Another wonderful days fishing, thanks to the Wild Trout Trust auction. Again I am travelling with Iain “Be Prepared” Knott. The only minor aberration on this trip is he forgets his net. This is not a major problem as this is his least used piece of fishing equipment, I’m surprised he has even taken it out of the packaging.
We fished the Midford, Cam and Wellow Brooks just south of Bath owned and managed by the Avon and Tributaries Angling Association. This historic club was established in 1876 and has access to over 20 miles of water including the Somerset Avon and Frome.
ATAA, the sponsor of the auction lot, very kindly organised for one of their river wardens to meet us and show us some prime spots where the three brooks confluence at Midford. After a quick run through with Terry on the dos and don’ts and a little local knowledge we were set up for an excellent day. We were told that you have every type of trout fishing you could wish for on the club waters. It is well stocked with browns and rainbows and holds a good population of wild browns.
The stretches we fished have mainly steep high banks. The best way to fish these rivers was to wade. The difficulty you faced after working out how to get in to the river was getting out again. Getting down was best achieved by a adopting a slide similar to a modern day cricket fielder, the difference being the pitch is almost vertical and the turf is mainly nettle and Himalayan Balsam. Fortunately the soil is yielding tacky red clay, which assists the slide, the tackiness also acts to reduce the speed of your decent, which proves quite calming as you hurtle downwards through undergrowth to the river below.
Once there the fishing is magical, a canopy of trees, little glides and pools with rising fish. Small dry flies got the attention of the wild fish, many were missed with a few coming to hand, nothing more than 6 inches.
How to get out? This is were the yielding tacky red clay works against you, on the way up tacky becomes slippery. What to use to gain some sort of purchase? Nettles no, I never did understand the phrase “grasp the nettle” unless you are looking for a hand covered in red and white welts; Himalayan Balsam you discover is one of the least well rooted plants and adopts one of the characteristics of the red clay, yielding. All that is left is to dig your hands into the soil and claw your way out. That complete you make the executive decision not to attempt that again today.
We walk along part of the length of the Midford Brook and pass the Environment Agency Flow Monitoring station. In all my years on rivers I have never seen such a substantial structure on a small stream. The construction is a concrete V shaped gutter, which takes the whole flow of the river. It is about 10ft deep and 30 yards long. Along it’s length every 10 yards there is a depth gauge on both sides of the V and sensors every 3 feet up the gauge. This is so elaborate you suspect that this is a river that comes with a major flood risk, hence the high steep banks or is part of a very well sponsored research programme.
After a great lunch and the Hope and Anchor at Midford we made our way to the Cam and Wellow Brook.
I got off to a good start with a wonderful wild fish on a small scruffy Webster’s Sedge. We then started to notice a few mayfly hatching followed by the familiar sight and sound of a splashy rise. What followed was a very traditional mayfly rise, a number of takes and a fair proportion brought to the net (my net!!).
At one point we were fishing 100 yards apart and both had on our largest fish of the day. A little like a European Community compromise we had left the net 50 yards away from each of us with both of us being equally inconvenienced. As a result one fish was lost, if it was a true European Community compromise both fish would have been lost.
For me the mayfly hatch is a very late bonus. This year I started catching fish on mayfly on the Chess on the 1st May, a seven week mayfly season is the stuff of dreams.
We took some good hard fighting stock-fish, with some to over 2lbs, the ever dependable French Partridge taking the most prisoners.
Brilliant scenery and fantastic rivers, and more importantly “BP” Knott bagged his first trout on a mayfly, a life changing moment, now where is that net?
Next stop the Derbyshire Derwent. I wonder if there will still be mayfly?