The Fantastic Four
With a load of rain forecast before the weekend I had a telepathic feeling that my partner in crime & fishing buddy Phil would be on the phone soon to organise a few days fishing on the Tyne, and low an behold when my phone rang later that day it was him. I don’t get to fish much with Phil due to the fact we live at different ends of the country but he is one of the most enjoyable people to fish with and such a great laugh, and we always seem to have it off when he visits! So after a short call and no persuading needed at all it was sorted, a solid 4 days fishing from first light until dark which is always our plan of attack – no rest, just fishing.
After a day of horrendous weather further up the river system as forecast on Friday the river was on the rise and peaked at just over 2 foot, which by Saturday morning and Phil’s arrival would drop to around 1’8, which is still a little high but keeps the fish entering the river and moving upstream to where we would hopefully intercept them. So after standing at the window like a lost puppy waiting for Phil’s car to turn up he eventually gets here and as normal the conversation diverts straight to fishing and the plan of attack for our first day. We ended up deciding just to take the day as it comes as the water can be very busy this time of the year, which is sometimes the best option. To our surprise there wasn’t another soul in sight on the lower south Tyne around the Warden area, we couldn’t believe our luck but all became apparent when we got down to the water as it was very dark and full of silt, whereas usually it would be a deep tea colour even up to 2 foot. What had happened was that repair work had been carried out further upstream after the floods from last year and had loosened a lot of silt, which not only colours the water but the fish hate it, but as long as you have a hook in the water you always have a chance.
Our first weapons of choice would be a range of Rapala’s, flying c’s and other lures as due to river and weather conditions it would be hard work with the fly. We hadn’t even been fishing an hour when I connected with a huge fish in slacker water in the tail end of one of the pools, which instantly went airborne showing her dark red flanks with a countdown right in the scissors. She was a good 15lb but unfortunately seconds later the line went slack and she was away, it was gutting but still always good to have some form of interest rather than none! After a couple more runs through the pool we decided to change location and have a walk half a mile further upstream to a few high water holding spots. We fished for a good few hours but unfortunately didn’t connect with any fish, but as we were walking back to the car Phil the hawk eye he is spotted a fish moving and quickly had a cast – bang he caught the bottom! I shouldn’t of laughed but I did… only to regret it seconds later as no quicker had he freed his lure from the bottom had he hooked the very fish he spotted, it was crazy but again after a few minutes and a few short runs the fish came off! It just wasn’t our day, but thats fishing you – win some you loose some and tomorrow is always a new day.
The second day started with Phil going down the river early doors and myself heading to my second love – Sunday league football, which was a hard choice to make as the river had dropped to 8 inches which is an amazing height to fish most pools on the South Tyne, just enough to keep fresh fish creeping through but also hold them up in certain areas! However, I’m a team player so stuck to my guns and went to play, I’m not going to lie I did think about how Phil was doing on numerous occasions but I knew it wouldn’t be long before we would be reunited and he could hopefully fill me in with some good news. So after a successful win in football I was off to meet Phil quicker than a Bone fish hooked on the flats and on my arrival was met with both good and bad news, he had landed a small bar of silver sea trout at around a pound which was returned, but he had unfortunately also lost another double figure fish which only added to the hurt from the day before. It was time for a move but a more substantial one, heading another 10 miles upstream towards Haltwhistle, where there would be less chance of a silver fish but as I return everything I catch I just as much enjoy catching a salmon in their full mating colours as I do a bar of silver. As soon as we got to the water we spotted fish moving straight away, but the only thing they had on their mind was to head upstream and wouldn’t even flinch at the fly. It’s always great seeing fish move but you can spend too much time chasing the visual fish rather than fishing the pools as you normally would, which I’m guilty of myself on many occasions. Hours pass without any interest so we decided to walk some of the water not fished very often due to the over grown and high banks, but with really fishy looking pools, so as always I told Phil to fish the water through first as there wasn’t enough room to swing a cat. After fighting his way through the undergrowth he positioned himself in the only place possible, cast and no sooner had his Rapala hit the water and the line tight I seriously thought he hooked the gravel shelf in front of us but no it was a fish, and it would turn out to be an absolute nightmare to net as a steep 4 foot drop in front of us, coloured water and a fish determined to go back to sea was a recipe for disaster! Unlike every other fish we had hooked so far this one stuck all the way to the net which was met by euphoric screams by both myself and Phil, eventually we had landed one (well Phil had!), it wasn’t the biggest or freshest of fish possibly around 7lb but we were off the mark woohoo!
It was day 3 and a 6am start to try and get to one of our favourite pools before anyone else but just as we arrived a good friend of mine Dave was already tackling up, and even tho we were ready to roll with rods set up we decided to revert to plan B and head slightly down river just to above Hexham. It would turn out to be the best thing that could of happened as within 5 minutes I was straight into a fish that smashed the fly (Stokoe shrimp) just as it came onto the dangle at the head of the run. It was a fresh fish that went ballistic charging around like a bull in a china shop, which ended up taking me with it down stream but luckily to a more suitable landing spot with slacker deeper water, where Phil as always netted the fish like a pro! After a few quick snaps the fish, which was around 8lb was safely returned to fight another day.
Since the fish had taken me down the pool and probably stirred everything up in it we decided to move down to the next run where Phil would fish the pool through first and again no sooner had he started his Stokoe shrimp was taken by a fish almost instantly (“fish on!”). His fish acted totally different to the one I had just landed and decided to park itself behind a huge rock, and was adamant it wasn’t going to move! However with a little persuasion and slight change of angle it made the fatal mistake of moving into the current and quickly tired itself out, minutes later it was nestling in the bottom of my net, another small coloured salmon around 6lb which was returned. What a morning we were having and it wasn’t even 8.30am, and to think this was our plan B! We couldn’t do anything but laugh as we would never of fished that water if the other stretch had been empty. It was time for another move further up the south Tyne back to where we had success the day before and on arrival we were shocked to find no one around, this day was getting better by the hour. As Phil caught the last fish it was me to fish through first and without sounding too repetitive I hooked a fish on my third cast, but this time something was different this fish felt like a ton weight and literally wouldn’t move! Then all of a sudden, realising it was hooked, the fish went crazy giving phenomenal head shakes and runs as if it thought it was a marlin gliding across the ocean, it was away down stream with me and Phil close behind. This was a big fish, and a well rested one with incredible power which tested my Grey’s 13′ to the max. I literally couldn’t control where he wanted to go but knew with time he would start to tire, and after a few attempts of trying to get his head up 20 minutes later Phil spotted an opportunity and some how netted the fish first time, I don’t know who was more relieved me that I’d landed it or Phil since it would put an end to my moaning that I couldn’t do anything with it! Either way we had him, and he was an absolute monster in his full tartan colours with a huge kype big enough to put your hand through. Weighing 17lb on the scales this was the third fish of the day falling to my Stokoe shrimp fly, which has been a phenomenal fly this year. Even tho I wanted to sit and marvel at this magnificent creature all day it was time for him to go back and finish off his journey up stream and it was also time to let Phil get some fishing done after standing with the net for 20 minutes or so.
The morning turned to afternoon then to evening with no interest to show so it was time for another move but this time down river to the main tyne at Corbridge, where on our arrival it was absolutely boiling with fish all over. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many fish in such a short space of time, up to 70-80 salmon and sea trout putting on a show in the space of an hour with one of them being the biggest fish I’ve ever seen, possibly in the 40’s it resembled a seal – it was mind blowing! It was Phil’s time to fish first and with the way the day had gone so far expectations were high for a quick hook up, especially with the volume of fish, but this time it would be a longer wait and just before the sun was setting Phil managed a small clean grilse on a Rapala at about 3lb, which put up a respectable fight for its size but was in the net within minutes and safely returned. We decided to call it a day, but what a day, especially after the disappointment of getting to the river first thing and being beaten to where we had planned to go then reverting to plan B. We joked that maybe it was meant to be and all things happen for a reason, but as we all know in fishing sometimes we just need a bit of luck.
It was our last day fishing together which is always full of mixed emotions as I get on with Phil so well, even though we are generations apart we have an absolute blast and I feel like I’ve known him all my life, and with the bonus that there’s always fish caught. The day turned out to be one of the hottest days recorded for September and a day that any sun worshiper would die for, but the fishing was terrible and the fish were only interested in dancing around the water as if to let us know that they were there but were never going to fall for our lures and flies! We persevered moving from pool to pool, and eventually from the south to the main Tyne to where Phil had a small grilse the day before. Again the fish were going crazy jumping, splashing and moving all over the river, one of them surely had to make a mistake sooner or later – well we wouldn’t have to wait long as I hooked a fish that had the power and strength of an olympic sprinter, which tore up to 100 yards of line off in seconds! I somehow managed to eventually stop it and gradually draw back towards us and after a dogged 10 minute fight with the fish, which Phil estimated being a good 20. Then the line literally went slack… and both myself and the fish slipped away to sulk. I was just contemplating packing up and watching Phil fish when he hooked a fish which followed suit to the one I’d just lost and immediately headed down stream in the current, but this time stayed there right in amongst snags and some colossal boulders and it would be just a matter of time before the line went absolutely solid and the inevitable happened – the fish managed to wedge itself behind one of the rocks and wasn’t coming out, so it was up to me to go in & free it up. Luckily the water level was back down to 0 on the gauge and would only come up to my stomach, and as I got down to the fish I could see it just sitting there. It did cross my mind to try and net it but with it being in amongst loads of weed I didn’t want to risk it, so I went for it’s tail and it suddenly woke up and shot off, but not for long as Phil managed to get the fishes head up and just as I netted it in a split second his leader broke, but it didn’t matter we had the fish (phew)!! A careful walk back up stream to where he could see his prize, a lovely silver hen fish around 9-10lb which as always was returned, and like her initial run shot off upstream. After that fish we decided to wrap things up and call it a day.
What an amazing four days we had experienced, totalling 7 fish landed and 6 lost, all caught on a mixture of fly and Rapala with the Stokoe shrimp doing the most damage, and all fish being returned which to me is the most important thing. The highlight for both of us had to be the day we landed 4 fish between us, most importantly 2 a piece especially after we had to resort to plan B, but that’s the thing with fishing you just never know what lies ahead! Except that I do know Phil will be on the phone soon. Hurry up Phil I’m waiting…….