Apparently there are sound meteorological reasons why at this time of year we tend to get a long spell of cold airstreams out of the north - east quadrant of the compass. I googled it. Something to do with clashes between the gulf stream, Scandinavian high pressure blocks and the 'Azores Effect', whatever that means. It may be difficult to comprehend - even for a weather nerd like me - but the net result is that instead of feeling like early summer as it should, the conditions are more akin to February and the joyless fishing that that particular month brings.
Certainly as the four of us gazed forlornly across the wind-whipped expanse of Malham Tarn on opening day Tuesday, I was instantly transported back to the same day last year when identical conditions forced me off the water by lunchtime, frantically rowing beam-on to the wind with flat batteries and a rather concerned looking father in the stern. I learnt a lesson that day and wasn't prepared to entertain for a second time, the possibility of smashing the boat up under the overhanging peat cliffs of Tarn Moss.
Plan B then: Rob and Stu mooched off down Airedale to fish the sylvan waters of Coniston Hall Lake. Phil and I opted for the shelter of the steep-banked upper Ribble near Gisburn. At least that's what we hoped would be the case; but things didn't quite work out the way we had expected and instead of providing a leafy, verdant oasis of calm, the deeply cut Ribble hereabouts ended up acting like a natural wind tunnel and we spent a few 'entertaining' hours battling upstream into the teeth of a strong and unforgivingly chilly nor'easter.
That's not to say we didn't catch a few fish. The river was actually in fine nick with a few inches of stained water running off and bouncing invitingly down the limestone ledges. The olives trickled off all afternoon - mainly medium olives with a few large darks mixed in - and the fish seem willing to have a go in the usual spots. But it wasn't particularly pleasant and I soon tired of horsing my flies into the breeze whilst trying to keep my footing on dangerously slippery rock shelves.
Both of us went for a brace of nymphs tactic. Pitching such a team into the deeper pots and ledge water which charactarise this stretch of river can be exciting stuff, and although the fish were of a low average size - and were not exactly queueing up to be caught - we enjoyed steady enough sport until we called it a day around 4pm. At that point the bankside air temperature had dropped to a mightly 4C and the effects of the previous night's pub stay in Giggleswick had begun to take their toll on me. I was ready for off....and ready for a spell of calm weather in which to whisper my dry fly towards a feeding fish.
We had returned maybe 15 fish between us - mostly trout up to 12oz, but with a couple of nice grayling putting in an appearance. We couldn't help but feel that if the atmospheric conditions had been even remotely favourable, we might have had a field day. But they weren't, and we didn't. The Azores Effect can bugger off as far as I'm concerned.
Phil in action.....
......and amongst the fish.