Last Friday afternoon, as I headed up towards Taggerty in near perfect autumn weather, my expectations for an afternoon’s fishing on the Acheron and Steavenson rivers were as sunny as the sky itself. Streams lined with colourful trees and insects buzzing in the warm air above rising fish, made for an idyllic picture in my mind. Surely conditions were right for some terrific fishing? What followed was a lesson in the joys and challenges of autumn fishing.
The Acheron looked a little lower than I had seen it a few months ago. I rigged a nymph under a dry and at the top of the first pool, in a deeper section under a tree, the dry dived down. I was soon onto my first fish of the day, a lovely brown of about a pound. With good water left to fish in that run I eagerly cast under the tree again only to snag horribly and after a few deep breaths, I had to wade through the best spot to recover my flies. In the next run the water looked no more than 50cm deep but there was a perfect bubble line running hard against the bank just below submerged tree roots. Surely there had to be a fish lurking there? After losing my flies on an errant backcast, I switched to a small Klinkhammer and managed to land the fly two-thirds of the way up the run. I held my breath as the fly drifted towards me, but nothing. I was about to recast when the dry was smashed and a chunky brown leapt out of the air and cartwheeled towards me. After another jump clear out of the water, my second fish of the day was in the net, a quick photo taken on the grass and then back in the water. I added a couple more fish (one each on the nymph and dry) before deciding it would be nice to try the Steavenson in the last two hours of daylight.
Like the Acheron the Steavenson looked very low, so I decided to focus on the deeper sections with cover. On a promising stretch my first cast drew a swirl and take from a big fish, only for the fly to pull straight out. Even more frustrating, fewer than two metres upstream the same thing happened, and again the fish looked like a very solid one. Further attempts resulted in lost flies and half of my leader, by which stage I had probably spooked everything in sight. I re-tied my rig and moved on. The fishing was exciting but tough. If truth be told, I think a combination of insufficient skill, coupled with impatience knowing that the light was fading and my time was running out, both worked against me. With the right cast and the right flies presented to the right spot, the dry was inducing a take every now and then, but I was missing them all. In one case a nice trout seemed to swirl angrily at the fly but missed the lot. A warning sign perhaps? Right on dark I managed to break my Steavo duck and land two small browns before it became too dark to see.
The day highlighted to me how autumn stream fishing/ low water fishing can be far more demanding of technique than those high summer days when the fish are slamming hoppers. And how much about this sport there is to learn.