Friday, 31 March 2017

Mixed Messages in March

Out with Jeff on a cold March day
The conditions in March have been fickle to say the least, from very cold winds coming off snow capped hills, to exceptionally warm days for the time of year, during which time we have actually had to peel some outer layers off as the day progressed.

The early season Salmon fishing has continued to produce a few more fish for those willing to venture out, with one angler actually recording three double figured fish to his own rod on the same day, no mean feat when fishing for Spring Salmon I might add.

In contrast a much warmer March day
I have also had a few people out again this month, mainly for tuition, but we have had a couple of forays for the Spring Salmon too, especially when the water was looking good, however with water conditions becoming very unsettled again towards the end of March it did make things a little more difficult again, That said, conditions are set to improve as we head into April, (along with the usual showers) and if last year is anything to go by we did see some good runs of fish between Mid April and mid June, so here's hoping!

The trout fishing has also been slow since the season opened on March 15th, but that can often be the case until we get further into the month (as those trout fishers amongst you will testify to) and better still, as we move into May when things generally begin to liven up quite quickly as temperatures change and we see better fly hatches, coupled with more activity at the surface. Although nymph fishing at the right stage during these hatches can often offer up some fantastic sport too.

One of our Borderlines days
I have also been out with the schools again this month (as part of the Borderlines team) covering a wide range of activities, i.e. entomology sessions, Stillwater fishing sessions, life cycles, all about the fish sessions and family casting tuition sessions, including several competitions to get youngsters interested in fishing and all it encompasses. These days are always a great success and they do throw up some very keen potential future anglers. We have many more of these sessions planned for 2017, several of which have been organised by Debbie Parke (pictured above right) who is the operations Manager and Fishery Biologist at the River Nith Catchment Fishery Trust and a great supporter of the work we do under the Borderlines banner. Thanks Debbie!

Another happy youngster
Finally, I am looking forward to meeting up with lots of familiar faces again in April/May as we venture out onto the river for both casting and fishing sessions. I never get tired of seeing the river come to life again at this time of year and I am forever grateful to it for offering us some fantastic sport whilst enjoying good company. See you on the river in April.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Cold Winds and Snow Melt

Eden High and Coloured
February has not displayed much out of the ordinary this year, with cold winds in attendance at times and the recent snow melt off the Pennines and surrounding areas making the Grayling fishing a little more difficult than usual, but as long as we have been well wrapped up we have certainly enjoyed some relatively nice days too. This has been apparent as a small number of you have already been braving the elements to indulge in a bit of casting tuition in preparation for the new season.

Beat improvements
It has to be said though that the Grayling fishing (in general) this winter (on the Eden) has been relatively slow in comparison to other years, and when venturing out for them we've had to be prepared to do a bit of searching, this has also been the general consensus from several other anglers I have spoken to on the river over this period.

The problem we now have toward the end of this month is the recent heavy rain, causing high and coloured water levels, not the best scenario for either Grayling or Salmon fishing I might add, but whilst the water levels were behaving themselves the river did produce a few salmon, caught by the few early season stalwarts who always venture out at this time of year. This is always a god sign!

A good bend in the Rod
I have taken out the lease this season for a section of the lower river, which a few of you have fished with me in the past, (and caught some good fish too I might add) therefore I have been kept busy lately with a few repairs and improvements down there and have several more in the pipeline. For those of you who haven't fished this section of the river with me, the beat is a tidal stretch, not far from the sea, and can therefore be a good opportunity to catch fresh salmon on low water when other beats may be struggling a bit, however there are some good Brown trout and night time sea trout fishing opportunities down there too, so it can be a good all round beat.

Tony's good condition Early Brown
Whilst down there I did indulge in a little bit of early season salmon fishing myself, along with Tony Bell, (pictured above) as there had been a couple of fresh salmon spotted on the beat from the other bank. Unfortunately we did not connect on this occasion, but Tony did do battle with a good conditioned early season Brown Trout, on a tube fly, which was quickly unhooked and returned to the water, but it has to be said that the condition of this fish, which was around the two and a half pound mark, was pristine and very plump, hopefully one for the trout rod later in the year!

Chilling in the Hut
Tony and I will be back down there again at the weekend (water levels permitting) to do a little more tidying up and to Coppice a few willows whilst we are there, February can be a good time to do this before the tree's start to actively grow again. I am sure we may wet a line too whilst we are there, as it would be rude not to. Watch this space!

It won't be long now before we are properly targeting some of these good Browns on lighter tackle, being as the season starts again (on the Eden) on March 15th, so let's hope we encounter a few more of these good quality fish when the trout fishing gets going again and throughout the season too, which I am sure we will. "Tight Lines to all".

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

And So it Begins!

Welcome to the 2017 Season with Border Game Angling
Happy New Year to one and all and a very warm welcome to a brand new season here on the river Eden in Cumbria. Here's hoping 2017 produces the goods!

The few times I have been out for Grayling this year have resulted in about a 50% success rate with a bit of searching to do along the way before locating them, but with a little will power and plenty of persistence, we did stumble across a few from time to time.

On another note, this reasonable weather we've been having has certainly brought out those of you wishing to improve your casting skills and it has to be said that we have already had some very pleasant sessions in the sunshine. Yes I admit we've had a few cold days here and there too, as well as a little bit of unwelcome extra water now and then, but apart from that the first month of the year hasn't been bad at all here in the North West.

Anyway, on to the job in hand. For the first blog of the season I thought I would do something a little different and focus on some of the flies you may wish to bring along with you if you are coming to fish the Eden with me this year, in particular those flies that were consistently successful in 2016. Here are some suggestions you may find useful:

A selection of Grayling temptations
Grayling can be fickle at times, to say the least, especially winter Grayling, but believe me, when they are on they are on! The general rule is to fish deep when it is really cold (in which case very heavy nymphs and bugs, to represent the aquatic stages of a variety of flies, can be a real bonus) and then to fish higher in the water as the temperatures improve. However, over the years I have come to realise that the phrase "general rule", is just that, and I, like many other anglers I am sure, have been caught out in the past by following that "general rule". Yes this can be a good guide for most of the time, but do not be afraid, or too lazy, to change your offerings to something like North Country Spiders for example, regardless of whether or not you are fishing in a hard frost with low temperatures, you may still see the very odd winter upwing on the surface with no apparent interest shown in it from the fish, do not dismiss these observations as changing to this method in these circumstances can sometimes save the day I can assure you!

Brown Trout:
Dry Adams (with posts)
I could go on forever about the flies to use for brown trout and at some point most of them will work too, that said, the idea here is to give you a small selection that works on the Eden without having to go out and buy a multitude of flies to experiment with, so as a suggestion for a small selection that work very well on the Eden my list would be as follows: Spiders (yet again) can often be a very good early season offering, although they will usually work all year round too. A good selection of spiders to have in your box would be: Snipe and Purple, Orange Partridge (Partridge and Orange) Partridge and Yellow and Waterhen Bloa. Dries are a mine field, but if you have Greenwells Glory, Adams, (Adams with a post can be a very useful visual aid) and Klinkhammers, you will not be far off the mark. The Klink and Dink can be a lethal cocktail at times, often referred to as the Duo method of fishing, which is why it is essential to carry a few goldheads with you too, and for this requirement you won't go far wrong by having a few GRHE's and PTN's in your collection, and finally the f fly (CDC) can also be a useful addition to your fly box. As I said, I could go on forever, and all of the above will work on many rivers, but the important thing here is that these flies have all proved themselves here on the river Eden.

Sea Trout:
As I am sure many of you will already know, Sea Trout can be caught on all of the above, especially throughout the day, although usually when we are not expecting to, i.e. whilst targetting Brown Trout and Grayling. This is fact as we have experienced this many times over the years here on the Eden. However, most of our Sea Trout sessions are scheduled for the evenings and into darkness, therefore we need a few specific flies for this approach, we also need to be armed with both floating lines and more often than not, sinking tips. The suggestion I would make here for the Eden is a selection of small to medium sized doubles, and both small and large singles. e.g. doubles of sizes 10 and 8 and singles of size 10 and 6. The smaller flies will mainly be used in the first half of the evening up to about midnight, (approximate time) and my arrangement for these flies on the leader would be, double size 10 on the point and single size 10 on the dropper (sizes can vary depending upon temperature). Then after midnight, as the temperature (usually) drops a little more, the larger double on the point (size 8) and the larger single on the dropper, (size 6) or alternatively, two large size 6 singles on both point and dropper often does the job. Choice of flies to bring for the smaller singles would be the traditional Peter Ross and Mallard and Claret, any black doubles you fancy, and a selection of Sewinmeisters for the larger singles, although again the traditional Teal Blue and Silver also works well.

Cascade Double
As with the Sea Trout, I could tell a story or two of Salmon we've had on dries and Goldheads in previous years whilst fishing for trout on 5 and 6 weight rods, in fact some of you reading this will remember enjoying this experience whilst out with me on the river. That said, the last thing on your mind as you decide upon which Salmon flies to bring with you to the Eden will be goldheads or dries, "You wouldn't take a tea spoon to an all you can eat competition would you", so we want something fit for purpose. 

Most Salmon flies will register an interest from the silver tourist from time to time, but there does seem to be a small selection of these flies that excel on many rivers, and several that are often river specific, or so it seems, so based on these considerations, and 45 years experience of fishing the Eden, here are just a few I would suggest to bring with you: 

Cascades and Ally's Shrimps, (both good all rounders) Willie Gunn, Silver Stoat and last but not least a black and yellow tube fly, (plastic tube) however, all of these flies can be dressed on either doubles or tubes. Obviously we have caught Salmon on a wider range of flies than this over the years, but this small selection has been very effective here in previous years and are all worth considering. It is also worth mentioning that many of our successful forays have been when using smaller versions of these flies, (given the right water conditions) i.e. 10's and 12's for instance, certainly no bigger that 8's, which can often (in my opinion) be too big, unless we have high and coloured water conditions that is, in which case there is an argument for this larger offering.

A selection of spiders
I do appreciate that flies are not cheap these days and not everyone can afford such a selection all in one go, so don't despair, because what you don't have with you I probably will, but if you are looking for a more affordable condensed selection to cover the above scenarios as best you can, my choices would be as follows: For the Trout and Grayling angler, a selection of Spiders, two or three Goldheads e.g. Gold Ribbed Hares Ear and Pheasant Tailed Nymph, a few heavy Nymphs and Bugs, some Dry Adams, (with post) and some small CDC's, (f flies can be good). For the Sea Trout angler, a couple of small and medium sized black doubles of your choice (Silver Stoats will work for both Sea Trout and Salmon, thus saving some money) and some small and large singles as discussed above. Finally, for the Salmon angler, bearing in mind you will have some Silver Stoats to fall back on, a Cascade would be a great choice. 

With several bookings already in place for the 2017 season I look forward to seeing many of you on the river again this year and I hope the above information goes some way to making your trip a successful one. See you soon and "Tight Lines" to all.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Festive Fishing on the Eden

Into a very good Grayling
Although we had already caught a few Grayling by the end of October, the November Grayling fishing did start a little slow as the river couldn't make it's mind up whether it wanted to rise or fall, and as you know, Grayling can be a bit fussy on unsettled water, but it also has to be said that temperatures for November have been very comfortable indeed, and this trend has certainly continued into December as the river begins to settle down. However, this doesn't mean that you don't need your warm gear, (preferably layered) or that the water isn't cold, but it does mean that if you fish in sensible short spells, the days are relatively pleasant, not always the case in December!

Now that's a proper Grayling
At this moment in time time the river is in great condition for Grayling fishing, although earlier on in the week we did have to chop and change tactics between heavy flies and light ones. Whilst on the slightly heavier water the heavy nymphs worked best as the fish hugged the river bed, but as the water receded it was the spiders once again that saved the day, in particular the Water Hen Bloa, and it also became very apparent that the better stamp of fish were more interested in this approach as shown in the picture above.

A long range catch
There has been some very sparse hatches of fly, and believe me very sparse is the phrase, however, when this does occur, it is very easy to ignore it and show preference for the heavy stuff, don't do it, because with these small hatches come small windows of opportunity when the Spiders come into their own. Give it a try!

Merry Christmas
We will be continuing to target the Eden Grayling for as long as conditions permit, which makes a pleasant change from the washed out winters we have experienced over the past couple of years, we are even experiencing short spells of sunshine. Long may it last!

In the meantime I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and all the very best for the coming 2017 season, and to those of you who are not out Grayling fishing with me in the next couple of weeks, I look forward to seeing you on the river again next year!

Monday, 31 October 2016

Exit the King Enter the Lady

Returning a hen fish (approx. 11 lb) 
With the season now over for that magnificent King of fish on the river Eden(close season 15th October - 14th January) we are now turning our attention to the Lady of the Stream, i.e. the Grayling fishing, and hopefully some consistent low water (for a change) throughout the winter months. However, although the salmon fishing continued on the slow side over the last couple of weeks, we still managed to catch a few good fish regardless, and a big thank you goes out to you all (both salmon & trout anglers alike) for some great company on the river bank this season!. 

A 9lb Cock fish for David
Don't worry, all you salmon anglers out there, as the river Eden season starts again on January 15th, (not too far off) and if the last three years are true to form, then we are once again looking forward to a good Spring run. This has previously presented us with some excellent opportunities, affording us the chance to catch some very fresh fish indeed and it will be very interesting to see if this trend continues. I for one will be keeping a close eye on this!

A recent Eden Grayling in the net
That said, now on to the Grayling fishing, and if the forecast is correct we are looking forward to some great weather over the next couple of weeks, so we can get out there and explore this exciting addition to the fly fishing season. In fact we have literally wasted no time as we have already tapped into this excellent resource as you can see from the accompanying pictures. 

An exceptional tail on this one!
Yes, as the weather becomes a little colder, (with an early morning frost or two) we look forward to some real success with heavy nymphs, fished as close to the bottom as possible, (which can be very enjoyable) but whilst conditions remain relatively nice, (and a bit warmer) which they are at the moment, then the dry fly should definitely not be overlooked, (which is often the case) or better still, north country spider patterns, anchored with a small nymph on the point can also be very effective. 

Returned to fight another day
The latter is the method we have been using recently, which in the present conditions has certainly out fished the heavy nymph approach, and in all fairness, when conditions are right and you do get the opportunity to adopt this method, it can also be very satisfying to say the least. 

As a few of you have expressed an interest in the Grayling sessions, I know we will be out again soon, trying to get a few more fish, and hopefully some more great underwater shots like the one I took above, so watch this space!

Friday, 30 September 2016

Autumn Runs slow Despite good flows

Jeff Playing a Salmon
The Autumn salmon runs definitely slowed down as we entered September, with many of the pools producing little activity apart from the odd fish showing here and there. However this did not stop us targeting them, and although the fishing was on the slow side we did manage to hook and land a few through shear persistence and determination, so well done to those successful salmon anglers I was out with as the fishing was difficult at times, despite the good water conditions.

Returning a coloured Cock fish
As well as delivering a few in depth mentoring sessions (which I always enjoy) for a couple of good friends about to take their pending instructor qualifications, I also had the good fortune to deliver some very enjoyable tuition sessions this month too, with some of the guys involved taking the opportunity to mix and match some of their current rod and line combinations with a few new purchases they had made, this is not only good fun, but it really allows you to scrutinise exactly what lines work well with what rods, ultimately giving you some great insights into the true meaning of a well balanced outfit. This can offer some real advantages to your days fishing.

Charles with a hen fish (returned)
The trout fishing, for those who continued to pursue them right up until the close season (Sept 30th on the Eden) continued in good form, and the only thing that prevented some additional good sport were those days when high waters dominated the river, but apart from that we certainly registered some good results. 

As the season runs into September, when many anglers are more focused on the salmon fishing, it is always worth carrying your trout rod in the car for those days when the salmon are just not playing ball. I always take mine!

Charles with a specimen trout too!
All in all, apart from the fact that the salmon fishing was slow for September, we certainly had some good fun on the river, with many sessions including a bit of casting, a bit of river craft, an overview of many of the fishing techniques we can apply for differing fishing situations, and some additional trout fishing when conditions were right. "Oh I almost forgot", a good bit of banter too!

A Sept trout session
Just another two weeks of the salmon season remaining now, (on the river Eden) hopefully with a little more action still to come, then we are off Grayling fishing, as we are lucky to have some quality Grayling on the river, affording us a welcome extension of our fly fishing season. So that said, given the recent downpours, which have already produced good flows for the salmon fishing, we certainly don't want too much more water in October, especially towards the end of October, as high coloured waters are not the best scenario for winter Grayling fishing. So here's hoping for some nice low clear flows (on the Eden) toward the end of October and into November, and a few relatively nice crisp days wouldn't go a miss either. "Here's hoping"!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

August flows & Summer Shows

New to fly fishing
We have been privy to some decent flows of water in August which has certainly helped the salmon fishing, not to mention the day time sea trout fishing, especially during periods when the river has been dropping off again after a significant rise of water, and when we have had steadier flows the brown trout and Grayling fishing has been doing very well too, especially the nymph fishing in the faster runs during slightly lower flows and warmer conditions when the colour has just been on the turn giving the river that slight tea stain look to it.

Paul's First Fish
The night time sea trout fishing has not been so great though, due to that touch of colour being present in the water, as many nocturnal sea trout anglers will tell you, one of the essential ingredients to the best sea trout nights include clearer waters.

However if your preference was dry fly fishing the best time has been late evening, approaching dusk, as is often the case when days are very warm and bright, thus making day time fishing a little more difficult with the dry fly, but evening sessions have been productive.

Paul's friend Phil also into a Fish
Pictured above, it was Paul's first attempt at fly fishing and after a short casting lesson in the morning, after lunch he went on to catch several brown trout on the nymph, whilst adopting some newly learnt upstream tactics in the faster water, catching his quarry directly underneath the rod tip. It didn't take him long to master the art as you can see from the picture above as he shows off his first ever Brown Trout. Well done Paul!

A very accommodating Grayling
As mentioned previously, on the few occasions when we have targeted them, the Grayling have also been compliant, especially when using beaded nymphs. I even managed to get a good underwater shot, (unfortunately in slightly coloured water) of a nice Grayling coming close to us with a silver beaded nymph just in the top lip of the fish, (click to enlarge) which made it easy to unhook whilst still in the water and we watched it swim away quite happily.

T&S Rod Test
August also presented me with a further opportunity to get involved with yet another rod test for the Trout & Salmon magazine, this time it was 14ft 9 weight double hander's we had to put through their paces, the results of which can be viewed now in the September edition of the magazine. It has to be said though, that it is very encouraging to see so many good rods on the market these days, yes it makes the test a little more difficult, but as anglers it certainly gives us a variety of options to choose from to suit our own personal budgets. Well done manufacturers!

At the Galloway Show
Lots of tuition this month, (as always) but this time with a noted increase in anglers coming for refresher sessions before heading off to Iceland for their 2016 salmon fishing fix, and with many of you heading off to rivers I have actually fished myself over there, this not only allowed me to get people up to speed with their casting, but it also afforded me a unique opportunity to be able to offer some useful advice, especially to those of you visiting Iceland for the first time, as to which flies I personally found productive and what tackle to take on your trip. These were very enjoyable sessions and although I have heard back from some of you already as to how your trips panned out, I am still looking forward to hearing from those of you who have yet to return. "Tight Lines".

Demonstrating at Lowther
With the usual Summer shows firmly in my diary I did spend two consecutive weekends away from the river this month as part of the AAPGAI and Borderlines team at both the Lowther and Galloway Shows on 13th & 14th and 20th & 21st Aug respectively. I have supported these two shows for several years now and although these weekends do take me away from the river for long periods of time, (often when the fishing is good) they also offer a great opportunity to catch up with good friends and fellow instructors, whilst at the same time giving me the chance to meet up with, and chat to, lots of like minded anglers during the casting clinics and demonstration slots. If you have never attended these shows before, why not come along next year for a chat and a cuppa, it would be great to see you there!

John into a fish on the Double Hander
With the Eden notably doing very well this year, not only for salmon in the spring, but also showing good Grilse runs in the summer, lets hope that the back end salmon run, which the river has enjoyed for many years, doesn't let us down again this year, as it didn't really materialise last year. However, given the encouraging season up to now, if they do appear again with a vengeance in September / October then I certainly envisage a bumper season yet to come. Here's hoping!