have been gutted but the fish were coming fast. The next cast saw a similar episode play out a good fish bossing the fight only spit the hook which flew into the undergrowth not to be seen again. I fished on and had only covered about 60 yards of water and with only 40minutes on the clock I had 15 fish on the clicker.
I could hear some disturbance in the undergrowth and thought it may be another angler on their way downstream. I was mistaken though, it was the River Keeper, Martin Brown. I paused my timer and explained about the ticket and Martin was absolutely fine about the whole thing. We chatted for about half an hour, we knew some of the same water and the same people. He had studied with John Mees of Grafham fame, he did tell me some of the names John was called but this is not the forum for those ;-). As we chatted I could hear the tell-tale sounds of fish rising ahead of me. My persistent glances around at the rises prompted Martin to bid me farewell and get on with it. I resumed the timer and changed to a small parachute adams. Instant success, the fish were up and hungry and they kept coming. The key was to move as carefully as possible and not to cause any disturbance on the surface. So it did not help when I lost my balance and nearly went swimming, the waves caused by me flapping around trying not to get wet soon put the fish down. Still, two hours in and I was doing OK with 27 fish on the clicker. I had returned to the car to get a drink and stuff a butty down my throat, before moving upstream to continue fishing. I fished a run that looked good for a few fish for nothing. I was gutted as I moved up the stream and spooked a good head of Grayling bad angling. I got out of the water and moved quickly towards my next mark. I came across a tree that had fallen into the river and as I looked down I saw a number of fish below me. The water was deep and access was non-existent. I plopped my flies in the water at the end of my rod tip and it immediately bent over only to ping back and land in my waiting hand. Well, that could have been worse, I decided not to try again and moved up to my next mark.
I entered the water well back from where I wanted to fish and moved slowly to where I wanted to be. It was worth the time and effort getting into position and fish started to come again in numbers. I spent a good half hour here for 9 fish taking me up to a healthy 36 for the session. I had time left but was not confident as I had run out of marks that I knew were good for large numbers of fish. I moved up to a large pool with a weir and fished it shockingly bad for nothing. This area has often produced six or seven fish in no time but not today. I was dismayed to still 12 fish to get and I only had above the weir to go at. I have never done well in this section and time was wearing on! As I got just beyond the bridge a couple of fish gave themselves away. Again moving carefully into position allowed me to pick away at a pod of Grayling and suddenly it looked like I would snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Fish 46 the biggest Grayling of the day, what a cracker. The fish had spooked the remaining fish in the pod but with only two to come, I was confident that a short move in the water would allow me to get my fly to fresh fish. This was indeed the case and minute’s later I depressed the clicker for the last time 48 fish, well chuffed.
On my way back to the car I decided to give the Weir another go with a heavy bug and was relieved to catch two decent size Grayling. I don’t know why I had failed to connect with these the first time through. Maybe I was too rushed or not fishing heavy enough, who knows!
I really enjoy fishing in the company of other anglers even if it is just meeting up for a bite to eat for lunch. The odd day though that I go on my own I really enjoy and this was one of the best days out I have had this season. It’s good to set yourself little challenges it makes the day a little more interesting and gives you something to aim for.