Sunday, 29 May 2016

Fly Fishing - Chasing Monsters

29th May 2016

It was a horrible sunny day and i had preplanned a trip on the river with my very good friend, Mike France. By the way, you read that right, a horrible sunny day. With the kids off school next week and temperatures pushing 20 the water ways would be horrendous, so making a well thought out decision, we decided to fish a section of the river surrounded by high banks and hogweed, that's sure to keep them away. It was a decision that would prove to be the correct one.

We stood on the bridge and looked at our potential swims, with no rain for a couple of days and visibility in the water good we would have to plan our tactics and swims carefully. We spotted a nice deep run which i usually fished from the near bank but with the water down and clarity good we spotted a crossing point which would allow us to fish it from the opposite side of the river. 

We both set our rods up, still using the redington till the tip arrives for my rod, and funnily enough we picked the same tactics and even the same length by a inch or so. Klink and dink was the tactics, low summer water, tonnes of snags keeping the fly moving with the klinkhammer would allow the fly to avoid as many snags as it would stay off the bottom in the pools. Our only difference was leader length, i'd chose an 8 foot leader in the hope of covering any rises, it meant i had less contact with the nymph, but as i had fished this section before i had more success at range than close quarters.

We fished as a pair, taking it in turns and i was casting 20 foot or so across several flows meaning i had to put a mend in the line to avoid drag setting in as quick. It soon paid dividends and i was into a nice trout, after a quite a length fight for it's size it was in the net.  The multiple currents and determination of the fish dragged the fight out. The trout had interesting markings, almost absent of spots on its back. It was Mikes turn to fish and he was quickly into a trout himself, his was much smaller but within 15 minutes of starting we had both avoided a blank.

I was back in the hotseat and i continued to fish the far bank, a deeper greener pool under a tree, and it proved effective again, another nice trout and it was in the net quicker than the first.  An interesting thing to note was the huge dent in the trouts back that once would of been a gaping hole and had now healed almost perfectly other than the dent in the trouts back. Some of these trout have done so well to have survived and it is a pleasure to catch them!

Swapping places with Mike and again he was soon in, again a small trout but this time it didn't want netting. Heading up to the bridge pools i allowed Mike to fish first in the hope of him getting something bigger but after a good 5 minutes of nothing he allowed me and i was in first cast. His decision was made and he changed to a fly that resembled my own as much as possible. I had my ginger quilled nymph on again.  As Mike changed flies he allowed to fish the pool and i was into a bigger trout, trying to keep it from going downstream into the riffled water it jumped once and the hook popped out. Unfortunate but fun either way.

I fished the rest of the pool with no success so headed towards the second bridge arch, Mike in lead chose to fish a very small pool on the way which produced two small fish in quick succession, a sign of a good fly change. The second arch proved uneventful and even when i fished it nothing was interested. There would be fish there just something didn't quite look right for them to take the bite.

We headed upstream, avoiding the rougher water as it had proved unsuccessful downstream and fished the slipstreams instead. It was quite shallow and the only deeper section again proved uneventful. Above was a complete change in water, a wide glide of water that seemed motionless however it carries a fair speed but lacks surface breaking rocks to create any slack water. One trick i use on this is to cast 20 or 30 feet in front and try to aim for the deeper channels and sunken rocks, the channels are dug out by the current flowing around larger rocks adding cover to a exposed section of river.

It proved effective as at the back end of the drift i got a take and was into a nice trout. It fought well and as it tired it started to swim around me, almost wrapping round my stick at one point and even aimed between my legs but it was eventually in the net and it was a nice 1lb 1/2 or so, plenty of girth on these trout.  Again this trout had a noticeable mark with a v like mark near it's back end and chunk out of it's gill plate leaving the gill exposed near the back. This fish had survived it's attack and with the amount of goosanders i seen earlier in the season, as well as the two that flew over us, it shows that they are capable of avoiding capture.

I allowed Mike to take lead as we headed upstream, fishing around the old sleepers that held the weir to the paper mill back in the 17th Century. I had lost the big trout here last time when JT came on a prospecting trip but today it seemed too quiet. It was interesting that alot of 'fishy' water was not providing the expected fish. We knew they would be there but something just wasn't right to initiate a take. I headed slightly above the weir onto what is now a huge section of segmented bedrock. Ankle breaker bedrock, with it's segmentation the cracks between each section were deep and wide so any wrong step would cause some damage. As i stood watching Mike i spotted a nice greener pool on the far bank near a tree, it seemed the only section that wasn't bedrock as i cast a good 30 feet across the currents to it.  The sun was on my back and with good water clarity fishing parallel had to be done from a distance.

Both me and Mike had done alot of casting off the opposite shoulder today, it seemed to work better with the current and with the tree on the right hand side, a cast from the opposite shoulder allowed the line into the pool with less risk of snagging a branch. As i got to the far side of the pool a large trout popped out from behind the rock and went up towards my dry i struck as it went up towards it but half way through the strike it went back down, i paused for a fraction of a section and continued with the strike, it was on. I can only believe it had come up for the dry and switched to the nymph as it felt the current. It looked big but it was hard to tell, it dropped into a channel of deeper water in front of me and i glimpsed a sight of it, it was a nice trout, how big i was unsure as it could of been 3 or so feet down in the channel, difficult to tell size when clarity is this clear which gives misleading sense of shallowness in deep water.

I shouted to Mike saying i wanted to keep it here, in front of me and avoid it going downstream where i lost the big one last time, it seemed a good idea however the trout had other plans. I kept it in the pool for a little bit, it was slightly getting pushed back with the current and i was aware of my line strength so didn't want to fight the force of the water and the weight of the fish to much, as it drifted back it started to come to the surface and it took a big jump. That was when we saw it's size, it was easily 2 feet but it had a big thick round body, it was a cracking trout, however now it had jumped it was out of the deeper water and it started to panic.

It shot across to the opposite side of the river following one of the cracks in the bedrock and as it shallowed off as it near the bank it turned and shot back across, as it reached the deeper channel it turned downstream towards the old weir and pulled the hook out. The sheer force and weight of it's run had caused the elasticity of the line to ping the hook out. I was left with a single scale from it's mouth on the hook.  I laughed and screamed at the same time, the adrenaline still pumping through me as my brain ran through 100 different things i could of done, but it did the one thing i was trying to avoid, heading downstream. It was an epic fish but a great moment to share with Mike who has seen me come on leaps and bounds since we first met.

After everything calmed down we headed upstream, the pools here were nice, deeper and with a current running through but again this water seemed lifeless, something we was doing in these more flowing sections wasn't quite right, maybe our nymphs rode to high in the water for them to risk cutting across a few feet of moving water. In all it was a great short trip, we had learnt alot and had some good fish. Fortunatly i didn't lose my fly as i only had one of them tied, back to the vice i go to tie a few more 'ginger nuts'.


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Fly Fishing - Scouting for trout

26th May 2016

It was a muggy miserable day, a good day for fishing on the river, with the temperature warm enough to encourage a hatch but horrible enough to keep the water ways quieter.  I set off on my long walk at 12.30, doubling back home as i left my reel on my wychwood rod which was out of action and was carrying a 2 piece redington which a work colleague had given me from his father in law.  Wychwood have sent a replacement tip for free, good to see a company i hold in high regard for quality also have great customer support.

When i arrived at the river i geared up and watched and listened. Nothing, small green olives were abundant and tiny upwings were hatching off but nothing was rising.  So with the hope of some risers a set up a klink and dink again and got to work on a few pools.

I missed 3 and then eventually hooked into a 4th, it was a small trout which explained the misses, not getting their mouth round the hook enough to catch the hook, but it would be one of them days again. Last season i went through a patch of trout writhing around on the surface and pinging off the hook, this was the case. It wasn't till my 7th take did i land a trout and again it was small. Nothing wrong with small trout but i was hoping to hit into, or at least sight, a decent trout while i had the peace.

I swapped to a ginger polish quilled nymph sz 12 with a wider gape and continued, i landed a few small trout but had now seen them attack the klinkhammer too, unfortunatly they weren't catching the hook on that now!  The nice thing about klink and dink is if your fishing with a light enough nymph you can effectively dry fly to a rise. Allowing a quick response to a rise, this was the case in a few runs and eventually i got one on the dry. This trout had had some action prior with some of its mouth looking a damaged which was a shame, being the biggest of the day so far, not like it was massive anyway!

The day continued the same for the 3 or so hours i was there, a fish did rise and the klinkhammer was taken, again a tiny trout but was nice to end the day with another on the dry.  All in all it was a decent day, i had hoped for at least hitting into a decent fish, even a 1 1/2lb trout would have been great, but not today!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Fly Fishing - The Bad, the good and the damned ugly

19th May 2016

It was a cloudy muggy day, ideal really, keeps people away who are planning on dipping their toes in the water and if they knew what went in there they should! 

The bad: I set up ready and had tied 2 nymphs on, the wind had picked up a little but the water was clear so i planned nymphing at a distance. This went horribly wrong before i started. My hook clipped a single knotweed plant as i went to false cast and as i pulled, like we always do, to pull the hook off, my rod snapped. The top foot of my Wychwood SLA that had held it's own against monsters of the deep was defeated off a lone knotweed plant. Even the line didn't snap so i knew it was sabotage. I blame the Mrs!

The good: So i thought "hell, sod it" and decided to continue nymphing the best i could.  Popping on my deadly duo (one that's in high demand and the other is a secret colour combo) i was soon into a nice trout, which look liked it had been watching geese fly off the water as it skipped along across the surface, hell it was something else fighting it without my tip action, like a stiff bamboo cane rod with a reel. Casting was awful as it kept wrapping round the top of the rod and i had to unwind my rod fighting the fish but in the end i won and netted a nice fish. It was now a worthwhile trip regardless of the snapped rod.

I cast again into the feeding lanes when, i now have my prescription poloroids and they are like x-ray goggles, i spotted what looked like something lift slowly out of the water so i watched and there it was a dark olive colored shark fin of a mouth breaching the surface with barely a ripple, now my experience with these rises are these are the bigger ones, the craftier killer ones, who go about their business invisible.

I tied a dry fly on, rod in whatever condition didn't matter, i was game for a bit of fun, i saw it come up slowly and could see it's head clearly, it was a 'big one' maybe not as big as the one i lost twice last year but definitely worth the effort. Even if you was just walking the dog and had to throw some dog fur tied to your lead at it, it was game.  The water was full of tiny little white midges, thousands of them, how do i compete with that? So i strapped a size 14 white olive on to say "hey, fancy a big midge?" i cast waiting for it to rise, it didn't, it wasn't giving it's position away as it was a pool roamer. 6th cast i saw it rise up from the dark depths, i knew i had it before i felt the hook hit into it's mouth.

The atypical splash, the only thing i can compare to an obscenity that the trout gives off. Down it went deep, i turned it and saw a flash of its long flank, it's power fighting purely against my arm strength as my rod held stiff without the tip action.  I thought that was the only thing i had to worry about, my strength and stamina, then the line snapped. The 6x i use couldn't handle the brute force of my bullying a trout of a greater weight, with no tip action the power was focused on the line and as soon as i dabbed my finger to stop it powering down and to turn its head, it gave. I wasn't too disheartened, with a fully working rod i would of been, but i had felt the raw power through my forearm of a big trout fighting for it's life, even though it would be treated with respect and awe.

After rerigging i switched to a klink and dink method, with no length on the rod it was hard to stay in contact with the flies and then the fishing got great.  I was pulling fish out here and there, losing them here and there too, to compensate rod length i had a long leader out and for some unknown reason they just kept throwing themselves at me, soon as the slack came, ping off. A couple shook their way off but i still managed a good 20 or so trout.  I stopped taking pictures due to the rain and just flashed them in front of the video camera.

The ugly: i decided to walk up the a tributary to the Irwell on the way home and came across a outlet pipe pumping raw sewage into the river. It was a sickening sight and was reported there and then but regardless, it happened. A bad end to a good day.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Fly Fishing - A day of 2 halves

May 12th 2016

It had been an interesting start to the season, with spring snow contrasting to hot spring days, the humid air bringing ideal conditions to our invasive species with hogweed growing rampant and knotweed springing from nothing to 3 feet in a fortnight. I had hoped the cold snap would shock the plants into dying but it seems our own native species are not as resilient to frost and snow.

Regardless i was making the most of the sun with my daughter, with more working days i find it harder to balance family life and fishing so a few trips have had my daughter entow. One such trip was next to the small brook i had fished previously and i took a quick trip down after some time on the park to show Emily the fish she wanted to see. She now shows how big a fish was when asked by holding her arms out.  A dozen casts and i had 2 fish, a trout and a chub which caused me to end the trip. I didn't want to walk further upstream as i had my daughter and didn't want to continue fishing a pool that had chub in so i made the decision to fish closer to home.

On route the weather took a turn and despite it being mildly warm my partner took my daughter home as it rained. It was a pleasant temperature even if my shirt was soaked through to the skin and upon reaching the river fish were rising nicely. The rises were more of a plop which you tend to see with smaller, less experienced fish, who break their cover and reveal themselves to predators.  The pool was at the bottom of several lanes flowing into the far side which made it hard to get a presented fly correct, plus the fact some 30 feet foam sheeting wrap was trailing across the swim that would allow a fly to float nicely into position.  After 10 minutes or so of frustrated drifts over sloppy rises it all went quiet and i removed the rubbish so it would not ruin my chances next time. 

I walked the whole river for an hour or so looking for a rise, but nothing, slightly disheartened i went back to the start of the swim and bung a PTN style flexifloss nymph on. First cast, first fish. A tiny trout but a trout all the same and more reassurance that my own flies do work. It was much the case up the rest of the river, hitting into just over half a dozen trout and only losing one which to be fair deserved to shake the hook. A leap of a good four or five feet by a small trout certainly impressed me and i only was dismayed as i wanted to give him a high five for effort.

One trout was suicidal that i hooked into at the top of a weir, trying to force itself off the edge into the raging waters which meant the fight lasted longer than it should, either way it avoided the rougher waters and was safely released in one piece.