Kirkby Stephen and District Angling Association

What a Fantastic Hatch

Contributed by Richard (24.09.2012))

After having been washed out last weekend and with the seasons end approaching, I was doubly keen to get out this Saturday 22nd September. After keeping a track of the level, with heavy downpours midweek, it seemed that all would be well and that it was dropping off nicely. Forecasts were for a 2mph breeze and sunny intervals, no bad thing at this time of the year to warm things up!

I arrived early, around 10:45am, because I was keen to be by the river well before any action. Ten minutes later I was tackled up and then walked for a good 30 minutes downstream, keeping my eyes peeled for any surface activity. I then sat down and waited for another 30 minutes and was joined briefly by my friend, who had arrived with another mate. After a brief discussion they elected to go on downstream and I would fish up.

By 12:30pm I had walked up 300m and still not seen any fish feeding, but then I saw a good fish move in the run above. Interestingly I was also able to watch an eel hunt, foraging and probing with its nose under stones, no doubt looking for small fish that may be hiding in such spots. I got down into the river and into position, but the trout I had seen was only showing every 5 minutes or so and in a different position each time. The abundance of food was not enough to keep it in one feeding lane. It was frustrating waiting for more activity and I chanced a few casts in the vicinity with Stuart Crofts stonef-fly, more in hope than expectation as it was clear that fly was going over the area the trout was in, but was either being ignored or not seen. The inevitable happened and a rise out of nowhere caught me unawares as I had lost sight of my fly in the glare..and I either struck too soon or too late- to be met with no resistance. This fish did start rising again but with the same lack of a regular feeding pattern and after an hours endeavour in total, I decided to call it quits and look farther upstream.

What followed is etched in my memory. On exiting the river I had a text from my mate at 13:54; he had nobbled one 12” fish and I immediately replied that I had been on a fish over 2lb, but had not managed to catch it. I had just sent this text when I glanced up probably 70m and saw a good fish head and tail in a glide, which made me feel better about abandoning the other trout. As I approached even closer, the sight that greeted me was enough to make me want to pinch myself… I counted 6 fish lined up along the far bank along a row of trees and on the obvious foam lane. What was exciting was that they all, apart from one, appeared to be trout over 2lb. They were locked onto a massive procession of duns, at times there were 3 or 4 duns going over a trout which had just risen. This hatch had kicked off literally in the 2 minutes that it had taken for me to leave the river and send that text.

I carefully climbed down the bank, ignoring the nearest fish which I suspected was quite small and took the next one. To start off I was very careful about moving slowly and getting into position with the utmost care. However, trout when they are so preoccupied with an abundant food source, sort of switch off their danger sensors and become far more tolerant and easier to approach than normal. A size 16 quill bodied shuttlecock olive was quickly knotted on to the 15’ leader which terminated in 6x tippet. Out it went and on the first 2-3 drifts it was ignored. This did not unduly concern me as there was so much fly on the water, the trout could not possibly eat everything. The next cast was met with approval and a hefty trout thrashed and ran this way and that, before yielding and pulling the scales down to 2lb 1oz and was measured at a very respectable 17”. After a quick shot with the camera he was slipped back quietly into the river.

At times this sort of commotion can put fish down, but such was the bounty, they did not blink an eyelid and literally 2 yards above where the first fish was caught, a second head and tailed over the cdc fly. This too proved to be a strong fish and I reckoned would be a good bit heavier. When measured he went 18.5” and 2lb 2oz so was light for his weight. I kept on checking the net scales, willing it to go down further. Interestingly the spotting and colouration were very reminiscent of the 5lb+ fish caught on our stretch a few seasons ago..very few spots and those that were there were big, rather than the dense black spots typical of Eden fish. I have heard it said that there may be two distinct wild populations, but am not expert enough in fish genetics to comment!

All this had occurred within 15 minutes of my first spotting the rises from a distance. The third trout was rising again no more than 4 yards above the second one and there were actually two fish together, so I targeted the one which I thought was the largest. So close were they that I was prepared to not tighten if what I took to be the smaller one rose to my fly. In the end this was academic as a superb head and tail rise porpoised over the fly, and on tightening, the rod bent double as an angry male trout went berserk on feeling the steel. This trout felt strong and on getting ready to land it I made the cardinal error of a failed swipe at him, where he teetered on the edge of the net before sliding off- I am sure I felt the leader on the net at that stage too! Luckily everything held and the weigh net went down to 3lb. At this stage I phoned my mate to tell him what was happening, to be told that they were experiencing the same hatch 2 miles upstream, so it was not localised! After measuring and weighing him more carefully the weight was actually 2lb 14oz and at 18.5” he was a very heavy fish for his length, with shoulders like a boxer. He was, like the first trout in pre-spawning livery, but the pictures don’t do his colouration justice. Three big wild trout in less than 30 minutes is top drawer fishing in anyone’s book. However with all the commotion the other two fish stopped rising. Interestingly the size of fish progressed towards the top of the pool, it seemed like some picking order was in place here. If so, then I missed out on the monarch of the pool as this was one of the trout that stopped rising after the capture of the third fish.

At this stage fly was still coming down thickly. So, anxious not to waste the opportunity I quickly walked up to the next pool and round the corner onto a gravel where I crossed. I thought I detected a rise close into the far bank 2’ from the tail and on further inspection, there was a trout nabbing practically every dun going over his head in a narrow foam line. First cast he had the dun too and put up a lively scrap and I think he went 1lb 12oz in the net. A hundred yards upstream there was a long slow pool with a couple of fish on the go which required a bit of work on, so I passed these by. Any other time and they would have warranted closer attention but with what was happening, I could afford to be picky!

The next pool up had a long neck, where all I can say is that there were umpteen trout on the go for maybe 20-30m in the flow down the middle. My fly by now had its quill body hanging off so I just tweaked it off and was left with an olive thread underbody and the tail fibres, together with the cdc. I lost count of the trout that I caught out of that run but must have been double figures. The biggest was not quite 2lb. There were still trout rising in this run when I left, but by then I had had my fill from that particular spot.

Progressing upstream, the next pool looked very tasty but by now I got the feeling that the action was tailing off somewhat. Certainly, fly was not coming down in the quantities seen just a short while ago and I failed to see any feeding fish with a quick recce. I was then back at the car and bumped into another angler, who had also witnessed this phenomenal activity and who had landed a few fish. Leaving him to it, I jumped into the car for the short drive downstream to the first pool where the action had commenced for me. Amazingly there were two fish on the go and the first was porpoising very seductively, with a slow waggle of his tail as he went down. He took first cast and did not put up that much resistance. When landed he was unmistakeably the 2lb 2oz fish that I had caught earlier as he was in the same area, was the same weight and had the same distinctive few big spots. Looking at my camera which showed a 4pm time of photo, I had first caught him appx 90minutes previously!

The one above him went 18.75” and 2lb 4oz. After this I wandered down stream to a confluence with a tributary and then had my last trout on a pool tail on the way back up. On tackling down I received a text at 4:40pm from my mate, saying what a great day it had been. I had to get back for a dinner party otherwise would have stayed for more. By now activity was noticeably less and after the day I had experienced, I was not too bothered about leaving early.

Chatting to my mate today I reckon we have had 3 days this season on Eden where the hatch has been outstanding; Once early April with OU and MB’s, once early July with Small Dark Olives and then Saturday. What a wonderful river. I wish our Yorkshire rivers grew as many trout of this stamp. You cannot call Eden an insect factory, like say the Derbyshire Wye. Sometimes it is downright moody and can be difficult, where you really have to work for each fish, and each trout is hard earned. But just occasionally she puts on a display that takes your breath away and has you thanking God that you chose that day to fish. Would I have it like that all the time…no, where would the challenge be? How would you improve yourself if it was always so? Would predictable hatches of great intensity become slightly boring….probably!

I just count myself lucky to have such a superb river close by. Certainly on my club and most others on the system, wild fish are encouraged and we have not stocked for years, and these sorts of occasions at least show that the fish population is in rude health.

The shots show 3 of the trout. The 2lb 2oz fish which was caught twice shows what appears to be a stumpy pectoral, which would indicate a stock fish (but we do not stock and are the highest club on the system). However I have another shot which by mistake I have on video setting, so I don’t think I can include this and the same pectoral is long and undamaged, so maybe the fin is just at a weird angle for the photo shown. The photo of the pool shows the foam line. The two flies are to show how the fly I had on started off and how it ended up…fairly ripped apart body wise , but still taking fish!

Trout fishing on the River Eden Trout fishing on the River Eden Trout fishing on the River Eden Trout fishing on the River Eden Trout fishing on the River Eden