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.
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All our fears about the floods having an impact on fish populations in the Eden were, mercifully, groundless. Right from the opening of the last trout season, in March, our anglers reported excellent catches, with numerous fish caught in the 2lb – 3lb class, and apparently stronger numbers of juvenile fish than recent years. The banks were ravaged by the repeated floods, particularly in those areas which have lost their tree cover, and the amount of rubbish washed into the river, and caught up where there are still trees was horrific. Most of this, including vast amounts of farm plastic, would have been washed away to the sea. The pollution impact from this beggars belief. The AAA committee, and Eden Rivers Trust, organised several clean up days and this resulted in extraordinary amounts of rubbish being taken away to landfill.
When spring came and the remaining bank-side foliage covered the scars, it was like being on the Eden of old, again, and the fishing was superb. Several of us noted particularly strong hatches of March Browns and Iron Blues, both species of which are nationally rare. On some days one could count up to six up-wing species active simultaneously, and this is a very rare event in modern agricultural England. All in all, we felt the floods had been good for the river, scouring away a lot of the silt which had built up in recent years. The trout fed relentlessly on the glut of up-wings. I fished nothing other than CDC plume tips (a fly highly suggestive of the natural up-wing emergers and duns) and catches throughout the Eden system were superb.
The grayling seemed to disappear, though this is often, curiously, the case during their spawning season, and they certainly came back in the summer, while catches of small trout continued, with the odd larger fish among them. It is some years since we have found such large numbers of juvenile fish in our waters, so this was encouraging, particularly when autumn revealed that there were also a lot of yearling grayling present. Perhaps the floods are to be thanked for this, scouring and cleaning the spawning gravels.
Dry fly action continued deep into the autumn, largely because the hatches persisted, culminating in the late-season specialists of pale watery species and the wonderful Blue Winged Olive. I caught my last fish of the year, shortly before Christmas day, on a plume tip. Since then, the river has been generally very low, for winter conditions, because it has mostly been dry. Unfortunately, slurry and silt pollution have been serious, while cormorant numbers have been worrying. I write this in the wake of two consecutive blank trips to the Appleby waters during which I did not see a single fish, which is unusual, even in winter, and particularly as I noticed a reasonable number of large dark olives on the drift lanes.
All of this is particularly disturbing following a friend of mine telling me about a slurry pollution on the Hoff Beck below Rutter Falls (this beck issues into the Eden at Colby Laithes). He described the river as running black and stinking for the entire period that he and a shooting party were present. I walked the beck a couple of days later and found the feeder drain where the slurry had entered. It was still black and foaming, completely dead. My friend reckoned that a whole slurry silo had been discharged and remarked: ‘The fish just don’t stand a chance.’ A double blow, really, because this particular stretch had been improving in recent years. It just takes one selfish, illegal act and years of natures repair is undone in moments. I reported the pollution to the EA, of course, but I know what the outcome will be. All members are encouraged, however, to report pollution incidents they observe by calling the EA hotline: 0800 807060.
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Kirkby Stephen and District Angling Association, in collaboration with The Wild Trout Trust and the EA, are arranging the following event.
Training session on the practical assessment of juvenile trout and spawning habitats in tributaries and feeder becks.
DATE: Saturday 18th March
Venue to be confirmed nearer the date
If you are interested and would like further information .
Please contact Gareth Pedley at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Eden has been magnificent since the spring, with numerous anglers reporting consistent catches, and also noticing the phenomenal hatches and windfalls. Various upwing species have hatched in better numbers than I can ever remember. I believe the huge floods actually benefitted the river habitat, clearing away some of the polluting silt from the environmentally-damaged landscape of the upper Eden valley.
For the last month of so, the dominant food-forms have been either pale wateries or aphids, and these species are notorious for producing difficult fishing. Any sort of big fly is a waste of time when fish are pre-occupied on these small insects.I think the most successful approach is to fish a dry pattern sub-size 20. My heron herl plume tip has been devastating. It consists of a single wound strand of heron primary or secondary with a single CDC plume tip, at about the length of the hook, with a loose, tiny dubbing of CDC at the thorax.I fish this on a 0.10mm tippet, which should not be greased. If the fish are feeding on aphids, I even pinch out the dubbing in the thorax. The trick is to have the fly well bedded down in the surface film, and to fish it very accurately on the fish’s feed lane, particularly for grayling, which are much less forgiving that trout.
We can expect pre-occupation on such food forms for quite some time yet, particularly the pale watery which will be hatching into October. As usual, though, the wonderful Blue winged Olive (BWO) will make its show and produce among the very best fishing of the whole year. The plume tip, again, is a great fly for the BWO (actually for any upwing), in a size around 18/19. Most anglers try to simulate the lovely green colour of the the abdomen of the BWO, though I do not bother anymore, finding the ever-faithful heron herl close enough – at least this is what the fish tell me.
It has been a very odd experience: back in the grayling close season, until June 16th I did not catch a single grayling on the Appleby waters, among almost two hundred trout caught! Yet, right now, as I write this in mid-August, I think grayling are more prolific than trout. All year groups appear to be present, predominating with one and two year group fish, though there are a good number of those gorgeous Eden giants popping up throughout our waters. The best fish usually turn up in numbers from October through to the new year, so prospects are good, and we still have the BWO to enjoy before all that.
Please let us know of any notable catches (Jlucas135@gmail.com) and do try to fish barbless and return your fish unharmed. Catch and release works, if practised carefully. We owe it to this remarkable river, which is the very best surviving in England, on such a large scale.
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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.
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Penrith Angling Association
Learn the art of Fly-Fishing with professional tutors
Juniors aged 7 to 18 who are new to the sport and keen to improve their skills, or anyone wishing to encourage their kids to get out of the house and have the opportunity to learn the art of Fly-fishing from some of the best local professional tutors available, should contact the club secretary for booking and for further details – please note limited places available.
Contact Penrith Anglers
Tel- 01768 88294
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Penrith Angling Association are hosting a Junior event on some lovely water at Eden Lacy by kind permission of Victor Gubbins.
This is an open invitation to River Eden Juniors who may fish already or who have not yet tried fishing to come and enjoy a fun and inspiring day out (10.00am – 4.00pm) with the excellent instructors from Borderlines – there is no charge for this instruction.
Flyer details and booking form attached through Andrew Dixon PAA secretary and coordinator on the day.
Please forward these details if you know of a parent/child who may be interested – early booking required as numbers are limited.
REDFA River Eden & District Fisheries Association
The Barn, Skirwith, Penrith, Cumbria CA10 1RH
Home 01768 879047 Mob 07926 489764
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Eden has been full of surprises this spring, and most of them pleasant. Hatches of large dark olives have been consistent and March Browns have been exceptional, and currently other upwing species are making an appearance, so any fears about the floods having adversely affected the invertebrates are rapidly fading. The trout population seems also hardly to have been dented, though, like last year, there is a comparative scarcity of juvenile fish. The average size of trout that friends and I have caught so far this spring has been just over 30cm (12″), though this average has been nudged up by the capture of some exceptional fish around 50cm, with every fish coming to a plume tip.
There have been two river clean up sessions in which Appleby members have been involved, removing as much as possible of the flood debris. These have been at Bolton Willows and Holme Farm and Crackenthorpe stretches of river. Other groups, along with ERT, have been involved in similar. In the main, the river is looking lovely, particularly the river bed which appears scoured and free from silt. The ranunculus, one of the designated species under the ESAC conservation status, has been severely diminished, although it is beginning to come back and we feel sure that much of the root stock will be there and it will regenerate.
All in all, prospects are exciting for the season ahead. I feel we will have much to discover, because there has been considerable structural change, subtle and extreme, and with it the locations of the fish, and their feeding behaviours, particularly the big grayling – which should become apparent in the late summer. Right now, as the upwing hatches develop, the dry fly fishing is tremendous, and we can expect this throughout the entire trout season, with a bit of attention to the prevalent food form species.
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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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