Tracy&James | Thursday, 12 December 2019
This is the time of year that I tend to reflect on my fishing season. To be honest, I haven’t fished as much this year as I normally do, excluding the month long trip to the Bahamas where Tracy and I fished every day, my fishing has been almost exclusively been confined to the River Dee in North Wales (barring one trip to the River Test). This isn’t a bad thing of course – I can at least say that almost every fish I’ve caught this year has been wild, however I do feel that I’ve missed out on a few things.
A notable absence has been that I didn’t do any carp fishing during the summer. The lake that I normally go to offers two ticket options; summer and winter (no day tickets). Obviously for dry fly fishing ‘summer’ is the obvious choice, this ticket starts in April. As Tracy and I are usually away for April bonefishing I miss the start of the season and when we get back the spawning period kicks off which closes the lake for much of May. As such, it’s usually getting on for June before I even start considering fishing for carp (spring is often too good to miss on the river also). This year, however, I found myself waiting for settled weather which never seemed to happen and before I knew it most of the summer had gone,making the purchase of the ticket expensive for the time thatwas left. I suspect my lack of urgency to get at the carp was somewhat influenced with my over-familiarity with the fishing and the fish. Last year I had the distinct impression that I was starting to recognise individual carp and, to me,that’s one step off starting to name them! Also certain ‘wildlife’ was definitely starting to recognise me, I think an excited “honk-honk, honk-honk…” is goose for “the biscuit people are here, the biscuit people are here…!” Maybe next year the enthusiasm will return, after all it’s hard to find anything that pulls harder on a fly rod locally.
My stand-out memory for this year has to be Tracy’s big shark in the Bahamas. Trips to the particular flat where she caught it are always memorable; they start with an energy-sapping 45 minute march down a beach but it’s almost always worth it – I don’t think we’ve ever failed to catch bonefish there. On this particular day we entered the water in our usual place with me taking the route closest to the shoreline and Tracy wading further out in deeper water. It’s quite often that we see bonefish within 40 or 50 metres of starting, however I knew Tracy had walked straight up on to a predator as I saw her changing her rod over to the #10 weight we both carry after only a couple of minutes of wading. After this fish failed to take the fly I received a radio message informing me that it was a shark and was heading my way. I also swapped rods and peeled out the line in anticipation of a shot – I could see the fish coming at this point. Once in range I prepared myself to cast and then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted another, much bigger, shark approaching from my left. Turning my attention to the bigger fish, naturally, I made a pretty good shot that was completely ignored. The fish carried on swimming past me in the direction of Tracy who nailed it first cast.
I don’t think I’ve seen Tracy play a fish harder than this one, perhaps because she wanted to get the thing landed before it had time to chew through the wire (as happened with a huge shark she once hooked and played for over 40 mins). As such, when it was within tailing distance it was still pretty lively – and obviously it was me doing the tailing! Sharks can get pretty snappy when you’re trying to drag them by the tails into the shallows for unhooking and a photo, and there were more than one or two emergency releases before I managed to get it in a position for a ‘grip and grin’. Ultimately the shark swam off none the worse for its ordeal and Tracy was more than a bit happy with her biggest fish on a fly rod.
I guess my own most memorable fish was a Barracuda from the same trip. It certainly wasn’t the biggest cuda I’ve caught, in fact it wasn’t even my biggest of the trip, but it was in avery unexpected place. We’d been fishing a large flat in an area that was bounded by man-made channels and banks. One of these banks that separated two flats had a narrow, stone-lined channel cut into it which looked like it was some kind of sluice, with the rusting remains of a gate. Standing on the edge of this and peering down we could see some small snappers taking refuge from the streaming water next to the wall. It’s always fun to spend a few minutes catching these fish on a small Clouser as often it’s possible to catch three or four different species in as many ‘drops’. As we were doing this a large cuda appeared from the depths where it must have been sat unnoticed by the pair of us. This prompted a quick scramble to change the leader to one with a wire bite tippet (we have these set-up in our pockets ready tied with large Clousers). After not much persuasion the barracuda hammered the fly, in the usual style when they decide to take, and thankfully headed out of the channel the clear route, i.e. avoiding the rusting metal work. This still left me with a bit of a problem in that I had to jump a gap in the wall to pursue the fish, but once cleared I was back in control and landed it without further drama.
Tracy and I are heading back to Wales this weekend. The Dee is already over its banks and there’s rain forecast for the next few days, so I can’t see us catching up on any fishing in the next week or so. I am taking my fly tying kit with me though so I’ll be tying up some saltwater flies, having a drink and remembering some of the other fish we’ve caught.
Have a great weekend, James.