Sunday, July 16, 2006

The high tarns of Mardale.

An early start today - I was parked up at Mardale Head for 5:30am, watching the rising sun flood the crags of Harter Fell with a rosy pink glow.
Rather than struggle away on one of our desperately low rivers, I had decided to head up into the high country in search of cooler, breezier conditions and a bit of isolation. My destinations were the corrie tarns of Mardale - Small Water and Blea Water - both perched at 400m+ beneath the craggy eastern face of High Street.

Small Water first, then. A good half hour’s walk up the Nan Bield track is all that is required to reach this impressive tarn. Despite the relative ease of access, the high craggy enclosing walls lend a feeling of real isolation and although the spot is popular with campers, today I had it to myself. There was something quietly satisfying about tying up my leader in this remote spot at a time of the day when most people would still be in bed!
Small Water failed to produce for me today though. Despite a good wave and a few fish rising beyond casting distance, only one tiny trout saw fit to take one of my flies and after a couple of hours of fruitless searching, I decided to move on.

An energetic, pathless traverse around the base of Piot Crag leads to the much larger Blea Water. This is one of the Lake District’s most impressive tarns and, I think, the deepest of its kind in England. Certainly it didn’t look very inviting this morning - well over 20 acres of steeply shelving water contained within a huge amphitheatre of rock around which the wind was swirling in such a way that wherever I positioned myself, it seemed to be blowing squarely into my face.
However, once I got a grip of things and shortened my leader slightly, I began to pick up fish on a regular basis. Working around the northern shoreline from the headwall towards the outflow, a succession of beautiful little trout came to both the hares ear nymph on the point and to the golden Ullswater bob fly. A good number of these were in the 10-12” size class and were possibly the quickest trout I have ever caught. I honestly don’t know how I managed to hook any at all, so fast did they slash at my flies.
I eventually packed up and headed back down to the car at about 11am when the sun got high enough to send the fish down and my face began to burn.

There is real solitude to be found in these parts (I didn’t see another soul all morning until I got back down toward the main paths around Mardale), and if one’s expectations are adjusted to suit the size of fish to be caught and the full beauty of the surroundings taken into account, then a fine day’s fishing can be had by any standards.

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