Fly Fishing Shropshire Brooks

Fishtec blogger Stuart Smitham fishes a brook in Shropshire with a new fly line.

My wife phoned me and said, why don’t you come and get the car from me at work and go to the river for a few hours? I don’t get too many chances like that, so having the car means time to tangle with some brook fish. We are quite spoilt in Shropshire as these little waterways are pretty much everywhere, so this afternoon I’m off to my favourite haunt – a small brook deep in the local countryside.

A Shropshire brook

A Shropshire brook.

Tackle and clothing for the day

With zero options on wet wading, because of nettles, I am wearing breathable Airweld waders and boots and a small chest pack, for my fly boxes and other accessories with a Streamtec net on a leash and magnetic clip. As for my rod it’s a 7ft 9in Atomsix Celestial rod and superb little Atomsix fly reel blended with Airflo’s New Forge #3 fly line, ready for it’s first outing.

My approach

I am a dry fly addict on the brooks, so I’ll  usually walk down stream and start at the lower end of the boundary. As with most streams here about, the width of pools vary from just a few feet to around 12 feet. Depth is something different, with some pools about a foot deep then dropping to around waist height.

Most of the bankside foliage is tall nettles and brambles, with reeds and tree branches on pool edges. Where a pool is confined by undergrowth, the tail end can often open out behind the cover offering some great looking spots. Drop-offs on the banks are the norm, so you have to watch your footing and take nothing for granted. I’ve done this a few times now and ended up trying to grasp the vegetation around me to halt my fall, only to find me grabbing nettles and getting stung to hell.

Overgrown banks can be a challenge!

Overgrown banks can be a challenge!

Always watch when entering a pool and make sure you look into the pool first before stepping in. The time when you haven’t checked, is when you’ll see a bow wave heading upstream. Very uncool and probably a fish that could have graced your net. Most of the species you’ll encounter in Shropshire brooks are dace, chub, grayling and native brown trout.

Into the action

As I reach the head of the first pool I can see a long weed waving in the current. Then I spot a fish. A butter yellow brownie about a pound and a half hanging back about 3-4 inches from the weed end. It’s feeding confidently, sticking his head out and taking something with a sipping rise.Then an olive crawls down the weed and just sits there, right on the end. Amazing when you see fly life like this emerging in the sun. It dries it wings and makes a flutter, that’s when the brownie moves in. Talk about ringing the dinner bell.

Moving back into the current I make a short cast and gauge where my fly is and what it looks like. I tie on a quill dun with orange polish quill in the abdomen and a cdc wing with brown hackle. Ginking him up and decreasing the leader I pull off about 15 feet of fly line. Making the initial cast I am way too far right and no where near the brownie. I don’t want to spook it, so taking the time to lengthen the line out my second cast looks like it landed a foot or so right again. I start to gather line and must have moved the fly and my rod tip bounces. I lift and watch this class brownie come at me and go under the weed. Pulling line in like crazy and the fish is gone, leaving me attached to weed. Talk about gutted.

Moving on quietly, I head to another spot that has been productive in the past. With long weed at my feet, I make short casts of around 8-10 feet. The quill dun looks great in the current. I see a flash and just lift into a small grayling, that heads for the far bank and the weed. After a quick fight he is safely in the net. It must be said grayling are truly gorgeous looking fish, I could catch them all day long.

Grayling in the net!

Grayling in the net!

Walking up and skipping a pool due to fallen trees in the water, I peek over the nettles on a bend and spot a rise. I am around 5 feet above the surface and still in deep cover. The olives are gone, but there are still some iron blues coming off. Where the brook runs round the bend, there’s a clump of weed in the run. Deep water on the left and shallower water on the right. This fish is right on the seam between both. Changing flies to a iron blue with a red butt, I gink it up and degrease, ready to cast.

As the fly drifts the current seam, I just catch a glimpse of something moving. More out of instinct than anything else I line strike and lift the little rod up. The rod tip goes over hard, that’s when I see the yellow belly and the unmistakable markings of a very nice trout. With thoughts on how the hell I’m going to land this? I know I cannot reach down and get it into my hand net. Taking up all the slack and getting to the bank edge, I make the leap of faith! As I land, the fish is trying to head upstream, and I still have it on. The little reel is singing and the fly line is tight – it’s a proper adrenaline filled battle alright! I drop the net under and finally draw the fish into it….

The prize - a wild Shropshire trout

The prize – a wild Shropshire trout.

Looking at this fish in the net and what a cracking brownie. Wild as they come and just beautifully marked. Blood red spots haloed by white and black charcoal spots everywhere.

Time to move on to the big boy, that’s been hounding my mind for some eight weeks now. Pricked it’s big mouth twice and cursed my stupidity both times. As I battle through the five foot nettles, I just emerge onto the silver topped pool. A rise ring forms on the bend and I know it’s him? Bold and brass and no doubt waiting for me to fluff it again? Well let’s see eh?

Fishing with the Forge

Well, what did I think of my new 3 weight fly line? The Airflo Forge is a grand fly line for short accurate casts under the trees and though small gaps. There’s a nice compact head on this line for quick loading, plus it has a super small factory welded micro loop at the tip, which is extremely buoyant. With a subtle olive front taper and yellow running line, it sums up what I need for brook fishing. It floats high, with minimal memory, and today I managed to land quite a few nice fish using it.

A lovely little brownie captured with the WF3 Forge line

A lovely little brownie captured with the WF3 Forge line.

For a line that’s under £30 with all the Super-Dri trimmings thrown in, bargain is the word that springs to mind. Above all Airflo’s polyurethane construction means this line will be tough enough to withstand the worst abuse that these overgrown streams can throw at it, season after season.

Huge thanks to Ceri and Gareth at Airflo, for some great words of wisdom on tippet advice, when I was feeling down. Help like that is just encouraging.

Best regards

Stuart

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