Wednesday, 5 September 2018

A new taste of water

It was a chilly start to the day which woke me up quite quickly once i stepped out of bed. Back on the school run as my daughter started school for the first time. With the promise of fishing later with football rival Nick Behan i was a little happier about getting back into the school run routine. Nick had promised to show me one of his nicer waters with both trout and grayling to catch. Unfortunately on route the weather started to get brighter and warmer. Not what is needed, the summer has been so dry and with so little frequent rain any rain we do get runs off so quickly that it might as well not bothered. In fact my best fish this year and the most fish i caught were both in heavy rain showing how much the fish were being affected.

Reaching the river i didn't know what to expect but the area we was in was alot more natural and wild. After Nick set up twice, changing his reels 3 times, losing his leader twice, which i found, he told me he was quite clumsy. Deciding to leave his phone behind just in case we headed to the river, only to find a couple of lads kick sampling where we was meant to start. I wouldn't of minded much but they weren't doing it correctly, well, not how i do it, picking up a several rocks and shaking them into the net as opposed to actually kick sampling.

Fish were rising and i started on a dry with a weightless underneath, while Nick opted for the dry. We were getting take and tugs but it seemed they were small fish which was confirmed by Nick when we eventually hooked one. Nick said the river was very low so we headed up to a deeper run. On the way i spotted a calm spot behind a rock in a heavy slow and dropped my fly in, i saw the fish chase it and but as it went downstream as i struck the hook pulled out of its mouth. It was a lovely looking run below a weir, very deep looking but only provided me one trout while Nick caught grayling above it. I almost put a streamer on at this point as there was no way there werent a number of fish here but Nick tempted me by telling me he knew a honey spot.

Walking on upstream we came to said spot and it did look very fishy with moving water, channels and deep pools. I fished downstream while Nick was upstream and was surprised not to get a take. So i popped on a streamer and caught 2 small trout in succession. Nick shouted me and he had another grayling so i headed upstream and told him the news. We was both equally confused as even with the low water there was these runs we had fished that should of held bigger fish.

Nick handed me his rod, a Marryat rod to have a cast and it felt very different to what i was used to, very light and the reel placement was unusual. However it did compensate for my heavy striking with its fast action as when i struck into my first grayling of the day it took the sting out of my strike.
We fished a 6 foot area of this large pool, the end of a channel which was overcast with a grassy margin and pulled a half dozen grayling out one by one.

One grayling rose up slowly beneath Nicks dry and sipped it in, even without his glasses Nick saw it take it, it was a great sight to  watch. Nick was getting the bigger ones easily, he insisted they were alot bigger here too!  A large trout jumped out of the water in the pool as we were working our fly up this grassy verge, the casting by both of us deserved a fish every cast but it just suddenly went quiet.

We would fish from there and upstream for another hour with a couple of small fish nipping at the fly and i had a small grayling again on the dry but it was a little frustrating after hitting a decent shoal of grayling for it all to go quiet again. The fish had been effected by something, they could of possibly been  more active earlier in the day in the colder morning but we have no 100% answers until next time we venture there.

In all it was a great first day out with Nick despite the short number of fish, it was nice to be on some new water that wasn't urban and he never mentioned that team from the swamp once.


Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Urban fishing & why i do it.

It has been a while since my last blog, not by choice. That choice is governed by the speed my eye lids shut after my shift. Fishing for short stints in early hours to avoid the heat of the day or after what little rain we had meant i wasn't resting well on my days off and after my promotion at work and getting home at 9pm most nights the energy was draining from me. I'd often fall asleep fully dressed in my uniform getting my daughter to sleep who had waited up to see me, waking up early hours sweating and groggy before getting into bed proper.

It's a funny life i live, i defend my fort where i work from retail theft, preventing drug users from obtaining goods to fund their fix yet when i fish my urban rivers i put myself in the heart of drug dens, the multi colored needles littering the 100 year old cobbles. But what brings me back here? Yes there are big fish that lurk in these waters but i equally enjoy catching the small trout there. So it isn't a size thing, don't get me wrong i love a big old trout as much as the next person. If anything i'd say it was the sport that made it worth while. If you have ever caught a 3lb trout that wants to steam roll down river then you know just how well they fight, oz for oz trout are the best fighting fish i personally have caught. Now put that trout in pool with concrete pillars and overhangs, rusted iron pipes it can swim inside, cobbled gulleys and metal grids. Then you can start adding the fly tipped rubbish from the classic rusty trolley to the bin bags of household rubbish, the numerous bikes and scooters and the odd pram. 

You can catch a trout of 2- 3lb in these rivers and they know every little hole they can hide in. Team work is often essential. With Graeme i had to lift a bicycle off the top of one before it snagged onto a log. Unsnagging it twice it raced 30m downstream before he put a stop to the train. With JT a tangle of the fly line around the reel saw it head into a grated pipe before swimming under a concrete overhanging and line wrapping a concrete pillar. After unsnagging that JT still had a fight on his hands with a feisty fish.

I have sat in the middle of Manchester in the early mornings, a thick blanket of smoke covered the river from the fires on the moors watching wild brown trout eating terrestrials off the surface. Graffitied walls of old buildings, the mix of red brick and large stone blocks lining the walls of the river. There are fish here, some would say plenty of them, but in reality there isn't. 100 fish in a 100m stretch sounds good at first but then they are all visible and vulnerable in these harsh summer conditions. Often catching the same fish a couple of times over a year or sometimes in the same season. Each earning a name by their distinguishable features. The constant pollution entering the river from misplaced drains and 3rd world citizens, treating the river as a tip.

It is impossible for me to protect them, these Greater Manchester trout, as hard as their native citizens. Through thick and thin their daily lives are a struggle. But they perservere and they feed and they grow. They spook at the sight of any human like figure, the sound of a 2mm tungsten bead sends panic into the waters. Pollution, poaching & persecution. Killed because they are 'food' to those to lazy to buy from a store. There is no pride to be found in killing a soldier of a trout, the true pride is to see it slap your hand with its tail as it slips into the foul smelling waters whence it came. To have looked it straight in the eye as you captured it's image in digital history, these fish will no longer be forgotten regardless of their future fate. And all i ask for those who take on these urban adventures whether it be the concrete jungle or the green space just outside of town or in the local park. Bow your head and respect the creature you hold as it won't be there forever and it has lived a harder life than you & me, and boy did i have a hard life.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Fathers Day Fly Fishing with Emily

Fishing with a child especially fly fishing is no easy feat. You have the difficulties in transportation around the river which used to be a 100% carry job when Emily first started but now she's 4 shes on her feet in her wellies (anyone know of a decent set of waders that dont break the bank nor have a duck face on for a 4 year old). Now me and Emily have a few secret spots, protected by largely boring unfishable shallow water, high walls, brambles, long walks and 1 access point. Unless you abseil down from the city streets above. This spot however will always hold fish due to it being the only decent pool for a good length of water. How deep it is i don't know but you can catch a fish and disrupt the pool, see nothing go back in the pool and then catch one 10 minutes later.

First cast, i lost a fish, about 1lb, instantly got Emily interested so she was up for the next one, klink and dink with a bendles bug below, the river here was largely unaffected by the rain and was only slightly colored. Emilys turn next and she was instantly on to a good trout, it took the klinkhammer off the top and was well hooked. After a fight for 10 minutes and me having to remind Emily how to hold her rod properly during a fight, i mistakenly told her to hold the line as she caused a little too much slack, the fish bolted at this second and snapped off.

Several more fish followed, i bagged a nice green colored brownie and a few small fish inbetween we shared between us. We had lost 5 and landed 4 after an hour or so, so decided to just sit down and chill and have dinner. After half or so it was Emilys turn again to fish and after a nervous bow and arrow cast, she really doesnt trust not hooking herself, she was in to a fish.

She was quite fortunate this time as it was another big trout though this one didn't go off on fast runs, fighting more like a grayling trying to swim to the bottom it was another long fight of determination. Emily had learned from her earlier mistakes and after a couple of attempts to draw it to the net it was finally landed.A big kill and a cuddle while the fish was in the net and i set her pose up ready for the fish. Fortunately the fish behaved well despite the time to recover and was soon back in the water, Emily releasing it back into its pool.

With ground to make up i had a few more casts and caught 2 more fish in 2 casts, both small but regardless we had rounded the day off perfectly with Emilys new PB (22inches) on her, now christened, pink rod and some quality father and daughter time. With my new promotion at work starting on wednesday i'm not sure how it will all coincide with our free time together but hopefully we will be back out on the river again soon.

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Monday, 11 June 2018

Industrial Browns

I headed over the hills with Graeme to the home of steel in search of more urban browns, these industrial power houses had to be somewhere and we would not be disappointed. The weather was warm and we expected early rain but in the shadows of derelict mills we kept pretty cool. Our dull green clothing would probably be more ideal camouflage in wooded areas than the cold stone walls around us.

We spotted a few browns as we headed down river, the river was clear and very low and with no cover stealth would be a real issue. However stealth would also be our saving grace. Opting for similar techniques, Graeme with a foam indicator with a weightless nymph while myself using a weightless bendles bug 'under' a Klinkhammer (if it decided to sink). We would use long range casting to prevent the fish from spooking from our presence and with no splash on impact other than our fly line, surface movement was kept to a minimum.

Being an experienced urban fisherman you learn the attitudes of fish in these locations. We went through a couple of fishy runs and i missed a lone fish, we had seen plenty of juvenile fish which was very positive and unusual in these vastly urban environments due to lack of spawning gravel and constant pollution. Graeme would lead and up ahead lay a riffle section created by a pile of rubbish in the flow. Graeme cast in to the bottom of this run and nothing but we both agreed that 2 feet upstream of that cast should be a fish, and we was right. In these locations you have very little room to work the fish so the best tactic is to, if possible, keep it downstream thus not spooking any fish further up. This fish wouldn't pass the shallow section of the rubbish so was quite controllable despite the fight it gave, however the fish later on would be much more difficult.

In the next run i had to deal with very still water but the light gear we was using was the only way to go and it came up trumps. My nymph was barely sinking but once it was wet it slowly sank and within minutes i was into a fish. Mine was slightly smaller than Graemes but it gave a good fight, holding the rod high above my head to prevent it going under any undercuts in the channels it definitely gave the arm a work out.

We would work our way up slowly and would be catching fish in similar fashion, some would wait for the nymph to sink fully and some would take the nymph just as it landed. Fishing under trees it would imitate a bug falling from the tree as there were very few areas bugs hide under the surface to to a lack of rocks. The fish were also rising at certain points and with barely any fly life it must of been purely on bugs from the trees.

We had some pretty funny moments, i had a fish swirl under my klinkhammer twice, millimetres from it's face while seconds later one took Graemes foam indicator while another took his nymph at the same time. The sound of their mouths 'clapping' the surface as they closed their mouth around whatever they were taking was more enjoyable when i got my first one on the dry of the day. Klink and dink method isn't ideal when you need to change depth but it gives you that double coverage on fish that are both feeding below and on the surface and having used this technique before on Arthurs club waters on much smaller fish i knew it was a tactic that worked.

The fish we were catching were all very pretty but the ones with the big red spots really stood out to us. Being the most colourful thing around other than a brave kingfisher that might frequent this place it always surprised me. It bares no advantage to their camouflage but must mean something to the trout, the dark backs were good enough camouflage alone especially in the shaded waters.

We observed plenty of schooling and outmuscling of this, usualyy 2 'big' trout with a dozen or so smaller trout down to a couple of ounces. If one would move out of line the bigger ones would swim along side it and, basically, side swipe it which also happened if we had a fish on and it swam past non-spooked fish.

In all we had 20 fish between us of good size and plenty of juvenile fish to boot, this place if kept protected has a future but like most urban stretches it is always at risk from humans via poaching and pollution.

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Sunday, 3 June 2018

Is the Irwell making a comeback?

Things have been quiet at my end on the blog front for a few week, i have been fishing a couple of times, just on my locals, i found rising fish and were getting well into double figures of them. It was nice to finally get fish on a dry regardless of the size. The size however is still very small. At least they have spawned well but it does make me worry about the bigger ones especially with the increase in poaching.  The Irwell at my end, however, has proved to be very poor, missing 1 fish and losing a tiny one in the fast water. However my friend Al Meer offered to take me a little further up river.

It was the first time i'd met Al in person despite having been on social media for a few years and it was a pleasure to meet and fish with him finally in person.  We was fishing still below the pollution in fact not far from where i discovered the pollution incident on that fateful day. Al told me he had only been on this section once before but i can see why he brought me here. The first pool we got to was perfect but being the Irwell and with its complications it wasn't giving in until i finally got an Irwell fish. It was only small as expected, like the ones i had been catching elsewhere but it was a fish. We spotted a lone rise under the tree but the pool didn't live up to it's expectations like it would of done 2 years ago.

Moving on we found many beautiful runs and some of them were just a little too, bedrocky, but when we found them proper fishy pools where the conditions were right we knew there would be fish. Al opted to choose between a lone nymph or wet fly while i stuck with the klink n dink method to keep the nymph in the narrow foam lines. I had 2 more fish in the next pool, again of small size.

Al would be the next to catch after a switch to a heavier nymph, the pool we was in was still in a state of autumn, the ground was crisp and brown with seeds and such. I tried the same spot and lost 1 fish and missed a bigger fish at the head of the pool. While Al landed another slightly downstream.

We explored some more sections but ignored alot of the bed rock runs and alot of it was also inaccessable unless we waded the full length. After catching another small fish we headed back to the car, we had hiked a long way, up steep hills and on narrow paths over steep drops. Reaching the first pool Al let me give it another shot and it was very quiet. So i headed over to the spot i saw the rise a few hours earlier, it was well under a tree with barely a  foot between the branches and the water but i cast into the current. The eddy effect pulled my klinkhammer out of the current and into the slower swirling water. Then a big ol' trout hit the dry so fast and hard i bloody jumped and missed setting the hook. Caught off guard at the end of the day, typical but it was a good day regardless for me.

So how is the Irwell doing. Fly life is increasing, not many big flies but it is definitely an improvement. Minnows are shoaling up and were showing an increase in their numbers and also i spotted thousands of tiny little fry in the shallows showing that at the moment things are doing ok. The fish will get bigger, the big fish will return even though some are still there hiding and in time it will be back to how it was. As long as nothing happens again.

It was nice to finally catch trout below the pollution. It was great to meet Al and it was especially enjoyable in the surroundings we were in. Miles away from anyone. It was a tiring day of exploration for us both especially in the heat but when your near the river, catching trout regardless of size, the sound of the river flowing past and the tweets of a nest of young birds as their mother flies off to find food only metres away. I sat and watched Al fish, both to rest and to reflect, the Irwell holds many secrets, it has been punished and tortured but long before that it would of flourished. Every fallen rock and boulder has its own story and thankfully they cannot speak of the pain the river has endured for it be to tortueous for us to hear.  There is a time i hope that everything can be reversed but while money is so easy to take from us it is hard for the government to spend it on our final wild frontiers.

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