I should be writing a catch report from the magnificent Welsh waters, the River Wye and the River Usk. However, a forecast for continuous rain and the corresponding high river levels I could see on the webcams meant this plan was abandoned. I gave myself a small consolation trip to my local River Wandle. Flogging a dead horse, again it turned out.
The river was looking good. Chalk-stream quality clear water, plentiful fly life and good weed growth. On the first stretch I visited, I chatted to a fellow fly-fisherman, who was trying his luck with a mayfly pattern. No bites today, he told me, but he had lost a good trout nearby the previous day. I set up my rod with tungsten-weighted nymphs and made short-range flicks into the gin-clear water. A little interest was shown by small chub, but no trout came out of hiding.
Two local guys turned up with a rod and a bag of bread. They enthusiastically showed me their technique of throwing bread onto the water, to locate the fish. Trout revealed themselves with big splashy takes. Now, it’s one thing to use bait to locate fish, but totally another to send the bread floating downstream with a hook in it. It is illegal* to fish for trout this way in the coarse fish closed season. I left the tattooed poachers to it, and moved to another section of the river.
The next spot I tried, also had its resident bait fishers. More arrived after the first group left. Seems like a closed season means very little in this part of London. A call to the Environment Agency will be forthcoming.
I think the bait-fishers were unfamiliar with fly-fishing tackle. “Are you after Moby Dick?” they asked, eyeing my thick floating line. Appropriately, a large white fish was resident in this pool. A goldfish that had outgrown its tank maybe.
This stretch held a good number of fish. Roach mainly. The occasional trout was glimpsed, but to cut a long story short any combination of nymphs couldn’t get a hook-up. I tried shrimp, a bead-headed buzzer like the one that caught a trout before, stalking bugs, partridge & orange. Even a cat’s whisker, which the roach liked to chase. Maybe in the crystal clear water, nothing seemed edible at closer inspection.
The bird-life on the River Wandle was impressive. I saw a couple of kingfishers, and startled a young heron. For a moment, you can almost forget you are in an urban environment. The graffiti, beer cans and occasional wafts of marijuana however, bring you back to reality; you are still in south London. Seeing a brown rat swim across the river certainly made me think twice about wetting a blood knot with my saliva.
Whilst returning to the car a spotted a largish but thin trout in shallow water mid-stream. Worth a go with a dry fly? I tied on a green caddis klinkhammer. The rumble of a passing HGV scattered the fish before I could deploy the fly. Time to call it a day.
Competition with out of season bait fishing, and a sparse trout population makes this venue a tough proposition. I don’t think I’ll be back in a hurry.
* Environment Agency Rod Fishing Byelaws – South East Region
1.6.1 What baits, lures and weights are prohibited?
In the Thames byelaw area when fishing for salmon, trout, or rainbow trout during the annual close season for coarse fish (15 March – 15 June dates inclusive), you may only fish with an artificial fly or lure. A minnow taken in a minnow trap for use as bait in the waters from which it was taken is also permitted but requires the previous written consent of the Environment Agency.