You know when you just get the feeling that the river is going to be alive with feeding fish? Driving over the moors from Tebay toward Appleby on Friday afternoon, the air temperature was 22c and a muggy overcast was building from the west, taking the edge off what had been a starkly bright day. My car windscreen was peppered with the corpses of a thousand dead insects and there was a palpable feeling that the year's first spell of warm weather had stimulated mother nature into urgent action.
Sure enough, as I wandered off downstream with my #4 SLT rigged up with 13' tapered leader, I quickly registered signs of feeding fish. What was interesting them was unclear: with an abundance of black gnats, midge, hawthorn flies and a few olive uprights in evidence, there was every chance that the fish would not be too selective. I hedged my bets and stuck on a #14 olive klink.
Early efforts were less than successful. I'd love to tell you that I expertly moved from fish to fish, picking each one off with military precision, but the honest truth is that I got a bit excited at the sight of a river so obviously bristling with life and promise and proceeded to fish in a messy and uncontrolled manner, putting my first half dozen targets down amidst a rash of bad casting, poor leader management and abysmally unstealthy wading. The fish may well have been looking for trouble, but a low, clear river is still a low, clear river and it quickly became apparent that I needed to pull myself together if a golden opportunity was not to be unforgivably wasted.
On reflection, some part of my poor initial performance was I think, down to the fact that I was too eager to get into the fish and mindful of the clock ticking down - as always when fishing into the evening - I rushed things and failed to assess the approach and tactics for each individual target fish. Luckily I realised this fairly early on and managed to slow things down and start using the grey matter a bit.......
Rewards were soon forthcoming and to cut a long story short, I finished up with lots of trout in the net and a far greater feeling of satisfaction than the first hour of the session had predicted. What really made the evening special though, was the number of large fish that saw fit to eat my klinkhamer. I tend to view any river trout over a pound in weight (approx 13.5") as being a decent fish, and anything over 2lb goes down in my book as a big 'un; and although I reckon to be a fairly good estimator of weight, I'll tend to get the spring balance out and weigh in the net any fish I suspect of being near the 2lb mark. My largest fish on this particular evening went 1lb 12oz, 1lb 14oz, 2lb, 2lb 10oz and 2lb 12oz; 5 wild Eden trout for combined weight of 11lb - that's good quality river fishing whichever way you slice it.
I could wax lyrical about the joys of a summer evening on the river, the pastoral beauty of the Eden valley etc, but there will hopefully be plenty of opportunity for that over the coming weeks. One event worth mentioning though: I came upon a pair of otters in one pool, cavorting and whistling to each other as if I wasn't there at all. When they finally saw me and departed, I caught two trout from that same pool - they had started - or more likely recommenced - rising minutes after the otters had moved on. Once again I had cause to wonder at the richness and resilience of the Eden as a game fish river.