Saturday, May 04, 2013
A retrograde step.
Last weekend saw yet another interruption to the forward progression of spring when the winds again turned north easterly and a peppering of snow on the high Pennines heralded a return to winter grayling type conditions on our local rivers. Another month of this rubbish and we will be able to sum the preceding year's weather thus:
"It pissed down all summer, turned straight to winter, and then went completely to ratshit "
It's Godawful stuff and the whole north of England fly fishing fraternity is bloody sick of it. Keeping up with mates via email, text, twitter etc reveals a sorry tale in the making: Annan, Aire, Eden, Wharfe, you name it - the same frustrations vented as my fellow anglers brave the elements to pick off what little sport can be had with fish which seem to have hardly come out of hibernation mode. When will it all end?
I had the pleasure of guests last weekend. The fishing may have been more erratic than bambi on tranquilisers, but there was the consolation of good company at least. Paul and Dave had spent the Saturday on the AAA day ticket water at Bolton Willows whilst I scratted around our club water trying desperately to locate potential targets for the following day when we would meet up and fish together. This reconnaissance mission proved pretty pointless as I learned nothing which I didn't already know (ie that the going would be very tough), whilst avoiding the blank myself courtesy only of a suicidal 12 incher late in the day.
Meanwhile Dave and Paul had struggled on a completely dead Bolton Willows; a tough introduction to the delights of the Eden Valley.
Sunday may have offered a slight improvement in conditions, but little more in the way of sport. We nymphed some pools up to lunchtime and then staked out a couple of likely spots, on the lookout for rising trout. This proved only partially successful: I did manage to find one feeding fish during a brief flurry of dark olives, which afforded Dave his chance to cast to a big Eden brownie. For someone with very little flyfishing experience indeed, he did a sterling job and managed to rise, hook and land this corking trout of just over 2lb in weight. Well done that man!
Otherwise, chances were at a premium. Insect activity was restricted to occasional dribbles of olives, a few midge, and a single adult grannom (first one I have seen this year). As the afternoon wore on there was a tangible sense that we just were not going to see any proper sport, that the residents were not yet prepared to move onto spring feeding lies. As if to squeeze a little value out of the day, we spent a couple of hours searching late on, and it is to Paul's great credit that he managed to extract a couple of trout and two spanking - although out of season - grayling, thereby rescuing some return from an otherwise dour day. Dave even managed to drop a very large fish whilst upstream nymphing a likely spot, which may have gone some way to increasing his confidence in a method he was previously unfamiliar with. A small victory maybe, but on a day like this sometimes small victories are enough!
Paul into a fish....
Later in the week I met with Rob Denson, Stu Llewellyn and Phil Price for our now traditional opening day meet on Malham Tarn. Except this year we eschewed the delights of that particular water in favour of easier pickings on nearby Stocks Reservoir, for reasons I won't bore you with here.
In marked contrast to my most recent Eden trip, the sport was hectic and not altogether testing, although I did my best to make it so by fishing like a complete plonker. Such days come to us all I guess.....but I really did have a personal nightmare afloat on the northern shallows and with hindsight I was probably lucky not to have been cast overboard by Phil on account of my near constant moaning, cussing and generally childish behaviour!
With recent returns on the reservoir being excellent and the day's conditions looking good, we motored north in absolute certainty that we would catch - the only question was how many. Well two hours into the session, the answer from the Eastham-Price boat was 'not fecking many'....none in fact. I'm still not sure where we were going wrong, but a couple of hundred yards away, Rob and Stu were already into double figures.
I'm not a competitive angler by nature, but that sort of thing can lead to envy and frustration; and whilst Phil and I quietly stewed and talked of the other two using maggots and stinkbait, my normally organised boat fishing approach went completely to crap. I got my team of three wrapped around the prop, re-built my leader only to snarl it irretrievably around my rod tip on the very next cast....then spent the entire next drift re-building again....only to tangle once more. Then I got the point fly stuck in one of the drogue ropes on a sloppy back cast......... you get the idea; I was about ready to break my rods and start a John Cleese-esque kicking the boat routine.
Fortunately, we (well I - Phil was quietly getting on with things with no drama), eventually got our act together and started finding fish. And when we did, the action came thick and fast. The rainbows seemed to be herded together in the northern shallows and along the bank up to the causeway and drift after drift brought fish to the net. I continued to fish like a pillock, but somehow managed to keep catching. I finished on 17 for the day and Phil's 13 made the boat tally up to an ostensibly respectable 30.
However, to introduce some perspective to things, Rob and Stu finished on 24 and 30 fish respectively - in my view, a truer realisation of the potential we sensed at the start of the day. Well done lads, that was good fishing!
As I write a week later, the weather does seem to have taken a turn for the better. Temperatures are creeping into double figures and the sun is occasionally showing itself. On a normal year, I would be turning my thoughts to the start of evening fishing on our rivers, but at the moment that still seems like a distant glimmer of light. At what point will this horribly late spring catch up and we reach a point of 'equilibrium restored' I wonder?