The 12'6" #7 is certainly a different proposition to the 11'6" #4. I hadn't fished the big rod since Argie in April. I'd rigged it with a 475 gn skagit head, 10' of T-14, 3 or 4' of 15lb leader and a small olive dumbbell eyed AI. The Lower Bridge held its share of anglers and given its reputation as a fish producer, that was no wonder. From time to time when I looked upstream one angler or another would be hooked up. Pete got into his work straight off. We were on river right and with a downstream breeze we both adopted the double spey. He was using Jase's Sage Method #6 and seemed to be able to pump casts out with ease. I had troubles. I always have troubles. I needed to slow down and find that winning rhythm which when it comes makes life so easy. We'd worked our way down for about 40 minutes when I got a cast to hit the far bank, then decided to add a slip loop to the line that I gripped in my right hand on the rod handle. I was farting around when I realised that the line had come up tight and a fish thrashed the surface in the heavy current. The hook didn't grip. Pete looked around as I was clubbing myself on the head - I never learn.. the experts say that you'll catch fish on the worst cast, as long as you work the fly properly. Dicking around mid swing is not working the fly properly. We fished on. I was in the bottom third of the run as Pete fished the tailout when the line bump-bumped and I lifted. The fish took off downstream as they do when they hit a swung fly. The fight was quite protracted as the fish didn't want to come out of the current but eventually the side strain told. Pete netted a short, fat and silver specimen and my day was made.
Pete finished up and moved downstream while I swung the tailout. I received no further bumps and so reeled in to move down and join him. We'd used our morning's time allotment so it was back to his place for a bowl of soup. Sherrie had excelled and the bacon bone soup was superb. I said goodbye to the folks and headed upstream with a tired black lab in tow. We got out at Admiral's Pool and as I set about getting geared up I heard a kerfuffle in the bushes. I called Layla in and she returned with a dirty old bush chicken which she delivered to hand perfectly. I let the scraggy old bird go and finished my preps. A look into Admiral's from the cliff above revealed 2 rafts chugging around, under which the normally serene and untouchable fish were darting. I noted extra colour in the water and the flow was definitely up - perfect for fishing. Below the Admiral's Pool is a sweet little run of perfect swinging water and I anticipated hitting at least a couple of fish. I fished through twice to be sure, changing the tip for the second run through. I could feel the thrum of the tip and bumping journey of the fly which snagged up now and again so I felt pretty confident... but no, nothing was home. I decided for the final stint that a couple of hours in the Mill Race would be in order. It looks like perfect swinging water but between the boys we've really struggled to unlock its secrets, and maybe that's why we keep returning. My sum total of fish taken from it before today had been one; Pete told me he'd never caught one there and Jase has had very few.
On arrival at the head of the pool I saw an old timer with nymph gear 3/4 of he way up, and he was hooked up. I moved down to greet him and he told me that the pool was "full of fish" as this was his 4th. I helped him land a beautiful little fish and then asked if he'd mind if I started below. He just needed space to water load his back hand cast (the bush is close and tall bank left of this pool) which I gave him. Looking at the pool I realised that its quite a different beast in higher than normal flow, with much more pronounced holding water river left. The water was up a good few inches and I needed to comb it thoroughly. As I swapped my head out for the Airflo F.I.S.T (Floating/Intermediate/Sink Tip) which hangs lower in the water column and slows the swing down, I looked up and the old timer was into another fish. He was fishing the seam perfectly. I needed to cast across the main flow and bump the fly through holding water on the far side then comb mid stream and down below me. My casting had got better as the day wore on and I was able to reach across off both shoulders, allowing me to throw a cast perpendicular to the current and then one at 45 degrees with each step down the pool. The F.I.S.T has one effect that's a bit strange - it 'muffles' the feel of the tip and fly bumping. The hit when it came took me by surprise as it was downstream as the fly came through the slow riffle water. I played out a small perfect rainbow hen and when I glanced up the old boy was leaning into another fish, he seemed to be having a pretty good day. My next strike was 20 minutes later (the old guy had landed by my count by now, his 7th fish) and first cast with a new fly - how often this happens! Because the hit was in the first 10 seconds of the swing the contact was direct and thumping and the fish threw itself skyward time and again (the old boy was leaning hard into another fish and Layla was offering him support) and line ripped from the reel. This was a protracted battle and it took me a good while to get the fish under control (meanwhile the old guy was panting hard) before bringing ashore a solid jack in perfect condition.
I put down the rod and waded up to the other dude who was in the final stages of catching an eye-popping rainbow hen - I estimated her to be in the 5-6 lb range and a real cracker! I netted her and the old boy released her. I reckon that was his 8th fish from the run, a real purple patch!
I swung the rest of the pool for no more takes and then as the other guy had moved I walked up to swing the water that he hadn't touched (his coverage had been limited by the shrubbery, not that it seemed to matter). Nothing came to the fly. With the sun low in the sky it was time to head off. I was pretty pleased overall, every day on the water offers new lessons and that's what matters the most.
Mid weekers should be more commonplace.