Karel Lansky usually finds the fish first. He usually catches the biggest and he usually catches the most. But it's ok because he's my friend. In fact I'm just as happy for Karel to catch the fish as I would be if I caught them myself. At least that's what I'm telling myself today. But in truth it's harder this morning than either of us had anticipated. Comparing our initial fly choice, it's interesting that we've both opted for pretty much the same kebari - a simple copper bead head with a black body and a brown swept hackle. I'm actually expecting a fish first cast, but pride as they say comes before a fall.
We're fishing headwater up in the High Peaks of Derbyshire, England. It's so pretty here, and so are the trout, or at least from memory they are. Because a fish doesn't come for either of us, not on the first cast, or on the second or even on the hundredth, or so it seems. Fly-confusion sets in, as I resort to cycling through the kebari patterns in my box, looking for the magic key to unlock a door to spotted riches, but the door remains resolutely shut. A strong argument for never bringing too many different fly patterns to the river, because it's often the angler and not the fly that's lacking.
We switch from picking pockets to poaching pools, and at last the fish begin to show. My first is a feisty 12 incher that circles around and around the deep pool before finally shaking the hook free as I draw it to the tamo, but no matter - today that's close enough for me. I move along and Karel covers the same pool and pulls another fish from the depths. This one makes it into the net - it's a good fish for this little stream and I swear it's the same one as mine. Later from another deep pool Karel connects with a really darkly coloured trout that runs and leaps and runs again before coming to hand.
Meanwhile I hook into another little missile that runs with the flow, bending deeply the Karasu 360 before coming to hand. This one is a lovely toffee and butter colour - I love photographing the trout in this river to later compare, always struck by the variation of colourings possible in different fish from the same stream.
As morning mellows into afternoon the fish wake up and we have a busy hour catching from glides, from riffles, and undercuts and more pools. For a while the takes become more aggressive, many fish hit the surface kebari, and we end the day with forty or so fish between us that have taken the fly. Not all of mine stick - I end up I think with about sixteen in the tamo. It's turned into a much better day than at first I'd dared hope for.
Later in the bar, Karel and I compare notes and swap images. We talk about our differing approach to the water and our tenkara-fishing mindset. Karel's style is considered, forensic, professional even. Mine is more... well.. romantic? Karel may approach a run and grid it out in his mind's eye, fishing his way systematically up the river. I also fish like this at times, but mostly my heart rules my head. I may walk right by a spot I know holds fish, because the image playing out in my head is of a different fish from a different place. I often think of my fish catches as tiny stories, and I want those stories to be as beautiful as possible. Perhaps I stay in one place too long sometimes because I want it to offer up a fish to make my imagined picture complete. On the other hand I'm a firm believer that such visualisations help to refine our natural instincts and this is central to my tenkara approach.