Difficult day on Ullswater

There was considerable effort required to get this mission underway, rather like a Saturn 5 rocket of admin – huge stages of preparation fed the final stage of actually sitting in a boat on the lake. I absolutely had to stay in due to the early start and limit whiskey intake to a bare minimum. I also did a run to Tesco’s for supplies and fuel, made sandwiches, assembled tackle,  clothing etc etc. All this resulted in a departure time of 7:24am Saturday morning, unheard of in recent years.

We pulled up to the boat hire establishment ( http://www.stpatricksboatlandings.co.uk/contact.html) on the shore of Ullswater at 9:30am, just as they were opening up. The weather was beautiful, crisp Lakeland air, blue sky, gentle breeze, warm sunshine and it felt right to indulge in a bacon sandwich from the on-site cafe before getting in our boat, a bacon sandwich I can fully endorse. The boat itself was a really nice Irish clinker-built outboard job with a deep keel and felt extremely stable but to be frank, it jolly well should be for £55 (9:30am – 5:30pm). I’m not really complaining about the price, but it does mean that if you really want to get into fishing Ullswater regularly you may want to consider buying your own boat and leaving it up there!

I motored us out to the top end of the lake (Glenridding end) and within moments the sun had vanished behind cloud and a cold wind began to pick up. Oh dear! However, for the first hour the sun did occasionally keep popping back out to keep our spirits up and we had high hopes for good sport.

We drifted through this bay where Grisedale Beck flows in several times during the morning and Stu managed to hook a couple of fish but they promptly came off the end of his scruffy headed Muddler, much to his annoyance.

When the sun finally disappeared for good and signs of activity dried up we headed back down the lake to try some different drifts.  Thing is, we’re pretty bloody stupid because despite experience telling us the fish would be close to the shore we still ended up drifting down the middle over deep water! Ideally, to fish big waters like this you’d have a ghillie working the oars to keep you close in to the bank.

Nowt came of these drifts so we headed back up to the top (or is it bottom) and repeatedly worked through the parts we’d seen occasional fish moving but nothing came of it apart from another offer to Stu’s Muddler.

What a frustrating day! At least Stu had some tangible contact with these wily wild browns, albeit very briefly. All I had for 7 hours of fishing was one swirl at an olive micro muddler on my dropper. One swirl!! What a ludicrous pastime this is!

We fished quasi loch style, drifting down on a drogue with both short and long lines, dibbling the bob-fly in the surface towards the end of the retrieve. Flies used included various muddlers, Kate McLaren, Mallard and Claret, Black Pennell, CDC buzzer (optimist!), Claret Bumble and several other wets, all on floating line. I don’t think we did anything drastically wrong – the cold wind must’ve kept insect hatches to a minimum and therefore provided little impetus for fish to really switch on. Plus, we figured that there was a lot of sub-surface food available for these fish so they lacked the aggressive desperation often encountered with wild brownies in remote Scottish lochs.

To top it all off, when we met up with the rest of our gang who’d been out walking all day, we proceeded to have the most sedate Saturday night out imaginable in our traditional p*ss-up venue, the Stickle Barn Tavern. Oh what has become of us? Old men, that’s what. Still, the Jameson’s 12 year old single malt I brought back is going down rather well…

5 thoughts on “Difficult day on Ullswater

  1. Dave

    I’ve spent a lot of time on Ullswater over the years (I took my first steps on the bank at the Pooley Bridge end many moons past!) and have fished it plenty! Although this has often been feeder fishing for trout and perch I have tried to fish it with the fly and heard others talk about it. I think its pretty essential you have a boat so you can access more of it and as you say, keep it fairly near the bank, this lake is over 200ft deep! According to the guys in John Norris in Penrith the lake fishes best on the fly early season, around Easter. There are fairly extensive shallows at the Pooley Bridge end which I think is generally considered more productive and there is a boat hire facility up that end too. Howtown bay is also worth considering as its a huge bay where you can shelter from the wind and in theory holds more nutrients, like a giant eddie out of the main ‘flow’ of the lake. There is also some excellent perch fishing to be had (I’m sure I’ve had more than 1 over 4lb!)
    Hopefully someone found that useful, I just get a bit excited about Ullswater!
    Also, thoroughly impressed with this site, great work!

    1. Bob Post author

      Extremely useful post Dave, many thanks! Have you been on Ullswater this year yet? It’s certainly a beautiful part of the world.

  2. Dave

    That it is! And yeah I was in the area over Easter for a family birthday and managed to squeeze in a couple of hours fishing at Park Foot campsite but it was more of a chance to chat with my brother so got no results. Fished last summer though on my way to Scotland, mostly feeder tactics around pooley bridge fishing into the dark (and in some pretty intense rain!) but caught some amazing fish, wild fin perfect brownies, and some of ’em real good sized fish! I’ve always been a bit daunted by fishing it with the fly, it being so big and intimidating, but I reckon some night time efforts with big surface flies around the outflow into the R. Eamont could yield a big fish. I know the bigger fish move into the shallows in low light and I dont see any reason this lake couldn’t hold ferrox, and that could get really exciting!
    Also fished near by Brothers Water last summer and lost a nice fish on a home tied teal blue and silver type thing, would have been my first wild fish on a home tied fly! Bugger!

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