John Bailey: Be mesmerized by brown trout

I'd like to discuss some of the most thrilling opportunities for the fly angler in Norfolk and some of these, I hope, will interest the mainstream coarse angler to boot.

There are many good times to be out with a fly rod in your hand but, for me, one of the loveliest will be a warm spring or summer evening, on a stillwater, towards dusk when there's little wind. You'll fish for trout coming up to take buzzers – these are hatching midges if you're not into angling speak. You will see the fish porpoise through the surface film slowly, quietly, gently, serenely. It's a case, then, of putting a tiny imitation midge right in a feeding fish's path. It's desperately exciting.

Most of the time you're using light, precise gear and sometimes the fight of a two or three pound enraged rainbow trout take you right to the limit of your skills.

I love spring before the bank sides of our small rivers have grown unapproachable as a jungle. Now is the time I like to go with a wand of a fly rod and walk for miles, discovering new stretches of river often only a yard or two across. These are robust, tramping days out in some of the most unspoilt countryside for tiny wild brown trout that are more beautiful than you can believe. These go back at once and they flick away in a little starburst of spots and colour.

I'm mesmerized by the big wild brown trout that you still find here and there in all our rivers. Every year, I'm told of friends who catch four, five or even six pound monsters and this is the sort of fish I'd like to catch on a three-weight fly rod this coming season. I can barely imagine what sort of fight a Leviathan gives in a small, overgrown stream. I believe the stories of pursuit over a mile or further. To subdue a giant in little more than a ditch will need skill. Luck and real kick-backside-scrambling through the nettles!


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Sea trout really do it all when it comes to mystery and magic. You'll find them all along the coast, visiting creeks and estuaries. In days gone by – perhaps still today – they used to make it as far up as Horstead Mill Pool on the Bure and even to New Mills Yard in the middle of Norwich city itself. My own big sea trout in years long gone by, were taken anywhere along the North Norfolk Coast from Wells to around Weybourne way. There are always rumours, though, of sea trout comebacks and this year I'll be devoting what time I can to the search for these silver shadows of fish.

Talk of the sea inevitably brings any fly angling conversation to bass, mullet and mackerel. There are those who claim to catch mullet on the fly. I reckon they're magicians and not anglers. Bass, though, are a different thing and a five pound bass on a silver streamer fights in the tide like a tiger. I had a bad bass year in 2011 and I aim to put it right in the months to come. Look for bass once the seas really warm up and then, if you're really lucky, you will find mackerel, too. On the fly, they are the most thrilling of propositions. I like a really warm, still day and an incoming tide towards dusk.

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You might see the gulls working frantically in a tight area. This could be mackerel and bass attacking tiny fish and driving them up to the surface where the birds make hay. Get yourself to the epicentre of the action as fast as you can.

Only use one fly and I'd recommend a seven or even an eight weight outfit. This seems over the top for a fish of only a pound or so but a hooked mackerel will make that reel sing. And providing it's over the size limit, grilled straight from the sea and you won't taste a fish better anywhere in the land.

Come April and May, you can attack your pike with big streamer flies, remembering to use a wire trace, of course. This is a pulsating way to catch a really big predator. It's not mumbo-jumbo, it works. Come June 16th and the opening of the rivers, think about chub on nymphs and, even better, on surface poppers. This is a most thrilling way to catch a coarse fish I've ever personally known. To see a chub rise from the depths, its white mouth opening, its fins driving it upwards towards a volcanic attack...I'm shaking as I write.

Think about the big perch – because there really is a revival of these – in the upper rivers, the mill pools, the boat yards and throughout Broadland.

Pursue them with small fish patterns and just sometimes you will pick up fish that won't look at bait. And if this hasn't got you all going, I know a gravelly stretch of the Wensum, not far downstream of Fakenham where dace to three-quarters of a pound will rise to a tiny black gnat tied on a size 20. It's fishing in Lilliput but it's fantastically thrilling for all that.

Get back to me at info@kingfisherapartments.co.uk if any of these ideas come off for you and also keep an eye on my blogs at www.kingfisherapartments.co.uk.

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