The weekend brought a flush of water and with it, the opportunity to open up and deploy some different techniques. The rise in levels may not have been spectacular, but the 150mm lift was enough to drag the river back up above normal summer level for the first time in weeks, introducing some life to the erstwhile paralysed riffles and runs.
Of course, the flip side to this situation was the relatively modest volume of water entering the system never really reached a sufficient level to properly scour the river clean, and when I arrived a few hours later I was greeted by a very fishable, but decidedly mucky proposition - a river running red with sediment in suspension. Furthermore the slightly more vigorous flow had dislodged all the accumulated weed and gunge of recent weeks, but lacking the momentum to wash it through, deposited it in huge swathes in back eddies. Wading through this stuff was unpleasant and something I'm not used to doing amidst the bright clean waters of the Eden system. A good spate is still very much required.
With no fish rising, I turned to sub surface methods and a much needed dusting down of my nymphing technique. It's been a long time since I set to searching the water column with anything like purpose, which I suppose is testament to the quality of dry fly fishing which the Eden offers. But it's probably also testament to the fact that increasingly these days I tend to eschew blind searching methods in favour of a whole bunch of hanging around, watching. Quite how this happened, I'm not sure. Just exactly when did I stop tear-arsing around plonking nymphs into every pocket of water available unless there was a full-on hatch with fish rising everywhere? Maybe I got lazy; perhaps it's the big fish bug which has well and truly bitten (although you wouldn't think it from my returns!). Whatever, I do love a spot of nymph or spider fishing and I forced myself to remember that fact as I confronted the reality of a turbid river and all its associated challenges.
I set to with a brace of nymphs pitched through on a short line and initial signs suggested that the going would be extremely slow. However, things took a turn for the better when I reached the neck end of the first pool and dropped a fish before landing a couple of 12-inchers. Buoyed by the contact made in brisk popply water, I headed off upstream, focusing my attentions on water of similar depth and flow. Thankfully this worked out quite nicely and a good number of fish came to the point fly of my brace - a black #14 nymph. The pink-tagged job above it failed to tempt a single trout, but it may well have played its part in the murk by alerting any would be takers a fraction of a second prior to the black job passing by. Either that or the bold outline of the tail fly made the difference in the lingy water. Whichever way, the action was brisk enough to persuade me no change was required to the dropper, and I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours engaging with the sub surface world once more.
As the afternoon wore on and I found at last a few rising fish on the flat water in the top photo of this post, it was again a dark coloured fly that did the damage. Half a dozen fish were quartering around hoovering up swamped black terrestrials from the surface film. On this occasion I was pleased to give a run out to a fly I tied a batch of back in February, with just this sort of scenario in mind. I won't bore you with the story now, but the background to it can be found here:
Basically, it is a tiny ball of ant-black seal fur dubbed onto a #20 or 22 hook and is based upon a seed sown in my mind by Penrith angler Terry Cousin. I had a feeling it would work for flats feeding brownies and so it proved - five of the six sipped it down confidently, including a pair of fish around the 1lb 4oz mark: not monsters, but the best fish of this particular session. I was delighted that the fly was a success, as much as anything because of the respect I have for its originator. I've named it Terry's Speck, and it will be getting a lot more tippet time from now on.
So, a few fish caught and although none were large, I suppose it was the best of a bad job all told. Eventually I turned my attention to matters entomological. Although I hadn't seen much hatching in any number, it was interesting to see that many different species were on the wing simultaneously. Indeed, it seemed likely that one of the reasons I'd picked up nymphing fish in the riffles, could be that a few Yellow May Duns and smaller olives were in evidence, popping up out of the faster water on a fairly regular basis. I wanted to know what the small olive species were so spent a few minutes swooping about with the insect net (a nifty pocket spring steel jobbie I picked up a few years ago from Watkins and Doncaster). What I found surprised me; rather than just Small Dark Olives being responsible as I assumed, it turned out that no fewer than four species of little olives were trickling off at the same time.
The Iron Blues (Baetis muticus), were fairly small in number and distinct on account of their dark colouration. Pale Watery (Baetis fuscatus) and Small Dark Olive (Baetis scambus) females are all but indistinguishable, but the males can be separated on account of eye colouration - lemon yellow in the former, orange in the latter. Both were present in roughly equal numbers. Small Spurwings may well have also factored although none of the ones I brought home displayed the characteristic spur-shaped hindwings.
Finally, a specimen I was only able to properly identify when I had taken a macro photograph of it at home later on: the Pale Evening Dun (Procloen bifidum). A complete absence of hindwings and lining through of forewing cross-veins, the telling factors in this species:
It just goes to show that what we sometimes assume with the naked eye, turns out to be quite different when proper examination is made. If you'd asked me at the time what those diminutive olives were, I'd have put them all under the umbrella of Small Dark Olive, when the reality was quite different. Not that this matters one jot to the angler of course.....but some of us weirdos just need to know these thing, alright?
I've included a couple more photos below - a common anglers' sheet anchor fly, followed by a much less abundant one, which I would have liked a better record of but which wouldn't sit still for me....and then flew into a spiderweb in the corner of the conservatory, receiving a lethal dose of venom in the process. What with arachnid victims and casualties of hypothermia, I'll be receiving a visit from the RSPCA at this rate!
Blue-Winged Olive (Serratella ignita)
Purple Dun (Paraleptophlebia cincta)