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.