Yesterday James, one of my twin boys, three pals and myself made the fifty-minute journey through snow-covered roads to the first-class, English stillwater salmon fishery, formerly known as ‘Palm Springs’. Bob Church also came for the day with friend, Dick, and his son, not to fish in the very slippery conditions, but to observe the action from the cabin which overlooks the lake.
Arriving just before 9am, we met with a sixth angler, Tony, who had fished there the previous day, having travelled up all the way from Devon with his wife for a two-day visit. Tony had enjoyed a marvellous first day at the fishery, catching a limit of five silver salmon – mostly taken in the afternoon. We were full of eager anticipation, although I know from previous experience that it can be a matter of patience and perseverance. Salmon are strange creatures, generally speaking ceasing to feed when they enter freshwater, and although these fish have never been anywhere near the sea, they seem to emulate their wilder brethren in keeping their mouths firmly shut for most of the time! That they are present in large numbers is never in doubt, as they are leaping and crashing about all over the place, and with polarised glasses they are quite visible swimming swiftly by, three or four metres out in the ever-gin-clear water. At first glance it would be easy to think that you would catch one on every single cast, but (thankfully?) this is far from the case!
I am not quite sure how Ben Green, the owner, does it but the fish are bright silver, full-finned and tailed, and look every bit as if they had just come from the Tay, Tweed, Dee or any of the Scottish rivers in the spring – the only major difference being that, for some unknown reason, they taste immeasurably better! I personally do not like the taste of trout or fresh wild salmon, either returning or giving away any that I might catch, but amazingly I really look forward to a fillet from these beauties when served up in various ways by my dear wife Sally.
Unaccountably, the mornings are often very quiet at this fishery, and on my last visit I recall that nobody had a single offer before 1pm. Yesterday was much the same, with only Tony getting one before lunchtime, and it would be easy to become a little despondent, but persistence usually pays off, and without warning, suddenly I had a firm pull. It was obviously a good one, charging up the lake some 40 yards in a continuous unstoppable run without jumping or showing itself at the surface. Tony spotted it as it careered through his swim, pronouncing that it was “a big double”. After a prolonged, fierce battle, this proved to be the case when we eventually landed it and the scales read a very welcome 18lbs. A lovely fish and well worth going up there for that one alone.
Having persevered for two or three hours, and experienced several follows and pulls, James’s efforts were rewarded with a lovely fish of about 8lbs. Then, after a short while, I had another one at 13lbs, which also gave a great account of itself before James was able to net it for me. Lying the two fish side-by-side, I stood back and marvelled at a truly handsome brace of fish.
As often seems to be the case, things then started to happen, with rods bending in all parts of the lake. Young Richard Underwood, after endless casts, caught his first ever salmon, and followed this up with two more – both caught on my rod which I offered him having had my limit of five grand fish. Son James also had an epic battle with another big fish, running him all over the lake, and finally turning the scales to 19lbs – a wonderful fish and in perfect order!
By the end of the session, the six of us had caught eighteen fish, losing several and enjoying many follows and offers in the process. Only Dick ended fishless, although he did lose one, and – much to his credit – spent considerable time and effort not fishing, but ensuring that Bob was warm and comfortable. He will make a return visit I am sure, and will enjoy the customary half-price ticket.
Critics may suggest that it is all a bit artificial with so many fish swimming in a relatively small lake, but they are no push-overs, I can assure you, and with the gin-clear water, the comfortable wooden cabin where there are tea- and coffee-making facilities, I can hardly think of a more pleasant way for a few friends to spend a day, enjoying good sport and banter, and taking home a bag of tasty fish. You can read more on the fishery’s website: stillwatersalmon.com