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The Early Bird

If you find yourself awake before sunrise then it sould be the perfect time to go fishing. Actually planning on being awake is of course a very different proposition, and one which I can't readily justify.

Fishing the morning is a bit like fishing the evening, backwards. And because I'm not very good at getting alive first thing, my morning fishing merges on dream time. It's a multicoloured exotic experience seen through a muddled-up head. Then I usually go back to bed to dream about fish and women which confuses the issue even more. Sometimes I'm not sure my life is on a stable footing.

The key to fishing the morning rise is to be there when it happens. Ha! Which means arriving when it's dark. Like about 4am in the summer. Sometimes earlier. If you go to bed about one o'clock, like I do, then you need a strong cup of coffee to wake you up. Time is always paramount, so I'll drink mine while driving. I'll have a smoke as well (not any more! ) - this, I find, acts as a good stimulant, but spilling the coffee all over your lap is better. This I accomplish quite regularly.

Preparation is all important. It's no good searching around in the dark for a fly box which you forgot to pack. I will set up my rod the night before, so all I've got to do is unhook and cast.

Not being what one generally refers to as being a 'morning person', it took me a long time to make this first dark searching cast. Let me explain:

I used to fish Ardleigh Reservoir a fair bit. Still do. Three years ago the management, in their more guided ways, decided to allow fishing at day-break. Before that it had always been an 8am start. Three years ago I was in Australia.

When I returned the following season rumour had it that the early morning fishing was something to behold. The whispers were: dries, and close in. Well, although I am constantly being accused of not listening (mainly by those who are always telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing), when I hear a whisper my ears suddenly pick up and I become all-attentive.

I don't know if you have ever witnessed a dawn - it seams that I've never really seen one, at any rate not with a clear head. I've either been up all night and got a bit drugged up and lost my way home or else gotten up with it and haven't really woken up until midday.

Dawn (as I remember it!)

Still even from my limited perspective let me try and describe one. First it's all dark and still, then it's light and still, and then the sun's on the water, there's a ripple and a headache. Somewhere in between there's been lots of rising fish accompanied either by muttering, cursing and finally hair-pulling: leaving me not really sure whether its that the fish are more difficult to catch in the dawn or whether I am fishing (understandably) at 30% effectiveness: or by elation, self-congratulation and a smugness which is quite unforgivable: in which case I am either at 100% effectiveness, or the fish have been behaving differently.

Well I'm quite a smart bloke, really, and with a considered insight which only an idle drop-out like myself can offer I'd have to say that there's two separate rise forms going on here...

No 1 rise (the headache) is in my experience a large and infuriating hatch of small (#18) olive midges. I cracked this rise after a few weeks, much to my increased ego. However, before I continue let me tell you that I lost virtually every fish. An experience which I put down to numbed senses on my part, which I found quite acceptable. The answer was, and I still believe is, palmered wets on #16's and #18's in claret (!) fished static.

No2 rise (the smug one) is a rise to last night's offerings. Spent sedges, buzzer shucks, stillborn, that sort of thing. Easy dry fly fishing with spent sedges, shipman's, suspenders etc.

  • Hook: 12-20
  • Breathers: white poly yarn
  • Body: dubbed seal fur or sub.
  • Rib: mono or pearl lurex
  • after tying scrub with velcro
  • Hook: 10-16
  • Body: dubbed seal or sub.
  • Rib: 4lbs mono
  • Wing: deer hair tips
  • Head: doubled ethafoam

The most interesting and exciting part to the whole early morning experience is how close in the fish can come. We are talking inches here, and not many of them. I have taken virtually all my fish well within a rod length and some of them as close as six inches to the edge.

No Wading

Basically this means one thing: no bloody wading. Why anglers insist on wading is beyond me. I have literally been crouched down behind some helpful bush, casting line over gravel to land my flies two feet from the edge amongst rising fish, when some angler has dramatically stormed off into the water beside me and attempted to cast his fly so far he can't see it.

Words fail me.

Although this sort of behaviour often spooks fish (!) I have caught fish behind other angler's feet. 'Just to teach them a lesson like'. It doesn't work incidentally. Although they often look surprised, angry and hurt all at once, they still don't get out of the water. At least words fail them. In fact, now I come to think of it, one time one silly old fool got such a shock I thought he was going to have a heart-attack there and then.

There is one other very important point with regards to early morning fishing and fishing stillwaters in general. It is this: word spreads quickly. If you find good sport and want to keep it - and believe me one of the attractions to morning fishing is the lack of company (especially of the Mr-crass-cast-as-far-as-I-can type) - then you must keep it quiet.

Tell your trusted friends, sure, but be very careful, otherwise the next time you arrive at your favourite spot in the dark you might just bump into 30 other people.

And not one of those thirty people are worth getting out of bed at half three in the morning to meet. Of course, now I've written this, the next time I get up I'll meet 30,000!

     Dream on Mark.


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