Fishing the River Wensum and catching its trout is a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience. It is not always easy to find and see fish and they are not the most free rising. If you expect to be able to see and stalk fish or cast to rising fish every time that you are on the river, your expectations are unlikely to be met on many occasions. Hatches, with the exception of days in May and June when there can be good hatches of fly including Mayfly, caddis in spring and summer and iron blues in late September or October, tend to be quite sparse and often of very short duration.
Rods between 8 and 9 feet in length for 3-, 4- or 5-weight floating lines. Rarely will anything heavier be needed. Fishing with a shorter rod can be difficult where the bankside vegetation is high or you can’t get close enough to the edge of the bank as it can then be difficult to manage your flyline on the water properly.
What flies to use
The most important thing is to use flies in which you have confidence even if they don’t appear on the following list of suggestions. Trout are opportunist feeders and if you can present a fly to a fish when and where it is expecting to see a food item, then you can catch it. Exact imitation is not always, if ever, required.
Dry flies: Adams and Parachute Adams, small Grey Wulf for fish feeding on Mayflies, “F” Flies, Klinkhåmers and various emerger patterns, Elk Hair Caddis, CDC and Elk, and Humpies
When Mayfly are hatching it is well worthwhile having a few hatching/emerger/Mayfly cripple patterns, such as Peter Hayes’ Hayestuck, with you as hatching flies provide an easy meal for a fish.
Nymphs: Pheasant Tail nymphs, with and without beads, Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear nymphs again with and without bead heads, and hatching caddis
Waders and wading
Although it is by no means essential to wade, there are stretches that can be fish by wading and the mill straight can only be fished from in the river. Check that you can see the bottom before getting into the river and when you do, be prepared to find that the bottom is soft and silty. If it is get out!
Chest-high breathable waders are best. When not wading, they will keep your legs dry if the bankside vegetation is wet or it starts raining.
How and where to fish
“Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.” is an old Army adage which is as applicable to fishing as it is to the battle field. This quote has been attributed to the second World War German Field Marshal Rommel, and also the Duke of Wellington. Spend a few minutes on the river bank watching the river and seeing what, if anything, is happening before tying-on a fly and starting to fish. To fish the river successfully you need a good understanding of it. This comes from spending time on the river. Spend time getting to know the river, its moods and quirks. As is mentioned elsewhere, helping with working parties is a great way to find out more about the river, its shallow runs and deeper pools.
Although fish will be seen (rising) and caught in the middle of the river, many are caught close-in to the banks where the bankside vegetation provides good overhead cover. When fish are not rising or to be seen feeding sub-surface you will have to go and look for them. A good pair of Polaroid glasses is a big help.
Trout are opportunist feeders so that very often a well-presented fly that arrives where and when they are looking for a food item will do the business. Although hatches on the Wensum tend to be ‘simple’ rather than ‘complex’ – when two or perhaps three different flies are hatching – fish can be surprisingly picky at times. This could be because they are feeding on hatching nymphs, caddis pupae swimming to the surface or Mayflies that are struggling to hatch, rather than ones which have hatched successfully and can be seen floating on the surface.
Recording and measuring your catch
Since 2015 all stock fish have been tagged. This year’s tags will be ??? and will be found alongside the dorsal fin on the nearside of the fish. Fish stoccked in 2015 had a red tag; 2016 had clear tags and 2017 black tags. If you catch one of last season’s, or the year before’s fish, the tag will probably have a coating of algae on it obscuring the colour. You can remove it with a finger nail. Please record the colour of tags. Stock fish are the only fish that may be killed.
All wild – untagged – fish must be returned to the river. Please measure and record the length of any or all wild fish caught. You can measure fish by putting a rubber band or length of elastic round the handle of your landing net or the bottom section of your rod. Hold the fish against your net handle or rod with one end of it at a fixed point and then move the elastic to the other end of the fish. Once you have returned the fish the water you can then measure its length with a tape measure. Waterproof dressmaker’s tape measures can be bought very cheaply on Ebay.