After a winter with tenkara and double nymph, mostly on Eden, I visited the upper Appleby water, at Sandford, just before the end of the grayling season. This area, as most of the Eden Valley, is on the verge of environmental catastrophe, with wrecked banks, leading to massive loss of topsoil, and siltation of the lower river and estuary, as just the visible signs of problems; and yet, it is a miracle that in spite of all the abuse the river sustains, the trout and grayling persist. The leader stopped and, in my mind’s eye, quivered. Instantly I knew what had happened: the hydrospyche jig, on the dropper, had been intercepted, and I even knew that the fish responsible was exceptional. Funny how we know, isn’t it? Finally, emerging… I steered it to the bank, cradling the fish to turn out the hook, marvelling at what Eden can still support. It is a cock fish, as you can see by his dorsal, perhaps a few weeks off from spawning, in magnificent condition. At 50cm, he is the ‘best’ English grayling I have caught.Frankly, considering the situation of the terrible damage that this river suffers, in spite of the laughable SSSI and ESAC conservation status, I would consider this the best grayling I have caught anywhere in the world. It is a miracle among the agricultural abyss of modern England.
On to France and the beginning of the new season there; dark olives hatching off from the start on the Planquette and the Aa, with trout (and grayling on the Aa) up at them. Testy fishing, as usual along the tree lined streams and in the very clear water; but ultimately rewarding with the Planquette yielding several of the prettiest wild trout I have ever caught.The Aa is a typical, classic chalk stream, which is nurtured as thus, not suffering the abstraction abuse that plagues the English chalk. Three sessions here produced trout on the plume tip and it surprised me to learn from local anglers that they regarded it as very early for dry fly. Particularly strange to me as during the morning of each session I persisted with nymph for almost no result at all, only for the early afternoon hatch to lift both trout and grayling confidently to the surface. The only problems were in finding an approach among the dense bank-side cover, and trying to find trout in among the grayling; but I was very happy to solve these little problems!
Back in England to find large darks coming off in all the usual places along the Eden, always coming off in the early afternoon, independent of the weather, building to a crescendo of activity about an hour later, before slowly dwindling. It is always a game – will you see the olives first, or see (or hear) fish rising? I find it enthralling that trout are immediately on hatching upwings, of just about any species. We will have March Browns soon, if the farm nitrate enrichment of our river allows any to survive, and the trout will move right up into the very fast water in order to intercept these. Right now, with the large darks, they are happy to station themselves on the foam lanes below the fast water and take the soft targets as they drift down to them. It is text book upstream dry fly, really, and quite possibly the simplest form of fly fishing that exists. But it has been glorious during this early season on Eden, with stunning (big Eden trout are notoriously stunners) fish taking a 17 plume tip.