The Season opened with perfect conditions – the Winter weed growth was nowhere to be seen (because it was all down the back of the dam), the water in the Bottom Lake was crystal clear, and the Trout thought they were in heaven. Add a fly fisherman to this scenario, and it completes the picture. The Trout suddenly realised that they were not in heaven, but happily we were! And so it continued – duffers’ fortnight extended into duffers’ month and beyond; for a moment it was tempting to think that the Trout would continue to throw caution to the winds, but needless to say – like printing money and low interest rates – it has to end in tears eventually!
The mid-Summer weather was again kind to us – not too hot, not too dry, and we enjoyed perfect water conditions. Even the little Top Lake was as clear as we have seen it for a long time. The Trout by now had been supplemented with some brash new arrivals, and you would have thought that the cautionary abandonment displayed in the early Season would now be repeated, giving us another period of duffers’ fishing, but interestingly it rarely does. Rather like funny money – you can inflate the system with more, but it never behaves the same; in this regard, less is more. The Summer fishing was not easy. Typically Trout would rise to your fly with great purpose, only to turn away as soon as your rubbish fly dressing or your curly leader gave the game away. Even the perfectly tied fly (not one of mine) presented on a dead straight slightly sub-surface leader (occasionally one of mine) was regularly ignored. I suspect the fishing appeared more difficult than it actually was simply because the conditions were so perfect. It seemed incomprehensible that we should have difficulty catching them, but difficult it was. As always, the quickly moving fly would activate an aggressive response, but true deception, which is what it is all about, remained difficult but not impossible. On the last day of the Season, I spotted a good Brownie right in the margin. I crept up on him and simply lowered a Klinkhammer down to him so there was no leader on the water at all, just the fly. The fish was quite obviously totally deceived – he slowly swam up to it and engulfed it without a second thought, only to get the shock of his life. It weighed a bit over 4 lbs I would say, and was my best Brownie of the year, so a very memorable fish.
So, points out of ten – I would give it at least an 8; what let us down was the poor insect life. All the up-winged flies were thin on the ground. The Damsels were not that numerous; even the midge flies could have been more plentiful. So what is going on? The first and most worrying conclusion is that it is not just us. There are plenty of other waters reporting the same phenomenon, and equally some who report no problem. I think in our case we can rule out sheep dip and in fact any kind of pollution. The only thing that makes any sense is Climate Change, because what else can affect so many different waters in different locations? There is no obvious catastrophe (not yet) but when you look at the changes in animal migration times, and the changes to the seasonal emergence of various flora, there are clear changes going on. A warm Winter, where the water weed keeps growing, seems pretty benign as far as the invertebrates are concerned, but maybe not; maybe they need a dormant period in order to survive. The only thing we can rely on is that creatures adapt, and in the case of short-lived critters like insects, they adapt quickly, so it might be just a case of wait and see what Nature has in store for us.
We now have a Waiting List as long as the list of Members, and we would dearly love to accept (we need) more Membership Fees, but in order to maintain the standard of the fishing, we must decline the offer. We are, however, offering Membership to the two guys on the top of the list which – because no-one has resigned their Membership this year – means that we will increase our merry band to ten. For those who remain on the list, I can only say that we are really sorry we cannot accommodate you this year. We must wait and see how we go with a slightly increased Membership, and – as always – we help ourselves by keeping our impact down to the minimum.
We had a good size range of Rainbows, and the Brownies were fantastic. The most impressive single catch of the Season was Roger’s; he had a brace of 8-pounders plus five other fish. Over half of the Trout were caught on dry flies, with the ubiquitous Klinkhammer doing very well as usual, but just about everything you can think of appears on the Return Cards, which is great to see.
Prospects for next Season can only be good. I cannot believe that the water will be anything less than crystal clear, with the exception of Summer floods, of course. I am hoping to see the little Top Lake even clearer next year. The only unknown quantity are those insects – will we start to see an improvement; or could they decline even more; who knows, but it will be interesting finding out.
Season Rod Membership Fees are up just a little bit (blame it on the funny money). They are £720 per Rod. The 2017 Season will start on Monday 3rd April and end on Saturday 30th September, and – if this last Season is anything to go by – a good time will be had by all.