tales from the novice - pool fishing


It’s a grey drizzly day notable for a sharp, a cold wind: disappointing after a prolonged spell of good sunny weather. No matter - a new season was open and we were at a set of pools out in Shropshire. These were completely new to me: a very well presented choice of pools with a keen, friendly owner and inexpensive for a day’s fishing. Even while we were chatting about what we were going to do, good-sized fish were leaping out of the water to say hello.

Ok, I had on a subsurface buzzer-type-thing on the top and a light black and red buzzer on the point, as fish seemed to be picking just on and under the surface. First pool, second cast… Oh, I had better mention here that my casting is now much more consistent than last season: the whole process is more a of continuous flow from lift to soft(-ish) landing, with a bit of hauling in between. It’s not there yet but a much higher percentage of my casts are ‘perfectly satisfactory’ (with the rest still a jumble of knots, dropped line and too-far-forward releases).

Anyway, first pool, second cast and I got a good take – and a very obvious let-go. Groan. I saw the thing come and swallow the fly and then thrash about until it got off. Ok, that’s fine, the day hadn’t really started yet. Good portents and all that. Only that was the story of the whole morning: big fish snuffling and snorting at the surface all over the place; even bigger fish clearing the water in front of me taking the p… but no takers. My mate pulled in a nice rainbow midway through but that was that.

At the next pool we went to the far end where we had been told that good fish cruised about just dying to be hooked. By now the sun was trying to peer out from behind the grey and patches of blue sky could be seen. Made the wind seem less of a nuisance. Away from the traffic, the air was full of the sound of Willow Warblers and Chiff-Chaffs, with the odd Curlew circling and warbling over the way. Very nice.

This pool had shallows at that particular end and I could see through the ‘Polaroids’ that there was a bit of weed but, at this stage in the year, little new growth to cause serious snagging problems.

The fish were not so obvious here as at the previous pool, although the owner said that there were 16lb specimens to be sought. So, it’s a single heavy, red and black buzzer aimed at any ripples that appear. There was subsequently an increase in activity as the afternoon temperature rose and my mate netted a nice rainbow (again) but cracked under the strain and went off to the car for a cuppa. We laughed about him checking to see if my net was wet enough to support any stories I was going to spin about the number of fish I’d caught while he was away. However about the time he re-appeared I saw a good ripple out of the corner of my eye, about five yards out to the right, near the bank. I drew in line, lifted sweetly and dropped the fly a foot in front of the ripples. Bang – really good take and at last that so-longed for bend in the rod. The water was so clear I could see even at the distance its silver underside as the fish began trashing from side-to-side trying to get free of the hook. Then it succeeded. I was so disappointed I hurled abuse loudly at it. But it had been my fault. Because it was a quick switch, from ten-yard casting to much closer in, I had a pile of line at my feet and in attempting to get this wound in and keep tension on the fish I let the line slacken - so the fish came off. “Tight lines…” and all that. Arse.

However, having calmed down I felt quite pleased with myself because I had done almost everything right (until I lost the fish….) and I especially felt it had been pretty cool to drop the fly right on the money for an instant take.

This bit of pool became mine from then on into the afternoon, but there were no more takes like that.

What did keep me amused however was a different aspect of such fishing.

I had noticed that by early afternoon more and more fish were cruising in ones, twos, sometimes small groups, right in front of me, perhaps 2 yards off the bank and a couple of feet down. So I began actively ‘stalking’ them: pulling in all the line except just enough to get the fly over the fish by merely dropping the line softly onto the water. If you watch trout on patrol they move from A-B in a pretty straight line unless they see something sufficiently attractive to get them to alter course to one side or the other. So a fly has to be dropped somewhere in front of the fish, even slightly to one side, with time for it to get to their depth, perhaps a little above or below it, just as long as it attracts them. Then they either attempt to swallow it (tighten now….) or they just ignore it and turn away. The exciting bit was watching them change course in response to what I did in terms of moving the fly. BUT, why sometimes a particular fly attracts one fish but not another following immediately behind remains a mystery to me but this very inconsistency of such fish to each behave in the same manner, given a particular set of circumstances, I think goes a long way to explaining why you feel like a fool when fish are jumping and feeding all around you but your fly remains ignored. It isn’t personal – it’s just a little bit of luck that needs to be added to every one of those circumstances: weather, air pressure, air temperature, water temperature, light quality, together with type, colour and depth of fly and its presentation, so that they all click at the same moment and a fish literally comes and swallows the bait.

All I know from this particular enjoyable afternoon is that I want a short lightweight rod for close action by a bank…

PS: …and since that was written Dear Reader, I now have one.