My clients come in all shapes, sizes and with all levels of ability… But after last weekend they now come in all ages too!
On Friday I was guiding for and fishing with my good friend Ken from the North East. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying he is into his 9th decade on the planet! On Saturday I met up with my old mate Angie and the task was to get her son Daniel to catch a fish. Daniel is just seven years old and while he would reportedly have been happy with a stickleback but I knew somewhere I was fairly sure would produce him a trout.
Anyway, I met Ken on the banks of the middle Tees in some blistering sunshine and with a strong breeze in our faces. He wanted to brush up on his French Nymphing technique. No problem at all. We each rigged up a rod. I wanted to show Ken the differences in our standard set ups and also he’d been kind enough to let me fish as his guest for that part of the day when I’d not be teaching. Nice one! Immediately apparent were a few discrepancies. Construction of the French leader, length and visibility of indicator, length of tippet, number and weight of flies all differed in our respective rigs. So how did they each fish? Ken set off with his rod and we could both see there’d be huge problems with the wind. The leader wasn’t turning over very easily and I suspected the fly (singular) wasn’t getting down to anywhere near a fish. So I gave him a go with my rod. And things became easier in a number of ways. JP’s leaders we sell at Fish On are superb and the ‘Enhanced Turnover’ taper is exactly what was required into a wind like the one we had to deal with. The two-tone hi-viz indicator (also a JP construction) was far easier to see against the dark peat-stained water and the pair of weighted sedge-pupae was getting down quickly in amongst the rocks… Cue up the first fish of the day – a nice little grayling of 10 inches or so!
Several other grayling of a similar size followed quickly as we shared the rod up the pool. Then I had hold of a decent trout, all too briefly, which must have been a good couple of pounds. Never mind. And so onto the next pool. Starting about thigh-deep and quite slow, this pool gradually shallows and speeds up until it is only a few inches in depth and batting through at a rate of knots. We decided to fish in parallel as the pool is easily wide enough to accommodate two anglers. I went up the left bank into the worst of the wind while Ken took the right hand side which was slightly sheltered by a series of willow trees. While I could hardly stand up in the wind, Ken was fishing really nicely. We’d done quite a bit of work in the first pool on the timing of the cast which was paying dividends. I was watching him put out a nice length of line into the wind and admiring the whole package and I wasn’t paying much attention to my own fishing. I never even saw the indicator move and I was into a fairly decent trout which gave a good account of itself before I netted it. While I was playing the fish, Ken was uttering a few mild expletives as he missed a couple of really sharp takes and on the second one sent his entire cast into the willow behind. Oops!
Working up the pool took quite a while, but we both had a couple of fish. I was getting into some very thin water at the head and my eyes were already straying to the shaded water upstream. The sun was fierce and perhaps that was contributing to how tricky we were both finding the fishing. Maybe I’d find a fish or two in the forthcoming pocket water on the shady side of the river? And did I?
Wow! First cast into a decent looking pocket which had a modicum of depth produced a silver torpedo of a fresh run sea trout which left the water vertically while spitting the flies back at me. That’s something to get your heart thumping believe me! The next similar looking piece of water also produced a solid take in response to the first cast and this one stuck fast. No sea trout this time, but a river-dwelling cousin that gave me a real scrap and a half. Strangely it didn’t seem to want to stay in that nice soft pocket once it had a hook in its mouth, and made instead for the fastest rip downstream of where I was standing. That fast shallow water could hardly cover its back and I got a good look at it. Gorgeous fish and a good one too. I had to follow it down the river as it was stripping line from the reel at an alarming rate and I had to keep the rod really high to avoid all the boulders. It was lap-of-the-gods stuff as to whether I’d land it or not. I walked across the river to show Ken the fish in case I wasn’t able to land it, but at that moment, obligingly it came up to the surface and swam directly into the net! Result!
With the fish still in the net we got the first ‘safe’ shot on the camera. Just as well we did, because when we tried for the ‘cheesy grin’ shot, it managed to wriggle free and I lost it back into the river. I suppose I should mention at this point that I also lost Ken’s rod into the river! (Quickly recovered none the worse for wear some five yards downstream!)
I suggested Ken come across the river and into the shaded pocket water which was proving quite a hit, and I went back to the sunny side. It’s strange how things happen, because the shady side stopped producing while I carried on catching, this time in the full glare of the sun! I’d pulled three nice grayling out of the same fairly big pocket and suspected more could be in residence, so once again shouted for Ken to swap places. He does use a wading staff but it never ceases to amaze me how a chap of his advancing years can cope with such demanding wading. I just hope I’m as confident in the water if and when I catch him up!
This time the switch worked and he quickly set about catching the rest of the shoal. We’d struggled all morning for a handful of fish and now it was almost hook-a-duck! I decided to leave him to plunder the grayling while I had seen and fancied a go in another deep hole further upstream. Scarcely had I got half way towards it when an excited shout from Ken sent me scurrying back down. He was into another grayling, but this one was huge. Several times he had it on the surface and close to the net only for it to dive down back into the depths. The middle river is famous for its grayling, rather than its trout, and they regularly come out at 3lbs plus. This was one of the big girls… On one of the repeated dives though, the hook pulled free and Ken was left with an exciting one-that-got-away story to tell, rather than a lump of a grayling to photograph. C’est la vie…
It was probably as good a note to end on as any and we trooped back to the cars two happy bunnies after a great day in the sun with some lovely fish to show for our efforts. Ken’s mastery of the French leader was coming along nicely and will improve further now he has one of JP’s to use.
And so to the Saturday. I met Angie and Daniel on the same river as I’d left Ken the day before, but this time we were going to fish the Upper Tees – one of my favourite stretches of water in the world. Just the spot I reckoned to get Daniel his first ever fish, and a wild trout too… hopefully…
This is wild savage country, high up on the moors, with spectacular scenery and all the heather in its finest autumn purple-ness (I don’t care if that’s not a real word – you know what I mean!) I just love it up there. The river is wild and savage too, surging out of Cow Green Reservoir and cascading almost immediately over Cauldon Snout waterfall. It falls quickly through several miles of boulder fields affording the massive population of wild brownies with an ideal habitat of interconnecting micro-territories in which they eek out their existence. It’s a hard life up there if you’re a trout. With little sustinence from the water they rely to a large extent on a terrestrial diet, which means anything landing on the surface of the water could be food.
To the angler, this means a big dry fly can often meet with instant results. This is what I was hoping for. If Daniel was able to make a short cast with a big dry into likely looking water, I was confident he’d succeed. To begin with – it has to be said – there were some casting issues. Even my shortest and lightest rod was too heavy for the little fella, and he was struggling. I decided that we would do a double act. I’d hook a fish and he would reel it in. This worked, and here’s the first fish he’s ever landed (assisted slightly by me!)
We did this a few more times and each time he became more proficient at keeping the rod high, the line tight and managed to land most of the fish. He also got a lot more proficient at holding them for the camera! Is someone getting ever so slightly cocky – check the cap out!
All seven year olds have the attention span of a goldfish (it’s a well known fact) and after every couple of trout, Daniel was off playing with the dog, which left enough time for Angie and me to catch up on 15 years worth of news and gossip. And soak up the rays of course – thankfully we’d all remembered the sunscreen! Every now and then Daniel would turn up wanting to catch another fish, so back we’d go into the river and find another willing taker. He had no fear at all – leaping from rock to rock – while Angie was having kittens on the bank. Fair play to him though, he was pretty sure-footed and there were no dunkings to report.
By now, of course, there was one thing missing. While Daniel had successfully played and landed quite a few fish, he had yet to get one on his own, completely unassisted. I really wanted him to get a solo fish – cast, strike, play AND land – all by himself. The conditions weren’t helping him, with a breeze coming downstream into his face, and casting into it wasn’t proving too easy. But late in the day, there was a shift in wind direction and it started coming gently from behind him. We found a suitable pocket of slower deeper water and I told him where to aim for… I held my breath as the fly landed in roughly the right area. It disappeared in a cloud of spray as soon as it landed. Daniel lifted the rod and… …there was nothing there. Naturally he blamed me for the misfortune (!) and went off to play with Scruffy again.
I took my turn on the rod and had a mad fifteen minutes. Wading across the other side of the river so as not to disturb the near side for Daniel, I took about 20 trout one after the other. It was, as it always is, wonderful wonderful sport. I can’t get enough of this place… A few victims:
Soon enough, Daniel was back wanting another crack, so once again we found a likely looking pocket of water and I started to point out the place to cast, but Daniel was already one step ahead of me and he was actually suggesting places to try! Way to go, kid! With the wind still in a favourable direction he made a nice little roll cast into a foam line by the right hand bank. The fly disappeared, he struck and this time the hook held. He’d only gone and done it – landed a wild brown trout all on his own! In the words of a being much higher than myself, all I could think was “my work here is done”.
I hope that Daniel remembers his day on the Upper Tees with JT and I hope he enjoyed himself enough to have another go in the future. Down the line I hope he becomes a fly fisher in his own right and much further down the line, I hope he’s still fishing when he’s Ken’s age. And if he is, I can guarantee he’ll be loving it as much as Ken does, And as much as I do.www.johntyzack.co.uk