The water level was higher than previous visits and the sought after trout were not visible. Indications of other species were few: a glimpse of a sizeable barbel, the occasional sight of a dark fish passing over the white cans of Stella Artois littering the riverbed.
The return of the coarse fishing season had brought more anglers to the water. On the opposite bank, a father and son were trying to float fish for the giant koi carp that lives in my favourite River Wandle fishing spot. As they fed the swim with handfuls of bait, the fishermen looked at my fly fishing gear with a mixture of curiosity and hostility. Their bobbing float restricted any casting in this already tight space, and I was reduced to fishing “Czech Nymph” style in the position I’d caught trout and barbel before. The previously successful Czech Mate Hare’s Red Super and Nugget Buzzer Black & Green met no interest today, so I used a ‘fly’ which mimicked the coarse favourite: a maggot. This too, didn’t entice any fish, and after the best part of an hour, I gave up to reconnoitre other parts of the river.
I walked downstream past abandoned council housing and empty school playgrounds. The river was gin-clear, thick with weeds in parts, but strangely fish-free. On the deserted, shady parts of the riverside path, I felt it would be unwise to linger after dark.
In a quiet cul-de-sac I peered over the railings into a relatively weed-free swim. A large chub rested almost motionless in the flow. I dropped my rod case and bag onto the ground. The noise was enough to send the chub darting away. Cursing my clumsy approach, I positioned myself on a narrow concrete ledge between the railings and water. A small shoal of, what I presume were also chub, swam in the shallow water. The fish were very easily spooked; I sat motionless until they came back into range. Casting was out of the question, so I did my best to flick and dangle the artificial maggot into their path.
A few fish investigated the lure, but didn’t connect with the hook. A few fish were just downright scared of the lure. I switched the fly for a smaller Diawl Bach nymph, but in the fading light I couldn’t see its position in the water, and wasn’t able to make the fish bite. At sunset, I called it a day, after a final frustrated cast cost me the fly.
This brief session – just a couple of hours grabbed after work – may not have delivered a fish, but I have a new location to try, and a new species to target. I’ll return with whatever it is that the internet tells me chub are supposed to eat.