Friday, 23 June 2017

Fishing with Arthur - Fly Fishing

It had been a while since i had heard off Arthur Hamer, he can be quite elusive when he wants to be, i guess the multiple methods of contacting people these days make it harder when people use different formats but it was a good old email that came up trumps.

Now Arthur Hamer was one of the first people i knew of in fly fishing, in fact he helped me indirectly to have the confidence to fish the Irwell and it's tributaries and also inspired me to do my own blog. Why? Well when i saw a trout rise on a family walk i googled around to find more information on fly fishing on the Irwell and who's blog came up as pretty much the only information on the matter? Arthur Hamers. We'd only fished together once before, back then i was fishing the Croal as it wasn't as daunting as the Irwell and was a nice little river to catch small trout.

Now i have experience but still in no way do i know everything about trout, if anything my thoughts are constantly changing with their changing behaviour which doesn't seem to coincide with any weather or conditions, on paper on the days me and Arthur went fishing, the fish should mainly be in the oxygenated pool due to the lack of rain and high temperatures, when in fact it turned out quite the opposite.

Arthur took me on a few local rivers he had cards on, as a guest. The first trip we had we both used streamers and it was a tough day, 25' temperatures made the fish lethargic but they were not in the moving water, i missed a trout in one of our first runs and for an hour or so everything was quiet. Then from the bank under my feet i saw a big trout swim out and go towards my streamer, very slowly it approached it then slowly turned away. I lifted, maybe too softly, and i felt resistance, it had taken the streamer. It was then it began to fight. I shouted to Arthur as it ran downstream towards him under a large over hanging tree and i told him i had to jump in, it was impossible to tell how deep it was so it was vital i told him this before i jumped. Luckily, silt included, it was just under my waist and i had more control over the fish. After it ran downstream it reached a shallow section so it turned back towards me and the troubles began.

With the rod directly pointing up as the trout swam past me the rod got stuck in the trees above and i frantically pulled to free it. The trout was heading towards the snags on the opposite side and as it got their it became entangled. Tired from the fight and tangled in a snag it turned on its side, it now became a matter of urgency, i hurriedly crossed the river, sinking slowly into the silt before impaling my waders on the submerged roots of the tree, i felt water coming in but i had to ignore it. Reaching the trout i netted it and was able to get it in the main current to aid in its recovery.

It was a big trout and we let it recover before we took any pics, this allowed me to get my scales out for the first time and weigh the fish (i usually go off length but thickness of trout varies massively) It came up 3.96 on the scales with a wet net weighing 0.38.  It was a great moment for us both just seeing fish like this in our system and we could of easily called it a day after that. We slugged it out for another hour without much happening before i had one last pop at the fish i missed earlier, it took it again first time but after a couple of seconds on the hook it slipped off again.

The next time we went, waders fixed, it was very different experience. We was higher up the system were a 12 inch trout was considered a good trout and with even higher temperatures i had again anticipated fish to be in the faster water and aimed to target them with nymphs. Reaching the river it was alive with rises and it soon became apparent it would be dry fly only.

It was only a narrow river with over hanging trees, my 9ft rod a little too big in these situations but i had to make do. There was hundreds of rises but they would disappear when you was 40 foot away before you'd even cast. Only for a non rising fish to hammer your dry off the top. I caught 6 fish with the biggest just under 10 inches but i missed numerous fish, be it because of their size of the fact they appeared to be taking flies just under the surface, as there wasn't anything on the water. It fact, after i lost my klinkhammer the takes were a little more wary. My eyes became adapted to the water and i could see fish rising up below the Adams and rejecting it, the shallow summer water making them a lot more suspicious of a fine line on the surface. I lost 2 fish i'd say were over the 12 inch mark as the soft takes made setting the hook a little tougher. A simple jump or head shake would be enough for the hook to come out.

It was all good fun and it was good to be out with Arthur, constantly sharing his experiences and having a laugh all day, it made targeting these tricky little trout all the more enjoyable.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Big Trout Hunting - Fly Fishing

9th June

With a trip with John Tyzack planned after his wash out chasing sea bass, it was on the cards to chase some big browns and put a smile back on JTs face. JT had a place in mind, a river he knew held big fish but with just a short session possible before i had work we knew there would be a fair bit of leg work. The weather was funny and while i waited for JT to pick me up it hammered it down for 5 minutes before clouding over with a cool breeze. It would soon change to a hot sunny day after we overdressed for the occasion and we were left regretting our choice especially with all the walking we would have to do.

The water clarity was murky but still had plenty of visibility, it rendered sight fishing almost impossible but did it render us invisible? Probably not. We worked our way upstream and i was quickly into a small trout, we didn't take a picture as we was chasing big trout and off it quickly went where it came from. As we worked our way upstream we were getting the odd flash and tail slap but nothing definite, but there were less takes than we expected if you had seen the areas we was targeting.

As we worked our way up JT seemed to be getting the bigger fish to attack but still no end product, we would only see the trout as it hit the fly so we were in a way on edge. John soon landing a decent trout but it too was quickly put back as it wasn't the size we came for, another soon followed a little bit bigger but had beautiful markings with it's big red spots. Where was all the big fish though?

We soon came to a small weir were i cast into, the fly had barely touched the water, in fact im pretty sure it landed straight into a trouts mouth, as no sooner had the fly hit the water, it felt like i had snagged so i lifted up and realised i had a trout on. It took off downstream running under the undercuts and the roots so we both jumped into the river to get a better angle on it. After a tough fight it was almost ready for netting, then JT uttered the fate tempting words 'it's well hooked' and as he went to net it, it came off. We looked at each other and laughed, it was a nice fish about 1lb 1/2 - 3/4's but JT had a better look at it than i did so you would have to ask him if it was nicely colored!

The next bit however was a motorway tunnel which i was quite apprehensive about going through, it was dark, long and deep, the worst part was the random structures under the water that jutted out from the shallower side forcing you into the deeper channel. Being a non-swimmer i allowed JT to take point so that i knew if he disappeared not to carry on! It was a bit nerve wracking for me to be fair, there was no current here but the inability see meant i was feeling my way and you would suddenly hit these big concrete structures under the water and other things. But after the water reach up to the top of my waist waders, which i had forgot i had on we was soon out and JT cast into the first bend, missing a pretty big fish.

Carrying on upstream we found a small patch of ranunculus which JT cast to and then we saw it, a big old trout came out to see what we was offering. Another cast it had another look before slipping back under the weed. JT tried again and this time it followed it, i saw it turn on it and JT saw it grab the fly, he struck and we was in. It fought hard and tried to get to the weed beds, trying the next one each time JT pulled it out of the one it had gone under, the bunch clenching moments your line cuts into a huge run of weed and your expecting another 20kg of weed snagging onto your fish but he kept his rod far to the side to pull it back under and after a quick turn upstream it soon tired and JT netted it.

It was a cracking fish easily 3lb in my books. It had the head of a python it was that big, a strong old fish that was in immaculate condition, with a yellow belly slowly transitioning to a olive colored back it was a true horse of the river. It rested next to us for 30 seconds or so as it got its breath back and it soon sauntered off back under the reed beds we had pulled it from 5 minutes earlier.

The next hour went by without much happening until the last pool i fished, after pulling a small but beautifully marked fish out we prepped it for a pic but it slipped back into the water and we JT told me i had pushed it back in as i congratulated him on actually netting the fish time. It was all good banter and i soon had a picture of a fish minutes later, which we thought was the smallest in the river until the next missed take by a trout barely longer than the streamer.

We missed several fish and caught an absolute lump but on another day things could of been alot different. The fish we not turned on as much as we thought they would of been and several factors may have come to play into that. In all though it was very much worth it and it meant JT had leveled the scoring on who had the biggest fish of the day. Don't tell him i'm keeping score though!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Scouting for trout - Fly Fishing

7th June

With a break in the rain i knew most of my rivers would be in flood so it was time to scout out another small stream to check what, if anything, hid there.  This stream was completely urbanized, if anything it was like an open sewer but it didn't smell like one and despite all the garbage it looked kind of fishy if there was any in here.  I had the family in tow, it was my partner who had infact suggested we go fishing. I climbed over the fence and down the bank while i worked my way up each pool, they were created by pockets of garbage collecting in certain points in turn also offering shelter.

Within 5 minutes i knew there was fish here, the silhouette of a decent sized fish calmly hunting down the streamer as it went past, it turned away and disappeared. I still had a chance, i have realised most trout will have 2 takes at a streamer unless they touch the hook first time, after that, its game over. I cast again and again, trying to figure out which angle would tempt it, then i felt a subtle resistance and a struck up, it was on.

It was a lazy take and a strange fight, the fish initially ran downstream then turned upstream and sat there in a lie, as if it was waiting for more food to come down for it to swallow. I guess this guy had swallowed its fair share of non-edibles. I retrieved some line and it fought some more, putting a good bend in the rod as it used its strength to pull away, but again it became lazy and turned once more, swimming slowly towards me, i retrieved line and lifted the rod but i was surrounded by trees, i had to risk putting the rod down and doing the last bit by hand. It was a strange moment but once it touched the net it starting fighting ferociously, thankfully in the net. 

It was a lovely trout, long (23in) and lean, not as fat as the one i had last week but a splendid untouched fish. A pink adipose fin with bright red spots breaking its camouflage, it had a mean head with a strong jaw, big teeth and wild eyes.

I continued fishing upstream and was only met with heavy hits, the murky water meant i had little time to react and i probably nipped a few lips on the strike as they dared take the streamer again. I did hook a small trout though but that failed to stay on the hook for very long, it actually went for the streamer 5 times before it got it right.

In the end it was a fun day, the wind had died, the sun had come out and i was overheating quite quickly, we hadn't been out long but it was a good scouting trip and a place worth visiting again.


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Another PB on the adams - Fly Fishing

30th May

With a day off work during the school holidays going fishing can be one of the things least on my mind. Mainly due to the Irwell being a hive of activity for the youth of the area especially when it is a hot day. With my partner telling me i should take Emily fishing i toyed with the idea for 5 minutes just as it began to rain. Would it stop? Personally i don't mind it but keeping a 3 year old in the rain is unfair but the radar showed us just north of the rain clouds so it shouldn't get heavy at any point. This would also help keep as many people away from the rivers other than those more dedicated like dog walkers.

A bus trip and 20 minutes of walking, a quick nip in the shop for a packet of monster munch for Emily, and we was at the river. The river here is alot wider and would be difficult for Emily to fish so it was more of a father and daughter day out than Emily fishing, so i opted to practise my streamers again. I was setting up my rod as Emily chowed down her crisp when i spotted a rise underneath the Japanese Knotweed, i paused and watched, it was a steady rise, a subtle take which could indicate a bigger wiser fish. I hastily pulled my dry fly rod out and set it up but it took a little longer than usual as the tapered leader i was tying it into for a better turn over kept snapping when i tested it. After 2 attempts it finally stuck. It had just gone 1 and their wasn't any notable hatch only more lacewings coming to the river to lay eggs, the steady drizzle was holding them down as they are terrible flyers at the best of times.

I opted for a size 14 adams and positioned myself in the river, it was still quite a cast away as a dared leave Emily more than a couple of metres away from me on the bank.  I waited to see where it was rising and cast ahead of it diagonally, it rose and i struck, a miss. With no resistance i knew it could rise again and sure enough 2 casts later it sipped the adams. I struck again and was instantly greeted with a leap, and then another, it wasn't a big trout but 'poppy', as Emily named it, gave Emily the excitement she wanted and laughed at each jump it did. Emily wanted to net it so i passed her the net and i guided it into the net for her. It was a pretty little fish in honesty, an olive green colour with big red spots at its bottom half.

As i rearranged the hackle on the fly we spotted another rise in the same place, again very subtle so i told Emily there was another fish eating on the top and we had to feed it a fly again. She then spent her time deliberating whether it would be called 'Branch' or 'DJ Suki' as i cast and readjusted the length of my line to just reach the flow and not spook the fish with an overcast. On the 3rd cast it sipped it in and i struck hard, it kicked its tail hard on the surface as it turned towards the bottom, the rod bouncing up and down with each kick of its tail, i knew it was a nice trout and bigger than the previous. I hadn't seen it yet as it kept down low hammering the rod, Emily asked could she hold the camera so i walked back slowly to pass it her, as i bent down it hammered the line out with a quick run and i had to hastily reel in to keep tension as i turned its head back towards me. That was it's first real 'run' and at that point i knew it was quite big, i got it back quite close to me as it came back upstream but it was still down deep and i hadn't yet seen it. Every time i held the rod up it would instantly bounce back down straight as it fought hard, the rod pinging up each time it stopped giving me a second of doubt that it had got off. Emily started shouting 'point to the sky' trying to get me to keep my rod up as i tell her, but it wasn't having any of it. It was at this point i got my first glimpse of it and was a bit awestruck if i'm honest. Knowing i had a 0.14mm tippet that had snapped twice on set up with a fish of this size plus previous encounters with bigger trout i had to keep control without forcing to much. It turned into a fight of stamina and patience, whenever i felt like it was tiring as it came up to a foot of the surface it would hammer the rod back down again. It was tough not knowing what may lie at the bottom of the pool, on top it appears featureless but in the murky depths all sorts of rubbish dumped from the floods could be sat there which is why i thought it was trying to stay deep. After a few minutes it finally breached the surface for the first time and i knew it had finally began to tire. It tried a last ditch run downstream before i managed to turn it and slowly bring it back to me. My first net attempt saw it kick hard as it came over the lip and just out of its reach but it was short lived as that was the last of its fight and within a couple of seconds i had netted it.

It was a beautiful trout and easily the biggest i had landed. With its big brown spots and a tail wider than your arm it was in tremendous condition, a beautifully streamlined fish with a big muscly upper body. It was definitely a fantastic advertisement for why we need our river to be looked after, on another day the pollution event that occurred could of effected all of the fish directly and this would of been amongst those dead.  It has dodged a bullet and luckily been in capable hands when handled.

It measured in the net at 25 inches which beats my personal best easily. The problem i had was now documenting my catch, it obviously needed a good picture so i trusted my phone with my 3 year old daughter a couple of feet above the river. I turned on the shutter sound so i knew she had pressed it and after a quick lift from the net in a pose i've been practising with Graeme it was 2 clicks and done. I held it ready to release by the tail for a couple of seconds where it sat still, as i went to place my hand on its underside it kicked of hard and fast back into its pool. A quick and successful release ready for another day. It goes without saying that catch and release is a beautiful thing when done correctly, a healthy strong fish that will breed later in the year, will continue to give opportunities for good game fishing and still in perfect condition ready for its next photo.

Emily celebrated for 10 minutes throwing stones as i carried on setting up the streamer rod which i still hadn't managed when a little upstream i spotted another rise, a messier splashy rise but a rise none the less. I told Emily and this time she agreed it was 'DJ Suki' and this time i carried her on my hip, one handed dry fly fishing at its finest. Well until i missed the take. I wasn't too fussed as you can imagine and we retreated upstream to find more pools, more fish and ultimately practise my streamers. I had 6 takes in total, 1 of them seemed of a reasonable size, but all were missed, the murky depths meant any fish i saw where for a split second as they took the streamer and i was reacting to the take. One got off after a couple of seconds which proves im still struggling at setting the hook on streamers, i know my method is alot better.

Ultimately after a couple of hours of 'adventuring' and fishing pools i told Emily we would see if 'DJ Suki' was back and we trundled our way back. As i packed up the streamer rod and Emily entertained herself by putting a snail on a leaf and pushing it into the river i spotted the rise of a trout in the same place as earlier that day. It was back feeding in its lane after i had missed it earlier.

I grabbed Emily and the one handed dry fly casting began, first cast and it took it, again with a messy splashy take, the hook stayed this time and i gave Emily some fishing time as i let her fight the fish, it was a little messy at the end as it swam around my feet and the line went around my head and body but it was quickly in the net and i pulled the hook out so i could detangle myself. It was a small trout which explains the inexperience in the rise but a clear survivor as it looks like it had been nabbed 3 times by a bird with its distinctive v-shape scars. On that note Emily said her goodbyes and we packed the last rod away. It had been another successful day.


Sunday, 28 May 2017

A change of plan - Fly Fishing

May 28th 2017
A beautiful male trout

After taking Graeme on a local stream a couple of weeks back it was Graemes turn to repay the favor as he took me to a stream closer to his home, we opted for a stream again to compare the rivers and i was very excited in trying out my new streamer and close quarter experience i had gained while being guided my John Tyzack the week previous. The heavy rain in the night almost put us off but after some deliberation we thought hell an hour won't hurt.

After reaching the river we were greet by a beautiful overgrown run the river level was great and looked almost like the rain hadn't touched, but the only way down the embankment was through a old town house which was fenced off ready for demolition. We inspected the area but this was the only safe and sensible route down the embankment so out came the saw and we cut a few fastenings and pulled open the fence just enough to squeeze through, securing it behind us as we passed.

Out came the streamers and within 2 casts i had a trout snap at my streamer. I cast again and snap, just pulling at the tail of it. I let Graeme take the hot-seat and within a couple of casts, wham he was in, but it wasn't a trout this time it was a nice little chub. Being out of season it was a quick snap a pic and release, no messing about but showing they are all warming up for the course open season in a few weeks. As we alternate after every fish caught or lost it was my turn and no more than 20 yards up i was in as well. Another chub, alot smaller but a fish none the less. After agreeing there were a few chub round here we walked further upstream to keep ahead of them.

After going under a low bridge we fished a few sunken trees and Graeme had a chase of something meaty, i led the way through a minefield of brambles and nettles and saw a trout swim under my streamer then whack, something huge launches up from my feet and past my face. A fricking duck! I did jump to be fair! It was a female and with how quiet it had been, i pretty much was standing on it, we knew it must of been protecting something and sure enough under the fern at my feet, a little nest with several eggs in. We made haste upstream to allow the duck to come back as not to disturb it anymore.

After a bit of walking i spotted a deep run cutting the inside bank and a quick cast gave me my first trout of the day, it pounced out from the undercut and was desperate to get back under but with Graeme at the net it was in. Not a huge fish but the first trout of the day. Graeme followed suit and on a nice bend he got caught in the process of repositioning the angle of his rod to pull the streamer parallel with the bank when a nice trout pounced on the fly and turned away. Though it wasn't long until Graeme made amends with a nice trout.

Things quietened down after this much like the last time we was out together, we got a few chases and snatches but they wasn't hitting them with a ferocity. We had seen a few rises and alot of them would turn on the streamer but we wasn't catching and Graeme opted for a switch to a nymph. I was going to persevere for a little bit with the streamers and with the osmylids (giant lacewings) laying their eggs in the water, a few sporadic rises had begun to appear, which meant i did want to try a dry fly at one point.

Within a couple of casts the nymph hit trout and ended the dry spell, it was a nice trout for Graeme keeping it's head down deep in the pool, he was on a 3wt so these trout really could have a go. Thankfully the pool didn't have any real snags so it mainly stayed deep and shook violently trying to throw the hook, but Graeme kept control and it eventually tired enough for a nice picture.

I carried on with the streamer but the chases had stopped at this point so Graeme offered me his rod and as the fly went past an undercut there was a take, quite a gentle take but i struck and it was off, similar to Graemes it stayed deep but it wanted to go for a bit of a swim downstream, hugging the nearside bank i had to reach out to avoid snagging the foliage, a few close calls with some overgrowth left a large stick stuck to my line, Graeme nudged it off with his rod and the reel went off screeching, the trout didn't like that and raced off downstream taking line. I hit the brakes and fought it round a pool keeping it away from the edges the best i could as Graeme got in position to net it, it soon became apparent it was quite difficult to lift its head for a good netting chance so after a couple of attempts i managed to lift it and Graeme bagged it nicely.

It was a beautiful male trout with a head like a fist and teeth like a pike it was one bony jawed trout worth catching. It was a good 2lber, well fed and a lovely golden colour. The long fight had tired it out but after a minute or so it's kicking became strong enough for a confident release and off it went back into the murk.

We found some shallower water and were surprised to see some decent size fish in it so as we hadn't fished this run before we opted for a bit of 'spotting'. Basically the one who isn't fishing goes upstream a little keeping very still and stealthy and guides whoever is fishing to where the fish are holed up. After a few spooks and some competing trout Graemes longer casting soon paid dividends when he hit into a trout leaping out of the water, it did this 3 or 4 times before retreating into the reeds were it would find just enough slack to ping off the hook.

Walking upstream we saw an absolute monster of a trout as well as a nice trout and a little one. They were all cruising upstream but the nice one stopped and hid under a grassy verge. I dropped the nymph in front and it slowly came out in the direction of my fly, opened its mouth and turned back towards it's hole, i struck and it was on. It had simply sipped the nymph into its mouth ready for the next one. It was another nice trout but we was soon on the hunt for the bigger one we had seen. We found it about 30 metres upstream harassing a shoal of big chub and after a quick look at the nymph it didn't bother, it was sat in the back end of a  bed of water iris so presentation was very difficult.

We moved on upstream to a spot i said looked good, first cast and Graeme was into a lovely trout. I climbed in as it really was forcing its way under the undercut by easily a foot. I positioned my net near the undercut to keep it from going under, being the nearside it was difficult to keep it out but it worked. It fought hard round the pool looking for all the nooks and crannies. After it decided to splash on the surface it got tangled slightly in the line on top and i didn't hesitate in netting it. It still had plenty of fight which made getting a picture a little tricky.

My turn next and after seeing a small rise just ahead i cast my nymph to it when i felt a soft take i struck hard and i was on. It was a weird take as it literally stayed on the river bottom and swam straight downstream, i followed it downstream as the line built up with more twigs and leaves as it dragged me through the undercuts. It then ripped out a good few feet of line with a burst of speed but after it slowed at a shallow i managed to turn its head while Graeme got into position to net it. It tried a few tricks by aiming between Graemes legs but he reacted quickly and netted it.

It would be our final fish of the day in what was a true change of tactics to what we initially planned for, but we adapted and it paid off. In total between us we had 2 chub, 2 perch, 3 roach and 10 trout. Both chub and perch took streamers while the roach took the nymph. We know now that if the fish dont take the stream with confidence it probably will be like that for the majority of the river. Funnily the past 2 trips i have gone with a method in mind and ended up on a different method which shows it is good to be able to switch between different methods on the fly.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Last fish wins - Fly Fishing

19th May

With a day of tuition booked with good old John Tyzack we set off early doors to find some fish. The tuition was something of a strange request but a very important skill especially when you find big trout hiding in them 'unfishable' spots, my request was close quarters fishing in overgrown areas.

Crossing the border we was fishing just before dinner time and on route we had discussed various methods, the heavy rain in the week would have dumped a nice few inches on top so we talked of duo and dry fly. But as we first set our eyes on the water we was a little surprised to see it still struggling. We had come far up a river i wouldn't attempt to spell, a few miles away from its source. It was clean and clear with a sandy bottom which would make it difficult to be stealthy, especially in a narrow stream.

We started off creeping around, staying away from the water as much as possible, with a good angle up the bank on the river with as little glare as possible we soon started seeing movement. Even the clear water hid these well camouflaged brownies in. Now we hadn't tackled up as of yet and when JT spotted the head of something good poking out from under a low hanging branch we agreed to go a little downstream of it and see if there was anything else bobbing about in case we spooked something worth catching. As we tackled up we both opted for a nymph, JT for a lone nymph while i opted for the duo. There was a slight current here and after spotting 2 trout of around a pound swimming round a small pool under a tree nabbing nymphs we thought we was on to a winner. I went first but my 2.5mm bead didn't drift too well and would sink too quickly in the pool so JT stepped up and got a follow before popping his nymph into the tree and the fish went to ground after that.

We had learnt from this but knew of the fish that was a little further upstream, as we got there it had disappeared but we presumed, or rather more hoped, it had gone further into the tree. The bank here was still high so the approach we had was from above the branch but we needed to get behind the branch, complicated stuff but we decided the best course of action would be to let the nymph drift under the tree and give it a jiggle, more to keep it off the bottom as the river was very low here. Second cast and movement, the trout swam from under the tree and downstream, i spotted it go under the bank on our nearside so we edged our way just below it.

Being 6ft 8 it's easy being a spotter. I was practically above where the fish went under the bank, hidden as best i could as JT cast upstream into the area it was in, the glare here made JT blind for a take but as i saw the trout wrap its mouth around the fly he had struck into it, he felt the take and reacted to it. It was a good fish but now we had to land it, i couldn't see the bottom here and i wouldn't be able to climb back out here so i had to find an easier way in. I ran dropped my gear and grabbed my net off my backpack and ran downstream to a safer position to get it, it was a good 30 metres or so, but JT knew to play the fish downstream towards me and by the time i got up to the fish it was ready for netting and went in first time. It was a cracking trout, the mustard yellow belly with dark parr like circles subtly blended in with the dark spots of its flank. The fish wasn't just fat in its belly but thick on its shoulders, well conditioned and in perfect condition. This is what we had come for. A beautiful trout around 2lb.

A cracking fish to start the day, note the parr-like spots subtly blending in
We worked our way upstream spotting and spooking a few fish again of decent size with them all seemingly retreating to the underside of banks. The difficulties of the previous run despite the fish was the sink rate and presentation. We came across deeper pools and noticed how still the water had become, i stuck at it with the duo but JT decided to try something and pulled out a Martins Minnow. 2 casts in the same pool i had just duo'd through and he had a fish snatch at it. This pattern would persist of me using duo in a pool to JT using a Martins Minnow through the pool only for a fish to fly out of nowhere. It wasn't until a couple of missed and spooked fish later when JT got another cracking fish i would make a change. It shot our from under a half submerged tree downstream after the minnow and JT struck into it well, aiming for its safety spots like the tree and the undercut i climbed in to get it, JT guided it out and up into the net. It was another beautiful trout with big sparsely placed spots on its creamy coloured flanks. This again was around the 2lb mark.

JT with another beautiful flawless trout
After talking about streamer fishing i opted for one i had for years and my tuition then became a streamer lesson as well. This method was foreign to me and my only other attempt of this was after pike on the Old River with Mike France, that day i attracted 3 pike and missed 2 on again flies tied from Martin Smith. I had never spun for pike when i used to fish for them as i used to dead bait with sprats, so creating motion in an inanimate object effectively was a tough challenge for me. With my bow and arrow cast massively improving since last years tuition with JT i had at least one part nailed quite well. After rotating every couple of pools we came to a very tricky spot.

We had been pushed up the bank with a bank collapse but slightly downstream of our position about 10 feet down was a huge tree with a pool that had carved out at its roots. It was JT's turn and he popped his minnow to the left of the run allowed it to drift into the main pool and retrieved, some words of choice were said as a huge trout of easily 4lb+ went for the minnow, JT had struck, missed and ended up in the tree behind, a snap off. As he set up he told me to have a go, my fly was way to light even with the weight it would stick in the surface film until i pulled it under. I did as JT said and the trout followed the fly, it had 2 good runs at it before it left it. I cast again, nothing, i'd put it off.

As we made our way round the next few bends and my tuition started paying off, the movement i was creating was less bobby and more fishy but they didn't look at my fly while they would hunt JT's fly down like a guided missile. Both realising his fact JT let me use his rod and it soon started to show we was right. I kept missing fish, i either struck to late or too early trying to compensate for the previous mistake but it would all be practise practise practise. With a combination of JT's tuition in close quarters and streamer fishing and the effectiveness of Martin Smiths flies i was getting the bug. Watching the wild trout hunt down the streamer really put into perspective what a minnows life would be like and it would be damn scary.

JT wasn't as inexperienced as me and pulled out another trout which 4 trout all went after, unfortunately the biggest one wasn't the fastest but it was still a good trout. After a small break due to the humidity and a quick snack we continued upstream. It was a tough old day for myself as thing would continue in a rod gripping heart pounding fashion, we'd spot big trout, we'd spook big trout' we'd get big trout to chase the fly and we'd get small trout hammering the fly just as the big trout was hunting it down, bastards. the difference would be i would miss the trout and JT would land them, it was something you couldn't really teach, more of mental aspect of how quick you react, how good your visibility of the take is especially with glare and the best lesson i learned from this was not to fish watch. The number of times i cast to a fish only for another fish to pop out from under the bank and me totally missing it as i was watching the original fish was quite frustrating but definitely a hard lesson learned.

You can see the thickness of the trout easily in this shot
JT continued to reassure me as he pulled out 2 trout around a pound or so each in quick succession. After missing a couple more fish the day was drawing to a close and i had still yet to catch. I wasn't frustrated or annoyed in fact i was having a brilliant days fishing, it's good when you can enjoy fishing when your not even catching anything! Just sharing the experience and improving your skills with a good friend was well worth  the day out and with the bonus of nice trout hunting down your streamer. Now it's never over till the fat lady sings and JT said 3 casts each, last fish wins.

JT stepped up, nothing, nothing, nothing. My turn, just as i was about to cast i saw the ripple on the surface from the kick of a tail on the nearside, i cast to it, too much on top of it, nothing. I cast ahead of it, nothing, JT advised me to try the far bank to see if it had swam across. I cast, smash. A trout shot out and took it, this time i didn't miss. It was a biggy and now i had to keep it on, it appeared confused at first, caught in two minds as it swam to the bottom of the pool then it started swimming too the far bank undercut, then the nearside, JT helping remind me of directional pressure to avoid the snags, i was fortunate enough that it didn't bolt up or down the river as there wasn't many snags or overhanging trees here, only the bank to compete with, brambles and nettles etc are bad enough to be fair. It would seemingly give up fighting but as i would get it's head up it would kick away back towards its holes, thankfully staying in the pool, as it started to tire JT was in position to net it and i counted down to i forced its head up, straight in the net it was. It was a cracking 3lb or so trout. Like all the trout we had landed very fat and heavily set around the shoulders. Without a single mark on it it wasn't too pleased with being caught and in what would of been a bit of a faux pas if i had been on my own, it kicked its way to freedom after a quick photo. Luckily we had a picture of it and the fish went back very strong.

With the last cast making me the winner despite it being more of a team effort i had finally 'mastered' using the streamers, i have a long way to go yet don't get me wrong but i'm definitely on the right path and have ordered some minnows from MS Custom Flies on Facebook as they work brilliantly on trout. It was good comparing them with the ones i bought ages ago and going from one fly without getting any action bar a lone follow to getting at least a take in each pool was definitely eye opening.

In the end it was an amazing day that will no doubt have improved my skills in both close quarters and streamer fishing, with a good laugh all the way round it wouldn't be a day i would forget. If you would to get in contact with John Tyzack for a guided day you can find him on Facebook as well.
The fish that was caught on the last cast, like a fishermans tale.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Fly Fishing - Fishing 'The Drain'

 14th May 2017

It was a long time coming but myself and Graeme finally managed to arrange a trip out and it would be on my beats we would fish first. With the pollution on the Irwell making things tough and a sunny sunday alot of my stretches are prime habitat for dog walkers and such. I opted for a small brook that leads to the Irwell, known locally as the drain, as the usual thing the locals say is "I didn't think you'd find fish in such dirty water."

The rivers are on their arse up and down the country, even with last nights rain it wouldn't have an effect on the river level. This brook rises and falls very quickly but also colours up quickly to but it was at around 50% visibility when we arrived. As Graeme didn't know the area i told him where to park, he asked if it was safe round here too which i reassured him. As we came to the road to park we came round the corner to find a burnt out car sat in a parking space. I'm not sure what Graeme was thinking but i told him to park just round the corner and we parked amongst several other cars.

Tackling up we headed to the river and fished a few fishy holes. The flow was slow, the water was shallow and snaggy and the overgrowth was starting to come up quickly.  We both opted for the same tactic in some sense, Graeme with a New Zealand indicator while myself opted for a klink and dink method. The big difference we had was the length of our rods, i was fishing with a 10ft and Graeme with a 7ft rod. In these tight spaces we was fishing a short rod would seem a must, but with the overgrowth becoming so wild a long rod proved the only plausible method in some situations.

Trying to blend in when your 6ft 8 isn't always easy
With the water clarity down our initial plan of sight fishing 2 weeks early was out the window, but we could see weird fish like shapes in the water, was it a fish? The key sign later on turned out to be when the silt was kicked up or a strong bow wave storming up river. We fished each pool one at a time, discussing the channels and the flow line and where the deeper run lies with whoever wasn't fishing acting as a forward spotted. Any snags here will ruin a pool. It started a little quiet, some very fishy pools were quiet and i told Graeme that these fish were greedy fish and they will usually take it first time (if they want to take it). Graeme found a nice channel running under the far bank with a big tree for cover and the indicator slipped under, he struck and he was into a nice brownie. It thought well for a minute or two before finally slipping into the net. It was a cracking fish and would prove to be the first of many immaculate fish.
Giving the rod a bend on the first fish of the day
A cracking trout to start the day
My first came not long after and it wasn't where it should have been, after fishing a deep pool, Graeme spotted the tiniest of pools on an inside bank and with the overgrowth and snags below it i opted to fish above it and allow the fly to drift in. It was taken straight away, another lovely trout in the bag.
My first of the day pulled from a small hole
We moved on up to one of my favourite little pools in the summer as i catch alot of roach here but it still had some depth in it. Graeme had just snagged and was rerigging when i hit the next fish at the bottom of the pool, this would prove to be the only 'marked' fish, infact it had a birth defect, at the time it was difficult to tell if it's face had been ripped with a spinner but on closer inspection of the photo the jawline is complete and markless it just happens to break off to one side. Regardless it put up a fight well above it's weight and managed to get me nettled from my face to my arms. It was an ugly bastard i admit but a great sign to see a wild trout overcome it's struggle and survive despite it's natural disadvantage.
A birth defect no doubt, jaw is fully intact with no scarring. A wild trout defying natures law by fighting to survive.
Graeme was in the hot seat again and fished the pool further up where he struck into a big fish, it bounced the hook off and only a brief glimpse of it was all we was left with and to top it off Graeme ended up in a tree again a few casts later. Just before he went into retrieve the fly we spotted a long rise further up. With me having the only dry fly on i went ahead and let it drift down, out of the near side bank i saw a head rise up out of the water, it rejected the fly at the last second and i half twitched at the anticipation of having to strike. As i did i felt tension and realised it had taken the nymph so i set the hook and the trout was off! It trundled upstream towards the snags taking me under a fallen tree trunk, with my rod held low and using the length of it to pull my line from under it i was free from the snag but it was heading upstream to more of them. I had to jump in as it went into the tree lined section, it was running out of water due to the depth so it tried to turn back, i went for a cheeky net as it came on my left side but i only pissed it off further and it swam round my right hand side and headed off downstream. I tried guiding it away from more and more snags but at this point it was steam rolling downstream, the reel screaming and clicking away as it dragged line off the spool. Graeme told me it was heading for the worst snags, i had to stop it somehow, i slowly applied more and more resistance and it slowed down, it swam to inside bank, gave a kick of it's tail and snapped me off.

It had won, with a hand on my head and my mouth open in hope it would just swim back and apologise, i laughed as i looked at Graeme. He was gutted for me but i'm glad he was there, we both shared the experience it had given us and the fight that it gave, it deserved to get away in some sense, it took a minute for my adrenaline to ease off before i climbed out. As we headed upstream to the next pool the rain started. A heavy downpour in fact, as i rerigged Graeme found a lovely pool and hooked into a nice trout in similar fashion to his first. Another lovely trout in immaculate condition.

Graeme defies the weather with a cracking brownie
That trout would be the last one we had for an hour or so, the heavy downpour stopped and the water coloured up abit more, probably reducing visibility to around 25% we didn't think this would affect it too much, but for the next hour we fished some lovely fishy pools with no luck. But with dinner time looming i thought i saw something, but it could of been more of a hopeful sign, but a telltale cloud of silt gave it away. Graeme hit the first trout quickly followed by my own, we had both just adjusted our length and had aimed for the undercut on the far bank. Unfortunatly, i lost mine after a short fight, i was trying to get it to stay down but it thrashed too much on the surface and shook the hook. Graeme then hit into another and i finished the pool off with a 4th from it. After some frustration and a little self doubt from myself (what was i doing different to put the fish off) we had hit 4 fish in 10 minutes in a tiny pool.
One of the 4 fish spree we had, this is the one that got away
One of the 4 fish spree we had
Heading upstream we opted to wade the next section which could of proven the wrong idea, despite our very stealthy fishing it seemed the fish weren't interested. We could see bowwaves moving upstream and a fish dart from the side of me as i passed it's lie. They were there but something wasn't quite right, i guess the flow wasn't giving enough movement. We seen another big bowwave head upstream but as it hit the shallows i was sure it turned round, sure enough a few seconds later i hear a splash and i turn to see Graeme recovering from what seemed an almost fall. Turns out the bloody trout had only swam round me straight under Graemes foot at the time he was putting his foot down and he almost squished the bugger, thankfully due to it's size it ended up wrong footing him. It was pretty funny to be fair as i had fallen in here a few weeks ago in a similar spot due to the silt.

We climbed out and decided against future wading just incase we was being a bit noisy. As we hit the deeper runs we started to see a couple of trout swimming around, and soon enough i was into a good trout. A couple of people were walking past at the time and were watching with children and i joked to Graeme "Imagine we was them people who would just smack it on it's head and take it home to dinner" i'm not sure how the parents would have taken that.

Looking highly amused after Graeme commented that i make any fish look small
Against my arm it measures at about 16 inches
The the rest of the pool would prove unwilling and as we walked upstream Graeme spotted another pool, i was surprised of this pool as it is usually full of ranunculus fluitans and he dropped his fly in. Again first time a trout took it, another little gem of a fish which then proved it didn't believe in social media and jumped it's way out of Graemes hand to freedom.

Moving on up to the deeper runs which were almost motionless, at one point i jigged my nymph through a pool and ended up with a trout. But we hit a fair few trout here, Graeme did better than me in this area which was good as i was leading so it showed we wasn't spooking them.

The typical sized trout we picked up on this run
But the highlight of the fish Graeme had was the one he had at a weir, i told him i don't fish the weir as i struggle catching at them, i've only ever had 1 fish at the bottom of a weir and he pings his fly in to the main flow. It barely touched the water before it disappeared, i asked if he was on and Graeme responded enthusiastically that he was. I then seen the fish and knew he couldn't drop this one before his picture was taken. I jumped in downstream in the shallows. Which helps keep it in the deeper water but also ready to net it. Graeme then earned his own little audience with people gasping in awe that this shitty little drain that people dump their crap in held some nice fish. It have a tough old fight but with not many places to go due to it being sat under a weir it was a battle of endurance and after a couple of turns away at the net it finally slipped in. A woman asked could she take a picture to prove to her daughter that fish live in here, i'm not sure if she did but hopefully she'll spread the word on looking after your rivers a little better. It was a lovely trout, they all were, all very fat and full from a healthy insect population but it thoroughly topped off the day for us.

It was a pleasure fishing with Graeme, we would probably go back there in summer when the course season opens to hit some of the course fish too and the water should be back to summer level and not drought level.

A great trout to end the day, all solid fat fish