Monday, 30 December 2019

2019 - Pollution, Mental Health and Trout

Pollution, Mental Health and Trout

2019 draws to an end today and with it a whole year of experiences both on the river and off it. With the world becoming more aware of pollution by the visibility of it on our screens, in our media and on our doorstep there has been plenty of talk and even action surrounding it. But the problem only seems to get worse, regardless of what any numbers a statistician can throw at me the problem has continued to rise. Recycling numbers may be up but that is because there is more and more garbage out there to be processed. The number of fly tips and pollution incidents continues to rise and despite all the awareness surrounding pollution people continue to turn a blind eye to it. Now the majority of my readers will share a similar mindset to myself so will know this is a problem but how do we connect, how do we really wake up the people who see the problem, recognise the problem then do nothing. And the culprits, when will someone step forward and take responsibility to prosecute them or change a law so that fly tipping regardless if it is council or private land is an offence regardless who pursues the prosecution.

I personally monitor a few of my local rivers and have featured in the local news for my reports on it and the lack of action both the EA and the councils make regarding it. I clear a catch grid constantly due to a lack of access the EA have due to the council not monitoring its double yellow lines (ie cars park in front of the EA access gate) and the amount of household rubbish, weed growing kits and other fly tipped items that are dumped into that very small section of river is shocking, it can make the river rise 5 feet above its usual depth from pure rubbish build up, the woody debris obviously builds up then behind the black bags and linoleum. It is hard dirty work but to maintain the health of the river it is work that must be done, the passage of fish is blocked which affects spawning, the increase in the depth of the water from its usual 2 or 3 feet depth to 7 or 8 feet puts them at risk of diving birds especially when they move off the frozen still waters.

The end of 2019 has been a tough time as well. Fishing is a wonderful aspect in helping people maintain a healthy mind yet when the close season comes and your opportunities have been non existent since the 23rd of September you do, or at least i do, find ourselves slipping into a murky corner of our thoughts. On top of that i faced disciplinary procedures at work which, without going into too much detail, were about actions i did to protect my staff from danger, that dragged on for several weeks before i was given a first & final warning. During that time my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and has still, even now, not received any treatment, just scan after scan while the decide how to deal with it due to its position and, i guess, rarity due to the solidity of the mass. With my time being split between work and home and i'd say more of the former i struggled with my mental health. Remember mental health isn't depression, anxiety or anything else, mental health is your emotional and psychological well being. I wasn't sleeping well, i lacked motivation, i worried about the affect of losing my job would have on my family. I worried about my Dad and what was happening or the lack of. And with that, i had no escape, no place to go, nothing to take my mind away from it all. Just slipping into a dark corner in my mind feeling a hate towards myself, a doubt in myself and my actions. Questioning myself constantly if i was right or wrong. Being there in a river, feeling the cold water press against your legs, the nip in the air as a breeze blew downstream, the trees rustling gently as they swayed. The sound of birds singing and their wings beating as they flew by curiously. The whispers the rivers spoke as it flowed smoothly by and the shouts they made as they battered boulders. The popping noise of a fish taking a fly from the surface and the splashing sound of a fish as it fought when it reached the net.

I had none of that, i had everybodies christmas to deal with, the repetitive comments about my height, the same colours of concrete and tarmac, the hustle and bustle of people and traffic. The constant shouting at inquisitive children just wanting that one small toy to make them happy but yet left them in tears instead. The walking in the rain to work at 6.30am dodging puddles while dry drivers ignored you as you waited to cross. The drunks, the druggies and the threats. I've isolated myself, not spoken to many people when we'd normally talk rubbish for hours whether in person or on social media. And all this hidden behind a wry smile so everyone thought you was ok, so that no one would ask the question. Are you ok?

Before then however, there was fishing, not as much as i would have hoped but you know, enough. And though i didn't get any monsters i did get to fish with my daughter alot more, which is amazing, to anyone who questions it its much more about the fishing, the questions she asks and how much she learns and matures after each trip is profound and i can see why my dad took me as a child. We had big rainbows and some decent trout but all of them stories are in the blogs i have already written. What you get here are the statistics behind my trips and then some pictures. So how did my year compare to the previous seasons?

I had 16 days out, yes only 16 which is the least of any year since i started in 2015, 4 of them on the Irwell itself again the least time i'd been on there.. I averaged 9.6 fish a trip totalling 154 fish, 19 of them on the Irwell averaging 4.8 fish a trip. So how does this compare?

Overall out of 5 years it was 3rd in the catch rate per trip but was at the higher end showing good progression especially but then again i hadn't fished the Irwell as much and the 2017 numbers were severely hit by the pollution that year. So looking at the Irwell in 2016 i averaged 10.2 fish per session dropping down in 2017 when i averaged 2.4 fish a session and furthermore in 2018 a mere 0.6 a session. Thankfully improvements have shown with 4.8 fish per session which is a stark rise compared to the 2 previous years.

Diversity has dropped however, with no roach or perch for 2 years now compared to 108 in the first 3 years. Another year without a minnow totally 2 minnows in 3 years compared to 38 in the first 2 years. The first drop in chub totals from the average of 3 to now just 1, which is a reason i don't target them on my rivers over winter.

So overall, fish catch rates seem to average at 9.9 per session, anything less has only been in my first season where i was learning and in 2017 where the pollution incident happened. Diversity has dropped, showing trout are the hardiest of the species given we say pollution is a cause in their decline and not mention the black death till next year. And Irwell catch rates have risen dramatically possibly showing it is finally back on the road to recovery.

Don't forget to check my youtube channel: Irwell Fishing
and i hope to see you all again in 2020.


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

2019 - The trout season draws to a close

Its been a while since my last blog, too long in fact but then again ive only been on the river 7 times since my last blog, back at the beginning of May. I have tried to make the blog easier to look at for those visiting the main page to help freshen it up a little and to show i am still here. Work commitments primarily have caused this lack of update and on the days i did get off it always seemed to be a wash out during the night. Sods law i guess. But the fishing i have managed has been highly entertaining and somewhat, eye opening to the point more data and experience was needed before i could accurately comment.

Well i haven't had any major fish if that's what your expecting or hoping for. The first thing though, that has really baffled me is my strike indicator. I've fished various methods, various ways, we are all different, all have our own comforts and preferred ways and i was still finding mine through trial and error. Now i loved klink and dink but its flaws were you couldn't adjust the depth without retying the fly so i tried this new plasticine like indicator. Bio-degradable, reusable and fish friendly it opened up my flexibility across numerous and varying pools. Now the first time it happened i laughed and didn't think much of it but then it happened again and again and again, across numerous rivers in varying conditions and it really would be a big fingers up to 'you got to match the hatch'. What am i talking about? Trout hammering my indicator. I fish dry when i see a rise so when ive got a nymph on they tend not to be rising but hell, when that ball of plasticine pops over their head they smash it like they playing volleyball with it.

The experiment continued as the fish were holding onto the ball after taking it rather than letting go i realised if i then struck the plasticine would slide down the line and the hook would set. I'd essentially invented a 2 foot hair rig for trout fishing. It was unbelievable just how confident fish of all sizes where taking this indicator and you'd get to reuse it next cast no problem, other than readjusting the depth.

The second thing i've noticed are ... flying fish. Now, if you've ever fished with me you'll know when i cast i use a very low horizontal cast, being 6ft 8 anything above your head ends up in a tree so it kind of stuck and owes itself back to my childhood as i use to flick my maggots under a float across the front of bankside trees. Now, this is a lot less common but it has occured on numerous occasions across the years and this is trout trying to catch your fly mid cast. It could be complete coincidence that as my fly flicks past the surface a few inches above it a fish decides to do a glory leap in its path. But it has happened way to many times now that makes me think, hang on they actually might be trying to catch it. And then, 2 days ago, i was streamer fishing with Graeme, fishing a tiny brook with probably 2 feet of space to cast due to over hanging reeds. First cast, i got hung up in the reed, the Martins Minnow pattern dangling 8 inches above the surface and what happens? You guessed it, a trout, probably a pound of so, jumps out of the water grabs the bottom of the streamer and pulls me off the snag, missing the hook mind. I was in awe, again! I can understand a fish jumping for a fly because, technically its natural, but how many fish have fed from fish growing in trees? It was crazy and pretty amazing to be fair.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The River Irwell - Explore, Fish, Enjoy

This blog is from my last trip on the Irwell, a couple of week ago now, thanks to work. Another reason why this blog will be a little brief.

It hadn't rained yet and the rivers were super low so i had anticipated on fishing some hard to reach deeper waters, but upon my arrival there was already 2 anglers there. So i went upstream of them around 100 yards and set up my fly rod, they still hadnt moved by the time i started fishing so i cast into a pool under a bridge. I was soon into a fish and after a good fight for a fish of this size i noticed why. This fish was a fighter, a survivor. A large gaping wound near its rear had began to heal. This area was notorious for damage like this as i had caught many a fish with pierce holes or similar nasty wounds. Not only our these predatory birds eating more fish than the river can produce but the ones they cant catch they are giving them potentially life threatening wounds.

Now after catching this fish & releasing it i was soon set upon by the 2 'wannabe tweed' anglers who had insisted i had stolen their fish.  They soon buggered off after being given a harsh lesson in Irwell fishing tactics to the reason they had blanked thus far after fishing 6 hours prior apparantly. But wary of giving my watercraft secrets away i headed upstream, past the local mink who had amassed another pile of crayfish bodies. Cleaned the area up for him again so i can keep tallying his kills. This guy is very much a hero. So i continued upto a very bedrocky area about 30 minutes upstream, this bedrock was like ice but just beyond it i knew of some freshly collapsed banking which would provide a different environment in this typically barren area. I was fishing a current as it bounced round a bend and went round a boulder. I barely noticed the indicator go when i struck but when i did i immediately swore, knowing i hadn't fully commited in the strike i was worried it would soon come off.

It tried everything, at first it jumped and then it stuck down deep, the pool here was very deep but after a minute of so it tried to use the current against me and began swimming downstream. The water shallowed slightly but it headed towards the inside bend and into the cracks in the large boulders which left me scrambling on the slimy surfaces. After trying to get under and between the cracks in the boulders it tried one last attempt of getting into the faster water downstream of my but i wasnt so wary of applying the pressure to force it to turn and it was guided into the net.

It was a beautiful trout, its scales were pale and irredescant. Not the longish trout by any means but a very stocky deep trout which again reinforced the fact that the Irwell is, at the moment, recovering from its major pollution incident.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

A hatch on the Irwell - Fly Fishing

It was a cold day in early April, the first rain for a couple of weeks had occured during the night and a heavy upstream wind blew along the river. The river was already flowing much faster than the other day, with choppy waves over the rocks despite the river only being up about half a foot more. The colour of the Irwell was still pretty decent too, 2 feet visibility i would say before it melted into that 'Irwell green', i'm sure that's a colour of its own. I was suitably prepared for the weather, i had my buff on which was protecting the back of my neck from the hailstones which would come and go every 15 minutes or so. My hands, however, were freezing, from checking fly life in the river bed and the biting wind, it was safe to say it was a bit like winter. Tying knots had become difficult already but i had to choose a method to fish.

I originally planned for 2 nymphs in a czech nymph method but didn't have enough weight to stop them dragging, so i went back to the classic klink n dink, the nymph doesnt drag as much, thus sits lower in the water when i use this method, so even with a single fly i tend to get more depth than 2 nymphs drifting under each other. I set the nymph around 3 foot under the dry, the line tied around the body of the materials being a barbless hook and popped on again a pink Bendles Bug. The bridge pool had changed since the other day, the rain had washed down alot of trees and caused a leaky dam across the river, there was nothing biting in this pool but i did get one underneath the other arch which was taking more water through it to compensate for the other arch. Them trees will go during the next rain.

Now i really wanted to cross to the other side of the river but the extra flow was posing quite a danger, so i clambered along the bank upstream, past fresh deer tracks and bodies of large cray fish near a rocky opening, the mink were doing a decent job hunting them. I guess the crayfish not being totally wiped out gives an extra food source for the mink rather than fish. Another wave of hailstone passed and a sparrowhawk swooped low over the river, i marveled at how wild things felt, yet looking down at my feet, plastic, paint tins, tires, oh how ignorant our country is becoming has become.

Looking back to the water i noticed some of the riffles in the calmer water had more centric shapes, stopping for a moment i witnessed it. A trout rising on the Irwell, not one but 4 of them, i had fished this section for 4 years and never seen a rise here. I saw the olives on the surface being washed down river, struggling to take flight in the poor conditions. The last trout i saw rise on the Irwell was before the pollution event so it had been literally 2 years since that day that i had seen a trout rise below the pollution site.

The problem i faced now was my hands were cold and i didn't feel much like tying a dry on, the heavy wind would make casting difficult and it would be coming off my left shoulder as i was on the wrong side of the river (the reason i wanted to cross). So with my 10lb line going to my dry fly and 2lb tippet underneath to my nymph i cast upstream into the path of it. The first one took the nymph within a second of it hitting the water and i missed it. Targetting the next one and casting a little further ahead to give me that second to prepare the dry disappeared and i struck into it. It was on.

I ended up with 3 trout there, 3 of the 4 that were rising. A couple had fresh battle wounds, a tendency for many trout in this area due to the high number of cormarants and goosanders. Next time i am here i will slow things down and watch for rises, not something i had done for a while here since them being none existant beforehand and probably go on a warmer day too.

Friday, 29 March 2019

2019: The Irwell is reawakening??

The season has been open for 2 weeks almost and i have been fishing 3 times, once with Emily. I had been waiting for the season so long but when it finally came i felt so unprepared, i literally hadn't touched my gear since last september. I hadn't tied any flies, though i had only fixed my vice the fortnight prior, and i hadn't even put the line on my new reel. Rushing around the night the season started only for it to be a wash out the day after, but my time came a couple of days later and i got a couple of trout on a small city centre stream.

After the water levels dropped later that week i took Emily there too. She got a nice trout early into the session, reminding her to let go of the line when she used two hands to hold the rod was a life safer, she snapped off a couple of times last season doing that, which meant a few tears flowed. But this time she listened and reacted quickly and after admiring the bend in her bright pink rod i netted the trout for her. It wasn't a warm day by any means and the wind was blowing cold into out faces. We headed upstream and Emilys next fish was much smaller, she was a little too used to big fish that as i went to net it she lifted the fish completely out of the water to her amusement. With water in her wellies an hour or so later she asked to walk on the bank and let me use her rod, i ended up catching 8 fish in 1 pool which were all named and given family positions.

So today i was planning on going on a trib of the Irwell, but upon arrival i spotted a couple of guys already fishing. I set up here anyway and tested my set up then headed off to the Irwell. It would be a decision that proved to be well placed, i had 17 small trout on the trib, just above the confluence, nothing fancy but all giving it what for. They were falling for a light pink Bendles Bug and were all dark in colour.

Heading over to my favourite pool, not because it has given me any big trout, cos it hasnt, but because it is a spot you know if you catch them here you know you everythings ok. For example i didn't catch anything here last season and only caught 3 trout in 5 trips to the Irwell all season (below the pollution site). However today would show a massive improvement, 10 fish in and around the bridge, even in fast flowing water and a single nymph would lift my spirits immensely. These fish were proper fighters too, jumping around, swimming deep and making runs for it, they certainly kept me on my toes.

Now the next time i go i will ensure i do a kick sample to see what the bottom life is like, i am expecting vast improvements even with the water still being cold. But one thing for sure, the fish are certainly returning and i cant wait to be fishing the Irwell more often this season.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

A brief summary: 2018

It has been a while since my last blog, in fact it has been a while since i had even been fishing. It was something i needed, something i missed, my daughter kept asking about it, the stuff she wanted for next season. Her own net being the key item.  But with my promotion at work free time was limited and i knew how my good friend Mike France felt given his free time had also been limited by stepping up at work. 60 hour weeks over christmas with 3 hours sleep between shifts on some days took their toll and a trip fishing would have refreshed my mental state but through clenched teeth i made it past the toughest time of the year.  It didn't only affect my fishing time it also took its toll on my socialisation. I keep in contact with a lot of people via facebook and even e-mail to my older friends and i just had no time as when i was home i was trying to catch up with my family.

But 2018 was a very weird and also a very productive year, given the limited time i beat my PB again and my daughter continued to improve dramatically. I didn't get out as much as i would have liked chasing grayling in the close season catch only 13 all season over 2 trips comparative to 2017s total of 75. This however being mainly due to, obviously, the lack of time since my promotion and how good the trout season was going. In fact out of the 23 times i went fishing (my lowest since i started fly fishing in 2015) i caught 213 trout. Below is the comparative totals over the years and as you can see my fish per trip average had greatly increased. 

I had avoided the lower Irwell this season but had fished below the pollution incident and had seen fish returning. Including 1 big one that i lost almost instantly as i had only been catching small ones. That was the first day i had been out with Al Meer who i hope to fish with again at some point this season on some of my old sections as he is very much a scenic angler.

I had been fishing very public rivers in the pouring rain which pushed everyone away from the water  which gave me plenty of good results.  However used to humans these fish where it was clear they were still more comfortable when it was quiet. I prefered the quiet, the comments 'oh you won't catch anything in there', the lack of floating cans that had been thrown in the river upstream.

The rivers suffered a long drawn out summer of no rain, in fact it rained after Englands exit from the world cup which is when i became the father of an orphaned egg. That first rain was a killer for the newly hatched birds but was heaven to the fish that had been suffering in the low calm waters that next season i will ensure will have environmental changes to them to keep flow moving during the low water seasons. The river only exceeded the 3m level once, on April the 2nd after heavy snow fall.

So what do i have planned for next season and 2019? Well i hope to get on the river before the season starts and get some Grayling, to rescue my sanity. I need to sort out a new vice as mine has now broken and i havent tied a fly since September. All that work but financially am i better off? After tax? I hope to catch a few fish i have caught before with distinct features to monitor their growth rate. I already have a few named fish that have grown bigger and become the king of the bigger pool. I also intend on fishing my old sections of the Irwell, the number of big fish i lost on this section was immense but after the pollution they vanished but it has been 2 years this spring and so i will see if they have returned. I also intend to fish more with the people who have helped me improve as a fly fisherman as i enter my 4th season fly fishing. Mike, Graeme, John, Nick, Arthur, Al and hopefully some new faces i have spoken to who fish the same waters who might help me in my environmental improvements if we have a tough summer again.

Tight lines to everyones 2019

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

A new taste of water

It was a chilly start to the day which woke me up quite quickly once i stepped out of bed. Back on the school run as my daughter started school for the first time. With the promise of fishing later with football rival Nick Behan i was a little happier about getting back into the school run routine. Nick had promised to show me one of his nicer waters with both trout and grayling to catch. Unfortunately on route the weather started to get brighter and warmer. Not what is needed, the summer has been so dry and with so little frequent rain any rain we do get runs off so quickly that it might as well not bothered. In fact my best fish this year and the most fish i caught were both in heavy rain showing how much the fish were being affected.

Reaching the river i didn't know what to expect but the area we was in was alot more natural and wild. After Nick set up twice, changing his reels 3 times, losing his leader twice, which i found, he told me he was quite clumsy. Deciding to leave his phone behind just in case we headed to the river, only to find a couple of lads kick sampling where we was meant to start. I wouldn't of minded much but they weren't doing it correctly, well, not how i do it, picking up a several rocks and shaking them into the net as opposed to actually kick sampling.

Fish were rising and i started on a dry with a weightless underneath, while Nick opted for the dry. We were getting take and tugs but it seemed they were small fish which was confirmed by Nick when we eventually hooked one. Nick said the river was very low so we headed up to a deeper run. On the way i spotted a calm spot behind a rock in a heavy slow and dropped my fly in, i saw the fish chase it and but as it went downstream as i struck the hook pulled out of its mouth. It was a lovely looking run below a weir, very deep looking but only provided me one trout while Nick caught grayling above it. I almost put a streamer on at this point as there was no way there werent a number of fish here but Nick tempted me by telling me he knew a honey spot.

Walking on upstream we came to said spot and it did look very fishy with moving water, channels and deep pools. I fished downstream while Nick was upstream and was surprised not to get a take. So i popped on a streamer and caught 2 small trout in succession. Nick shouted me and he had another grayling so i headed upstream and told him the news. We was both equally confused as even with the low water there was these runs we had fished that should of held bigger fish.

Nick handed me his rod, a Marryat rod to have a cast and it felt very different to what i was used to, very light and the reel placement was unusual. However it did compensate for my heavy striking with its fast action as when i struck into my first grayling of the day it took the sting out of my strike.
We fished a 6 foot area of this large pool, the end of a channel which was overcast with a grassy margin and pulled a half dozen grayling out one by one.

One grayling rose up slowly beneath Nicks dry and sipped it in, even without his glasses Nick saw it take it, it was a great sight to  watch. Nick was getting the bigger ones easily, he insisted they were alot bigger here too!  A large trout jumped out of the water in the pool as we were working our fly up this grassy verge, the casting by both of us deserved a fish every cast but it just suddenly went quiet.

We would fish from there and upstream for another hour with a couple of small fish nipping at the fly and i had a small grayling again on the dry but it was a little frustrating after hitting a decent shoal of grayling for it all to go quiet again. The fish had been effected by something, they could of possibly been  more active earlier in the day in the colder morning but we have no 100% answers until next time we venture there.

In all it was a great first day out with Nick despite the short number of fish, it was nice to be on some new water that wasn't urban and he never mentioned that team from the swamp once.