It was only gut feeling that compelled me to make the after work drive at all; although I'd put the rods in the car just in case, I didn't really have any intention of fishing last night. The usual obsessive fisherman's scrutiny of the weather and gauge data told a pretty uninspiring story - brisk winds backing from north westerly, falling air pressure, temperatures struggling to reach double figures, and a river running higher than would be preferred after a minor spate only 12 hours earlier (and therefore likely to be running a bit of colour).
It was the latter which caused me most concern. The weather might not be pleasant, but I've had good sport on chilly evenings at this time of year before. I knew the river would, at a foot above normal summer level, be fishable, just.......but I was certain I would be 24 hours too early from the point of view of water colour, that the river would not yet have lost its turbidity, would still be in the very early stages of the gradual transition to peat stained, but clearing water. Such margins are fine, I know. I didn't fancy it. I was on my way home.
But another basic fly fishing principle compelled me to follow my instinct and point the car north - the one that states 'little is learned from from fishing only in perfect conditions; much can be learned in the face of adversity'.....or something like that. I had a change of heart and put my foot down.
Nevertheless, when I rolled up to the banks of the Eden an hour later, I was disappointed. The river was very coloured with visibility at less than 12". I was all set to bugger off back home (or at least potter over to Haweswater for a few casts) when I noticed a cluster of blue-winged olives riding the roily currents downstream. A little later, following a few minutes' concentrated scanning of the water, I noticed a fish rise tight in against the far bank - time to get those waders on!
What followed over the next three hours was wonderful and will live long in my memory. Put briefly, there was a heavy and prolonged hatch of b-wo duns (with a few pale wateries). The cold air meant that once emerged, they remained nailed hard to the surface for some time, waiting for their newly unfurled wings to dry. With thousands of olives on the water - and staying there - the trout responded appropriately and during the calmer spells when the wind died back, it seemed like every fish in the river was up and on the fin. I picked off fish, after fish, after fish; all - bar a brace of twelve inchers - pound plus trout. Three weighed over 2lbs, and the biggest, incredibly, over 4lb. It was remarkable stuff and a vivid demonstration of how a river's potential can be displayed when a complex set of variables converge. Conditions were far from perfect....yet they were totally perfect. How powerful a reminder that the angler should 'listen to the river' and not become shackled by preconceptions!
I've posted a few photos below. I don't normally go for more than a couple of meaningless fish pictures, but on this occasion I'm afraid there is nothing else to show. For once, I was too busy to be taking lots of photographs.