Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Starting Again - Early Season River Usk 2013

As many of you will have noticed, weather conditions for the first few weeks of the season were far from ideal. Snow melt, freezing temperatures and an easterly blast ensured a slow start on the Usk.

The view from the river last Saturday

On the first Friday in April things (including the trout) were looking up and I used my dinner hour to walk the dog down the river in Usk town (a beat five minutes from where we live). The beat is available as a day ticket water for £15 from the legendary Sweet's Tackle Shop. If Jean isn't there she asks that you post the money through the door in an envelope!

When I arrived a 1.30pm, the LDO hatch had already commenced in earnest and on a sheltered part of the beat, I spotted a lone angler tackling up. As I stood above him on the path, I noticed many dimpled rises on the near side of the main flow. The fisherman quickly threaded his rod, tied on his fly and (as my heart sank) proceeded to wade through the middle of the surface feeding trout!
I returned home excited as the forecast for the next day was good and I was confident of some dry fly action.
By 1.00pm the air had warmed and there were good numbers of fish taking LDO duns and emergers. I had already caught two on nymphs but by then was targeting surface feeders with a 10ft #4 rod and a quill dun pattern (with 3 CDC plumes tied backwards, see my last entry). My blood was up as I was within sight of five feeding fish rising at less than one minute intervals.

At a guess, a fish tight to the opposite bank looked to be the largest of them and was taking duns with barely a ripple. I first targeted the smaller fish downstream and picked off three, landing two (including the 16 inch fish below) and losing one.
The largest fish of the day (landed)
I then moved slightly upstream and cast to the large fish. Three attempts and nothing. On the third, and to rub it in, the fish rose just after my fly had passed. My arm twitched and I was glad I didn't strike and spook my target.
It was time for a change. I attached a more delicate split thread CDC quill dun (see my last entry) to my 15 foot tapered leader and as I looked up, the fish rose again. I waited 30 seconds or so and, when the wind had abated, cast as intended. The fish rose, I tightened, and the water erupted.
What followed involved a sudden long run, a reel overwind, the mother of all snags and a steady stream of loud and sustained swearing. I conservatively estimate the fish was over 18 inches - another one to haunt me.

A few more were caught but, by 15.00, the hatch had abated and I went back to fishing the nymph. For an hour I fished fruitlessly, until two canoeists came down river.
I am not instinctively a busy body or someone that likes to spoil the fun of others, but they shouldn't have been there, and these were low water conditions, so I decided to take a few pictures of them to send to MTAA and GAS. One canoeist in particular did not take kindly to this -I later learned that a fellow angler up river had made them get out and carry the canoes around him, and so they were already ratty by the time they reached me- cue more swearing.
'You can't take my ****ing photo!'


It was colder than the previous day and I needed to find a sheltered spot. I couldn't and so was surprised when, from 12.30 the fish started showing and I caught four fish between 10 and 12 inches on a jingler. I then decided to experiment with different patterns. 
In the following 90 minutes I hooked fish using a parachute emerger, two kinds of CDC quill dun, a quill CDC emerger and a flash back HE nymph fished downstream. When I covered fish feeding hard with the correct presentation I received a positive response, providing further evidence presentation is more important than pattern.
Baker's brown trout, suprisingly plump for the time of year
Next sessions
As I write it is raining steadily. While the river would certainly benefit from a slug of water, I am due to be fishing Llanover with Pete tomorrow and then Baker's with Morgan on Sunday, both are travelling to fish here and these sessions are under threat.  
Tim, the river keeper at Llanover, assures me that, 'At this time of year the fish like a good bit of colour'. Who am I to argue with experience and local knowledge? I'll be out tomorrow.

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