For the past year I have been following reports on flyforums about the fabled wild rainbow trout of the Wye in Derbyshire. The pictures of their colourful spotted flanks and descriptions of their free rising nature meant I was unbelievably excited on Sunday morning as we started the two hour drive from my Dad's house in Lincolnshire down to the Peacock at Rowsley. I have only been fishing rivers since last winter and this trip would be my Dad's second trip onto the moving water. We were expecting the trout to make us look foolish, we envisaged these wild fish to sit in their lies laughing their heads off as we churned the water to a foam around them (they wouldn't be spooked as they had nothing to fear from the couple of incompetent pricks chucking fluff at them). How wrong we were, what followed is probably the best days fishing I have ever had.
We started our day on the "meadows" stretch working our way from the farm back down to Rowsley. The sight of large fish holding station in the tributary (is this the Lathkill?!) had us salivating but the tree cover allowed little more than the odd catapult cast at a showing fish, we rose none of them. This is the point we composed ourselves for a very hard days fishing.
Just as we met the Wye the river keeper, Jan, joined us for a quick chat and pointed out the prolific silverhorn sedges that were expected to be coming off all day. Off came the paradun on went a CDC and Elk size 19. We cast at rising fish in the glassy smooth water which was swarming with sedge, the occasional insect unlucky enough to linger a second too long on the surface. NOTHING. the fish showed no interest in our flies, I am guessing that in the smooth water the leader was all to visible and the steady flow gave them all the time in the world to inspect our flies.
We then came to the first pool and everything changed. A small riffle was emptying out into a much deeper channel and just on the other side of the fast water a willow was bent over with small trout circling under it before they shot out into the current with a splashy rise. Me being the gentleman that I am (laugh my ass off) let Dad fish through it first, mainly because he saw it first and blocked the entire pool. The next thing I heard was "Danny, I got one, they're in the faster water". A gloating father gently brought the first wild rainbow either of us had ever seen to hand and dear lord was it lovely, especially as first fish meant I had to buy him a beer at lunchtime.
The first wild rainbow either of us had ever seen signified the start to a brilliant days fishing.
He then (uncharcteristically) suggested I give them a go, he pretty much ordered me to chuck a fly over the fast water, a tricky cast followed by a quick upstream mend had the fly moving through without too much drag and within seconds a splashy rise startled me half to death and I tightened into my first Wye fish, a gorgeous little brown trout was photographed before releasing him none the worse for his ordeal. Spot on!!
A pretty wee brown came from the exact same spot as the first rainbow on the very next cast, they were lining up!
From then on we concentrated on putting our flies in and around the broken faster water working our way downstream, stealthily approaching each pool before spotting fish or rises and presenting small deer hair sedges to them. Before 11am we had worked our way down to the end of the beat and managed over 15 trout between us with a couple of grayling thrown in for good measure, all of mine were to small CDC and Elk fished through the broken water.
Fishing the riffley water after the weirs seemed to be the order of the day.
On the way back up we fished from the other bank to cover areas of the pools which previously were well beyond our casting skill. A fluky cast saw my fly land softly underneath some tree cover and the moment it hit the water it was engulfed by a lovely little rainbow, the fishing was getting a bit silly now with both of us catching more than we ever dreamed of.
A cast put into a weed channel tight to the far bank saw a very different rise as a trout just gently surface and sip my fly down, I tightened and all hell broke loose. The fish shot upstream like it's arse was on fire until it hit the weir and turned diving straight into the weed and everything went solid, SHIT. Remembering a trick I have used when carp fishing I slackened off and saw the line pulled away, the fish was still on but the line was wrapped around a large clump of ranunculus. Moving downstream soon sorted that out and once again I was connected to the fish directly. Soon after the net got it's first proper wetting and she was on the bank in all her glory, absolutely brilliant.
An unbelievable fight from one of the prettiest, fittest fish i have ever seen. Pellet pigs eat your heart out!
By this point we both agreed that we had been absolutely blessed and it would not matter if we didn't catch anymore, well over 20 trout had seen the bank and we had pretty much lost count of the lost fish (and the number of my home tied flies that Dad had found new homes for in the abundant undergrowth). A liquid lunch was in order so a trip to the Manners and a few pints later and we hit the middle stretch below the pumping station. The water here was not as turbulent as the shallower stretch downstream and the fishing was much harder. We both managed to winkle out a couple of grayling and Dad managed a few trout and lost even more flies.
Dad plays a lovely wild rainbow from just below the pumping station after flicking a small sedge tight under the trees on the opposite bank.
It was time for a move and luckily enough we bumped into Jan again, incidentally a top bloke who ran over to chat with us even after he had finished work and was simply sat enjoying a pint. He suggested we try Scott's Garden and not being backwards in going forwards we shot off. Again the sight of lovely weir pools awaited us with some enormous, mind-blowingly huge wild trout swimming around them. I decided to put on a much bigger sedge pattern as the light was fading and my eyesight is god awful at the best of times (and Dad had by this point lost every single one of my smaller flies) and chucked it in a huge heap at the top of a pool. By some sheer fluke it managed to straighten itself out and just as I was about to lift off and cast a bit more gracefully for the walkers the line was pulled from my fingers and a beast tore off across the pool. This was something completely different it was absolutely clear from the beginning that I was into something a bit special. it tore upstream and downstream and made me look like an amateur fool, which coincidentally is exactly what I am. 5 minutes later and I finally got its head up and Dad slipped the net under the biggest wild fish I have ever caught. It was quickly unhooked and photographed before being held in the current before a kick of it's massive tail soaked me and it slid back into it's pool.
A tail like a shovel ensured this was a fight I will never forget.
I was absolutely buzzing, ecstatic, over the moon and my casting suffered because of it, I was shaking like a leaf! Two more fish graced my net before we called it a day and made the long smiley journey back. I am still a wreck even writing this has given me goosebumps remembering the fight with that fish. The catch returns book simply reads "LOADS" under trout as we cannot remember how many we caught, between us it was definitely over thirty, Dad had caught his first ever grayling on the fly, I had memories to last a lifetime, the sun was shining and the beer was good. It was perfect.
Jan you are a top bloke with a smashing bit of river, we will be back!! In fact I think I will book it tomorrow.