Isn't it supposed to be pain which follows pleasure? Well it was the other way around for me today on Cumbria's River Eden. The pleasure came at about 4pm and the end of an all too rare daytime session, when I slipped the net beneath 2lb 5oz of wild Eden trout - a cracking fish on any day. The fact that this was preceded by a few hours of mental pain made the moment all the more enjoyable. The story runs as follows:
Given an unexpected pass out by my lovely wife, I decided to have a look at one of our club beats on the Eden below Appleby. The forecast wasn't good, but beggars can't be choosers and there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity. As I drove past Tebay, the M6 matrix signs warned of high winds over Shap, and the rain battered my windscreen. When I reached the river, the situation had improved slightly. It had stopped raining.
Initial exploration with the dry fly proved fruitless until I rounded a corner and found a pair of 12" trout (about the Eden average), rising in a more sheltered spot. I picked both of these off on a caddis to make a pleasing start to the afternoon. Things soon got worse though; as I neared a turbulent looking dub with armchair sized boulders just visible sub-surface, I swapped to a brace of weighted nymphs. This quickly brought a couple of offers from similar sized fish, both of which, annoyingly, were dropped. Towards the head of the pool, the line ticked sideways a third time and I lifted into an obviously heavy fish. A couple of head shakes later, the fish was up on the surface - a good 2lber - and then a second later, gone!
Now I like to think myself a fairly objective chap, usually able to interpret facts over the emotion of the moment. But I have to say that as far as this season goes, I'm beginning to feel like I've wronged the Big Man somehow - I just can't seem to keep hold of a decent fish. I am able to count at least half a dozen big trout which have just dropped off at various stages of the fight....and yes, I have checked my hooks!
I'm not afraid to admit that this latest disaster story had me in a bit of a sulk and once I had rounded the corner to the next pool, spent the next hour fighting to haul the nymphs into a fierce downstream wind and realised that my left wader leg was slowly filling up with chilly Eden water, I was getting ready to call it a day! A break was needed, so I emptied the leg, wrung out my sock and had a potter about turning stones in the margins. I found some very large, juicy cased caddis and was pleased to see that my imitation bug wasn't a million miles out appearance wise. Out of curiosity, I tied one on and had a trawl through the nearest run. The result, a couple of 10" grayling. Things were looking up!
Eventually, I reached some shelter again - heavy tree cover to the left bank was breaking the worst of the wind and in this comparative haven, one or two fish were rising. I waded out to investigate and found a few small dark olives hatching. There was also a steady procession of black gnats on the current - blown from the trees upstream no doubt - but so far as I could tell, it was the duns which the trout were sipping down. I went for a little olive klinkhamer and covered the rear fish which was by now hard on the feed. A gentle sip resulted and a fit trout of 1lb 4oz was soon in the net - a typically bonny Eden fish.
Finally, as if to prove that fly fishing is anything but predictable, a speculative cast into no more than ten inches of water, to a rise which looked distinctly 'parr-like', resulted in more than 2lb of angry cock trout leaping two feet clear of the water, before charging around the pool in a manner which left me praying the 0.10mm tippet would hold. Luckily this time, it did and my metamorphosis from angst-ridden torment, to fly fishing heaven was complete. My only regret is that I didn't manage a photo of the fish as he wriggled out of my hand before the shutter button was depressed.
A couple more grayling followed - they were gnatting on the flats above - before I returned to the car, emptied the wader leg a final time, and joined the entire population of Britain on the southbound carriageway of the M6. It's a funny old game, this fly fishing business........
Saviour of the day; baetis scambus, the small dark olive.