Our excellent River Test and River Itchen guide Colin Alexander reports here on a recent competitive trip ‘up north’.  Although Colin does not himself guide on the River Eden we do have other guides who do.

‘I have hosted the English Police Qualifying Rivers match on the Lower Itchen for the past two years and have had the good fortune to be both runner up and winner. As my home water no doubt I had some advantage against anglers coming from as far afield as Northumbria . So when recently I travelled North for the 2013 Grayling match on the River Eden I full expected to relinquish the cup and most likely my place in the England Police Rivers Team, having to feature in the top four rods to qualify.

The location was the magnificent River Eden on the Lazonby Estate not too far from Penrith in Cumbria. This is a fast flowing, wide, rock strewn river with plenty of pocket water that just invited the angler to fish the margins before wading to access various runs between boulders on the riverbed and patches of gravel. The backdrop was stunning and reminded me more of parts of South Island NZ than anything in Southern England.River Eden scenery

On the practice day the river was flooded and a full two feet higher than the norm. Despite this, the clarity was quite good and I managed countless trout whilst trying to search out Grayling. I would imagine this to be a fantastic water in trout season with wild browns up to a pound and a half obliging. In truth, I think they were intercepting the flies before the Grayling could get to them. I found one lie where I caught a Grayling over 40 cms so I left it there hoping to return and catch the same fish on match day.

My luck left me with a high number on the walk off draw and instantly my chosen water was filled by others. With the river only having dropped a few inches I couldn’t see much potential in wandering far. I could only hope at some stage to get into my chosen water where I confidently knew Grayling to be.

After two hours the chosen area was vacated by an angler from Wiltshire who had caught a dozen trout but no Grayling. I moved in hoping it wasn’t too late and after about fifteen minutes , and two non counting trout,  I hooked into my first Grayling.  At 41 cms this was a quality fish and took a home tied Pheasant Tail Nymph on a jig hook, fished under the rod tip in the Czech nymph style.  I followed this up a few casts later with a similar sized fish, and then my session had finished.

Colin concentrating for a Grayling

Colin concentrating for a Grayling

In a winter match where the fishing time is three hours overall these fish were surprisingly good enough to get me into second place.  The winner had managed four Grayling from a stretch four miles away that was not fishable on practice day and he deserved the victory for taking the gamble in fishing it.

My Wiltshire friend gave me some stick for catching in the same area he had caught trout after trout. When we tried to analyse the reason I could only conclude that depth was critical for these Grayling which undoubtedly were glued hard and fast to the bottom of the river.

Whilst delighted to qualify, the next match against the Scots, Irish and Welsh Teams just happens to be on the River Clyde ending a whole day before my youngest daughter’s wedding.  I suspect there is some betting occurring somewhere as to whether I will fish on the Clyde or not. Personally, I refuse to comment at this stage!!!

I would recommend the Eden to anyone…just check the river levels and make sure you have a wading stick.’