Cast humble in the great trout hunt

Seven beautiful trout were captured using the John Storey. Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham
Seven beautiful trout were captured using the John Storey. Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham
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NOT MANY people know this but a Yorkshire gardener has rediscovered a long lost fruit known as the ‘humble’.

Victorian recipe books mention humble crumble as a favourite desert among common Yorkshire folk. In my (humble?) opinion it is best baked in a pie; I have a large slice sitting next to me as I write. Let me explain.

Mark and I were fishing the Rye below one of its lovely stone bridges. The chilling north-east winds had blown for days keeping the air cool and minimising insect hatches. Consequently, the fish’s pantry was located deep in the water. We sought and found the trout and grayling with deeply sunk nymph imitations.

Late in the morning, the breeze made a noticeable right turn and introduced a little westerly air into the day.

The subsequent temperature rise was only just discernible to us humans, but the insect world is so much more tuned in to these environmental manoeuvres.

Upstream of us, the river tinkled over a small natural weir and we began to see the occasional upwing fly emerge in the riffle. They were pushed by the current into a smooth glide of water against the far bank.

Three or four flies drifted by and eventually managed to break free of the surface tension, dry their wings and take flight.

By now, the fish had spotted the fact that lunch had re-located and the tell-tale splashes of surface feeding trout was music to our ears.

Once more, the instinctive behaviour of wild creatures drew comment from both of us. The fish had adapted rapidly to the change in food source, but they had not chosen to venture into the fast running water from whence the nymphs metamorphosed; instead they lay in deadly leisurely ambush in the gentler flowing water.

The number of flies increased, as did the fish’s determination to capture them.

The nymph was quickly removed from our leader and I fumbled in the fly box, deciding how best to imitate the dish of the day.

My eyes were drawn to a little clutch of winter creations from my fly tying vice. They were made in such a way that they mimicked the habit of the real thing; abdomens sitting in the surface film suspended by a parachute hackle.

I’d even made the thorax slightly darker, a feature of the real thing. They were, in my book, the bee’s knees; I was very impressed with my efforts. Which is more than can be said for the trout.

Disdain, contempt; feel free to choose a word, was all the response I received for my efforts.

One cheeky blighter even swam alongside my offering for a couple of feet before slowly sinking back to his lie. Eventually, the smallest and probably the daftest fish in the shoal did eat my fly: I swear blind that it winked as I released it.

All the while, Mark was poking around in the dusty corners of his own fly box.

“Shall we try this one” he suggested.

“What is it?” I enquired.

“It’s the John Storey that you showed me how to tie eight years ago, the very one.”

There will now be a moment’s pause whilst I take a bite of the snack by my side.

“No,” I replied.

“I know it’s the traditional fly for this river, but I find it not to be very effective. Let’s try one with a CDC (duck’s bum fluff to some) wing.

“I’d like to give it a swim,” he opined.

So, I handed Mark the rod with what might have been a smug expression.

You know the rest of the tale. By the time we returned to the bridge, John Storey had caught 17 beautiful wild, discerning trout.

I’m off up the garden to pick some more fruit.