Thursday, 26 March 2020

Fly Fishing - Before the lockdown



March the 15th, the season has just opened and i'm trapped in work. Coronavirus is going round the world, i'm in work, a key worker, watching hoards of people panic buying toilet roll. Begging for soap and hand wash, bleach and anti-bac spray. You know when you say 'you wouldn't want to see their houses'. Well it made me think how little people were cleaning in the first place that they all had to start buying some. I fish urban rivers, i carry hand sanitiser when i go, for obvious reasons. Maybe it's easier for me to not touch my face and maul about because of that thought of polluted water courses still lies within me. Now because of the stupidity of people, all standing close to one another to get inside a shop? The only time i've really stood in a large crowd of people as an adult is at football games and the City parade. I like my space, i don't trust people like pick pockets and all that and i don't like the odor of most of them, so why don't people give more space regardless of a pandemic? And now it's affected the place were i have the most space, the middle of the river. I cannot seek my mental refuge anymore. I have to put up with the sheep of society as a key worker. And with 2 weeks of Easter booked off work, i will spend it indoors with my outdoor loving daughter because of everybody else.

Come the 17th though i was up and out with Krystian, the weather had been in our favor considering the previous weeks so we did expect a decent day. Though things started off slowly, usual places that held fish seemed barren and telltale signs of poaching over winter became obvious, the broken lines attached to trees attached to almost sea lures. I missed a fish in deeper water, wasn't too aware of it's size but it did bring me some hope but again, the waters fell quiet and we continued up river. It was there we found our prey, they were rising, which made it alot easier to figure out where they were. Now in this situation you'd normally pop a dry on, but there was no real hatch, the trout were rising steadily in this 10 metre section but there was no readily supply of flies on the surface. So we opted for very light streamers and cast at them. Krystian had the first fish, the streamer had barely touched the water when it took it, it fought hard but he managed to keep it downstream of the other rising fish, it teased my at the net a couple of times before i took the lunge and netted it. It weighed in at 2 1/2lb.

I was next, with the aid of my polaroids i was able to watch the trout chase the streamer, which can almost make you strike to early, but i waited till it turned after it took it before striking to get a good hookset. It wasn't as big as Krystians but we was still aware that one fish was still rising despite all this commotion.

This was Krystians moment, the trout followed it some 20metres so it was almost upon us and i watched it swallow the fly and stop, i shouted to Krystian that it had took it, but he didn't react, the lack of pull i believe was fooling him but then he struck and it bolted upstream for some concrete blocks. I warned him of this and then as he pulled on the brakes the line went slack. We had lost it. But then as he reeled in the line went taught, it had steamrolled straight back at us and Krystian was now chasing the slack. It then milled around in the pool in front of us trying to use it's body weight and occasionally go towards some snags slightly downstream of us but we waited patiently and i netted it again. It weighed a cracking 4 1/2lb.

The rising had stopped now, we gave it a couple more runs but then continued upstream, i reached a small narrow bend and came across a chicken hanging around with some ducks, which was quite amusing. Regardless of this i was adament i had seen a black line follow my streamer just at the foot of my rod tip, so i ran it through twice more before i hooked into a fish, i pulled it down into the slower water and just had to avoid all the obstacles in the water before i could net it. My trout weighed 2 1/2lb.

At this point we was on top of the world, we could have easily have gone home at this point but we was only a couple of hours in and the rest would be exploratory. More signs of poaching as we headed up river and 1 decent trout spooked as we made our way up river. It was about another hour before Krystian hit into the next fish, fighting hard in the deep colored water it tried to go into the plants against the wall of the river but i pushed upstream of Krystian to net it and rounded of his catch total to 10lb with a 3lb trout. The thickness on all these fish was promising that food was plentiful, but the lack of signs of fish and the amount of poaching signs were possibly the reason there was so much food. I managed another small trout in the next hour but there was only signs of one other fish that rose once.

The day before lockdown which we could all sense was coming i took my chance to take my daughter out to show what social distancing really means. Heading down to a safe section of river it allowed Emily to try out her new waders and develop her water legs which she fully enjoyed, not having to be carried across a river. The fishing again was tough though for her, her casting had some how improved over winter and almost every cast she made deserved a fish, only snagging a tree once which i crossed over to get for her. She eventually caught a trout which really didn't full reward her efforts of the day and it's sometimes hard to explain to a child of 5 that sometimes no matter how good you do something it isn't always rewarded. The trout itself was a nice little fish, probably of a pound or so as i didn't weigh it.

We fished our way up river, skimmed stones after each pool and headed back up to a place i reported last year for leaking sewerage. Well, it hadn't been resolved, which after 6 months would explain the lack of fish downstream of it. The constant phone calls between UU and the EA ensued over the next couple of days for them to conclude, they knew about it and it needs a permanent fix. 6 months not long enough?

So now we are in lockdown, i am still in work for the rest of the week, walking past people having garden parties, BBQs and meeting on the park. So it's guarenteed that the lockdown will be extended and how we have to suffer both mentally and physically. As technically i could have 12 weeks self isolation due to my asthma, but i could not stay indoors for 12 weeks. I just have to survive this epidemic.





 







 









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.