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!