In my mid-summer fishing report, I commented on the rather odd weather patterns of this year, and the main part of the summer has seen a continuation in the same vein, with a consistent variation from what we used to consider ‘normal’. The heavy rains of May, which saturated the ground thoroughly and raised the level of Tinhay Lake by around one foot, left plenty of water to keep rivers at a nice height for much of the summer. At no time did we need to start grumbling about very low water, and weather fronts with associated rain came and went, producing spates now and then. Excepting the blistering (and mercifully fairly short-lived) heatwave in July, water temperatures overall were probably lower than normal.
Just before the heatwave struck, we had a nice little spate which brought a few salmon into our beats on the Tamar and Lyd, with 3 fish taken in just over a week, all bright fresh grilse, and a joy to behold.
John Bennett, who witnessed yours truly landing the first fish on the Lyd, was so inspired that he simply had to fish the Tamar at Polson bridge the following day, where he landed his first-ever salmon, on a single-handed rod and a small double Super Stoat. A few days later David Wallace caught the third salmon, again a fresh grilse, on the Tamar in Quarry Pool. David then went on to have a quite spectacular day on the Lyd at Sydenham, when despite the heat building mightily, he landed a sea trout, 38 wild brownies to 14 inches, and a dozen grayling up to a pound-and-a-half, all on a small black nymph. Experience pays!
Prospects for salmon during the closing weeks of the season will of course be entirely dependent on water conditions, but if we have further spates, there will certainly be fish running. Even in early June there were some salmon right up the Lyd on the Sydenham beats, and fish were showing regularly in the Upper Boat pool on the Tamar in July. I for one am really looking forward to the chance of fishing for salmon up at Sydenham, which given the right conditions and the fact that many of the pools have now been made fishable, could be quite delicious.
Night time sea trout fishing came to the fore during July, with fish running far and fast. At times various small spates and spells of coloured water put paid to sport at night, and some sea trout were taken in the falling waters by day. Less rain and more settled weather in late July and through August gave better conditions for the dedicated band of serious night fishers, and catches steadily accumulated. At the time of writing (September 17th) the total for the season stands at 125, with the best fish taken at night by Paul Scanlan from Silver Doctor pool on the Lyd, a beauty of 22 inches.
Sea trout are already starting to colour up in preparation for spawning, but should continue to provide lots of fun for night fishers right up to the end of September. So long as fish are played firmly, and released as soon as possible, they will come to no harm. I love those final days and nights, in the knowledge that it will soon be over for the next 9 months, and that those moments should be savoured to the full.
Brown trout fishing was good in June and into July, but naturally slowed as high summer raised water temperatures and steadily lowered river levels. August has historically always been a tough month for trout fishers, with fewer steadily rising fish and diminished fly hatches. September sees a complete sea-change in the trout’s behaviour, as the longer nights and lower temperatures seem to suddenly remind the fish that winter is approaching. Sedges will still be hatching, and stoneflies will be on the wing, dropping their precious egg sacs, then falling in disarray to the water. Dry fly and nymph sport can be of the highest order, with the fish still very wary and discerning if the rivers remain low and clear. This is wild trout fishing in its purest form, no carefree abandon of fish flinging themselves at anything vaguely resembling a mayfly, as they did in early June. I love it – and the carefree abandon stuff too!
Grayling, having spawned earlier in the summer, will be steadily improving in condition, and respond very well as the ambient temperatures settle into autumn. We have a thriving grayling population on most of our rivers, and are delighted to host these lovely fish. We do not have the massed shoals found on some chalkstreams, but a catch of up to half a dozen or more fish can be expected when things are right, and often the grayling reach a greater size than most of our brownies. Any day right up to late November, given that rivers are still fishable, can offer splendid grayling fishing. Inevitably brown trout, odd sea trout, and even a salmon, will take a nymph. I have in the past 20 years landed 3 salmon, all on small nymphs, while targeting grayling in the autumn. The best was a bright silver, totally fresh fish of about 8 pounds, which careered around like a sea trout, leaping 3 times and ripping line off the reel, hooked on Bonfire Night. Fireworks of the best and fishiest kind.