Sunday, May 01, 2011
Season blown off course
Bloody weather. In keeping with the trend of the last three or four years, this spring is turning out to be exceptionally dry around these parts. Up until recently, the only saving grace was that the now customary high pressure block and resultant easterly air streams had ceded to hazy skies and nice humid south westerlies. However, that situation changed a couple of days ago and we are now lumbered with bright sunshine and strong winds off the North Sea. Crap for fishing basically.
I write having just been blown off Malham Tarn following a difficult morning which wasn't completely disastrous, but was certainly a battle against the elements. Winds strengthening to over 20mph resulted in quickly discharged batteries and some frantic rowing to keep the boat off the battered windward shore. Success is relative I suppose...and on this occasion it could be gauged by the fact we actually managed to get back into the boathouse unscathed.
Yesterday was a more civilised affair. Bob and I headed north to conduct our Eden system invertebrate monitoring for April. Three sites on the Eamont and two on the parent river were sampled and invert abundance was found to be at an acceptable level and broadly consistent across all sites. The above photo shows Bob having a go with the kick sampling kit, and the two below show a couple of the more striking inhabitants we found.
Stoneclinger nymph (ecdyonurus sp.)
Large stonefly nymph (perla sp.)
With the sampling complete, we did get a few casts in later on. Conditions are far from ideal at the moment; as well as the aforementioned weather, the river is extremely low and crystal clear and fish must be approached with utmost caution. The strong downstream wind was likely to make fly fishing impossible in all but a couple of the most sheltered spots and it was to these we headed in the knowledge that at this time of year, there is always a corner in even the most challenging conditions, where a fish or two can be found rising. And sure enough we found them. Bob and I each had a particular spot in mind where past experience has told us that in these circumstances, we might find feeding fish on station. It was reassuring to both be proved correct. A large number of hawthorn flies were in evidence in the lee of the blossoming bushes and plenty of these were being blown onto the water; in text book fashion a handful of fish were feasting on the awkward black flies and if we could approach close enough to present a dry fly with something like accuracy into - or more likely across (the best bet seem to be to cast from fairly square to the fish) - the downstream wind, then the chances of a take would be good.
We had mixed results. In the slower, most sheltered water, a mere false cast and the dimpling fish melted away. However, a shallow lie in a slightly more exposed spot offered more leeway as my hands and knees approach was partly obscured by the ruffled water's surface. A trout feeding in little more than 18" of water took the dry first time past and exploded into action, giving me the run around for a few minutes before being netted and returned - a fine Eden wildie of 2lb 4oz.
Soon after, a similarly sized, but out of season grayling (1lb 15oz) succumbed after a fairly prolonged effort on my part. If I'd known it was a grayling, I would have left well alone obviously; nevertheless, I was pleased to have fooled a couple of nice fish in pretty tough conditions....and on a low-riding hawthorn pattern which I devised a couple of years ago but up until now, hadn't had the chance to test.
And that was pretty much that - a snatched couple of hours at the end of a day spent kicking cobbles around and sifting through invertebrate samples like a pair of school kids - in all, a cracking day out in the Eden Valley.
Bob crawls into position to target a fish feeding in shallow water.