Might as well start with a pic of my best fish of the year – best from my door-step chalk-stream, at least.

At the desk all day and with a bad case of the shack nasties I went out in the early evening with waders and scythe to do some weed-cutting. The river looked so nice when I finished – and I was in my waders after all – I thought I might as well string up and have a flick. Wandering upstream beyond the reach I’d cut I was mooching about, popping my head over the reeds here and there when I saw this outlandishly big trout turn in its pool. Had I spooked it? I couldn’t tell. The fish drifted through a patch of sunlight, morphed into the dark of the pool and was gone.

Here a good fish weighs a pound, and a very good fish weighs two. So, this trout that looked all of three pounds was worth taking time over. I edged back under the shadow of a willow and waited. Nothing stirred. Eventually I chanced a cast. The fly landed short and to the right. A fish came up under it, followed and turned away. My heart paused and started again. It was a good fish, but not the fish.

Maybe this fella wasn’t going to come up at all. I switched to a tiny nymph, greased the tippet and tried again. Nothing. At least, nothing I noticed. I changed back to a different dry-fly. This time, at the risk of lining the monster I tried casting a little higher up the pool. Still nothing.

By now I was sure that I’d spooked the trout in the first place and that I’d just have to mark it down and come back. I dug out my phone, sent a couple of texts. I looked at the sky. I took a picture of a dragonfly – or tried to. And finally I tied on a black parachute and flicked out three casts, each one further up the pool than the last. By the third my fly had landed in the run of water right at the top and three or four yards beyond where I’d seen the fish.

The take, when it came, had something of the shark chasing seals about it. The trout lanced fast and hard from the side and just ram-raided my little fly. There was no doubt at all about the hook-up. The issue now was the six feet of silt and reeds between me and the gravel, and the way this lump of a trout was bouncing angrily around the river. Somehow I made it through the gloop, bent my little three-weight into a horseshoe and bullied the fish away from anything that looked like a snag.

To touch it would have been enough, I reasoned. I had no net. But I got hold of her in the end and as I did the sun came out to illuminate my photo – a keepsake of rod and fish, if only to prove to myself I hadn’t been dreaming.


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