Despite comparative success on the Ribble yesterday, I wasn't overly hopeful of sport today. An hour north on the M6 and the Eden valley is lagging just that touch further behind in the spring stakes than my local patch, and with recent reports suggesting sport had been exceptionally slow thereabouts, I set my sights low and concentrated upon avoiding a blank if at all possible.
As it turned out, I dropped a bit lucky. But thinking about it, isn't that what fishing in early spring so often entails? As I walked back to the car having had an absorbing couple of hours amongst good sized rising trout, I asked myself what I had done right to allow it to happen, and the bare fact of the matter is that I showed up at the right place at about the right time. The rest was pretty easy.
Arriving at the river around 11am, early going was predictably slow. I walked the entire 2 miles of the beat just to have a nosey around and keep warm as much as anything, and identified a couple of spots where high banks and tree cover seemed to be keeping the worst of the easterly breeze at bay. After popping back to the car to collect my lunch, I returned to the tail of a likely pool and sat back watching as I dined. At 12:50pm, the first pair of duns drifted past....and by the time the fifth or sixth had followed, a fish rose a few yards upstream. Then all went quiet for quarter of an hour, before another pulse of olives....which gradually increased into a steady trickle. By this time, the aforementioned fish was nebbing about three times a minute, accompanied by a mate which had joined it a few feet to one side. Although I couldn't get a positive identification on either, their rise forms suggested grayling. I've been fooled by that before though, so I covered the nearest fish and sure enough, a big hen grayling came to the net after a dour fight. I left her mate well alone and moved on.
At this stage things were looking a bit dicey. My backup pool was a way off upstream and to be honest, I've never had a great deal of success there at this time of year. I was heading in that direction and wondering to myself if an out of season grayling counts as blank avoidance, when I decided to pop in to take a look at a little dub which has occasionally presented me with a shot at a big trout in the past. I didn't honestly expect to find a rising fish there, but bugger me if I didn't pop my head around a trailing willow to find not one but five fish hard on the feed! A steady conveyor belt of duns were wheeling in off the adjacent fast water; sitting ducks held captive on the slower moving eddies by the frigid air above - the very air of their salvation turned executioner by proxy, as the five hungry trout took their fill.
I took a minute to bless the Trout God, and then tied on a #14 olive jingler, before setting to work. What followed was as much as I could ever have wished for on a day like today. Although I rose and missed the first fish - and luckily appeared not to have spooked its colleagues in doing so - I went on the land the remaining four. There was nothing particularly skilled or subtle about it: dropping the jingler somewhere near the quartering fish inevitably elicited the required response. All that remained was to hook and guide the fish away from the others as quietly as possible. They were decent trout, perhaps not yet in the best of condition, but a pleasure to catch nonetheless. Three of them were over 2lb, with the biggest pair going 2lb 7oz and 2lb 9oz....and if I hadn't acted on a hunch and popped in to look at that little pool, I would have walked straight past without even knowing they were there. Like I said, dropping lucky.
2lb 7oz. A blunt headed hen fish which led me a right merry dance when it got into a chute of fast water off the main pool.
The old 'camera self timer' trick eh! Best fish of the day at 2lb 9oz. Again, a bit slack in the belly - possibly a 3lb-er later in the year.
Finally, for the record if anyone is interested: air temperature reached 8C max and water temperature crept up to 5.3C in the afternoon - that's 42F and a couple of degrees warmer than friends have recorded on the Eden over the last couple of weeks. I wonder the increase contributed to the isolated activity I saw?