Friday, 11 December 2015

Fly Fishing: End of the first year!

So since i took up fly fishing back in April. One of the greatest decisions i have made i might add, i have come to learn so much about the art of fly fishing and yet still know so very little. You see fly fishing is all about theories. It's ok knowing what your doing, but in fact there are a thousand theories in your head once you arrive. Which fly, location, method, angle, distance, thousands that we have to filter through in a short space of time that we barely realise how much we do, but even then the choice we make doesn't guarantee us a fish, as the only truth amongst all these theories is the trouts final decision itself.

Now i have come to know of some very good fly fisherman and some personally, which when you originally come from a council estate in Bolton i wouldn't of expected to be among people such as these and to you all, and even those who merely put the odd comment now and again, it's all very much appreciated.

I am moving house at the moment so any more fishing this month before 2016 is unlikely so the chance of a winter pike on the fly is highly unlikely as free time has been sparse. So this is, i guess, a summary of my first 'year' of fly fishing.

It all started off with me treking down the river, wading in with my wellies on and practicing my casting. Youtube and text book guided. I hadn't been fishing since school, though i had fished since i was 3, but now i had a beautiful family i could go out and relax and unwind and when that large trout came full bodied out the water my hunger was back.  It took me 4 trips before i got a take and then another till i landed one (well 3) 2 on the nymph and 1 on the dry as it began to rain. Since then i went 44 trips without blanking, some days tougher than others but learning all the time.

The last time i went was when the hurricanes landed, Abigail or angelica i believe it was called, the river was high and dangerous but we risked it, then we did an hour on the canal for pike. I blanked that day, understandably. Since then there were 3 more hurricanes, i've had walks down to see the local Irwell sections and the river has changed shape with the huge flow we have had. But with time constraints the piking has been out of reach.

All in all my tally for the year stands at:

I'll leave my last video from youtube here and keep an eye out for next years adventures too, where my daughter maybe alongside me (if she doesn't throw the rod in)

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Fly Fishing - It never rains but it pours - Day 50

7th November 2015

With a weekend booked off and a grayling trip booked with my good friend Mike France we was both excited, all our previous visits had been on low summer levels which had obviously affected the fishing even though we still bagged some fish and the main target, Grayling.  So we wanted some rain! It was a nice week with steady rain throughout the week meaning the river level would rise slowly and not colour up too much. With our departure time at 7.30am, the river was at the same measurement it had been all week, 40cm, 10cm higher than it's summer level which was a little surprising considering. The weather said rain till 11am where a micro-burst would be followed by sunny skies. The weather actually did that, however at 11 we was heading back to Bolton to do some pike fly fishing on our local canal. So where did it all go wrong?

Well funnily enough i have a tattoo on my neck which quotes 'It never rains but it pours' now most of you will know what this means but for those who don't it basically means when one thing goes wrong, everything does. Upon reaching our location the ducks were swimming backwards, the current to strong for them to swim against, the river was practically the Atlantic Ocean and it was up by around 3 feet (not 10cms nor the 30cms the map showed later on when it updated again) It was easily up 3 feet as the usual dry banking was now up to my butt and i'm 6ft 8. It was like we was in Blackpool in a storm with the tide coming in. Nevertheless we gave it ago, we don't get many fishing days together due to our work clash so didn't want to waste our good company. I went with a trio of nymphs. Heavy, rubber worm, Super Heavy. I still wasn't touching bottom and every cast was a strike as the leaves were horrible. So not only was the river raging, nor too coloured it was laden with thousands of leaves. We hacked it out for 2 hours before we called it quits.

Note: red line was level when we arrived (was up by 3 feet easily) green line is the usual summer level.

We came to the conclusion that would a fish sit there getting thousands of leaves smacking them in the face and building up on them, no, they would find a rock to hide behind or calm water and wait it out, now if my heaviest nymphs aren't even touching bottom, even if it was good visibility, the chances of tempting a grayling to move into that heavy flow was nigh on impossible if i wasn't at the bottom.

So off we went back home to do some pike fly fishing, Mike borrowed me his #8/9 weight set up and we was good to go, the weather here was bad with a bad cross wind and torrential rain, casting  pike flies feels so unnatural compared to the usual fly fishing so will take some getting used to but again, here, leaves were a problem. Mike Eventually hit into something big but it was solid and we guessed he'd caught the bottom but in fact it was a huge birch tree branch. We don't let things get the better of us so we landed the 'branch' posed for a picture etc fly et al.

The rain became heavier still so we called it a day, was no point making ourselves ill and risk ruining an enjoyable day despite the conditions.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Fly Fishing - The Quest for Irwell Chub

My quest for Irwell Chub has taken me further afield around the Irwell, generally walking an hour or two too a new run, fishing the deep holes and slow runs, but still the chub have avoided me. The trout have not come in too big a number either thankfully but the one's i have had have all been nice trout, one i thought for a second was sea run it was that silver, only darkening off to a creamy mushroom colored back.

Now these little adventures haven't been all bad, in fact i've found some cracking spots to fish especially during the school holidays as they are hard to reach and dangerous to the foolish.  Thankfully the water has been crystal clear and easily 5 foot visibility allowing me to see the dark deep sections and the dangers underfoot. Creating a mental map of the areas for the future.

I have been under aquaducts and bridges, to old rotted wooden weirs to hair pin bends against 100 feet cliffs with a deep pool to match. How many dogwalkers? None. I have fished alot of last light water, it is amazing how quick the dark can come on so i'm always giving myself plenty of time to get out of the river before it is dangerous.

It's a damned shame there isn't any Grayling in our system as the water seemed so perfect in the places i was but that is the problem. It is sustainable it's just the amount of incidents that occur would kill them off in a year. But thankfully we have good people fighting our cause and maybe not to far into the future we will be able to reintroduce them.

But these chub are proving illusive, it's all trial and error and when i do finally manage to tempt one other than on the dry, which i won't risk in the off season, then it will be a tactic worth expanding on. Funnily the only course fish i caught was a small perch as i spoke to someone on the canal bank which i use to quickly navigate the river.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Fly Fishing - Chub Chasing: Sods Law - Day 49

9th October 2015

With the close season in full effect and a couple of hours to spare before last light i decided to put some chub chasing research into action. There isn't much about fly fishing for chub on the internet, but the general gist of it is to allow a nymph to swing in an arc from directly in front of you to 90' downstream, then a slow retrieve. With this in mind and the water being high and dirty after the much needed rain i looked towards the deep pools at the end of faster water. Basically well oxygenated pools were food would accumulate.

It was 5pm when i first started out so the dark was already drawing in, with 4 pools in mind to fish, i decided half hour on each was fair game. Pool one was where i hooked and lost the biggest trout i had seen personally, yet alone landed but knew i had lost that fish due to snags. It was only a couple of flies i'd be losing this time, with my new wading stick i was able to salvage most of the flies by getting closer. I know one snag is a huge pine tree branch as only the smaller branch would come up the weight of it too much for the wading stick and too deep for me to grab it.  No hits here.

Moving to the second run i knew this had the odd snag, and it wasn't long till i found out how large the piece of metal was that popped up above the water. Surely it's an aeroplane wing or something? Regardless the barbless hooks allowed most of the snags to ping off with counter directional pull. Again here nothing. I decided to head to the next run but failed to compensate the time it takes me to get to each pool in my fishing time, so i was running out of light fast and would only be able to fish one more pool.

The last pool has been productive for trout in September with several 14 and 15 inch trout coming out. Would it be the same for the chub? 10 minutes went by until i got my first hit and it was a slow heavy take. Initially thinking it was a moving snag as it gently flowed downstream, it suddenly bolted down. It was a fair weight and i knew it was a decent fish, was it the chub i was after? I'd seen a few knocking around these runs in the summer of a good few pound but so far they'd eluded me. It wasn't swimming fast, mainly using its weight to hug the bottom, then it decided to bolt to the far bank, dragging line of the reel i stopped it dead in a risky line grab as it headed straight for the far side, i know there is a sunken tree branch on that side. The momentum caused the fish to pendulum up through the water column and out of the water. It was a trout. 

That was its power, yet it didn't want to use it, it was a still a strong fighter and resistant to turn but i could constantly feel a downward pull rather than a pull up or downstream. After around 2 minutes the constant turning and retrieving of line i had it on it's side, after one squeaky bum moment at the net when it decided it had a short sprint left, i had it soon back in. It slowly plopped into the net. Barely. I have a 16 inch diameter net and it was bigger than that!  It was the offseason however so joys and frustration were mixed. No fancy photoshoot for this old girl. I presume it was female as she was as fat as my arm. A belly of gold and grey. A quick picture in the net before i set her for release, a quick measure against my arm as i laid her in the water showed she was from the tip of my finger to the crease in my arm.  A good 18 inches once i measured at home. She swam off in only a couple of seconds and i packed up set for home.

Turns out my chubbing technique avoids all fish except my new personal best trout. Who i couldn't give the full glory of the camera.

Sods Law Eh!.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Fly Fishing - Low River Grayling Hunting - Day 48

4th October 2015

With the close season in affect myself and Mike were on our way to my usual grayling river, there had been no rain all week and upon arrival it was very shallow.  The morning was brisk and cold and a light mist hung around the air.

Using lighter nymphs the first run produced a couple of fish for us, but we was catching snags more, and trees. alot of flies were lost throughout the day which is a danger of nymphing but is always more prominent when the river level is so low.  We reached a wier and fished that whole area, expecting fish due to it's depth but it only produced 1 each, mine being a very young grayling, a good sign though.

Moving on to my usual stretch i caught a trout early on but nothing for a while till we hit deep, slowish water, more snags hiding down there and a few more flies lost. could do with a good rake out this river! A couple of fish here till we continued on our way.

The slow pool produced nothing but the second weir did, a hard fighting small grayling. The long stretch above it to the bridge where i got the 16/17 inch grayling led me into another decent grayling but it pinged off the hook to my despair.

We continued our way up, i caught an even smaller grayling who didn't want a picture unfortunatly, and only caught 1 or 2 more fish later on. One trout took me under a snag in a deep pool and it took a 3 minute operation to get the snag out of the deep pool via wading stick and free the trout.

We had some food and a brew before deciding to head off to a section where we thought there'd be a little more water in. it did have! obviously extra water here would of been great to but it had some nice pooled areas and we bagged just over half a dozen between us.

We ended the day with a total of 22, 5 trout for myself and 2 for Mike, which equates to a point deduction as they are out of season, and 8 grayling for myself and 7 for Mike, so the scores ended with Mike on 5 points myself on 3.

It was a good day, very hard fishing, but shows we are capable of bagging a few with no water. Hoping there will be some decent conditions next time we go!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Fly Fishing - Meeting several pretty ladies - Day 47

29th September 2015

Click here to watch my videos.

So the proposed plan to go grayling fishing on the 1st changed to an earlier day for a couple of reasons. The day before i had somehow had a 6 hour 'nap' when trying to get my daughter to have a nap, waking at 6pm i had that horrible hang over feeling i get when i've slept through the day. That night at 2am i was wide awake, so i thought i would check the weather for October the 1st. Dry all week it said. Not the best as it hadn't rained much in a while so i knew the river would be low. 3am came and i was still awake so i decided to make the most of it and get ready to go to the river. I managed a quick hour nap and at half 5 was ready to go. It was black cold night but it would be light by the time i arrived at my location.

Arriving at the river i was pleased to see it was a murky start, fog over hung the lower reaches of the area and the odd bit of moisture hung around.  Using a 3 nymph method i lost 2 small trout very quickly, the shallow water meaning the trout were splashing around on the surface, slipping off the barbless hooks. I walked slowly up the river when, in the clear dark brown water i noticed a large fin hugging the bank. I had an oppurtunity to cast at it but i decided to risk my luck this once and capture a video of the grayling in it's natural state. It wasn't spooked as i leaned forward and i captured some nice footage. Shame the river hasn't got much weed, in fact i can only remember 3 or 4 plants the whole stretch, it would of made a better shot.

I cast to a small pool behind a overhanging tree and was into a grayling, a nice 15 inches! The problem i have with grayling is they are very very moody, you try to take a quick picture and they kick their tails but as soon as you put them in the water they don't want to swim off. A small trout followed but then the great silence began. I was getting constant takes and losses of small trout but for probably 2 hours i failed to land a fish. There was the odd decent take in between but i was mainly losing my flies on the sharp shallow rocks and the odd one in a tree after flicking out of a snag.

That duck was eventually broken by a grayling but it wasn't good enough so i decided to head into the slow moving water up ahead. Now grayling are said to love the fast oxygenated water so this was a risk. I could of just pulled trout all day at this point and in the slow deep water i caught a couple of trout. I lost something big after it pulled me under a snag and refused to come out, meaning i had to snap off myself, recovered the top fly but lost the pink bomb and point fly.

In a pool around the corner i surprisingly caught a grayling and then 2 small trout, 1 cast after another. That stopped so fishing the riffly area above i expected a fish but again nothing. Climbing the weir in this heavily industrialised area i reached a pool, this is practically motionless as we all know weir pools. A deep pool hugs the right while a bank made of silt hugs the left, surprisingly i got a couple of tugs before a big take. It was a grayling! It was a good 16/17inches but i noticed on one side it had a 'slash' mark where something had grabbed it. A fish of this size being attacked by predatory birds is a bad sign showing that even these aint safe!

After pulling another grayling and a trout from this pool i continued up, pulling a grayling every 50 yards or so. One had an old pierce mark through the top of its back. A through and through, it was well healed but again showed that there was predators attacking these fish, maybe explaining why they were hiding in the deep pools while the water was low.

I reached the bridge where we usually park and fished a small but very deep pool and pulled 2 grayling and a trout from it all within a couple of casts. These pools were very productive, as i waded under a bridge to climb out of the river and make my way home i pulled another 2 trout in the slow water.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Fly Fishing - End of the Trout Season - Day 46

September 24th 2015

Today was my last official day trout fishing in my first season of fly fishing. It has been a joyous one, with, including todays catches, totaled 178 in trout alone! Having not blanked since my first 5 trips when i first started self teaching i have had some impeccable days, it could and should of been alot higher, but i am still a rookie, i can only imagine the amount of fish i would of caught if i never lost one or missed a strike. They'd be a couple of monsters in there too!

Regardless of all that i knew today wouldn't be easy. It had rained the day and night prior and i expected a raised river and murky water, that it was, but with a gale blowing through that only more impeding my fishing. I decided i would go for a mooch around, more of a long walk, fish some holes i had fished before and then making my way back closer to home fishing spots i'd never fished.

I reached the river and with a couple of grayling trips coming at the beginning of October i decided to pop on some pink and see how the trout liked them. Hell, might even catch a miracle grayling in the Irwell! Setting up with the klinkhammer and 2 pink flies below it started to pour down. It was still sunny but it was hammering it down none the less, the wind blowing it into my face. Now rain doesn't deter me so i wasn't to bothered. I am English after all! I was just hoping we didn't have too much that the river would become a raging torrent.

It took an hour or so before i got my first take, the water was quite heavy but a crappy weed hugged the bottom meaning a heavy fly would just cut up in it, even the weightless ones were pulling it in every few casts.  It was a small trout and wanted to jump down the rapids, which i tried to avoid, mainly as the current was enough to push it to the bottom and hurt the fish. However it didn't take long before it was in the net.

Now still in familiar territory i made my way upstream to the pool below the tree. Following the 'food lanes' out from the riffles i got a hit but after a couple of seconds it was off. I persisted and a couple of casts later i was in again, this was a bit bigger so made losing the first not a bad thing. The current made it tough to bring it up but once there it was easy to net.  A nice 12 or so inches.

I moved on up and forced my way through a forest of knotweed, reaching a pool i had fished earlier in the year when it was easily accessible. It was a big deep pool and even the shallow side was balls deep and i'm 6ft 8 so chest height to normal people.  Thankfully the bottom is ok after you get off the slippy rocks, a mixture of silt and sediment you can stand there quite comfortably. It was probably the third cast when i felt a slight pull and a struck into a solid fish.  It stayed deep for about 40 seconds before i even caught glimpse of the fish. It was a good trout. A floating stick attempted to create havoc by catching on the klinkhammer but i flicked it off with a flick of the rod.  It was fighting just below the rod tip now, feet away from me, swimming towards me at one point and turning away at a cheeky net attempt.  A few more pulls left and right and i had it back on top and close enough to slip the net under. It was another solid fat 14 inch trout.  It's tail was quite small compared to some of the other ones of a similar size but it still gave a solid performance.

I fished the pool for 10 more mins or so but nothing came of it, so i headed further up. I reached another pool. This was not that deep but offered good cover after the heavy riffled section. I hooked into a trout and whether it was the force of the water or the fight in the fish, it fought well for it's size. Saying that it fought that well it jumped out of my hand during unhooking and avoided it's picture altogether. It couldn't avoid it's fight being captured on camera though.

Heading up to where i have had some good fish of late i hit in again to another trout. This was not as big as the others from this spot but it was a trout none the less. They were loving the pink flies at this point.

Moving  slightly up i reached the point where a trout grabbed the klinkhammer last time but this time it was the nymph it took.  The current played it's part again in pulling the fish downstream of me creating extra workload for me.

The wind hadn't helped and was still hammering away, it played havoc with my line as i nymphed my way around the river so i decided to head home. I decided to fish a spot which normally has a dog or two in it. Thankfully that dog didn't arrive till i had landed a trout.  Again this trout wanted to stay deep, and after playing it for a minute or so, it's first time on top and it was in the net. Another 14 inch trout. Leaner than the other but a good trout! This was the only one not on a pink fly, this was a black gold head with tiny diamante's. yes, grayling bling. No sooner had it gone back a dog had come in to say hello. I didn't mind much as i was on my way home and had just ended it with a decent trout.

So i lost a few flies in snags, probably crap washed down in the rain, but i got to test a few flies out which should work wonders on the grayling on the 1st of October. The date might change due to weather but i'm hoping to kick off the close season with a few ladies. I'll catch trout still, that's unavoidable on a fish that eats everything edible in a river.