Spring on a restructured river Eden has been Cathartic; watching the hatches develop and the trout kissing away the bounty, trout in numbers, throughout the age-ranges, with giants among them. Large and medium dark olives, and phenomenal shows of March browns (the best I have ever observed, anywhere); then iron blues and medium olives, a peppering of large brook duns, a blitz of danicas, olive uprights and yellow Mays, and, the whisper of pale wateries and spurwings. There have been some days when I have counted six different species of upwing, hatching simultaneously (in their fascinating micro-habitats), along with grannom caddis and various stoneflies, none of which have entertained the trout, and falls of aphids, midges, black gnats and hawthorns, which often do.
I have seen feeding with abandon, and then it has been extraordinarily subtle and selective, always to the smallest food-forms that are available. The banks have bloomed, covering the scars of the agricultural abuse; nature fighting back as only she can. How beautiful this is; smothering something so ugly, so destructive and manifest of our species, mended by the hand of what is, finally, so much better. And what trout the river has given us! Always I have referred to Eden as a miracle of a river (thanks in the most part not to how we look after it in conservation terms, but to very high annual rainfall and the large catchment, by English standards) although never before has this seemed more appropriate. I don’t think there can be the possibility of a ‘finer’ trout river in England, not now if ever there was, at least on such a large scale.
The ranunculus, one of the European Special Areas of Conservation designated protected species, has gone. Almost. High up the feeders, and a few oases on the main river which somehow escaped the scouring of flood waters, it persists. I have found some on the beck up near Asby (Eden feeder) and more downstream at Rutter Falls, so it will come back, given decent rain. And you know, that scouring swept so much silt from the system, cleansing the river stones and gravels. Except for those farms, that nitrate, and the algae, now dying back and robbing the invertebrates of their habitat of a healthy river bed. The danicas will be alright, of course; but the spurwings, iron blues and blue winged olives, the real benchmarks of a healthy river? Eden has taken it this long, and managed to nurture some of the most rarified river habitat surviving in England.
The trout fishing this spring has been as good as I can ever remember it, eschewing the fears we had after the floods. Oddly, among three hundred trout, I have not caught a single grayling since the end of their season in mid-March, and I know of very few that have been caught. They have been spawning and it is typical of this time of year that they are scarce to the angler, but we always seem to catch a few out-of-season fish; but this year? There were enough around after the floods, so we are not particularly worried. Like the ranunculus, I suspect they will come back in plenty, and probably much sooner.
In early May the rain stopped, and the river flow collapsed. As I write this (with floods in central Europe), it is almost as low as I have ever seen it, and there are long sections which are little more than still pools, if not stagnant, with feeble run-ins. Heaps of trout though; milling about on the surface, mopping up tiny food forms such as aphids, micro-caddis and spurwing emergers, occasionally attacking the ever-increasing danicas. You can be locked on a pod of fish, which can be dozens within casting range, and do everything just about perfectly, only for them to take no notice whatsoever. You can watch the different-sized fish, ranging from 8” up to beasts nudging two feet, and can spend so long at it that you begin to recognize individuals, the subtle differences in their feeding manner and the way they patrol, their markings; it is as if they have personalities.
Typically, you catch a fish immediately, and then, even though fish continue to show, they are different. They don’t look spooked, but they are. So, you have to up your game, or move elsewhere. Now, you have to observe properly, analyse, move like a hunting cat, with an awareness, which just makes you move more slowly, and more like a predator. The best river anglers I have known move elegantly through the water; they engage the river, becoming a part of it, rather than something that disturbs it. They do not offend the eye of the observer.
After all that maneuvering into position, the stealth, and the observation, all it takes is one cast. Why should it need more? More is inefficient. More is noise. I am using the 10’ #2 with the revolutionary micro-thin fly line, and 0.10mm tippet. And, inevitably, the plume tip, in a 21, and very sparse. You will still hear a lot about long leaders and tippets. The need for them; though this is nonsense. Or if not nonsense, just a hangover from how things used to be. The game has changed. Anglers are going to take a while coming away from the conventional fly line mentality, which necessitates the use of a long tapered leader/tippet, just to place the fly far enough away from the disturbance of thick fly line. With these micro-thin fly lines, which are ‘game changers’, you need no taper in the tippet whatsoever. It is like having a built in leader. Just run between 3’ and a rod length of level tippet directly from the loop of the line tip; the more inclement the conditions, the shorter the tippet. Loop-in a section of tippet that you think you can manage in the prevailing conditions and don’t worry if it seems a bit short. If you’re using a micro-thin fly line (from Sunray), it probably won’t matter a jot, even on wild fish, particularly on wild fish, which are the only fish that really matter, and these are what we have in Eden.
Posted in River Eden