Natural Eden Images Nature Photography by Stephen James Thompson
Natural Eden Images Nature Photography by Stephen James Thompson
A Deadly shrimp often irresistable to a Salmon

Salmon fishing in the Eden

The following is a piece of writing i put together a few years ago, it gives details of the life of a Salmon in the Eden from its own perpsective.It may give peaple an insight of the amazing jearney our Salmon makes into our local River from the sea. 

Through the eyes of a Salmon

The Adventure of an Eden Salmon

By Stephen Thompson

Wild westerley winds blow with the incoming tide as the Eden salmon cruises up the sandy waters of the Solway Estuary. The Solway is positioned on the north west coast of Britain. With the Solway's beautiful scenery of wet sparkling sand and vast flat marshes meandering along both shores of land, England and Scotland, the views of high cliffs rolling towards Ireland to the low straits of the flat marshes in the east, set the backdrop to the landscape the salmon swims through. After a two year feeding frenzy on the many prawns and shrimps, sand eels and mackrel of the Greenland coast that the gallant salmon travelled to as a smolt. After spending two years of parr life in his stream of birth in the Eden he is now a 17lb torpedo shaped adult fish. He swims through the murky brown water where jellyfish drift in mid water washed in with the tide where they end up beached on the sand of the solway. The salmon runs through the deep channels that were created by the moving ice as it crashed down from the rivers as the thaw began over 14000 years ago shaping the whole area of the Solway. The big salmon now passes a small line of haff netsmen. Haff netting is a technique of fishing that has been done since the viking times. It was passed down from father to son for generations. Haff netting has an old tradition that would have come from the viking days where a group of netsmen drew lots to get there own individual position along the channel, it was known as " casting the mell". The line of men stand for hours with there 18 feet beams of wood braving the elements for an often elusive salmon or seatrout. As the salmon moves safely onward past the waiting nets he begins to smell his home river and the closer he gets, the more the taste starts to urge him on faster up the Eden channel. The under side of the fish's large body scrapes over the shallows as he moves through the water of the low tide that ebbs under the influence of the quarter moon in mid September. With the long dry summer finally reaching its end, the waters of the Eden valley start to swell as prolonged overnight rain poured down over the high ground at the Edens source. Now the salmon is moving into the mouth of the Eden. The king of fish leaps as his gills fill with water of his home river, his bright silver flanks gleam in the late afternoon sun as he rockets above the surface of the smooth flowing esturial water. The King of fish dominates his territory as did King Edward I whos monument stands on the marshland that the Eden channel skirts as it flows into the Solway. 

The mouth of the Eden

On entering the Eden's system, the great powerful fish that the romans gave the name Salmo Salar, starts to follow the contours of the river bed as it sweeps alongside the high red sandstone cliffs of the village of Rockliffe. A castle once stood on this site built in the 16th century during the Border wars, it must have been a formidable structure as it is said that it could hold a garrison of 200 men. The castle was a ruin as early as 1683 and now nothing remains of this coastal defence. The salmon takes a small rest in a five foot trough of ledged sandstone around ten feet from the high treelined bank that rolls down from the village of Beaumont. As the salmon keeps station in the sluggish current of the river, the sunlight rays send shimmery reflections on to the silver scales on the flanks of the salmon. A few yards upstream a group of large slob trout sip flies off the surface of the water. These fish are resident brown trout that have dropped down into the Estuary ready to drift out to sea to return as seatrout. Feeling the irritable lice that cling to the body and head of his large body our big salmon rushes forward thrashing his pristine flanks against the sandstone ledge trying to rid his body of these lice that attached themselves to the salmon when he was out at sea. Continuing his migration upstream the salmon passes the old King Garth fish house built in 1733 for bailiffs and boats of this time. The old house was used for mayoral dinners up until 1892, it then stood derelict for many years being home only to barn owls that made good use of its roof space now it has recently been modernised and now has a new tenant. Fast gaining ground the salmon flicks his large spade like tail to pass through the hard flowing water of the coops stream. He ignores the fluttering lures that flash provocativly past his nose end, that the optimistic angler retrieves from one of the many ledges that shelve out from the bank. The bed of the river in this stream has channels and craters resembling the surface of the moon. Having negotiated the fast stream of the coops the large salmon now skirts past a large weed bed, he then swims through a large white cloud of freshwater shrimps that swim in mid water as he passes under the electric power cables that span the river. He now approaches the village of Grinsdale with its church looking down over the deep pool where the large fish rest alongside a large shoal of fellow salmon. He rests in the deep water next to an old rusted supermarket trolley that is half submerged into the deep layer of gravel. A line of angler's lures hang from the caged side of the trolley. The shiny metal of the lures twinkle in the shafts of light that penetrate through the deep water of the pool. He jostles for position in the pool with other large cock fish that warn him of there presence. Their dark gravid bodies blending in with the red sandstone shelves along the river bed and their lengthy stay in the freshwater of the river turning their steel blue flanks that once adorned them when they were at sea ,into a gravid red, tartan patterned coat. Lying in the deep water of the pool created in 1948 when the river bed was blasted to construct the flood defences. In this area the peace of Grinsdale village was shattered as the blasts were that intense that house windows were broken with the impact. Grinsdale is an old norse name for Grimr's Valley. The church stands high above the river built in the 12th century by a missionary of St Kentigern. It is said that a large rock with an imprint of a human foot could once be seen between the church and the river. It would of been stepped on when the rock was still soft clay. It is thought to be at least 2000 years ago but there is no sign of this rock today as it is covered by silt and gravel that has been washed down with decades of floods. After gaining his breath the salmon now moves speedily up past Grinsdale. With nothing to block his path he passes a ruin of an old boathouse on the left bank. Once a busy station for the four boats that used to work this stretch of water for many years, they had a charter granted by Edward IV in 1461. It was called the free boat right which gave them permission to go through the water with there nets every third drought. Nothing much remains of this boathouse now and its foundations protrude up out of the ground like a set of old rotting teeth. Passing with speed the salmon leaps up out of the water to rid himself of the squirming lice that infest his body. He soon enters a long pool known to the Carlisle anglers as the Fence End. A farmer's fence runs down into the water at the head of the pool. The salmon drops into sandstone depression five foot from the surface as he waits patiently with a group of salmon and grilse for the right time to surge further upstream to complete his spawning run in the river of his birth. No energy is exerted as he keeps station in his lie, a well used lie for many decades by his ancestors that undertook the same adventure that lays before him. Not far from where he waits a kingfisher pierces the surface of the calm water.It is a vivid blue blurr as it grabs a minnow that swims on the shallow sandstone platue near the rivers edge. The rest of the shoal of minnows make a sudden dart to safety. Its all over in a flash as the kingfisher returns to its tree branch at the edge of the water. Resisting the many temptations of the different lures presented by the anglers of the Carlisle Angling Association, the salmon continues his long fast that he started when entering the Solway. His feeding frenzy at sea packed huge reserves of fat in his tissue to last him on his spawning run up the river. The late Autumn sun starts to fade behind the high tree lined bank where Hadrian's wall once ran along on its way to the Solway. The first bat of the night flits across the surface of the river before strong winds blow downstream. As the lazy Autumn sun slowly lifts into the sky the salmon rises up to the surface to take a mouth of air. The weeks have past and the salmon Anglers short season has come to an end leaving the Fence End a quiet lonely place. The many conversations of the anglers that echoed across the river have now gone. Now only the high calls of the circling buzzards can be heard over the lower Eden. Strong winds blow the once lush green leaves from the trees onto the surface of the river. As the salmon hugs the river bottom in a half sleep, a yellow golden Autumn leaf jerks and bobs in front of the salmons lair. Irritated, the salmon gives a whoosh of his tail and turns rapidly to seize the leaf in his large kyped jaw, well developed to show one of the signs that he is equipped for mating and to stand guard over a redd cut by a Hen fish. As he turns with the leaf gripped in his mouth he then blows the leaf from his grip and returns back into his lie. He blends in against the red sandstone with his tartan coloured body camouflaging him. The many krill and other red coloured shrimps that he devoured at sea that are stored as body fat, release pigments of colour into his skin and it shows through onto his scales.Autumn slowly turns to winter, after a spell of cold frosts that send the water temperature plummeting, there is a sudden change in w3ind direction as the north breezes swing to the west to created mild west winds that bring with it a low pressure bringing dark heavy clouds over from the Irish sea as soon as these hefty clouds come inland they empty there loads over the hills at the top of the Eden valley filling all the small streams with fresh water.As the many droplets pound the dry frozen ground the ice that was deep into the started to melt and merge with the fresh water that started to fill the channels of the Becks.The dark brown water was now flowing down the hillsides into the main beginnings of the Eden system.Several hours pass before the freshwater starts to effect the Fence End where our large fish lies in waiting slowly the water rises, firstly with the Road washings that pour in from the City streets, then the Sewers of Carlisle empty there grey processed water into the flooding Eden system.The strong taste and smell of the Edens freshwater starts to arouse the Salmon that have filled the pool fish leap sideways from the surface, they suddenly fill with activity after there long motionless days of inactivity waiting for the oppertunity to carry on upstream.As the water level rises further, debri sent down from the headwaters start to drift down the middle of the river sending all the Salmon into the quieter back eddies that formed closer to the bank, keeping the fishes gills free from detritus stirred up by the fast surging flood water.After a handfull of hours pass the river reaches its peak and slowly starts to drop. The heavy clouds blow across country into the East leaving a blue sky crossed with a double rainbow that shimmers its colours over the Valley.Now that the River has started to fall and slowly lose its thick brown sediment the Salmon decides to seize the moment and rush head on upstream.The higher water level makes his passage a swift and easy one as he launches through the Bay with one flick of his spade tail.The bay is a fast "Gut" that flows down from the stretch known as the" NB" the North British Railway bridge passes over this part of the river which gives the reason for the initials, it once carried the Waverely line Northwards to Scotland now it stands derelict, just a reminder of when things were built to last. A masterpeice in engineering from a time before mechanical machinery, the Bridge was built in 1850 along with the Engine sheds that stood just downstream on the Carlisle side of the river, they were broken up in 1963 as the Waverley line was another victim of the Beeching report.The Salmon now charges on as one of the great steam trains would have done back in the days when the bridge was in full use.He enters the "Bonemill" a pool named becouse of the Bonemill that once stood on the bank of the river at this point it supplied bonemeal back in the day when Carlisle had its own Canal.Nothing much remains of this once busy industrial building only the waterwheel chamber foundations stand.The salmon now glides over a weir, placed here for the large powerstation that provided Electricity to the City of Carlisle.The powerstation still exists on a modern more compact structure on roughly the same sight.Leaving the "NB" behind the Salmon charges onward.           

An NB Salmon Fisher casts the fly below the Waverely Bridge

After gliding through the Cally stream with ease the Salmon now mingles with a shoal of Grilse,these returning fish, after just one sea winter,take shelter in the shade of the Caledonian Railway bridge.This Railway line takes trains up to Scotland from the Citadel station in Carlisle.Swiftly passing the Sheepmount with its Sports facility the Salmon tastes a diffrent water that flows into the Eden as at this point the first Tributary that the fish encounters enters the main flow of the Eden.The River Caldew is one of many tributaries that feed the Eden it runs from high up in the Lake District near Mungrisedale, a picturesque Village set in a backdrop of high rolling hills.The Norse name, Caldew is derived from "cold water." The Taste of the Caldew water isnt to the liking of our large Salmon as he surges on past the Confluence of the two Rivers.An Otter works the bank along the old park wall,a wall built in victorian times to contain the banks of the Bitts park.The Salmon now swims under the shadows of the great sandstone keep of Carlisle Castle, built in stone in 1092 by the order of William II.The Castle withstood many a Seige during the Border Wars with Scotland and was the last Castle in the Country to have a Battery of ready guns during the second world war.Now the only sound that echoes across the Castle Demesne is the peaceful sound of leather hitting willow as the Carlisle Cricket team make runs on the small Edenside ground on the opposite bank to the Castle.Passing the Eden "Bridges" and up through Rickerby park the Salmon moves rellentlessly forward in his quest to reach the spawning grounds. 

The Eden Bridges an ancient crossing point over the Eden

With Rickerby park now behind him the Salmon moves with purpose towards the M6 motorway bridge its noisey flow of traffic is the end limits of the Carlisle Angling Association stretch of water.A group of pink footed Geese comb the large expanse of open fields just upstream from the bridge, these large elegant Geese spend the winter here after migrating from the harsh temperatures of iceland.Cruising through the the twisting channel of the Eden, passing Holmegate Rocks this was where George Mckenzie caught a huge 56lb Salmon, he was a keeper in the employ of Mr J. Carter Wood.The huge fly caught fish stands as the largest fly caught Salmon in England to date.  the large Cock Salmon battles on, it is now many weeks since he tasted the rich food of the Atlantic ocean, all thoughts of food well out of his mind the only thing that drives him ever onward is the overwhelming programmed desire to reach the small spawning stream of his birth, then pair up with a hen fish to procreate.He rolls on the surface of the calm flowing water of the boat pool at Wetheral its surface shining,yellow,green,and brown from the reflections of the last few leaves that cling to the large trees on the high bank that falls to the River in this exclusive beat of the Yorkshire Flyfishers stretch.He now rushes through the fast water avoiding the traps originaly placed here by the Benedictine monks around 1088.These Salmon traps are now used by the Howard family that own Corby Castle that stands high up on the wooded bank.The Castle was built as a single pele tower in the 13th century, it was later completed in 1817 after many buildings were added over the centuries.Our Salmon now joins a group of other Salmon that are working there way upstream, they pass the high sided banks of Armathwaite where the idle engravings of William Mounsey adorn the red sandstone cliff face.Mounsey was a lone traveller who followed the Eden from the Solway to its source in the early months of 1850.The group of Salmon stay close together as they negotiate narrow strong flowing channels as they make ground upstream they run well into the night the pale white light of the full moon shimmers on the surface of the shallow gravel beds that the moving fish scurry over they do this in the saftey of darkness.   

Mounsey's carvings, Armathwaite
The full Moon in the night sky above the Eden

After rellentless swimming upstream the now weary group of Salmon come to rest in there spawning stream.Lying in shallow water in the shadows of Pendragon Castle, an ancient ruin that has been the centrepeice of many an old tale of Dragons, and wizards through the years,the Salmon starts his spawning ritual.Fighting off fellow Cock fish that battle for the 12lb Hen fish, that holds close to a boulder, the Salmon cruises up close to the waiting Hen he gently nudges her deep flank, full of thousands of Eggs.Both fish chase each other in a playful manner before dropping back to there lie.Any Salmon that now dares to come near them are viscously snapped at by the Cocks huge kype,he feels his bottom jaw protruding up into a well developed cavity in his upper lip.He now has a set of small sharp teeth that he uses to deter the other fish that pose any threat to him.All the Salmon in the spawning stream are now looking a bedraggled and worn out form in the stream, there once firm masterful, torpedo shape has shrunk to a thinner form, and those that have already spawned lay still in the edge of the stream like a long thin pencil with many marks along there flanks from the riggers of spawning, and fighting off other fish.As our large Salmon lay alongside his newly found Hen in the stream of his birth, his long jearney now over, he completes his mission.Both fish quiver together as they shed there milt and eggs into the flow of the stream.As the milt of the male Salmon mixes with the large orange eggs of the female, a young Salmon parr darts in emiting milt to mix in with the adults.This is a fascinating twist in nature an added bit of insurance that heightens the chance of fertilization to ensure that the species  regenerates.Once the eggs have settled onto the stones the Hen then moves a couple of feet upstream and then turns on her side and flicks the gravel with her tail sending many small stones off the bottom to drift down and cover the laid eggs that nestle into the stones.After the cloudy water settles from all the disturbance made by the Hen. our Cock fish slowly cruises upstream just above where the eggs are laid in the red, He now stands guard as the Hen fish slowly drifts downstream, her job done she slowly starts to perish in the slack water her exuasted body thin and spent she eventually dies in the knowledge that she has won the battle of survival from when she was born in the same stones that she now lies on, she avoided the many perils at sea and then reached her destination in the river unharmed so that her species can carry on long after her body has supplied nutrients to young parr in the river and many other scavengers that feed on the flesh of her rotting corpse.  

A large Kelt lies half eaten by an Otter at the edge of the Caldew

Covered in scarrs the large Cock fish now mingles with other Hen fish that cruise into the spawning redds.Remarkably he finds the strength to breed with a further two fish before he becomes too exhausted and spent.Slowly he feels a slight urge to take a morsel of food, snapping at unwary minnow that crosses in front of him.This deep feeling of hunger triggers him to slowly tail back downstream as he now attempts to make the long arduas jearney back to sea.More rain pours from the bleak January sky filling the narrow spawning stream.The weary Salmon is pushed further downstream as the river level heightens.Drifting passed the flow of the River Caldew as it gushes into the Eden, where a large tree stands full of cormorants, drying there wings after fishing in the River, the salmon is startled, as a flash of silver passes him like a bullet,as a fresh run rare Spring Salmon makes its way upstream.Once the Salmon reaches the Fence End, where he spent those weeks of waiting in the late autumn he takes up position in the very same lie that he occupied before his spawning run to the head of the Eden.As he rests his body starts to change, the dark Tartan pattern that covered his flanks has started to turn silver.The odd fly that dances on the surface of the water is slurped in by the Salmon, the very early stirrings of spring creating a small hatch of March flies.His lengthy stay in the Fence End is almost over as he becomes well mended as he chases other fish across the stream.The last of the cold nights pass as the Salmon starts to drift downstream.He chooses to move during the dark hours which enables him to pass over very shallow gravel bars unseen.As he reaches the mouth of the Eden filled with hunger a whole new conquest lies before him, now its time to survive the dangers of the open sea to reach the rich feeding grounds far away. 

Stephen Thompson with a 17lb Salmon from the Eden,Carlisle