“Do you think there’s fish in there?”
I hear another walker ask. “I bloody hope so” I quietly think to myself, as I wipe away the sweat from my forehead and eyes.
Instead I look up and cheerfully reply,“only one way to find out.”
As I reshoulder my heavy pack, provisioned for a night of wildcamping, I’m intrigued by the number of people who take interest in the rod strapped to the outside of my backpack. It seems fishing the high altitude tarns of the lake district isnt a very popular activity, which surprises me as it seems like the perfect way to unwind after a day spent hiking.
As I reach the top of the path that winds along beside the steep gill, I lay eyes on Pavey arc and Stickle tarn for the first time. The immense grey wall of rock rises from the back of the tarn, looming overhead, and for the first time I see the small mountain lake, and now maybe I understand why people question whether or not there are fish here. It stretches out beneath the grey mountain, the surface rippling with movement from the wind, it appears cold, inhospitable, lifeless.
After a quick lunch of noodles the weather begins to turn, clouds descend around us and a gentle rain begins to fall. A steady stream of people are beginning their descent from the tarn, so now is probably as good a time as any to set up the tent.
A quick look around the hills near the tarn reveals a nice flat pitch, only large enough for one tent, sitting above and just back from the path around the tarn, with a stunning front door view of the entire face of Pavey arc. With home setup for the night, sleeping bags rolled out and my girlfriend warm and happy, its time to test the waters.
I tie on a small Mepps aglia number 1, and begin casting out into the water. Now I must confess something, I really don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to fishing, I got a bit of advice from the guy in the fishing shop, who seemed to know what he was talking about. Half an hour goes by, without so much as a nibble, but I know fishing is a waiting game so I keep going. Casting out and slowly reeling in. I had the company of a flock of friendly ducks while I fished, suggesting there is more life in these bleak fells than one might first assume.
Then it happens, a quick flash of white, the line goes tight. The reel begins screeching as I try to slowly and calmly bring the fish in, keeping some tension in the line, gently reeling so the hook doesn’t slip.
Before I know it I can see the fish, bright colors of sliver and white dancing through the dark brown water. The excitement is building in me as I shout for my girlfriend to bring the camera. Soon enough I’m crouched in the shallows, gently holding the fish, its cold soft skin feels almost velvety. I don’t notice the cold of the water as I admire the brighlty speckled fish.
A few quick pictures and then we released the small brown trout back into the tarn. With the excitement of now knowing what lies beneath the gloomy water, I began casting again with renewed vigour. Unfortunately only one trout decided to take our lures that day, but one was enough to satisfy my curiosity that wild trout do indeed live in the isolated tarns high in the lake district. How they have come to get there I do not know, but that they are there I can say for certain and they are beautiful at that.
With light fading it was time for a dinner of sausage baps, before tucking into a warm sleeping bag to listen to the rain pattering on the tent and the wind whistling through the hills. Waking up being the only people in the hills is truly a peaceful experience. So quiet you can have a conversation across the lake with ease.
After breakfast it was time to get packed up and head down the hill. The weather had turned and the rain was coming down in sheets, making for a very interesting descent down the rocky path with our big backpacks.
When we got back to the car we were soaked through, wet to the bone, but the experience had been well worth the sweat and hard work. The solitude that comes with waking up in a wild place and the sense of peace and freedom you feel makes returning back to normal life that little bit harder, but at-least I have the time and good health to be able to get up the mountain and fish for beautiful little wild trout, and for that I shall be grateful. At-least now if anyone asks me if there are fish in the tarns, I can say for certain there are, and they are well worth the effort to catch.
Check out the slideshow below for all the images from the trip.