A beautiful scene on the Derwent

Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman #19

A Day on the Derwent

I found myself heading to the Midlands for a day’s work. Travelling to that region, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to fish, so I got in touch with my good mate Andy Buckley, a Derbyshire fly fishing guide, to see if he fancied a day’s fly fishing. Andy was fully booked, guiding for the week, but he managed to help me with a pass on the beautiful River Derwent. A river I had never fished for trout before. 

I arrived at the river around 1pm, blue skies and a slight breeze made me eager to fish. The Derwent is a beautiful river, fast-flowing, stone-bottomed, with deep pools and steep banks hosting mature trees. There’s a very diverse range of habitat to target, so the first course of action was to take a long walk. 

Not far from the car I spotted my first trout of the day, sheltering behind a rock under tree canopy. I decided to cover him with a small olive emerger, although this fish wasn’t rising. A few casts later, I was in. A great scrap followed, as the fish took off downstream. Unfortunately, unprepared, he slipped the hook. I carried on walking the stretch, passing beautiful pools and riffles. In the bright sunlight I hadn’t seen a fish rise, but gained an idea of the areas to target. I began my walk back up the stretch, keeping an eye on the water, suddenly, I spotted a quality wild brown sat in no more than 8 inches of glossy water. I watched as he occasionally moved for a nymph. I had to catch him!

Rather irritatingly, his line of sight blocked my entry into the river, I decided to stay low on the ground and cast from high on the bank. I tied on a size 14 jig nymph with a New Zealand indicator for reference, and made my cast. I overcast to compensate for height, and luckily got it right first time. I watched the indicator land and guessed the nymph was probably about 18 inches behind it, deflecting off the stone and gravel. The rig passed the fish perfectly. I watched as he flashed his flank and mouthed at what I assumed was my fly. I struck and chaos ensued, the trout bolted off across the shallow, almost reaching the backing. I sprang into action, sliding down the steep bank to the water below, quickly realizing I hadn’t changed into waders. Now I had to land this one!

I increased the power, trying to steer the fish away from the rapids below, succeeded, and the fish took off upstream. The battle was almost won, and after a few more runs the fish hit the net. A magnificent Derwent wild brown. A fine example of the beautiful trout the river holds. I slipped the fish back in awe, my first trout of the day would be a difficult one to top. 

My prize, a beautifully marked wild brown
The small nymph I used

A little cloud cover moved over through the afternoon. The odd fish began to rise, I switched over to the tiny 7ft #2wt and decided to have some fun, tempting some beautiful wild browns on a mixture of flies from tiny size 20 tricos to size 16 emergers. It was challenging, engaging fishing, and the hours soon passed by. Time to have a break and change spots for the evening rise. 

The average stamp of beautiful Derwent browns

I arrived at the new location a few hours prior to dusk. The spot was beautiful, and while there weren’t many rises, I did spot a few very tight under the overhanging trees. I crept into position and worked a few casts under the trees, picking up a nice wild brown on a small olive dun. I continued to cover the banks, and soon hooked into something much bigger. My tiny #2wt combo buckled over as the fish charged upstream, putting me on to backing. It went for every snag on the river, somehow I managed to keep it free, eventually steering the fish closer before taking a chance with the net. 

I landed a cracking rainbow trout, more than likely a stocked fish from another section, but a great fish all the same. The Derwent does throw up the occasional wild rainbow, with the river Wye flowing into it the occasional juvenile washes down.

A quality rainbow on light tackle

As the light began to fade the river came alive with rising fish. There were more species of fly than I could count. Mayfly, Yellow Mays, caddis, and many varieties of olive I couldn’t see up close. Finding the right fly proved challenging, and each fish required the right choice to confidently rise. Over the next hour I managed several wild browns, and missing takes from many more. I picked one final riser to target and in the low light decided on a Mayfly spinner pattern. The choice worked and I hooked a fish. An acrobatic fight followed and the fish launched 3-4ft in the air several times. Incredible power from a trout of about 10 inches. Finally I slipped the net under my final catch of the day. A beautiful little wild rainbow trout. A great way to end my session on an amazing river. 

A beautiful wild rainbow

If you enjoy your fly fishing I would highly recommend booking a day on the Derwent. I fished the Peacock at Rowsley beat, which offers both day ticked and guided days. 

More Stories
A chance to bid for two day’s fly fishing with rugby legend Gareth Edwards!