Tackle and Tactics for the River Worfe
This article is aimed at newcomers to our river, indeed perhaps newcomers to rough stream trouting.
The Worfe is a narrow stream with high banks where the back cast is often relatively obstructed. I consider waders essential. By getting down into the river you keep as low as possible and get the best concealment. Often the clearest back cast is directly along the line of the river.
The upstream dry fly fishes best from directly below the fish (less drag), and I have sound reasons for believing that U.D.F. is the simplest and most effective method most of the time. By getting down low and approaching from downstream it is often possible to get within five or six yards of the fish without alarming it, and sometimes closer if you have good background. The upstream approach requires just as careful concealment, but because you are unable to take advantage of that small blind spot directly behind the fish you need to be at least twice and preferably three times further away, not always easy on a twisting heavily bushed stream. When striking from downstream of the fish you are pulling the hook back into its mouth. From upstream you are pulling it out. First find your fish! The best way is to find one rising. Second best is to spot one before it spots you. Polarised glasses help at times. Next best is to cast over a lie where you saw one last time, and, if all else fails, to “fish the stream”, i.e. to cast in likely spots. I have never had much luck doing this. You tend to scare many more fish than you attract. I usually go spotting for risers, even if this means walking a long way, but of course it depends on the time of the year and on the weather conditions.
Wherever possible I walk upstream. I keep well back from the bank where I can, though of course you must not trample standing crops. The usual beaten track two yards from the bank shows that most people walk far too close. Only your head should show above the near bank. It is difficult to know how fast to walk. The fewer rises there are the more you tend to hurry on, but if a fish is rising infrequently then you reduce your chances of finding it by so doing. Usually I look for the regular riser, only bothering to cast to the “one shot wonder” when desperate. Having found a rising fish use all possible concealment to get into a casting position. I actually like the nettles! Set out your stall carefully. Get comfortable and if necessary gauge the distance by deliberately casting well to one side of the fish; but not if the cast is difficult. Then go for it straight away. I use a seven foot fibreglass rod for line 4/5. It is cheap and robust. The seven foot length gives sufficient control and you can get under the low branches. A brown or dark green line is preferable. (They can be dyed if necessary) I use a knotted stepped leader with a ten pound butt and a four pound point. You will lose a lot of flies in the vegetation if you go finer. Summer gear is a fishing waistcoat and a lightweight nylon waterproof in a belt around the waist. Spring and autumn it’s waxed jacket and fishing bag.
The Worfe is a late river. They begin to rise during the second week in May at the earliest and then only if it’s a warm spring with plenty of Hawthorn Fly about. (I’m not sure this is true any more. It’s a long time since I wrote it and global warming may have had some effect.) If it’s cold it can be the end of May before they start to rise. Suddenly one evening you will go down to the river and find rising fish all over the place. The cause is Hawthorn Fly or Black Gnats depending on the date. There are always myriads of Black Gnats (not so many these days) but there are good and bad Hawthorn Fly years. The next landmark is the Mayfly hatch. The main hatch is nowadays in the last week in May, but they may begin hatching some time before that, depending on the weather, and sporadic hatches may carry on, even into August sometimes, but never in any numbers. After the Mayfly hatch has finished the fish often go quiet for a time. It seems that they can’t quite believe that the bonanza is over and keep waiting for the feast, which doesn’t happen. Sometimes it needs a storm to wipe their minds clean and persuade them that they should be looking for something else. After mid June they usually rise to terrestrials, which form a large part of the diet of Worfe trout.
If you want to fish the Worfe in the first six weeks of the season that means wet fly. Favourites are March Brown, Black Pennell, Stick Fly and Butcher, all often weighted. The method seems to be to pick a likely bend or deep run under a bank. Conceal yourself well. Cast if you can or work line off if you can’t and let the fly swing down below the bend. Retrieve in a series of short pulls. Takes come as the fly swings round or as you inch it back. Members who like to fish this way often use a longer rod to be able to work the current more effectively.
I have already described how to fish the dry fly. For Hawthorn time I use a size 12 Black and Peacock. There are many closer copies. During Mayfly time I use my own pattern, the Skeleton Mayfly. During the rest of the year I use a size 14 Black and Peacock or sometimes a small bushy sedge. Very occasionally, at dusk, I use the Ermine Moth or a Coachman, because they are easier to see.
Another way to search the stream when there is not much rising is to fish the upstream nymph. When we used to stock rainbows into the river this was a good way of catching them. Cast a lightly weighted nymph upstream and keep in touch with it as it drifts back. Takes are signaled by a twitch or draw down of the leader. Well these are some of the methods which work for me. You will evolve your own; probably more effective, derived from your own skills and previous experience. Some newcomers to the Worfe take to it immediately and others struggle. If you find half the same pleasure along its banks as I have done over the years then you will become as fond of it as I am.