That's it then: the 2014 trout season has passed and I return to this blog a full two months after last posting - what a sad state of affairs! It's not been from a lack of trying, I can tell you - all sorts of other stuff has got in the way, such as fishing (hurrah!), and when I have had some keyboard time, a few bits of writing published elsewhere. I guess that makes me a little unfaithful to these pages, and yes I do feel bad. The great thing about keeping a blog is that you write purely for fun and on your own terms. Someone once said that if you haven't got anything interesting to say, don't say it; that's a maxim that the blogger can steadfastly live by - certainly I find myself more and more these days with just nothing interesting to say. Then one day you might be in the mood to have a waffle and off you go.....out comes a blog post. Whether anyone reads it or finds it interesting or worthwhile is a secondary consideration - the main thing is that you enjoyed doing it in the first place.
Commissioned writing is a different beast altogether. Take a subject you love and love to write about and it should be easy to knock an article out to order yes? Well no, not for me anyway; bung a deadline in front of something and it instantly becomes A Task. Over the last eight or so years, my motivation for writing has been purely internal and I've become accustomed to brief blasts at the keyboard when the mood takes - a stream of consciousness which either turns out acceptably, or gets consigned to the virtual trashcan, with no great drama either way. Recently however I've had to pore over every word, tie and then re-tie sample flies, self edit down to a more concise wordcount, process and re-size photos and then start again when I realised I hadn't removed a sensor speck from the top right hand corner....that sort of thing. Suddenly, what would have been a half hour exercise in freestyling, has absorbed hours of your already busy life! Yes, my poor little blog has suffered. The least I can do is make amends with an obligatory end of season round-up.
Where to begin though? I've been uncommonly lucky this time around and done more than my fair share of fishing on waters both running and still. The Eden has been kind once more and after a period of averaging high numbers of sub-2lb fish per session, I at last managed to get my timing right and rock up when a few bigger fish were on the go. Visits from early August onwards threw up a few 3-4lb trout although I needed to fish well into darkness to find them feeding off the surface to blue-winged olive duns and emerging caddis.
I had a play with the G16's auto-timer in an attempt to get a few 'selfies'. There is some way to go before I can match the efforts of Paul Procter and Jeff Hatt admittedly!
Then later in the season I had a few trips out to my favourite wild stillwater where luckily a boat partner was generally on hand to obtain something like a decent photo:
Ironically though, after a season which has proved to be consistently productive, my most memorable outing of the back end was an occasion when I fell flat on my be-wadered arse and failed miserably to catch much more than a handful of skezwees. It was a day when I was required to catch to order - the first time in my life such a bizarre circumstance has arisen. I had my photographer friend Peter with me and the brief was simple - catch a couple of good fish for some action shots and a couple of nice shallow-depth-of-field trout portraits. So I took him to my 'banker stretch', a bit of river that I know well, where I am always confident of catching plenty of decent trout. It might not be the place to go for the very biggest fish, but I was pretty sure I could extract at least one 2lb-er for the camera. The day was fine, the river refreshed slightly by an all too rare thunderstorm a couple of days earlier, and with each pool hereabouts typically producing at least a brace of decent fish all summer, all I had to do was turn up and fish right? Nope, 'fraid not.
By the time I had fished through three pools with only a couple of parr to show, I was becoming concerned. I mucked about with my nymph patterns and plugged away, safe in the knowledge that the fish hadn't gone anywhere and that I would connect eventually.......except I never did. Just as writing for oneself comes easily at times, but a whole lot harder when working to a brief, so the angling side had proved to be uncompromising when all I bloody well needed needed was one decent (and by decent, I would have settled for pound class), fish.....trout, grayling or bugger it, even a chub! I could sense Peter's resolve draining by the minute; the increasingly bright conditions making even the routine capturing of 'fishless angler going through the motions' shots, a far from straightforward affair. Eventually I returned a couple of 8 inch grayling and then dropped a somewhat better fish down the side of a pool head rapid. It was, truth be told, some way off being a satisfactory performance. Yet it was truly a memorable outing.......mainly because I haven't been allowed to forget it!
The last roll of the dice came a few weeks later when I met up with my good friend Dave Smith for a day on the Eden, in glorious late September weather of warm air and soft sunlight. Fishing with Dave is always an absolute pleasure: a relaxing, contemplative occasion where fish tend to come as a happy byproduct rather than the result of any concerted effort. We chewed the fat, made plans for next season, fished dry in the pool tails (Dave), fished wet in the pool heads (me), relaxed with a picnic of some quality and bottles of pale ale, then resumed fishing into the autumnal gloaming with spirits high for the moment, but hearts heavy at the passing of another season.
No big trout showed themselves that evening, but the hours that preceded had yielded a good many fish with Dave expertly picking off risers (and non-risers) to small black patterns, and yours truly occasionally chipping in with small Leon-style nymphs in the very thinnest of the drought-shrunken riffles.The river is in rude health and Dave returned a good number of fish of this calibre, which bodes well for the coming couple of seasons.
Plenty of grayling continued to show too, which is encouraging as they seem to have been a little scarce on the Eden of late. Dozens of 8-10 inch fish tell a story of successful spawning in spring 2013 and as the season closed it seemed that every pool held a pocket of them. If we get a proper hard winter this time and they are encouraged to shoal, it might herald a return to those days when eventual location could lead to a return of 20 or more or more fish without moving your feet.
I have heard complaints this year. I can understand why: those who prefer to fish dry fly have had a hard time of it through no fault of their own. What is indisputable though, is that the head of fish is there - one or two fellow anglers I know have enjoyed something approaching their best ever season on the river. Local expert Geoff Johnston's latest blog post pretty much sums things up for me - it feels like the end of the season has come too soon!
Dave continued to fish with trademark elegance into the last knockings while I pootled about with my camera. Never one to pass up the opportunity for a cliche, I stood mid-river and took a series of shots of the sun dipping slowly behind the bankside trees, drawing the curtain on another trout season. What a privilege to have fished in the places I have fished, with the people I have fished with!