Tuesday, May 28, 2013

They don't always follow the script

Guiding can be a frustrating game sometimes, you know the water, know where the fish should be, know what they should be on and then, for whatever reason - and there always is one - it just doesn't happen.
Last week was a tough week in my world of guiding. We had two inches of rain on the 18th May, the river shot up and was running at about 6 feet by that evening. Our rivers seem to funnel the water through the system at a rapid rate nowadays, they can be up and then back to a fishable level in the space of about 24 - 48 hours. That was the case last week, with the middle to upper reaches fishable by Monday (on the flats) and by Tuesday it was still carrying about 23cm (9") of extra water, but most areas were accessible.
By the middle of the week it was spot on, or should have been, when Steve and Charlie joined me for their first taste of fishing our northern streams. The Eden was still carrying a touch of colour, which was okay. As long as there's not too much, colour can often work in the anglers favour....
But, the fish decided that they weren't going to 'play ball' and so did the flies. A cool upstream wind killed any chance of a hatch and I could probably count on about ten fingers how many upwings I saw on the water - so there wasn't really a lot to get the fish going. 
When in my guide/tutor role, it's very important to plan a session around my clients wants and expectations but I also think that it's important for them to take advantage of their time with me and learn a few skills that will benefit them in their future endeavours as a fisherman/woman - and that's not an excuse for a fishless day ! - if they learn the skills, 'the fish will come'
We rang the changes today and looked at a few techniques: fishing North Country Spiders, the 'Duo' or New Zealand dropper and Czech nymphing. The spiders produced a couple of dropped fish and the rest produced a few tentative offers - so, no fish, but hopefully, plenty of positives with some new skills gained.

When it came to Ian's day on the river, conditions still weren't that great. He got the lot - a strong northerly blow, hail, rain and sunny intervals -  and his perseverance, in adverse conditions, received scant reward, just a few tentative tugs and boils at his flies.

We had to wait until late afternoon before we got any activity. The weather settled, the sun came out and so did the Olive Uprights. A few fish were soon onto them and Ian managed to finish on a high, with a cracking Eden brownie.
This last weekend brought our best spell of weather for some time - hope that wasn't our summer !
Two days of sunshine and higher temperatures provided some good evening sport. I saw my first Black Gnats of the year on Sunday morning and my first Yellow May Dun in the evening. Not enough of each species to get the fish going, but they were rising to a mixed hatch of duns until 22.30 on Saturday and Sunday.  These weren't only mixed hatches but were also mixed feeds, some fish were taking the larger duns (Olive Uprights), some were on a smaller one (I didn't get hold of any for a positive identification) and some fish were on the emergers of each species. My first four fish on Saturday came to four different flies, ranging from a size 16 emerger to a size 12 dun. Sunday followed a similar pattern.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Olive Uprights and Iron Blues save day....

I was very fortunate to get permission to fish a private stretch of the Eden last week. The water belongs to the Black Swan at Culgaith and is reserved for residents only, but I was given the opportunity to fish it, as I can now offer a guiding and tuition service for residents through my business 'The Eden Angler'

The Black Swan's website is well worth checking out for anyone looking for a fishing and accommodation package. They offer great fishing in a beautiful setting and their stretch of river is just a short walk or drive from the hotel.

The Eden had been up 100mm the day before my visit, but an early check on the Environment Agency river level page for that area showed that the river had dropped 50mm overnight and was still falling, I decided to go for it.
My heart sank when I got to the waters edge, the level was okay, but it was still coloured - a bit too coloured and I was beginning to think I'd chosen the wrong day. But, I needn't have worried. I'd hardly got the thought out of my head, when the first Olive Uprights started to appear and it wasn't long before they were popping up all over the place, with one or two slightly larger flies - Large Brook duns - mixed in.
The fish were soon on to the OU's and a number of fish to 38cm (15") came to an Olive CDC Dun before the hatch started to slow.

As the OU's petered out they were replaced by a decent hatch of Iron Blue Duns and the fish turned onto them for the rest of the afternoon. A size 16 IBD imitation accounted for a few more fish before  a prolonged spell of heavy rain brought my session to an end.
There's been some tremendous hatches of Grannom this month, along with very good hatches of Olive Uprights and Iron Blue Duns - all later than normal. Which, for me, begs the question: Are the numbers of each species on the increase or is nature playing catch up and has the delayed emergence period, due to the very cold start to the season, meant that we are now experiencing a series of more concentrated hatches spread over a shorter period. I suspect the latter, but, I guess only time will tell.
I still haven't seen any Black Gnats, Hawthorn fly, Yellow May Dun or Mayfly, so it will be interesting to see what we get when they decide to make an appearance.

I had a session on one of our smaller streams at the end of the week.

'Angling in Lilliput' These small, intimate waters can be quite a challenge, calling for a small rod (no more than 6 feet for me) and short casts. Just like my day on the Eden, it was the Olive Upright that got the fish going and a number of fish came to an appropriate imitation.

The majority of the fish are on the small side - especially over recent years - but the small streams in our area are known to have produced the odd leviathan on occasions. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Grannom by the thousand

Last week dawned hot and sunny, temperatures in our area were the second highest in the country. It certainly suited the Grannom (Brachycentrus subnubilis), they were coming off the water in their 1000's on my first outing of the week, but, as usual when this species are hatching, there was very little surface activity from the Trout.

A few 'oncers' rose and three were caught as the hatch began, but once it got into full swing the rises ceased completely - the warm weather meant that the adult was out of the pupal sheath as soon as it pierced the meniscus and the fish had very little chance of intercepting it, therefore, I can only guess that any feeding fish will have turned their attention to the emerging pupa. But, as I'd decided that my session would be relatively short and restricted to a recce with the dry fly, I didn't bother searching for any sub-surface feeders.

David was up for a few days fishing and he brought the sun up from down south, our beautiful Eden welcomed him with brilliant sunshine and temperatures of 22 degrees C. Not ideal for daytime fishing at this time of year, but his hard work and perseverance was rewarded with four fish.

David's second day saw a return to our more normal, northerly weather - the temperature had dropped a good 7 degrees C. we had cloud, the usual south-westerly blow and showers. Better fishing conditions, in my opinion, and the fish responded well.

A team of north-country spiders produced the goods. With a few fish caught and dropped in the morning, all was going well - then the wind dropped, we had a slight lift in temperature, a touch of brightness and the Grannom hatch started. They were coming off in their 1000's, in fact, I don't think I'd be exaggerating if I said 10's of 1000's. The air was full of them and there were rafts of discarded shucks floating down the river, it was the biggest hatch of Grannom that I'd ever witnessed.
The odd 'oncer' came up to grab the few adults that were slow to break free of their pupal sheath, but they were few and far between, so I suggested to David that we break for lunch and give the hatch time to die down or even, hopefully, finish. The chances of a fish picking out our offerings were pretty slim when they were having to compete with 1000's of juicy morsels ascending through the water column.
The weather deteriorated slightly after lunch, the Grannom hatch stopped, and an Olive Upright hatch began. A few fish turned onto to the OU's and David had a bit of sport in the afternoon - a couple of trout and quite a few offers.
Tim and friends were in the area at the end of the week and joined me for a day on Haweswater. At approximately 245m above sea level, the reservoir is one of our highest waters. It normally starts to fish later than most of our 'lowland' waters, but still produces long after the others have stratified and sport on them has slowed down.  

Unfortunately, the fishing was very slow. A 10 degree C. drop in air temperature from the start of the week, plus frequent and prolonged squally showers won't have helped. I also suspect that the cold start to the year will have taken it's toll on Haweswater, like it has on everything else, and we may still be a week or two from this years 'kick off'. So, I'd like to think, the best is yet to come.
The score for the day was three fish hooked and lost; fishing isn't always about catching fish though, a first visit to the reservoir and fishing in beautiful surroundings helped to compensate for the lack of fish - I hope.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

We're getting there....

Our weather is still being dominated by strong south-westerly winds with the odd cold northerly thrown in. But, as I said in my last blog, that suits me at the moment, as the wind plus cloud is perfect for lake fishing at this, the prime time for fishing our northern lakes.
My good friend and fellow AAPGAI instructor, Clive Mitchelhill, accompanied me on my last outing in the lakes. It was touch and go as to whether we should hit the lake on our chosen day, the weathermen had forecast winds in the high teens with gusts into the mid twenties, I know I like a bit of a blow but that was just a bit too much for a comfortable day afloat. Given that the forecast for our area had changed about five times in 24 hours - according to my regular checks on the internet - and the weather can often be different to what is forecast once you get among the lakeland fells, we decided to risk it.
I'm pleased we did, the forecasters were wrong, as usual. We had wind but not too much, it gave us a decent ripple, and we had cloud. Perfect conditions, that gave us sport throughout the day....

River reports have been pretty negative lately, with many saying sport was slow. Luckily, that wasn't the case when I had John, a newcomer to the sport of fly fishing, out on the river last Monday. The plan was to have a taster day. These days are split in two, the morning is spent looking at the gear required, lines, leaders and casting. In the afternoon we look at flies, safety when wading and doing some fishing. 
By the time we started fishing, the wind was blasting upstream, but there were a few Large Dark Olives about so I set John up with a three fly cast. Two flies were going to be a bit ambitious for a beginner, but John was doing well so we went for it, the middle dropper would be left blank. A Waterhen Bloa went on the top dropper and an Olive nymph on the point. His first fish on the fly came to the nymph.
Flies were being buffeted all over the place in the strong wind, I kept thinking I could see small sedges, possibly Grannom, but they were gone before I could be sure. I thought I saw an Iron Blue Dun, a few February Reds and one or two March Browns, but a positive identification was impossible before they were all blown out of sight. A Large Stonefly was blown onto the water, a fish slashed at it , missed it, and got it at it's second attempt. Then another fish had two splashes at something but I didn't see what it was. This suggested to me that the fish were looking to the surface and as John was coping well with the conditions, and his two flies - no tangles - I decided to upgrade him to a three fly rig.
The Waterhen Bloa was relegated to the middle dropper and a Partridge and Orange was put on the top dropper. 

The Partridge and Orange did the business for John, with the rest of his fish coming to it....
He did very well for his first attempt at fly fishing, but I wasn't surprised. He was looking to take up this discipline after many years as a coarse fisherman, and in my experience, most of the coarse fishermen that I've dealt with cope relatively well with a change to the fly.

Nature is playing catch up after the cold start to the season. I had a positive Identification of a Grannom in the middle of the week and their numbers have increased significantly since then. Black Gnats, Hawthorn fly, Olive Uprights, Large Brook Duns and Yellow May Duns can't be that far away. In a normal year, our true Mayfly (Ephemera danica) usually make an appearance around the middle of the month, so I'd like to think, we're getting there...