Jeremy Lucas writes about his highlights of 2013 season.
Another extraordinary year in several ways: I shared some fishing time with lots of you and, well, wasn't it incredible? A slow start from the numbing cold of a long, deep winter (with me vowing to spend more time farther south – see later!) led into what was, really, an idyllic spring here on the Eden. The Appleby waters, where I spent most of my time, were superb, with a return of water crowfoot, excellent up-wing hatches and plenty of big trout around. My average for the Eden this year was 33cm, just under 14 inches, which is remarkable by any standard. Many of us were worried about a paucity of small fish, citing either the considerable agricultural damage to the system or goosanders (which are indeed present in breathtaking numbers), or both, for this. During the autumn, however, I heard of several anglers making good catches of small fish – of both species – so perhaps a little balance has been restored. I remain sceptical, because I do not think there are anything like the populations of juvenile trout or grayling as there used to be.
I compare the Eden with the Welsh Dee, where I had a great couple of days, courtesy of Dylan Roberts of the Corwen and District Angling Club, who have some superb grayling water (certainly among the very best in Britain) up at Corwen. Pavel Adamovski and Dan Svrcek were there as last year, and focussed on nymph fishing, while Tom Speak and I resolutely fished plume tips, even in the ferocious down-streamer, and still managed some excellent grayling.
Jennie and I continued to work on our field by the Asby beck, along with considerable help from Cumbria Wildlife Trust and volunteers. The beck itself has burst back to life, now that the banks are stabilised (with willow, hazel and alder saplings) and the water crowfoot is magnificent, such that there was almost no algae in this part of the beck in the summer and, instead, there were glorious, clear cold channels of water among the crowfoot, where I watched wild trout (up to about 30cm) taking up-wings and caddis. It was as if they were playing, and I felt like a little boy again, marvelling at them. We have resident herons and there is evidence that an otter passes through, but suspect that the prime target prey are frogs and small rodents, which are numerous. It is indeed amazing what can be achieved simply by keeping agriculture at bay. The wooded side of the beck is at last just beginning to look like young woodland and most of the 1,000 trees we planted there have taken. The ancient ash tree lost one of its branches in a late winter storm. This branch was the size of most complete ash trees and is now cut into logs for the fires here. Mercifully, there is no sign yet of the dreaded ash dye-back on this tree or any of the others. The big meadow itself has been cut, baled, harrowed and spread with green hay, rich in yellow hay rattle, and we have planted numerous plugs of various species, including hemp agrimony, purple loosestrife, hawkbit and red clover; all this to supplement the recovering rattle and campion that are doing surprisingly well. We are so looking forward to seeing the meadow next spring, when it might begin to look like a wild hay meadow should: like the England where I grew up.
Lawrence, Neil, Paul and I visited Slovenia again in early July and this proved to be the best ever trip we have enjoyed in this beautiful country (where they take conservation completely seriously). Staying at Clive and Myrna's place, Reka Hisa – where we were so well looked after - we fished the Sava Bohinkja, the Sava tailwater, the Radovna and the Kokra. The fishing everywhere was simply magnificent, but we all fell for the Radovna and, most of all perhaps, the Kokra. I fished a morning session on this river with tenkara, followed by an afternoon session with the leader, fishing dry fly throughout (plume tips, championship caddis and Oppos), for more than a hundred brown trout, rainbows and grayling, with two of the rainbows at 40cm and two grayling marginally longer than this. There is nothing clever about the numbers – we all caught a lot of fish here – but the raw, wild nature of the abundant fishing was enchanting, and something that I found even more magical when we fished the Radovna. I spent an afternoon exploring this river which runs off Triglav, higher than I had ever before ventured, while a thunder storm thrummed around the mountain, to find trout after trout (all wild browns up there) mobbing a hatch of pale wateries. It was a summer wonderland, really; surely heaven on earth.
We now have a house in the midst of the Artois chalk stream region, in northern France - Les Sept Vallées - which is a massive chalk plateau, with idyllic streams and highly varied, and often challenging, fishing for wild brown trout and rainbows (truite arc-en-ciel) on Category One waters, of which the French are so justifiably proud (one wishes the English would value our rivers as much). I intend to be doing an increasing amount of fishing with friends, among the dozens of small rivers in this area.
We had an almost indescribable fishing visit to Czech in the last week of September, and then the San in Poland. You might have seen articles I have written about these weeks. While Slovenia had been apparently unbeatable, well, it was beaten, first by the Otava and Vltava in the Sumava national park, and then completely and utterly blown away by the San. Gavin, Tom, Neil, Bertrand, Paul and Sue Sissons and I, along with Wojtek, stayed with Patrik at his hotel in the village of Annin, followed by a mountain ski lodge near the border with Bavaria, while we discovered the enormously abundant fishing of the river jewels in this beautiful region; and we were so well looked after in the Annin by Patrik and his team. Again, days of 100 fish were there for the taking, with some incredible specimens among them, of all species. It was with some trepidation, therefore, that we took the long, long drive across Czech and Poland for the San, where we met up with Lisa. We need not have been concerned, because the San was on quite a different plane of fishing existence. I have never experienced anything like it, at least for trout. You simply would not believe the fish populations in the San of today, or the blizzard hatches of blue winged olives. I can scarcely believe it now. It was fly fishing dream space.
So, we hope to be back in all these locations soon, and already have Slovenia and the San in the calendar for 2014. I would love to revisit Czech, too, but know that I will be spending as much time as possible in France, so this might have to wait a year or two. If you are interested in a trip to any of the above locations, however, do get in touch with either Wojtek or me, which you can do via my website www.presentationflyfishing.com.