Over the Easter holiday, some people spent their time driving to the coast or sitting in traffic jams, others were in the garden or being DIY enthusiasts. Some fished the lakes and canals for the coarse fish, others chased the rainbows on the many stillwaters countrywide. A few fished the rivers and streams for the brown trout.
In between working in the BBC Radio Lancashire studios, catching up on some writing, I've also spent some days on the river Aire working to improve the habitat for the fish, aquatic insects, birds and wildlife. It's been a tough, dirty, sweating job - try working in chest deep water having to saw through underwater branches, not the easiest of jobs but it had to be done. By taking out many of the underwater branches I was soon able to get the water flowing which, to my surprise, quickly cleared much of the silt that had accumulated. Hopefully by taking out these underwater branches, plastic bags and other rubbish will be a thing of the past.
Day two was another dirty, horrid, back breaking job. It was spent clearing away the unsightly rubbish from the riverside trees, bushes and the river bed. Plastic carrier bags from Morrisons and Tescos, beer and soft drink cans, soft drink bottles, green topped plastic milk containers - often half filled - coal bags, fertiliser and animal feed bags in various colours, black plastic sheeting, sanitary towels, condoms and other rubbish; enough to fill eleven large dustbin liners. All this rubbish being dumped by the general public and farmers. I didn't find any anglers' related rubbish, not even a few inches of nylon line. At the car park I cleared away another bag of rubbish.
Day three was another one of those days spent clearing rubbish from the riverside trees and bushes. Dragging rubbish filled plastic bags from the bed of the river was a tough job. Chunks of the riverside bank had collapsed into the river - I had to cut it up then drag it up onto the bank. It's not an easy job when it's all water logged. Day three was the toughest day by far. As in day two, all the bags of rubbish had to be taken back to the car then dropped off at the local council tip. But looking at the cleaned stretch of river bank I felt it had been well worth all the effort, all the more so when an hour after stopping work we noticed two good trout move on the shallows.
Back at the car park I had an argument with a dog walker, who had allowed his two dogs to foul the footpath, he had no intention of clearing away the mess. To say I was an angry young man was an understatement, steam was coming from my ears and nostrils! After a heated debate and explaining that I had some photographs and his vehicle details, I then said I was going to call the police. The dog walker returned to his car, collected some bags and removed the dog mess. He then quickly disappeared, but at least the children wouldn't get the filth on their clothes and shoes.
The weather for the second half of the Easter holiday wasn't good for fishing the dry fly. I suppose it was between one thirty and two PM on Monday when a few large olives appeared, the hatch probably lasting no more than five minutes, only the odd rise from a fish. I fished the area with a Paythorn Olive, tied for me by Oldham fly tier Alan Bithell. I rose three fish, missed two and pricked the other one. That's what I call bad angling. I shouldn't have missed all three of those takes.
The day started off when Burnley angler Kent Sherrington and I arrived on the banks of the river Ribble. After a mug of tea with river keeper Ivan Duxbury we got tackled up. Kent with nymphing gear, while I chose the dry fly. It was Kent's first day on the river so I offered to act as his guide.
After a walk of some eight hundred yards upstream we noticed the odd fish dimpling the surface. I suggested to Kent he should take my dry fly outfit and cast the small olive pattern, hoping a fish wanted to eat. Half a dozen casts later we moved on; the fish didn't show any interest in eating imitation olives. It was a chilly day with a cold blustery wind, not the best conditions for fly fishing. After a couple of hours showing Kent the various pools and runs and offering him advice on fishing the various fishing spots, we returned to the cabin for lunch. It's surprising how a fresh brew and a decent sandwich makes one feel more confident of catching.
After lunch we moved off downstream where Kent fished upstream nymphs with sight indicator in all the pocket water and runs without success, though he did get a couple of good takes. As previously stated, I fished the dry fly without catching. At three PM we called it a day returning to the cabin for a mug of tea before we headed off home. Though we hadn't caught a fish we both enjoyed the experience. Perhaps tomorrow would be a better day.
Tomorrow wasn't a better day, it was cold, windy and misty, no flies could be seen. I didn't want to fish a nymph so I finished off the work I had been doing on the river Aire. At 4-0pm I called it a day after some seven hours of clearing away rubbish. I also planted a lot of new willows in the hope they would take root and in due course strengthen the bankside. I also dragged out some large dead branches that had laid on the river bed for a long time, they were covered with all manner of rubbish. It was amazing how quickly the silt was washed away. I erected some perches over areas where the minnows gathered. The kingfishers would now have a resting place where they could sit and preen themselves ready to dive for one of those minnows.
Today was one of those beautiful early spring days, with a light wind and warm sunshine. Arriving on the banks of the river Ribble I was greeted by river keeper Ivan Duxbury
"Good morning Martin"
"Hello Ivan. It's nice day - want a cup of tea?"
Within minutes the kettle was boiling and soon we were sitting at the waterside sipping tea and talking about the days prospects. As we did so a dark olive struggled to leave its watery birth place. Suddenly we saw a splashy rise, the olive had disappeared. A few more large dark olives came off the water, some escaped, others dropped back on the water. As they glided downstream they were eaten by a hungry trout. Prospects looked good.
I tackled up with a light, soft action, 4 piece rod made by Tim Damon (E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) A small JW Young's reel, Cortland five weight double taper line with a ten foot tapered leader with a three pound tippet. I tied on a size 14 Grey duster.
Ivan suggested we take a look at the Minnow pool. Ten minutes later we were in position, as we sat watching the water an olive struggled to rise from the surface but a hungry trout had other ideas as the fly disappeared. Extending some line, I cast upstream and across, the fly landed like thistledown; it drifted two feet then there was a swirl as a fish intercepted the imitation. I tightened, a good fish was hooked. I looked skyward saying to myself "This one's for the Queen Mum" who has sadly just passed away. After a good scrap I pulled the fish onto the shallows. It was a good brown trout 17"-18", certainly a fish worthy of the Queen Mother. Bending down I released the tiny Grey duster from the scissors of the fishes mouth then watched it swim off strongly. It felt great to be alive. I reckon Izaak Walton had rewarded me for all the work I had been doing to improve the river Aire.
Ivan and I watched the area for more trout but nothing was seen, we moved off downstream to another pool. Again nothing was seen, neither trout nor insects. Arriving back at the fishery cabin I cooked eggs and bacon for lunch, which tasted good, this was followed by lots of freshly brewed tea. After lunch Ivan had some fishery work to do, so I moved off downstream. Some fifty yards below the weir a fish was rising, five times I drifted a fly over it but nothing. Moving downstream I spotted a good fish rise; casting a couple of feet upstream of the rise, the fly drifted downstream, then it was gone. All I had seen was a tiny swirl, but I tightened. A good fish was hooked. After a minute or so of excitement the fish was mine. Bending down I slipped the fly from the fishes mouth and watched it swim off, a nice trout of 14"-15". Barbless hooks are certainly the hooks to use, especially if like me you practise catch and release.
I sat watching the water for more fish to show, but nothing. I moved further downstream where I could see some tiny swirls, but it wasn't possible to see what the fish were eating. I cast up and across watching the fly drift downstream. There was a light dimple on the surface. I tightened and hooked a small fish. It was an out of season grayling of about 10" which was quickly released. I caught two more small grayling and a salmon parr, then realised I shouldn't be fishing the area and moved on. Half an hour later I was back at the cabin having a mug of tea. With no more rising fish it was time to leave, as I arrived home, the rain sheeted down. It was the end of a delightful day at the waterside.
If you would like to join this fishery syndicate give Ivan Duxbury a call for further details on 01254-826782. Tomorrow I am on the river Aire.
The Passing Of A Great Lady Fly Fisher 1900-2002
Saturday April 30th 2002 was a very sad day for fly fishers countrywide with the announcement that the United Kingdoms best known and loved fly fisher The Queen Mother had passed away. Fly fishing was given that extra respectability by this great Lady who spent many hours fly fishing for salmon and brown trout in the rivers and lochs of Scotland.
At one time the Queen Mum was Patron of the Salmon and Trout Association, a position now held by her eldest grandson Prince Charles, himself a keen fly fisher. No doubt he was taught the noble art by his Grandmother.
I am sure when we fly fishers next visit the waterside we will have a silent thought for a great Lady fly fisher. I feel privileged to have met the great Lady and may she Rest in Peace