Saturday, July 04, 2009
Some thoughts on fishing with friends - dry fly delight on the Eden - uncharactaristic insect activity - summer darkness.
If my life were made up of nights like these, then I could die now a happy man. I was accompanied by two friends tonight - Steven Dawson and Terry Cousin – Eden regulars both and always a pleasure to fish with. The fact that we were treated to an evening of breathtaking beauty along with some quality dry fly sport, only added to the experience.
In the main, I consider myself a solitary angler. Indeed I would venture that fly fishing is pretty much a solitary sport. I love the freedom it offers - just the angler, a rod, some flies and a few other odds and sods. I love the places it takes me, and the peace and solitude it affords. If you speak to fellow fly fishers about their motives for taking up the sport, they will more often than not refer to the hectic rat-run of modern living and the fact that to be alone in the middle of a river, or by a lake for a few hours, offers blessed relief and a chance to truly unwind. I am no different, and the majority of my fishing time is spent alone, at the end of the working week, safe in the knowledge that when I am good and ready to return to civilisation, my family will be waiting for me.
Having said that, there is something special about fishing with friends. The dynamic is different for sure - more time spent chatting and less actually fishing, a bit of gentle mick-taking, and a tendency to forget about catching fish yourself to ensure your guest does. The pace is slower, more relaxed, and less water gets covered. But the opportunity to fish with - and learn off - other anglers is one that should not be passed up, and I look forward to such occasions immensely. I consider myself lucky to be able to count a handful of excellent anglers as friends and days out with them - and of course, my old man - are the ones which I remember most fondly.
The Eden showed us her best side tonight. With the preceding week having been unbearably hot and humid, this morning saw a distinct change to fresher conditions. Heavy rain through the early part of the afternoon awoke brief fears that we might be confronted by a brown and rising river. But we needn't have worried; the bone dry ground had soaked up the downpour and when we arrived at 6pm, the river was low, clean and foam-flecked - as it had been the week before. There was a marked difference in the atmosphere though; whilst remaining warm, there was a renewed vigour in the air, a moist freshness which promised much. The rutted track down to the river held pools of water in its potholes and bankside vegetation was crowded with insect life.
Despite this, we started quite slowly. Terry and Steven set to with the dry fly, while I went in behind them with a duo set-up. A few fish were rising, but without any rhythm or conviction, so perhaps unsurprisingly it was my little weighted olive nymph which brought the first fish to hand - a nice brownie of just over 1lb which took in fast-ish water towards the head of the first pool. However it was not long after, that Steven's bw-o dun began to attract attention and it soon became apparent that some top of the water sport was very much on the cards. A 12" fish was followed by an angry looking cock trout of 1lb 9oz, and another slightly smaller fish.
Terry got in on the action too; what looked like a heavy fish was lost when the hooked pulled free......but a nice 10 incher and one of around the pound went some way to compensation.
In contrast to my previous two visits, the blue-winged olive duns were conspicuous by their absence. A few female spinners bode well for later sport, but the evening was dominated by a rather unusual spread of insect species: black and brown silverhorns were out in numbers, dancing below the willow branches, but most notable was the number of May dun and upright spinners over the water. I have rarely seen significant numbers of spinners of either of these large species, but tonight there were many and the number of offers I received increased notably when I swapped the dun olive klink I was using for a similar job in yellow.
In addition to the above was a surprising number of ecdyonurus insignis - the large green dun. Last week I saw maybe three mating pairs - my first ever sighting on the Eden - but tonight there were dozens of these handsome flies, much to the delight of one man entomological encyclopaedia, Terry!
Generally though, if an imitation was accurately presented over a rising trout, a take usually followed and Steven went on to return a good number of fighting fit trout, right on into darkness when a spent spinner pattern accounted for a couple of particularly nice fish. I even managed to get in on the act myself. After fluffing three or four good offers, I finally connected with the decent fish below - further evidence of the quality of these wild Eden trout.
Most important though, was the fact that my two guests had both caught some nice fish and that we had all had a thoroughly entertaining evening. Walking through the fields back to the car, I couldn't have been a happier man. Midsummer darkness has a special quality: a moon shrouded in thin cloud, the call of the tawny owl, barely perceptible wing beat of bats and the sweet scent of cut grass. I spend all winter day-dreaming about nights like these and I hope that when I grow too old to fish, I can still recall such occasions as vividly as now.