Friday, 19 May 2017

Last fish wins - Fly Fishing

19th May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








Sunday, 14 May 2017

Fly Fishing - Fishing 'The Drain'

 14th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Fly Fishing - Going deep

7th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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