Sunday, 22 October 2017

Back on the Grayling - Fly Fishing

After a tough year chasing trout and scouting new rivers due to a polluted Irwell it has been a tough year despite some very good fish caught. I do love a big trout but in all honesty i would happily catch small trout forever on a healthy river than one big trout on a river barely hanging on.

But with the trout season over and without a rod in my hand for 3 weeks, Graeme decided to treat me with a trip out to see some lady friends. That's right, Grayling! So off we went early doors as i had to be home before 5 as the Mrs was going out in the evening and we was lucky enough to have good weather. The river level was up but dark and clear and look immaculate on arrival. Bar the 2.4 million leaves it should of been a good day!

In fairness it was a good day, being a private water it was well kept and we was pulling plenty of fish out along the whole stretch, despite being behind 3 other anglers! With a mixture of banter and fish to go with it was a much needed rise in morale for the long cold winter ahead. We would likely come here again when all the leaves had fallen as they were becoming a problem as the wind picked up during the day.

On another day we could have easily hit triple figures but being behind 3 other anglers made it tough but we still managed 60 between us, around a dozen out of season trout making an appearance. Nothing big showing unfortunately but fun none the less!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Last Trout of the Year - Fly Fishing

24th September

It was a bright Sunday morning and with a cancelled trip with Mike due to work commitments i had bounced around with several rivers in mind to fish. It was a toss up between something potentially big and possibly blank or lots of little fish which should hold big fish but i hadn't fished enough there.

Reaching the river there wasn't much signs of life so i set up with a searching pattern with my nymphs under a klinkhammer, this especially helps as the bottom is 100% snag city. After running it through the first 15 metres and signs of nothing i popped on a streamer and had 4 chases but only one touch. Continuing on i switched back to the klinkhammer set up, using my slate colored nymph, and was greeted by the wake of a rise. I sat and watched for a short while to see if it was a rise of a leaf and sure enough another rise came up. As i crept up almost on my knees i could see 2 trout looking towards and inlet. The rising fish had been in the top of the main pool and i know a big fish lives here. Based on the size of fish i have had on this river i would say it was easily 4 as it dwarfed the 3lbers.
My slate colored nymph
I flicked the nymph using a bow and arrow cast to cause minimal rod flash and let it drift downstream, the klinkhammer slipped under and i struck into it. It was a nice fish. I fought hard to keep the fish in the pool, i know there are multiple snags everywhere so you have to keep the fish in a neutral position. They don't get this big without knowing all the escape routes. After a couple of minutes i eventually got it to netting distance only for my net to snag on the bottom. Thankfully it was a quick snag and i quickly netted it on the second attempt. It was a very fat trout, the fattest i have had all year, i struggled to support it on my hand in my signature pose before it slipped off and into the river it went. Luckily i managed a quick picture.

Moving on up i stalked 2 large chub in a couple of inches of water under a branch. A perfect bow and arrow flick under the branch and i saw the first chub open its mouth for the nymph, i struck just as the second went for the klinkhammer and i missed them both! That would of been a very interesting double hook up! With fish rising i checked the water to see what they were eating, these big sedge like flies, easily an inch in size. I could see a couple of rises and i cast upstream towards them, a large trout came up off the bottom and sipped the fly, i struck but it had already rejected it!

Removing the nymph from underneath incase that was the reason it rejected it, a large trout swam downstream next to me. It was easily a couple of pound and it sat under my rod tip, the white of its mouth opening as it ate nymphs. i stood still for 15 minutes watching it, trying not to spook it, it even took a dry off the top right next to my rod tip before eventually swimming back upstream. I tested my knots as i prepared to cast and on the first cast it took it. It shot off like a steam train and the 5# rod was no match, it bent right over and flattened out putting the full strain on the line. 11 seconds on the camera it took for it to snap me off. 11 seconds of adrenaline. 11 seconds of pain.

The fish went quiet after that, there had been alot of commotion in the water and with visibility near perfect they were very aware of my presence now. So i headed upstream. Things went very quiet for a while, maybe an hour or 2 before i spotted a fish. Nothing showing on both nymphs and streamers in between. This was another decent fish, i had seen a small swirl and crept up on it, keeping as close to the centre line behind it to avoid it seeing me in the corner of its eye i still lowered my profile right down and bow and arrow cast it, probably 15 feet. It took it straight away and it launched itself a couple of feet out of the water, this was another good fish and it was trying all the tricks in the book. One thing i didn't account for was the new snag in the river, a large piece of cling film like material about 20 foot long lay on the river bed. It snagged up in there and i waded up on it. The fish was still full of fight and was only restricted by the snag. Stupidly i thought that giving the fish a chance to fight would feel better to me especially being the last day of the season, so i untangled it from the snag rather than netting it. It slipped the hook and buggered off. It took me a minute or so to really realise what had happened as i was still to busy removing the snag. I felt a little stupid.

3 more fish were caught in similar fashion, smaller than the previous ones but beautiful fish none the less. It felt good that despite being 6ft 8 i had proven all day how stealthy i could be, i'm like a hairy heron! It was a good day to finish the season, though i could of had bigger fish, it was still a fun and well earned day.

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Friday, 15 September 2017

The mystery fish - Fly Fishing

14th September

With a planned trip for Wednesday postponed a day due to high water, me and Arthur headed out to scout some rivers i had been dying to fish yet didn't have the opportunity to get to. The weather had been giving patchy showers which, if they remained brief, wouldn't have affected the water levels.

After setting up and Arthur having some issues with missing a couple of eyes on his rod, i had a couple of misses under a over hanging tree which should of held more fish but i persevered and only had 1 more knock. Arthur was fishing with the klink & dink method and wasn't having as much luck. However as we moved upstream into super fishy water, long deep channels on the outside of bends, over hanging trees and roots with a flow running into them, nothing. Clarity was good too, it was just over a foot visibility and a lovely tea brown.

We fished alot of pools with no sign of fish, it was frustrating somewhat as these pools should of held plenty of fish. However it was a river i had never fished before so fish density was unknown. But after fishing through a narrow weir channel and not receiving a single take i popped on a streamer and walked across the top of the weir. I was jigging it as i walked across, primarily aiming to cross to the other side when my arm yanked back. A fish had hammered it in the white water. It had hooked itself so i was unsure of how well hooked it was so i took it easy, heading back across the weir top to the calmer water to allow easier netting and was greeted by not the longest fish i have caught by no means but a very fat & healthy fish. It was a positive sign, a skinny fish would of indicated a lack of food hence the lack of fish but continuing on it seemed streamer would be the order of the day.

In fairness it wasn't my greatest day on streamer for hook rate, with the water being unscouted i would often leave myself with very little striking room with the amount of fallen and over hanging trees that littered the river, perfect for providing habitat. The river ran through some cracking deep pools pushing up against natural rock but most fish would hit the streamer from deep below, banging the tail end rather than the hooked body section. The water was still high so pulling it downstream would often be too quick and any takes were fishing chasing after it and grabbing the tail as it went past. One of the bigger trout i hooked and lost after a minute or so chased the streamer like a torpedo for a couple of metres, i flipped the streamer round to face upstream as i had reach the end of my reach and it must of grabbed it then, it mustn't have been hooked very well as it managed to fight it's way off.

We fished alot of water with the fish only hitting the streamer, i did swap back to nymphs but only had 1 fish take it which soon dropped off. But eventually we came to a large deep pool with a tree half submerged leaning across, i spotted a rise. Arthur was now on the dry, slightly frustrated from a few tangles he had had consecutively. I knew this would be Arthur's fish. It rose steadily as he cast to it, using an Adams, he covered it over and over but nothing, it just continued to rise steadily. I told Arthur to try one of my dries and as he rerigged i watched the rise. It was a very soft rise and seemed to be in a pattern, left, middle then right. As if it was one fish swimming around the pool. I also noticed it was knocking leaves which i found unusual as if it was looking for bugs on the leaves. I told Arthur i think it was a big one with the feeding habits it exhibited.

Ready to go Arthur cast to it, a little close to the tree and began to work his way up, i told him to cast a little more central and it rose right where i pointed. He cast to it with precision, the back of the trout touched the surface behind it as it came up to have a look. He cast again, a little shorter, as i said it was a nice cast it took it. However, it fooled Arthur, as it had been swimming downstream when it took it it continued on its path towards him as he stripped line back. Arthur thought it was a tiddler, one of them small trout you strike into and drag half the distance on the strike. Though as Arthur recovered his line and it headed towards shallower water, it turned. Still no sign of it, it headed upstream taking line as it went, not very fast but with strength, hugging the bottom which was around waist height (on myself) It slowly swam diagonally across to the right, where it was a little shallower and would of been easier to net when tired, however it swam there for one reason, to lose the hook in the undercut bank. After realising where it was going i shouted to Arthur to catch up to it quick before it slipped the hook. But after pulling a matted mess of roots out from the under cut Arthur pulled his fly out with no fish attached. It had escaped capture and we had never even seen it once.

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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Fly Fishing above the Irwell Pollution

30th August

After some tough trips out on the Medlock and the Irwell it was now time to go above the pollution source on the Irwell, do a kick sample a few yards above the source and then find the fish, because in theory the fish should be there.

We went to Rossendale Treatment works where the pollution sourced 'through'. Heading just upstream of it towards the bridge we did our kick sample and we wasn't surprised to see a huge amount of life. From your olives to your cased and caseless caddis to the chironomids there were all in abundance. This is what we expected.

We headed back to get our fly gear and starting to head upstream, fishing our way up. We had to target pools as the river here was very flat and clear and only ankle deep but after fishing a few deep pools and seeing no fish activity we was starting to question our theory. There was plenty of food so where was the fish? As we headed up further upstream it soon became clear that alot of machine activity had taken place. A huge bank collapse near the railway line had been fixed with huge boulders which, in my opinion, won't last the winter. It would of been a massive feat of engineering positioning the boulders of this size here especially on the river bank so we put off fishing below this point by presuming the fish would be above it.

It was maybe 50 or so yards upstream when we saw a slight ripple in the water, was it a leaf? Or was it something swirling under the surface. I watched and waited. It did it again. We had found the fish. This spot was very difficult to fish with trees overhanging on all sides a cast was nigh on impossible but we persevered. They never rose for the dry fly, we tried to head upstream further but my foot slipped beneath me, taking me well above where my waist waders would be, however i had my chest waders on as they were still drying from falling in a couple of days prior. We had stumbled on to a clay shelf. Arthur tested the depth of the clay and his wading stick sunk almost a meter into it, without a sign of the bottom.  Retreating back we carefully we headed back onto the bank and worked our way upstream.

Finding the end of the clay shelf we hopped back in and i switched to my weightless nymph under the klinkhammer. The fish may have not been rising for the dries but taking the emergers just below the surface. The first pool we fished had a riffle running into it, not finding anything at the back of it i knew the faster water would only cause drag with the weightless nymph as it would fail to sink. Not wanting to tie my weighted fly back on knowing i would be switching back to weightless just after it i stuck a small shot on the line equal to a 2.4mm tungsten bead. Now i've never pretended to be a purist so that would disgust many purists but i'm hardly fishing chalk streams now am i.

The third or fourth cast into this faster water and i was into a fish. It was a small trout but i was happy, i had an Irwell trout after so long. It was good being back on the Irwell. the next couple of sections held very little water and we walked past alot of it. Perfectly clear, centimetres deep and no real pools for the fish to feed happily we walked on upstream. The first deep section we came to however had a dog playing very happily in it so we hopped out the stream and gave the dog a wide berth as we knew it had swum up and down the stretch.

We found a small weir and it looked remarkably fishy, Arthur told me it was a dog hot spot and sure enough there were dog walkers around but a narrow stretch looked dark and deep as the river pushed against the wall, it was wire caged too so i knew it would provide good cover. Totally weightless again and much further up this small pool than i first expected. I got a take just as the nymph dropped out of the faster water. It was a lovely little fish which gave me a nice little fight too. Just above that a tiny mini pool rewarded me with one of this years trout, probably no more than 6 inches, perfection in miniature.

Above the weir was a long slow deep stretch which was strangely cloudy, unlike the rest of the river which was perfectly clear well over 3 feet. There was plenty of fish rising so i allowed Arthur to target them. He had yet to catch and here seemed his best chance. The casts weren't easy though, despite the width of the river, low over hanging trees and being on a bend the target to aim for and the back cast were very awkward but Arthur persevered. He would get the perfect cast and the rise had move up another foot or two, and we did this until he landed about 2 feet below the rise. As i was saying you was just behind it, a trout sipped it under, it was so delicate you'd almost not notice it but Arthur struck and it had already spat it out. It could of been a tiddler or one of the wise big ones we would never know.

After targeting several trout which seemed very ignorant Arthur handed the baton over to me. With the weightless nymph i could see if they were feeding just below the surface hence the lack of takes on the dry and to be fair there wasn't many flies on the water itself. I used the water haul cast in a way to help me fish as casting over my left shoulder was very tight and this allowed me to be more accurate, casting downstream to flick it upstream using the weight of the water. It didn't take long for the weightless nymph to come up trumps again. It was a beautiful little trout again and it didn't fight for very long as it tried to hide in the knotweed next to me it swam right to my feet.

It was time to call it a day and we headed back to the car with a smile on our faces, I had equaled my yearly total thus far for fish on the Irwell in one day, which shows you how dire it has been. On the way back to the car i spotted some line in a tree glimmering, doing my good deed for the day i jumped back into the river and with the help of Arthur and his stick managed to pull about 40 yards worth of 20+ line and a huge hooked lure out of the tree. It was a monstrosity to say the least but it was gone and the tree was now free of harming any wildlife.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Medlock Mystery - Fly Fishing

28th August 2017

With my visit to the Irwell to check on any changes it would be the Medlock in my sights next alongside Graeme Barber. We have scouted a lot of rivers this season after fishing the Irwell less for obvious reasons and this turn it was the Medlock. As a City fan it is something of a sweet dream to catch a trout in the shadow of the stadium but it would turn out to be a tough day. On paper the Medlock has a lot of good water, despite the culverted section there is plenty of habitat and after recent habitat improvement works removing bricks from the Red River, though after a few pollution incidents it would also be interesting to see how much it had recovered.

First impressions were good, a small trout was spotted swimming downstream and several more were soon spotted in a 75 yard stretch. I went in to look for inverts but soon found myself sat waist deep in river, the red bricks had claimed there first victim. It was amazing how slick they were despite them being clean, Graeme was having a good laugh at my expense and i too found it hilarious. There was plenty of olives and cased caddis, all of a good size, the odd hoglouse was found too. This trend would continue throughout the day as i checked every now and then.

Our fishing however fared differently, despite the sightings of fish in the poor light i missed a take and it would be our only take for a long time. After a very long stretch of inch deep shallow red brick, which justified why there was fish all stuck in one stretch, it would be a risk for a fish to swim this far not knowing there was a safe place for them upstream. It seemed to go on forever. Eventually we reached a tunnel heading into Clayton Vale were the habitat work had been done. It looked lovely but as you got closer you realised it was inches deep. The odd pool we cast into which technically should of held fish lay silent but minnows were present in good numbers. Graeme managed to catch a minnow as we hit a deep pool which was such perfect habitat for trout but it lay silent of anything 'big'.

Moving on upstream as the river blended back into it's natural shape the pools deepened and the tree roots and fallen trees provided perfect hidey holes for trout. Initially it was good, i spotted a rise, i was fishing dry, and i covered it twice. Nothing. I handed over to Graeme on the nymph and it hit it first time, literally a second after it hit the water. Unfortunately he missed it, after a few hours of nothing we had gone a little rusty. It would be another hour till we spotted the next rise, all the pools no matter how fishy them seemed lay silent. I cast to it and it slapped it off the surface, i missed it as well. A little upstream Graeme caught a small chub which gave us a bit more optimism.

Not much further upstream though we soon sensed something wasn't right. The foam line seemed a little less natural, the bubbles seemed more bubbly and the water seemed a milky blue. As we rounded a deep bend it soon became obvious what was happened. A pollution event. A fallen tree lay across the river, it's branches filtering the bubbles through to hide the pollution. A lack of fast flowing water in this river prevented the bubbles reappearing downstream and helped mask the cause of the pollution. It didn't take us long to find the cause. A huge outlet was pumping out into the river, upstream of it the river was crystal clear, a large patch of bubbles lay at the foot of it, perfectly white and the smell of detergent hung in the air. I google mapped our location, we was directly next to Failsworth Water Treatment works, we initially expected to find a car wash located nearby. The EA were notified immediately. Moving upstream we didn't fare better, we spotted our first trout however so were a little more optimistic, but after a deep pool the water there was very pedestrianised.

The pool we had to pass was a tricky one, it was deep on both sides with the shallower side being built by a bank of silt. A fallen tree forced you into the river and we was both balls deep as we passed it. As we edged past the tree the silt bank collapsed beneath my feet and the branch i held snapped and i fell down into the river, the cold water enveloped my lower body as i sunk down. The cold took my breath away but i continued to put my feet down, the bottom ever more collapsing as i tried to gain traction, after a few second i managed to fix my feet down and get my breath back. Pulling my phone straight out my pocket to ensure it wasn't wet. I turned to Graeme as we both laughed, my waist waders full of water, my clothes soaked and we turned back to find an alternate route. After a quick pee break as the cold water had given me the urge, i checked my important gear and we climbed around the tree.

We found a way back to the river which had a small drop to get down. Well, i thought it was quite small, forgetting my prescription polaroids make things seem closer, the simple hop down i explained to Graeme almost winded me as it was a good few feet. It had been a tough days fishing but at least i was keeping Graeme thoroughly entertained. We didn't fish long after that, with dogs in the water and people all around and no sight of fish. We had time to remove some snagged line and hooks from a tree to do our bit for the environment. It was a soggy walk back to the car and it left us again with more questions than answers. The river still needs time to recover, both of its habitat improvements and the pollution, but with pollution still ongoing hidden from prying eyes, who knows just how bad this river has had it. When the minnows disappear and the insects are all void from the river then we will know an event has gone by unnoticed.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

4 Months on - River Irwell Pollution

23rd August 2017

As we near the end of August and slip into the final month of the trout season i had made it a goal of mine to head back to where i first spotted the pollution incident.  Luckily Arthur Hamer insisted we both go, Arthur being a qualified kick sampler it definitely made my observations more accurate.  It would be a 2 part test, checking for insects and also checking for any fish. With 3 rods set up between us, Dry Fly, Nymph and Streamer we could target fish with every method.

Initially reaching the river there was 'positive' signs, take note that when i say positive back when we did the news report there was literally nothing alive, in the air or in the water insect wise. So a positive sign of seeing tiny midges flying around and the odd single Baetis flying around. Nothing much seemed to be on the surface of the water and it was perfectly clear except in the deep pools where it faded into the usual green hue.  We scooted around the edges of the river and found minnows (after netting to confirm) of sizes from a couple of centimetres to a couple of inches. There was plenty of them, in shoals ranging from 12 to a 100. Not the black masses of thousands that we would of seen a couple of years ago, but a positive sign none the less. Why? Because for them to survive there must be a food source as trout can easily switch onto minnows to cover their hunger even the smaller trout with them being so small.

Now it came to looking for insects. We had a good look around for anything of reasonable size and found maybe 2 Mayfly Naiads but as our eyes adjusted on our rock turn tests we found thousands of tiny moving 'worms' maybe 3mm in length at a push. These all clung into the weedy sections of the rock or brick we was observing. There would be literally hundreds of them. With the slimy egg sacs on the same rocks i can confidently say they were Chironomids. Now despite their tiny size it is impossible to age these so they may grow bigger. However it still offers a food supply to the minnows and possibly trout. I do not understand enough of trout feeding behaviour to know if they eat these larva at this stage.

We found a small unnamed brook leading into the Irwell, barely 3 feet wide but i insisted we test it for life and even despite the smoothness of the rocks here, found several cased caddis, olives and a lone Heptageniid. We was also almost taken out by a kingfisher as it raced out of the brook before it halted in midflight and turned back upstream. So it does show that the small inlets, however close the Irwell itself do provide and sustain the bigger insects that we would so often see before the pollution.

The invertebrate life cycle is a complicated one with time scales and all that so come next April it will be interesting to see what changes have happened.

Onto the fishing, well we did about 2 hours of fishing, targeting the main pools and runs where you would guarantee yourself catching a fish. Nothing, on all 3 methods, no sign of trout anywhere. So where are the fish? They aren't dead so where have they traveled? Possibilities are they have moved into or closer to the tributaries which, unaffected by the pollution, would provide a food source. Comparing that to my observations on 'the drain' where trout quite happily sit in the current of an inlet feeding in, it shows that trout would quite happily do this
if it provided a steady rate of food. But you then think, would you rather wait outside the store to get food or go in and get some, meaning some trout will have most definitely pushed up into the tributaries.

Again questioning that, not all fish can move into tributaries, well, at least if you think how many obstructions we have on the Irwell then you would likely find fish trapped between weirs. Trout can go downstream however, regardless of the height of the weir so ultimately they could find somewhere to supply them with a food source. A way i could test this is to fish at as many confluences at possible, maybe 50 to a 100 yards either side of it and also up tributary.

A lot of this information is theoretical and would take much more testing for it to be proven, it also creates just as many questions as answers but one thing it has shown is that there is now some life in the Irwell, but it still isn't the same as we left it before April.

Monday, 21 August 2017

The August Curse - Fly Fishing

August. How can i describe this month simply. Slow. Strange. It has definitely been thought provoking to say the least. From May to July i had been pulling fish out maybe not in their numbers, but definitely in their size. I was missing plenty of fish and getting takes here there and everywhere. Streamers, nymphs and a PB caught on dries, but come August, that all changed

Initially i went out for the day fishing, blanked. Streamered and nymph. Never saw a rise. Found a guy with a hook in his ear however. At least i unhooked something that day. It was 3 days after the rain so the river had washed off nicely but all was quiet. Only thing i saw jump was a minnow. Nothing there took a streamer.

Next it was time to take my daughter out, a small stretch of the Ogden i know where we can catch fish in a short stretch without Emily being at risk. There was plenty of fish about and easily visible. It was 11 days since the last true rise in water level. Shallow and clear the fish were surprisingly not spooked. I streamered in the deep pools where i saw trout. Nothing so switching to nymph i was finally into a fish. A roach! I do like roach, ask Graeme, and it broke the duck for the day so it gave my daughter something to smile about at least. She refused to hold it 'case it bites' and then asked for a picture with it after i let it go...

It was Emilys turn now and she missed a couple of takes before foul hooking a chub, it was a bloody big thing but it soon came off leaving a 5p size scale on the barbless nymph. She then caught a smaller one of the trio sat in the shallows but after a short fight it shook itself off and Emily was determined for another. Siting a shoal of roach i told her to cast towards the reeds, roach are bloody ignorant fish at times and then, focused on the roach looking at the nymph, a fish fired out of the reeds and hit the nymph. We both sort of jumped and i soon realised it was a pike that had took the nymph. Whether its initial intention was a roach i wouldn't know as it was hooked in the top lip like a normal take would be.

Emily held her fish well, i never the mentioned teeth, she was fond of it's bright blue cheek and she happily released it too. Unfortunately in her celebration she grabbed a bramble tightly so that it made her hand bleed. After a couple of tears and a little word about plants, again. She was back happily fishing. We didn't stay too long after that, we had to get the bus home and we had accomplished our goal for the day.

A week later, 2 days after a rise in river levels, I met up with Graeme to fish an urban stream spotted on google maps. Within half hour we had 4 trout and a minnow between us, well i had one trout, i won't steal Graemes glory. It is a tactic we use fishing new water and at the start of the day. One sets up on nymph the other on streamer. Graeme scouts the pool with a nymph then i follow with a streamer. Catching a trout on each method in the same pool proves that it doesn't put off the fish chasing streamers if they don't want the nymph.

Unfortunately this stretch wasn't too long due to accessibility so we headed to another river we had fished once or twice before. After missing an attempt of 2 trout who were too busy chasing each other, it went quiet for a very long time, we spooked one decent fish but there was no life showing. Surprisingly it was the lowest i have seen this river despite the rain and the fact i had fished this river before in the hottest times of summer. It was like it was leaking out somewhere! I missed a take which we was unsure of being a trout until it hammered something on the surface 5 minutes later but the fishing proved difficult and we was left wondering what the problem was. Plant life made casting difficult and though we didn't lose flies we had to rerig alot of times because of snags. Graeme did manage one himself, a lovely little fish that will be a cracker when it's older.

In the end we were left a little perplexed about the way the day ended, luckily fishing as a pair we made the most of it and had a good laugh but a few more fish lost never mind caught would of rounded the day off nicely.

With a new urban river to fish before the season closes i can only hope for a change in fortune or need i look at myself and look what i'm doing wrong.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Big trout have no fear - Fly Fishing

I met up with Arthur to investigate a new brook we had spotted, it was downstream of a brook that led into it so we both presumed it would have fish in it. Parking the car we headed down to inspect it, the clarity was clear and after walking 100 yards or so we came to the conclusion this brook was dead, it wasn't helped by the 2 large weirs that it ran through. Heading back to the car we was greeted by a parking warden giving Arthur a ticket, we wasn't on yellows so hopefully he will contest his case successfully.

We moved on upstream to the more industrialized sections of river i fish and the clarity would make things difficult in the narrow stretches. I opted for streamer and fished through each pool, at most i would get a chase but nothing serious and with the clarity so clear we could see the streamer being rejected. I thought it might work in the deeper water so we headed on up and let the fish downstream of us settle, despite them not having a care in the world of our presence.

We hit the deep water and started seeing fish rise, but i stayed on the streamer and was greeted by a large trout slowly eat my streamer, i struck and it reacted angrily, it shook its head and opened its mouth and the streamer popped out, the hook had failed to set. Speaking to Arthur about tactics we agreed that we'd changed to a nymph (Arthur was originally fishing dry) despite the fish rising and see if they would take it on the drop as they weren't too bothered with dries or streamers. We moved up towards the rising fish and as i was setting up Arthur struck into a big fish.

Characteristically of this river it went head down forcing its way to the bottom where all the snags were. Arthurs 3 weight was bent right over, i never asked what tippet he was using but we both knew we couldn't batter the fish too hard not let it run where it wanted. For the 30 seconds or so it stripped line and i warned Arthur or the sunken tree. He managed to halt its movement and get some line back but netting here was very treacherous, the bottom of this river is very silty and this section in particular is deep, how deep though i wasn't sure of. Thinking of were to net the fish this early is sometimes tempting fate but we needed to know were we could net it so we could fight the fish in this area, however we was on a river bank blighted with trees and the only way to get downstream was to pass the rod along around the trees.

With the longer reach i was able to get Arthurs rod round each tree to him before we got in the clear, we was back on top of the fish now but it was still fighting hard. After a good 5 minutes the fish started to tire but it was never giving up, it was time to try to net it before it was too exhausted so i attempted to get in position to net it. I lowered myself slowly off the bank, lower and lower, i was almost waist deep and i couldn't feel the bottom, scrambling back up i kicked a foothold into the bank below the water, holding on the bank with one hand and holding the net out with the other i had to batter a 'sticky bud' plant that had captured the line and was stopping Arthur bringing the fish closer in. It was eventually loose and despite still fighting Arthur managed to guide it into the net.

We was both ecstatic as it was a cracking fish, we took it upstream to a shallow section so we could keep it in the water. After letting it have a recovery as we got our camera out ready and the scales we weighed it in at 3 1/2lb after net deductions. Arthur said it was possibly a PB for him which pleased me even more! As we got the fish ready for a picture Arthur dropped the fish in the water, i lunged at it and managed to grab it before it swam off, my fishing bag falling into the river as i did so! it was worth the sacrifice, a flooded bag for a picture with the elated Arthur holding a possible PB.
City Centre landmark removed to shield location from poaching
After giving it time to recover it swam back off into the depths upstream and i finished setting my rod up. We knew there was 2 fish rising prior to Arthur catching his too see if it was still there. I let the 'Bendles Glitter Bug' sink slowly then i felt a slight pull, i struck hard and was rewarded with a pig of a trout. It, much like Arthurs, went down deep, fighting hard and stripping line. My reel had started to break as it was old and beginning to rust so the drag wasn't working properly. It ran me downstream and as i applied pressure it swam towards the near bank, It eventually became entangled in a sunken tree and we had to pass the rod round tree after tree to catch up to it. Lowering myself down onto the snag to attempt to remove it the vibrating in the rod stopped and i knew it had pulled off. I was a little gutted as i knew it would be of a similar size to Arthurs but it was a fun fight.

We decided to head back to a pool we saw 7 or 8 trout shoaled up with the majority easily being 2lb. We were above the fish this time as casting below was tricky so we would let the nymph drift down to them, it worked pretty quickly as i hooked a fish, it ran me up and down the pool and into the riffles above, without spooking any of the other fish despite them being in such close proximity. Then ping, one turn of its head and the hook came out. Now me and Arthur had both become a little excited as we spotted a shark of a trout patrolling this pool, funnily enough it was taking dries coming out of a tiny brook on the right of this pool. So Arthur opted back to a dry and i fished the pool a little more while he set up.

The fish ignored my nymph  despite them following it a few times and i presumed it was slightly to heavy. They ignored Arthurs dry also so we was running out of ideas, we could see the fish, and they were clearly feeding. I had one fly i had untested and this was a weightless nymph, a similar pattern to the sawyers bug, tied on a bug hook with a white yard and a red color. I got it wet so it could sink and bow and arrowed it above them. It sunk very very slowly, the monster of a trout rose up slowly off the bottom to take it, wham, i struck hard, and the shark slipped back down to the bottom, one of its 'smaller' companions had taken it off its nose. It gave a good fight but it still didn't spook any of the fish, a couple of them swam towards it to look and after a couple of minutes i led it into Arthur scoop net were it really didn't fit at all so we transferred it into my bigger net. It weighed in at just under 2 1/2lb which really made us look again at the bigger trout in this pool.

It was easily twice as big as it made the other trout look small, so we continued trying to tempt it, Arthur missed a 'little' trout and as it settled back into position, the biggest trout was unhappy and started chasing the trout out of its pool. It had definitely gone territorial as it had a second fly taken away from it, so didn't want to compete for food much longer. But after all the commotion it eventually got bored of our presence and swam upstream, so we called it a day and knew it would be there for next time.


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Grayling Fishing and Fly Selection - Fly Fishing

9th July

A trip out to one of Graeme's grayling rivers left me with that fly tying itch the night before. The previous time i had chased grayling had been with my good friend Mike France and that day was won by a fly i had tied the day before.  Now the itch to tie a fly wasn't to reenact a new fly winning the day, but more of an alternate option should the 'Bendles Bug' not be the food of choice. Conditions would be different, the river would have different food available and all the other variables that play on fish.

We arrived around 9ish at the river after an early start and the weather had started to warm up, it was easily 17 degrees already. A bird landed in a branch centimeters from my face as we made our way through the overgrowth, looking at each other in bewilderment of this slight awkwardness, i lifted my hand up below it to try to get it to hop on but it flew to the next branch. Was it a good omen? I opted for a duo with a 'Bendles Bug' on the point and the 'Bendles Glitter Bug' on the dropper. The new fly had been aptly named, it was simply a 'Bendles Bug' with a peach/gold UV dubbing lightly wrapped around it. The river was very low but we was soon pulling fish out so quickly we were both unhooking fish at the same time despite the fact we was taking it in turns.

The river here was full of fish and that makes targeting big grayling tricky as you have to battle through the small grayling to get to the big ones. It was all good sport for the first couple of hours with a fish every couple of minutes. If you take into account fighting/unhooking times and the banter we was pulling one out every couple of casts. I even managed to get my first ever double up with 2 grayling, funnily it was the first grayling to take the point fly all day. Only trout had taken the point fly as all the grayling had been coming up off the bottom to take the dropper. In the clear waters you could see them come up just below it, usually chasing it downstream, before taking it.

As the day got to around dinner time and the temperature soared, the fishing began to slow. We worked our way upstream and got so accustomed to seeing the fish in the water we could practically sight fish for them, this lead to some experimentation. We hid in a reed bank watching around 2 dozen or so grayling in a 2 metre square all sat on the bottom watching. We let our nymphs run down and they would rise up to take the 'Glitter Bug' but if the point fly snagged the bottom below it causing it to pause for a split second they would reject it. Some would just be curious and give it a little peck which was probably one of the reasons you strike and feel nothing.

As we played around with this pool of fish trying to get the bigger ones to come out 2 small otters crept out from the bank opposite and hastily made their way upstream possibly looking for their mother after being disturbed. It was a nice sight to see despite the hate they get.

As the fishing slowed and the bigger grayling proved harder to get to i opted for a streamer later in the day, it was more of a test to force the smaller fish away from the fly and hope something big whether it be a trout or a hungry grayling. The streamer fishing went well for me as Graeme stayed true to the bug, catching in equal amount grayling as i did trout, but as we neared the end i missed a big trout twice as it came out of a deep pool twice to hammer the nymph just as the water shallowed off.  Graeme then lost a possible PB grayling which dampened his day, but at least we know it will be there for next time.

The temperature definitely played part in the fishing which made us grateful of the early start but we still managed at least 30 fish each. It also went to show that a fly that works really well on one river can have less of an effect on another, which shows that it is good to change fly if you believe fish should be there. Finally, it was interesting to see just how presentation played a part in the graylings confidence in taking a fly, usually a bouncing along the bottom fly, to me, would be a great thing, but to these grayling it was a big turn off.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Undiscovered Urban Rivers - Fly Fishing

2nd July

It was my first trip back out with Graeme after his holiday and it was a much anticipated one too. A trip i wouldn't risk solo and it would prove a good decision. Google maps is a huge advantage of spotting undiscovered water, nestled between impassible depths and river walls, surrounded by industrial buildings, walls and fences and the only access route being a deadly descent down steep slopes through forests of every invasive species our rivers now hold.

The day admittingly started off slow, with us getting to the lower point possible in the river where it was wadable and accessible we fished for a good hour of pool after pool of 'fishy' water. But nothing responded. We were both fishing nymphs and changing them every 20 minutes or so when i snagged in a tree over hanging the pool i waded into retrieve my nymphs. Now with an active pool stealth is key and when i want to walk like a heron, i can. As i exited the pool and Graeme finished rerigging a new nymph on, he was in, first cast, 2 metres behind where i had just entered the pool.

The fish stayed deep bouncing up and down on the bottom, it did the usual, 'oh i'm tired' impression then kicked off with a stronger run back towards the industrial era wall which was now awash with knotweed. I headed slightly downstream as that was where it was headed to make Graeme aware of any snags it was heading for but it behaved well and after a few more attempts to break for freedom it was in the net. It was a good fish, heavily bodied and untouched by mans hand. On the scales it was just around the 3lb mark and gave us confidence after the slow start.

That confidence would soon fade, as we waded through swim after swim without a knock and it was then i decided that i was going to switch to streamers so we had to different options going on. As we headed right into the industrial heartland the silt became a problem, my leg would suddenly disappear into it and we'd laugh about it but on your own it would be a different matter. The narrow section proved entertaining as a couple of small trout barely 6 inches were trying to hammer the streamer, until they touched the hook and learnt their lesson but as we went through a run with several downed trees i hit my first proper fish. It wasn't massive but it was a good fighter in tight surroundings and on its second leap which appeared to be a high jump attempt over the downed tree, it spat the hook and was off.

Further upstream we neared our next obstacle, a road tunnel, it looked so damn deep and i was so concentrated on how to pass this obstruction i needed reminding off Graeme to fish the pool first. It was on the 3rd cast when a silver body came up from below and hammered it, i think i jumped a little! It was a nice fish and it instantly began stripping line as it ran through the tunnel. With tougher line now i had learned my lessons off previous lost fish, especially the size of fish i had been hitting in the snaggy rivers i was fishing i knew i could bully it a little more. It still took me for a ride, trying to swim into a grated outlet for example. It would eventually tire and if you had caught it on a salmon river you would of probably said it was a sea trout it was so pale. Only the shadows making it a duller gray. It had another huge belly from eating fry all day no doubt and weighed in at just over 2lb.

We fished the pool a little longer and seen another good fish in the pool but after snagging a metal bar on the other side i clambered along the wall to reclaim my fly. As i made my way back round Graeme hit a smaller but fat trout on the streamer, it wasn't as big as our others but it had beautiful spots across its back.

The next run we found was a beautiful stretch above the water, the trees and plants had reclaimed this brown-site from its industrial past and only the river showed evidence of it. The river bed however was covered in hundreds of rags, a fallen tree above the tunnel was the saviour of the runs we had just fished as it was catching everything in its sunken branches. It was no surprise we didn't hit anything here despite how fishy it was, the bottom covered in baby wipes and sanitary towels.

As we made our way through the woods we soon came to a town, the river became heavily modified and canalized and it was a long walk through dark tunnels with only a small headlight to guide us. Luckily the river was down and the bricked sides were exposed meaning it was easy walking but it was definitely eerie knowing a town stood above you. Reaching the other side of the town the sunlight almost hurt your eyes and after fishing a channel on a few feet wide i got a hammering take and the fish headed back into the tunnels. I had to guide it through a double snag, one being a small bicycle and it was a slow confused fight for the fish. It wasn't swimming very fast but it was trying to beach itself, almost like it was trying to push the hook out of it's mouth. After a couple of last minute dives at the net it was in and it was another beautiful fat fish. It was only 17inches but hit the scales again at just over 2lb. A good showing of how well fed these fish where!

The next thing to happen was our humanitarian side, another one of those, if we hadn't been fishing here today at this time an innocent animal would of died, i guess that's nature but if i can prevent nature being nasty, i will. We were chasing shadows of big trout that were spooked from upstream, so we was a little confused to why, our attention was soon drawn to a lone duckling struggling to swim against the very little riffles in the runs. It was clearly scared of us and of the fact it couldn't go upstream. No matter how hard it swam it never got closer. I slowly waded behind it and scooped it into my net, it immediately settled and i googled lone ducklings. It said a duckling 'peeping' would immediately be answered by its mother if she was there. All was quiet. We agreed to fish upstream with the duckling as company to see if we could find its mother and if not, we would have to take it upon ourselves to try to help it.

The next run saw Graeme hit a nice trout in another narrow channel. It immediately took him too for a run and went under a piece of wood as it went down the steppes in the river. I ran to lift a snag off the line it had ran under and from there on Graeme was in control. It stayed deep and i went downstream of it to prevent it going down a small weir full of snags. It almost seemed it was favoring the wall nearest to Graeme as if it was trying to get the line to rub along the rock. With the duckling in my net it was Graeme's job to net his fish. It was another cracking fish with beautiful markings the only downside being it's abraded tail which i put down to trying to spawn on a man made section of river or the fact it sits all day on the bottom of a bricked bottom. It was a cracking fish mind, weighing in at just under 3 and pleasing Graeme at just how a fish can come out of such a strange run.

The day didn't end there however, and be it a competition i was after an equaliser but in fact it was a team game. As we moved out from under the town centre i hit our final fish and it was worth the wait in the end. It was just around the 2lb mark but it had the brightest red spots i had seen in a long time. It capped off a great day which was definitely hard worked for. With run ins with silt and man made obstructions from bridges to fenced off CSO's, to the natural of steep banks, invasive plants and overgrown forests, we had had explored water that i doubt many, if any at all, had fished in a long time.

On an end note for all you animal lovers, the duckling enjoyed the fishing and after i had my last fish, a mother duck finally responded to its missing ducklings cries, Graeme released it just downstream of them and it was soon reunited with its mother and 6 other siblings.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Fishing with Arthur - Fly Fishing

It had been a while since i had heard off Arthur Hamer, he can be quite elusive when he wants to be, i guess the multiple methods of contacting people these days make it harder when people use different formats but it was a good old email that came up trumps.

Now Arthur Hamer was one of the first people i knew of in fly fishing, in fact he helped me indirectly to have the confidence to fish the Irwell and it's tributaries and also inspired me to do my own blog. Why? Well when i saw a trout rise on a family walk i googled around to find more information on fly fishing on the Irwell and who's blog came up as pretty much the only information on the matter? Arthur Hamers. We'd only fished together once before, back then i was fishing the Croal as it wasn't as daunting as the Irwell and was a nice little river to catch small trout.

Now i have experience but still in no way do i know everything about trout, if anything my thoughts are constantly changing with their changing behaviour which doesn't seem to coincide with any weather or conditions, on paper on the days me and Arthur went fishing, the fish should mainly be in the oxygenated pool due to the lack of rain and high temperatures, when in fact it turned out quite the opposite.

Arthur took me on a few local rivers he had cards on, as a guest. The first trip we had we both used streamers and it was a tough day, 25' temperatures made the fish lethargic but they were not in the moving water, i missed a trout in one of our first runs and for an hour or so everything was quiet. Then from the bank under my feet i saw a big trout swim out and go towards my streamer, very slowly it approached it then slowly turned away. I lifted, maybe too softly, and i felt resistance, it had taken the streamer. It was then it began to fight. I shouted to Arthur as it ran downstream towards him under a large over hanging tree and i told him i had to jump in, it was impossible to tell how deep it was so it was vital i told him this before i jumped. Luckily, silt included, it was just under my waist and i had more control over the fish. After it ran downstream it reached a shallow section so it turned back towards me and the troubles began.

With the rod directly pointing up as the trout swam past me the rod got stuck in the trees above and i frantically pulled to free it. The trout was heading towards the snags on the opposite side and as it got their it became entangled. Tired from the fight and tangled in a snag it turned on its side, it now became a matter of urgency, i hurriedly crossed the river, sinking slowly into the silt before impaling my waders on the submerged roots of the tree, i felt water coming in but i had to ignore it. Reaching the trout i netted it and was able to get it in the main current to aid in its recovery.

It was a big trout and we let it recover before we took any pics, this allowed me to get my scales out for the first time and weigh the fish (i usually go off length but thickness of trout varies massively) It came up 3.96 on the scales with a wet net weighing 0.38.  It was a great moment for us both just seeing fish like this in our system and we could of easily called it a day after that. We slugged it out for another hour without much happening before i had one last pop at the fish i missed earlier, it took it again first time but after a couple of seconds on the hook it slipped off again.

The next time we went, waders fixed, it was very different experience. We was higher up the system were a 12 inch trout was considered a good trout and with even higher temperatures i had again anticipated fish to be in the faster water and aimed to target them with nymphs. Reaching the river it was alive with rises and it soon became apparent it would be dry fly only.

It was only a narrow river with over hanging trees, my 9ft rod a little too big in these situations but i had to make do. There was hundreds of rises but they would disappear when you was 40 foot away before you'd even cast. Only for a non rising fish to hammer your dry off the top. I caught 6 fish with the biggest just under 10 inches but i missed numerous fish, be it because of their size of the fact they appeared to be taking flies just under the surface, as there wasn't anything on the water. It fact, after i lost my klinkhammer the takes were a little more wary. My eyes became adapted to the water and i could see fish rising up below the Adams and rejecting it, the shallow summer water making them a lot more suspicious of a fine line on the surface. I lost 2 fish i'd say were over the 12 inch mark as the soft takes made setting the hook a little tougher. A simple jump or head shake would be enough for the hook to come out.

It was all good fun and it was good to be out with Arthur, constantly sharing his experiences and having a laugh all day, it made targeting these tricky little trout all the more enjoyable.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Big Trout Hunting - Fly Fishing

9th June

With a trip with John Tyzack planned after his wash out chasing sea bass, it was on the cards to chase some big browns and put a smile back on JTs face. JT had a place in mind, a river he knew held big fish but with just a short session possible before i had work we knew there would be a fair bit of leg work. The weather was funny and while i waited for JT to pick me up it hammered it down for 5 minutes before clouding over with a cool breeze. It would soon change to a hot sunny day after we overdressed for the occasion and we were left regretting our choice especially with all the walking we would have to do.

The water clarity was murky but still had plenty of visibility, it rendered sight fishing almost impossible but did it render us invisible? Probably not. We worked our way upstream and i was quickly into a small trout, we didn't take a picture as we was chasing big trout and off it quickly went where it came from. As we worked our way upstream we were getting the odd flash and tail slap but nothing definite, but there were less takes than we expected if you had seen the areas we was targeting.

As we worked our way up JT seemed to be getting the bigger fish to attack but still no end product, we would only see the trout as it hit the fly so we were in a way on edge. John soon landing a decent trout but it too was quickly put back as it wasn't the size we came for, another soon followed a little bit bigger but had beautiful markings with it's big red spots. Where was all the big fish though?

We soon came to a small weir were i cast into, the fly had barely touched the water, in fact im pretty sure it landed straight into a trouts mouth, as no sooner had the fly hit the water, it felt like i had snagged so i lifted up and realised i had a trout on. It took off downstream running under the undercuts and the roots so we both jumped into the river to get a better angle on it. After a tough fight it was almost ready for netting, then JT uttered the fate tempting words 'it's well hooked' and as he went to net it, it came off. We looked at each other and laughed, it was a nice fish about 1lb 1/2 - 3/4's but JT had a better look at it than i did so you would have to ask him if it was nicely colored!

The next bit however was a motorway tunnel which i was quite apprehensive about going through, it was dark, long and deep, the worst part was the random structures under the water that jutted out from the shallower side forcing you into the deeper channel. Being a non-swimmer i allowed JT to take point so that i knew if he disappeared not to carry on! It was a bit nerve wracking for me to be fair, there was no current here but the inability see meant i was feeling my way and you would suddenly hit these big concrete structures under the water and other things. But after the water reach up to the top of my waist waders, which i had forgot i had on we was soon out and JT cast into the first bend, missing a pretty big fish.

Carrying on upstream we found a small patch of ranunculus which JT cast to and then we saw it, a big old trout came out to see what we was offering. Another cast it had another look before slipping back under the weed. JT tried again and this time it followed it, i saw it turn on it and JT saw it grab the fly, he struck and we was in. It fought hard and tried to get to the weed beds, trying the next one each time JT pulled it out of the one it had gone under, the bunch clenching moments your line cuts into a huge run of weed and your expecting another 20kg of weed snagging onto your fish but he kept his rod far to the side to pull it back under and after a quick turn upstream it soon tired and JT netted it.

It was a cracking fish easily 3lb in my books. It had the head of a python it was that big, a strong old fish that was in immaculate condition, with a yellow belly slowly transitioning to a olive colored back it was a true horse of the river. It rested next to us for 30 seconds or so as it got its breath back and it soon sauntered off back under the reed beds we had pulled it from 5 minutes earlier.

The next hour went by without much happening until the last pool i fished, after pulling a small but beautifully marked fish out we prepped it for a pic but it slipped back into the water and we JT told me i had pushed it back in as i congratulated him on actually netting the fish time. It was all good banter and i soon had a picture of a fish minutes later, which we thought was the smallest in the river until the next missed take by a trout barely longer than the streamer.

We missed several fish and caught an absolute lump but on another day things could of been alot different. The fish we not turned on as much as we thought they would of been and several factors may have come to play into that. In all though it was very much worth it and it meant JT had leveled the scoring on who had the biggest fish of the day. Don't tell him i'm keeping score though!