Tuesday, 18 March 2014


A blustery opening day scene - the photo really doesn't do justice to the way the wind was howling.

Yup, wind. That pretty much sums up opening day on Ullswater last Saturday.

I arrived at the lake later than I had planned due to some irritating bus-based issues - not the glittering start to the season I'd been hoping for, standing around in the middle of Penrith waiting for a bus that it seemed was never coming, looking quite the gormless twat in my chest waders.

When I did arrive at Pooley Bridge, conditions seemed reasonable - not the glorious sunshine and mild temperatures we had been experiencing for the preceding week, but not freezing and only a slight breeze. You'd imagine, then, that I was shocked to be almost bowled over by the wind as I trudging up the lake shore not 10 minutes later? Not in the slightest.

I learned quickly last year that Ullswater has its own micro climate. Whatever the wind is like five minutes from the lake shore, rest assured that something five times that speed is howling through the valley to blow your hat off. Mercifully there was no rain, but I found myself casting directly into an eye-watering gale (thankfully with a ledgered worm - being made to fly fish in those conditions is a fate I wouldn't wish upon even a Lancastrian) struggling to keep in contact with my gear. My rod rest was rendered useless as any attempt I made to set the rod down at any angle led to it being blown over in a matter of seconds, so I found myself holding the rod with the tip low, feeling on the line for any signs of life.

Much to my surprise it was only a matter of minutes before there was a stab at the line and I connected with something that put a decent hoop in my rod. I bustled the fish to the surface as quickly as I could so as not to fall foul of the many snags on the marginal shelf, and soon it was thrashing through the shallows towards me - a pretty Ullswater brownie of 13 inches or so - typical of the lake with its dark spots and buttery flanks, and noticeably plumper than its counterparts had been this time last year, presumably due to the mild winter.

A wild Ullswater brown trout to kick off the 2014 season (this one was kept for the pot).

That was to be the only fish of my first foray of the season, and I won't deny that I spend more of the next couple of hours sheltering from the wind behind old stumps and chain-smoking than seriously fishing, but it didn't really matter. I'd opened the season with a fish. Here's hoping it'll be the first of many this year, and not my last from moody Ullswater. I must find some perch, too. A two pounder would do...