Patience or Prospecting - Alternative Approaches to Trout Fishing

micka

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Prospecting or Patience



In my shed I have a spray container of insect remover for my car. It lasts me ages because I hardly have to use it nowadays. I’m sure though that many forum members will remember when a trip in the countryside meant their car windscreen, bonnet and grille were caked with insects. Not now sadly, one scientific study after another shows a consistent and alarming drop in the numbers of insects – confirming own empirical evidence when driving or fishing. Of course, we know the cause; in a word - man, in various guises and activities in the modern world.

I fish the Eden and Eamont a lot and they can still throw up some decent trout fishing. I can’t compare it personally to yesteryear, as my Cumbrian fishing for trout is a relatively recent thing. But when I used to read articles by Tom Fort in T and S about the Eden or listen to Steven (Mr Trout) on the Forum, I gain a real insight as to how dairy farming has taken it’s toll in those two beautiful valleys, as, I’m sure it has done in many, many others. Ironically, recovering urban rivers free from dairy farming are not surprisingly offering some excellent sport as many contributors on the Forum have demonstrated.

And so to the subject of the thread. When insect life and activity was far more pronounced and conditions conducive to hatches then patience was not required so much. When an angler approached his fishing on a trout stream, he/she could see hatches far more regularly and no doubt enjoy some wonderful dry fly sport, though the time of day and month of the year might well still restrict it’s frequency. Now we have to wait much longer for hatches and they might be much more short lived and much less prolific. But many an angler still pursues what I will call the “patient approach”. One well known trout angler who regularly pens articles for T and S is, I’m told, very much of the ‘patient’ breed. He will cast very few times during the course of a fishing session preferring to wait patiently for some surface activity and then will stealthily exploit it to his advantage, often picking off some specimen trout when the occasion affords it. I suppose we could call it the “heron’s approach.” And remember how many heron catch their prey very early in the morning. Maybe you're a heron.

Whilst many of us also like to watch and wait we may be less patient and want a more active approach to seek out our fish, more like a “cormorant's approach” perhaps – though that image will fill many anglers with horror. I would certainly describe myself as more of a “prospector.” I love casting to rising fish and like so many others regard it as the peak of fly fishing for trout and grayling. But I have to travel a good way to my fishing and I like to think I’m making the most of it. How I envy anglers who live on or near a river and can choose to avoid unpropitious times, maybe just an early morning session, maybe just an evening in the tougher times like high summer. A session for me with a round trip of up to four hours means I like to keep busy and cannot spend too long waiting for surface activity if none is evident. I like to prospect, to seek out fish that are not feeding on the surface.

There are a number of ways I can do this. One is to still fish on or near the surface but try to pull fish up (something I also like to do when stillwater fishing in ways alluded to by Rob Edmunds and Cap'n Fishy) – but that is much more of a patience and minimum disturbance game for me. When I lay my dry flies on the water in that context I see myself as setting traps, happy to wait until the trout spring them. On the river I’m moving. If it’s with the “deadly downstream drift” then I’ll use Tenkara as described in that thread but not perhaps in areas known for very decent sized trout. I also love a low water situation when I can get into a river, wading downstream and drifting small black Klinks or Griffiths Gnats or red/orange tags in to likely looking areas. Areas that might be shielded by bushes or other obstructive bankside vegetation which disallow bank fishing in higher water. There are some lovely pools like this on the lower Eden that probably never get covered by a fly. But even with water up to my waist at times, with no real push on me from the current, I can wade and exploit these opportunities to the full and cover an awful lot of water in a session and pull many fish from nowhere to enjoy some excellent sport (in a good session). The usual safety provisos apply about knowing your water and the topography of the bottom use of wading staff, etc.

The second method is the good old stalwart – the upstream nymph. This is traditional, old style upstream nymphing not Euro/Continental nymphing – which may well be deemed old fashioned and passe by many. It might be with a single nymph or with two but I love it. I like broken pocket water for this, often what might be salmon water in higher levels. All of you will have done it I’m sure. Of course, I should point out that everything I’m talking about is blind fishing on spate or freestone rivers here – I have no experience of chalkstreams. It can be damn tiring wading up against strongish currents but casts aren’t long and when the line reaches you it’s a roll cast then a conventional cast hither and thither into likely looking spots. The frequency of re-casting is great but it can induce fish to take just as you begin to roll cast to get your line in front of you – very exciting. It lacks the delicacy of Euro-nymphing and will never be as killing, nor will it pick out deep lying fish like Czech nymphing but I never get bored with it and it can give me some good sport. It will not work on some waters like the upper Lune for some reason, where the dry fly via the “heron’s approach” always seems to work best – don’t ask me why.

And lastly, the streamer. Fully developed by our Amercian cousins and never treated with the scorn sometimes found on this side of the Atlantic as a means of taking trout and often the most killing way of taking big trout. And, of course, trout that are not otherwise feeding but, like a cat chasing a leaf on a windy day, ones which cannot stop their reactions getting the better of them. Streamer fishing has received a lot of attention in recent years in the British Isles and on this forum – it’s come in from the cold as it were. So I won’t tell my granny how to suck eggs. Except that in the biggish rivers I sometimes fish I will not use a stiffish 9’ single hander but a lightish switch rod (though in lowish water I might use a 3/4 weight rod with mini-streamers). Quite simply, overhead casting with a stiff single hander can be too tiring for streamer fishing over a prolonged period certainly for me in my advanced years. IMHO using a variety of spey casts combined with the odd overhead with a longer rod makes streamer fishing so much more relaxing (with no worry about back-casting into bankside vegetation) and so much more deadly. Give me a clearing spate on a river and my switch rod, streamer outfit will always be first choice to prospect. And, if it’s a salmon and sea trout river too, then prepare for some occasional hair-raising fun; and never use anything less than 10lb Maxima for your tippet please! Or would Fluorocarbon be better??? - no, let's not go there.......

Here’s hoping that a Covid vaccine roll-out will allow us all to do some serious prospecting before spring is over in 2021. Unless, of course, you see yourself heron-like, waiting patiently for that first surface dimple in the pool above you that shows something is hatching and the trout have started to feed.


Mick
 
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eddleston123

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Prospecting or Patience



In my shed I have a container spray of insect remover for my car. It lasts me ages because I hardly have to use nowadays. I’m sure though that many forum members will remember when a trip in the countryside meant their car windscreen, bonnet and grille were caked with insects. Not now sadly, one scientific study after another show a consistent and alarming drop in the numbers of insects – confirming own empirical evidence when driving or fishing. Of course, we know the cause; in a word - man, in various guises and activities in the modern world. I fish the Eden and Eamont a lot and they can still throw up some decent trout fishing. I can’t compare it personally to yesteryear, as my Cumbrian fishing for trout is a relatively recent thing. But when I used to read articles by Tom Fort in T and S about the Eden or listen to Steven (Mr Trout) on the Forum, I gain a real insight as to how dairy farming has taken it’s toll in those two beautiful valleys, as, I’m sure it has done in many, many others. Ironically, recovering urban rivers free from dairy farming are not surprisingly offering some excellent sport as many contributors on the Forum have demonstrated.

And so to the subject of the thread. When insect life and activity was far more pronounced and conditions conducive to hatches then patience was not required so much. When an angler approached his fishing on a trout stream, he/she could see hatches far more regularly and no doubt enjoy some wonderful dry fly sport, though the time of day and month of the year might well still restrict it’s frequency. Now we have to wait much longer for hatches and they might be much more short lived and much less prolific. But many an angler still pursues what I will call the “patient approach”. One well known trout angler who regularly pens articles for T and S is, I’m told very much of the ‘patient’ breed. He will cast very few times during the course of a fishing session preferring to wait patiently for some surface activity and then will stealthily exploit it to his advantage, often picking off some specimen trout when the occasion affords it. I suppose we could call it the “heron’s approach.” And remember how many heron catch their prey very early in the morning.

Whilst many of us also like to watch and wait we may be less patient and want a more active approach to seek out our fish, more like a “cormorant approach” perhaps – though that image will fill many anglers with horror. I would describe myself as more of a “prospector.” I love casting to rising fish and like so many others regard it as the peak of fly fishing for trout and grayling. But I have to travel a good way to my fishing and I like to think I’m making the most of it. How I envy anglers who live on or near a river and can choose to avoid unpropitious times, maybe just an early morning session, maybe just an evening in the tougher times like high summer. A session for me with a round trip of up to four hours means I like to keep busy. I like to prospect, to seek out fish that are not evidently feeding on the surface.

There are a number of ways I can do this. One is to still fish on or near the surface but try to pull fish up (something I also like to do when stillwater fishing in ways alluded to by Rob Edmunds and Capt. Fishy – but that is much more of a patience and minimum disturbance game for me. When I lay my dry flies on the water I see myself as setting traps happy to wait until the trout spring them. On the river I’m moving. If it’s with the “deadly downstream drift” then I’ll use Tenkara as described in that thread but not perhaps in areas known for very decent trout. I also love a low water situation when I can get into a river, wading downstream and drifting small black Klinks or Griffiths Gnats or red/orange tags in to likely looking areas. Areas that might be shielded by bushes or other obstructive bankside vegetation to disallow bank fisihing in higher water. There are some lovely pools like this on the lower Eden that probably never get covered by a fly. But even with water up to my waist at times, with no real push on me from the current, I can wade and exploit these opportunities to the full and cover an awful lot of water in a session and pull many fish from nowhere to enjoy some excellent sport. The usual safety provisos apply about knowing your water and the topography of the bottom use of wading staff, etc.

The second method is the good old stalwart – the upstream nymph. This is old style to me not Euro/Continental nymphing – mybe deemed old fashioned by many. It might be with a single nymph or with two but I love it. I like broken pocket water for this, often what might be salmon water in higher levels. All of you will have done it I’m sure. Of course, I should point out that everything I’m talking about is blind fishing on spate or freestone rivers here – I have no experience of chalkstreams. It can be damn tiring wading up against strongish currents but casts aren’t long and when the line reaches you it’s a roll cast then conventional cast hither and thither into liekely looking spots. The frequency of re-casting is great but it can induce fish to take just as you begin to roll cast just to get your line in front of you – very exciting. It lacks the delicacy of Euro-nymphing and will never be as killing, nor will it pick out deep lying fish like Czech nymphing but I never get bored with it and it can give me some good sport. It will not work on some waters like the upper Lune for some reason, where the dry fly via the “heron’s approach” always seems to work best – don’t ask me why.

And lastly, the streamer. Fully developed by our Amercian cousins and never treated with the scorn sometimes found on this side of the Atlantic as a means if taking trout and often the most killing way of taking big trout. And, of course, trout that are not otherwise feeding but, like a cat chasing a leaf on a windy day, cannot stop their reactions getting the better of them. Streamer fishing has received a lot of attention in recent years in the British Isles and on this forum – it’s come in from the cold as it were. So I won’t tell my granny to suck eggs. Except that in the biggish rivers I sometimes fish I will not use a stiffish 9’ single hander but a lightish switch rod (though in lowish water I might use a 3/4 weight rod with mini-streamers). Quite simply, overhead casting with a stiff single hander can be too tiring for streamer fishing over a prolonged period. IMHO using a variety of spey casts combined with the odd overhead with a longer rod makes streamer fishing so much more relaxing and so much more deadly. Give me a clearing spate on a river and my switch rod, streamer outfit will always be first choice to prospect. And, if it’s a salmon and sea trout river too, then prepare for some hair-raising fun and never use anything less than 10lb Maxima for your tippet please! Or would Fluorocarbon be better??? - no, let's not go there.......

Here’s hoping that a Covid vaccine roll-out will allow us all to do some serious prospecting before spring is over in 2021.

Mick


A good and interesting thread Mick.

I'd need to say that the type of fishing that I do, would come under the category of prospecting/fishing blind. I'm a bit of a one trick pony and fish a dry fly 90 per cent of the time.

If I was to wait on a fish rising in the streams that I fish - I'd be waiting an awful long time. Off course, that is not to say that I would not cover a rise. In the main I prospect with a bush/meaty mouthful type of fly, usually a sedge of some type, in the hope of bringing something up.

There is no way that I could sight fish on the rivers I frequent. Perhaps somebody with better eyesight than me would be successful, but I haven't met anyone yet who adopts this tactic.

Rises are not as frequent or prolific as they were 50 years, and I witness more and more anglers adopting 'heavy nymph' euro type fishing. I suspect a much higher percentage of fish feed sub surface nowadays. I personally still prefer a searching dry fly. Everyone to their own.



Douglas
 

micka

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A good and interesting thread Mick.

I'd need to say that the type of fishing that I do, would come under the category of prospecting/fishing blind. I'm a bit of a one trick pony and fish a dry fly 90 per cent of the time.

If I was to wait on a fish rising in the streams that I fish - I'd be waiting an awful long time. Off course, that is not to say that I would not cover a rise. In the main I prospect with a bush/meaty mouthful type of fly, usually a sedge of some type, in the hope of bringing something up.

There is no way that I could sight fish on the rivers I frequent. Perhaps somebody with better eyesight than me would be successful, but I haven't met anyone yet who adopts this tactic.

Rises are not as frequent or prolific as they were 50 years, and I witness more and more anglers adopting 'heavy nymph' euro type fishing. I suspect a much higher percentage of fish feed sub surface nowadays. I personally still prefer a searching dry fly. Everyone to their own.



Douglas
In higher water do you streamer fish on the Tweed Douglas, a river which we all know holds some big fish? Or on perhaps the most famous salmon river in Britain would that be viewed as unacceptable?

Mick
 

eddleston123

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In higher water do you streamer fish on the Tweed Douglas, a river which we all know holds some big fish? Or on perhaps the most famous salmon river in Britain would that be viewed as unacceptable?

Mick

I haven't personally fished streamers on the Tweed. I'm sure it could be very effective especially on a falling river. There is, off course, an increased chance of catching a salmon, so from that point of view perhaps some anglers may be a bit 'sniffy' about the method. There is nothing in the permit that excludes this method.

I tend to fish smaller border streams and if I arrive and the water is high I will stick on a streamer. I've caught a couple of thumpers using this method.


Douglas
 

tangled

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I get to fish the Eden about 2 days a year and I dream of them when I'm not there. People that live near beautiful rivers like that are immensely lucky.

So no, I can't wait for a rise!

But I don't feel I need to. My particular favourite way of fishing that river is down and across with 3 trad spiders or maybe two, with a weighted nymph depending on speed and depth. I just metronome my way downstream a zen-like state thinking about life the universe and everything.

But I'm always on the lookout for a rising fish and change tactics in a blink if I see one 'cos that's the most perfect way of catching a fish in my opinion.

So I guess I'm more about the process of fishing the river than catching the trout in it, though you can't disentangle one from 'tother.
 

Mrtrout

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Nice post Mick, I think the person you refer to is PP, and I once heard him say the two most important things were observation and patience?
I live within a mile of the Eden I’m lucky in that respect and at times I go out with the intention of being patient but after an hour or two of sitting and watching i invariably feel the need to change tactics and start casting in the hope I’ll catch something.
I admire PP for his patience and it obviously works for him.
S.
 

PaulD

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Rises are not as frequent or prolific as they were 50 years,
Douglas

I have quite an old DVD which features, Jiri Klima. The introduction to the DVD is Klima telling a group of anglers that 10 to 20% of the time fish will feed on the surface, 80 to 90% of the time they will be feeding sub surface. Now obviously, this will vary depending upon the environment you fish . . . in richer limestone or chalk waters more heavily weeded, persistent, denser hatches of ephemerids will be more common than in the harder, rainfed streams but the 'split' will still be heavily in favour of sub surface. However, if the rainfed stream angler has knowledge of where the fish are / should be he has a far greater chance of lifting them to a speculative dry fly than his chalkstream cousin. The chalkstream fish is often more discerning than the often more opportunistic rainfed fish.
 

micka

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I have quite an old DVD which features, Jiri Klima. The introduction to the DVD is Klima telling a group of anglers that 10 to 20% of the time fish will feed on the surface, 80 to 90% of the time they will be feeding sub surface. Now obviously, this will vary depending upon the environment you fish . . . in richer limestone or chalk waters more heavily weeded, persistent, denser hatches of ephemerids will be more common than in the harder, rainfed streams but the 'split' will still be heavily in favour of sub surface. However, if the rainfed stream angler has knowledge of where the fish are / should be he has a far greater chance of lifting them to a speculative dry fly than his chalkstream cousin. The chalkstream fish is often more discerning than the often more opportunistic rainfed fish.
Several years ago in a guided Tenkara session when I was keen to learn about the method I fished a Derbyshire little beck flowing into a reservoir. To look at the steeply flowing and diminutive stream looked devoid of fish. At the end of the session, thanks to the skill of my guide, we had caught a ridiculous number of trout which seemed to appear from nowhere when presented stealthily with a fly. This was prospecting at it's best even though the quarry was small. I suppose a typical three year old fish was just a fraction of the size of an Eamont trout of the same age. Because food was scarce in that beck those trout had to grab whatever came their way - even ridiculously bushy dry flies you would think they could never engulf in their tiny mouths. I wish all prospecting was that fruitful but I could not pretend it is. Presentation and stealth will always have a bearing on matters but so will factors outside of the angler's control, often to the detriment of the fishing.

When you say chalk stream trout are more discerning Paul I'm sure in the main you are right. But I know some of the the Derbyshire limestone rivers stock trout (or used to) which are quite inappropriate (e.g. large rainbows) and are hardly discerning at times. Do some southern chalk stream beats also have to stock regularly to satisfy commercial pressures? Though I'm sure when fish are truly wild or have naturalised then what you say is true.

Mick
 
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PaulD

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When you say chalk stream trout are more discerning Paul I'm sure in the main you are right. But I know some of the the Derbyshire limestone rivers stock trout (or used to) which are quite inappropriate (e.g. large rainbows) and are hardly discerning at times. Do southern chalk streams also have to stock regularly to satisfy commercial pressures? Though I'm sure when fish are truly wild or have naturalised then what you say is true.

Mick
I agree entirely!
 

Cam

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I probably spend most of my time prospecting with either upstream spiders or tight line nymphing. I fish the water that is most appropriate to those styles of fishing and if I see some surface activity I will switch to emergers or dries. I fish the Eden and the Wear

Cam
 

micka

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I probably spend most of my time prospecting with either upstream spiders or tight line nymphing. I fish the water that is most appropriate to those styles of fishing and if I see some surface activity I will switch to emergers or dries. I fish the Eden and the Wear

Cam
Where do you fish the Wear Cam? It was my home river though my younger years were spent fishing it's estuary for sea fish - though I suppose it all started for me as a lad in primary school fishing with a net for loach, minnows and parr at Finchale Priory.

On occasions when I was visiting family (I live in the North West now) I would fish the free stretch at Durham by the Ice Rink - but that's been stopped for reasons I fully understand. I've also fished the tidal sections for sea trout near Penshaw. But I've never fished the beautiful upper Wear Valley where you have trout AND grayling of course, as well as (specimen) sea trout and salmon. I know that Chester le Street and Bishop Aukland both offer superb value fishing on that lovely river.

Mick
 
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Cam

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Where do you fish the Wear Cam? It was my home river though my younger years were spent fishing it's estuary for sea fish - though I suppose it all started for me as a lad in primary school fishing with a net for loach, minnows and parr at Finchale Priory.

On occasions when I was visiting family (I live in the North West now) I would fish the free stretch at Durham by the Ice Rink - but that's been stopped for reasons I fully understand. I've also fished the tidal sections for sea trout near Penshaw. But I've never fished the beautiful upper Wear Valley where you have trout AND grayling of course, as well as (specimen) sea trout and salmon. I know that Chester le Street and Bishop Aukland both offer superb value fishing on that lovely river.

Mick
PM sent !!
 

BobP

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I have quite an old DVD which features, Jiri Klima. The introduction to the DVD is Klima telling a group of anglers that 10 to 20% of the time fish will feed on the surface, 80 to 90% of the time they will be feeding sub surface. Now obviously, this will vary depending upon the environment you fish . . . in richer limestone or chalk waters more heavily weeded, persistent, denser hatches of ephemerids will be more common than in the harder, rainfed streams but the 'split' will still be heavily in favour of sub surface. However, if the rainfed stream angler has knowledge of where the fish are / should be he has a far greater chance of lifting them to a speculative dry fly than his chalkstream cousin. The chalkstream fish is often more discerning than the often more opportunistic rainfed fish.
 

BobP

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The percentages are pretty accurate as we know, and this applies equally to freestone and chalkstream fish.

The basic difference is that there is a huge amount of food downstairs on a chalkstream and so fish are less likely to be attracted to a speculative big dry fly. The exception to this is a big daddy long legs.

I would say that more discerning is probably the wrong term. Less opportunistic is probably a better description.

Many chalkstream beats need to stock regularly as they are very popular, and oddly enough people DO like to catch a fish or two. There are occasions when the fish can become totally fixated:- the classic mayfly period and here fish can become very difficult as so many people return fish nowadays that they wise up to certain patterns - the Grey Wulff is a prime example. I have seen chalkstream fish ignoring mayflies that just drift over them, but if it flutters, or better still, takes off they'll nail it.

This summer we had a massive number of alder beetles and the fish rose to those all day. No small beetle pattern equalled no fish.
 

micka

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The percentages are pretty accurate as we know, and this applies equally to freestone and chalkstream fish.

The basic difference is that there is a huge amount of food downstairs on a chalkstream and so fish are less likely to be attracted to a speculative big dry fly. The exception to this is a big daddy long legs.

I would say that more discerning is probably the wrong term. Less opportunistic is probably a better description.

Many chalkstream beats need to stock regularly as they are very popular, and oddly enough people DO like to catch a fish or two. There are occasions when the fish can become totally fixated:- the classic mayfly period and here fish can become very difficult as so many people return fish nowadays that they wise up to certain patterns - the Grey Wulff is a prime example. I have seen chalkstream fish ignoring mayflies that just drift over them, but if it flutters, or better still, takes off they'll nail it.

This summer we had a massive number of alder beetles and the fish rose to those all day. No small beetle pattern equalled no fish.
Words like 'discerning', 'fussy', 'educated' and so on were once common parlance in talking about trout and their "preference" for one food source over another. It's an anthropormorphic skewing of what is really going on (I fell into the trap of using such terms above in one of my replies). I'll willingly apply such terms to my bloody cats, which have much bigger and more calculating brains, and which seem to scorn even the most expensive cat foods I can find on the supermarket shelves nowadays in their constant search for some kind of feline ambrosia.

BUT Southall and Wyatt et al converted me to the obvious long ago - trout have tiny brains and cannot "think" or act in that way.

Bob is right in saying trout (and grayling) become fixated with one particular food source, whether it be willow grubs in New Zealand, alder beetles in Wiltshire, aphids or whatever. Anything else natural or artificial in the form of an anglers fly is ignored in such fixation frenzies. If it doesn't look like the insect/fly/stage they are gorging on because it is not recognised as food by trout/grayling at those times of utter preoccupation then it will be side stepped by the trout. The size factor seems to matter as Dave Southall has had success with tiny flies (up to size 30) in fixation periods with the biro dot fly hatch or terrestrial 'drop.' Because my Pound Shop magnifiers only go up to 3.5 magnification I will just have to admit defeat in such circumstances.

Movement stimuli can certainly be a trigger to exact a response from trout and grayling, be it in the form of inducing a take by raising a nymph in the water column (Kite/Sawyer), dapping with a Tenkara rod (Gaskell), rolly poly retrieving a humumungous or dapping a shaving brush on a Scottish loch. They can all help focus our quarry's attention to the offering we make by giving it the impression of life.

To finish, I'll concur with BW who said all trout have to be opportunists - if not they would starve.

And, yes, stocking, in our crowded isle with heavy fishing pressure on some rivers is a fact of life.

Mick
 
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Overmiwadrers

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I consider myself very fortunate in that the rivers I fish are not only unstocked but are still pretty healthy with very good levels of invertebrates. From May through to September I would consider myself very unfortunate if the weather was not terrible not to see at least some rising fish . Also On Smaller streams fish do tend to look up more . I will be fishing at the weekend and will be surprised if at the least I don’t get an iron blue hatch at midday

O M W


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BobP

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Our local rivers have gone from dead to being full of fish and insect life, despite dogs and dog pee :whistle:
Do dogs pee in rivers? I've never seen any of mine do it. I would think it's a bit tricky to lift one of your legs when standing in fast water, and there aren't any trees or lamp posts in the water either.
 

micka

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Our local rivers have gone from dead to being full of fish and insect life, despite dogs and dog pee :whistle:
Yes Paul, the revived former industrially polluted rivers both sides of the Pennines is something wonderful to behold. The general absence of dairy farming and intensive arable farming in their valleys is surely a major part of their increased insect life which feed some wonderful brown trout and grayling now available to the anglers who fish them.

Mick
 
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