Saturday, April 27, 2013

In the lakes

It seems that the Jet stream has moved north over the last few weeks, relieving us of the very cold snap we had through March. Apparently, from what I've read, it's sitting right on top of us now and is responsible for the south-westerly winds and the milder, damper weather we have at the moment. I know I won't be popular with some, but I can live with that for now. It's providing near perfect (maybe a touch too windy at times) weather for us fishermen of the northern lakes.
Sunshine and flat calms are cursed by the brown trout fishers of the Lakes District. During these early months - the prime time on most of our lakes - we pray for cloud and wind. The last week has provided both and I've tried to take advantage, with a few outings since last Sunday.

What our lake trout lack in size they certainly make up for in beauty, with most sporting buttery yellow hues and big black spots. Irrespective of what some may claim, the fly-fisher rarely gets big fish on our lakes, although the average size has gone up over the years and 12" - 14" (31-36cm) fish usually make up the bulk of an average catch. Years ago they used to always say our lake fish were small, but plentiful, with 3 or 4 fish to the pound quite common.
I've often thought that our lakes are an untapped resource as far as fishing goes. We have so much choice in this area that most of us (well at least I do) give up to concentrate on our rivers once stratification takes place and the lake fishing slows. The only year that I've fished through the slow months of July and August was the year of Foot and Mouth, when we were forced off the rivers. The fishing was slow, but I did get sport if I chose the right conditions - cloudy with a ripple.
I'm sure that if we took a leaf from the book of the lough fishers of Ireland and worked at it a bit more, then we would come up with methods to fish our lakes all season - although, unfortunately, I don't think our lakes are in the same class as Corrib and the likes for producing the numbers of sizeable fish that they do.... but you never know. I have heard of trout close to double figures taken on bait and lures by pike fisherman on lakes like Bassenthwaite, Derwentwater, Windermere and Thirlmere.

Paul had his first taste of fishing the lakes this week. It was a day of firsts for him - first time on Ullswater, first time fishing from a boat and first go at fishing a team of flies - he did very well, considering.
Conditions were near perfect for him, albeit a touch windy, there were white horses rolling down the centre of the lake, but sticking to the calmer more sheltered bays did provide some sport.

Paul had conceded that he was a dry fly fisherman and never fished more than one fly. The dry fly does produce on the lake, but not at this time and in these conditions, so we set up with a three fly leader and left the middle dropper blank (two well spaced flies were sufficient for now) . After a brief chat about safety, tactics etc. we were on the water and heading for an area of deeper non-productive water for a practice run - a chance for Paul to try his hand at traditional loch style, long-line techniques and retrieval rates. The conditions meant that access to potential fish holding areas was restricted, and they were not to be wasted on practice runs.
Paul coped admirably with the conditions and his introduction to new techniques, so we were soon fishing and it wasn't long before he was into his first fish of the day. He soon progressed to a three-fly rig and managed another couple of fish, dropped a few and had quite a few offers.

Well done Paul, I hope you enjoyed your first go at our northern lakes....

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Twelve days ago, I saw my first March Brown hatch of the season. It was more of a trickle than a hatch and the fish weren't showing any interest. By the middle of last week they were hatching in good numbers; numbers that I hadn't seen for years and the fish were on to them. 

My midweek visit didn't start until lunchtime, there was no point, if there was going to be a hatch it would be early afternoon. I could have started earlier, I'm sure that there'd have been enough pre-hatch activity below the surface to justify a search with the nymph. But I decided to wait for the hatch, and hopefully, a few rising fish.
Large Dark Olives were the first to make an appearance and the CDC Olive Dun scored well - the one below is a touch ragged, but it was the only one I had left and it's been chewed by a few trout !
Next to show were the March Browns , they were popping up all over the place and the fish turned on to them. In my rush to get my 'string pulled', I made the mistake of assuming that the fish were on the duns - but they weren't - they wouldn't look at my imitation. I stopped and watched, which is what I should have done initially. 
It's not that easy to distinguish between fish taking the surface fly and the emerger just by looking at rise-forms, as both stages can often produce similar rise-forms. In this case, after a short spell of careful observation, it was obvious that nothing was being taken from the surface, the fish had to be on the emerger.
A quick change to a March Brown emerger produced results straight away.

I can't say I had a field day, as the hatch was starting to taper off and I had to wander in search of risers. But, every rising fish I came across and got the emerger over, took it without hesitation, and most really wanted it, forceps were needed to recover the fly on all, apart from the one below.

The weather seems to be taking a turn for the better. We seem to have lost that cold easterly wind and milder fronts are coming in from the west albeit bringing some of the wet stuff (rain), but that won't do any harm at the moment. The rivers are very low and could do with a touch of fresh water, and the rain has washed the snow off the hills, so once the  run-off has washed through we should see a lift in water temperatures and the season getting into full swing. Invertibrate activity should increase, fish will be on the feed and sport will be good - wishful thinking ? I hope not.
It will be interesting to see how far we are behind this year, they say five weeks. The Sand Martins are arriving, four weeks later than last year, and in a normal year, the Grannom would be appearing any time now.
Nature is an amazing thing though and, as in the past, as soon as the conditions are right, I'm sure we'll see a rapid acceleration and all will be back to the seasonal norm in no time, so we'll see....

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A brief respite ?

We had a brief respite from the cold weather at the weekend - the sun came out, the east wind dropped and the temperatures lifted close to double figures. Saturdays sunshine also produced the first March Browns (Rhithrogena germanica) of the season.
Even though there was another fairly good hatch of Large Dark Olives, good numbers of Midge and a few March Browns, the fish were still pretty reluctant to come to the surface to feed - I only saw three risers. I guess, from a fishing point of view, you could argue that it was another wasted normal conditions and with more seasonal water temperatures you'd expect fish to be rising in good numbers.
The three risers: the first was put down by a swan! I'd spotted it, tackled up, got into position and before I could get a cast, this damned swan broke away from a group that were grazing just downstream of me, it swam right over the rising fish then stopped and started preening itself ! it gave me a look like it knew exactly what it was doing and needless to say, that fish never rose again, so I moved on.
 The second riser was a few hundred yards upstream, it was ignoring the March Browns and sipping away at the more plentiful Olives. There weren't enough olives for it to hold station so it was quartering from left to right then moving slightly upstream to intercept the approaching flies, but it was rising confidently and relatively easy to track, so it was mine third cast.
 The third was missed - the Olives and March Browns had disappeared and it was rising intermittently to the odd remaining midge - I got one go at it, rose it and missed - I didn't feel it so hoped it would come on again but it didn't.
I may have had more if I'd tried nymphs or spiders, but I wanted to stick to the dries and was happy with my lot.

Yesterday saw me on Ullswater for the first time this year. In previous years I'd have been on well before now but having fished the lake since I was a boy, I knew the cold snap would be keeping water temperatures well down and sport could be slow. Temptation got the better of me though and the forecast was good - cloud and wind, albeit the wind meant a return of that damned cold easterly  - so I got well layered up with thermals and fleeces, and ventured out.

It's the first time I can ever remember fishing the lake when there's been snow on the fells, it felt a bit weird really, I felt like I was fishing out of season - like I shouldn't be there. I fear we'll have some cold days on here until that white stuff is off the tops. But, like the rivers, the fish are there and they'll be feeding....

As expected, it was pretty cold and sport was slow, a few of my favourite spots produced nothing but I did eventually find a few that showed a liking for the Red Ullswater and Rarl hopper. They were typical, beautifully coloured Ullswater trout. A bit thin but thats only to be expected at this time, their staple early season diet tends to consist of Midge (I didn't see many today) and Hoglouse....

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Still on the nymph !

We got the sun that was forecast on Monday albeit accompanied by an icy cold easterly wind, but that didn't stop the hatch I'd hoped for; olives started to appear just before 1300 and by 1315 they were hatching in good numbers - not a massive hatch, but for Large Dark Olives, it was a good one - probably the best I've seen for some time. I know there were reports of good hatches last year but I was never fortunate enough to be on the water when they occured.

Determined to fish the dry for the first time this year, I set up with an appropriate imitation and wandered the banks in search of rising fish. Admittedly, with a combination of bright sunshine and a very low, gin clear river, it was going to be tough, but I was hoping this amount of olives plus a good smattering of midge would surely bring a fish to the surface somewhere.
Well, it didn't, I wandered and watched, tracked duns downstream until they were out of sight and never saw one taken.
I eventually gave in and decided it was time for a change, with this amount of activity the fish had to to feeding somewhere, and if it's not at the surface....
I opted for a pair of spiders and an olive nymph on a ten foot six inch (3.2m) leader - three feet (0.91m) between spiders and four foot six (1.37m) to the slightly weighted nymph - bingo !! I had a fish to the nymph on my first drift.

A few more fish followed, but none to the spiders, all came to the slightly weighted olive nymph on the point.

So, the fish were still willing to feed, they just weren't prepared to come to the surface, even though there was food in abundance up until about 1515 when the hatch petered out.
We all have our theories on why things do or don't happen, today it may have been too bright on occasions, but there were plenty of cloudy intervals too. It might have been down to water temperature, the fish may be very lethargic and not prepared to work (come to the surface) for their food - but there's always a chance as long as you're prepared to ring the changes, the fish are there and sometimes it's just a case of finding out what they want and where they want it.

The long range weather forecast suggests that things are going to warm up, so hopefully we should be seeing a bit more activity both at the surface and below in the coming weeks - bring it on !