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Grayling worries on Eden

Published on February 4th, 2014 by

Many anglers have been concerned by the apparent crash in the grayling population of the Eden, which is disturbingly mirroring what we have noticed on other northern rivers such as the Ure and Wharfe in Yorkshire.  Talking with my friend Stuart Minnikin (Yorkshire Dales Flyfishing) recently, he suggested that it is now a waste of time to fish for grayling on some of these rivers.  I don’t think that the Eden has become this desperate yet, but it is not far off, at least compared with the magnificent fish we were catching last winter, and previously.  Although I have not been out as much as previous winters, I have barely achieved double figures of good grayling (though dozens of out of season trout); these from the normally outstanding Appleby waters all the way down to Warwick Hall. There has been much speculation as to the reasons for the decline.  In recent years we have certainly witnessed a population explosion of goosanders, the prime prey for which are juvenile grayling.  Certainly this ties in with the observation that small – first and second year group – fish have been scarce recently, while the larger fish have seemed to be thriving.  Massive flooding has also been suggested as a cause for the decline.  Although we probably do not actually receive any more rainfall in Cumbria than hitherto, the agricultural drainage and damage of the landscape has manifestly been disastrous for the catchment, and the floods are much more extreme nowadays.  Silt and other agriculturally-produced pollutants are also much more noticeable.  Last spring, many dead and dying grayling were found with a fungal growth, just post-spawning, and the recency of this leads many of us to believe that this is the prime suspect.  The EA might deny that there is any problem whatsoever, but then the EA is a government department and the agricultural concerns throughout the country, and certainly within Cumbria, are so much more overwhelming than a few anglers’ concerns about any fish species.  Anyway, beyond the conspiracy theories, the fact of grayling decline on our northern rivers is real and current.  That being said, grayling are remarkable in their population dynamics, and can be extraordinarily capricious.  They are cyclic in the extreme, and we must hope that on Eden, and elsewhere, they will recover.

 
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