We met Glenda outside our hotel at 5 am on a gloriously clear, warm and unfortunately dry summer morning. Now Glenda has personality by the truckload, so as a group with lots of banter right from the start, we all got on. My first impression, as I tried to keep up with her in our 1.1litre diesel rental car, was ‘I am going to die before I get to the river following this girl’.
Despite the break-neck speeds during our dawn race, we did arrive safely at Glenda’s office, a fishing hut on the Kilmurray beat of the Blackwater. Now I am pretty impatient, ok, VERY impatient and as she filled me in on the local bylaws, I couldn’t keep my eye off the local patch of water. Right in front of me was my very favourite type of fly fishing water – deep enough not to be a riffle, no white water, frequent pillows of water rise up and the current seems to be constantly shifting – I think of it as ‘squirley’. I like this water because I seem to fish it well, and it signifies to me a lot of underwater disturbance, which means rocks, which means lies.
Now Glenda brought us to her office partly for coffee, partly for paperwork, and partly because it was very close to the pool which she thought would offer us the best chance. However, I really didn’t want to leave that squirley water so Glenda suggested we fish it through quickly once and then head downstream.
Is That Really A Take?
So with Glenda at my shoulder, we waded and cast, working downstream, and a few casts in I felt a brush against the line. I asked Glenda “Is there any weed out there?” to which she replied “NO! That was a fish!”. Now on the Ribble, the takes are nearly always a hard-slamming affair, this was my first Grilse trip fishing tiny salmon flies, and the takes can be incredibly gentle. Not quite believing her, I walked back up the river 3 metres and started my casts again. As the fly swung through the same spot, again I had the same feeling, and still not quite believing it, I immediately pulled the line a little.
I was rewarded with two things. Firstly the Grilse splashed on the surface for a few seconds, until the hooks came loose, as I’d pulled in too soon and not swung the rod nearly enough. Secondly, the previously mild-mannered Glenda developed a briefcase of bankside Tourette’s (a shorter more intense version of full-blown Tourette’s!)
Are You OK With Swimming In Your Waders?
I calmed down, checked the fly and proceeded down a few more feet, and then it happened again, that tell-tail brush against the line. Glenda carried on chatting, and I held my breath…. after a few seconds I pulled the line and rod smoothly into the downstream bank. Bang! The salmon was on, and the rod arched and the damn thing ran immediately across the river. After a few minutes of hard-fighting, with one last run across the river, the Grilse dove into the streamer weed and the line went hard.
This is bad, very bad, rarely does a fish come out of the weed in the same place, often snagging the line and thus snapping or pulling the hooks. I thought maybe I could still feel the fish, but dully through the massed weed. Glenda looked at me and said, “Let’s get over there, are you ok with swimming in your waders?” To my surprise, I said yes! As we moved across the river, amazingly the fish took pity and, saving me a swim, released itself from the weed and few minutes later allowed us to nether.
A 4lb bar of silver Grilse was returned unharmed to the river with lots of smiles and shouts of glee. Glenda, I have to say, has the best office I have ever been in!
Tight lines, Chris