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.



 
 
 



Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Urban fishing & why i do it.


It has been a while since my last blog, not by choice. That choice is governed by the speed my eye lids shut after my shift. Fishing for short stints in early hours to avoid the heat of the day or after what little rain we had meant i wasn't resting well on my days off and after my promotion at work and getting home at 9pm most nights the energy was draining from me. I'd often fall asleep fully dressed in my uniform getting my daughter to sleep who had waited up to see me, waking up early hours sweating and groggy before getting into bed proper.

It's a funny life i live, i defend my fort where i work from retail theft, preventing drug users from obtaining goods to fund their fix yet when i fish my urban rivers i put myself in the heart of drug dens, the multi colored needles littering the 100 year old cobbles. But what brings me back here? Yes there are big fish that lurk in these waters but i equally enjoy catching the small trout there. So it isn't a size thing, don't get me wrong i love a big old trout as much as the next person. If anything i'd say it was the sport that made it worth while. If you have ever caught a 3lb trout that wants to steam roll down river then you know just how well they fight, oz for oz trout are the best fighting fish i personally have caught. Now put that trout in pool with concrete pillars and overhangs, rusted iron pipes it can swim inside, cobbled gulleys and metal grids. Then you can start adding the fly tipped rubbish from the classic rusty trolley to the bin bags of household rubbish, the numerous bikes and scooters and the odd pram. 

You can catch a trout of 2- 3lb in these rivers and they know every little hole they can hide in. Team work is often essential. With Graeme i had to lift a bicycle off the top of one before it snagged onto a log. Unsnagging it twice it raced 30m downstream before he put a stop to the train. With JT a tangle of the fly line around the reel saw it head into a grated pipe before swimming under a concrete overhanging and line wrapping a concrete pillar. After unsnagging that JT still had a fight on his hands with a feisty fish.

I have sat in the middle of Manchester in the early mornings, a thick blanket of smoke covered the river from the fires on the moors watching wild brown trout eating terrestrials off the surface. Graffitied walls of old buildings, the mix of red brick and large stone blocks lining the walls of the river. There are fish here, some would say plenty of them, but in reality there isn't. 100 fish in a 100m stretch sounds good at first but then they are all visible and vulnerable in these harsh summer conditions. Often catching the same fish a couple of times over a year or sometimes in the same season. Each earning a name by their distinguishable features. The constant pollution entering the river from misplaced drains and 3rd world citizens, treating the river as a tip.

It is impossible for me to protect them, these Greater Manchester trout, as hard as their native citizens. Through thick and thin their daily lives are a struggle. But they perservere and they feed and they grow. They spook at the sight of any human like figure, the sound of a 2mm tungsten bead sends panic into the waters. Pollution, poaching & persecution. Killed because they are 'food' to those to lazy to buy from a store. There is no pride to be found in killing a soldier of a trout, the true pride is to see it slap your hand with its tail as it slips into the foul smelling waters whence it came. To have looked it straight in the eye as you captured it's image in digital history, these fish will no longer be forgotten regardless of their future fate. And all i ask for those who take on these urban adventures whether it be the concrete jungle or the green space just outside of town or in the local park. Bow your head and respect the creature you hold as it won't be there forever and it has lived a harder life than you & me, and boy did i have a hard life.



















Sunday, 17 June 2018

Fathers Day Fly Fishing with Emily


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

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

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

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

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

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