Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Fishing with John Tyzack & a sex dungeon

With the bank holiday weather at its finest alot of rivers were on there arse but heavy rain over night and the day prior it was a welcome addition and i headed out with John Tyzack to search for some big fish enjoying deeper waters. We drove round a fair bit checking river after river from bridges but they were all still very low, in the end we opted for a smaller river which despite low still had some colour running through it. No idea if anyone had rights to it but it wasnt well maintained so we presumed not.

Both with streamers on, Martins minnows on both i believe, we fished the first pool were we instantly attracted the interest of a few fish but their takes were sluggish and we missed both. Moving on up we found another pool, a little trickier but first cast JT was straight in with a good fish to start. Not a big fish but a pretty fish, big black spots with an olive oil yellow underside. Spotting a shoal of chub we gave the rest of the pool amiss as they were big chub and definitely streamer gobblers.

Further up the run i missed a couple after sighting a fish and casting above it i became tunnel visioned and missed the fish hitting the streamer on the drop. Silly mistake. JT then managed a better fish, longer but still a little lean, if this river has been anything like my locals then the feeding hasnt been great which would explain how lean they were.

We soon came to a weir and after my fly dissappeared into the foam a swirl and a touch of the line i struck into my first and only fish of the day. It was a nice cock fish, mottled colouring with a funny black mark either side of its belly i presume from sitting on the bottom.

At this point with us fishing the same fly JT switched to a strange looking fly, the aptly named 'sex dungeon' the action it created in the water was probably why it was named that. Even as it sunk it looked like it was swimming the way it swayed.

The next areas were scarce in depth but i couldnt reach a pool due to the mud and silt to get their so i left it to the professional and let JT use his long cast to reach it, it was perfect and i saw this big trout follow the streamer, as it reached it JT struck. He wasn't fighting it though so i was shouting 'you've got it you've got a fish' and he was shouting back at me 'no, no i aint'. i could see the fish slowly swimming away from where it was so i shouted again 'you've got a fish on' and JT continued 'No, im snagged' i then realised he was. the fly had snagged just before the fish took it.

Further up another deep pool that was hard to reach JT had a follow of another big trout, he ran out of room on his pull back so just had to jiggle it in the hope it would take it, it swam in a circle 3 times before it left it, probably put off by the shallowing water.

Things went quiet however, we sighted a few fish in shallow water but they didnt even turn a head. But when we saw a rising fish we obviously cast a fly towards it, still the streamer. The rise was on the left but a trout grabbed it from the right, which we hadnt anticipated, JT struck just as it opened its mouth pulling the fly clean out, one issue of casting downstream.

All wasnt too avail and after having a few misses by both of us JT pulled a black beauty out from an under cut, you couldnt see it as it took the fly but you could as JT struck into it. A dark peaty green back with a dark tinge all the way down to its 'yellow' underside. It was a lovely fish but again very lean. They all needed a meal on here.

As we headed towards the car we spotted a nice trout sat at the side, i went to cast to it but i noticed its tail was laid on the bottom and it kept twitching its head. It looked like it had just been in a fight and had a hook in it. So i said we should check it out. It was a little surreal, seeing a trout turn towards you, look you clean in the eye and then just swim to the side. It had bigger issues to deal with than me. I got it in the net and me and JT give it the once over, we couldnt see any hooks of any sort. So we let it go. It then turned belly up so assessing the water, slow and shallow i hopped back in and waded a few metres upstream to a small weir were there was more oxygen in the water.  We left it there sat upright which was an improvement but we can only hope it survives.

Overall JT showed how even in streamer fishing you can still be adaptable. Moving on to a slower sinking fly it allowed him to move slower through the shallower water and it definitely showed.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Good things come to those who wait - Fly Fishing

With a trip to Wales for my daughters birthday over the weekend, having a hire car to get me a few places opened up alot of oppurtunities. The weather would vary across the weekend (Friday - Tuesday) and to start we headed off as a family to mainly help Emily catch some fish in the nice weather.

Unfortunatly the river we got the day ticket for was teeming with Grayling so my daughter caught a few out of season grayling and the odd trout. She was limited by where she could fish as she was fishing from the bank so needed to fish pools which had a bit of depth or features close in and thankfully we found a natural weir.  She hooked her first fish without even noticing, i thought she was struggling with her casting so took the rod off her to again show her how to cast and i realised she had a fish on. Passing it back to her she quickly brought it in while i netted it.

The weekend days were all holiday, zoo's, theme parks, beaches etc we did get to do a bit of crab fishing which Emily excelled at (Emilys mum losing out despite catching a crab first) 24' heat on a jetty as a family was a great experience. The end of the holiday though the weather turned, we had 30' heat on the Saturday where we went to a zoo but after that it thundered and rained. Heading back to our caravan as the storm came closer after walking to a lighthouse. Made it just in time to watch the natural lightshow in the sky.

Using the rain as cover i headed on to a river in Wales i had seen but was unable to find if anyone had rights to it, i didnt see any signs but i blurred the background anyway incase anyone has a moan about it! There was a few rises in the rain but i opted for a streamer first to get a sense of size and boy did i realise it was going to be a good day.

First cast a decent fish came up for the streamer (Martins Smiths Minnow) but i was a little rusty, then i had a nice fish to start off with. I barely fished 100m but i had missed 3 more fish and had 2 more, another 18inch trout and a 20inch. I was more than happy with these but i opted to carry on. The rain was pouring down and the river was now colored but the next pool gave me the fish to reward me for all my efforts earlier this season.

It came up slow, i seen it turn underneath the fly and i was unsure if it had took it, i struck anyway and it slowly turned away, then it realised it had been hooked. It pulled down deep using its weight and i held firm, it turned towards the nearside bank and i had to reach out in to the river as my rod was bent right over as i tried to pull it away from the safety of the bank and it's snaggy trees. I knew it was a decent fish but with my polaroids being prescription glasses so i can see better it gives a false impression on sizes and distances. However when it splashed the surface i realised it must be big, with experience of big fish i have lost and caught they have a very distrinctive splash. It fought hard but after a couple of minute i had tired it enough to land safely.  With Becky waiting in the car nearby incase i wasn't allowed to fish here i rung her to come take a picture and the rest is history.

It was a beautiful fish, immaculate condition and so thick from top to bottom. I was soaked through but it had all become worth it, all the poor days previous have built up for this moment and thankfully i didn't mess it up.

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Saturday, 14 April 2018

In the middle of the hatch - Fly Fishing

14th April

It was another late start in the day, with my daughters first swimming lesson in the morning and the river charts showing them slowly subsiding after a steep rise in river level i was apprehensive of what condition the river might be in. Though as it came to half 11 i decided to go have a go. The weather had warmed up nicely so i knew there should be a 12 o clock hatch and after the ardious walk to the river i found myself in the thick of a of blue winged olives, paraleptophlebia adoptiva, and black hawthorn flies, bibio marci.

The hatch was probably the strongest i have seen on the river since i started fly fishing, you could see them bouncing on the surface, taking flight, crawling on the inside of my cap and the inside of my polaroids. I'm quite insensitive to them being on my skin, though the odd one did go in my eye and i'm sure i ate a few.  But there was one thing missing, rises. The river was up yes, but it still had good clarity and had plenty of areas for rises to happen. Nothing.

The first hour was tough, with the higher river level the water slapping sound made me think fish were rising that i couldnt see in the current so i was constantly chopping and changing my set up, from duo to dry fly. Nothing. Extra weight, nothing. So i moved downstream after an hour or so and found a secluded pool, first cast, fish, it wasn't big but it would turn out to be the biggest of the day. The fish gradually grew smaller and smaller. They were a pleasure to catch, infact it was the type of fishing me and Graeme had been chasing last week. I did bounce of something bigger and did have the line indicator shoot off twice but as i was using my dry fly reel the long range casting with the nymphs meant it had let go by the time the strike had fed through the line.

The little trout caused issues with their frantic flapping, causing a rerig on each one but it reassured me that the trout were managing to spawn successfully at least. It did however also make me think were the bigger ones were and why were they still not feeding on dries. I have had plenty of good fish on dries in March/April over the years but not one yet with barely a rise anywhere. The small trout were all in the right places though, in calm pockets behind big rocks in the main flow, or just alongside the main current in the channels. The size of the fish, especially the last one kind of showed me the big fish were not there, as i have caught fish on streamers bigger than that.

Below is my trusted Bendles bug and a few of the fish i had today, below them (the biggers ones) are fish i have on dries earlier or around this time over the past couple of seasons.

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Monday, 9 April 2018

The 'perfect' day for fishing? - Fly Fishing

8th April

Well it finally came, the perfect day for fishing, how? i do not know considering the rain the day before, it somehow didnt affect the river levels nor the clarity. The weather was warm and overcast which opened up into breaks of sunshine, it was dry fly weather, so as i was off out with Graeme i only took my dry fly rod.

Our intentions were to catch alot of fish, not big fish, though a bonus they would be, so we headed to a river we have fished and had plenty of action. Why? The start of the season had been rough, temperatures and weather ruining the limited days we get to go fishing, the cold waters seemed barren and cold, with little fly life and plenty of signs of poaching over the winter.  We won't know if the poaching has taken effect until mid season when we get an idea of our catch counts. But in comparison to last year, i ended todays session with my 8th fish while this time last year i had already caught 19, with the april storm bringing the river levels way up and with the irwell pollution incident thrown in the middle of that for good measure.

With my total for the year being only 8 you can probably guess the plan for alot of small fish didn't go to plan. The first hour was awfully quiet, fishy looking pools going by silently, eventually i found a trout in a shallow run, small as expected but we thought that would be it. As we continued we found more evidence of poaching, all of them next to the best looking pools. Graeme missed a nice fish for this river and we headed up into more precarious waters were access was limited to the water level. Holding on to the cracks of a sheer cliff that had worn away over thousands of years as edged round a deep drop off we found a nice pool which held a couple of fish, but we only managed to land 3 of them between us.

Upstream a few more pools were quiet and coming up to 12 o clock the hatch i predicted occured. The hatch on my locals isnt spectacular but it always brings plenty of rises, except today. Nothing, the surface of the water lay motionless bar the ripple of a tire breaking the surface, or a sanitary towel berg swinging off a tree.

We upped sticks and moved off to another river in the hope it would come up trumps too, but again it didn't. With evidence of peculiar behaviour on the rivers our hopes were dashed again but after seeing a rise after an hour or so there i immediately pulled out the dries. It rose again as i was tying on, sat under a over hanging bush i cast in between, i watched an olive land on the surface and the trout rose up beneath and sucked it in, 12 inches above my dry, it had gone further into the bush, i edged my fly inch by inch further upstream under the bush into a small alcove of branches but on the 3rd cast i snagged a branch and had to break my dry off, the moving branches scared the fish off so Graeme helped me recover my fly.

Eventually though after switching back to a klink and dink i found a small trout, were it should of been, but where were the rest of them. In hope of it being because of the poor temperatures at the start of spring affecting the fishing rather than the astronomical amount of poaching that has clearly been occuring. I will return here again, to compare, in hope it was just an off day for the fish on a perfect day for dry fly fishing.


Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Start of the trout season - 2018

March 21st 2018

It had been a long time coming, and for me somewhat delayed. With a bad back delaying my first trip back on the river after 5 1/2 month it was almost delayed again, but come 2pm i was fed up of been a cripple and decided to just hack it out and get out there.

By 3pm i was on the river and set up. Within minutes i was into my first fish of the year, i was fishing with 2 nymphs, a dark brown Bendle Bug with black dubbing, and a white Bendle Bug without dubbing. The first fish had taken the point fly, the Brown one, it was a soft take and i thought i had snagged the bottom for a split second. It fought hard and pulled my rod tip to the surface of the water a few times, it wasn't a big trout but it had fight in it. jumping 3 times it was an enjoyable start to the season. The trout was quite marked, showing it had survived cormorant attacks in its life, no wonder it fought so well!

Within a couple more casts i was in again, this was smaller but fought well for it's size once again, opting to stay deep this time it allowed me to change the drag settings on my nymphing reel, i have had several nymphing reels and i had another one break on me back when i was out with Mike. So i replaced it with a Maxcatch reel. Felt ok, nothing like my wychwood reel i use for dry fly but it doesn't need to be fancy for nymphing. The trout was very pale and washed out, but was in perfect condition. A sparrow hawk was circling above during the fight which was a nice sight to see.

The 3rd and final trout came 3 casts after the release of that, and i knew straight away it was the biggest so far. It fought hard and fast, jumped half a dozen times and made me think i was hooking into september fish based on just how hard they were fighting. It took 2 attempts to net as it spooked the first time when the net came close but i was pleased with myself that i was no longer losing jumping fish, remembering to dip my rod each time they jumped. 18in it measured at the net. The sparrow hawk landed in a tree opposite as i removed the hook and took a quick picture.

I noticed the temperature had significantly dropped in this short period of time as i was now cold, i had come out in just a jacket and light t-shirt and felt ok until that point. It would be a bad omen too as the next 2/3 hours would go by without another touch of a fish. I could of easily called it a day earlier but i was determined to get more and get used to fishing again, it still didnt feel natural and it was good to get some air and give my back some moderate exercise.

Bendles Bug - Sawyers Bug
Bendles Bug - Dark Brown

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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

2017 - The year the Irwell 'died' and new rivers uncovered their secrets.


Years are remembered for different thing, you look back in the past and you mention a year and the memorable events that happened that year, and depending on your interests, certain dates stand out more than others. When it comes down to my local river, The Irwell, it has it's own little timeline. 2015 for example will be remembered for the boxing day floods and 2017 will probably remembered for the Irwell pollution incident.

The year for me however didn't start like that. It all started back in February where myself and Mike France had been planning on a Grayling trip in Wales, however the weather hampered us with heavy winds and rain leaving the river high and brown. We had still ventured to Wales just incase it was fishable but eventually ended up on a fishery there. Having never fished on a fishery before it was a different experience, fun none the less and a small observation i made here helped me on the rivers later in the season.

After a trip on the old river and one more grayling change before the trout season opened i was back on the Irwell in familiar territory and was surprised by the lack of fish caught. The river level had dropped but was still murky but with nothing on nymph until the very end of the stretch i wasn't sure if i was just out of form. However the last pool i fished had several fish rising heavily and i caught and landed all but one which snagged me round a rock and pulled free before i could reach it.

That day was the sign i had missed. The fish had been feeding heavily on dries due to the pollution incident hidden in the murky waters, with the third highest river level of 2017 at 3.28m (behind 3.38m and 3.48m), happening the day after i had been on the Irwell alot of evidence would no doubt have been washed away. 'Luckily' 2 weeks later on my return to the same spot with my daughter the evidence was undoubtedly clear. I didn't go fishing for another 2 weeks. Once in 5 weeks, especially at the start of the season, is unheard of for me. With another one happening not long after that i was back out fishing mainly to see what affect it had had on the river. Fishing just above confluences of the Irwell then heading on to the Irwell i would catch fish on the tributary but not on the Irwell bar the odd decent sized fish. They were surviving on minnows.

Across the year i fished on the Irwell below the source of the pollution 3 times, i caught 3 fish. In comparison to last year when i was primarily fishing the Irwell i had 249 Trout in 28 trips. Thats a decrease of around 90%. If you put into account time spent fishing and the distances fished then it would be higher as i would usually go home after a good couple of fish.
I fished upstream of the pollution once this season and got 4 fish. That was more fish in one day than i had on the Irwell in 3 days, across a couple of hundred metres of uncharted water, and it should of been more had i had them take the dry as often as they rose.

However the pollution helped me meet Graeme Barber, also affected by the pollution on the Irwell, we soon were out on different rivers each time looking for new waters to fish, find out what was hiding in long lost sections of river. I learned how to streamer fish effectively thanks to both John Tyzack and Graeme. I took my daughter out more and she became a such a strong little angler. I also managed to have one last trip out with Mike before work took a hold of his time but discovered a new go to fly for my fly box. The 'Bendles Bug'. I enjoyed days out catching small trout with Arthur Hamer and helping him catch a PB for himself. I got stuck knee deep in silt and fell in the river 3 times. Not the best when you can't swim but all good fun!

Now, mine and Graemes explorations took us on both good and bad rivers across the Greater Manchester area and sometimes beyond. On some rivers our fish would average 2lb+ but the amount of small fish would be worryingly small, while on some rivers the amount of small fish was astronomical. It didn't matter to us, we did love the big trout, but we enjoyed catching any fish even a small perch on a streamer. Sometimes just seeing the fish on the sections of river we explored was a good sign, thus maybe a little frustrating especially on the Medlock.

Come the end of May i caught my PB trout at 25inches, my daughter was the filmographer and camera lady for that one. I cast to a rising fish for it to be a small trout, only to find a fish still rising in the same spot. It would a beautiful wild brownie and what better more to share that moment with my daughter who turns out can take a decent picture at 3.

Our explorations took us into dark under city tunnels and drains. Into rag filled rivers and alongside rubbish tips. We visited the ugliest areas of river you could imagine, but the trout that lived among it would be some of the best marked fish we would see. We visited beautiful sections of river, all wild and grassy, trees over hanging and would blank. The rivers around Manchester are fish no book can tell you how to catch, only experience from doing it will help you catch. I saw the same big trout 6 or 7 times this year, in the same spot doing the same thing. Could i catch it? No. Is it a PB? More than likely.

As the season came to an end it had been a good year overall, but a bad year for the Irwell. I will no doubt go to my usual haunt with Graeme to see if the fish have recovered even partly. But we also have 100 more spots to try on other rivers that we still haven't explored. Our map of the urban rivers around us is growing after seeing what fish live in it has made us want to explore even more water that you just wouldn't think something lived there. Don't get me wrong, some rivers were exactly that, or at least them sections.

I ended the year typically and how it had began. With Mike France chasing Grayling. It was snowing at this point though. Reaching the river it was a call to the EA, an riverwide oil like slick covering the surface. Thankfully it went after half hour or so but it shows us how much of it goes by unnoticed.

Looking at the stats for the years catches, i caught 157 fish on new or distant rivers. 75 of them being Grayling. But my overall catch rate dropped to 6.1 across the year, the lowest since i started fishing back in 2015. That being a mixture of the Irwell failing and new sections of river not living up to their expectations. Throw that in there with the fact i caught 30 in one trip shows how hard it has been despite all the positives. I haven't caught a single minnow all season, i had caught 38 in 2 years, but not one in 2017. I have seen them in small numbers and small size. But they are there and will hopefully recover next season.

What will 2018 bring? Well hopefully no more pollution, well i should rewrite that, no more pollution that has a negative affect on the rivers populations. Whether it be plant, fish or insect. (Unless it just kills hogweed, knotweed and balsam). My daughter has a new pink fly rod, a new pink fly reel thanks to Michael Duddy. New wellies and a pink waterproof coat. I need to tie her some pink and purple flies and get her a pink fly line and she's sorted for the season. I myself haven't thought about what i am going to do this season my concentrations have been on where.  I think i will buy a small kick sample kit to test and mark results down each time i go. It will possibly help detect pollution events that i may have missed had not all the cray fished died.

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