I seem to recall it is one of the seven deadly sins. Envy. That gnawing wishing that someone has something better than you and you want it – badly! I am not generally prone to this particular sin, others come way higher up my list of deadly vices. Usually I take life pretty much on face value and simply get on with it. Material wealth and goods don’t float my boat. Well, not beyond a good trout rod and matching reel I suppose. But these past two weeks or so have seen me descend into the dim, dank underworld of envious thoughts. Let me expand.
Social media has played a large part in my unedifying fall. Twitter an FB are full to the brim of reports from rivers across the UK and Ireland and they all seem to herald the same event – hatches of upwinged flies. The Usk appears to be teeming with LDO’d and March Browns. The Aberdeenshire Don is fair polluted with the damn things. And so it goes on, images of sub-imagos with their wings daintily splayed, hatching nymphs breaking the surface and the fish! Oh lord the photos of huge brown trout that have succumbed to artificials so very similar to those in my own fly boxes. Surely I have no need to be envious of my fellow anglers when the River Robe is practically on my doorstep?
Here is the rub. The Robe is bereft of any discernable fly life. Two weeks ago when I fished it the river was in spate and obviously out of ply, fair enough. This past Sunday I ventured out again in what was close to perfect conditions. The water was a bit above normal and carrying a little colour but this should have had no effect on hatching olives or stoneflies. It was warm and bright with passing cloud cover and a good wind to ruffle the surface. Confidence welled up in me and I was sure this would be ‘der tag’. Alas, the gods turned their heads and smiled in another direction.
I fished hard between noon and 3.30pm. In all that time and over a couple of miles of prime fishing water I saw not a single stonefly or ephemerid. Of course the fish were not in evidence either. They were resolutely hugging the bottom and even down there they seemed disinclined to take anything I offered. As I say, I fished hard and winkled 10 small trout out of the water. This may sound like a good day’s fishing but trust me, on the Robe, in the first week of April, this is not great. The total lack of surface activity is troubling. There was a some foam on the river, not a huge amount, but enough to get me thinking there may be more agricultural pollution in to this watercourse. The river flows through rough pasture and bogland for the first few miles before cutting across the wide flatlands of the plains of Mayo enroute to Ballinrobe and thence into Lough Mask. Those flat lands are pretty intensively farmed, mainly growing grass to feed cattle.
Seven of the fish I did catch fell to deeply fished nymphs, tungsten headed jobs which caught on the bottom far more frequently than lodging in the scissors of any passing trout. I had all but packed up and was walking back to the car when I stopped at an unremarkable run. I watched for a while but saw nothing. Somehow I felt there was a fish to be caught in that run. I took off the nymphs and tied up a cast of wets as this part of the river lent itself to swinging a cast down and acrosss rather than casting upstream. Flies and leader checked I lengthened the line. Sure enough the line tightened and a lively three-quarter-pounder was landed. Safely returned, I repeated the cast a couple of steps further down river. Bang, another one on the very next cast. Not content with that I repeated the feat a third time! Then – nothing. The next 50 casts yielded not a nibble. The spot which produced the three trout looked absolutely identical to the water immediately above and below it, yet the fish would only take in that one spot.
Plans are afoot to launch the boat next weekend, most probably on Lough Cullen. Maybe I’ll have better luck with the big fellas on still water. I am off to check who is catching what on twitter now. So if you hear any wailing and gnashing of teeth, it will be me.