Posts Tagged ‘Ephemera Danica’

Sydenham River Lyd

June 16, 2018

West Country Angling Passport Beat # 26: Sydenham on the Lyd

Well what a privilege to be able to fish a beautiful section of the river Lyd in the grounds of a gorgeous Elizabethan estate. The manor house, build between 1600 and 1612 and incorporating an older structure at that time, is really quite something to see, a spectacular relic of times past. It is a designated as a grade 1 listed building and lies within an estate of some 1200 acres. The river here is a little more open than sections of the Fal and Tressilian Rivers fished previously, but not by a large margin.

Sideways horizontal casting still being the order of the day. This beat used up four of my tokens, double that required for the previous beats fished but it doesn’t matter, I am off to Wales tomorrow and the remaining tokens in my book of ten will go unused. I was therefore more than happy to “burn” four in one go on this section.

Sydenham House, an impressive Elizabethan estate through which runs the River Lyd

Sadly the water didn’t live up to expectations, in that I only caught very small fish, perhaps 25 odd of them but it was still a joy to explore and one could easily see the potential.

One spectacular part of the day was the appearance of Ephemera Danica hatching;  after nearly 45 years of fly fishing I have never actually seen one of these insects in the flesh. Actually I am not sure that I have ever fished water that contained them before yesterday.

Ephemera Danica, my first ever “in the flesh encounter”.

The guide book did suggest that there was a reasonable population of these insects on the Lyd, but I hadn’t really expected to see them.  Being used to fishing #20 Midges most of the time back home these massive insects seem somewhat incongruous , they rise up and flutter over the water like miniature angels, the sunlight catching their wings as they head for the bankside vegetation for their final moult. They are most intriguing bugs, not that all the ephemeroptera are are not, but these large insects may live in the silt for up to three years as nymphs, before enjoying a brief adulthood of only days.

I was captivated watching them, the speed with which they manage to extricate themselves from the nymphal shuck and the instant ability to fly, no matter that they have never encountered air before. There is much in nature that fascinates me but if there was anything going to convince me of the existence of a higher power; watching mayflies hatch from the surface of a stream would be a pretty compelling example.

I had thought that the large mayflies would perhaps bring up some bigger fish to the surface but that didn’t prove to be the case and I fished a double rig of a large parachute mayfly and a diminutive #18 midge pattern and was probably equally successful with each fly. The tiny trout, despite some impressive acrobatics, often failed to get hold of the larger fly. In fact they frequently missed in their attempts to grab the real mayflies as well.

A view upstream, lots of shade but enough room to swing the rod

I do wonder if perhaps , had I stayed later on the water, I may have moved some larger trout but I had an arrangement to meet up with old friends and had to head home earlier than I otherwise might have.

I did try out my new waders this time as the weather was looking a little dodgy when I started fishing and although the water wasn’t that cold the advantage of the built in gravel guards can’t go unmentioned. Up until now I was near crippled by stones in my boots come day’s end. It is hard to stop and clear them out when there is fishing to be done, I doubt I am the first person to make that mistake. So all in all a good day, pleasant countryside and a lovely drive out to the water, followed by scampi and chips at the Bredon Arms in Bude with some good friends.

The drive to Sydenham had taken me through the town of Lifton and past the door of the famous fishing hotel “The Arundel Arms”. It was here, some 44 years back that I had my first and pretty much only ever proper fly fishing tuition, on a course for beginners. I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t need all the casting tuition and was simply keen to fish some different waters. Since that time I have re-engineered my casting  four or five times and learned a lot more about it than I ever knew possible when I was a teenager. I suppose the enthusiastic, if somewhat egotistical, confidence of youth isn’t all bad and those early days were the starting point of what has been a lifetime love affair with fly fishing. An obsession I suppose which ultimately has lead me back here some four decades later, still trying to quench an insatiable thirst for more fish. I would like to think that I am a little better versed in things piscatorial these days, perhaps better prepared and more inclined to see the beauty of my surroundings rather than just the fish. But truth be told, that boyish glee at casting a fly over new waters hasn’t ever really diminished and I look forward to the next stage of my trip with the same excitement that I once felt heading out for my very first dedicated fly fishing weekend in Lifton.

The Arundell Arms Lifton.

So this part of the trip ends and I was pleased to get in more fishing than I had thought or planned really. I have caught a bass or two in Falmouth and managed to land at least a couple of trout on all the beats attempted so far. Tomorrow I head for the Welsh Wye and the Usk and hopefully the little bit of practice enjoyed down here in the South will stand me in good stead when I hit ,what should hopefully prove to be, more productive waters.



May 21, 2012


“How Small a Trout”, every day in May Challenge

Bug is an extremely loose generic term, to my mind more than a little flippant, lackadaisical, derogatory even, homocentric and lacking respect for a collection of creatures which near dominate the earth. According to the Smithsonian, there are in region of 900 000 species of insects currently known, occupying almost every conceivable biological niche. Referring to the entire lot collectively as “Bugs” just seems a little tawdry to me.

Given that this is a fishing blog and indeed a fly fishing blog at that, one presumes that the subject should be restricted to bugs of angling interest. So cockroaches and their ilk might be safely ignored. I don’t have any particular problem referring to roaches as bugs, in fact it doesn’t seem overly insensitive to use the term in respect of bankside spiders, beetles and the odd inchworm I suppose, but I am having trouble with the mayflies. It seems crass to refer to something so delicately wondrous, so quintessentially “ephemeral” as a “Bug”.

In the UK the term mayfly tends to be used specifically for Ephemera Danica which hatches, with typical English perversity, in June. A massive beast as insects go and truly spectacular in terms of its metamorphosis, hatching and mating, not to mention the effect its emergence has on the fish.

However near everywhere else in the world the term “mayfly” is used to describe any of the up-winged ephemeroptera, some 2500 species in total, and they are then subsequently qualified by such common names as Western Green Drake, Blue-Winged Olive (which covers a multiple number of similarly hued baetis), Cahill, Hendrickson etc, few of which terms actually refer to a single species.

But of course nomenclature is fraught with trouble in almost any field particularly a specialised one and fly fishing and the “bugs” that are associated with it are no exception.

There are some people who seem hell bent on showing off and referring to these “bugs” by their Latin names, Ephemera guttulata, Baetis harrisoni, Rhithrogenia germanica and similar. Given that most of these species require that you stick them under a microscope to be sure which they are and that trout don’t swim about with such modern conveniences it seems a little nonsensical to go to such extreme. To brightly discuss the hatch using italics only to tie on a size 14 Adams is a sure sign of some degree of personality disorder.

Then there are those who reduce the “bugs” to an acronym, I am not sure that isn’t worse. Taking something quite so pretty as a pale morning dun and referring to it haphazardly as a PMD seems a little low brow in my book, condescending almost and lacking respect.

I am a confirmed atheist but were there anything on the planet likely to have me considering the possibility of omnipresent and all powerful creator it would surely be the life cycle of the ephemeroptera.

Firstly the eggs, minute things even for the largest of the Mayflies drift downstream and stick to a subaquatic rock or plant. Some are indeed carefully placed there by their mother, swimming down to the depths on a suicide mission and briefly surviving on the air trapped about her body to insure the best chance for her progeny.

Then the nymphs when they hatch, crawl and swim about the place, hunted constantly by all manner of fish and even dragonfly nymphs. Should they avoid the pitfalls of childhood they will grow bigger and bigger with time, running out of space in their exoskeletons they go through a number of instars, effectively swapping their overcoats for a larger size. All of this which may take from months to years culminating in a pre-ordained rush to the surface to hatch into an adult dun at the same time as all their mates.

Now consider for a moment that you have never breathed air, never flown, never so much as beat a wing, and yet you learn to fly in an instant. You have no concept of what wind is and yet you know to face into it, you have no knowledge of the outer world and yet you understand that you must first fly upstream. You don’t have a watch but you cannot afford to be late, or indeed early. Along the way of your perilous ascent you are a prime target for trout and other predatory fish. You are at the mercy of the currents; delay too long and you will be eaten or swamped.

Should you manage to break free from the clutches of the glue like surface film, avoid being eaten or drowned and make the flight upstream to reset the GPS of your species you still have to get dressed for the party of a lifetime.

So now you perform one of the most miraculous feats in all of nature, you pop out of your old clothes , yet again, and into new ones. But this time the new ones are larger still, your tails are longer, your new garb all the more glossy and you even discard the outer layers of your eyeballs in preparation for the shindig. I appreciate that women put on new clothes and mascara before they play the mating game but they could take a leaf out of the mayfly’s book in terms of the rapidity with which they accomplish the makeover. .

Not only that but bear in mind as a mayfly you have no ability to eat, your timing has to be perfect, you have frequently little more than a day to attend the graduation ball taking place over a tree top in the ‘hood. Mistime your run and you could be all alone, with a shortage of dancing partners, and all that swimming about will have been wasted. Finally you join the swarm, tree topping above the waters, find a mate, get it on and return to the river to lay eggs before you run out of petrol.

To me that is the most incredible, the most miraculous, the most magnificent thing in the whole wide world and to refer to the insects that achieve this feat, and have been achieving it over and over for millennia simply as “Bugs”? Well to be honest, it’ just plain rude.

Do feel free to leave a comment, observation, complaint or compliment, this series of posts, “Every Day in May” initiated by “How Small a Trout” is designed for entertainment, edification and amusement and you are most welcome to participate with commentary as you see fit.