Salmon and trout need gravel to create their nests and spawn in a river. Much of my work in the UK consists of finding, cleaning, replacing and worrying that there is not enough gravel for salmonids to create the next generation of fish in our heavily used South Western rivers; however, on arrival on the bankside on the Soca river we saw more pristine gravel than I have ever seen in one place, in fact there is such an over-supply of gravel that it needs to be taken away in trucks otherwise it will clog the hydro-dams downstream. In the UK our gravel trucks go to the river, not away from it. This was a promising start for someone seeking trout.
Turning my eyes from gravel to the river, the beautiful clear blue water was revealed as a blessing and a curse, for of course you could see the fish, finning gently in the river, but they could also see you, and seemed disinterested, and possibly even disdainful of what they saw.
Once kitted up we tackled the fish resting in pots in the broad flowing section of river. Clearly the rod I was given hated me, a short, and rather fast action old glass rod that put even the most basic cast beyond me. The fish were blissfully unperturbed by any fly landing near them. Giving up, I approached one of the local guides, and explained in calm and unflustered terms, that the rod hated and despised me. To my surprise, the guide agreed, and told me that the rod hated everyone, except for small children, for which it was designed. Much relived, I took receipt of a brand new 5 wt Orvis Clearwater and returned to river with new hope.
With little fly life showing we turned to streamers fished into the deep boulder strewn pools a little downstream of where we had begun to fish. After a while success struck, along with a good fish, approaching ten pounds who bent the rod for several determined runs, before circling below me in a pool. New to the game, when the fish tried another run I let it go, and the jerk of releasing line released the barbless hook, and the fish attached to it. Disheartened, I fished on and landed a much smaller rainbow trout of 3 lb which I intrigued to be told was a naturalised rainbow, rather than a stocked fish. Apparently, there are secret signs that only locals can determine, as to me it looked not unlike any other fit rainbow that I had seen.
After that session, it was apparent that the section of river we were fishing was well known as a training ground for the regions youngsters. I will not go into details, but suffice to say but being repeatedly out-fished by an 11-year-old boy is not particularly encouraging.
The day wore on, and just when it seemed to have turned into a fishless routine, suddenly, everything changed. Flies appeared in the air, and on the water, and suddenly the pool filled with feeding fish, gently taking flies from the surface. Encouraged, I sought out the local guide, who had been helping another of our party, and changed to a floating line, and tiny little grey fly that seemed to fit the general appearance of the flies being taken on the river. The fantastic water visibility enabled me to see the fish repeatedly refusing the fly. On asking our guide why this was so, he replied with a strong local accent, adding to the great profundity of his analysis ‘I think it is the great pile of tippet surrounding your fly’. Initially hurt by the analysis of my terrible casting, I realised he was right, as guides always are, and managed to improve my casting and produced a reasonable drift.
Then it came together, the drifts were right, the fish were willing, and the game was on. Fish after fish took the fly, none larger than a pound or two, but all perfectly visible in the clear blue mountain water of the Soca river, as they rose to the fly. Fish came to net and hand as catching fish on the dry fly suddenly went from being impossible to as easy a breathing. I can’t remember how many were caught just then, certainly over a dozen, and that day will always stay in my memory as a perfect Soca fishing afternoon.
I know I will be back.