The nights are drawing in now and the hawthorns are hanging heavy with fruit. With our family hols looming just around the corner, this will likely have been my last evening session of the year and it will probably be grayling time before I wet a line again. It was satisfying then, to have made it to bankside on such a perfect evening for fly fishing; the weather was overcast and muggy with barely a breath of wind and the Eden was an inviting beer colour and fining down nicely after recent rain.
I spent a bit of time on Monday prospecting blind with the dry fly - a tactic which has worked well on the Ribble this season. It never seems to me to work just as well on the Eden and if there are no risers, I've always tended to stick to the upstream nymph. Monday's experiment reinforced that; although the majority of the fish caught were to the dry fly, each one had been targeted after finding it on the fin and feeding. I failed to rise a single one 'out of the blue' purely by prospecting.
With that in mind, I set out tonight with a two fly nymph set up - a sedge pupae on the point (there were good numbers of silverhorns skittering over the margins), and a pink-collared hare's ear bug on the dropper which I hoped would be that bit more visible in the stained water.
This approach seemed to work, with two 10" trout (one to each fly) from the first pool, followed by a nice grayling of 1lb 4oz, then a trout of 1lb 6oz.
Nothing was rising, so I continued upstream to a pool which I feel holds a lot of potential. This piece of water looks unassuming and could easily be passed by; it is a fairly ordinary riffle of about 40 yards long, beneath a heavily eroded sand cliff. But when I waded in for a look on Monday, I found it to have surprising depth and a bed of the finest gravel. With a brisk but even flow, it screamed grayling to me.
I changed the top dropper to the heavy amber caddis (see previous post) and set about it. Sure enough, a 12" grayling followed and a couple of casts later, a twitch was met by very solid resistance - a fish which held fast in the current, immovable, for all of twenty seconds before leaping clear in a bid to throw the hook. It was a beautiful hen grayling which looked every inch a two pounder, but surprisingly went only 1lb 14oz when I weighed her in the net.
Another trout of 1lb followed, before sport went suddenly quiet.
Still there was nothing on the rise and takes to the nymphs had just dropped away, so I mooched upstream, had a sit down and changed set up to a tapered leaer and dry caddis, with the intention of just sitting it out until last light when I hoped a few fish would be inclined to look to the surface for food.....
It took a while, but eventually it happened. On the long flats pool where I had the big trout on Monday, a few grayling began to rise. Further up the pool, a couple of trout were busy in a foam lane, sipping down some unseen victims. A few big sedge had begun to appear, crawling up my arms and down my neck in the deepening gloom. I pushed my way through some head-high rushes to a position just behind the lower of the two, and made a messy cast which just about got my fly on the water in front of the fish. Fortunately, the fading light worked in my favour and the trout forgave my botched presentation and walloped the caddis as if it was the first food it had seen in weeks! He turned out to be bigger than I had expected at around 1lb 4oz.
The fish upstream of him proved equally obliging and in fact took so confidently that he was deep hooked and bleeding (I knocked him on the head and took him home for Dad). He weighed 1lb 8oz and rounded a splendid evening's fishing off nicely - an evening of 9 nice fish, 6 of them over the pound. It wouldn't take too much imagination to believe that this beat must hold some very large fish indeed......
Interestingly, when I got home and cleaned the fish, I emptied the stomach contents into a bowl of water. The fish had obviously been feeding hard and I expected to see caddis pupae and midge amongst the sample. The bowl was filled however, with hundreds and hundreds of tiny black beetles, no more than 2mm long!
Size 32 hooks, anyone?