Saturday, July 03, 2010
River Eden: Spinner plague - dawn raid - mist and nymphs
Just back from a two week family break near Penrith. The first part of the holiday was spent in the kiddie-friendly environment of the Whinfell Centerparcs complex and the second week nearby in Blencarn; and although fishing was far from my mind when we booked the cottage, with the middle Eden being only minutes away, I packed a rod just in case!
As it happened, I did manage to get out but reserved my getaway for the early hours of a suitable morning so that, by returning for breakfast, my angling antics would have minimal impact upon the rest of the family.
That's how I found myself bleary eyed at 3:30am setting up a rod by torch light next to the open boot of my car in a field full of sleeping cattle. I've always enjoyed being up with the dawn chorus but have to admit that recent years have seen me sneaking off in the early morning less and less. Must be getting old.
Rewind 7 hours and you would have seen me walking the banks of the same river with my daughter. It seems our little holiday had disturbed her sleep patterns to the extent where she was becoming borderline nocturnal; whereas usually she would be tucked up in bed safe and sound by 7pm, frequent daytime naps had rendered her wide awake and looking for trouble at the most inconvenient time! So in balmy evening sunlight I took her for a drive to try to tire her out a bit (unsuccessfully as it turned out: at 8:30pm she was singing and clapping her hands to the slowest Kate Rusby lullaby I could find!)
One thing became apparent as I visited our various beats of the Eden that night - the blue-winged olive spinners were up in huge numbers. Near Eden Lacy, huge clouds of them hung in the lengthening shadows beneath trees and swarms were moving over the water, gradually upstream. Nothing was rising - yet - but I was reminded of Stuart Crofts' words - in an hour or two, that lot'll be on't watter!
More amazing was yet to come. As I drove the lane between Edenhall and Great Salkeld - which runs roughly parallel to, but a couple of hundred yards from the river - massive numbers of the olives were congregating above the road. It was incredible! My windscreen was getting plastered by a plague of seratella and looking into the sun revealed literally hundreds of thousands of them over the adjacent fields, highlighted as tiny specks of fire in the dwindling light.
I'll never know for sure, but I assume the trout had a grand feast that evening and the prospect of attempting the following morning for catch fish which would likely be resting with heavy bellies, almost tempted me to re-schedule for a later date. But opportunities were limited and in any case, I have more than once come to the river at dawn to find fish hoovering up the previous evening's crippled spinners in the back eddies and slacks. So off to the river I went......
It's pure speculation of course, but it seems my theory may have been correct. I didn't see a rising fish between 3:30 and 6:30 the morning after. In truth I wasn't really expecting to - I went to the river armed with a brace of nymphs and had a thoroughly enjoyable time extracting trout from the swifter flowing runs. Nothing bigger than 1lb came to hand but there were plenty of fish willing to have a look at my brace (a #18 PTN in front of a #14 black nymph) and it made for an entertaining few hours all the same. And you just can't beat fishing a river as the sun rises. As the night time mist gradually lifted from the water's surface, the only sounds to accompany me were the chuckling of the water and the noisy 'churr-ing' of bankside sedge warbers.
Incidentally, we still haven't had any significant rainfall. the last six months have been the north of England's driest for 80 years. We really could use a good storm to flush the river systems out. The Eden appears to be holding up quite well, but the Ribble is choked with weed and even the Lune up at Sedbergh is showing algae on the rocks and a green tinge to the normally clear water.
The photos below show a) one of the culprits of Tuesday evening's spinner storm and b) an attempt to illustrate what I was saying about the clouds of insects above the road. The photo doesn't really do justice to the intensity of the hatch, but you get the idea....and if you extrapolate that scene to many hundreds of yards of river you can appreciate just what a spectacle it was (click on the photo to enlarge).