The salmon-fishing season has endured a challenging month of March, in part due to Cumbria’s wild and wet early Spring. The two middle weeks of the month were a complete washout for angling on our rivers.
The week commencing March 11 saw three significant floods, each rise lifting river levels by over 10 feet. On the March 1516, The Eden peaked at this very high level for more than 15 hours. It has taken a further week without rainfall to become fishable once again. If only it dropped this slowly during summertime!
Prior to the natural suspension of fishing activity, Warwick Hall’s first salmon of 2019 was landed by the editor of “Trout and Salmon” magazine, Andrew Flitcroft. Andrew paid a flying visit en route from an Angling Show in Glasgow, to his home in Cambridgeshire, where the former Canonbie resident now lives and works.
Andrew’s fish weighed 7lb, and fell for a deeply-fished Monkey fly in the Nunnery Pool.
Fast-forward over a fortnight, and Warwick Hall keeper Graham Moffat was next on the scoresheet with another 7-pounder from virtually the same lie, this time on a small Willie Gunn tube fly.
Philip Taylor of the Low House estate near Armathwaite reports that some fine salmon have pushed upriver on the high waters. Dick Bradshaw landed their first fish, a fine 15-pounder from Beck End. Alan Sefton then had 14lb and 15lb springers from Nichol Hole and Beck End.
On Sunday, Mike Noble fished a Willie Gunn tube fly for an 8lb salmon in the Reeds, following it up with a super 18-pounder from Nichol Hole.
On Monday, Phil Holland fished Holmegate, near Crosby-on Eden. Phil used a spinner to tempt silver beauties of 9lb and 18lb. The Eden is falling very slowly following the recent significant rainfalls, giving ideal angling conditions for both fly and spinner.
Last Saturday, a North West Fisheries Forum event was hosted by the Angling Trust, in conjunction with the EA, at the Stoneybeck Inn near Penrith. Heidi Stone, National Salmon Manager for the EA, briefly answered questions, before leaving after 30 minutes of the three-hour session.
It was apparent that the EA stock assessment modelling within The Eden and Border Esk river catchments is significantly at odds with the more recent and exhaustive work carried out on the subject by independent statisticians.
Sadly, this is causing real concern for all those concerned with the continuing welfare of our local rivers – not to mention the economic and social harm to those individuals and organisations who seek to promote recreational angling, and it’s wider associated benefits for the area.
Estimating stock levels of migratory fish will always be a controversial subject. However, it was perturbing to hear that Ms Stone appeared unaware of important local issues, such as the EA’s failure to use and maintain the Fish Counter, situated on the Eden at Wetheral.
Laws based upon poor or incomplete science rarely achieve their objectives. Ultimately, such bureaucratic efforts often create more harm than good. Custodians of our superb Cumbrian rivers are feeling increasingly marginalised and alienated.
Meanwhile, many local and travelling anglers remain uncommitted to their future fishings, because of the 100 per cent catch-and-release Byelaws for salmon, introduced in June 2018.
Ironically, the Eden and Border Esk appear to have markedly healthier stocks than many other salmon rivers, on which retaining the very occasional fish remains permissible.