This last six weeks have seemed long, as the countryside of northern England has slipped stealthily from spring to summer. I have ranged about a bit, with fly rod, though I have probably spent the most time on the Eden. I have willed this once magnificent river to again reveal its magic, but, really, it is in survival state now, with enormous damage throughout the catchment, ranging from drainage to run-off and pulverised bankside. Of course, it is still beautiful, if one ignores the scars along the banks and all the silage wrap festooning all the trees, and the disappearance of the alders. High up the system is is bare and open, because nothing larger than a thistle can withstand the relentless, insane level of grazing. The grayling have almost entirely disappeared, with their mysterious population collapse, throughout the year groups. There are comparatively few juvenile trout on the main river, with the exception of a few areas, though the big, wild, Eden trout remain : a miracle among modern agricultural Cumbria. I haven’t had any monsters lately, but several fish around the two pound mark, all to the heron herl plume tip or black F-fly version. Hatches have been indifferent since the early spring. The black gnats this year, however, were exceptional – and early. My catches have mostly been ones and twos, with targeted rising fish. I have noticed a lot of disturbingly quiet, or ‘dead’ water.
Hence, in part, my exploring a little farther away, fishing Eden feeders such as the Eamont and Lowther, and the smaller Crowdundle, Helm and Hoff becks, as well as different river systems hereabouts, with a delightful morning on the high Tees and a remarkable session on the Borrowdale beck, which runs down into the Lune at Tebay. I have fished all of these smaller rivers with tenkara, with either plume tips or Oppos (on the bouncier water), and the trout have been breathtaking. I felt that on Borrowdale, every spot that just might have held a trout in fact did hold a trout! And actually many little pockets that just looked too shallow or fast also held trout! Mostly small fish up on these streams, of course, perhaps averaging 6″-8″ (15-20cm), but they are utter perfection – exactly as they should be on these high waters, and there are numerous surprises among them with fish clearing 12″ (30cm), sometimes materialising from the utterly clear waters like ghostly leopards, pouncing on their prey. It has been enthralling, and such a relief after the agricultural damage of today’s river Eden.
And today I visited Haweswater with Lawrence. A lovely overcast with a north wind, giving us a gentle left to right wind along the north-west shore. Trout were cruising in the margins, and even far out over the open water, and it took me an hour before I realised that dry fly was the answer. I had had several takes on a drowned black hopper (14), and nothing to the nymph on point (double fly rig), until I just set up the hopper as a singleton, greased, on a long tippet and allowed it do drift dead in the ripple. Several fish just appeared from the expanse, sipping away the hopper. Other than Lawrence and myself, the lake was completely deserted. Incredible, really, to have this quality of wild trout fishing, just for the price of a rod licence. I think this is among the best still water fishing – for wild brown trout – in England! The average size of my trout today were 25cm, with one, pictured, at 35cm; all on the black hopper.