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Sawyer’s Pheasant Tail Nymph And The River Avon

Sawyer’s Pheasant Tail Nymph And The River Avon

Adam Sinclair and Racheal Brady from Orvis head to Sawyer’s Avon to test out the new Orvis H3 fly rods with some of Sawyer’s original Pheasant Tail Nymphs, nymphing the ‘old school way’.

Last time I wrote I started off by talking about the amount of rain we had experienced in March and April, since then it seems to have been the polar opposite! Wiltshire has been scorched with temperatures reaching 27°. As I left my house ready to fish on one of these hot early summer days I knew it was going to be tough. I met Racheal Brady from Orvis head office at Costa Coffee and we discussed where we would fish as we enjoyed a ‘cuppa’.

Some of Sawyer’s original Pheasant Tail Nymphs which Adam bought several years ago. Would they still be as effective today?
Some of Sawyer’s original Pheasant Tail Nymphs which Adam bought several years ago. Would they still be as effective today?

Sawyer’s Pheasant Tails

I decided and remained committed to fishing with a few of the Frank Sawyer tied Pheasant Tail Nymph’s (PTN) that I purchased as part of the Sawyer collection that went on sale a few years back. All the flies are on signed cards that Frank sold and I thought that it was a shame that they may never get to see the water that they were created for. I’m very lucky to be a serving soldier and this entitles me to join the Services Dry Fly Fishing Association, the water that Frank Sawyer kept for many years until his death at the river side in 1980, where a memorial bench now sits.

I fished the day with two of the new Orvis H3 rods. The 10ft 6in 3-wt which I set up for upstream nymphing; this had a 12ft tapered leader with a 2ft extension with a size 14 Pheasant Tail Nymph on. The 9ft 4-wt was set up with a 9ft-tapered leader, some Egg Yarn to act as an indicator and a Sawyer PTN.

From the very start I knew the odds were going to be stacked against us. The water was still holding some colour, as most of the rivers in the south were and there were very few fish moving on the surface. I sat back on the riverbank and watched a great hawthorn hatch take place and waited for the fish to lock on to them. Nothing happened apart from the sun cooking my hands!

The River Avon where Sawyer once keepered.
The River Avon where Sawyer once keepered.

Success On The Indicator

I decided to prospect using the Egg Yarn indicator method and was rewarded quickly. Fishing along the weed lines close to the margins I locked into stocked trout. It played hard which allowed me some time to use the new H3 and test it to its full potential. It didn’t disappoint!

I continued to fish the margins and would occasionally look for the subtle changes in the flow of the river. I’d target close to any obstructions or the seam created by the riverbed or a lone rock. A few ‘out of season’ grayling were found and released quickly after being told to grow bigger and a warning that I will be looking for them in the near future once the 16th of June kicks in.

I wandered upstream to some faster water and switched methods. I had in my hands the new 10ft 6in 3-wt H3. A few casts in to get the feel for the rod and I was in to another stocked trout. The rod felt good and was effortless to cast. It provided a great cushion as the trout went crazy in the shallows. Possibly the first fish in the UK caught on this rod and what made it even more special was it was fooled in to taking a size 14 Sawyer PTN.

A few ‘out of season’ grayling were found and released quickly after being told to grow bigger and a warning that I will be looking for them in the near future once the 16th of June kicks in.

Adam Sinclair puts the Helios 3 through its paces with a good-sized brownie.
Adam Sinclair puts the Helios 3 through its paces with a good-sized brownie.

Racheal was using the indicator method behind me a let out a cry. She had hit a pod of fish that were taking the nymph almost a fish a cast. Many of the fish were ‘out of season’ grayling but she hooked into a nice trout that did its best to avoid the net.

Racheal Brady with her first Avon brown trout of the day.
Racheal Brady with her first Avon brown trout of the day.

Fin Perfect Wild Fish

After lunch we moved to another section of the river. This section is often left untouched and doesn’t see any stocked fish throughout the season, although they will move here but not in large quantities. We started to find what we were after. Fin perfect, hard fighting and beautiful wild brown trout. We casually fished upstream fishing in to the river targeting the shade. Racheal caught a great grayling that was close to 2lb and I caught a small chub.

The day was coming to a close and I decided that we should move to the top of the beat and to see if we could take fish on the dry fly. 15 minutes in and I heard a commotion behind me. Racheal was in… she was, completely in! She had found the biggest rock in the river and fell backwards over it. There are easier ways to cool down, but she had found the quickest!

As Racheal squelched back to the car we talked about our day, what we did and what we would do differently. We both agreed that a towel would be packed next time!

Still as effective today as they were when Sawyer created them. Adam took several wild and stocked brown trout on the original Sawyer PTN.
Still as effective today as they were when Sawyer created them. Adam took several wild and stocked brown trout on the original Sawyer PTN.

Sawyer extracts from The Keeper Of The Stream:

“To me a river is like a picture painted by a great artist: there is much more to it that meets the eye of the casual observer”

“Nymph fishing, when carried out as it should be, is, I think, the most fascinating of all kinds of angling”

“With nymph fishing the great thing is to be able to see the fish before it has a chance to see you”


Adam Sinclair

Hampshire based Adam Sinclair is a serving soldier in the British Army and has fly fished for nine years. Adam is a committee member of the famous Services Dry Fly Fishing Association that was once kept by Frank Sawyer. Much of Adam’s fishing is on the Chalk Streams of the South, however, he has fished across the United Kingdom, Canada and Slovenia. Adam is an ambassador for Hunts Original and has recently been appointed the Pro Team Co-Ordinator for Costa Del Mar and Seapower UK.

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