There’s that telephone call we all love getting, you know the one from your fishing buddy to organise a trip – in my case it’s my partner in crime and salmon fishing fanatic Phil Plant, who I was fortunate to meet on my Big Fish adventure last year and become very close friends with. He is literally is one of the best fisherman I know and has a great wealth of knowledge which I’m slowly trying to prize from him (its working so far).
2 weeks later the first of our 3 day fishing marathon chasing silver had finally arrived. When I say ‘chasing silver’ I refer to fishing for what is in my eyes the greatest fish on the planet, the Atlantic Salmon. What this fish actually goes through in it’s life cycle is phenomenal – swimming thousands of miles back and forth to its river and even stream of birth, sometimes on numerous occasions, they fight like nothing else and have a heart of steel. I have so much respect for these fish, which is the main reason for my choice of catch and release.
No sooner had Phil walked through the door we were back out in the car heading to the South Tyne with our rods at the ready and heads brimming full of hope – especially as he had timed his visit to perfection with the Tyne seeing its biggest runs of fish for this time of year in a long while. Two days in June recorded a crazy 1351 and 1498 fish through the fish pass at Riding Mill, and a total of 7113 were recorded for the month, which has smashed a June records as pictured below. Also with the river falling from a recent flood to a foot above Summer level, all we needed now were the fish to play game.
We decided the best place to start would be the South Tyne around the Warden area and we knew with conditions being nearly perfect there would be a good chance of the banks being busy with other anglers. Although we are very lucky with the choice of waters throughout the Tyne system, within our club if your not on the banks by sunrise your often not the first to have fished it. Well it turned out to be one of those days where everyone and their dog were out trying their luck, which was a first for me for this season as I’d never seen a soul due to all the low water, which had been great so far. The plan was to fly fish the pools through then, if need be, lure fishing with a rapala to hopefully stir them up then back through with the fly. Due to the pools and runs being small (some around 50 yards long) this is something that can be done in a short space of time and is something that has been really effective for me so far this season. My weapons of choice would be my Grey’s 13ft matched with Cortland precision fly line with a Stokoe shrimp (pattern to follow), and the back up as always my 7’6 Rovex Ceratec FLX drop shot/light spinning rod and Revenge reel fitted with 10lb braid and a selection of small rapalas. After a good few hours of hard fishing through some perfect looking runs, pools and secret stretches, seeing no fish and having no interest it’s important to know when to leave so it was time for a change of scenery and further up the south Tyne where there would be less fish, less water but also less people. We unfortunately ended up being right especially about the lack of fish! The water looked perfect and it was nice not having a a pair of eyes giving you the death stare for being through the pools before them, but it was back to the car and back down river to our original plan. It was no surprise that it was like a cattle mart with cars and people everywhere but no one had even had a hook up yet which was crazy, were we going to be the lucky ones and could we really tempt a fish from water that had been hammered all day? This is where local knowledge of the water is priceless, as I noticed a small stretch where people hadn’t fished which holds fish and knew this would be our best chance. Being a gentleman for once in my life I let Phil fish the stretch first, and with no luck it was time for me to resort to the back up plan and put a 9cm blue/silver flat rap on my drop shot rod – this would literally be our last chance of the day, and low and behold second cast a fish nailed it and that amazing sensation of the initial take ran right through me. As that adrenaline which fills your body kicked in I screamed to Phil “fish onnnnnnnn!” (our code word for when we hook up) and the fight began! With glimpses of silver flanks and not willing to show itself it had salmon written all over it, but after 5 minutes and a great fight on ultra light gear Phil netted the fish perfectly and to our surprise it was a sea trout and what a corker around 6lb! It may not have been the salmon we were after but these fish are just as special and are a pleasure to catch. So after a few quick snaps with the sun setting in the distance, I placed him back into the water to finish off his journey and we finished our day on a high.
Day 2 and a 5am start had us down by first light to Warden on the South Tyne to one of my all time favourite pools. To our surprise there was not another soul in sight, and with the river at 6 inches above summer level it would hopefully give us a great chance of a silver tourist. Phil had the pleasure of fishing through first and quickly connected with a good fish which turned out to be a large wild brownie, around 2lb, which was a welcome catch but not what we wanted. It was now my turn to follow him down using my newly created Stokoe shrimp – the flow was great and the fly was working fantastic as it got hit so hard even Mike Tyson would be jealous, yes “fish onnnnnn” the fish instantly showed itself to be a salmon & a cracking double at around 12-15lb! The fish had phenomenal power which for around 5 minutes it used to stay out in the current, taking line yard by yard until that dreaded moment when the line goes slack – it’s enough to make a grown man cry!
It was time to move again and within 10 minutes we were at our next stretch further down stream where the thoughts of the lost fish were starting to feel less painful, especially as the fly was coming onto the dangle and a quick figure of eight resulted in another hook up – yesssss round 2, but it was only to be a quick hello and goodbye (or as some would say ‘handshake’) and the fish was off followed by a few choice words which I’d better not repeat! The skies turned black and the heavens opened so a trek back to My favourite pool was suggested by Phil, which brought back thoughts of the one that got away but again they were quickly forgotten as the I managed to connect with another fish in the tail end of the pool. This was it third time lucky it surely couldn’t happen again… and it didn’t as Phil slipped the net under a small but perfectly formed sea trout around 2-3lb! With fly perfectly wedged in the scissors, a few photos as always then the fish was safely returned and on that note it was time to head home.
After a lot of rain throughout the day and evening we decided to wait until the morning to plan our third day as if it was too high Phil would head home, but to our amazement after we checked our phones for river levels it had only came up what I thought was 3 inches – turned out I had totally misread the height and it had actually risen 2 foot, which isn’t unfishable but would put even the best of anglers off! We however decided to to have a few casts, due to the conditions it would all be lures and spinners on light gear. No sooner had I set up Phil was screaming “fish onnnnnn!” – I honestly thought he was pulling my leg the joker he is but by the bend in his rod I could see it was definitely a fish! After a short struggle I netted it and we had a crazy moment celebrating, he had done it we had our salmon! What a stunning little fish it was, around 5lb an absolute bar of silver – with Phil’s red clown rapala quickly removed the fish was returned and shot off back to the depths to sulk!
What a way to start a morning which looked as if it was going to be a disaster, it just shows that when there’s a hook in the water you have a chance. Due to the height of the water we had limited areas to fish so headed on to the main Tyne to Corbridge, where we knew would still fish even up to 2’6, it is a totally different landscape and water being very open and flat, but with being lower down stream you have a good chance of both the North and South Tyne fish. No sooner had we set up we spotted fish but they had more interest in moving upstream than looking at anything we had to offer, which is often the case when there’s a good water running. We went right through our lure boxes and between us tried everything from Flying c’s, yo zuris, Toby’s to rapalas, Devons and A T lures from my good friend Giles Alcock, but still couldn’t get any interest. We soon realised that the South Tyne had dropped nearly a foot from first light so it was back on the road again and off to our most productive stretch, but not until stopping off at a few tasty looking spots first where Phil would lose one of his favourite rapalas which he had owned for years. I tried to console him by saying he’d had his money’s worth from it but if looks could kill I’d be 6 foot under! We eventually arrived at our last stretch and by this time it was 9.30pm, we were tired and hungry but still hopeful for one more fish and as always having a last few casts right at the tail end of the pool my countdown rapala was smashed by a fish! I couldn’t believe it “fish onnnnn!”, I’d just about given up hope but here I was playing a very lively fish which was a fantastic fight on light gear, I turned to see Phil sprinting quicker than Ussain Bolt with the net and he was just in time with the line snapping just as he went to net it! It was a bit of luck we needed after the lost fish the day before. Keeping the fish in the water, we got our photos, returned the fish which was around 4lb and decided that was enough.
After 3 days of solid fishing which totalled 3 Sea Trout, 1 salmon, 2 good fish lost and numerous takes, on the whole we’d had a great experience and success, and it has me itching for our next fishing adventure together! Phil hurry up and come back…