Marina Gibson makes a belated first cast of the season on her beloved River Burn. Was it worth the wait?
When I wrote my first column in February, I wondered if the rain would ever stop. Now I’m wondering if it will ever start again.
The Yorkshire Ure, like many rivers, is desperately in need of a deluge. It’s been a steady 9in to 1ft 1in for more than a month now and being a spate river it relies heavily on rain — it can rise and fall dramatically. The water is so clear that almost every stone on the bottom is visible. Schools of chub can be seen lined up in pecking order while the odd trout scans left and right for a passing meal. It’s not all a waste of time when the river is as dry as a bone; it’s the perfect opportunity to get to know all the nooks and crannies, especially after a winter of powerful floods. I took full advantage and have seen lies, undercut banks, pockets and streams that were new to me. I have also identified all the drop-offs and ledges near where we normally wade so that when I’m guiding my clients I’ll know the danger zones.
England was first to lift restrictions on angling and approve it as a safe activity. Thanks to the determination of the Angling Trust and its #whenwefishagain campaign, fishing was
successfully back on the map. After a long overdue start to the season it was therefore time for me to brush the cobwebs from my waders. I rearranged all my flies and prepared a fresh box for the little River Burn.
As I closed the car door it was straight to the river to see if there was life. The vivid green of late spring is so wonderful and with a temperature of 18 deg C, intermittent cloud and a gentle breeze to cool the air, the river, to my delight, was full of flies. I spotted two promising rises upstream, so I ran back to the car and got suited and booted. I couldn’t waste any more time: I was one flick away from hooking my first Burn brownie of the season. I worked my way from one rise to the next with a dry-fly. A few fish showed interest, particularly when
I changed to a size 12 black Klinkhamer. It seemed to get the most action in the first few pools where I’d noticed the odd hawthorn fly. Perhaps the trout took the Klink for a hawthorn struggling in the surface or one of the midges that had joined in. I caught a handful of small, but perfectly wild trout, all in super condition and painted with perfectly rounded red spots. I’m always in awe of their beauty. It was such a joy being back on the river. Wearing a light shirt for the first time this year was a definite signal that summer was on its way. The thought of having some of the best months still ahead of us is immensely exciting, and the long days and warm evenings bring with them the prospect of spinner falls. Post-BBQ sedge-fishing into darkness anyone? How exciting.
Photography by Paul Oldham
THERE'S ONLY ONE MAYFLY
I missed the mayfly this season, but I hope some of you caught the hatch. My guiding on the Hampshire chalkstreams was cancelled for obvious reasons, but though I wasn’t on the river I have been studying the fly. This is partly due to Orvis UK’s first Mayfly Festival, which entailed online talks with fly-tyers and guides, as well as competitions and facts of the day that introduced beginners to the famous hatch. It’s a fascinating creature that spends up to two years underwater as a nymph and usually just one day as an adult, although that depends on whether it emerges into a dun successfully and evades the mouth of a fish. An adult doesn’t have any functional mouthparts so its purpose when it emerges as a dun and then a spinner is purely to pass on its genes. In America and in science, mayfly is a generic term for many upwinged riverflies, but in the UK among anglers the mayfly usually refers only to the Ephemera danica and vulgata.