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.