In quiet moments usually in the middle of the night, I recall days spent on my favourite streams and events – some stand out more than others – this is one of those indelible memories –
The lower end of the gorge – decisions, decisions – around or through?
I was alone on this occasion – I scrambled through the gorge to where I knew from previous visits there were a few deliciously deep pools – home to some solid brown trout – I’d seen them once before, spooky as hell, melting into the depths at the slightest hint of anything weird – movement, shadow, splash or a silhouette looming over them.
The gorge offers two options, a long walk around on the contour path and some scrambling through vegetation that has other ideas about letting you through or the risky business of negotiating the jumble of massive boulders, deep holes and scary currents where the whole river is forced through narrow gaps. I took the scary route – it lived up to its reputation, but I made it through without drowning or injury, always a relief. Trout avoid these places like the plague, my theory being that in times of flooding it is like a giant washing machine on full cycle with little place to hide and the trout know it. It’s above and below the gorge where they can be found.
The pools looked good, mysterious, tailing out to clear, knee deep shallows with plenty of bottom structure. I crept, hid, presented as carefully as I could, changed flies half a dozen times, but nothing. It took me about 30 minutes to figure out that they were working the shallows near the tail and in fast runs – they were hungry and looking up, a good sign, so I changed to a lightly weighted nymph with the wing case cut at the back to make it more representative of an emerger.
On a previous visit with companions
A smaller 14 inch brown from the top pools
I lobbed the fly upstream into the fast rip against the near undercut bank and followed its drift with the rod tip. It’s a fascinating and demanding way to fish but too much of it would make me long for the grace of the dry fly and real casting. There is a slight dip in the end of the fly line and in case it’s not the current or a rock I lift the rod tip and feel weight, then movement – it’s a fish, a big fish by the boring and head shaking – my heart pounds in my chest, its impressive and I hang on feeling almost out of control as it rips line in a dash to the tail then rolls on the surface and comes back at me. I frantically retrieve line to stay in touch – another dash to the tail close to where it plunges into the next pool and I pray for divine intervention that the fine tippet holds – it works until he runs again this time to the far bank, across the rip, the line bellies, a large boulder prevents me from following. The line goes slack, my heart skips a beat – that brownie is no longer attached, separated against the weight of the river, not a lot could have been done about the inevitably.
You see them and, then they’re gone.
In the moment you question yourself with technical evasions or try to console yourself taking the poetic route, ‘its just good to be out fishing’. I felt right then about as competent as a 13 year old discussing women.
John Geirach wrote, “Much is actually known about trout and much more is suspected”.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2017. All rights reserved