FLY FISHING: Time to witness the riverbank coming alive

David Johnson, of Peaks Fly Fishing
David Johnson, of Peaks Fly Fishing

May is the month in which the riverbank comes alive, setting the scene before the heady, pulsating days of summer.

The sights, sounds and smells of May are a buffet for the senses. The chirp of nesting birds, the speckled flank of a nymphing trout and the bouquet of wild garlic, scenting the air like a bistro kitchen.

It’s the smell that I notice most, the earthy odour of the recently thawed ground being replaced by the sweet scent of new life. This sweeter fragrance seems to permeate through to the river itself, the dewy perfume providing a satisfying noseful for the spring time angler.

It’s not just us fly anglers who feel feisty at the onset of May. The wildlife make their entrances like the cast of a play from the wings of the stage. The pacing moorhen appears constantly confused and lost, the crafty crow steals baby ducklings, the blurred bullets of dippers curve away in to the woods dodging the casting angler.

In the river, the trout also start to make an appearance. I watch the pools through the winter and early season, often devoid of fish and lifeless. Suddenly, as nature springs into action, food starts to ride the conveyor belt of current and the tell tale sips and splashes appear.

Venturing out during the maiden days of the season can be fruitless but wetting a line and reconnecting with the stream helps satisfy the craving. Now the dry run is over, it’s time for the main performance - let’s hope all the cast make an appearance.

As we all know everything is late this year, with the daffodils still in flower and the hawthorn appearing well behind schedule. Things have started to pick up though, and a recent spell of heavy rain has freshened up the rivers and lakes providing some good fishing.

As June approaches the sights, sounds and smells will change subtly, the Grayling will hopefully start to appear in the later half of June, the larger mayflies providing a well earned mouthful after the stress of spawning.

On the bank it will soon be time to uproot the Himalayan Balsam, that pesky foreign invader, so fond of smothering out our native species of riverbank plants and flowers.

In his magical book Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing, Bernard Venables describes spring as ‘the season of the fly-fisher’. I’ll drink to that!

However, spring has been tardy this year so let’s all get out there and give the river a good thrashing.

David Johnson