Arggghhhhh!!! Whatever aspirations I had to resume trouting in a timely fashion have been obliterated by winter weather which just refuses to bugger off. A high pressure block and associated cold easterlies continue to fend off the benevolent advances of the warmer gulf stream air - a situation made all the more galling by the fact that after last year's abysmal summer, I was more excited about the start of the season than I have been for some years.
A few hardy souls have braved the elements and made a start......but then again, few fish have been caught. Several very experienced anglers I know have made blank starts to their seasons; and if they have struggled, what hope for a thrasher like me? No, the rods remain stashed and my frustration steadily grows.
I did sneak a couple of hours right at the start of the month, back when the course of spring seemed to be following the expected trajectory, back before all this Barely Above Freezing nonsense occurred. I happily checked off all the usual signs: the song of the chaffinch, blackbirds ducking in and out of hedgerows, and the unfurling leaves of celandines in the hedge bottoms. All appeared in order as I walked the banks of the River Ribble, although a strong easterly was making its presence felt, even then. Only when I found a wooded corner of the river where the surface remained unruffled by the wind, did I find any signs of life. There along a small pool, olives were hatching; and not just a sparse trickle but a good steady procession.
Two grayling were rising to them periodically and I gratefully extended a first line of the year over the rearmost of them. The fish played its part and sipped down the artificial, and I made sure the start was an inauspicious one by knocking it off on the strike. That in turn sent the upstream fish down and signalled an end to proceedings. Well done that man.
All that remained was to collect a couple of the large dark olive duns (male and female), kick starting my long term project to photographically catalogue the northern species of Ephemeroptera. More on that another time perhaps, but in the meantime, a by-product of my attempts to arrive at some sort of standardised photo set up for the specimens, threw up one or two more unconventional images. I thought the one below might be interesting to show - a head-on view of the business end of Baetis rhodani. I like it because it illustrates so well the large bulbous eyes of the male insect - a feature common to all upwing chaps, and one which I believe evolved as a response to their tendency to congregate beneath the swarming female spinners at mating time. Not surprising perhaps - I know the 'bottom view' has always made my eyes widen!
Baetis rhodani (male sub imago)