After an extended period of separation by mutual consent, my long term relationship with the river Coquet has once again been rekindled this season. Under a bright sky I found myself driving to the river for the first time in two years at the weekend, carrying with me a new fly rod and a sense of anticipation that would match any small child on Christmas day morning. Bought in response to the onset of the first symptoms of a midlife crisis, the rod of choice for the day was a soft actioned 4wt split cane number balanced perfectly with a sweet sounding shiny reel, both of which had been due an outing for too long.
Having parked the car, I walked upstream towards a place that had glowed in high definition technicolour within my imagination throughout the darkness of the winter months. Flotsam and jetsam still hung from the lower branches of the trees that have lined the banks of the river for so long, betraying the fact that the floods of winter are not quite forgotten. Under the bright April sunshine, the waters sparkled as it tumbled cool and clear over the gravelled river bed. Since I had last walked the banks of the river, gravel beds had appeared where previously there had been none, pools and deeper runs had been gouged out by the floods of winter that screamed fish. I was reminded that this is a constantly evolving environment, the shape of the river bed constantly shifting in response the waters that flow across it.
By the time I reached the head of the beat, the warmth of the sunshine had brought on a hatch of dark olives. As I stood studying the river, sporadic rings being formed on the surface of the river betrayed the fact that the fly hatch had not gone unnoticed by the trout. The angling club who own the fishing rights for this length of the Coquet had taken a brave decision a couple of seasons ago to no longer stock the river with trout, in attempt to nurture the natural stocks of wild brown trout in the river. I have to admit to be initially sceptical about this decision, but based on the surface activity I was now witnessing, first impressions were that all was very well with the river.
Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I cast my first fly for over two years onto the river. I have always found that the fish in the river struggle to resist a sparsely tied spider pattern offered up to their noses. I was soon reminded how quickly the wild trout in the stream can react to a black silk offering hung beneath the surface of the water as the first fish was on and off the fly in an instant.
Fish continued to feed confidently all around me, so I decided a targeted approach was the order of the day. I spotted a fish holding in the current near to the far bank, which appeared to be gently sipping at the trapped insects as they drifted overs its head. A false cast or two and I managed to place my fly just far enough upstream of the trout so as not to arise any suspicion. Time seemed to momentarily slow as I watched the fish position itself in the path of the black spider, which disappeared suddenly in an instant. This time my reactions matched those of the trout, and the new rod sprang to life in response to the lively lunges of the hooked trout. For a short while, the trout forgot itself, and fought like a heavy weight boxer in what should have been featherweight bout. Eventually the dampening strength of the bamboo rod took its toll and a fin perfect example of a wild brown trout was drawn into my net.
I spent a further pleasant hour or so slowly ambling along the river, casting at rising fish as they betrayed themselves by dimpling the surface of the glassy surface of the water. By the time I reached the end of the beat, it occurred to me how much I had missed fishing the Coquet. My first impressions of the river were that the non-stocking policy for the river has resulted in a thriving population of wild brown. Whilst the banks of the river were familiar to me, subtle changes in the river bed had occurred that raise questions I will be hoping to answer later in the season, and in doing so perhaps catch a few trout along the way.