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!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Scouting for trout - Fly Fishing

7th June

With a break in the rain i knew most of my rivers would be in flood so it was time to scout out another small stream to check what, if anything, hid there.  This stream was completely urbanized, if anything it was like an open sewer but it didn't smell like one and despite all the garbage it looked kind of fishy if there was any in here.  I had the family in tow, it was my partner who had infact suggested we go fishing. I climbed over the fence and down the bank while i worked my way up each pool, they were created by pockets of garbage collecting in certain points in turn also offering shelter.

Within 5 minutes i knew there was fish here, the silhouette of a decent sized fish calmly hunting down the streamer as it went past, it turned away and disappeared. I still had a chance, i have realised most trout will have 2 takes at a streamer unless they touch the hook first time, after that, its game over. I cast again and again, trying to figure out which angle would tempt it, then i felt a subtle resistance and a struck up, it was on.

It was a lazy take and a strange fight, the fish initially ran downstream then turned upstream and sat there in a lie, as if it was waiting for more food to come down for it to swallow. I guess this guy had swallowed its fair share of non-edibles. I retrieved some line and it fought some more, putting a good bend in the rod as it used its strength to pull away, but again it became lazy and turned once more, swimming slowly towards me, i retrieved line and lifted the rod but i was surrounded by trees, i had to risk putting the rod down and doing the last bit by hand. It was a strange moment but once it touched the net it starting fighting ferociously, thankfully in the net. 

It was a lovely trout, long (23in) and lean, not as fat as the one i had last week but a splendid untouched fish. A pink adipose fin with bright red spots breaking its camouflage, it had a mean head with a strong jaw, big teeth and wild eyes.

I continued fishing upstream and was only met with heavy hits, the murky water meant i had little time to react and i probably nipped a few lips on the strike as they dared take the streamer again. I did hook a small trout though but that failed to stay on the hook for very long, it actually went for the streamer 5 times before it got it right.

In the end it was a fun day, the wind had died, the sun had come out and i was overheating quite quickly, we hadn't been out long but it was a good scouting trip and a place worth visiting again.


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Another PB on the adams - Fly Fishing

30th May

With a day off work during the school holidays going fishing can be one of the things least on my mind. Mainly due to the Irwell being a hive of activity for the youth of the area especially when it is a hot day. With my partner telling me i should take Emily fishing i toyed with the idea for 5 minutes just as it began to rain. Would it stop? Personally i don't mind it but keeping a 3 year old in the rain is unfair but the radar showed us just north of the rain clouds so it shouldn't get heavy at any point. This would also help keep as many people away from the rivers other than those more dedicated like dog walkers.

A bus trip and 20 minutes of walking, a quick nip in the shop for a packet of monster munch for Emily, and we was at the river. The river here is alot wider and would be difficult for Emily to fish so it was more of a father and daughter day out than Emily fishing, so i opted to practise my streamers again. I was setting up my rod as Emily chowed down her crisp when i spotted a rise underneath the Japanese Knotweed, i paused and watched, it was a steady rise, a subtle take which could indicate a bigger wiser fish. I hastily pulled my dry fly rod out and set it up but it took a little longer than usual as the tapered leader i was tying it into for a better turn over kept snapping when i tested it. After 2 attempts it finally stuck. It had just gone 1 and their wasn't any notable hatch only more lacewings coming to the river to lay eggs, the steady drizzle was holding them down as they are terrible flyers at the best of times.

I opted for a size 14 adams and positioned myself in the river, it was still quite a cast away as a dared leave Emily more than a couple of metres away from me on the bank.  I waited to see where it was rising and cast ahead of it diagonally, it rose and i struck, a miss. With no resistance i knew it could rise again and sure enough 2 casts later it sipped the adams. I struck again and was instantly greeted with a leap, and then another, it wasn't a big trout but 'poppy', as Emily named it, gave Emily the excitement she wanted and laughed at each jump it did. Emily wanted to net it so i passed her the net and i guided it into the net for her. It was a pretty little fish in honesty, an olive green colour with big red spots at its bottom half.

As i rearranged the hackle on the fly we spotted another rise in the same place, again very subtle so i told Emily there was another fish eating on the top and we had to feed it a fly again. She then spent her time deliberating whether it would be called 'Branch' or 'DJ Suki' as i cast and readjusted the length of my line to just reach the flow and not spook the fish with an overcast. On the 3rd cast it sipped it in and i struck hard, it kicked its tail hard on the surface as it turned towards the bottom, the rod bouncing up and down with each kick of its tail, i knew it was a nice trout and bigger than the previous. I hadn't seen it yet as it kept down low hammering the rod, Emily asked could she hold the camera so i walked back slowly to pass it her, as i bent down it hammered the line out with a quick run and i had to hastily reel in to keep tension as i turned its head back towards me. That was it's first real 'run' and at that point i knew it was quite big, i got it back quite close to me as it came back upstream but it was still down deep and i hadn't yet seen it. Every time i held the rod up it would instantly bounce back down straight as it fought hard, the rod pinging up each time it stopped giving me a second of doubt that it had got off. Emily started shouting 'point to the sky' trying to get me to keep my rod up as i tell her, but it wasn't having any of it. It was at this point i got my first glimpse of it and was a bit awestruck if i'm honest. Knowing i had a 0.14mm tippet that had snapped twice on set up with a fish of this size plus previous encounters with bigger trout i had to keep control without forcing to much. It turned into a fight of stamina and patience, whenever i felt like it was tiring as it came up to a foot of the surface it would hammer the rod back down again. It was tough not knowing what may lie at the bottom of the pool, on top it appears featureless but in the murky depths all sorts of rubbish dumped from the floods could be sat there which is why i thought it was trying to stay deep. After a few minutes it finally breached the surface for the first time and i knew it had finally began to tire. It tried a last ditch run downstream before i managed to turn it and slowly bring it back to me. My first net attempt saw it kick hard as it came over the lip and just out of its reach but it was short lived as that was the last of its fight and within a couple of seconds i had netted it.

It was a beautiful trout and easily the biggest i had landed. With its big brown spots and a tail wider than your arm it was in tremendous condition, a beautifully streamlined fish with a big muscly upper body. It was definitely a fantastic advertisement for why we need our river to be looked after, on another day the pollution event that occurred could of effected all of the fish directly and this would of been amongst those dead.  It has dodged a bullet and luckily been in capable hands when handled.

It measured in the net at 25 inches which beats my personal best easily. The problem i had was now documenting my catch, it obviously needed a good picture so i trusted my phone with my 3 year old daughter a couple of feet above the river. I turned on the shutter sound so i knew she had pressed it and after a quick lift from the net in a pose i've been practising with Graeme it was 2 clicks and done. I held it ready to release by the tail for a couple of seconds where it sat still, as i went to place my hand on its underside it kicked of hard and fast back into its pool. A quick and successful release ready for another day. It goes without saying that catch and release is a beautiful thing when done correctly, a healthy strong fish that will breed later in the year, will continue to give opportunities for good game fishing and still in perfect condition ready for its next photo.

Emily celebrated for 10 minutes throwing stones as i carried on setting up the streamer rod which i still hadn't managed when a little upstream i spotted another rise, a messier splashy rise but a rise none the less. I told Emily and this time she agreed it was 'DJ Suki' and this time i carried her on my hip, one handed dry fly fishing at its finest. Well until i missed the take. I wasn't too fussed as you can imagine and we retreated upstream to find more pools, more fish and ultimately practise my streamers. I had 6 takes in total, 1 of them seemed of a reasonable size, but all were missed, the murky depths meant any fish i saw where for a split second as they took the streamer and i was reacting to the take. One got off after a couple of seconds which proves im still struggling at setting the hook on streamers, i know my method is alot better.

Ultimately after a couple of hours of 'adventuring' and fishing pools i told Emily we would see if 'DJ Suki' was back and we trundled our way back. As i packed up the streamer rod and Emily entertained herself by putting a snail on a leaf and pushing it into the river i spotted the rise of a trout in the same place as earlier that day. It was back feeding in its lane after i had missed it earlier.

I grabbed Emily and the one handed dry fly casting began, first cast and it took it, again with a messy splashy take, the hook stayed this time and i gave Emily some fishing time as i let her fight the fish, it was a little messy at the end as it swam around my feet and the line went around my head and body but it was quickly in the net and i pulled the hook out so i could detangle myself. It was a small trout which explains the inexperience in the rise but a clear survivor as it looks like it had been nabbed 3 times by a bird with its distinctive v-shape scars. On that note Emily said her goodbyes and we packed the last rod away. It had been another successful day.


Sunday, 28 May 2017

A change of plan - Fly Fishing

May 28th 2017
A beautiful male trout

After taking Graeme on a local stream a couple of weeks back it was Graemes turn to repay the favor as he took me to a stream closer to his home, we opted for a stream again to compare the rivers and i was very excited in trying out my new streamer and close quarter experience i had gained while being guided my John Tyzack the week previous. The heavy rain in the night almost put us off but after some deliberation we thought hell an hour won't hurt.

After reaching the river we were greet by a beautiful overgrown run the river level was great and looked almost like the rain hadn't touched, but the only way down the embankment was through a old town house which was fenced off ready for demolition. We inspected the area but this was the only safe and sensible route down the embankment so out came the saw and we cut a few fastenings and pulled open the fence just enough to squeeze through, securing it behind us as we passed.

Out came the streamers and within 2 casts i had a trout snap at my streamer. I cast again and snap, just pulling at the tail of it. I let Graeme take the hot-seat and within a couple of casts, wham he was in, but it wasn't a trout this time it was a nice little chub. Being out of season it was a quick snap a pic and release, no messing about but showing they are all warming up for the course open season in a few weeks. As we alternate after every fish caught or lost it was my turn and no more than 20 yards up i was in as well. Another chub, alot smaller but a fish none the less. After agreeing there were a few chub round here we walked further upstream to keep ahead of them.

After going under a low bridge we fished a few sunken trees and Graeme had a chase of something meaty, i led the way through a minefield of brambles and nettles and saw a trout swim under my streamer then whack, something huge launches up from my feet and past my face. A fricking duck! I did jump to be fair! It was a female and with how quiet it had been, i pretty much was standing on it, we knew it must of been protecting something and sure enough under the fern at my feet, a little nest with several eggs in. We made haste upstream to allow the duck to come back as not to disturb it anymore.

After a bit of walking i spotted a deep run cutting the inside bank and a quick cast gave me my first trout of the day, it pounced out from the undercut and was desperate to get back under but with Graeme at the net it was in. Not a huge fish but the first trout of the day. Graeme followed suit and on a nice bend he got caught in the process of repositioning the angle of his rod to pull the streamer parallel with the bank when a nice trout pounced on the fly and turned away. Though it wasn't long until Graeme made amends with a nice trout.

Things quietened down after this much like the last time we was out together, we got a few chases and snatches but they wasn't hitting them with a ferocity. We had seen a few rises and alot of them would turn on the streamer but we wasn't catching and Graeme opted for a switch to a nymph. I was going to persevere for a little bit with the streamers and with the osmylids (giant lacewings) laying their eggs in the water, a few sporadic rises had begun to appear, which meant i did want to try a dry fly at one point.

Within a couple of casts the nymph hit trout and ended the dry spell, it was a nice trout for Graeme keeping it's head down deep in the pool, he was on a 3wt so these trout really could have a go. Thankfully the pool didn't have any real snags so it mainly stayed deep and shook violently trying to throw the hook, but Graeme kept control and it eventually tired enough for a nice picture.

I carried on with the streamer but the chases had stopped at this point so Graeme offered me his rod and as the fly went past an undercut there was a take, quite a gentle take but i struck and it was off, similar to Graemes it stayed deep but it wanted to go for a bit of a swim downstream, hugging the nearside bank i had to reach out to avoid snagging the foliage, a few close calls with some overgrowth left a large stick stuck to my line, Graeme nudged it off with his rod and the reel went off screeching, the trout didn't like that and raced off downstream taking line. I hit the brakes and fought it round a pool keeping it away from the edges the best i could as Graeme got in position to net it, it soon became apparent it was quite difficult to lift its head for a good netting chance so after a couple of attempts i managed to lift it and Graeme bagged it nicely.

It was a beautiful male trout with a head like a fist and teeth like a pike it was one bony jawed trout worth catching. It was a good 2lber, well fed and a lovely golden colour. The long fight had tired it out but after a minute or so it's kicking became strong enough for a confident release and off it went back into the murk.

We found some shallower water and were surprised to see some decent size fish in it so as we hadn't fished this run before we opted for a bit of 'spotting'. Basically the one who isn't fishing goes upstream a little keeping very still and stealthy and guides whoever is fishing to where the fish are holed up. After a few spooks and some competing trout Graemes longer casting soon paid dividends when he hit into a trout leaping out of the water, it did this 3 or 4 times before retreating into the reeds were it would find just enough slack to ping off the hook.

Walking upstream we saw an absolute monster of a trout as well as a nice trout and a little one. They were all cruising upstream but the nice one stopped and hid under a grassy verge. I dropped the nymph in front and it slowly came out in the direction of my fly, opened its mouth and turned back towards it's hole, i struck and it was on. It had simply sipped the nymph into its mouth ready for the next one. It was another nice trout but we was soon on the hunt for the bigger one we had seen. We found it about 30 metres upstream harassing a shoal of big chub and after a quick look at the nymph it didn't bother, it was sat in the back end of a  bed of water iris so presentation was very difficult.

We moved on upstream to a spot i said looked good, first cast and Graeme was into a lovely trout. I climbed in as it really was forcing its way under the undercut by easily a foot. I positioned my net near the undercut to keep it from going under, being the nearside it was difficult to keep it out but it worked. It fought hard round the pool looking for all the nooks and crannies. After it decided to splash on the surface it got tangled slightly in the line on top and i didn't hesitate in netting it. It still had plenty of fight which made getting a picture a little tricky.

My turn next and after seeing a small rise just ahead i cast my nymph to it when i felt a soft take i struck hard and i was on. It was a weird take as it literally stayed on the river bottom and swam straight downstream, i followed it downstream as the line built up with more twigs and leaves as it dragged me through the undercuts. It then ripped out a good few feet of line with a burst of speed but after it slowed at a shallow i managed to turn its head while Graeme got into position to net it. It tried a few tricks by aiming between Graemes legs but he reacted quickly and netted it.

It would be our final fish of the day in what was a true change of tactics to what we initially planned for, but we adapted and it paid off. In total between us we had 2 chub, 2 perch, 3 roach and 10 trout. Both chub and perch took streamers while the roach took the nymph. We know now that if the fish dont take the stream with confidence it probably will be like that for the majority of the river. Funnily the past 2 trips i have gone with a method in mind and ended up on a different method which shows it is good to be able to switch between different methods on the fly.

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.