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In The Footsteps Of Izaak

Towards the end of August I got to achieve a long-standing ambition. That was to fish the River Dove on the Derbyshire and Staffordshire border in the exact area where Izaak Walton really started this great sport of angling with rod and line as we now know it. It was these waters he based that timeless work, The Compleat Angler on, first published in 1653. Earlier works, such as The Treatise Of Fishing With An Angle by Dame Juliana Berners published in 1496, though pre dating The Compleat Angler by 150-years, never quite had the impact that Izaak Walton’s master work did.

The river was not quite as I remembered it when I used to walk its banks with my parents as a very young boy when we lived fairly local to it. It was on one of these trips I stopped and watched for ages as a fly fisherman took three trout from a weir pool. I was about eight at the time, but it was this single moment that fired my life-long interest in fly fishing.

My lad, Mike Jr and I fished the headwaters of the river, and though some of it is open and clear with wide shallow runs, for the most part it is overgrown, the runs broken by deeper narrow pools. Casting is difficult, and the fishing far from easy, but fishing light 4W rods and double tapered lines with tippets down to 3lbs we took trout and grayling on both dry and wet fly. It was a privilege to fish these hallowed waters literally in the footsteps of Izaak Walton, and to catch fish as well was just icing on a very sweet cake. I wanted to pay homage to the man for what he began, and what better way to do it than to fish his favourite water!


This trip was also to produce a surprise. The second day we chose to fish Blithfield Reservoir for trout. It was a hot, humid day with barely a breath of wind, hardly ideal conditions for bank fishing. However, as we arrived at our chosen spot, we noticed lots of fish rising very close in along the bank. As we set up we watched this rise. There were too many fish in a relatively small area for them to be trout, so we rightly assumed they were coarse fish.

Setting up with the same 4W rods and double taper lines for better presentation, we started to catch a succession of small roach. I switched flies a few times and settled on a small black Klinkhammer as the killer fly. I’d been watching a few larger fish feeding out beyond the smaller roach and dropped the Klinkhammer close to a selected fish. I watched the fly intensely and had to fight to hold my strike arm back for a second as I watched the fly disappear in a faint swirl as a roach sucked it in.

As the fish felt the hook it bored for the bottom and fought well right in to the bank. It proved to be a roach about a pound. Not a bad roach to be caught on the fly.

Changing tactics and looking to fish a wet fly, I chose a Hare’s Ear nymph, cast, then let it sink a little before twitching it back. I had a couple of pulls and shy takes which I missed on the first few casts, then got a long cast away out beyond the rising fish. After a few twitches I hit a solid take and this fish had much more fight about it. I knew it wasn’t a trout, but it was fighting far harder than the previous roach.

I worked the fish closer, but only saw a faint hint of silver as the fish rolled out in deeper water. As the fish reached the shallows it got it’s head down and bored back for deeper water and I had to give a little line due to the light tippet. With the fish finally closer I caught a glimpse of what I thought might be a bream. Once landed, I realised that it was in fact a roach/bream hybrid. A fish I had not caught previously. This therefore qualifies as a new species and puts me on 111 in UK and Irish waters. An unexpected but very welcome surprise. I didn’t get any trout that day, but Mike Jr bagged a nice trout a little over 2lbs on the fly as evening approached.


As for sea fishing, I’ve been working away and weekends a lot recently, so I’ve not been able to do much through September. I haven’t even been able to get a boat trip in at all since July as the constantly windy weather has seen every one I’ve had booked blown off. Equally a recent night session for small-eyed ray on the Mid Wales coast saw my fishing mate and I hauling weed for three hours. The weed was that heavy that even casting just 20-yards out it took less than a couple of minutes for the weed to pull the lead weight out and swing it inshore. I don’t remember a summer as bad as this for weed in my locality before.

Sea wise I’ll be switching my attention to winter species shortly. I reckon we’re in for a decent winter’s cod fishing. The boats seem to have been getting quite a few and these fish should move inshore as the first autumnal gales set in. I’d still like to think I’ll get a chance on the bass too, before I turn my focus to the big rock conger that tend to show in the run up to Christmas. I’m still looking for that elusive 40lber, but will keep on trying.

So…I’m not sure what my next blog will be about. We’ll have to wait and see what falls in to place, but it will be saltwater for a change.