Camouflage – by Mike Connor

I was squatting in a large bush on a small stream I fish regularly, watching a beautiful brown trout of about two pounds gracefully rising slowly and confidently to a series of olives which were hatching steadily. I had been watching the fish for about fifteen minutes, and was trying to figure out how best to get a cast at him without putting him down. The fish suddenly “stiffened” and sank slowly into the depths, and two other fish, smaller ones which I had not noticed up to that point, flashed past going downstream as if the devil was after them.

Damn I thought what happened there, what made them do that? And then I heard it too, two Anglers strolling along the bank looking for fish and discussing the water conditions, what flies to use etc. They were about thirty yards away at this point, and walking along the river bank about six or seven feet from the edge. They stopped at my bush, and continued talking for a while, I knew the older man slightly, and after listening for a few more minutes to their complaints about there being hardly any fish in the river, and how the canoeists were ruining everything etc I stepped out of the bush.

I think I must have frightened them half to death, the younger man dropped his fly-box, and the older man took several steps backwards and nearly fell in the river, he would have done but for bumping against a wire fence which stopped him taking the last step over the brink.

They were both quite angry, and asked me what the hell I thought I was doing hiding like that. I told them I was not hiding, I was fishing, and that is how I always do it. I must admit I was wearing a full camouflage suit including face mask and wrap around Polaroids, so it must have been something of a shock for them, they probably thought the Russians had invaded.

They were both wearing thigh waders, and very tasteful off white fishing vests over light tee-shirts and duck green trousers, the older gentleman had a very highly polished golden coloured reel which was flashing and glinting every time he moved, the bright white sheepskin patches on their fly vests looked like those things the army puts on dummies so you can hit them at 300 yards with a rifle. The general impression from a short distance was that of a perambulating Christmas tree!

After they had overcome their initial shock, we began exchanging pleasantries. They asked me if I had caught anything, (I had, several nice browns!) and I asked them if they had caught anything, (they had not!), the younger man then said that this was his worst season on this stream so far, last year there had still been some nice stocked rainbows in the stream, but he had not had a single one this season, in fact he was seriously considering leaving the club if things did not improve. He had never caught a brown trout here, and it was his considered opinion that there were none in the river. I refrained from commenting any further on this opinion.

The older gentleman who knew me from casting and tying classes at the club evenings asked me what flies I was using, I gave him two gold ribbed hares ears to try, he thanked me, and then asked if I knew a good place to try for a fish today. I walked down about seventy or eighty yards to the next weir with them, and showed them a place where there was usually a fish. The young man promptly waded across the gravel at the tail of the weir pool, until the water was almost slopping into his waders, and proceeded to false cast about fifteen times before plonking his fly down into the run about twenty five feet above and across from him.

As luck would have it a suicidal rainbow of about eleven inches shot out of the run and grabbed his fly as he was dragging in line for another cast. After a lot of messing about he caught the fish, knocked it on the head and put it in the hand woven French creel attached to his wader belt. That is more like it was his enthusiastic comment as he waded back in again, lovely fish, I will just see if there are any more there!

I spoke for another few minutes with the older gentleman who asked me why I had no net or waders? and whether it was worth going to all that trouble and looking like a freak in camouflage gear? I told him I wore it to save ruining my other clothes, and that I very rarely wade any way on small streams and waders are too hot and clumsy anyway. His opinion was that most of the places on this stream were impossible to fish without wading because of all the trees and bushes in the way, he had thought of mentioning this at the last club meeting, it might be a good idea to clear some stretches were one would then be able to cast properly.

I declined to comment. I wished them both tight lines, and slowly made my way back to my car about three miles down stream. I couldn’t help thinking what some of my fishing companions years ago in Yorkshire might have said. I am certain it would have been unprintable , but somewhere along the lines of “study to be quiet.”

Tight lines!

Mike Connor

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