My longest period on the Eden this trout season, between trips to France and elsewhere in Europe, and we seem to be experiencing all the seasons within a few days. Generally mild, though not really seasonally so, with plenty of rain and wind – usually downstream! But it can also be glorious; calm with sunshine and the dazzle of colours of May-time England. I have yet to experience what we refer to as a blizzard hatch, of any species, though the black gnats this year have been spectacular, and the trout have been gorging on these. Hatches of the usual up-wing species have been reasonable, however, and as I write the danica mayflies are showing in good numbers, though, as usual, I have not seen a single one taken. Right now, the trout are still on the gnats, and also taking hawthorns, while a pale watery species is also prevalent, and noticeably focused upon by the larger fish. My own catches have been consistent with most others it seems, in that numbers are low, but the average size of the trout is very high, as last year. Comparatively few juvenile trout are being caught, and practically no grayling whatsoever.
I have been down to Bongate weir a few times since the end of April, in the hope of seeing the grayling spawning here – on surely one of the most important grayling gravels of the entire middle river – and have been dismayed not to see any spawning, or indeed any grayling, even in good, clear water conditions. No-one I have spoken to has reported seeing any grayling spawning in the usual places, and very few grayling have been caught. This is alarming. I have been trawling the network of Eden fly fishers and associations for information regarding grayling and invariably the feedback has been disappointing. At best, the grayling population, for all year groups, has had a poor couple of years and this comparatively short-lived species, is simply at the bottom of its population cycle. At worst, one or more issues affecting grayling are damaging the population, either directly by pollution or predation, or indirectly via habitat destruction. It is rather likely, one suggests, that a whole range of factors are prevalent, because predatory bird numbers are very high throughout the Eden system, while habitat degradation is visibly so much more obvious in recent years with the vast intensification of both livestock and arable farming in the area.
Tom Speak called me yesterday to tell me of a magnificent catch he had on the lower Eamont (PAA water), with over 30 trout (no grayling) on the plume tip. He lost what he referred to as what would have been his personal best river brown trout too, which he estimated at well over four pounds in weight. Mark Warman also got in touch to tell me of good catches of, again, brown trout in usual haunts on the main river. Steven Dawson and Michael Edwards have been down to the new section of Appleby Anglers water at Ousenstands Bridge and have had some good trout, including the loss of another very large trout for Michael. I have not yet had a three pounder this season on Eden, but have managed six fish over two pounds. I visited the Winderwath section (PAA) with Tom a week ago – a place where I can usually find one or two exceptional fish, but was frustrated with just a single 32cm trout on the PTN, duo rig. We saw only one fish rise in three hours! So, it is contrasts at the moment; but certainly worth a visit, because in anything of a hatch or windfall, these big wild trout are breathtaking, and there is still the potential on Eden for the best fishing in England for genuinely wild trout, on such a large scale.
Typically, just after writing the above I have just been down to the new AA water, the King’s Arms stretch around Ousenstands, and caught a dozen small trout along with a couple of larger fish. There were masses of upwings, including danicas, and fish rising on and off the foam lanes. All fish came to a yellow quill plume tip, size 17. There is a huge population of trout on this stretch, and it is certainly a welcome addition to the Association’s list of Eden sections.