Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Marina Gibson describes a year fishing in Yorkshire. Stuck far from home, she is reminded of the life emerging on the river...
SHORTLY BEFORE THE OPENING OF the trout season I took a trip to the remote Caribbean island of Los Roques. Once a popular destination for all saltwater fly-fishers, this flats paradise has fallen off the map due to Venezuela’s political crisis. The trip had been organised by Fly Fishing Los Roques, who made sure everything ran smoothly, and as our group of six ventured into the Venezuelan capital of Caracas it was reassuring to be with an agency who’d taken this trip annually for the past ten years. From here we boarded a light aircraft to make the 25-minute flight to the Pancake Flats where we’d be spending our time fishing for bonefish, permit and other saltwater species. As we flew over the flats we were greeted by stunning hues of turquoise, blue and green, surrounded by endless white sandy beaches. A sight I’ll never forget.
Sadly, our trip was cut short amid Covid-19 uncertainty and although remaining in Los Roques sounded incredibly appealing it proved wise to act fast and leave quickly. Unfortunately, one fishing party from the UK wasn’t so lucky and they are still on the island, confined to their accommodation. I know other Britons who were stuck in Caracas and forced to sleep rough.
During my complicated journey back to the UK, I asked my fellow guide Beni to walk both beats of the Ure and the length of the River Burn and tell me how spring was affecting life on the river. I wanted to be reminded of home. Now, a few weeks later, with almost everyone indoors or attending to vital work, what he wrote seems a poignant reminder of what we are all missing.
Here’s what Beni said: “Staring into the clear waters at the confluence of the Burn and Ure without a rod in my hand is tough to do in the close season. I was itching to fish. On the lower stretches of the Burn, the ducks had begun to congregate in search of a mate, I think their mood triggered by the lengthening days. I also noticed rubbish strung high in the bushes as a result of the winter floods. Something that needs our attention.“
“New buds were developing on the bare trees. The only greenery was the ivy whose leaves chattered against the boughs in the breeze, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d see the first blossom.“
“Farmers were preparing their fields and birds were searching the turned soil for worms and insects. As I watched, there was an almighty cracking sound that alarmed them and me. It was an old tree, presumably damaged by the severe winter weather. With its heavy branches swaying in the breeze I decided it was best not to hang around.“
“I’d been walking for some time before it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen any fly life. There was a chill in the air, even with the sunshine and clear blue skies. Then, shortly after midday, the air warmed and flies started to appear in small quantities. I was able to catch a sedge and grasped at what I’d call micro midges, almost too small for the naked eye and certainly my slow hands. “On my way home, I saw majestic cock pheasants strutting over the fields, no doubt ready for courtship. I collected a handful of their discarded bright tail feathers with which to tie nymphs for the coming season.”
LOOKING FOR LIFE
Beni told me that with little fly-life showing above the surface he had a look beneath it. By turning over a few rocks he was pleased to see a mayfly nymph and numerous caseless caddis larvae. That was inspiring to hear. Rock-turning and kick-sampling to identify key invertebrates in their larval form can obviously inform your choice of fly, but it’s surprising how few trout-fishers bother. All you need do is kick up the bed of the river upstream of a fine-mesh sweep net held against the bottom (see picture), which will catch dislodged bugs, and a white tray and water in which to empty the net and identify insects. The Riverfly Partnership’s new website (riverflies.org) offers good advice.
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, The Northern Fishing School is closed until May 1. We’ll not be able to fish until the Government’s stay at home advice changes. The NFS team, Beni and Brian and me, are saddened, but we know it’s for the best and look forward to fishing with you soon.