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.