Friday, 19 May 2017

Last fish wins - Fly Fishing

19th May

With a day of tuition booked with good old John Tyzack we set off early doors to find some fish. The tuition was something of a strange request but a very important skill especially when you find big trout hiding in them 'unfishable' spots, my request was close quarters fishing in overgrown areas.

Crossing the border we was fishing just before dinner time and on route we had discussed various methods, the heavy rain in the week would have dumped a nice few inches on top so we talked of duo and dry fly. But as we first set our eyes on the water we was a little surprised to see it still struggling. We had come far up a river i wouldn't attempt to spell, a few miles away from its source. It was clean and clear with a sandy bottom which would make it difficult to be stealthy, especially in a narrow stream.

We started off creeping around, staying away from the water as much as possible, with a good angle up the bank on the river with as little glare as possible we soon started seeing movement. Even the clear water hid these well camouflaged brownies in. Now we hadn't tackled up as of yet and when JT spotted the head of something good poking out from under a low hanging branch we agreed to go a little downstream of it and see if there was anything else bobbing about in case we spooked something worth catching. As we tackled up we both opted for a nymph, JT for a lone nymph while i opted for the duo. There was a slight current here and after spotting 2 trout of around a pound swimming round a small pool under a tree nabbing nymphs we thought we was on to a winner. I went first but my 2.5mm bead didn't drift too well and would sink too quickly in the pool so JT stepped up and got a follow before popping his nymph into the tree and the fish went to ground after that.

We had learnt from this but knew of the fish that was a little further upstream, as we got there it had disappeared but we presumed, or rather more hoped, it had gone further into the tree. The bank here was still high so the approach we had was from above the branch but we needed to get behind the branch, complicated stuff but we decided the best course of action would be to let the nymph drift under the tree and give it a jiggle, more to keep it off the bottom as the river was very low here. Second cast and movement, the trout swam from under the tree and downstream, i spotted it go under the bank on our nearside so we edged our way just below it.

Being 6ft 8 it's easy being a spotter. I was practically above where the fish went under the bank, hidden as best i could as JT cast upstream into the area it was in, the glare here made JT blind for a take but as i saw the trout wrap its mouth around the fly he had struck into it, he felt the take and reacted to it. It was a good fish but now we had to land it, i couldn't see the bottom here and i wouldn't be able to climb back out here so i had to find an easier way in. I ran dropped my gear and grabbed my net off my backpack and ran downstream to a safer position to get it, it was a good 30 metres or so, but JT knew to play the fish downstream towards me and by the time i got up to the fish it was ready for netting and went in first time. It was a cracking trout, the mustard yellow belly with dark parr like circles subtly blended in with the dark spots of its flank. The fish wasn't just fat in its belly but thick on its shoulders, well conditioned and in perfect condition. This is what we had come for. A beautiful trout around 2lb.

A cracking fish to start the day, note the parr-like spots subtly blending in
We worked our way upstream spotting and spooking a few fish again of decent size with them all seemingly retreating to the underside of banks. The difficulties of the previous run despite the fish was the sink rate and presentation. We came across deeper pools and noticed how still the water had become, i stuck at it with the duo but JT decided to try something and pulled out a Martins Minnow. 2 casts in the same pool i had just duo'd through and he had a fish snatch at it. This pattern would persist of me using duo in a pool to JT using a Martins Minnow through the pool only for a fish to fly out of nowhere. It wasn't until a couple of missed and spooked fish later when JT got another cracking fish i would make a change. It shot our from under a half submerged tree downstream after the minnow and JT struck into it well, aiming for its safety spots like the tree and the undercut i climbed in to get it, JT guided it out and up into the net. It was another beautiful trout with big sparsely placed spots on its creamy coloured flanks. This again was around the 2lb mark.

JT with another beautiful flawless trout
After talking about streamer fishing i opted for one i had for years and my tuition then became a streamer lesson as well. This method was foreign to me and my only other attempt of this was after pike on the Old River with Mike France, that day i attracted 3 pike and missed 2 on again flies tied from Martin Smith. I had never spun for pike when i used to fish for them as i used to dead bait with sprats, so creating motion in an inanimate object effectively was a tough challenge for me. With my bow and arrow cast massively improving since last years tuition with JT i had at least one part nailed quite well. After rotating every couple of pools we came to a very tricky spot.

We had been pushed up the bank with a bank collapse but slightly downstream of our position about 10 feet down was a huge tree with a pool that had carved out at its roots. It was JT's turn and he popped his minnow to the left of the run allowed it to drift into the main pool and retrieved, some words of choice were said as a huge trout of easily 4lb+ went for the minnow, JT had struck, missed and ended up in the tree behind, a snap off. As he set up he told me to have a go, my fly was way to light even with the weight it would stick in the surface film until i pulled it under. I did as JT said and the trout followed the fly, it had 2 good runs at it before it left it. I cast again, nothing, i'd put it off.

As we made our way round the next few bends and my tuition started paying off, the movement i was creating was less bobby and more fishy but they didn't look at my fly while they would hunt JT's fly down like a guided missile. Both realising his fact JT let me use his rod and it soon started to show we was right. I kept missing fish, i either struck to late or too early trying to compensate for the previous mistake but it would all be practise practise practise. With a combination of JT's tuition in close quarters and streamer fishing and the effectiveness of Martin Smiths flies i was getting the bug. Watching the wild trout hunt down the streamer really put into perspective what a minnows life would be like and it would be damn scary.

JT wasn't as inexperienced as me and pulled out another trout which 4 trout all went after, unfortunately the biggest one wasn't the fastest but it was still a good trout. After a small break due to the humidity and a quick snack we continued upstream. It was a tough old day for myself as thing would continue in a rod gripping heart pounding fashion, we'd spot big trout, we'd spook big trout' we'd get big trout to chase the fly and we'd get small trout hammering the fly just as the big trout was hunting it down, bastards. the difference would be i would miss the trout and JT would land them, it was something you couldn't really teach, more of mental aspect of how quick you react, how good your visibility of the take is especially with glare and the best lesson i learned from this was not to fish watch. The number of times i cast to a fish only for another fish to pop out from under the bank and me totally missing it as i was watching the original fish was quite frustrating but definitely a hard lesson learned.

You can see the thickness of the trout easily in this shot
JT continued to reassure me as he pulled out 2 trout around a pound or so each in quick succession. After missing a couple more fish the day was drawing to a close and i had still yet to catch. I wasn't frustrated or annoyed in fact i was having a brilliant days fishing, it's good when you can enjoy fishing when your not even catching anything! Just sharing the experience and improving your skills with a good friend was well worth  the day out and with the bonus of nice trout hunting down your streamer. Now it's never over till the fat lady sings and JT said 3 casts each, last fish wins.

JT stepped up, nothing, nothing, nothing. My turn, just as i was about to cast i saw the ripple on the surface from the kick of a tail on the nearside, i cast to it, too much on top of it, nothing. I cast ahead of it, nothing, JT advised me to try the far bank to see if it had swam across. I cast, smash. A trout shot out and took it, this time i didn't miss. It was a biggy and now i had to keep it on, it appeared confused at first, caught in two minds as it swam to the bottom of the pool then it started swimming too the far bank undercut, then the nearside, JT helping remind me of directional pressure to avoid the snags, i was fortunate enough that it didn't bolt up or down the river as there wasn't many snags or overhanging trees here, only the bank to compete with, brambles and nettles etc are bad enough to be fair. It would seemingly give up fighting but as i would get it's head up it would kick away back towards its holes, thankfully staying in the pool, as it started to tire JT was in position to net it and i counted down to i forced its head up, straight in the net it was. It was a cracking 3lb or so trout. Like all the trout we had landed very fat and heavily set around the shoulders. Without a single mark on it it wasn't too pleased with being caught and in what would of been a bit of a faux pas if i had been on my own, it kicked its way to freedom after a quick photo. Luckily we had a picture of it and the fish went back very strong.

With the last cast making me the winner despite it being more of a team effort i had finally 'mastered' using the streamers, i have a long way to go yet don't get me wrong but i'm definitely on the right path and have ordered some minnows from MS Custom Flies on Facebook as they work brilliantly on trout. It was good comparing them with the ones i bought ages ago and going from one fly without getting any action bar a lone follow to getting at least a take in each pool was definitely eye opening.

In the end it was an amazing day that will no doubt have improved my skills in both close quarters and streamer fishing, with a good laugh all the way round it wouldn't be a day i would forget. If you would to get in contact with John Tyzack for a guided day you can find him on Facebook as well.
The fish that was caught on the last cast, like a fishermans tale.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Fly Fishing - Fishing 'The Drain'

 14th May 2017

It was a long time coming but myself and Graeme finally managed to arrange a trip out and it would be on my beats we would fish first. With the pollution on the Irwell making things tough and a sunny sunday alot of my stretches are prime habitat for dog walkers and such. I opted for a small brook that leads to the Irwell, known locally as the drain, as the usual thing the locals say is "I didn't think you'd find fish in such dirty water."

The rivers are on their arse up and down the country, even with last nights rain it wouldn't have an effect on the river level. This brook rises and falls very quickly but also colours up quickly to but it was at around 50% visibility when we arrived. As Graeme didn't know the area i told him where to park, he asked if it was safe round here too which i reassured him. As we came to the road to park we came round the corner to find a burnt out car sat in a parking space. I'm not sure what Graeme was thinking but i told him to park just round the corner and we parked amongst several other cars.

Tackling up we headed to the river and fished a few fishy holes. The flow was slow, the water was shallow and snaggy and the overgrowth was starting to come up quickly.  We both opted for the same tactic in some sense, Graeme with a New Zealand indicator while myself opted for a klink and dink method. The big difference we had was the length of our rods, i was fishing with a 10ft and Graeme with a 7ft rod. In these tight spaces we was fishing a short rod would seem a must, but with the overgrowth becoming so wild a long rod proved the only plausible method in some situations.

Trying to blend in when your 6ft 8 isn't always easy
With the water clarity down our initial plan of sight fishing 2 weeks early was out the window, but we could see weird fish like shapes in the water, was it a fish? The key sign later on turned out to be when the silt was kicked up or a strong bow wave storming up river. We fished each pool one at a time, discussing the channels and the flow line and where the deeper run lies with whoever wasn't fishing acting as a forward spotted. Any snags here will ruin a pool. It started a little quiet, some very fishy pools were quiet and i told Graeme that these fish were greedy fish and they will usually take it first time (if they want to take it). Graeme found a nice channel running under the far bank with a big tree for cover and the indicator slipped under, he struck and he was into a nice brownie. It thought well for a minute or two before finally slipping into the net. It was a cracking fish and would prove to be the first of many immaculate fish.
Giving the rod a bend on the first fish of the day
A cracking trout to start the day
My first came not long after and it wasn't where it should have been, after fishing a deep pool, Graeme spotted the tiniest of pools on an inside bank and with the overgrowth and snags below it i opted to fish above it and allow the fly to drift in. It was taken straight away, another lovely trout in the bag.
My first of the day pulled from a small hole
We moved on up to one of my favourite little pools in the summer as i catch alot of roach here but it still had some depth in it. Graeme had just snagged and was rerigging when i hit the next fish at the bottom of the pool, this would prove to be the only 'marked' fish, infact it had a birth defect, at the time it was difficult to tell if it's face had been ripped with a spinner but on closer inspection of the photo the jawline is complete and markless it just happens to break off to one side. Regardless it put up a fight well above it's weight and managed to get me nettled from my face to my arms. It was an ugly bastard i admit but a great sign to see a wild trout overcome it's struggle and survive despite it's natural disadvantage.
A birth defect no doubt, jaw is fully intact with no scarring. A wild trout defying natures law by fighting to survive.
Graeme was in the hot seat again and fished the pool further up where he struck into a big fish, it bounced the hook off and only a brief glimpse of it was all we was left with and to top it off Graeme ended up in a tree again a few casts later. Just before he went into retrieve the fly we spotted a long rise further up. With me having the only dry fly on i went ahead and let it drift down, out of the near side bank i saw a head rise up out of the water, it rejected the fly at the last second and i half twitched at the anticipation of having to strike. As i did i felt tension and realised it had taken the nymph so i set the hook and the trout was off! It trundled upstream towards the snags taking me under a fallen tree trunk, with my rod held low and using the length of it to pull my line from under it i was free from the snag but it was heading upstream to more of them. I had to jump in as it went into the tree lined section, it was running out of water due to the depth so it tried to turn back, i went for a cheeky net as it came on my left side but i only pissed it off further and it swam round my right hand side and headed off downstream. I tried guiding it away from more and more snags but at this point it was steam rolling downstream, the reel screaming and clicking away as it dragged line off the spool. Graeme told me it was heading for the worst snags, i had to stop it somehow, i slowly applied more and more resistance and it slowed down, it swam to inside bank, gave a kick of it's tail and snapped me off.

It had won, with a hand on my head and my mouth open in hope it would just swim back and apologise, i laughed as i looked at Graeme. He was gutted for me but i'm glad he was there, we both shared the experience it had given us and the fight that it gave, it deserved to get away in some sense, it took a minute for my adrenaline to ease off before i climbed out. As we headed upstream to the next pool the rain started. A heavy downpour in fact, as i rerigged Graeme found a lovely pool and hooked into a nice trout in similar fashion to his first. Another lovely trout in immaculate condition.

Graeme defies the weather with a cracking brownie
That trout would be the last one we had for an hour or so, the heavy downpour stopped and the water coloured up abit more, probably reducing visibility to around 25% we didn't think this would affect it too much, but for the next hour we fished some lovely fishy pools with no luck. But with dinner time looming i thought i saw something, but it could of been more of a hopeful sign, but a telltale cloud of silt gave it away. Graeme hit the first trout quickly followed by my own, we had both just adjusted our length and had aimed for the undercut on the far bank. Unfortunatly, i lost mine after a short fight, i was trying to get it to stay down but it thrashed too much on the surface and shook the hook. Graeme then hit into another and i finished the pool off with a 4th from it. After some frustration and a little self doubt from myself (what was i doing different to put the fish off) we had hit 4 fish in 10 minutes in a tiny pool.
One of the 4 fish spree we had, this is the one that got away
One of the 4 fish spree we had
Heading upstream we opted to wade the next section which could of proven the wrong idea, despite our very stealthy fishing it seemed the fish weren't interested. We could see bowwaves moving upstream and a fish dart from the side of me as i passed it's lie. They were there but something wasn't quite right, i guess the flow wasn't giving enough movement. We seen another big bowwave head upstream but as it hit the shallows i was sure it turned round, sure enough a few seconds later i hear a splash and i turn to see Graeme recovering from what seemed an almost fall. Turns out the bloody trout had only swam round me straight under Graemes foot at the time he was putting his foot down and he almost squished the bugger, thankfully due to it's size it ended up wrong footing him. It was pretty funny to be fair as i had fallen in here a few weeks ago in a similar spot due to the silt.

We climbed out and decided against future wading just incase we was being a bit noisy. As we hit the deeper runs we started to see a couple of trout swimming around, and soon enough i was into a good trout. A couple of people were walking past at the time and were watching with children and i joked to Graeme "Imagine we was them people who would just smack it on it's head and take it home to dinner" i'm not sure how the parents would have taken that.

Looking highly amused after Graeme commented that i make any fish look small
Against my arm it measures at about 16 inches
The the rest of the pool would prove unwilling and as we walked upstream Graeme spotted another pool, i was surprised of this pool as it is usually full of ranunculus fluitans and he dropped his fly in. Again first time a trout took it, another little gem of a fish which then proved it didn't believe in social media and jumped it's way out of Graemes hand to freedom.

Moving on up to the deeper runs which were almost motionless, at one point i jigged my nymph through a pool and ended up with a trout. But we hit a fair few trout here, Graeme did better than me in this area which was good as i was leading so it showed we wasn't spooking them.

The typical sized trout we picked up on this run
But the highlight of the fish Graeme had was the one he had at a weir, i told him i don't fish the weir as i struggle catching at them, i've only ever had 1 fish at the bottom of a weir and he pings his fly in to the main flow. It barely touched the water before it disappeared, i asked if he was on and Graeme responded enthusiastically that he was. I then seen the fish and knew he couldn't drop this one before his picture was taken. I jumped in downstream in the shallows. Which helps keep it in the deeper water but also ready to net it. Graeme then earned his own little audience with people gasping in awe that this shitty little drain that people dump their crap in held some nice fish. It have a tough old fight but with not many places to go due to it being sat under a weir it was a battle of endurance and after a couple of turns away at the net it finally slipped in. A woman asked could she take a picture to prove to her daughter that fish live in here, i'm not sure if she did but hopefully she'll spread the word on looking after your rivers a little better. It was a lovely trout, they all were, all very fat and full from a healthy insect population but it thoroughly topped off the day for us.

It was a pleasure fishing with Graeme, we would probably go back there in summer when the course season opens to hit some of the course fish too and the water should be back to summer level and not drought level.

A great trout to end the day, all solid fat fish

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Fly Fishing - Going deep

7th May 2017

It had been a month since i had last fished with my good friend Mike France and with a date set we could only hope we hadn't jinxed anything. We've had gale force winds on the Dee and the winter floods of 2015 to deal with after setting a date and with no rain for a long time we was hoping we didn't get a large dumping of rain that'd kill off the river. The rivers need rain to be fair as we knew the river would be on it's knees. The 2 days before our outing a strong wind had built up and was set to make fishing tricky too, I'd rather it rained than be windy in fairness. But on the day it was calm and settled, warm in the sun with patches of cloud that looked like they could bring some rain in.

With the knowledge of knowing the river would be low we set out a concrete plan en-route. We knew where the deeper runs where and would target them, there's a lot of wading on our usual stretch but would it be worth fishing it all when the lies wouldn't be as strong as they usually would. So we decided not to bother. Firstly, however, we wanted to check a new swim but after having a good look and it looking fishy (and a bit ratty too) we couldn't find anywhere to park so off we went to our usual spots with the plan to scout parking locations in the future.

Earlier that morning after a couple of hours of sleep, four in fact, i sensed a needed a couple of flies tying, something different just incase, so i tied some polish nymphs with a hot collar and some flies wrapped in yarn with a bead and a dab of squirrel. (Now known as Bendle's Bug) I opted for the Bendle's Bug to try first, it was a simple fly that wouldn't sink too quick which was key as once you hit the bottom you start getting the greenish weed on the hook. To also prevent the fly from sinking to the bottom i limited the length of the tippet by using a klinkhammer, i would still get the length in the cast but i was restricting the maximum depth the fly could go. I was opting for a slow sink and to be just off the bottom in the deeper runs.

Our first run was a good test on the tactics and what to expect, we ran into some kids fishing and they had a little chat with us before we left that run, i had only hit one grayling and lost another fish. Now the river we was fishing did have grayling, but it also had plenty of trout but this river has a very healthy amount of fish due to the huge amount of food available. There were flies i hadn't seen the Irwell before, but despite this huge amount of fly activity above the water there wasn't much rising.

These young trout have so much potential in becoming beautiful beasts
On our second stretch which is 100m or so if you fish it all the way up, but is only truly productive in the top half where there is a nice food lane on the far side. Mike headed up to the top half while i followed and i started off with a small trout and grayling in that pattern until i was around half way up, I'd missed a couple but they weren't anything big but i had 3 trout and 3 grayling at this half way point. 2 trout swiftly followed each other followed by a grayling and then another 2 trout. I was at the top of the run and managed to catch a low tree branch of the far side, i waded across and came across a monstrosity of discarded lines and flies and the biggest god damn hook I'd found in a tree. I suddenly became a tree surgeon and removed these lower branches as these people with there 20lb+ line were causing a death trap for bird life. I took the pile home and binned it.

The monstrosity i pulled from a branch i'd snagged onto
The next pool wasn't too far upstream and we made our way up slowly, casting to the odd fishy looking lie. We reached the pool with 2 fish rising which Mike delicately cast too, but they stopped rising, they knew something was up and went to ground. After waiting a minute to see if they rose again and i nymphed my way up this short stretch, i hit 2 grayling around the area of the fish rising and as i worked my way up i hit into a nice grayling. Now this would normally be a quick catch and release like another out of season fish but as i reeled in a trout shot out towards the grayling and chased it shortly, it was a decent trout, nothing massive but a good trout you'd be happy to say you'd caught. It was behaviour i hadn't seen before. I now wanted this trout that had presented itself in this pool so i continued fishing 5 more grayling of similar size came out and the trout did the same aggressive actions once more, in my opinion as the trout was easily bigger as the 'king of the pool' as i call them, as i have retrieved the fish i have caused it to cross his lane and it was effectively trying to bully the fish out of it's lie.

The umber colored tops make these trout invisible in the peaty water
It didn't show again and after a fish began to rise but didn't bother taking Mikes fly we headed off to the car for dinner and our next run.Our next area was a bit more tricky, with obstacles being presented their and people present so we couldn't climb through said obstacles we had to find an alternative, this was a steep thorny embankment which we made our way down.  We reached our run and fished our way up, it was only a pool on a bend but it still started off slow, Mike hit 2 fish before I'd even had a sniff but as i reached the more oxygenated water of the pool i started catching a few small fish.

The Bendle's Bug at work again
Mike wasn't happy with his set up so let me fish the next short run as he changed over, it was only a foam line about knee deep and 10m long, but my second cast would prove to find the most spirited fish of the day. The fly had barely moved in the water when it grabbed it, i struck and the fish took off hard, the reel screamed as this fish bombed upstream 20-30m, i was allowing it to take line but was keeping the fish in the stretch against the far side as outside of the channels like the one i hooked it in and the one above, where very rocky and snaggy. This fish was on a mission, it had one place in mind it wanted to go and it went there, a overhanging tree root full of debris. Mike knew this was dangerous and so did i, but i was a man with a plan, keep tension and let him sit there, if i could keep him in this snag i could easily wade up behind him and scoop him out of the snag. And that's exactly what i did, like playing hide and seek with a fish. I actually snapped my line netting the fish but i later found my fly in the net. The trout wasn't huge but it was a good trout for this river and it had balls, I'm just glad i had Mike there with me to hear that screaming reel 'you can hear a mile away' as it pulled line off quicker than a stripper at a hen do.

The fish of the day, with a run that gave Usain Bolt a run for his money, it's definitely in for a chance of reel scream of the year

We worked our way up to the next small pool and was quite disappointed in it until the very end, the lane closest to the far wall ended up producing a lump of a grayling 48cm on the net tape, around about my PB for a grayling and also from this same river. 2 more casts into the far pool produced 2 trout until it went quite after a miss. From then on it was pack up and go home. It had been a productive day of 12 trout and 20 grayling of all sizes for myself all on one fly. The trees hadn't stole any which shows my awareness is improving and the lack of touching the bottom meant i wasn't snagging up anywhere near as much as i usually would. Mike wasn't too happy with his performance, he lost his biggest fish but he was braver than me pulling the dry flies out. In hindsight it was a good idea, but the lack of rises and consistency in them meant his opportunities were limited.

The lump of a grayling going back home to sulk for a bit
I will be hoping to test the Bendle's Bug on Irwell at some point, to see if i can find more than just the one solitary fish, maybe a run i know has produced alot of trout in the past before the pollution to see how it fairs.

Bendle's Bug in all it's glory, Top: The one that got me 32 fish, Botton: A fresh one ready to take it's place

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Fly Fishing - Is the River Irwell now dead?

30th April 2017

It has been a while since my last blog, over a month now and that has been for a couple of reasons. Firstly i am haunted by the final comment i made in my last blog

"In all it turned out to be a good day, despite the difficult start, i guess the nymph life at the moment wasn't strong enough to hold fish feeding under the surface and they were waiting for olive-o-clock."
It was only a week later that i returned with my daughter to catch some fish when i came across the pollution incident that has been in the papers and on the regional news. The crayfish bodies that were hidden in the murky water that week before were visible after a week of sun and it became evident that something was wrong. Was i naive the week before, there was no nymph life the week before which explains why the trout were so heavily feeding on the olives that, i presume, were coming back to lay eggs. Without the crayfish death on the scale it was would i have noticed it? I tend to kick sample but the week i took my daughter on our way to our kick sample spot, i always use the same spot, she grabbed a tree branch and it flicked back and cut under her eye so the kick sample was taken off the agenda. It's a funny thing, blaming yourself for not spotting something sooner, for something you didn't even cause but it certainly pissed me off.

With it all reported to the EA they're a few thoughts i would like to inform people about the whole situation based on the facts.

Almost all invertebrate life was wiped out, from up near the pollution source to burrs, a distance of 10 miles, kick samples results were down 99%, that is a catastrophic reduction in the amount of food available.
This in turn will force bigger fish to feed on minnows etc and those will bully smaller fish off food sources, so big fish will probably stay big and people will continue to catch big fish, or well, they will catch well fed fish. What you will find difficult is trying to catch small fish.

A now rare sight on the Irwell where it still continues to thrive on tributaries.

Another point made, especially after the other pollution we had following the first, was a question i asked the Lead Investigator. I asked if all traces of the pollution had gone and he said no, in slower water and in back eddys especially, the pollution will have settled. With the weather being how it is of late, we need a heavy rain spell to flush the river through which will also help push invertebrates down from the tributaries into the main river.

There were dead fish found, bullheads in fact, but these were not analyzed, as living fish (fry) were found in the vicinity. Now i am not sure on how effective that thought process is as minnows and fry don't spend their time on the bottom all the time like bullheads. Crayfish and bullheads would of been hit heavily by the pollution in my opinion and after the first signs of the pollution incident which i failed to notice we had our heaviest rain of the year at over 3m. That would have washed alot of evidence away, plus at the rate the crayfish were eaten, shown by the number of claws left on the rocks after birds and mink ate them, you can expect the dead bullheads would have met the same fate.

Now onto more positive news. I have been fishing, with it being the Easter holidays i have mainly been out with my daughter who's fishing abilities have increased dramatically, the key thing however is she enjoys it, laughing and smiling and even getting upset when we let the fish go.

Emily with her first trout of the day
I also went fishing the other day, on my own, with the plan to fish a tributary of the Irwell and then the Irwell itself, I fished 350m of a tributary and 400m of the Irwell. What differences did i find? Firstly rising fish, i saw 4 rising fish on the the tributary and caught 7 fish, missing 2 and losing 1. On the Irwell i saw no rising fish and caught 1 trout, it was 44cm long and was well fed. I caught it in a small pool were the majority of water pushed through due to a large exposure of bed rock, it basically caused a 20-30m wide section of river to flow through a 3m wide pool.

My fishing has become more of an analysis after this pollution and i am hoping to catch some small fish to see how they fare, but it is still enjoyable despite the odds. Well i think the biggest frustration is the amount of slime on the rocks, wading at the moment is like walking on ice, but other than that it is fine. I can only hope the river recovers soon and that process will be fine as long as nothing else, that has a detrimental affect on the river, happens. It will be 'nice' watching the kick samples improve but it won't happen over night.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Fly Fishing - The end the coarse season & the start of the trout season!

With the coarse season finishing and the trout season set to begin, i set out with Mike France to catch some last minute grayling on the 13th of March.  But we would have a pit-stop enroute to catch some pike and that would be at the Old River.  It would be my first time here and was nice to finally see it all in person, the amount of work gone into it while still holding a natural look about it. Never was a fan of lakes where all the trees were cut down for pegs.  Though if i was honest, the blackness of the water made it seem a little stagnant, which you usually see in small ponds surrounded by trees.

Being after pike, on the fly of course,  Mike showed me something i hadn't seen before, his Martin Smith flies, Mike opted for the purple while i went natural and after moving on to the 4th peg, we worked ourselves along to fish every peg on the boathouse side. I was soon greeted by a nice 4-5lb pike cruising behind my fly, it followed it right up until the peg and then slunk away into the darkness. Moving on around we was about half way up when i heard an almighty splash! I thought Mike had fell in but i have him the benefit of the doubt and shouted if he had one. Running round to assist in the landing, may as well make it easy, i found Mike well and truly the victor of the pike which was lovely and plump for it's size.  After a quick trip to the dentist as i unhooked it, a nice picture to boot, it was off strongly back into it's murky depths. 

After entertaining no more pike i swapped to a tiger stripped pattern to help it stand out against the dark water. Mike had a few follows off a pike, a nice size i remember him saying, but to no avail and as we neared the last of the pegs my reactions let me down. I was slowly retrieving the fly across from the tree on the left when the fly looked like it grew wider then it disappeared, i was left looking into the eyes of a pike that had snuck up from below and wrapped it's mouth around the fly, perfectly blending in with the fly itself before it had slammed it's mouth shut. Now this had happened in a second and for my brain to register what had happened maybe half a second more and as i struck it popped open it's mouth and turned away. I had bloody missed it. After that we packed away and headed off the catch some ladies.

Upon arrival of the river we noticed that it was down, not at its summer lowest but relatively low and very very clear. A cold downstream wind had picked up at this point and being quite blustery it wasn't going to make conditions ideal. The first run we did was more sheltered and despite not being very long and the fact i set up on the wrong bloody reel so had to rechange, we managed 8 grayling between us, someone else had also just finished this stretch as we had got there quite late considering, so getting 8 in used water was a good stint.

Heading upstream we fished the holes around the shallows for some distance and despite the levels and conditions was still surprised not to have caught more. Mike hit a nice patch in some deep water with a complete opposite tactic to me, i was using 3 nymphs to hit the bottom and had a couple of Grayling but Mike was getting the bigger ones on a small size 20 nymph suspended off a klinkhammer.

The best of the grayling came quite late into our stretch which Mike had, a very healthy size Grayling for this particular water, they do get bigger but of late they have seemed few and far between.  In all i think the biggest surprise was the lack of fish in the deeper holes, the shallows were literally to shallow to hold fish that would be feeding and the deep holes had food lanes running straight into them but on both tactics some of the wouldn't give up their secrets. In total we hit 17 Grayling and 3 small trout.

After a bout of the sick bug and a day in bed i managed to get out on the 16th March to target them trout that have had several months to hide.  I opted to go far upstream on the Irwell catchment and after having a big trout sneak up behind me get spooked i went a whole 2 1/2 hours of nothing. Not a take not a nibble just snags and rerigs. I lost 1 fly on a snag and the rerigs were trying to figure out what i was doing wrong if anything.  It was only till i got the the end of the furthest point i'd ever been would i get a take.  2 fish in 2 casts at the bottom of a very deep pool at the back end of a bridge, despite their size they gave a good fight, hugging the near wall below me where the rusty metal supports would easily snap my line.

Moving up beyond the bridge i sight for sore eyes, A pool where i had seen fish rise before but always had been rained off before advancing here. It was alive with rises, 40 or so a minute, at first i thought they may be lots of small fish but as i set up my dry fly rod, i noticed a pattern, the rises wouldn't move across each other only up and down and i realised i was looking at only a few fish feeding heavily on the massive hatch of olives. When i say massive you have to think on an Irwell scale, but an olive would float by my legs every second so it was pretty extensive.

I decided to work my way up the pool, targeting the rear most fish first and so on. The fish first took the fly and as i had to much fly line out after trying to predict it's next rise, as they were moving up and down, it was quickly off with the slack being the cause. I knew this so i made sure not to repeat it, left lane next, it took it first cast after a quick change of flies to a more accurate pattern. This time it was landed. Right lane next, this one was a little more tricky, with the amount of flies on the surface it was literally feasting on flies next to mine and it was just a waiting game, cast accurate, wait to see which one it took, cast again. This cat and mouse game hadn't gone unnoticed as i soon drew a small number of watchers in the windows. It took it! After another feisty fight it was landed and the last of the rises was the target.

It was funny seeing how still the pool would go each time i tempted one of these fish as they stopped feeding in their lanes. Luckily my plan to fish through the pack one at a time hadn't spooked any off and the last one was in sight. This, like the one before it, was another tricky one, but after a couple of minutes it was soon on and the fight ensued. It was a good trout, maybe a 1lb 1/2 2lb and it was giving a much harder fight. It eventually found the boulder i had been trying to keep it away from and it swam round it whole circle, snagging on some baby wipes i knew it was do or die. I waded over net outstretched and tried to net it from under the water, it was too quick, it bolted round the rock, so i tried to grab the snag and as i did i felt that the trout had already gotten away.

But that wasn't the last action of the day, further up under some over hanging trees in a pool above the one i was in, i saw another fish rising, and this would be quite quick to tempt despite the foamy surface from the crashing water. The bottom is littered with boulders up here to i tried to keep the fish right under the rod tip with my arm outstretched, that way any it couldn't wrap around any or swim under one, shame that didn't work for the huge one! It was landed and it was the best of the day, with the net-tape measuring 42cm.

In all it turned out to be a good day, despite the difficult start, i guess the nymph life at the moment wasn't strong enough to hold fish feeding under the surface and they were waiting for olive-o-clock.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Fly Fishing - First fish of 2017 on a fishery!

 24th February 2017

It's almost the start of the trout season but me and good friend Mike France had a date planned with some ladies for a couple of week only for Mother natures Doris to ruin our fun. The river levels had dropped but with it still being 3 times as high as it was 2 days prior it was still carrying substantial water and would no doubt be running brown. However we wouldn't be put off and decided on a trip to Wales, in fairness the Welsh streams had cleared up quite quickly but in comparison to the rivers we fish they don't have tonnes of crap being washed into them. The fishery of choice was Chirk Fisheries and this would be the first one i would have fished on.

Upon arrival there was a steady breeze, bright sunlight warmed your face until the cold wind stole it away. There was a couple of people starting up when we got there and myself and Mike where soon fishing ourselves. We chose the bottom end of the lake where the wind was blowing towards, fishing left to right using the wind as the movement mixed with a retrieve. Now it was all a new experience for me so it was all experimental, i opted for a lightly weighted and an unweighted duo and fished an arc, changing my speed of retrieval to find the fish. The water was very choppy so despite the clear water, spotting anything subsurface was practically impossible.

We were seeing rises and fish jump out on the opposite side and it became more common as it warmed up, so i switched to a klink and dink to target the fish near the surface and after seeing a rise to the right of my fly i amended the length of my line and allowed the wind to drift my fly across. The unmistakable shape of the underside of a fish rising up under the water almost made me strike but i waited that important second and it took the scud i had put below the klinkhammer. Fish on, it was a slow take at first but as it got closer to the bank it soon started to fight but with a long handle net it was quickly landed. A blue trout, some form of mutated rainbow, a pretty fish nonetheless.

The second take i fell to the mercy of my own watercraft, i was caught watching for tell tale signs of fish when i reacted slow to the rise of another bluey and i missed the take. Not wanting to be caught unawares again on the second take on the klinkhammer i struck to hard and pinged the klinkhammer off. 

It was soon dinner time and myself and Mike had a chat bankside, the wind started to drop and we spotted 2 groups of 7 and 8 swimming round in between myself and Mikes peg, who had gone to the opposite bank.  As i rerigged one of the lads who was fishing streamers sensed an oppurtunity and nipped in between myself and Mikes spot, now i did find this funny, we were on sporting tickets and to be this desperate to catch fish you must be paying to take one home. Now i had the option of saying like 'woo woo come on, at least ask if you want to cross swords first' or going irrate, even his dad was telling him he shouldn't really and he kept looking over at me too see what i was doing.

But i thought the best treatment to his constant slap slap slap of the water with his poor stripping, was to catch a fish. I missed a take on the nymph on the reed bed to my right and after working my arc i lifted to cast again when the nymph was taken again, i wasn't ready as i was inundated with slack ready to cast and somewhere inbetween trying to keep tension and reel the slack in the hook popped out. Only for Mike to then hit into a fish! It was another bluey and in perfect condition too, mine had a few scales missing. The harsh lesson of being patient with fish rather than a rush to catch them showed and the father and son went home.

Mike warned me if i ever did that he'd never take me fishing again but he knows i am an honorable person! The wind picked back up and Mike headed to the top end where the father and son had started off, he was soon in again, third cast i think he said, on the dry, again. Another bluey!  The shoals had started to become bigger and there were some very big fish in them but they all seemed to interested in chasing each other. So i decided to make the most of a living target and used them as casting practise, if they took the fly it would be a bonus. Trying to improve your accuracy on your dries ready for the trout season to open is never a bad thing and it gave me confidence that i'd be ready for March 14th.

In all it was a fun day, it was nice to be out and away from the concrete jungles. It was nice to be in good company of someone who has been there since the start of my fly fishing. And it was nice to finally get hold of a fish.

There can only be more!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Fly Fishing - 2016 and beyond

19th January 2017

My first blog of 2017. In fact my first blog in a few month. I haven't got much fishing done in that time, none really worth writing about. I did a few days walking the river sight fishing for chub, but only spotted trout and when i did spot chub it was a small side stream where the chub were spooky in the crystal water but the roach weren't as fussy. I even went on a trip with Mike and Phil for grayling but despite the section looking promising we were left with more questions than answers.

2016 overall was a funny year, after my first season on the fly in 2015 alot had changed. The river had changed dramatically since the floods and i had begun to tie my own flies. So relearning the river, learning to tie flies and then trying to adjust my gear to my needs it was still much a rookie year.  That being said i caught a couple of big trout worthy of a pat on the back but i lost alot more and bigger too. One friend i didn't find was the bastard that snapped me off on the boulder twice in 2015. Here is the second time i lost him.

Another huge loss in fact was my camera! Some of you may recall myself getting a little bit stranded in my waist waders, with a rising river i only had one option and that was to tackle a steep gradient hill covered in 10 foot hogweed and knotweed. Somewhere along the way my camera had snagged off my pack and fallen, despite realizing this near the top i failed to spot where it had landed and was very much, understandly, pissed off. But losing a camera was worth it rather than risking a river crossing in water filled waders in a rising river.

So on my sight fishing tour of the Irwell i actually managed to spot a few interesting things. One of which was my damned camera! Unfortunatly despite it being waterproof upto 1m the charge port flap had opened either when it was dropped or when the river rose and it was broken, though the battery pack section where the memory card is was bone dry so i hope to recover that lost footage sometime when i get a card reader.  As you can see it was in pretty good nick considering it had been there for a few months, bit of silt on it for good measure and you can see where i had found it, imagine this when it was overgrown!

I have plans for a new camera for next season, especially now my daughter showed great interest as the season came to a close last year, i need all hands free handling a 2 year old (3 in april) and helping her fish. Something chest mounted this time, away from waist height, i guess with my height it'll be like drone footage!

Another purchase i made was a new net! With the amount of big trout i hooked into last season i needed a bigger more professional net and why not ship one in from Australia.  Yes it's size will take getting used to, you can definitely feel the drag in strong currents but i can't risk failing to net a big fish and another huge bonus, it has a measurement tape inside it to ensure accurate measurements and faster releases.

Hopefully i will get  chance to wet a line soon, a few grayling to celebrate the beginning of a new year.