River Crossings

River Crossings

Tracy&James | Sunday, 8 August 2021

Up until this weekend the water level has been exceedingly low on the river Dee. In fact the last two day’s rain is the only substantial precipitation we’ve had for at least a couple of weeks. I tend to keep an ‘eye’ on the river by monitoring the online level gauges and these are showing that the level is currently climbing from its previously low state. I’m sure the salmon and sea trout anglers are thanking the rain gods for the influx of water, which hopefully should see some migratory fish enter, or move up the river.

Tracy and I took a day off in the week and fished the river before the rainfall.  We chose a double banked beat that we’ve fished a few times previously.  One of the reasons we selected the particular beat we did was that it’s a little out of the way from towns and camping areas; the river in these areas can get a bit busy with people cooling off from the summer heat.  The other reason we chose it was because of a spectacularly bad traffic jam on a country lane (the kind where drivers switch off their engines and get out) – once my patience ran out, I executed a perfect 33-point turn and headed off away from our first choice beat.

Although we’ve fished the beat that we eventually arrived at a couple of times this has only ever been from the one bank.  Whilst walking this bank we’ve noted ‘fishy’ looking areas that could not be fly-fished easily from the side we were on, so on this trip we decided we’d look for a crossing point.  The first one we found was fairly obvious – the tail of a wide, fast riffle.  This was perfect apart from the entry, this was a steep bank followed by a vertical drop into deep water with a boulder strewn bottom.  After a couple of moments assessing this we decided we’d go for it, finding the best place to drop into the river was amongst the branches of an overhanging tree – here the boulders were in a less ankle-breaking arrangement, plus the branches offered something to grab onto if things went wrong.  Once we were through the initial 2 metres the rest of the wade was easy.

Having fished to the top of the beat on the ‘new’ side of the river (and having caught a few fish on the way) we thought we’d try a different crossing point on the way back.  We found a likely looking spot right at the beat limit where a glide breaks into a fast riffle, albeit with an ominous looking channel on the far side.  I knew from fishing the other side that there was deep water close to the bank, in fact I always fish that small section from dry land rather than wading (there’s almost always fish holding right at the tail of the glide eager to snatch a suitable dry fly).  As such, I thought it would be prudent to take Tracy’s wading stick before I attempted the crossing for the first time.  I’m really glad I did because without it I’m not sure I’d have made it through the waist-deep, fast water on the far side.  Having just about made it to the other side, thus proving it was a possible (but not easy) crossing, I returned to Tracy who was waiting (perhaps anticipating me getting swept downstream) for the verdict.  Getting back to her was actually quite a bit harder than going the other way, probably because I was now traversing slightly upstream rather than down.  After seeing my exertions Tracy decided that this was not a crossing point for her and we returned to the spot where we’d crossed the river earlier in the afternoon.  Again this one proved to be relatively easy apart from the last two metres.  However, once we’d thrown our rods, bags, nets etc. up the bank, the climb out was not too bad, if a little undignified.

We’re now happy that we’ve learnt a little bit more about that beat, not just about how to cross it, but fishing from the opposite bank gave us a new perspective on how to approach fish in certain lies.  What I will say with absolute certainty though is that I wouldn’t contemplate either crossing now the river has some rain in it.  Just the 10 – 15 cm that the river has risen so far would be enough to make both of them seriously hazardous, and it’s easy enough to get a dunking on the Dee without taking unnecessary risks.

Next weekend sees another BFCC casting day, this time in Derbyshire.  After this TC will be travelling back to Wales in order to fish the river Dee – his prize for winning the virtual PULD competition that was run a while back (actually Bernt won but couldn’t take up the trip, so passed the prize to the second placed caster).  Part of the prize is a pub crawl in our local city so TC will be fishing with a hangover the next day – I’ll let you know if he gets swept away!

Stay safe, James.