Thursday, December 17, 2015

Rain, rain, go away....

The weather changed towards the end of October and it's hardly stopped raining since. We seem to have had one weather front after another blasting in from the Atlantic - the latest trend from our weathermen is to give them names - we've had Hurricane Kate, Storm Abigail, Storm Barney, Storm Clodagh . And then we had Storm Desmond: It maybe should have been 'D' for 'Destruction' or 'Devastation' after the turmoil that this one left in it's path as it ripped through my native Cumbria. The severe storms of 2005 were bad but this one was in a different league. Record rain falls brought our rivers up between three and seven metres in some areas. They broke their banks, washing across fields, destroying and damaging roads and bridges; flooding towns, villages and the city of Carlisle.

There'll be big changes on our rivers. There was in 2005, when the changes produced positives and negatives: some parts of the rivers were gouged out and deepened and others were filled in; some areas have never fished as well as they did prior to the 2005 floods and others have fished better. So, there's going to be a bit of exploring to do once we get back on our waters....

Doug is into a fish

The miserable weather has meant that I've hardly been out since the end of October. I've only managed five outings in the last seven weeks! One of them - at the beginning of November - was with Doug. He came for his first grayling outing of the season and to look at some Czech nymphing. It worked out just right for him, we had a bit of fresh water, but not too much, and the 'touch of fresh' had dropped the temperature, so the fish were lying deeper; spot on for a bit of Czech nymphing. He fished his team of bugs to good effect, which produced a steady trickle of fish throughout the session.

I don't carry a thermometer these days, I used to and I recorded temperatures religiously, but I haven't bothered for years. I know that water and air temperatures have a great bearing on what happens in and out of the water, but they didn't have a bearing on whether I was going to go fishing or not. I've always been of the opinion that - as long as the river's not in flood - if I'm going fishing 'I'm going fishing' and I'll just take what comes. It's all part of the challenge and you just have to accept that you'll have good days and you'll have bad days or tough days and easy ones...we have so many techniques at our disposal today that there is always something to suit most conditions - as long as you know what to use and when.
It was the latter part of November when I next got out and it was obvious that the rains had dropped the water temperature - I could feel it through my waders. There was no sign of the olive hatches that the unseasonably warm October days had produced, no reason for the grayling to look to the surface, so Czech nymphing was 'the method' for me. 

The 'bugs' worked during those few outings and a few decent fish were tempted to my offerings.

It's mid-December now and I haven't been out since the 26th November. Looking at the weather forecast, it could be very doubtful that I'll wet a line before Christmas. The rivers are still relatively high in our area and the land is sodden so it doesn't take much rain to raise the rivers at the moment - we've had light drizzle today and the Environment Agency's gauges have shown a slight lift on the upper Eden. 

I suppose that there are positives though, the long break is giving me a chance to re-stock my fly boxes. As a full-time guide on the river, I go through a lot of flies in a season.... 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It's Grayling time....

The beginning of October heralded the start of grayling time in Eden. The Trout season is over and it was time to concentrate on 'The lady of the stream' properly.

John with his first Grayling on the fly

John and Henry were my first clients of October and with the weather more akin to the height of summer, the fishing was going to be tough. Henry was more interested in Salmon initially and with a dead low river, brilliant sunshine and all salmon reports on the negative side, his prospects weren't good. A sink tip and size 14 Black Francis did the job for him though and he managed  a hen fish of approximately 7lbs which was quickly and safely released - too quick! I had the camera on him but the fish was released before I  had a chance to get the shot. John had never fly fished before but he picked it up quickly and managed a few out of season Trout and his first Grayling.

Henry plays his Salmon

The unseasonably mild spell lasted for the bulk of October and  produced some of the best Large Dark Olive hatches of the year. The Olives brought fish hard on the feed,  with good numbers of Grayling and a few out of season Trout responding well to my offerings. Ringing the changes brought action for most of the sessions - nymphs first thing and then spiders produced as the hatch started and fish were on emergers, then once the hatch was in full swing and fish were hard onto the surface fly they wouldn't look at anything but a dry.

Ken and Wendy were over from South Africa to follow their team in the Rugby World Cup and stopped off - between matches - for their first go at fly fishing in Eden. Our river didn't disappoint - I hope - and they both managed to get into a few fish, even though  the majority were hungry out of season trout.

Ken is into an Eden Grayling

Charles into as fish

The next Eden newbie was 83 year-old Charles - over from San Francisco to do some rambling in the Lake District! I hope that I'm still as fit, and fishing when/if I get to 83. Charles fished a team of North Country spiders to good effect and managed to get plenty of action on his Eden debut.

Mark with an Eden fish on the nymph

Good afternoon hatches of Olives continued into the third quarter of  the month, but the Grayling - at least where I fished - appeared to turn off the surface fly. Plenty of out of season trout fed with gusto, but it was the nymph that tempted our real quarry. It was the nymphs that scored on Mark's first go in Eden - a pair fished upstream did the business for him....

Alexis with her first fish on the fly

The weather was becoming more seasonal by the end of the month and rain greeted Ben and Alexis when they visited Eden for their first taste of fly fishing. They weren't deterred by the miserable weather though. We had a very positive casting session in the morning and fished in the afternoon. The Grayling failed to show for them but a decent number of out of season trout showed an interest in their well presented flies. I'd have preferred them to catch Grayling but it was good they got a bit of action on their fly fishing debuts.
It continued to rain up to and including the final day of October. I'm not complaining though. I don't mind the rivers low for Trout fishing but I like a bit of water for the Grayling and the system needs a good flush - so hopefully, it can only do good - as long as it doesn't forget to stop....

Monday, November 9, 2015

September - The end of another trout season

September 2015 was very much like September 2014. The last month of the trout season was dominated by fine weather and low rivers - but the fishing was good.

David with a nice Eden Brown Trout

David and Sam were in Eden at the beginning of the month and the river performed well for them, despite the weather. Hatches were sparse and there was only the odd intermittent riser; not ideal for dry fly, but good conditions for a team of North Country spiders fished just under - and in - the surface. It was Sam's first visit to Eden, so we had a brief lesson on 'spider' fishing before letting him loose with his team. He fished them to good effect and was soon into his first Grayling and a few nice Trout.

Sam with his first Eden Trout

Allan was another first time visitor to Eden. He couldn't have had tougher conditions: cloudless, sunny skies and a low, gin clear river. They were challenging conditions, but not impossible - concentrating on the faster, more oxygenated water with small nymphs produced chances and some action....

Allan with his first fish on his day in Eden

Trout were on dries in the afternoon

We had some late afternoon hatches of Blue Winged Olives most days in September - as long as it wasn't too bright. The intensity of the hatch varied from day to day, but any duns on the surface usually managed to trigger a rise from a few trout and Grayling. On some days - especially from the middle of the month onwards - as long as you were willing to ring the changes, sport could be had throughout the day on nymphs, spiders and dries.

A first Eden Trout for John

Wisconsonites John and Brian were next to visit Eden. Their two day visit was to be shared between the river and Ullswater. Day one was on the river and our tactics were based on my previous days on the river and the lack of surface activity. We started on the nymph, which helped John to get his first Trout and a few Grayling. The dry fly brought Brian success and his first Grayling in the afternoon....

Brian tempted his first Grayling to take a dry fly

The second day of their visit was on Ullswater. I'd been hoping and praying for suitable conditions for their day and our weatherman had been suggesting all was good. But, as the day drew closer they began to change their minds and the day dawned bright, sunny and calm - the lake fishers anathema. We were committed though, so went for it and hoped for the best. Things looked very positive when Brian tempted a fish to his flies on our first drift, but that was it. We tried a few different areas and chased a light ripple, but only managed a few tentative tugs. They both enjoyed their day though and thought our lake was beautiful....

Father (John) and son (Brian) enjoying their day on Ullswater

Mike was my final client of the 2015 Trout season and he managed to have an eventful two days - especially his last one, which in his words was 'memorable'. Mike has been coming to Eden for a few years now and I've been keen to get him a 'red letter day' and we eventually managed it. He started his last day on 'the duo' (Dry fly and nymph) and had a fish first cast; that seemed to set the pattern for the rest of the day as a steady trickle of Trout and Grayling came throughout the session. We had a late afternoon hatch and the dries produced some action, then a change to spiders as the rise petered out ensured that Mike continued to catch fish and had his most productive day since converting from stillwater to river.

Mike's first fish on his 'memorable' day in Eden

The final two days of the season saw me out on the river. It didn't really feel like the end of September - the weather was unseasonably bright and warm, but it didn't have a negative effect on the fishing.

The last fish of the 2015 season came at 17.10 on closing day

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Time to catch up - August

August's weather turned out to be very much like July's - dry in the first half of the month and more unsettled in the second.

Nigel and Lisa were my first clients of the month; they were visiting from Australia and decided to have their first go at fly fishing. As usual with these sessions: we spent the morning looking at  tackle, casting and flies etc. and the afternoon fishing. The river didn't perform the way I'd have liked for them, but they both cast and fished well and they did manage a few fish, albeit small ones.

Lisa with her first English brown trout

The rivers were up slightly for Ian's visit (above and below) so we headed up one of our smaller streams to look at a bit of upstream nymphing. Many of today's anglers tend to lean more towards the modern trends of nymphing, such as: French, Czech and Spanish nymphing, but - in my opinion - there is still room for the more traditional method of upstream nymphing. Although I do tend to practice the modern methods more and more nowadays, the old ways have served me very well over the years and still do on occasions and in certain types of water. It was the old way that Ian and I looked at on his day; fan casting ahead of us to cover any likely spots as we worked upstream and watching the tip of the fly line for indication of an offer. It worked well for Ian and he managed a number of fish throughout the session.

One to the nymph and French leader

It was back to a modern method for me after Ian and I finished our session on the small streams. I only had an hour, so I dropped back to the main river for a short tea-time stint. I was going to have to fish the nymph if I was to have any chance of a fish at that time of day, so I turned to my 10' 3 weight, the French leader and a pair of nymphs. Fishing a mix of The French and Czech styles in any likely looking pots and seams helped to account for a few nice fish - including the one above - before I had to call it a day and head home to prepare for the following days guiding.

Molly with a nice Brown Trout on her first visit to Eden

Molly and Russ were visiting the UK from Seattle and called in for their first taste of Eden. Overnight rain had coloured the rivers slightly and I guess that the drop in water temperature had slowed the fish a touch, as they appeared to show no interest in any fly on the surface. So I introduced Russ and Molly to a pretty reliable old favourite 'North Country spiders'. Fished across and down, they're a great way to search our larger Northern rivers. A team consisting of two spiders and a nymph served them well and they caught and missed a few fish throughout their day.

The unsettled weather continued through the second half of August, but luckily, it didn't affect the fishing too much. The rivers were carrying a touch of colour on most of my outings, but remained fishable. Dry fly sport was poor for me and the nymph dominated - but anyone that knows me will know that I don't mind that, as I've always loved my nymph fishing. It was great to see a few Grayling turning up in catches too. Hopefully, this is a positive indication for the Grayling fishing through the winter. I remember decent numbers of Grayling showing up in catches during the final six weeks of the 2013 season and the Grayling fishing was quite good over the following months....

Below are a few of the fish caught and released over the last couple of weeks in August:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Time for a catch up - July

It's been some time since my last update, but now that the trout season is over, it's time for a catch up before I get stuck into some serious winter grayling fishing. I may as well start where I left off, and do July:

July was a good month overall, it started off dry with the rivers very low, then we got some wet weather and coloured waters towards the middle and end of the month.  

Mike is into a fish

Mike was in Eden at the beginning of the month; the river was low and the weather was beautiful for the tourists, but unfortunately, it wasn't great fishing weather! Daytime hatches were as expected at this time - sparse - and the fish were keeping their heads down. So Mike was introduced to the 'French leader' and working the pockets and seams with small nymphs. This did the trick on a tough day and a few fish were caught and dropped.

The dry spell and low water conditions dominated the first half of the month, although the fishing was good - but tough - and more often than not, the nymph was the preferred method. Steve (below) was over from Pennsylvania and visiting Eden for the first time. He was introduced to North Country spiders and had a bit of action, before a change to 'The Duo' or 'Hopper, Dropper' - as he termed it - produced the best fish of his day.

Traditionally, early July usually sees Ullswater switching off for a couple of months, as the fish drop into the deeper water and our efforts are best concentrated on the rivers. This year was hopefully an exception: Anita and Daniel were keen to have their first go at fishing the lake. We had very low water temperatures at the start of the season and the lake was slow to fish; so I was hoping the delayed start would result in a delayed finish. It didn't quite work out that way, but the weather was in our favour and we did get some action.... 

Anita with a good Ullswater fish

The second half of the month did produce some rain, not a lot, but enough to give the rivers a slight lift and a touch of colour. Daytime hatches were still too sparse to get much surface activity, so the nymph continued to dominate proceedings. Fish were out in more open water at times though and some decent specimens were encountered.

Ian came to work on river techniques and the conditions were good for him: the river was at a good height and we had good cloud cover, which helped him to get some action on the methods we looked at....

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Joyous June

The cooler weather and low water temperatures delayed the appearance of our true Mayfly (Ephemera danica) this year but when they did decide to show they came in good numbers.

Ullswater got it's yearly quota and the fish turned onto them providing good sport for those that hit the lake in favourable conditions. We've seen an increase in numbers on our rivers over the last few years and that continued this year. Guiding and teaching on the river most days provides the ideal opportunity to see what's happening on a regular basis, and contrary to what I've heard elsewhere, I witnessed decent numbers on the Eden and it's main tributary, the River Eamont this year. Some good fish were on them on occasions too, with a few falling to my offerings.... 

Early June saw our rivers at a good level, daytime sport was good. Fish responded well to the surface fly when a hatch brought them up in the water and , if not, nymphs and spiders received plenty of interest. So all boded well for Ian and Tim's visit to Eden. Both got into fish on their respective days....

Ian is about to net a trout that took his nymph

Tim had his fly fishing debut and netted his first Grayling

As the weather improved, so did our evening sport. Warmer evenings saw some excellent hatches of sedge for those willing to wait until the sun went down. Surface activity can often be quite short - but very sweet - in the failing light, with some quality fish on the feed.... 

A long spell of dry weather in the second half of the month brought our rivers to their bones, which made for challenging conditions. Fish were quick to move into their 'summer lies' and sport was still good on occasions. When I wasn't out guiding I managed some good sessions to my own rod and most visitors (clients) to Eden managed to get their strings pulled....

Some nice fish to my rod on occasions

David draws a fish to the net

Sharlene with a fish on her first visit to Eden

It was great to see a good turnout for the Eden Valley young anglers event held at Holme farm on the Appleby Angling Association waters.
Sponsored by John Norris of Penrith and three Eden valley angling clubs - Kirkby Stephen, Penrith and Appleby - REDFA along with Borderlines hosted the event. Twenty six participants turned up on the day with some from last years event. They got a good day for it, the weather was beautiful and all attending were split into four groups; I introduced them to roll casting, Derek Kelly did the overhead cast, there was an entomology session with Chris Bowman, and each group did a fishing session with Glyn Freeman. All those taking part received a certificate at the end of the day....

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ne'er cast a clout till May is out

The title of this post is a term I often heard quoted by my elders - my parents etc. - when I was younger and moaning about the weather. When asked what they meant, they said that you should never pack away your winter clothes before the end of May - and that has certainly been the case this year.
May 2015 has been been dominated by cold, damp, miserable weather. The cold start to this year has put everything back a touch; approximately three weeks according to the gardeners that I know. Having said that: it's not all doom and gloom and we've had some good sport over the last month....

The month started wet and the rivers rose for Wim's visit to Eden, so we had to revert to chasing Rainbows....

Wim is into the first fish of his stillwater session

Wet weather and rising rivers also dominated the second week of May but it didn't worry David and Derek. They both hit Ullswater and enjoyed perfect conditions for lake fishing. Both anglers fished well on their respective days and moved, and caught, a good number of fish on their team of flies.

David with one of his fish on a productive day on Ullswater

It was a bit wilder for Derek's day but good fishing brought it's rewards

The weather settled down by the middle of May and gave us the opportunity to get back to the rivers. Matt joined me to look at using a 'French leader' and we couldn't have asked for better: we started the day on the nymph before going on to upstream spiders then dry flies and all produced fish throughout the day....

Matt returns a fish taken on 'French leader' and dry fly

May also saw a few who were trying fly fishing for the first time. It's always great to introduce beginners to our sport. Friends Adam and Niall joined me for their first attempt. After a morning session looking at tackle and casting, which they both picked up really well, we fished in the afternoon and they both made contact with their first fish on the fly. As did Carol and Simon on their visit: the day was a birthday present for Carol so it was great that she soon came to terms with the casting, and fished well. The fish showed their appreciation too, with a decent number showing a liking to her fly....I think all left with the fishing bug and we have a few new converts to our great sport. 
Niall is into his first on the fly

A first for carol on her fly fishing debut

A couple of days off from guiding etc during the third week of the month gave me the opportunity to get some fishing in. I hit it just right on the first day. It was a dull day and the wind was blasting upstream - I hate fishing in a wind - but that was soon forgotten when I saw that fish were rising. There was still the odd Grannom about and getting blown onto the water, although the fish were more interested in intermittent flurries of Olive Uprights. My first offering - a dun imitation - was ignored but a change to an Olive emerger produced an immediate response and a good number of fish followed before the hatch petered out and all went quiet.

This Eden Brown fell for an Olive emerger

Another session before my guiding duties resumed saw me out on one of the few sunny days that we had in May. Clear blue skies, bright sunshine and a lack of fly meant that the fish were keeping their heads down. They were still feeding hard though and the 'upstream nymph' produced a steady stream of fish throughout the session....

One to the 'upstream nymph'

It's great to see young anglers coming into our sport. Otto and his brother were out to brush up on their fly fishing skills during the school holidays. Both did very well with their casting and were soon fishing. Young Otto certainly had the 'midas touch' with a fish on his third cast ! 

Otto with a fish on his third cast

Our true Mayfly 'Ephemera danica' turned up towards the end of the month; late, but better late than never - it was nearly two weeks later than normal. Locally, this large upwing is more associated with Ullswater but numbers on the river have been on the increase over the last couple of years and this year was the best I've seen for some time. I witnessed good hatches on the Eden and it's main tributary, the Eamont, and the fish were on them. Yellow May duns were also starting to show up in good numbers too and I did see the odd one taken, although not many. I don't know why, but I've never witnessed a good rise to this  bright yellow dun - maybe they're not very tasty - although I have had fish in the past that have been stuffed with Yellow May emergers....

A first on the fly for Barb

The last weekend of the month saw Bill and Barb visiting Eden. They were visiting the UK from Winsconsin and stopped off to try out our great river. The chilly winds that have dominated the month blew through Eden on their day. So the weather could have been kinder to them, especially when it was Barb's first go at the fly, but she did well and was rewarded with a few fish.

I hope all that visited Eden in May enjoyed themselves and, despite the weather, we manged to get fish  on most outings....

I must apologise for the lateness of this Eden update but now that we're into June, the weather has improved and the fishing has been good during the day and in the evening. With the longer days comes the evening sport and - given the right conditions - some late evening sedge/caddisfly (trichoptera) hatches and associated rises. So at this time, blog updates are difficult....

A Sedge feeder taken on a recent evening session