Something approaching normal spring conditions greeted me on the Eden yesterday. Although the river had risen with a couple of inches of chilly snow melt, the air was mild and still and chaffinches were singing in the bankside trees. For the first time this year, it was a real pleasure to be fishing.
The day passed off without much of real note. After an hour's fruitless searching with nymphs, I noticed the first LDO (and later on March brown) duns begin to cluster on the current seams, and shortly after an odd trout starting to rise. I made the switch to tapered leader and dry fly and enjoyed a couple of hours of steady sport with fish averaging around the pound. It wasn't exactly hectic, but there were definite signs of a river coming back to life.
However, there were also signs of a threat to this river's equilibrium. We anglers are only too aware of the damage that can be done by cormorants. I'll be honest and say that I've never seen more than an odd one or two at any one time, but I hear all the time of huge roosts of them lower down our rivers - counts of 40-50 birds in fish-plundering pockets. Who can say what damage that sort of population can do?
I saw first hand evidence of this yesterday, and it was shocking. Two of the trout I caught - both fish over the pound mark - exhibited signs of cormorant damage. One of these in particular had taken a right old mauling and had open splits in the skin on both of its flanks. If these birds are capable of tackling 14 inch trout, then the impact they have on the smaller fish population must be massive. It's all a bit depressing.
There was one moment of karma though: later on I took a walk along one of our beats further upstream and found the rotting carcass of one of the big birds washed up in the branches of a bankside willow. How it met its end was impossible to ascertain, but the important thing was that the stinking, slimy great thing was dead and staying dead. A small victory in a battle we anglers look destined to lose.
One of the culprits?