Fly fishing: Roger Beck’s trout snub puzzler

The knotted midge, now known as the bleeping midge, solved the trout catching problem. Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham
The knotted midge, now known as the bleeping midge, solved the trout catching problem. Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham
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I’m afraid that this month’s column needs to be read after the 9pm watershed.

If you are a television viewer or a radio lover, you will be familiar with the practice of using a bleep as a substitute for words that some people might find offensive. Such is the case here. I shall use “bleep” whenever I shrink from writing the actual word used. Please feel free to insert any word that you feel suitable and with which you are comfortable.

It all started on a visit down to the Cotswolds with Mark where we encountered trout and grayling that were feeding upon something that neither of us could identify. My theory was that it was something southern.

A couple of weeks later, Rob and I faced exactly the same conundrum by the banks of the Wharfe - so much for my theory.

In a slow moving section of the river, trout were regularly slurping up some tiny morsels from beneath the trees on the opposite bank. I had experienced this scenario before and I assumed that they were feeding upon aphids that had fallen from the trees; a relative of the greenfly that infest your roses and about the same size.

For the initiated, that means using a fly tied on a size 22 or 24 hook. To the uninitiated, that is about the size of two pin heads. I employed a CDC Humpy, which Steve introduced to you on these pages back in January 2007.

Two questions sprang immediately to mind: first, could I manage to cast the tiny fly beneath the leafy canopy? Secondly, would I be able to see the thing once I’d managed to solve issue one?

Oh, I forgot to mention that I was wearing thigh waders, which regular readers will remember that I hate with a passion. Both matters could have been solved by my wading just a little closer to my target, but that would have meant wet nethers.

An adapted roll cast, which salmon scarers insist on calling a Spey cast, propelled the fly right into the dining room, time after time.

I’m not quite sure how it’s possible to “studiously ignore”, but that’s what the trout did to my offering.

Time for a sit down and a think, by way of which I enjoyed a wet backside for the rest of the day thanks to those pesky thigh waders.

Rob joined me on the bank, thereby suffering the same undignified discomfort, and we began to scan the water for clues.

Suddenly, Rob plunged his hand in the water, scooped something up and stared at it intently.

“They’re feeding on ‘bleeping’ midges!” he exclaimed, holding out his hand for me to scrutinise his captives.

Sure enough, there were several tiny black chironomids scuttling over Rob’s proffered hand.

“That’s an interesting discovery, but it doesn’t solve the problem,” I said.

“A Humpy adequately represents either a ‘bleeping’ aphid or a ‘bleeping’ midge, we are missing something.”

After a couple more unproductive casts with the Humpy, I had a brainwave (it still hurts).

“Rob!” I called. “These trout are not only feeding on ‘bleeping’ midges, they are selecting pairs of midges that are actually ‘bleeping’.”

We both laid down our rods and stooped low, staring into the water. Sure enough, there were hundreds of entwined midges floating down the river.

This was great news because we could now use a fly that was nearly as big as a match head.

As soon as we changed fly to a size 20 knotted midge, we began to catch trout. This fly is specifically tied to represent mating midges.

In my fly box, it’s now called the ‘bleeping’ midge.