Stealth and cunning on the River Clough

In the crease at the bottom of Garsdale, a charming valley dotted with farms, dry stone walls, woods and sheep, runs the River Clough – a headwater of the Ribble.

It’s a small river in high country with clear water running down over loose rocks and fiat slabs of limestone. In parts it can be quite narrow and deep or shallow and wide, fast or slow — in fact the character of the Clough varies a lot, which means the resident brown trout could be almost anywhere. To get the best from it keep on the move and be ready for anything.

Rises are likely to be few and far between. You have to go out and try to find the fish. That means you must keep moving upstream, directing most of your attention to the likely holding spots. After just a couple of casts, move on. It pays to be observant and spend some time just walking and studying the river before you fish it.

The likely holding spots on this river are areas where there is not only a food source,

Think like a trout

Much of the river is a pleasure to fish but lacking in classic fishy features. Even so, try to imagine where fish might be lying -where they can feel safe and find food without too much effort.

Deeper lies are the favourite, offering shelter and shade for trout. The biggest trout lie in the deepest zones and tend to force small fish into shallower areas.

Small waterfalls on the river can carve out a hollow—especially just under the lip of the rock ledge – creating an area of deeper water where there may well be fish.

The River Clough has many shallow stretches of water running over limestone bedrock and a jumble of stones and loose rocks. Here there’s not much chance of fish as it is very exposed. But they might be present if there’s deep water nearby to escape to, or if the flow is fast with a surface ripple to hide them. uw&Yflfc

In shallow water try the deepest parts and the slacks or edges of rock and limestone slabs. Larger rocks in the river also provide cover for trout which lie in the eddies behind, out of the turbulence, or just in front riding a gentle bow wave. Food supply There’s a lot of aquatic insect life in the Clough and plenty of trees lining the banks to supply terrestrial offerings. If you can’t actually see the fish feeding, then try to place your fly in the probable feeding channels. These are sometimes indicated by flecks of froth or scum on the surface. Wherever these are carried the fishes’ food is likely to follow the same route. So fish into the concentrations of surface scum.

Join the queue

Every so often as you move upstream you come across a recognisable pool. The water enters in a fairly fast flow at the head and the pace slows in a deep run, then shallows out again at the tail.

Spend a few minutes observing the pool then start casting at the tail, gradually moving up. The best fish are often high up the pool, so they can be first to intercept food brought down in the current. But fast, small fish may be very high up in the fast water.

Perhaps the optimum point – near the front of the food queue but not too energy-sapping- is about halfway down the pool.

One of the river’s pools has a strengthened bank and a medium-paced flow entering it at the head. Against the strengthened bank there’s a deep channel which could hold fish. About half way down the pool there is a large rock which has a mild ripple in front of it — there could be a fish here too, just riding the current without too much effort. White flecks, visible on the surface, and carried in a narrow line down the deep run, indicate a good food channel.

The pace is decelerating which, you would think, makes presentation of a dry fly ideal but the flow is quite slow and fish could be wary — they’ve got plenty of time to get a good look at the fly.

Rising tension

Now and again you can see a fish rising to the surface. A dry fly delicately presented might tempt it if it is intent on feeding. The finer you fish the better the presentation. Casting is important — but often difficult — on the Clough because of overhanging trees and bushes. Side casting is effective, but your approach must be stealthy and this may mean casting from awkward and cramped positions on the bank.

Where the flow is slow you’ll scare fish away if you strike at every possible take. It pays to have a clear sight of the fly so you only strike at probables. You can get away with a few false strikes in faster water.

A dark fly such as an Adams is often successful on rivers but can sometimes be hard to follow on the water, so change to a fly with a bit of white on it – maybe a parachute fly with a white tag – which is easier to follow. But if you’re casting in visible fooc channels the concentrations of white flecks may mean a white fly becomes too confus ing. In this case change to a dark fly such as a Hawthorn.

If a fish is having a go at your dry fly bul not taking properly – shying away at the last minute – try a nymph. The fish mighl be feeding mostly under the water, taking just a few items on the surface.