Mid-July, down here in Devon, on the Exe where temperatures hit 30 degrees plus most of yesterday afternoon. The whole country, we know, is wilting under a cloudless sky, and though it might have been so-called ‘freedom day’, there was no respite from the sun.
Of course, there was barely any water, James in Dulverton’s great tackle shop told me that it had barely rained on Exmoor for six weeks. Most of my beat was shin-deep, and the trout were invisible under rocks and tree roots. And as for salmon, well, one sad creature had been spotted on Friday last I was told, but but by now he must be as pickled as we are.
I knew it was absurd to be fishing. I was only there for “work”, as a recce, and my heart wasn’t in it at all. Two things. I’d fished the Barle extensively back in the summers of the Eighties, and I knew all about hot weather trout. Or, rather, nothing about how to catch hot weather trout, in the daytime at least. Then I’d picked off odd nice fish on dries under dense tree canopies, fishing them on the dangle an inch above the water, so there was no line to break the surface film. But, for various reasons, this would not be practicable here on the Exe in 2021.
And, secondly, should I be fishing at all? Last night I noted that back in Herefordshire/Wales, the Wye & Usk Foundation has suspended fishing for the duration of the heat in order to protect the fish, game and coarse both. Of course, Exe water isn’t made up largely of chicken excreta like the Wye, and there might be more oxygen down here as a result, but I’d still be anxious if I thought there was any chance of a catch.
We are back down there again today. A very long, spider’s web leader? A French leader, or even a Euro one? A tiny nymph? I couldn’t imagine even a pint of maggots being much use, but at least we’ll have peace, and in a world of floods, droughts and economic, pandemic, and political chaos, that’s more than enough.