Continued from part one…
I made my way upstream to find Jimmy and catch up with his progress… He smiled ear to ear when he heard me describe what I had seen and shortly after that he caught a giant brown trout, larger than the sea trout that I had been unable to net successfully for him earlier. We had no scales however we both agreed it was definitely a double figure fish. This time we made sure of landing it and after a few quickly snapped pictures, we returned it to the now rising waters.
I witnessed several boisterous upstream runs by giant sized fish, pushing bow waves ahead of them and seemingly oblivious to my presence on the riverbank. I switched back to the fly provided earlier, designed for rapid sinking and bumping along the bottom. It took me four or five casts to acclimatise to the heavy plop and then I started probing the opposite bank, casting slightly upstream and letting the fly work with the current in a slow arc…
Just as my thoughts turned to the effectiveness of this fly’s design, rendering it almost weedless despite having no weed guard, I got stuck on the bottom. Understandable, I suppose, given the pace of the river and the weight of the fly – I raised my rod tip, pulling gently, then harder as I tried to gauge what I was stuck to. Two solid shakes signalled to me that I was actually into a fish, and the fight was on! Mindful of the 6lb breaking strain tippet, I guided the fish towards me and into the current – my 5wt rod traced a perfect hyperbola as my line started to disappear. Having watched videos of sea fishermen handle permit, bonefish, tarpon and GTs, I played the fish off the reel, moving with it as it stayed low and out of sight… Eventually, after more than ten minutes, it showed, not on the surface, but close enough for me to realise this was the biggest fish I had ever had on the end of my line. It was wide and deep, much thicker than my thigh. Just before then, Jimmy had urged me to move the fish in a certain way to gain advantage – when he saw it, everything changed! Now it was a matter of holding on for dear life and working out how to access it – our landing nets were far too small. I said the only option we had was to move towards the end of the beat, into the shallower water where we could handle it and release the fish without bringing it to shore… When we eventually got there, I stepped into the water, eagerly anticipating a good look at this monster fish. The Salmon had different plans. It saw us in the water and changed direction. Far from being tired, it accelerated towards the opposite bank and into the root system of some large trees – when it arrived, it snapped my tippet like gossamer… WOW!
Jimmy and I were speechless for a moment, both humbled by what we had just seen… He said “it’s gone!” I said “we would have released it, it is safe now – we released it!” And then we started laughing as we climbed the riverbank, still in awe of the size and power of that fish. When we eventually returned to Jimmy’s rod we had talked ourselves out of an early lunch because the fish were biting too readily and there was a lull in the wind and rain. It was the right decision to carry on, for it was not long before Jimmy’s rod bent double and we watched a silver sea trout treat us to an aerial display. Fresh from the sea, we admired it’s exquisite beauty, took a couple of pictures and returned it. What a day we were having!
After lunch, the rain and wind increased in intensity. Although we continued to catch, floating debris and rising floodwaters provided a different challenge. I played another very large fish for a while, thinking it to be a 10lb salmon, however Jimmy pointed out that it was a huge rainbow trout – as he said the words, it spat out my fly and shot off into the deeper water. I landed a stunning 3.5lb brown trout, similar in size and muscle to my Thames sea trout:
As the light started to fade, we walked back up to the top end of the beat, returning to where Jimmy had started the day off with such flair. Determined to bring his tally to 15, he made cast after cast into turbulent waters, the little island we had walked across now completely submerged… It was not to be – before it got too dark we saluted the River Test, thanking it for an experience of a lifetime and we packed up for the day. I have still not seen a grayling up close and personal, however I am happy to swap this experience for now – there is always an opportunity for grayling on another adventure!
I took a photo of the memorial plaque on the door of Orvis’s cottage – pausing to reflect how proud Mr Edwards would be, knowing that this landmark venue continues to be lovingly maintained and guarded by its custodians and visitors alike. Long may it last. As I finish this blog entry, I wish to thank Jimmy Boyd for the most incredible fishing experience and for his fantastic companionship throughout the day. It is deeply appreciated.
Thank you for reading and here’s wishing everyone around the world a truly special festive season – Merry Christmas! – metiefly