Last Tuesday (29/4/14), we saw our first 'Black Gnats' of the season, these tasty terrestrials - at least I assume they're tasty, the trout certainly like them - get blown or fall onto the water in their thousands some days and really get the fish on the feed. Fish seem to throw caution to the wind on occasions, as some quality specimens compete with their smaller brethren and often gorge in open water.
I suppose Tuesday's fall could be described as a 'masked hatch' or in this case 'masked fall'. The fish were rising as soon as we - I was guiding for Chris, who was over from Ireland - hit the river, which I didn't expect at 10am. It wasn't clear what they were on, there was the odd large upwing floating through them and a few smaller ones. I couldn't tell what they were from a distance and nothing was passing within range, all activity seemed to be concentrated in the trout's feeding lane close to the opposite bank. I guessed Olive Uprights and possibly the odd March Brown or Large Brook Dun for the larger ones and I wasn't sure what the smaller ones could be, I thought they were unlikely to be Iron Blue Duns - it was warm and sunny, certainly not IBD weather. One larger upwing was taken, the rest were ignored at first and then the odd smaller fly appeared to be taken. Initially I thought maybe the fish were concentrating more on the emergers and that's what Chris fished, but all offerings were either ignored or produced the odd boil under the fly.
Eventually I decided that rather than spook the pod of risers, I'd wade well downstream of them before pushing out into the lane to see what was coming through. I was surprised to find hundreds of 'Black Gnats' floating down the seam, I hadn't seen any on the wing but the water was covered in individuals and clusters of mating gnats. I reckoned that what I'd thought were possibly small upwings from a distance were actually these clusters of gnats that the fish were feasting on.
The following day I was out on my own to try to take advantage of the Black Gnat bonanza. Like the previous day, the water was covered in naturals at times. The gnats seem to like a bit of sunshine and little or no wind so the rises were intermittent throughout the day - when the wind was up and water ruffled, the rises stopped but as soon as the wind dropped and the water calmed the fish were up again. They were a bit more receptive to my offerings than they had been for Chris on Tuesday and a decent number were caught and released until the wind got up, and stayed up and all went quiet.
The wind stayed for Barry's first outing on Ullswater. The day dawned cloudy and windy, which should have been perfect. Unfortunately it was a bitterly cold North-Easterly, which didn't exactly spoil things - it just made for a tough and chilly day on the water. Barry stuck at it though and finished the day with a decent number of fish and offers from many more.
Saturday saw the river into day five of the Black Gnat falls and I couldn't resist. I was out again to take advantage and like my day in the middle of the week, a good number of fish fell to my offerings.
The week ended with another first on Ullswater. It was the first time that Malc had fished the lake with the fly, and from a boat. The wind was coming from the South-East today and the fish were a bit more responsive.
Once Malc settled into fishing from a drifting boat, got used to retrieving and maintaining contact with his flies, he moved and caught a decent number of fish throughout the day.