Went out with JT again and again we went in search of the Pike. As ever, scruffy joined us.
The first venue was a canal and very soon I was reminded that I needed to buy myself a pair of decent boots. The canal bank was full of mud and the inevitable dog mess.
Me last pair of Hunter wellies didn't last long and didn't provide much support for the angler who chooses to scramble, in a chubby and wheezy manner, over walls and fences and hills etc. etc.
I think Hunters have gone down the banks.
So, I've ordered a pair of Dubarry boots. Very pricey, I know, but they will (hopefully) last me for the next ten seasons or more and provide support to ageing ankles.
Anyway, we saw nothing in the canal and nothing seemed to see our fly's for they remained untouched. JT managed to snag the far bank and had to leg it down the bank, over a bridge and crash through someone's chicken pen. He's very athletic when the call comes in and, despite his age and girth, he crashed over a wall and barbed wire fence like a middle-aged bullock that's drank far too much Stella.
He saved the fly but in the event we didn't grass a Pike.
Moving on we found ourselves in a very urban setting and another canal running through a busy city. We raised a few eyebrows as we crossed a busy road in full fly fishing gear - waders, boots, rods, bags, net - and Scruffy.
We descended to the canal bank only to find the stretch we wished to fish had been drained to reveal the cracked muddy shelves cradling a slim channel of dark muddy water.
We carried on and raised some interest from a few jacks but no proper takes.
Finally, surrounded by onlookers - bored or otherwise, we quit the venue and headed off to another destination where we both felt sure we'd find Pike.
A moments reflection, dear reader.
Me fishing career has, so far anyway, lasted some forty-odd years and during that time I have always preferred to enjoy some form of lunch at half time. In golden, far-away days my dear old mum would make me a packed lunch with a flask of hot tea. (God bless you, Mum). I'd put the tupperware box inside me old wicker basket and, shouldering my old rod holdall and fold-up deck chair, I'd toddle down the road to catch the bus to Lymm Dam.
Time waits for no man and these days I will sometimes seek the succour and comfort of a handy pub, if the location allows. But what's to be done when the chosen venue is miles from any form of hostelry.
Well, I've discovered a solution in the form of an old fashioned picnic basket. It can be loaded with all sorts of nosh and booze and it comes complete with all the necessary crockery & cutlery to rest and chop up your grub and glasses to drink your wine from.
As I handed JT a chicken leg and a glass of Chateaux neuf du Pape, a chap appeared with a very handsome dog. We soon learned that the chaps name was Neil and the dogs name was Tess. Neil sat with us and told us of his own fishing adventures and it seemed only decent to hand him a glass and pour him a drop - with beaded bubbles winking at the brim...
Scotch eggs and chicken legs and a reasonable selection of cheeses, all washed down with a bottle of the red left us replete and, with purple stained mouths, we fished again. Sadly, and despite some considerable effort, the Pike had simply buggered off and chose not to pay us a visit.
Our very last venue of the day always reminds me of a victorian park lake. And in my minds eye, in days gone by that's exactly what it might have been. On sunny Sunday afternoons a virile young man would row his sweetheart over to the far bank for a moment of soft canoodling. Only for the dream to be broken by a loud and intruding shout from the bank; come in number 23 your time's up!
Descending through a small copse we met a very smart lady walking her dog. She reminded me of my schoolboy crush - Alexandra Bastedo. Phew...
At the death, JT managed to bank a small jack. The pike from this lake are always quite pale and anemic and this little blighter was no exception. He also bore the scars of battle as a large stabbing wound was visible across his mid-flank. A diving cormorant, maybe? Anyway, he was soon returned to fight yet another day and at this final small victory JT and meself decided to call it a day and so we made our way back to the motor.
A small beer each seemed an appropriate way of toasting a great day. Not much sport but meeting new people and the very lovely Tess made it all very worthwhile.
The hamper had proved its worth and will be packed to the gunnels come our next adventure.
(Acknowledgements and apologies to the spirit of JK)
My chum, John, had communicated his recent interest in fishing for our old friend Esox with the fly. Intrigued I got in touch with him to arrange a day together in pursuit of Mrs Pike before she got too frisky with Mr Pike - it being early March.
We travelled through blizzard conditions and heavy traffic before finally arriving at our destination - a windswept canal. The snow joined us on the bank and was soon blowing almost horizontally covering both our backs with ice and slush and freezing the old mitts.
We began casting large flies to the far bank - or in my case, halfway to the far bank. Mercifully the snow subsided and the wind dropped and a weak sun warmed us and then the Pike appeared.
I've caught me fair share of Pike before, up to 24lbs, but catching a pike on a fly rod is a different kettle of fish. We were using suitably beefed up gear - 9 foot, no.9 rod and lines - but the bend in the rod and the direct contact through the fly reel was very exciting.
During the day and over three venues we both managed to bend into high doubles as well as some hard fighting jacks. We broke for lunch in a nice pub and shared a bottle of reasonable Merlot.
Spent Monday on the Dove with JT.
It was freezing cold and it was extremely muddy and we didn't catch the monster but, what a fabulous day it was. A few lovely Grayling put the cherry on a well iced cake.
Made a pleasant trip with JT to another, once polluted, urban river. You know the kind of place, where the town centre has grown up around a river and over the years the burghers have used the water as a dumping ground for their rubbish. Did they somehow imagine that once cast into the murky depths their detritus would be washed away along with any thoughts of guilt.
However, as the traffic rumbled overhead, we descended into an overlooked underworld for surely the people walking around the town above us were unaware of the beauty that lay beneath their feet. During the day I saw three magical Kingfishers darting up and down the river and we both spotted a large brown dragonfly zipping overhead. It hovered for while a few feet above us but we proved of little interest to this particular aeronaut and in a flash it was twenty feet away.
Dry fly beetles and a bit of double-nymphing brought enough plump and beautifully marked brown trout to hand to keep us both quite happy. A quick break for a liquid lunch and we were soon knee deep once more on a higher stretch. However, the fish had faded away and after some time we called it a day.
A few pints of Guinness in a pleasant beer garden - the perfect spot for the debriefing.
I enjoyed an afternoon up at Entwistle reservoir yesterday, my first trip of the season. En route, I called at Anglers Den in Darwen to collect my day ticket.
Harry, the proprietor, is a lovely chap. You could easily lose a whole afternoon while you chew the fat as he talks about his days as a pilot and how his dear wife caught a Salmon that was so big it took him years of grim determination to beat her record - sorry Harry.
As we chatted away I spotted something that took me back thirty years or more - an old Mitchell 300 reel. The very model I bought brand new as a teenager. You see, one of Harry's other talents is the repair and restoration of old reels and this was one he'd resurrected. I handed over my cash and this lovely old reel is back in my pocket.
Some might scoff and look to their fancy, shiny baitrunners etc. etc. but what price memories - and it's still a bloody good reel and will marry up well with my old carp rod. Come the winter it will see duty on my spinning rod and the three of us will go in search of some Pike.
After leaving Harry's place I made my way to Entwistle and headed to one of my favourite spots. I cast many times as the sun bore down and nothing came to my fly. I sat and glugged some drink and remembered my previous visits over 35 years with friends like Clive and Fred and all the many fish we'd caught and the laughs we'd enjoyed. Happy days.
I stayed until nine and at the death a fish rose not four yards away (an easy reach for this duffer).
The fly landed softly upon the surface and very soon it was gone and all that was left to see was a swirl and a bend of water. I struck and was in and my rod bent into a fish that made the whole afternoon worthwhile.
I quite fancy catching a Salmon - on the fly - using a double-handed rod.
The thing of it is, Salmon are a bit scarce in Manchester. It must be the rain. Well, it's the last thing you'd want after travelling so far. To reach your destination and it rains all the time.
Some speak of Salmon in the Mersey, which is only a 30 minute walk from my house. Then again, if our mutual friend, Mike Duddy, can't tease a Salmon from the Mersey I'm sure my chances are much slimmer. I found a report on Google from one, Sam Billington.
Sam had carried out some detailed and scientific research into Salmon in the Mersey and the results were less than exciting.
Also, the Mersey, at least near me, has steep banks that would make the fishing a little awkward to say the least. Or, perhaps I'm just too fat...
So, last season I had a mooch around on Google and I found Glyn Freeman and http://www.cumbriaflyfishing.co.uk/ A day was arranged and not long after I found myself thigh deep in the River Eden. A more beautiful fishing location I have yet to discover.
Glyn, a lovely chap, took me through the rudiments of Spey casting and yes, I was pretty rubbish at the whole thing but, drawing on the same steely tenacity I regularly employ to finish a half decent bottle of merlot - I persevered.
The day was sunny and bright and quite mild and - I didn't catch a thing. But blimey, what a day! Surely some part of our greater enjoyment of fishing must be the scenery and the Eden was glorious.
Not a half capsized shopping trolley or truck tyre or french letter in sight. Just crystal clear water and blue skies and lush green vegetation - paradise, to coin the phrase.
Anyway, I've booked another day with Glyn and I'm off up to Cumbria Friday week - weather permitting...
Now, the River Ribble is quite a bit nearer to home, as is the Lune. And I remember 30+ years ago fishing the Ribble for dace and Chub (Clive and I caught more eels than anything else) while all the time Salmon were leaping in the Warrington Anglers stretch.
We'd turn off the M6 at The Tickled Trout and park the van in front of De Tabley Arms pub. Then we'd walk through farm fields - and the farmyard - for 45 minutes or so to reach our spot.
Recent reports in Trout & Salmon don't make exactly good reading for the budding Ribble Salmon angler, but I'm still willing to try.
So, if you ever fly fish the Ribble or the Lune, for Salmon or Sea Trout and you don't mind a chubby and wheezing duffer coming along. Let me know...
I joined JT for more urban river explorations. We waded into what used to be a veritable sewer running through a local town centre. The water was largely very clear but the banks still spoke of the years of neglect. No manicured lawns or carefully tidied banks. Instead, we stepped over bricks and tyres and shopping trolleys and god knows what else.
Still, two drifted nymphs brought us some beautifully coloured brown trout, their bellies sporting a dash of butter gold.
Even I managed to persuade the lovely brownie above to leave the river and spend some time aloft. 2 and a half pounds was the guessed weight - good enough for this duffer.
A few quick snaps and the fish was returned to fight another day.
Greetings, I suppose like many others I've created this blog for my own enjoyment. Reports of my (too seldom) fishing adventures will and do provide happy reading for me - and, so it seems, a handful of others.