With next to no rain for the past couple of the weeks, the rivers are very low again. Since my last outing to the Dove I haven’t been able to stop thinking about getting back there. Heading to the beat I toyed with the idea of changing route and heading elsewhere. I was concerned that with no rain and low levels, stalking the fish would be impossible. This venue offers very little room for casting so the fish have to be stalked at very close range usually in a couple of feet of water. My final decision was to at least turn up and evaluate the situation on arrival. If the conditions were against me then I’d drop back to a lower section.
Plan of attack.
Barometric pressure; 1002 (clear skies meant pressure was much higher than last visit)
Altitude; 231 above sea level
After arriving and tackling up I made my way along the lowest part of the beat occasionally stopping to peer into the water. The water was lower than last time but not by much, challenge now accepted I pushed on. I skipped the lower section as the water is slow here and seems to hold a good head of water fowl. If you’re not careful you can end up pushing them up and up and in this type of water unfortunately it puts the fish down.
I’d come up with a game plan for the day which I managed to stick to. I decided I would work on the basis that I’d only fish for fish that I could see or had seen, no prospecting as I wanted to cover as many potential catches as possible. I’d also treat every section that looked like it would hold a fish, that it did hold a fish. So I’d approach it stealthily scanning ahead until I either saw one or didn’t. Sounds a simple theory but how many times do we think something looks fishy, can’t really see any movement, take a step and see a fish dart for cover. Only when I saw a fish would I then contemplate fishing. Another part of my plan was to not waste time on fish that I couldn’t cover efficiently. Fish up here are extremely spooky, if the cast isn’t 100% then it’s a waste of time.
Learning as I advance.
It didn’t take long to work out that the places that look like they should hold fish, would only hold a fish if there was a hidey hole in very close proximity. Many a time I thought there must be a fish here and crept up only to find nothing. Yet in those areas with submerged trees or deep holes near by there would be a fish sat in the bubble line awaiting a meal. Makes sense in this type of river where 80% of the depth is between 1-2 feet, an escape plan is a must for the fish.
Stalking my quarry.
With the weather being must brighter than my last visit it made it slightly easier to spot fish, but in the same breath much easier for them to see me. This meant my movement had to be minimal and keep as low as possible. I’d already missed out on a cracking fish due to lifting the rod a little to high, which cast a faint shadow out in front of me. With this in mind I kept lower than the bank and used what I could to prevent ripples and water disturbance. Moving up the river I came to a right hand bend with rocks forming a bit of a dam which held the water back into a small pool. Scanning around I couldn’t see any fish so moved over the rocks into the tail of the pool. Lay in front of me was a large tree and a handful of large rocks all playing their part in diverting the flow here and there. Again I treated this area as though it held fish. I held back and watched for any disturbance or signs of movement. Fortunately a fish of great size which made me spurt out a few explicit’s, cruised through the pool towards me and span round tucking in against the log. Amazing to watch so close, probably no more than 9-10 feet away yet barely visible. The only give away was the occasional glint of light reflecting on its golden flank and head. Now the fun began, time to start stalking a potential personal best.
What did I learn watching the fish?.
Watching the fish, I noticed that where he tucked himself against the log was just before the flow changed direction. This meant that small lines of bubbles floated over his head along with leaves and any food that was in or on the water. So at a guess I’d say it was slightly more oxygenated here, and first in line at the dinner queue. In the 20-30 minutes I sat and watched him he only rose once and what he ate I had no idea. The rise was questionable whether he ate from the surface or just under. As I never saw a bubble afterwards which usually indicates it was from the surface. I was dubious to whether I could be accurate enough with my cast so sat it out for a while wondering if he would move slightly away from the log. Obviously he didn’t, why would he.
All or nothing.
Stalking done, time to walk the walk. Opting for an emerging style pattern I decided IOBO cdc plume tip would be a good starting point as this is what caught last time. Still in the same position, with the rod in my not so favored left hand. I began loading the rod in an arc ready to fire the fly, Breath held I released. Instantly I knew it could have been better as it drifted to the right of the fish just out of the line of bubbles. The fish did take notice though and lifted and turned slightly before returning to his station. gently retrieving the fly without lifting the rod tip too high, I decided to prep the fly better. I submerged the whole fly and water-logged the cdc squeezing the body under water. I then used my amadou to remove the water from the plume and blew it dry separating the plume. This made the body sink properly and the plume suspended it just below the surface. Next cast I used a bit more force and it landed on the side of the log. Typical, but by some miracle the hook just rolled and bounced over the log and was retrievable. Obviously meant to be?. With panic and fear setting in knowing that each failed cast could spook the fish I loaded the rod and leaned to the right. I fired the fly and this time it landed into the channel of bubbles about 3 feet above the fish. What happened next was interesting, the fly had landed just behind a large leaf that was floating in the current. I thought this would prevent a rise, but soon as the fly hit the water I swear the fish was moving and looking. It was like the leaf was slightly blocking his view and he was moving slightly to see it. Maybe the leaf caused a hasty decision from the fish but as the leaf passed above him he shot up and sipped my fly from the surface. The fight was frantic, with the fish burying him self under the log, then some rocks. Mid fight I noticed I had fly line caught around the reel handle which caused some serious panic!. I’ll let the video do the talking.