Sunday, December 24, 2017

In like a lamb and out like a lion!

November started dry and relatively mild. Most outings during the first ten days saw hatches of midge, trickles of Large Dark Olive and short periods of rising fish. It was nice to have the opportunity to do some spider fishing, instead of what tends to be the customary winter task of plumbing the depths with heavy sub-surface offerings.

A Graying to the spiders in early November

We didn't get much opportunity to target or learn much about our local grayling when I was younger. We'd pick the occasional one up whilst trout fishing. Usually only one or two per season. Certainly not enough to justify chasing them when our trout season closed. But I did try on occasions. I think the inspiration came from Reg Rhygini's book 'Grayling' - one of many good fishing books in our local library at that time - and from seeing a video of him fishing for grayling on the River Eamont. 
Many blanks soon put me off...and it was the late 90's before I had the incentive to try chasing Eden grayling again. They began to return to the Eden and it's main tributary, the Eamont, in reasonable numbers around 1998. By 2000 the grayling population had increased massively and we were catching large numbers throughout the year.

It was great when they returned to Eden and we had good fishing on our doorstep. 
Prior to that time, the only grayling fishing we did was the occasional winter trip into the Scottish borders, down to the Yorkshire dales and onto the Derbyshire Wye. Rather than the occasional trip, our post -'98' grayling fishing on Eden meant that we could spend many more days on the water and learn more about ' The lady of the stream'. Their habits, what they did and didn't like, their susceptibility to changing conditions and their liking for the surface fly.

Another November grayling to a 'North country spider'

The grayling's mouth is shaped perfectly for foraging on the river bed. Understandable - I guess - when you think of the barren winter months when surface food of any kind is at a premium. I guess that it's also understandable - during the winter - why the fish will sometimes be up like a shot to take advantage of any sort of a hatch. One thing I have learnt over the last 19 years on Eden is that grayling - despite their reputation for being bottom feeders - are pretty free-rising, and that was the case in early November.

You could hardly call what we got 'a hatch' - a handful of olives and a smattering of midge, but that's all it takes sometimes. Most sessions, depending on starting time, started on the nymph before a couple of splashy rises and the occasional natural were noted. A quick change to a couple of spiders and a light nymph resulted in decent numbers of fish at times and then, if all went quiet, a return to the nymph to end the day.
I'm often preaching to clients about the importance of taking note of what is happening around you. And how ringing the changes to suit changing conditions can often pay dividends. One session on a relatively warm mid-November day was a prime example. The day started on the nymph, then a little surface activity prompted a change and spiders did the trick. A few fish were midging the flats and they were tempted with a change to size 18 dries. When surface activity ceased it was back to the nymphs....No messing about with leader changes. The turnover and presentation wasn't perfect, but it was sufficient to cope with quick changes to take advantage of these short windows of opportunity. These sort of things don't happen often. But I love it when they do. This is what makes our great sport so interesting for me. I'm not interested in going to the river and switching to 'automatic pilot'. 

A Salmon on the nymph!

It wasn't only grayling and a few out-of-season trout that took an interest in my spider rig. On one drift an out-of-season salmon took an  interest in my point fly; a size 14 beadhead nymph! It's surprising what will tempt these 'silver-tourists', or in this case: not-so-silver. I and one or two of my clients have had quite a few come to nymphs and the occasional spider over the years.

Peter into his first river fish

The guiding and tuition game can be relatively quiet over the winter, but a few hardy souls manage to brave the elements. It was bitterly cold for Peter and Dylan's first experience of river fishing. Wading a cold Eden in November was a bit different to their usual stillwater fishing from the bankside. But a few Olives hatched, fish looked to the surface and both managed some action on their river debuts - and both said that they'd be back for more!

A fish for Dylan on his Eden debut

The middle of the month saw a return to colder conditions. Phil wanted to hone his Czech nymphing skills and the conditions were ideal for it: nothing on the surface and the fish were keeping their heads down.

The Czech nymph worked for Phil

Rain on the 14th brought a slight lift (50mm) in levels on the 15th. It wasn't enough to stop the fishing, but the slight drop in water temperature seemed to slow things. I was back to plumbing the depths....

A fish whilst plumbing the depths

We were back to rain and fluctuating river levels for the final ten days of November. A spell of wet weather through the early hours of the 20th brought the rivers up the following day. They began to drop on the 21st and then we were hit with a deluge on the 22nd. I read somewhere that we had over 100mm of rain in 12 hours. Roads were flooded all over our region and our rivers were rising fast. The Eden rose over 3 metres and flooded the fields on the 23rd.

Eden was in the fields on 23rd November

It's surprising how quickly the river drops. It was fishable - just - by the 26th, and a short session produced a couple of fish, then it rose again on the 27th and that was my November fishing over....

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Chasing October grayling

Well, here we go again! 'Another unsettled month in Eden'. Chasing October grayling wasn't a complete washout, but it was another very wet month. Our rivers were high, and often unfishable for most of it. Now they - the weathermen - are forecasting the coldest winter for years, with temperatures predicted to plummet over the coming months. Based on their record for accurate forecasting for our area: 'don't hold your breath' for that, I know I certainly won't! But at least, if they're right, we will hopefully get a spell of cold and dry weather with the rivers at a decent and fishable level for a while.

Peter with his first grayling on a spider

The rivers were still high on the first of the month, but they were falling after a big rise on the final day of September. Eden was just fishable for Peter and Sven's first taste of chasing grayling. Much of the day was spent on the nymph. Although, we did get a trickle of Large Dark Olives in the afternoon and a couple of fish were spotted at the surface. The dry fly would probably have tempted them, but as the boys wanted to sample a bit of ' North country spider' fishing....I went through leader set-up, appropriate flies, presentation and bite detection etc. with Peter and then we had a trial run before moving onto the fish. All went well and Peter was soon covering 'the zone'. When it came, the take was really subtle, which I expected in the softer flow where the fish were showing. It was never going to be the arm-wrenching pull that you often get in faster water. The line gently slid away, the hanging line from rod tip to water slowly lifted, I said 'strike' and Peter was into his first spider-caught grayling! It was text-book. All went exactly as planned. Apart from: the commotion from the hooked fish put down the other rising fish. We waited for a while, but there wasn't enough fly on the water to tempt the fish back to the surface - so we eventually moved on.

Sven is into a Rainbow

We had more overnight and early morning rain for Peter and Sven's final day with me. Eden was rising fast, so, rather than waste the day, we decided to hit one of our local stillwaters to chase a few Rainbow trout. The weather remained miserable with squally showers at times, but both managed some action....

My first grayling of October

River levels were up and down - more up than down! - during the first two weeks. It was the 16th when I eventually managed my first session of the grayling season. I know that the official start of the grayling season is the 16th June, but I always think of my season as 1st October to 14th March. This is the time when it's closed season for trout and I concentrate solely on the grayling. The river was still a touch on the large side on the 16th. But with the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia heading over the Atlantic and due to hit us that evening, I decided to go for it. Fish appeared to be hugging bottom. Going deep with a combination of my favourite winter bugs produced my first grayling of 'the season'. Ophelia swept over the region in the evening and overnight, hitting us with a strong winds and rain. The rivers rose slightly on the 17th.

A few winter favourites

River levels continued to fluctuate over the third week and guided days had to be cancelled. I managed to sneak out, but the conditions were far from ideal. Okay for me, but too big and iffy for clients; the safety and enjoyment of my clients is paramount.... Concentrating on the few holes that I knew that would fish helped me to eke out a few short stints on a big river. A session on the 24th was cut short by a rising river. Early morning readings on the Environment Agency gauges for Eden suggested all was well. It was when I arrived and a couple of early fish lifted my spirits. But the river began to rise at lunchtime. It was up eight inches and rising by early afternoon - and that was the end of my fishing for that week!

 Fish were caught during a few short stints on a big river

We had our first frost of the winter on the final day of the month. I don't usually like the 'first frost'. But I'd already planned to go out and, despite my misgivings, I had a good session. It just shows that you can 'never say never'. I guess the saving grace was that the weather and water temperatures had been pretty low leading up to it. So, even though all was white with frost on the morning of the 30th; we didn't get the severe change in conditions that can often be the fisherman's anathema.

A good session following the first frost of the winter

Water temperatures are down now so my thermals have come out of hibernation. Breathable waders are normally put away and neoprene's are brought into play to see me through to March. But I've given up on them. I don't know what it is with today's gear! My old neoprene waders were bulletproof and would last years, but my last few pairs have developed seam leaks in no time. So now I just layer-up under the breathable's. Today's lightweight waders aren't much better...but I guess the less said about modern waders - and their repairers - the better....

If you're going to be like me and plan to brave the elements in search of 'The lady of the stream' over the coming months; I hope that your waders stay leak-free and don't forget your thermals!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A great end to the season

It seems to have become a common theme over the past few months: 'Another unsettled month in Eden'. September started off dry and cold, but it didn't last. Another spell of wet weather blew in from the west on the 4th and the river began to rise on the 5th. 
Luckily, the first few days were dry for David's visit and he managed some action from trout and grayling to a variety of techniques.

David draws a fish to the net

The river settled down for a few days, and Alan's visit. Conditions for his day were dull and overcast with a few showers - nothing new there! - and the morning session was slow with just one or two offers to his spiders. The afternoon was much better: we found fish midging on the flats after lunch and Alan had a good session as he targeted rising fish with a variety of midge patterns.

Alan targeted rising fish with midge imitations

Heavy overnight rain brought the rivers up on the 8th and - if honest - I was a touch worried that this would jeopardise the chance of John getting his first taste of Eden. Which would have been a shame, as it was his first visit to the UK and his first chance to fly fish our rivers. The Eden system tends to rise and fall quite fast on occasions nowadays. We were lucky, as this was one of those occasions and, although it was still a touch high for his day, the river was okay. Sport wasn't as prolific as I'd have wished, but John managed to get his first UK trout and he got the chance to target one or two risers with the dry fly.

John with his first British brown trout

Mike is into a fish on his first try at fly fishing

The unsettled weather continued through the middle of September and the pattern of rising and falling rivers remained. We were lucky, with guided/tuition days coinciding with falling rivers, so none were lost, and we enjoyed some good sport on occasions.

As usual: when I wasn't guiding, I was fishing. There was no way that I was going to miss out on any opportunity to fish during the final month of our trout season and I was fortunate to hit some good days and some very good fish. I saw my first autumn hatch of Large Dark Olives on the 16th and enjoyed a productive session on the dries. 
On the 19th I caught my best fish of the season - it was the only feeding fish I came across that day, but I wasn't complaining when it took my fly and tore off downstream. It got into fast water and an adrenaline filled fight ensued as it travelled down river with me in pursuit. This wise old leviathan tried to bury itself under any obstacle that it could find. It wrapped my line around two boulders and each time I was sure that we would part company. There was a massive sigh of relief on each occasion as I managed to free the line, and we eventually made it to the softer water of the next pool where this 3lbs 12oz beauty was netted.

I had to wait until September for my best fish of the season

Another nice September fish is returned

A busy week of guiding during the final week of the month meant that my 2017 trout season ended on the 24th. It was a good final session with another nice late season trout weighing in at 2lbs 4ozs.

Mike draws a grayling to the net

Mike joined me for a few days during the final week and he enjoyed what he described as some 'truly memorable' fishing. He enjoyed a good day on the dries, with a good number of fish - mainly grayling - coming to his offerings. He managed a personal best wild trout of 2 lbs 4ozs and then went on to beat it by an ounce on the following day. Then he managed to finish his season off with a final fish that weighed in at dead on 2lbs. He also caught other fish in between, but for me as a guide, it was great to see him get three fish over 2lbs!

Mike with a personal best on Eden (2lbs 4ozs)

Mike beats his previous day's PB by an ounce (2lbs 5ozs)

Mike's final fish of 2107

The river's were on the rise again during the final weekend of the month. Peter and Sven were over from Germany for their first taste of fly fishing in the UK. Our weather was not too kind to them and  - after heavy rain - the Eden system was rising fast. So we had a trip into the borders where the rivers wern't quite as high. Our chosen venue was carrying extra water, but it was fishable, and both managed to get some action. So, although the conditions were far from ideal, they both had a positive start to their visit.

Peter is into his first UK fish

Sven plays a fish on his first try at fishing in the UK

I'm not going to hope for better in October, because, based on the year so far, it's not going to happen! I guess we'll just have to take what comes and make the best of it. Let's just hope that we get some fishing in and good luck to those that brave the elements....

Friday, September 8, 2017

August in Eden

July's unsettled weather and fluctuating water levels continued into August. The rivers seemed to spend most of the month either rising or falling and carrying a touch of colour.

Alan is into a fish on a falling Eden

That was the case for Alan's visit: the river had been up the night before, but it was falling and carrying a touch of colour - but it was fishable. Alan came to expand his river skills and the increased flow was perfect to cover a range of techniques. The fish were on the feed and he managed a good number of fish during his session.

A beautiful small stream trout

There are times when a touch of fresh water and colour can be an advantage. Particularly on some of our small streams, which can prove very challenging when they are down to their bones and gin-clear! The higher levels prompted a trip to one of our small streams on one of the few days that I wasn't guiding in August. Fish were on midges and taking the occasional Black gnat on the flats and a few beautiful small-stream trout responded positively to my dry offerings.

An Eden Brown Trout is returned

Janos is into a fish on his first visit to Eden

August saw a few young anglers trying Eden for the first time. The first were Janos (13) and Moritz (11) from Germany. They were over in the UK with their fishing parents and all joined me for a couple of days on two different Eden venues. The conditions made the fishing challenging for them, but the whole family managed to get fish. It was especially pleasing to see the two boys get fish: Janos was a very good young fisherman and Moritz wasn't too far behind him. I hope that they both enjoyed their first taste of Eden and take this great sport into their adult years.

Moritz with his first English Brown Trout

Colin with a fish that was rising to Black Gnats

The Black Gnat falls were far from prolific this August, but the windy, unsettled weather blew a few onto the water on most days during a two week period through the middle of the month. Colin was lucky to hit one such day. The Gnat falls began around lunchtime and fish were on them immediately. We got onto the dries straight away and Colin enjoyed a productive session, when fish were caught, lost and missed to various Black Gnat imitations.

A Black Gnat feeder is returned

11 year-old Otto with his first river trout on the fly

Another two young anglers to join me in Eden were Eben (13) and Otto (11). The boys have fished with me over the last two years, but we have stuck to stillwaters. This year, I and their parents agreed that they should be big enough to advance to the river.  Both are fairly good casters, so we just had to adjust to wading safely and river techniques. It was great to see their delight when they caught their first river fish! Eben was the first to taste success and although his first fish was a very small brown trout, he was overjoyed with it. Size isn't everything, it was just great to see him catch and, as I mentioned to him: he did better than me when I was started fishing the river - his first trout was bigger than the one I caught on the River Lowther on my first river venture over fifty years ago, but it was enough to get me addicted to this great sport! Otto wasn't far behind his older brother with his first fish and they both went on to catch, lose and miss a few others on a very positive river debut. 

13 year-old Eben with a fish for the camera before it was safely returned

Another newcomer to Eden was Alex. He is in the UK from Philadelphia. He fly-fishes rivers in his own country, but this was his first taste of our UK rivers. Alex mixed things up throughout the day - depending on the area we fished, the conditions and what was happening - to catch and move fish on spiders, the New Zealand dropper and dry flies.
, '
Alex had a good first visit to Eden

Thai Son with his first fly-caught trout

My final client of August was Thai Son. He'd never tried fly fishing before and wanted to try a bit of stillwater fishing. I often whinge that the fish don't always follow the script when I take my clients out! But everything came together perfectly for Thai Son and he topped off his introduction to flyfishing with his first fish.

It would be nice to think that after a very unsettled three months we will have a more settled last month of the season. We often get a bit of an 'Indian summer' in September or October, so let's hope that autumn is kind to us....

Monday, August 28, 2017

Riding on a jet stream

July was a challenging month in Eden. The weather was very unsettled - especially in the latter half of the month - and river levels were constantly changing.
Apparently it's the Jet stream that's to blame: it's much further south than it should be at this time of year and it's dragging one low pressure system after another in from the Atlantic and over the UK.

June ended with a deluge and the Eden was 'out' on the final two days of the month. But our river seems to drop very quickly nowadays and it was fine for Jordan and friends on the first two days of July. It was their first taste of Eden and, considering the conditions, our river performed well with all getting some action and Jordan finished 'top rod' in the group.

Jordan with his first Eden trout

The river was back to a good level for Manfred and Daniella's final session before heading back to Switzerland. We even managed to find a few midge feeders for Manfred and he fished tiny dries to enjoy some action on flies much smaller than he's used to fishing on his home waters.

A midge feeder for Manfred

A rainbow trout for Angela during a casting/fishing session

Heavy rain on the 8th brought a slight lift and some colour to our rivers, but I wasn't too worried as I had a few sessions booked on local stillwaters.  

One to the French leader

The rivers were fine again by the 11th and a spell of more seasonal weather coincided with a break from guiding. Most of my fishing has been concentrated around the dry fly so far this season, so as the conditions were more seasonal - bright sunshine, low river - I decided to break out the 'French leader'. This can be a very effective technique in most conditions, depending on how you employ it, but I think it really comes into it's own when the river is low and clear, and so it proved during a couple of very productive sessions in mid-July.

Markus draws a fish to the net

More rain brought another lift and a touch of colour to our rivers during the final week of July. But we were lucky and it wasn't too big, nor too dirty, to fish. Markus joined me for his first taste of the rivers in our region and changing techniques throughout the day produced a good number of fish to his offerings.

Tyler reaches for the net

It's always great to see young anglers coming into our sport. Tyler was over from Michigan with his parents for his first trip to the UK and this keen young angler joined me for a day. Like many young anglers he tended to favour the heavily publicised 'modern techniques'. For him it was the ' European nymphing' style, which is getting quite popular in the states, with various books and dvd's available on the subject.  He was a very good angler, we tweaked and fine-tuned a few things throughout the session, and his efforts were rewarded with a good number of fish. Hopefully he left with plenty to work on, and think about, to give him many years of enjoyment in this great sport!

David is into a fish

The river was still carrying a touch of colour, but the levels were good when David and Doug joined me on the final two days of the month. Both are very adept 'spider' men and they put there skills to good use during their respective sessions. 

A good session on the spiders for Doug

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A mixed June

June was a mixed month: we had some beautiful weather with temperatures soaring into the high 20's. But we also had some very wet weather - including a few thunder storms - at times, which brought the river's up. We were lucky though and no fishing days were lost to the weather.

A midge feeder is returned

The month started dry and we had some good top of the water sport. Daytime hatches weren't great but fish were more willing to look to the surface for food and we had some good sessions - either speculating with dries or when fish were feeding on midge and small emergers.
I witnessed my first Blue Winged Olive hatch of the year during a late evening session on the 3rd of the month. Fish fed on the BWO's in the failing light before turning their attention to the caddis and a good number of fish responded to imitations of both species.

June hatches of Blue Winged Olives and caddis produced evening sport

Nick reaches for the net

The weather was a touch more unsettled towards the middle of the month and we had a coloured river for Nick's first taste of Eden. I often think of colour in our rivers in terms of 'good colour' and 'bad colour'. It was 'good colour' for Nick and ringing the changes throughout the session brought some action to his offerings. 

Jon draws a fish to the net

The river was still carrying a touch of colour when Jon joined me. It was in good condition though and perfect for our purpose: to look at various nymphing and dry fly techniques. I often complain that the fish very rarely follow the script and can sometimes be a touch uncooperative for my clients, so it was good to see a few fish oblige for Jon's session. We managed to locate rising fish for our dry fly session, and a few responded on cue when we looked at the nymph.... 

A first Eden Grayling for John

The changeable conditions with a slight lift in levels and subsequent drop in water temperature suited our Grayling. I used to find that we rarely came across them at this time of the year, but the unsettled summers of the last few years seems to have suited them and they have been turning up with more regularity during the summer months. This was the case when John joined me for his first taste of Eden. We found a number of rising fish and he managed some good sport to the dry fly. 

Manfred on his first visit to Eden

I get many clients who are trying Eden for the first time. Manfred and Daniela were over from Switzerland for their first trip to the UK and we had a few days together to sample the Eden system. I find it very interesting to discuss other waters, flies, tactics etc. with many of my overseas clients, so it was great to chat with Manfred and have a peek into his fly boxes. He had some very nice flies, predominantly tied with cdc, which - based on what I've read of Swiss anglers - is what I expected.
They were very interested in the tactics that we employ on our waters, so I introduced them to our 'North Country spiders', ' The duo', traditional 'Upstream nymph' and fishing very small dries. Our rivers were kind to them and everything that we looked at produced fish for them on each of their days. On their final afternoon with me we found a few midge feeding fish on the Eden flats. Rising fish were targeted with dries and responded positively to size 18 and 20 midge patterns. 

Manfred and Daniela had their first taste of Eden

As we move into July and August we are hitting what was once renowned as the toughest months of the season for daytime sport. But I must stress 'once' because that was when we had more pronounced seasons and we didn't have the tactics to cope with what was our warmest and driest months. Nowadays our summers seem to be much more unsettled. Over the last few years we've had wetter summers and fluctuating water levels. Water temperatures have been lower at times and the fish have been much more tolerant of the conditions and willing to feed. Plus, we have a greater variety of techniques at our disposal. So I'm looking forward to hitting the water in July and the challenge of whatever the river throws at me....