Appleby Spring

Wonderful spring fishing on our waters, although not quite the scale of hatches as we saw during last spring following the big floods of 18 months ago. The silt is returning, supplemented by all the rubbish that finds its way into the Eden nowadays. So, at least the vulgata and danica mayflies are doing well.Not, actually, great news for a northern freestone river, because these flies are indicators of silt. The hatches of smaller ephemera species were not too bad, although there was general disappointment in a feeble March brown appearance (and I don’t think the iron blues were as encouraging as the previous year). Grannom sedges did their usual thing, appearing as vast swarms or not at all, nothing in between, and interested the trout only if there was nothing else hatching (rather like mayfly). In spite of the generally cold, dry weather, however, the usual range of up-wings lifted trout to the surface. These included super hatches of medium olives, olive uprights and large brook duns.

Grayling, as is typical, hardly showed at all during their close season. In fact, I caught my first today, the 16th, as the new grayling season opens. Funny how often this happens. Goes to show that we have the right close season for this species, I suppose, as they spawn at roughly the same time as coarse species. There is now a disturbing paucity of juvenile trout throughout the Eden system, at least compared with former years. Many blame the vast population of visiting cormorants, with flocks in excess of 60 being seen by many members, even on Appleby town water during the late winter. Interesting, though upsetting, to note that they have disappeared now from our waters, probably because the fish population is so low. There is also the almost continuous stench of slurry along much of the main river nowadays. I noticed this even in the very dry weather we had until recently. It is certain that juvenile trout, and grayling, are much more sensitive to slurry, and silt, pollution than adult fish. I have reported on this problem, here and elsewhere, and directly to the EA, on numerous occasions, but nothing changes. We now have an artificially imposed climax situation, in habitat terms, whereby the ecological bias is towards large trout. You can see this everywhere here now. A glide that once might have held a dozen or more juveniles, or sub-25cm fish, along with two or three much larger adults, will now hold a much diminished juvenile population, though the big fish are still there, and growing bigger.

There is no shortage of large trout, and I suspect grayling. You have to hunt these fish, watching the river, the likely places, until you see the tell-tale signs, the tiny rise forms. Now that we are into the summer, these rise forms will become increasingly subtle, and the trout more wary. You could try nymph in these likely places, although you might find that very few of the larger specimens come to nymph. They are focused on the surface most of the time now, and will remain thus until deep into the autumn. Waiting for the fish to show; down at Colby Laithes: Dry fly is certainly the way to go, and I would recommend you keep it small. It is curious, but on a (comparatively) healthy river, in terms of invertebrates, it is almost always that the big fish focus the smallest of the available food-forms. Right now this is black gnats, while the fish are completely ignoring the yellow Sally stoneflies and mayflies that are hatching day-long. Soon the medium olives will come back, and the spurwing and pale watery species, and every fish in the river will be up at them.

Don’t expect to find the best trout (and they can reach over two feet) exposed on the open foam and feed lanes. They are, invariably, in the most protected lies, close to cover, if not actually in it. They will drop out and occupy a more exposed feeding lie if they are not disturbed, but we cannot expect to walk straight into position and for them to remain feeding. They will immediately bolt for cover. The trick is to move very slowly, working into position and waiting perhaps half an hour, while the disturbance of your entry dissipates. Sometimes, all you are given is one cast, so you have to make it count. There is often a lot of ‘working out’ to do while you are observing. The rewards really are worth the effort.

Posted in River Eden