Sunday, 17 June 2018

Fathers Day Fly Fishing with Emily


Fishing with a child especially fly fishing is no easy feat. You have the difficulties in transportation around the river which used to be a 100% carry job when Emily first started but now she's 4 shes on her feet in her wellies (anyone know of a decent set of waders that dont break the bank nor have a duck face on for a 4 year old). Now me and Emily have a few secret spots, protected by largely boring unfishable shallow water, high walls, brambles, long walks and 1 access point. Unless you abseil down from the city streets above. This spot however will always hold fish due to it being the only decent pool for a good length of water. How deep it is i don't know but you can catch a fish and disrupt the pool, see nothing go back in the pool and then catch one 10 minutes later.

First cast, i lost a fish, about 1lb, instantly got Emily interested so she was up for the next one, klink and dink with a bendles bug below, the river here was largely unaffected by the rain and was only slightly colored. Emilys turn next and she was instantly on to a good trout, it took the klinkhammer off the top and was well hooked. After a fight for 10 minutes and me having to remind Emily how to hold her rod properly during a fight, i mistakenly told her to hold the line as she caused a little too much slack, the fish bolted at this second and snapped off.

Several more fish followed, i bagged a nice green colored brownie and a few small fish inbetween we shared between us. We had lost 5 and landed 4 after an hour or so, so decided to just sit down and chill and have dinner. After half or so it was Emilys turn again to fish and after a nervous bow and arrow cast, she really doesnt trust not hooking herself, she was in to a fish.

She was quite fortunate this time as it was another big trout though this one didn't go off on fast runs, fighting more like a grayling trying to swim to the bottom it was another long fight of determination. Emily had learned from her earlier mistakes and after a couple of attempts to draw it to the net it was finally landed.A big kill and a cuddle while the fish was in the net and i set her pose up ready for the fish. Fortunately the fish behaved well despite the time to recover and was soon back in the water, Emily releasing it back into its pool.

With ground to make up i had a few more casts and caught 2 more fish in 2 casts, both small but regardless we had rounded the day off perfectly with Emilys new PB (22inches) on her, now christened, pink rod and some quality father and daughter time. With my new promotion at work starting on wednesday i'm not sure how it will all coincide with our free time together but hopefully we will be back out on the river again soon.

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Monday, 11 June 2018

Industrial Browns

I headed over the hills with Graeme to the home of steel in search of more urban browns, these industrial power houses had to be somewhere and we would not be disappointed. The weather was warm and we expected early rain but in the shadows of derelict mills we kept pretty cool. Our dull green clothing would probably be more ideal camouflage in wooded areas than the cold stone walls around us.

We spotted a few browns as we headed down river, the river was clear and very low and with no cover stealth would be a real issue. However stealth would also be our saving grace. Opting for similar techniques, Graeme with a foam indicator with a weightless nymph while myself using a weightless bendles bug 'under' a Klinkhammer (if it decided to sink). We would use long range casting to prevent the fish from spooking from our presence and with no splash on impact other than our fly line, surface movement was kept to a minimum.

Being an experienced urban fisherman you learn the attitudes of fish in these locations. We went through a couple of fishy runs and i missed a lone fish, we had seen plenty of juvenile fish which was very positive and unusual in these vastly urban environments due to lack of spawning gravel and constant pollution. Graeme would lead and up ahead lay a riffle section created by a pile of rubbish in the flow. Graeme cast in to the bottom of this run and nothing but we both agreed that 2 feet upstream of that cast should be a fish, and we was right. In these locations you have very little room to work the fish so the best tactic is to, if possible, keep it downstream thus not spooking any fish further up. This fish wouldn't pass the shallow section of the rubbish so was quite controllable despite the fight it gave, however the fish later on would be much more difficult.

In the next run i had to deal with very still water but the light gear we was using was the only way to go and it came up trumps. My nymph was barely sinking but once it was wet it slowly sank and within minutes i was into a fish. Mine was slightly smaller than Graemes but it gave a good fight, holding the rod high above my head to prevent it going under any undercuts in the channels it definitely gave the arm a work out.

We would work our way up slowly and would be catching fish in similar fashion, some would wait for the nymph to sink fully and some would take the nymph just as it landed. Fishing under trees it would imitate a bug falling from the tree as there were very few areas bugs hide under the surface to to a lack of rocks. The fish were also rising at certain points and with barely any fly life it must of been purely on bugs from the trees.

We had some pretty funny moments, i had a fish swirl under my klinkhammer twice, millimetres from it's face while seconds later one took Graemes foam indicator while another took his nymph at the same time. The sound of their mouths 'clapping' the surface as they closed their mouth around whatever they were taking was more enjoyable when i got my first one on the dry of the day. Klink and dink method isn't ideal when you need to change depth but it gives you that double coverage on fish that are both feeding below and on the surface and having used this technique before on Arthurs club waters on much smaller fish i knew it was a tactic that worked.

The fish we were catching were all very pretty but the ones with the big red spots really stood out to us. Being the most colourful thing around other than a brave kingfisher that might frequent this place it always surprised me. It bares no advantage to their camouflage but must mean something to the trout, the dark backs were good enough camouflage alone especially in the shaded waters.

We observed plenty of schooling and outmuscling of this, usualyy 2 'big' trout with a dozen or so smaller trout down to a couple of ounces. If one would move out of line the bigger ones would swim along side it and, basically, side swipe it which also happened if we had a fish on and it swam past non-spooked fish.

In all we had 20 fish between us of good size and plenty of juvenile fish to boot, this place if kept protected has a future but like most urban stretches it is always at risk from humans via poaching and pollution.

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Sunday, 3 June 2018

Is the Irwell making a comeback?

Things have been quiet at my end on the blog front for a few week, i have been fishing a couple of times, just on my locals, i found rising fish and were getting well into double figures of them. It was nice to finally get fish on a dry regardless of the size. The size however is still very small. At least they have spawned well but it does make me worry about the bigger ones especially with the increase in poaching.  The Irwell at my end, however, has proved to be very poor, missing 1 fish and losing a tiny one in the fast water. However my friend Al Meer offered to take me a little further up river.

It was the first time i'd met Al in person despite having been on social media for a few years and it was a pleasure to meet and fish with him finally in person.  We was fishing still below the pollution in fact not far from where i discovered the pollution incident on that fateful day. Al told me he had only been on this section once before but i can see why he brought me here. The first pool we got to was perfect but being the Irwell and with its complications it wasn't giving in until i finally got an Irwell fish. It was only small as expected, like the ones i had been catching elsewhere but it was a fish. We spotted a lone rise under the tree but the pool didn't live up to it's expectations like it would of done 2 years ago.

Moving on we found many beautiful runs and some of them were just a little too, bedrocky, but when we found them proper fishy pools where the conditions were right we knew there would be fish. Al opted to choose between a lone nymph or wet fly while i stuck with the klink n dink method to keep the nymph in the narrow foam lines. I had 2 more fish in the next pool, again of small size.

Al would be the next to catch after a switch to a heavier nymph, the pool we was in was still in a state of autumn, the ground was crisp and brown with seeds and such. I tried the same spot and lost 1 fish and missed a bigger fish at the head of the pool. While Al landed another slightly downstream.

We explored some more sections but ignored alot of the bed rock runs and alot of it was also inaccessable unless we waded the full length. After catching another small fish we headed back to the car, we had hiked a long way, up steep hills and on narrow paths over steep drops. Reaching the first pool Al let me give it another shot and it was very quiet. So i headed over to the spot i saw the rise a few hours earlier, it was well under a tree with barely a  foot between the branches and the water but i cast into the current. The eddy effect pulled my klinkhammer out of the current and into the slower swirling water. Then a big ol' trout hit the dry so fast and hard i bloody jumped and missed setting the hook. Caught off guard at the end of the day, typical but it was a good day regardless for me.

So how is the Irwell doing. Fly life is increasing, not many big flies but it is definitely an improvement. Minnows are shoaling up and were showing an increase in their numbers and also i spotted thousands of tiny little fry in the shallows showing that at the moment things are doing ok. The fish will get bigger, the big fish will return even though some are still there hiding and in time it will be back to how it was. As long as nothing happens again.

It was nice to finally catch trout below the pollution. It was great to meet Al and it was especially enjoyable in the surroundings we were in. Miles away from anyone. It was a tiring day of exploration for us both especially in the heat but when your near the river, catching trout regardless of size, the sound of the river flowing past and the tweets of a nest of young birds as their mother flies off to find food only metres away. I sat and watched Al fish, both to rest and to reflect, the Irwell holds many secrets, it has been punished and tortured but long before that it would of flourished. Every fallen rock and boulder has its own story and thankfully they cannot speak of the pain the river has endured for it be to tortueous for us to hear.  There is a time i hope that everything can be reversed but while money is so easy to take from us it is hard for the government to spend it on our final wild frontiers.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Fishing with John Tyzack & a sex dungeon

With the bank holiday weather at its finest alot of rivers were on there arse but heavy rain over night and the day prior it was a welcome addition and i headed out with John Tyzack to search for some big fish enjoying deeper waters. We drove round a fair bit checking river after river from bridges but they were all still very low, in the end we opted for a smaller river which despite low still had some colour running through it. No idea if anyone had rights to it but it wasnt well maintained so we presumed not.

Both with streamers on, Martins minnows on both i believe, we fished the first pool were we instantly attracted the interest of a few fish but their takes were sluggish and we missed both. Moving on up we found another pool, a little trickier but first cast JT was straight in with a good fish to start. Not a big fish but a pretty fish, big black spots with an olive oil yellow underside. Spotting a shoal of chub we gave the rest of the pool amiss as they were big chub and definitely streamer gobblers.

Further up the run i missed a couple after sighting a fish and casting above it i became tunnel visioned and missed the fish hitting the streamer on the drop. Silly mistake. JT then managed a better fish, longer but still a little lean, if this river has been anything like my locals then the feeding hasnt been great which would explain how lean they were.

We soon came to a weir and after my fly dissappeared into the foam a swirl and a touch of the line i struck into my first and only fish of the day. It was a nice cock fish, mottled colouring with a funny black mark either side of its belly i presume from sitting on the bottom.

At this point with us fishing the same fly JT switched to a strange looking fly, the aptly named 'sex dungeon' the action it created in the water was probably why it was named that. Even as it sunk it looked like it was swimming the way it swayed.

The next areas were scarce in depth but i couldnt reach a pool due to the mud and silt to get their so i left it to the professional and let JT use his long cast to reach it, it was perfect and i saw this big trout follow the streamer, as it reached it JT struck. He wasn't fighting it though so i was shouting 'you've got it you've got a fish' and he was shouting back at me 'no, no i aint'. i could see the fish slowly swimming away from where it was so i shouted again 'you've got a fish on' and JT continued 'No, im snagged' i then realised he was. the fly had snagged just before the fish took it.

Further up another deep pool that was hard to reach JT had a follow of another big trout, he ran out of room on his pull back so just had to jiggle it in the hope it would take it, it swam in a circle 3 times before it left it, probably put off by the shallowing water.

Things went quiet however, we sighted a few fish in shallow water but they didnt even turn a head. But when we saw a rising fish we obviously cast a fly towards it, still the streamer. The rise was on the left but a trout grabbed it from the right, which we hadnt anticipated, JT struck just as it opened its mouth pulling the fly clean out, one issue of casting downstream.

All wasnt too avail and after having a few misses by both of us JT pulled a black beauty out from an under cut, you couldnt see it as it took the fly but you could as JT struck into it. A dark peaty green back with a dark tinge all the way down to its 'yellow' underside. It was a lovely fish but again very lean. They all needed a meal on here.

As we headed towards the car we spotted a nice trout sat at the side, i went to cast to it but i noticed its tail was laid on the bottom and it kept twitching its head. It looked like it had just been in a fight and had a hook in it. So i said we should check it out. It was a little surreal, seeing a trout turn towards you, look you clean in the eye and then just swim to the side. It had bigger issues to deal with than me. I got it in the net and me and JT give it the once over, we couldnt see any hooks of any sort. So we let it go. It then turned belly up so assessing the water, slow and shallow i hopped back in and waded a few metres upstream to a small weir were there was more oxygen in the water.  We left it there sat upright which was an improvement but we can only hope it survives.

Overall JT showed how even in streamer fishing you can still be adaptable. Moving on to a slower sinking fly it allowed him to move slower through the shallower water and it definitely showed.

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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Good things come to those who wait - Fly Fishing

With a trip to Wales for my daughters birthday over the weekend, having a hire car to get me a few places opened up alot of oppurtunities. The weather would vary across the weekend (Friday - Tuesday) and to start we headed off as a family to mainly help Emily catch some fish in the nice weather.

Unfortunatly the river we got the day ticket for was teeming with Grayling so my daughter caught a few out of season grayling and the odd trout. She was limited by where she could fish as she was fishing from the bank so needed to fish pools which had a bit of depth or features close in and thankfully we found a natural weir.  She hooked her first fish without even noticing, i thought she was struggling with her casting so took the rod off her to again show her how to cast and i realised she had a fish on. Passing it back to her she quickly brought it in while i netted it.

The weekend days were all holiday, zoo's, theme parks, beaches etc we did get to do a bit of crab fishing which Emily excelled at (Emilys mum losing out despite catching a crab first) 24' heat on a jetty as a family was a great experience. The end of the holiday though the weather turned, we had 30' heat on the Saturday where we went to a zoo but after that it thundered and rained. Heading back to our caravan as the storm came closer after walking to a lighthouse. Made it just in time to watch the natural lightshow in the sky.

Using the rain as cover i headed on to a river in Wales i had seen but was unable to find if anyone had rights to it, i didnt see any signs but i blurred the background anyway incase anyone has a moan about it! There was a few rises in the rain but i opted for a streamer first to get a sense of size and boy did i realise it was going to be a good day.

First cast a decent fish came up for the streamer (Martins Smiths Minnow) but i was a little rusty, then i had a nice fish to start off with. I barely fished 100m but i had missed 3 more fish and had 2 more, another 18inch trout and a 20inch. I was more than happy with these but i opted to carry on. The rain was pouring down and the river was now colored but the next pool gave me the fish to reward me for all my efforts earlier this season.

It came up slow, i seen it turn underneath the fly and i was unsure if it had took it, i struck anyway and it slowly turned away, then it realised it had been hooked. It pulled down deep using its weight and i held firm, it turned towards the nearside bank and i had to reach out in to the river as my rod was bent right over as i tried to pull it away from the safety of the bank and it's snaggy trees. I knew it was a decent fish but with my polaroids being prescription glasses so i can see better it gives a false impression on sizes and distances. However when it splashed the surface i realised it must be big, with experience of big fish i have lost and caught they have a very distrinctive splash. It fought hard but after a couple of minute i had tired it enough to land safely.  With Becky waiting in the car nearby incase i wasn't allowed to fish here i rung her to come take a picture and the rest is history.

It was a beautiful fish, immaculate condition and so thick from top to bottom. I was soaked through but it had all become worth it, all the poor days previous have built up for this moment and thankfully i didn't mess it up.

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Saturday, 14 April 2018

In the middle of the hatch - Fly Fishing

14th April

It was another late start in the day, with my daughters first swimming lesson in the morning and the river charts showing them slowly subsiding after a steep rise in river level i was apprehensive of what condition the river might be in. Though as it came to half 11 i decided to go have a go. The weather had warmed up nicely so i knew there should be a 12 o clock hatch and after the ardious walk to the river i found myself in the thick of a of blue winged olives, paraleptophlebia adoptiva, and black hawthorn flies, bibio marci.

The hatch was probably the strongest i have seen on the river since i started fly fishing, you could see them bouncing on the surface, taking flight, crawling on the inside of my cap and the inside of my polaroids. I'm quite insensitive to them being on my skin, though the odd one did go in my eye and i'm sure i ate a few.  But there was one thing missing, rises. The river was up yes, but it still had good clarity and had plenty of areas for rises to happen. Nothing.

The first hour was tough, with the higher river level the water slapping sound made me think fish were rising that i couldnt see in the current so i was constantly chopping and changing my set up, from duo to dry fly. Nothing. Extra weight, nothing. So i moved downstream after an hour or so and found a secluded pool, first cast, fish, it wasn't big but it would turn out to be the biggest of the day. The fish gradually grew smaller and smaller. They were a pleasure to catch, infact it was the type of fishing me and Graeme had been chasing last week. I did bounce of something bigger and did have the line indicator shoot off twice but as i was using my dry fly reel the long range casting with the nymphs meant it had let go by the time the strike had fed through the line.

The little trout caused issues with their frantic flapping, causing a rerig on each one but it reassured me that the trout were managing to spawn successfully at least. It did however also make me think were the bigger ones were and why were they still not feeding on dries. I have had plenty of good fish on dries in March/April over the years but not one yet with barely a rise anywhere. The small trout were all in the right places though, in calm pockets behind big rocks in the main flow, or just alongside the main current in the channels. The size of the fish, especially the last one kind of showed me the big fish were not there, as i have caught fish on streamers bigger than that.

Below is my trusted Bendles bug and a few of the fish i had today, below them (the biggers ones) are fish i have on dries earlier or around this time over the past couple of seasons.

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Monday, 9 April 2018

The 'perfect' day for fishing? - Fly Fishing

8th April

Well it finally came, the perfect day for fishing, how? i do not know considering the rain the day before, it somehow didnt affect the river levels nor the clarity. The weather was warm and overcast which opened up into breaks of sunshine, it was dry fly weather, so as i was off out with Graeme i only took my dry fly rod.

Our intentions were to catch alot of fish, not big fish, though a bonus they would be, so we headed to a river we have fished and had plenty of action. Why? The start of the season had been rough, temperatures and weather ruining the limited days we get to go fishing, the cold waters seemed barren and cold, with little fly life and plenty of signs of poaching over the winter.  We won't know if the poaching has taken effect until mid season when we get an idea of our catch counts. But in comparison to last year, i ended todays session with my 8th fish while this time last year i had already caught 19, with the april storm bringing the river levels way up and with the irwell pollution incident thrown in the middle of that for good measure.

With my total for the year being only 8 you can probably guess the plan for alot of small fish didn't go to plan. The first hour was awfully quiet, fishy looking pools going by silently, eventually i found a trout in a shallow run, small as expected but we thought that would be it. As we continued we found more evidence of poaching, all of them next to the best looking pools. Graeme missed a nice fish for this river and we headed up into more precarious waters were access was limited to the water level. Holding on to the cracks of a sheer cliff that had worn away over thousands of years as edged round a deep drop off we found a nice pool which held a couple of fish, but we only managed to land 3 of them between us.

Upstream a few more pools were quiet and coming up to 12 o clock the hatch i predicted occured. The hatch on my locals isnt spectacular but it always brings plenty of rises, except today. Nothing, the surface of the water lay motionless bar the ripple of a tire breaking the surface, or a sanitary towel berg swinging off a tree.

We upped sticks and moved off to another river in the hope it would come up trumps too, but again it didn't. With evidence of peculiar behaviour on the rivers our hopes were dashed again but after seeing a rise after an hour or so there i immediately pulled out the dries. It rose again as i was tying on, sat under a over hanging bush i cast in between, i watched an olive land on the surface and the trout rose up beneath and sucked it in, 12 inches above my dry, it had gone further into the bush, i edged my fly inch by inch further upstream under the bush into a small alcove of branches but on the 3rd cast i snagged a branch and had to break my dry off, the moving branches scared the fish off so Graeme helped me recover my fly.

Eventually though after switching back to a klink and dink i found a small trout, were it should of been, but where were the rest of them. In hope of it being because of the poor temperatures at the start of spring affecting the fishing rather than the astronomical amount of poaching that has clearly been occuring. I will return here again, to compare, in hope it was just an off day for the fish on a perfect day for dry fly fishing.