Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Decisions Decisions!

A bit of a strange one today. I had intended to go hill walking and had a choice of two routes in mind: Blencathra via Bannerdale Crags East Ridge, or the Nethermost Pike ridge from Wythburn. I was going to make my mind up which in the car en route, depending on how the eastern tops looked from the M6 over Shap (the weather man had suggested the northern fells might be clearer, with the rest of the national park subject to 'blanket hill fog at approx 600m').

However a phone call just before leaving the house, to EA's Rivercall line, threw my planning into further disarray as I learned that the Eden at Appleby was running somewhat lower than expected - plus 240mm, well fishable if not too coloured. So at the last minute I threw some gear in the boot and resolved to make my decision at Penrith.....

With mild and settled weather prevailing, I felt a spot of grayling fishing would be very much in order, should the high fells be shrouded in cloud. Surely I couldn't go wrong? Well for a while things just didn't look like working out. When I began the long descent toward Penrith, the cloud which had cloaked the Howgill Fells suddenly cleared and the thermometer began to drop rapidly. From the 6c registered at Shap summit, the mercury plummeted to dead zero at junction 40 with thin mist clinging to the ground and frost on the fields. Perfect walking conditions, my decision was made and I turned left onto the A66 and headed for Mungrisdale.

Amazingly though, just five minutes later as I passed Dacre, the temperature had risen back to 5c and the Vale of Keswick stretched before me was under cloud like the rest of Lakeland. It seems there was something of a 'frost pocket' nestling over the Eden valley. At Mungrisdale, Bowscale Fell and Bannerdale Crags were hidden by mist, so I changed tack again and headed for Appleby to do battle with the Eden's fine grayling - albeit in somewhat chillier conditions than I had hoped.

From a fishing point of view, the day passed rather without event. I had started far too early in the morning (9am) to expect sport, but nevertheless I enjoyed flipping my team of bugs around through likely areas. I registered only one offer....and connected with a hen grayling of around the pound, which despite the 10' #6 rod I was using, put up a very strong fight in the heavy flow.

With hindsight, I should have stuck it out on the main river as rising afternoon temperatures could well have brought a few fish in the feed. But instead I opted to take a look at what for me, is a new piece of water - the lower Eamont; all very interesting, but at this time of year the Eamont tends to remain well topped-up with snow melt and rainfall from the Ullswater and Patterdale valleys. Sure enough, the river was a good twelve inches up and absolutely belting along (a fast flowing river at the best of times, the Eamont positively bombs through with extra water). Hemmed in tight to the bank, I battled along gamely for a couple of hours, but finished with only a dropped fish and a half pound brownie to show for my efforts. I didn't see a single olive all day and very few signs of life, but even so I was a little surprised not to nobble a couple of grayling in what - river height apart - felt like ideal conditions.

I suppose that's the Eamont for you. Although this beat was new to me, I have fished other parts of the river regularly and found her to be a cruel mistress at times: always enticing, sometimes rewarding....but often madly frustrating too. Overall my returns from this river have been frankly poor, but whether there is a part of me which just refuses to be beat I don't know, it's just that something keeps drawing me back. If I ever manage to crack the code of the Cumbrian Eamont, I will consider that I have at last reached competency as a fly fisherman.

A happy Christmas everyone who has visited NCA this year and many thanks for your encouraging comments. Best wishes for 2009!


Bloody cold on the Eden this morning...........

.......but I'm not afraid! Give me some neoprenes and a daft hat and I'm ready to rumble!

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