28th August 2017
With my visit to the Irwell to check on any changes it would be the Medlock in my sights next alongside Graeme Barber. We have scouted a lot of rivers this season after fishing the Irwell less for obvious reasons and this turn it was the Medlock. As a City fan it is something of a sweet dream to catch a trout in the shadow of the stadium but it would turn out to be a tough day. On paper the Medlock has a lot of good water, despite the culverted section there is plenty of habitat and after recent habitat improvement works removing bricks from the Red River, though after a few pollution incidents it would also be interesting to see how much it had recovered.
First impressions were good, a small trout was spotted swimming downstream and several more were soon spotted in a 75 yard stretch. I went in to look for inverts but soon found myself sat waist deep in river, the red bricks had claimed there first victim. It was amazing how slick they were despite them being clean, Graeme was having a good laugh at my expense and i too found it hilarious. There was plenty of olives and cased caddis, all of a good size, the odd hoglouse was found too. This trend would continue throughout the day as i checked every now and then.
Our fishing however fared differently, despite the sightings of fish in the poor light i missed a take and it would be our only take for a long time. After a very long stretch of inch deep shallow red brick, which justified why there was fish all stuck in one stretch, it would be a risk for a fish to swim this far not knowing there was a safe place for them upstream. It seemed to go on forever. Eventually we reached a tunnel heading into Clayton Vale were the habitat work had been done. It looked lovely but as you got closer you realised it was inches deep. The odd pool we cast into which technically should of held fish lay silent but minnows were present in good numbers. Graeme managed to catch a minnow as we hit a deep pool which was such perfect habitat for trout but it lay silent of anything 'big'.
Moving on upstream as the river blended back into it's natural shape the pools deepened and the tree roots and fallen trees provided perfect hidey holes for trout. Initially it was good, i spotted a rise, i was fishing dry, and i covered it twice. Nothing. I handed over to Graeme on the nymph and it hit it first time, literally a second after it hit the water. Unfortunately he missed it, after a few hours of nothing we had gone a little rusty. It would be another hour till we spotted the next rise, all the pools no matter how fishy them seemed lay silent. I cast to it and it slapped it off the surface, i missed it as well. A little upstream Graeme caught a small chub which gave us a bit more optimism.
Not much further upstream though we soon sensed something wasn't right. The foam line seemed a little less natural, the bubbles seemed more bubbly and the water seemed a milky blue. As we rounded a deep bend it soon became obvious what was happened. A pollution event. A fallen tree lay across the river, it's branches filtering the bubbles through to hide the pollution. A lack of fast flowing water in this river prevented the bubbles reappearing downstream and helped mask the cause of the pollution. It didn't take us long to find the cause. A huge outlet was pumping out into the river, upstream of it the river was crystal clear, a large patch of bubbles lay at the foot of it, perfectly white and the smell of detergent hung in the air. I google mapped our location, we was directly next to Failsworth Water Treatment works, we initially expected to find a car wash located nearby. The EA were notified immediately. Moving upstream we didn't fare better, we spotted our first trout however so were a little more optimistic, but after a deep pool the water there was very pedestrianised.
The pool we had to pass was a tricky one, it was deep on both sides with the shallower side being built by a bank of silt. A fallen tree forced you into the river and we was both balls deep as we passed it. As we edged past the tree the silt bank collapsed beneath my feet and the branch i held snapped and i fell down into the river, the cold water enveloped my lower body as i sunk down. The cold took my breath away but i continued to put my feet down, the bottom ever more collapsing as i tried to gain traction, after a few second i managed to fix my feet down and get my breath back. Pulling my phone straight out my pocket to ensure it wasn't wet. I turned to Graeme as we both laughed, my waist waders full of water, my clothes soaked and we turned back to find an alternate route. After a quick pee break as the cold water had given me the urge, i checked my important gear and we climbed around the tree.
We found a way back to the river which had a small drop to get down. Well, i thought it was quite small, forgetting my prescription polaroids make things seem closer, the simple hop down i explained to Graeme almost winded me as it was a good few feet. It had been a tough days fishing but at least i was keeping Graeme thoroughly entertained. We didn't fish long after that, with dogs in the water and people all around and no sight of fish. We had time to remove some snagged line and hooks from a tree to do our bit for the environment. It was a soggy walk back to the car and it left us again with more questions than answers. The river still needs time to recover, both of its habitat improvements and the pollution, but with pollution still ongoing hidden from prying eyes, who knows just how bad this river has had it. When the minnows disappear and the insects are all void from the river then we will know an event has gone by unnoticed.