The Peaks Fly Fishing Diaries - 'Sloe Gin and Season Climax'
It's almost autumn and for David Johnson that means trout feasting on daddy long legs and fishing for grayling. Oh, and maybe it's time for a glass of sloe gin too.
The refreshing chill that greets me when I step out in the morning is a reminder that the fly fishing season is about to come to a climax.
For me, late August and September is about exploring the large upland reservoirs where the dramatic heather covered moorland edges curve down to the peat stained water below. This time of year brings an abundance of heather flies on the moor, filling nose, ears and mouth of man and beast alike. As they blow down on to the water in a vast billowing cloud they can send fish in to a feeding frenzy. A floating imitation of these presented close to the where the trout lie sipping the naturals will seldom be ignored. Just don’t open your mouth too wide when you smile from your catch!
The other delicacy on the trout’s menu will be the daddy long legs. Leggy and unstable it will scuttle and roll on to the water like a novice stilt walker. There is something about this fly that provokes a furious reaction from a trout. I was guiding a gentleman recently and we had enjoyed plenty of takes on caddis, all gently sipped from the surface. When we switched to a daddy long legs the fish attacked the fly with surprising vigour. Often when casting to a particular fish another trout that is nearby will shoot across the current and attack the daddy before the target fish gets a look in. Maybe it is the way the daddy struggles in the surface film, this struggle with the meniscus is something that can be imitated by gently lifting the rod tip to dance the fly on the water’s surface.
After such a delightfully hot enjoyable summer on the river and as the weather starts to turn more autumnal many of us start to think of the grayling. I don’t think there is a finer fish than a grayling on a damp, leafy autumn day as this description from ‘Grayling Fishing’ by W Carter Platts and quoted by John Roberts in his classic ‘Fly Fishing for Grayling’ illustrates:
“Its sides were slightly oxidised silver mail, fading in to milk white on the belly and shading off into dark olive on the back, but these colours were, as the fish was held at different angles to the light, shot with purple and pale gold, indeed seen in one light the whole of the side displayed one continuous pale golden sheen."
Watch out for them during the early weeks sipping the stranded green fly from fallen leaves floating on the surface like little lunch boats served up just for the grayling’s delight.
As the weather cools then tying deep nymphs or bugs imitating caddis larvae and shrimp will start to pay off as the grayling intercepts food items close to the bottom of the stream bed.
The sloe gin is nearly ready so here’s to autumn, my favourite time of year.
Dave Johnson lives near Sheffield on the edge of the Peak District where he has been fly fishing since childhood. He is manager of Peaks Fly Fishing and helps run the Birchinlee Fly Fishing Club. Dave is also brand director for Harkers Fishing and a keen fly fishing writer, contributing to various print and online publications.
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