What a difference a week makes! I hadn't really noticed before, but returning to these shores after after a week abroad, the countryside looked decidedly tired to me - a sign that summer is past its prime. I recalled a passage from the diaries of Laurence Catlow:
I am perhaps prone to run ahead of the season, but I felt today that it was already late summer. I felt it from the rank and yellow and seed-laden grasses, from the pastures made spiky by sprouting thistles, from roadside banks tufted with untidy ragwort, from verges tall and pink with swaying willow herb and white with twining convolvulus. And the song of a wren rang through the heavy air like a defiant anachronism."
Summer must inevitably pass and I have to confess to a particular soft spot for the quiet autumn months of chill air and turning leaves. I was saddened though, driving home from the airport, to see that the light has gone by half nine and those seemingly endless summer nights spent wandering the banks of the river, are all but ended for another year.
Melancholy stalked me still the following evening when I drove up to Brougham to carry out the month's invertebrate monitoring. I rushed through the 5 sampling sites, eager to put the rod up and get fishing before darkness fell, and although I did manage a couple of hours amongst tentatively rising trout and grayling, it was a strangely joyless activity; I never felt comfortable or in control of my actions and a good half of the fish I cast to treated my advances with utter scorn. In half darkness I came upon a rising grayling in the midst of a long glide on the lower Eamont. I got a good look at her as she nudged through the surface film every minute or two and judging by the distance between her dainty dorsal fin and the tip of her sharply forked tail, this was no ordinary grayling but a really big old girl of 3lb plus. So here was a chance to redeem myself for a poor showing earlier on. The lie looked straightforward enough, the food source appeared to be of a sedgey description. I set to work with a low lying caddis pattern on the end of a 16 foot leader (deep lying grayling require a substantial 'lead in' of the dry fly; the longer leader is a must to prevent the tip of the fly line coming into the window of vision), and was confident of success.
First drift past....nothing; second drift.....she rose to a natural after my imitation had sailed past; third time lucky? Well no actually. The fish inhaled my fly, I lifted crisply and felt a microsecond of resistance before the grayling of a lifetime disappeared in an angry boil of water not to be seen again. I've had my share of big fish this season I admit, but this failure really stuck in my craw - a truly palm-sweatingly big grayling the likes of which I shan't see again for some time.
I never was much use with the ladies.