It is like fishing a new river. Structurally so much has changed; in some places profoundly and in others subtly. Crucially, we can allay members’ fears that the enormous and persistent winter floods have damaged the fish and fly life. All seems to be well, in spite of findings of some dead trout and grayling (and crayfish) on fields which were flooded. You may not find the fish in their usual places, because these might have gone, or changed, but the fish are where one would expect them to be, and I have also noticed strong hatches of large dark olives, even this early in the year. The river bed, while always dynamic, has moved a great deal, but it has been scoured clean, ridding itself of most of the stifling silt that had built up in recent years (silt from damaged farmland in the upper river valley). In those areas where trees and fencing have been removed in the past in an attempt to gain a little extra grazing land – you know how it is – or direct access to the river for cattle and sheep, the banks have been stripped (which will probably increase further silting in years to come), and this has added to the shifting features throughout the river. Islands, gravel bars and boulders have altered position significantly. This includes on the Appleby waters, and we will all find numerous surprises on early visits this year. Maybe throughout, because I have been on the river a dozen times since the first big floods and it all (well mostly) feels like virgin water to me.
I have fished either with a tenkara or western 10’ two weight (Streamflex), exclusively with a double nymph rig; all winter, even when there has been a hatch of large dark olives, which has been common, though there has been little rising at them. I have been tempted a few times by dry fly, but it has been a passing whim. Nymph has dominated, and has resulted in steady catches throughout our waters. ‘Nymph’ should be qualified. As in recent years, I have continued to use mostly jigs in the winter. I use two, separated only by 30cm – 45cm, with a slightly heavier one (3.3mm tungsten bead) on point. My best fly, however, has been the Hydrospyche (caseless caddis) jig, with a 3mm silver tungsten bead, in the dropper position. This fly has resulted in 80 per cent of my fish (trout and grayling) through the winter. It has surprised. I have tried other flies in this position, and on point, but this one has excelled. Maybe it’s nothing more peculiar than the fish are feeding on hydros?
The fish have not been particularly deep, though it is noticeable that the grayling have tended to come out of deeper, slower water than the trout (though even so, I have caught all my fish in less than three feet depth of water, and most of them around two feet). I find it fascinating that these species occupy subtly different niches in the river, essentially not competing, and also how they survive the floods and quickly adapt to their changed habitat. I suppose the wildlife has found it difficult to adapt to the habitat changes, but sometimes out on the river lately you really do wonder at it all. I even saw a family of four otters, playing and whistling to one another up at Sandford. If it were not for the horrific amount of rubbish, most of it from the farms, that will only be cleared away when fishermen and walkers take the trouble to remove it, then the upper Eden, right now, makes you think that all is well with the world.
Appleby AA and Penrith AA jointly organised a ‘clean-up’ session on the shared water at Bolton, on Saturday 27th February. An enormous amount of flood debris has collected there. Another session might be organised later in the year to try to tackle the litter on the banks downstream of the town.
Appleby Angling chairman, Steven Dawson, and river guide Geoff Johnston were out together recently and had a catch of 13 between them, with grayling to a pound and a half, all consistent with what many of us are finding on ‘post-flood’ Eden: the river in terms of trout and grayling habitat has, if anything, improved, flushed clear of silt. There are indeed some lovely stretches of clear gravel and boulders, though one wonders if the ranunculus will come back so strongly. It is a tenacious species, however, and it does not take well to silt, so it is possible that the ‘refreshed’ environment of the upper Eden might prove more favourable for this protected plant.
Please notice that the subscription form, on this website, has been updated and you can now pay online to the account details shown. It would be very good to hear of members’ and visitors’ catches, or any notable experiences or observations on the river, so please let us know, via email@example.com.
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The floods have wrought a lot of damage to our river, though it seems remarkable that the fish are still there, apparently unaffected. That anything could hold on against the staggering force of water which swept through Eden during December, defies belief for those of us who saw it, but as evidenced by our fishing during January, the fish have managed to do so. This should be qualified. I have been out on Appleby waters four times since New Year, with good catches of both grayling and out-of-season trout (all on the nymph). I know also that AA member Geoff Johnston has caught in areas different from those I have fished. I have, however, not caught a grayling smaller than 33cm, and only one small trout (actually caught by my visiting guest, Stuart Minnikin), the rest being 35cm+. There remains, therefore, a concern for the juvenile fish, although I would be surprised if these don’t also start showing up in catches when the cold weather abates.
We would be amazed, however, if the autumn spawning of salmon (saw more of these at Appleby in November than the last few years) and trout had been successful, because surely that force of water will have scoured out the spawning redds, though again, you never know. In any case, there are always good and bad recruitment years, for all species, and we still have the prospects of a good grayling spawning in April or May.
There has been a lot of structural damage, with huge amounts of bank space eroded and washed away. This is most noticeable where the trees have been removed in certain areas in a bid to access the river for sheep and cattle, and a bit of extra grazing, only for the reverse to be achieved with the bankside being swept away as a result of removal of those trees, or fencing. Litter from farms, and the caravan site at Bolton, is much in evidence along the banks and festooned in the surviving trees, and it all makes for a sorry sight. I know that our Chairman, Stephen Dawson, has been in touch with the county council to ask for help with removal of this rubbish. We can hope that the riparian landowners along the river will remove the rubbish, although realistically, Appleby Anglers Association might need to think about organising a litter pick along our waters in order to clear the bulk of this. Watch this space!
Eden, finally, is a miracle. Forget the SSSI and ESAC designations, which practically are meaningless, and even the European Water Frameworks directive (though, perhaps our only hope?). After all the agricultural exploitation, after all the removal of the upland forest and wetland, and the catastrophic effects of climate change and extreme, concentrated rainfall, it survives. Judging by the numbers of big grayling and trout in evidence in catches so far this year, it could be a great season ahead. We shall just have to hope that the juveniles have survived in reasonable numbers, having found shelter during those ferocious floods, and that the next spawnings are successful so as to repopulate the river. It would be good to hear from members and visitors about their catches, along with rough locations.
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I have not fished the Eden very much since the spring, but have done so recently, and have also heard from a few friends who have experienced mixed results through the year. The summer seems to have given us a low river, after superb flows back in the spring which yielded exceptional fishing for large trout, and pretty good hatches (other than the March Brown, which was disappointing). I have heard mostly of lean catches in the low water of summer, with occasional good trout, but not many grayling. Steven Dawson told me that he had experienced his worst season ever on the Eden. Let’s hope that this is temporary, related to the conditions.
Indeed, this might be the case, because two trips in the last week, on our Appleby waters, revealed a huge number of two-year-group grayling (all feeding voraciously on pale wateries), fish in the 25cm-30cm range, and this bodes extremely well for the winter grayling fishing to come. Steven also reported catching in the same places, and also some late season trout. Tom Speak, fishing on a guest ticket back in August, told me that he had never caught so many grayling in a session on the Eden, while Geoff Johnston regularly posted about superb catches on both AA and PAA waters. And after those phenomenal brown trout back in the spring all of this is encouraging.
We have at least another month when grayling will be focused on the surface, on various upwing species, particularly the pale watery. Don’t worry if the mornings are crisp and frosty; this is nothing to late season olives, and also to the fish, that will rise in abandon to these easy targets (which will usually hatch in the afternoon and early evening), feasting before the comparative paucity of winter. So, we will have great opportunities for dry fly for some time yet, though inevitably we will increasingly turn to the nymph.
It would be great to hear from members, or fishing guests, of their grayling catches (or trout from the last season), so please do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that I can post here. Don’t worry about photographs, unless you can take a quick one while the fish is in the water, or net; it is much better to return the grayling as quickly as possible, and definitely no ‘grip and grin’ photos, which usually finally result in fatal damage, even if you see the fish swim off…
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One of the best spring fishing periods ever on the Eden system – this has been the experience of many of us this year, including on the Appleby waters. Hatches have been strong, particularly through what has been a rather cool May, and lately we have been able to count up to six upwing species hatching simultaneously, including danica mayflies, as well as various caddis species and massive drifts of terrestrial black gnats. This latter insect is one of the few that can actually break the trout and grayling preoccupation with small upwings. It has been curious that in some locations, we have found fish completely locked on the gnats, ignoring medium olives, while elsewhere the opposite has been noticed.
It has been the quality of the fish that has been most encouraging, with some very large trout among them. Years of a no-stocking policy is paying off, with the reward of genuinely wild Eden valley trout, which are so distinctive and nationally famous. They are present in good numbers though many of us have also noticed a worrying lack of juvenile fish, in many locations. Blame for the latter usually is cast at the predatory birds. These surely have an impact, but one wonders if the core of the problem is rather to do with habitat change, which is so manifest now through the Eden valley. It is noticeable that the Lowther, lying as it does entirely within the national park, with its consequently higher conservation status, has no shortage of juvenile trout, as well as a surprising population of particularly large trout.
Since late March friends and I have been fishing almost entirely with dry fly, with the fish so focused on the surface, particularly the upwings, which are very easy targets for them. The CDC plume tip has seldom been off my cast, usually a size 19, and has accounted for memorable fish. Just recently the Eden has gone into its change phase, so typical of this time of year, as spring transitions into summer. Despite very large upwings now so prevalent, such as olive uprights and danicas, the big trout rarely become pre-occupied with these, and tend to favour the smaller upwings, such as medium olives and pale wateries, and the aforementioned black gnats. It pays now, more than through early spring, to keep the fly dry and small, and to be accurate, because the fish, both trout and grayling, will not move far off station to intercept such small food items. It pays too to be observant. Look at where the foam lanes are most concentrated. This is where the insects will be trapped, and certainly where the fish will be feeding. The rise forms are usually very delicate, because the fish, particularly big grayling, rarely waste much energy in the feeding process.
Do please email me with any memorable fish or sessions you have had – email@example.com – so that we can share them with other members and visiting anglers.
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The spring season has been spectacular on Eden, at least for numbers of large trout. Hatches of large dark olives have been consistent, if not huge, and invariably these have brought trout to the surface. It has been a case of identifying the right water and then approaching it from downstream, if possible, while watching for the tell-tale rises, which can be very subtle. Often one hears the sip of the rise, before noticing the mark on the surface. Foam lanes on runs and pools, below fast water, are the places to concentrate. It is very unusual not to find trout here.
Nymph and spider will work in such water, but so will the right sort of dry fly. I have not fished anything other than dry since the beginning of the trout season – nearly always CDC plume tips – and this rarely fails to tempt fish into a confident rise in the right sort of water. March Browns have been around for the last two weeks, but never in significant numbers. It is the general feeling that this classic upwing species of the spring, rare in England, but once strongly present in Eden, is diminishing, which is tragic really; but just one more sign of the parlous environmental state of the Eden today.
Juvenile trout and grayling, and salmon parr, are conspicuous by their comparative absence, which is disturbing long-term on our river. While it is lovely to catch these spectacular, big brown trout, this is only happening because they are completely outnumbering the juveniles, and this is not a stable situation. It is, rather, how a river dies. There is a ridiculous over-population of cormorants and goosanders throughout the system, and most observers feel that these fish hunting birds are the main reason for the decline in fish populations, with only the larger trout and grayling surviving, and while I am not of this view, we must all recognise that fish predation is contributory to the problem. It is noticeable that we are finding most of our trout in very ‘protected’ lies, even on very fast water, where they have cover from predators.
Anglers on the Appleby waters are advised to be very cautious when wading. There is a lot of farm rubbish in the river, and the banks in many areas are so damaged that they are eroding badly, leading to whole sections of barbed wire fence in the river itself.
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The comparatively mild weather this winter has resulted in some outstanding grayling fishing on the Appleby waters. The trout, also, have remained much more active than in cooler years. Several members, and visitors, have been out and most have been surprised at the number, and size, of the grayling being caught. It was only a year ago that we were hugely concerned about the disappearance of grayling throughout the system, following deaths by a fungal infection during the 2013 spawning season. Miraculously, they have returned, at least on our sections of river (though I hear reports that all is not quite so good elsewhere on the Eden).
Most of the fish are in the 25-30cm range, though numerous specimens larger than 40cm have been caught. I was out recently with member Tom Speak, shown in the photo here, and watched him catch this beautiful 48cm hen fish, to cap a session during which three of us caught a dozen grayling in two hours, apart from numerous out of season trout, which included a huge four pound plus trout! On the milder days fish can be seen rising, to midges. Tom even rose one to a dry caddis, though failed to connect. Nonetheless, nymph fishing is recommended, with the more successful anglers generally fishing a team of two, spaced closely together, on a short line such as a French-style leader or tenkara rig. Just before the storm arrived this week I had a session at Crackenthorpe in which I caught six grayling and six OOS trout, all on the double nymph tenkara rig, and it felt like spring.
There are still over two months of the grayling season left, so why not take advantage of the recovering stock of this magnificent game fish? They can be found almost everywhere on the Appleby waters, with noted areas being Holme Farm and the Town Water.
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Having been away for most of the summer, I returned to fish the Eden in early October and was hugely encouraged by the enormous hatches of pale wateries (and some blue winged olives), with both out-of-season trout and grayling up at them. The numbers of fish, of both species, are huge on the Appleby waters, as observed by the relentless rises. Fishing CDC plume tips (size 19) has been successful, though it can be difficult to ‘break through’ the aggressive trout in order to find the much more subtly-rising grayling.
After last winter and spring, when we were depressed to observe what we thought was a grayling population collapse, it is so welcome to find this species in such numbers, typically 25cm fish, which are the result of spawning during the spring of 2013. Members, visitors and I have found these fish well spread throughout the Appleby waters. Also, there seem to be a lot of juvenile trout present, so generally, all bodes well for future years, in spite of what we also observe in the way of farm damage to the banks of the upper river and a decline in water crowfoot. Invertebrate populations, and diversity, seem to be at least stable, and I have been astonished, actually, by the recent vast hatches of pale wateries.
Several members and visitors have told me about their catches through the summer. During the persistent, very low water conditions there were few grayling caught, though there were surprisingly good trout numbers, albeit mostly small; 20cm-30cm. Occasional very big fish were caught, however: Mark Warman had a personal best grayling, somewhere around three pounds in weight, up at Sandford, while Steven Dawson had a spectacular four pound (weighed) brown trout at Colby Laithes.
As I write this we have entered our traditional phase of autumn stormy weather and the river is now running heavy and brown, but we know the fish are out there, so there are excellent prospects for grayling fishing this winter, once the water drops away and clears a little. It would be good to hear of your grayling catches so that we can share them among members on this site.Autumn on Eden
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Here we are in a new trout season and all bodes well for the coming months, particularly in terms of big fish. The concern is for juvenile fish which seem to be present in our waters in very low numbers, almost certainly due to the huge level of predation from visiting cormorants and resident goosanders, which are present in larger numbers that any of us have seen them before. There is widespread concern now throughout the Eden system about the apparent collapse in the grayling population. On Appleby waters it is rare to catch a juvenile, while the numbers of large fish (40cm+) is a mere fraction of what it was two years ago. Bird predation seems to get the lion’s share of the blame, though habitat destruction via silt run-off from the farms may well be a significant contributory cause. The latter has certainly escalated in recent years.
Such is the concern for the grayling, that ERT and REDFA wish to develop a grayling log so as to give a broad picture of exactly what is happening to grayling populations throughout the Eden system; this with the aim of developing sufficient background information to help with possible conservation measures. I am, therefore, going to be contacting all clubs/associations on the Eden, as well as the Grayling Society, with a view to gleaning as much information as possible for this survey. It would be very helpful if members of AA would email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with details of their grayling catches. The information needed is: when and where fished; how many grayling were caught and the approximate size range; details of any exceptionally large fish; concentrations of juvenile fish; any signs of disease or beak damage. The spawning season is about to start (April), so if any members observe this it would be good to hear about this too. Photos would be a bonus.
Obviously, with the grayling season now being closed until June 16th, grayling captures will be accidental, while trout fishing, but details of their capture (and release) will still be worthwhile for the survey. Also, your experiences with grayling over the 2013/14 grayling season would be appreciated.
On Sunday 16th March, members of the AAA committee are walking the river in order to do a predatory bird count on our waters.
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The autumn fishing on Eden has been up and down, like the river. Reasonable blue winged olive hatches and pale wateries persisting late in the season provided excellent sport for both trout and grayling. Several of us have noticed just how localised the grayling are, and, as typical, feed more efficiently and selectively than the trout. It will be good to see how this year’s nymph fishing for the winter grayling compares with former years. We noticed how the grayling seemed to disappear this spring, at spawning time, but then suddenly rematerialised in the late summer. One suspects that the usual haunts on the Appleby waters will produce, as always, and in milder spells we might even have the opportunity of fishing dry fly to those grayling that rise to any large dark olive hatches.
The year as a whole has been fascinating on our river. The spring fishing was some of the best ever, particularly for much larger than average trout (my own average was 35cm), although during this period there was a worrying lack of small fish, of both species. Most anglers blame the huge populations of goosanders now present on the upper and middle river. Hatches were incredible in this day and age of over-siltation in the lower reaches of the river resulting in a diminution of water crowfoot and suitable invertebrate habitat. Late in the season, however, we witnessed what appeared to be a recovery at least of the juvenile trout population, with several members, reporting capture of numerous small trout, so this is encouraging. One suspects that the heavy rainfall in the last two months has been beneficial to the entire river system, washing away a lot of the silt, although this will simply be relocated to the lower river and the estuary.
Appleby waters generally respond very well to small nymphs through the winter period. I tend to fish a pair of these, about two feet apart, on a fairly short tippet, either on a leader-only rig or my cherished two weight, which is tipped with a horsehair furl. We are blessed, historically, with very large grayling on our waters, and one has noticed over the years that these specimens respond much more readily to comparatively small nymphs, rather than the tungsten-loaded heavyweights one often sees on larger rivers with a more powerful flow, such as the Tweed or the Welsh Dee.
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While away in France in August I heard from three Appleby members that the fishing on our waters was a little slow, which was to be expected in the generally low level. A few large fish were caught, however, mostly on dry fly, and these included some good grayling. Oddly, on the Appleby waters grayling have been few and far between since the opening of the season (16th June), and there has been a notable absence of one year group and second year group fish, which is probably due as much to the huge population of goosanders on the middle and upper river as the silt damage from the farms which seems to be increasing exponentially.
Since my return I have been out three times on the Eden and have been rewarded with the astonishing experience of seeing what seems like every fish in the river rising simultaneously! Black gnats have been carpeting the river and both trout and grayling are up at them, ignoring almost everything else (such as the trickles of spurwings and pale wateries). The feeding is relentless and spectacular, and indicates also, just how many fish there must be in our waters. It even supports member’s findings about very low catch numbers of juvenile fish, because most of the fish seen rising are upwards of 25cm. The average size of trout I have caught on Eden this year is 32cm, and for grayling it is 33cm. While this gives us anglers such a boost, it is, however, alarming that the juvenile populations have collapsed and does not bode well for the future.
Adapting from my usual heron herl CDC plume tip to a black version (on a 21 or 19), has made considerable difference to the catch rate. It is astonishing to watch the heron herl version drift by rising fish either completely ignored or precipitating an unconvincing rise form, and then to change to the black variant for the rises to be confident, resulting in successful hooking. And the grayling have re-appeared; in among the more aggressively feeding trout, the grayling are taking the gnats in all those foam lanes where we would expect them to be, and have always found them.
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