What a cracking day. As I opened the curtains yesterday morning, it appeared that summer had arrived, at last, in Leek. I needed no more reason to pack up my waders, rod, a couple of fly boxes, the Kelly, and some fine local ale, and bundle it into the back of the van, ready for me to head off straight from work that evening.
I'd been in touch with Guy (Orvisfan on the forum), and he too was itching to get out fishing, after a long period away from the rivers. We agreed that Milldale might be a nice spot on a lovely (although a little muggy) summer's evening and so we met in Ilam at 6pm and Guy, Katie (my daft Flat Coated Retriever) and I made our way to the river.
After fishing with Gary on the Manifold on Monday night, I thought I'd set up with the same rig just to see how I got on, so I had a Balloon Caddis on a dropper and a very small pheasant tail nymph on the point. There were absolutely no rises to be seen at first so I thought I had made the right choice of flies. I dropped into the river near the start of the LADFFA stretch and dropped a fish after a couple of casts. As we fished down the river, I found that I was getting snagged so changed to a dry fly.
I bumped into another angler who had fished his way up from Ilam Rock, saying that he had found the fishing hard but had managed a few fish, he also mentioned that he had seen very few rises. It was clear that, although we hadn't much time on our hands due to fading light, we'd have to put best foot forward and find some rises, if we wanted to stand any chance of catching this evening.
Eventually, after passing some favourite spots and still seeing no rises, we arrived at Ilam Rock, where there were indeed some very shy rises. I made a few casts but couldn't tempt any fish with my JT olive. Guy had spotted some rises upstream of the footbridge and so I decided it was time to unleash a recent favourite...the LTD (aka "The Sedge Youth"), but this time an emerger variant. I saw a rise and made a cast a few feet upstream of it....a couple of seconds past...had I put him down?....a made another cast and mended my line....bang...he was on. A nice Brown Trout of around a pound. I was chuffed to bits to have caught in such difficult conditions.
We'd reached the point where, if we wanted to fish the boards, we'd have to leave in order to get ten or so minutes in before having to return in the dark. We made our way to the boards, both remarking how it was eerie among the trees and mist.
There was a cool breeze. The fish were rising underneath the branches on the far bank. I didn't want to cast from the boards as I knew I would get snagged and so dropped into the river downstream and waded up the middle. I was surprised to see a huge Grayling only a few feet in front of me who didn't seem at all bothered about my presence.
I made a couple of casts to what I thought was a big fish, and after a wee while, hooked this small but beautiful wildie...again on the sedge.
As I waded up the river I noticed that there was a missive draft of warm air coming down the valley. I mentioned this to Guy but he hadn't noticed it as he was on the boards. As we were walking back to Milldale though, there was a huge draft of warm air, and Guy remarked that it was akin to being in the Med of a summer's evening.
We'd had a great night, had a good chat about angling and such, and caught a few fish between us. We'd spent more time walking than fishing, but sometimes that's what you have to do if rises are few and far between...at least it gives you the reason to be in such an amazing place.
After so much walking and the warm conditions, a beer would be required on our return to our homes, so Guy pointed his van Penkridge way, armed to the teeth with a bottle of "Wincle Waller", a beer that always hits the spot.
The Wincle Brewery set up about 12 months ago and can't make enough beer to keep up with demand. They have a range of beers including "Wincle Waller", a light session ale perfect for summer, and the most popular "Undertaker", a more serious dark ale. All available at good drinks retailers in Russell Street, Leek.
Another great evenings angling in good company.