Saturday, 29 October 2016

Fly Fishing - The Wild River Dee

27th October

It was a long time coming but it was happening. My good friend Mike France,as a CADAC member, gave me the opportunity to fish the River Dee in Wales in which i eagerly anticipated. This would be my first non urban river, used to the industrial era mill walls tower above me or coal mined cliffs all around me i would be situated with cows and sheep surrounding the fields around me.

We were going for Grayling and were both fishing a beat that Mike hadn't fished before. With no rain for a week the day was gloomy and misty on the hills when the sun came up. It had been a 6.30 start. It was around 9am in which we got our boots wet, a strong downstream wind blowing into our faces, a light rain or spray off the river added to the wind chill.  The river here was very different to what i was used to back home, a small pebbled bottom with very few trip hazards, but something that would have it's own particular problems.

The first mistake i made that day was not bringing my wading stick, a new stretch with no stick when you can't swim is pretty bloody stupid but being 6ft 8 the deepest section we found was no higher than just below my buttocks, and with a nice steady current there were no real difficulties other than the quite slimy bottom.  Clarity was 100% you could see the bottom all the way across, the only thing affecting visibility was the wind and the lack of 'darkness' on top of the water, usually created by trees or cliffs, which meant the indicator was difficult to see on top of the wind swept waves. Usually i would counter act this by lifting the indicator but in the strong wind it would literally pull my nymphs out of the water and cause a tangle worthy of a rerig.

Things started off quite well, i hit my first fish within 10 minutes next to a patch of ranunculus, it looked like a grayling at first, dark brown/grey body with blue and purple hue and a totally white underside, but as it reached the net it was a trout! very long and slender, and with a peculiar colorset i hadn't seen before. That was soon followed by a grayling, unfortunately it was no bigger than my hand!  As we zigzagged up stream battling the wind, Mike hit a grayling of similar size swiftly followed by a nice brownie. Things then went quiet, we soon realised the water behind us had become deeper and the water we was fishing was shallowing up, despite it being the fishier looking water with ranunculus for cover it was giving nothing up now other than a small salmon parr. Fishing the stretch behind us proved almost impossible, this side had no cover so was a glare of cloud grey and 4 inch waves caused by the wind. It was now 11ish so we decided to head back to the car, have dinner and a rethink and get back at it.

Dinner ate and my throat suddenly decided it didn't like Wales, i guess the air and water was to clean compared to the Irwell and i'd developed some form of substance addiction that the River Dee lacked. With difficulty talking i felt like a complete tool knowing Mike couldn't get a proper sentence out of me, i never usually shut up!  We decided to look for features as this beat, just outside Corwen, was a very long straight with no shelter creating a wind tunnel effect. As we headed up cow filled fields i spotted a decent fish swim out from the shallows into a bed of ranunculus, i gave it a few casts but with how shallow the water was i was hitting the weed every time so we continued onwards. It was then we saw a big rise, followed by a couple of small rises on the fair side. Funnily enough this was a section where the nearside shallowed enough to create a bottle neck and force the current to the far half, thus a feature!

We waded in and worked our way upstream and i hit a fish which after 2 shakes of the head was off. Then looking at Mike we both seen a huge rise no further than 6 feet away from him, as he turned towards me in half disbelief half excitement a huge fish lept out of the water behind him! Struggling to talk i tried to tell Mike but by the time he turned it left a huge splash in its place. I told Mike it was a few pounds like Big Barry, as he likes a jump. Not knowing whether Mike believed me or not we continued fishing and the Olympic diving finals began.  Salmon easily double figures began launching themselves several feet into the air some inside our rod length, the most impressive happened directly in the middle of us and we was only 15 yards apart or so. These fish weren't bothered! We continued to fish in the hope the Salmon weren't scaring the fish off as this is more natural than slabs of concrete being thrown in but without any luck, the closest i came to getting something else was when a salmon shark finned up to my indicator. It was all good fun but we wasn't catching so we decided to head upstream. Pheasants flying in fear as we approached their hiding spots and kingfishers heading upstream to our next run. Even the odd Military Jet flying over to add to the over-worldly experience.

The end of the run was a bend and just before it was 3 or so rocks, now this is where the difficulties began and shows how rivers are dangerous. The river clearly was moving but with very few features it's easy to mistake it for a slow current, wading in on the slippery rocks you could feel yourself being pushed downstream, digging your toes and heals into the gravel to get to the coarser stones you still had difficulty stepping upstream for each next cast. A couple of times my foot would be lifted off the bottom and for a second i'd be flamingoed midriver. Keeping my wits about me i didn't wade out as far as i could nor wanted to but without my stick i couldn't take the risk.  The rock i fished gave me 2 trout of a more familiar colour and then the salmon began to show off here too. Maybe i was allergic to Salmon hence my throat packed in.

As i fished up to the 3rd rock a got a soft take and immediately saw a grayling on the other end, it wasn't a huge grayling but it was one i needed, it had been a tough but enjoyable day so i wasn't going to allow myself to lose a fish. Now with the current the grayling immediately went downstream of me so i knew i had to follow. I mistakenly turned to face the grayling and the force of the water was trying to bend my knees so hard, lifting my feet off the bottom with each step i took so i waded towards the bank so i could follow the grayling safely and get downstream of it. After a brief fight in a tough current i brought the grayling to net which was quickly washed between my legs, like a giraffe on ice i did some leggy manoeuvres and netted the grayling. it was a nice grayling, quite stocky around the head and a wash of blue hue to it's silver portions.

Getting back into the fishing the wind picked up and the current got stronger to the point i couldn't fish the runs i wanted after 2 rerig tangles in a row i decided to go sit with Mike and enjoy the wilds and the fishing so no frustration would ruin the day. I found Mike in a deep narrow gully with salmon jumping bankside, it looked very salmony but would of held other fish. After a chillout and a relax we headed back to where we first fished and the wind was now blowing a gale, 1 more tiny grayling a salmon parr and another trout in 20 minutes was enough for me to call it a day, Mike fished for 5 more minutes as i sat in the cow field packing away.

On our way back to the car we came across my first EA bailiff (he said the Welsh version is called something else now but it was too windy to hear) It's always nice to run into a bailiff as you hope any wrongdoers run into them also.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

End of the trout season - Where has the love gone?

1st October

With the trout season officially over yesterday many of those who have followed me may have wondered where that last day opportunity to catch 'Big Barry' was or even where i have been the past 3 or 4 weeks.  At the moment i am probably at a low point in my fishing 'career', the season starting off so well, but the year flew by and come the end of the season bad things where coming thick and fast.  One blog i couldn't bring myself to write really was the one where i failed in saving the drowning dog, another day i went fishing after a particularly rough and abusive day at work the headache behind my eye was so excruciating i just sat and watched the river for an hour before heading back home. That alongside the pollution incidents, one happening on a River i had fished also hit pretty hard.

It sort of felt like i was a curse, everything i had touched was being effected in a negative way. As much as i had become this lover of solitude and the hidden wilderness on our doorstep the more time i spent in it the more i was seeing bad things happening on it, yes i saved the duck but with the dog happening a week after it was hitting home of how much actually happens on our rivers, i am one man on a huge river and within a week i witnessed 2 animals drowning. What else don't we see?

As much as i like to keep sections of river i fish secret especially small streams, the River Douglas pollution really pissed me off, i had fished it once and caught my PB chub there and some good trout, but it is the lack of action, the lack of urgency and the lack of care that i feel really hits me. It's not just the fish it's the whole ecosystem the river provides, what will happen when people find dead deer poisoned by the polluted water littering the land? Hell, it might take someone to drink the water purposely during a pollution incident for any action to take place. Manslaughter anyone?

But despite all this there is the fishing side, Now i caught more trout (241 compared to 220) than last season in around half the trips, and course fish were almost none existent as i didn't fly fish the canal this year but the true fact is, especially after JT's guidance i became a more prolific fisherman, i was landing easily 80% of the fish that took the fly, before that especially last season it was easily around 25%. I would miss takes and lose fish in the fight all day and could easily have double figures almost every trip i went out on. Now if you do the math that works out that i could of had around 1000 trout last season, thats just under 20 a trip as i went out just over 50 times last season. This season i would of probably only had about 300 had i landed them all, now admittingly, i wasn't fishing for as long, having moved further away i was walking alot further to get their reducing my actual fishing time but it still felt on some days the fish just weren't there. The fish counts at the beginning of the season were alot higher than at the end and as we came to the end i expected alot more but no. I would fish runs i knew there was fish, change flies, colours, weights, depth nothing. But still something is afoot.

A positive of note however was my fly tying, i hadn't intended on selling flies but after a few messages via instagram i decided to pop a couple on ebay and other than the UK i have shipped flies to Argentina, Italy and Australia! I only hope they don't hit the same rut i have at this time of the year.  When your fishing becomes self sustainable for cost it very much keeps the mrs happy.

Here are a few pics of some trout over the year:

If you made it this far, then i hoped you enjoyed the blog and the pictures.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Fly Fishing - Daughters new PB

6th September

It was the day before my 2 year old daughter starts nursery for the first time, a strange feeling, she doesn't understand what is happening but she will soon enough. I decided to mark the occasion with probably her final trip before close season, unless we do an evening fish. Knowing the kids would be back at school today i was hoping for much quieter water and we wasn't disappointed upon arrival.  Lots of dog walkers but no one near the water. We headed down to big barrys run and set up, she waited patiently throwing small pebbles in the shallows while i watched the water as i set the nymphing rod up. Nothing was showing, the water was up to it's usual level but with the rain it was a mucky brown.

Emily on my hip we waded out slowly, when the head of a trout sipped a fly off the top. My nymphs were relatively light so we cast in front, nothing, cast again and the indicator shot off to the far bank. I struck and felt a good fish, was it big barry? We retreated to the bank and i handed Emily the rod, after reminding her which way the reel went she began to reel, she struggled as it fought hard and she let go several times as it stripped line off the reel. It was staying down and heading to the bank. Emily started to reel in again, this time the wrong way, i popped my finger on the line to avoid her feeding it slack and helped her get her bearings with the reel direction and she began to reel. It tried to run again but Emily held the reel and twang, the line snapped. I told her what happened and she had a little whinge but i promised her more fish. We didn't have to wait long. 

She managed to reel 2 more trout in just ahead of were we had the first trout. Her excitement showing it was all worth it, i held the rod as i showed her how to net fish, she didn't panic like last time when it splashed and she netted each one, just needed reminding to lift the net up once it was in! She handled the fish well too, she hadn't held the trout as well as she did today before so i was impressed as she overcomes her 'fear' if that's what it is. She even managed to release them gently, holding their tail till they were ready to swim away.  "Back, back!" she exclaimed after they swam off, wanting them to swim back. "We'll catch more yeah!"

We fished the next pool to no avail, Emily started to show signs of tiredness, asking to go in her pram, i'd carried her here! But i had brought her chair so i sat her in the chair and gave her her favourite snack, a pork pie.  Unconvinced that there were no fish in the pool we had just fished i added a small shot above my nymphs and was rewarded with 3 small trout, Emily laughing away in her chair. Fed and watered we headed to the next pool, this however was like Haven Holidays so we continued on our trip to better water.

Sweating in the humid heat and carrying a oversized 2 year old, why does she have to get my 6ft 8 genes, i decided to fish one more pool. It was fairly quiet and i fished the whole pool with no success. Again i was unconvinced so fished way off the line and felt a tug, a small minnow.  Emily was pretty happy with the 'baby fish' so we decided to get a couple more, if possible. The next couple of casts were fruitless until a strong tug and a strike, a good trout leaping out of the water. Retreating back to our fighting position on the bank it was much the same from Emily, but we did do a quick run downstream for this one as it headed towards some snags. Emily fought it for 5 minutes or so before it started to surface, it wasn't ready but it was tiring. The usual last desperate run when it spots the net and she reeled the line back in. I stepped out and netted it, it still had plenty of energy as it flapped in the net. Giving it time to calm down in the water i got Emily in position for her picture.

A 17inch trout, just short of the length of my arm. Her smug look on her face as she held it there perfectly. We lowered it into the water and held it's tail together, it was a bit bigger than the ones she had had but she used everything she had learnt to make sure it went back for another day. It swam off and we high fived. Ending the day on a high i packed away and popped her on my shoulder for the 40 minute walk back home. The shoulder burn is quite painful especially when she becomes dead weight when she fell asleep 15 minutes away from home.


Saturday, 3 September 2016

Fly Fishing - The Final Month

3rd September

With 2 weeks off work i was cramming as much time in as i possibly could with the season end drawing near.  Today i opted to fish a hole i hadn't fished for a while. the heavy rain we had last month which had people panicking about a repeat of last winter had happened since then and there had been a few changes to the river path from that. But despite bits and bobs of rain the past couple of days the river was it's lowest i'd ever seen it.  It was raining when i left the house so i changed plans and went to see if Big Barry was about.

10 minutes in and nothing was showing, as i continued to nymph the bend Big Barry leaps out the water in hunting mode and slips back in to the depths with a huge splash. You know the saying about if a tree falling in a forest would anyone hear it, well i often think does Big Barry do this when i'm not here or does he literally torment me. Anyway i popped a nymph over when he'd gone back in, i'm an optimist you see. The indicator slipped under! I struck and it was a fish! A damned minnow. Obviously Barry had been hunting minnows and i'd cast into the shoal he was feeding off. I did consider a streamer but i knew i had time to get him before the season closed so i moved on up.

The water clarity was decent considering the rain, a good 2 feet or so, you could see the brown silt lines below the surface from the rain.  Knowing the river was low i fished the deeper pools that had a flow into them and hit into a couple of trout, the fattening up for winter has begun and even these trout where packing a punch from their early summer counterparts.  I took a couple of good trout in the first pool before heading on. I took my time with each trout, they fought hard and had twice the energy, allowing themselves to tire out, even with the occasional jump and the death shake the hooks held firm.

Further up i hit into another few trout, non of a particular size but showing that these smaller trout don't fare as well against their older counterparts, not as fat but still surviving, they'll know what winter is soon enough.  I was chasing rises and missed one take before a couple of lads fishing on the tip rolled up. Unfortunately just upstream of the rises and they spooked them as nothing came back up. With 6 trout in the bag and the conditions remaining the same i decided that my original place to fish was worth it. I was soaked through but the river hadn't risen much if any nor had much colour changed so it was a gamble. A 40 minute gamble.

Upon reaching the new spot through every invasive species you can get on the Irwell i found it was in tip top condition. You see this is a very wide but deep stretch, the bend hits a sheer 100 foot cliff so it just digs away each time the river floods but it is also a healthy stretch. River grass and ranunculus grow here in between the bedrock which is another reason this stretch is particularly tough, deep water and very slippy bed rock. The actual only time i slipped today was walking down a muddy hill, i ended up half running down a hill about 30 metres before i managed to dig my feet in, still clean.

The water here was a dark olive green, and clarity was easily 3 feet, which gives a false impression of shallowness. The lowness of the river allowed me to negotiate the gravel banks allowing me to cross 20 metres or so of 'dead water' to reach the rivers flow. It always flows heavy through here, large underwater rocks kicking up the water into a sort of a torrent but these provide cover in the rough and there is small pockets of calm to.  I hadn't french nymphed here before, but i swapped my point fly for a heavy nymph, for some reason the weather had tangled my lines up all day, i'd tie a fly on and somehow the dropper had got in some spiderweb of a mess on its own, this had been gradually getting worse all day.

Frustrated i positioned myself, barely able to see through my poloroids through the rain, but still essential so i could watch my step, i waded in. It was almost impossible to see my indicator in the rough water and the rain so i watched the tip of my rod, i made sure the line was almost fully tight and as soon as the tip pinged i'd strike. Due to the healthy water here and the heavy nymph i was catching weed off the bottom, not the slimy stuff but the one with leaves and roots. My hands were full of olives each time i removed the weed and i continued on, ensuring i got as much water covered as possible as safely as possible.

It didn't take long until i got a clear take, a slab of a trout, they were even fatter here. It gave a good fight, i pulled it out the main current into the deep motionless pools behind me and let it calm down, the 4 weight hammering down with each pull it did. After this trout my reel jammed. It is an old reel that i'm using to nymph with as the reel isn't important other than reeling in the fish.  I couldn't take line in or off say 75% of the time, no matter how hard i pulled. I took the spool off to see if that was a problem but it persisted, so i knew that i couldn't rely on the reel, also if i had a fish i knew it would probably fail to allow any drag so if i got a big trout i'd have to chase it to avoid break offs.

I didn't hit any big trout but i had another 2 well earned trout bringing the tally to 9, bringing this years total to 219, one off last years. With the reel trouble and the tangles (it did it again), when i got to Boulder Bend i decided enough was enough. No point in allowing any frustration to ruin a good day. Rain is rain, if it isn't effecting the river in a negative way then it's fine. The river does need water but i know another foot and that bend i'd just fished is unfishable, it's a funny old game.



Thursday, 1 September 2016

Fly Fishing - The early Fisherman catches the fish

1st September

I had been on a 'recon' trip to check on a small urban river that had a large fire with possible hazardous materials next to it. This small river was especially important as it contained Grayling, a fish that is so easily killed once the water is affected by something or another. The river was on it's arse and with 2 other fly fisherman in front of me (bank holiday Monday) i didn't expect much but i had half a dozen Grayling and a dozen trout, but most importantly, the Grayling were alive, even this years hatch.

Today was a much a fishing trip, in fact i had planned to go the day prior but at 5am i sensed rain and not long after it did, i'd already tucked back in bed before i saw it. Thankfully it wasn't as heavy as expected so today was still on the cards. After a long walk with mist on the ground and my breath in the air i heard the unmistakable sound of the river tinkling along. It was really low, the first trout i spotted was in no deeper than 4 inches of water that was usually a nice holding spot.

It was all about the tactics now, i had been fishing french leader alot lately with much success but the stillness combined with the shallowness meant even that method was to heavy so i opted back to a klink and dink, still using the french leader and bow casting each time. This allowed accurate casts in the confined space and minimal disturbance on the water. The klinkhammer would latch on to any surface current and drag the nymph along with it allowing it to keep moving across the bottom.

All well and good but finding 'deep' water was tough, the bottom pools were silty and motionless, even with the flies jigged through nothing was taking but further upstream in the streams of ranunculus the water was much clearer and moving, quite slowly i might add. However it was a whole lot shallower here so i had to scout out deeper sections, these would be a foot at most, but i had to, the problem with fishing a narrow stream in clear shallow conditions is visibility. With the river being so slow the fish did not just sit facing upstream either, they'd swim back and forth hunting their own pools. So i was easily spooking fish 20 feet away.

I managed to find some high nettles concealing a pool and first cast i hit into a fish. A roach! a nice one too and my first of 2016 believe it or not. I hadn't fly fished the canal this year so my tallies were low in the course fish department. I had forgotten how bloody slimy they were, climbing back up behind the bush i waited for the pool to calm and continued fishing. I could see them now swimming back and forth, perch roach and the occasional chub, they all looked pretty fat. After a few more casts i was in to another roach this was a big old fat roach, equally slimy to and that was soon followed by another. A large chub swam through but it had seen me before i had seen it and it continued through at pace. The fish went quiet then, still there but not touching anything, they stopped following the fly as it landed and i opted to continue on to the next pool.

About 2 miles upstream i came to a deeper section, still strewn with weed and narrow, walking slowly i saw a tail just above a piece of plyboard. It didn't look anything special but it was a fish. The bow cast landed a little short and the tail disappeared, then whack, something had smashed the nymph, the fish must of turned after it and it was a good fish. Back and forth it went, with no real current to fight it had energy to burn, near bank and far bank, under trees, brambles and a plank of wood. The line held strong and the hook stayed in even with the manoeuvres i had to pull to untangle from trees and brambles. It began to tire so i entered the water and with it's last fighting breath it swam into a bunch of nettles. What a bastard. The stings and itchiness i can still feel now were easily worth it.

I have been looking at measure nets and this one would of made a great fish to christen it but i'm still waiting for end of season sales. But by rule of thumb, my inner elbow? to my middle finger tip is 18inches and well, it was longer than that. The size 18 (small flies in clear water) firmly in his top lip (like all my catches funnily enough) King of the stream.

I had pretty much come to the top of fishable water, it barely becomes a trickle a couple more hundred metres up but i continued on, casting as far as i possibly could with trees above and vegetation on both sides. Then a loud slap of a tail hitting the water as another trout hammered my fly. It wasn't as big but it was still a good fish and equally fat. It had the same complications as the other trout only it didn't fight for as long and it came to the net wrapped up in river grass.

I hoped for another trout and felt a slight knock on the fly only to find a small roach had fancied a go, this was followed by a 5th and final roach, the smallest of them all.

It had been a productive day and in tough conditions, low water, high visibility and a hot sun. Strangely i saw very little fly life in the air, i had expected some rises but the only fish to break the surface were roach, but with the season coming to a close i had opted for trout, last years tally was 220 and todays total brought me to 210. 4 weeks left!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Fly Fishing - Waiting for rises.

14th August 2016

With the sight of 'Big Barry' in the previous trips fishing with my Daughter Emily i opted to try and hunt for him on my own. It was an early afternoon but with rain clouds looming i decided to venture out rather than wait till late noon where he has been showing.

Upon reaching the river it wasn't too promising, with nothing rising i stood and waited. A solitary rise after 5 or so minutes and i set up the dry rod just incase. More waiting, nothing.  So i cast a few exploratory casts to try to initiate a rise but nothing, so out came the nymphing rod and i walked downstream as far as the bottom of my run. If i fished slow i knew by the time late noon came i will be back up there.

The deep pools showed nothing but i hit into 4 trout in the faster water, dropping the french leader into the small pockets of calm, throughout the run in the more rugged white water i lost 5, none of notable size but trout none the less.

The head of the pool above the riffles yielded a decent trout, they seem to be fattening up for winter already as, though not the biggest, it was carrying some weight. In fact in all but the smallest of trout did they seem paunchy. Further upstream i hit into a few more trout and again landed another 4, a few of these were i missed the take, fed it back through the run and got it second time.

The first of the good fish then followed, a foam line against the bank feeding into a deeper pool provided a good fat trout with a strong fight for good measure. It's a shame i lost my camera as the fight and aerobatics these trout were giving was all great fun.

That was funnily followed by a tiny minnow, surprisingly only my 4th of the season compared to last years 31. Moving into the long run that has been hit and miss this season, were i got 2 great trout early in the season, a half dozen or so on one particular trip yet nothing else here other than the odd one at a push. However today proved lucky and after a small trout i hit into my second good trout and to top it off it was a beautifully marked trout.

The run above this you may know from my blogs was a hive for dry fly fishing last season but this season rises have been few and far between. Despite this i was willing to explore the foam line and was shocked that on my false cast to strip line out a trout rose up for the fly, my slow reactions with the surprise of what happened missed it however. 1, 2, 3 casts before it came back up for it, a cast to the right of where it rose brought it back up and it was a small trout.

As i unhooked it i saw a single rise above 'the rock', a huge boulder midstream that is perfect for presentation. Any cast over the top of it allows your line not to cause drift when the line lays on top. The first cast was a little to much to the left but as i plucked my fly back, bare in mine i'm 30-40feet away at least, i spotted the head of a trout move towards the fly. I was already mid 'pluck' when i spotted it but my brain registered it instantly and i spoke allowed 'it blood turned for it'. Second cast again a bit to the left but this time i saw the trout swim towards it and sip it off the top.  I struck and it was up in the air, a fish of 2-3lbs, in no less than a second of it hitting the water it started storming off upstream stripping line when the loud twang of the line snapping rattled the air.  I inspected the damage, it was a mid line snap, probably a weak spot caused from a snag or something, but either way the fish was gone, which reiterates why we should always use barbless hooks. There's a chance i'll hit that trout again this season.

I re-rigged and surprisingly seen a small rise in the same spot, then again! Did it want me to get the hook out for it? I cast and the fly was taken, a small trout. Regardless it was on the dry again. I spent the next 1 or 2 hours, standing around waiting, watching. A small trout leapt out of the water, a couple of single rises but nothing else.