Sunday, April 01, 2012

Signs from above


Our rivers have dropped dead low. This last rainless week in particular seems to have had a terrible effect and when I visited the Eden a couple of days ago the inexorable drop to around 2 inches below normal summer level had transformed the river from being merely low and clear, to a sad shadow of its normal self; in dire need of a drink.

I had a tough time of it. In an attempt to find some lively water I headed downstream to below the Eamont confluence. But a nasty sickness bug a day or two prior had left me weak, dehydrated, and feeling like my insides had been scooped out with a wooden spoon. The act of dragging my sorry carcass against even this comparatively meagre flow was tortuous and I struggled like a man twice my age over the cobbles and pink sandstone boulders of the river bed.

The wind, at least, was favourable and I was able to fish one handed, rolling my flies out methodically on a short, effectively 'fixed' line, whilst leaning on my wading staff gratefully (an implement I very rarely use but which was called into action on this occasion). I have seen Eden stalwart Terry Cousin fish skillfully in such a manner on several occasions, and with no little grace for a man now well into his seventies. Alas, I fear I presented a very poor imitation!

Still, I managed a few fish although none were large. The trout seemed to be unusually skittish - for this time of year at least - in the low, spring-clear water, and I put down as many as I hooked. A couple were off as soon as my fly line wafted into the air and I soon realised that I would have to lengthen my approach - and leader - to more like late summer proportions if I were to meet with any success at all. Eventually, from some distance away, and with near enough 17' of tapered copolymer separating the fly from fly line, I rose a big trout.....and then knocked him off on the strike. That was a good fish which moved a hell of  a lot of water when he boiled off angrily. Never mind - I hope there will be plenty more like him as the season progresses.

Generally though, rising fish were few and far between and I struggled up through a couple more pools with a brace of nymphs for a few more pan sized trout. Sweating, shivering and feeling close to total exhaustion, I had a last few minutes at a favourite spot. The farmer was ploughing through an adjacent field and the attendant flock of gulls wheeled after him on the breeze, peppering me with guano as they went. Shat on from a great height, then. It had been that sort of a day.

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