Living with contrasts… Just as we had settled to the norm of icy easterlies and high flows, now we have the opposite, although at least the weather is now more seasonally appropriate. On the Eden, the hatches have diversified and remain strong though several anglers have noticed more midge species prevalent than ever before.
Danica mayflies are also now hatching in large numbers. Both these are indicators of increased siltation, however, and should be seen in parallel with the diminution of water crowfoot beds and the collapse of the juvenile fish populations (all silt-intolerant), so in spite of those very strong flows through the winter and spring, silt is becoming increasingly damaging to the river habitat. Nonetheless, many of us feel that the fishing is outstanding, dominated by much larger than average wild brown trout. My own average length for trout since the beginning of the trout season, has been 33cm (13″), which is exceptional when considering that these are wild fish and there are probably no other English rivers that could yield this average size (for genuinely wild fish). The grayling are similarly large, although there is similar concern about the comparative absence of one- and two-year group fish.
It has been surprising to find trout feeding well during the very bright weather rather than the late evenings. Feeding obviously coincides with hatch activity, and these have been typically early to mid-afternoon, dying away in the cool of evening when the spinners return to the river, and never seem to entice the fish into the same level of feeding activity, probably because the spinners, until they lie spent on the water, are nothing like as easy targets as emergers and duns. Another feature of the fishing, as is usual, has been the selectivity of the trout, often for the smallest upwing species present, rather than, say, the huge olive uprights or danicas. Time and again I have fished a 21 or 19 plume tip and enticed the biggest fish, even while watching the comparatively smaller trout mobbing the olive uprights (often unsuccessfully).
I have visited rivers farther afield, including in southern Scotland and North Yorkshire, to delight in finding strong upwing hatches and trout feeding voraciously on them. I’m now looking forward to one of our annual trips to Slovenia, in early July, and can hardly wait for the first casts on the awesome Sava tailwater. Oddly, in such a fast flow river as this, there is also a predominance of certain midge species, which often surprises people, but then there are also very healthy populations of upwings and, particularly, caddis species, as well as other invertebrates such as simply staggering numbers of gammarus shrimps. I often think that when finally, all wildness has been stolen from English rivers by agricultural activity, the surviving European trout and grayling rivers, such as Sava, will be exemplar and will ultimately show the value of properly protecting such habitats. It is a shame that we cannot do this in England, historical home of fly fishing.