Managed to get out on to the river for the first time in a while yesterday. I wanted to explore a new stretch of the Churnet at Alton on the Fenton and District ticket. I opted for the lower tree lined beat with Pugin's Alton Castle overlooking the lovely, the Rhineland of Staffordshire.
The Fenton and District ticket is amazing value at £38 per year and as well as this cracking stretch of river they also have loads of other waters for both game and coarse anglers including the Dove, the Trent and an array of carp pools.
It was also the first time I'd been out with my new reel, the Okuma Sheffield which I've been wanting to try for a while and I wasn't disappointed. I was able to control my float perfectly and even though the reel would begin to spin immediately after the cast, and continued to spin forever, I never got into one tangle which happened to me all too often with my old centrepin.
I trickled a few maggots in to the riffle in front of me and set my first drift. Bites were immediate and every cast saw me land or bump off a grayling. The Churnet is absolutely stuffed with grayling these days. When I started fishing in the 70s the river ran all the colours of the rainbow due to pollution from the now vanished dye works upstream in Leek. The clean water suits the grayling and they are back in abundance, along with a run of their relatives the salmon after a campaign of parr stocking by the Environment Agency.
We are so lucky in this part of the United Kingdom to have so much fishing available to us at very reasonable prices. This ticket is amazing value. A beautiful river full of fish in breathtaking scenery and still not another angler in sight.
I'm lucky enough to live 5 minutes walk from a beautiful trout stream, the river Churnet. On Saturday I was joined by two chaps who I last met when guiding for them on a wild loch on Islay a year or so ago and they had asked me if I'd mind showing them one of my favourite local rivers.
Fishing on the upper Churnet is tricky, but if you are stealthy and you don't mind getting on all fours and crawling through a few bushes and under one or two fences then the angler can be rewarded with some lovely hard fighting fully spotted wild browns, and the odd grayling too. The scenery is as good as any and the wildlife is incredible, kingfishers fire up and down and the river is home to many dippers and other beautiful birds.
Choosing a short rod is definitely an advantage here. I like to use my 6ft 3wt Hardy glass rod, this allows me to get a cast in without getting in to too much of a tangle and feels lovely when playing a fish. Richard was using a 4 and a half foot split cane rod and he was able to put a lovely line out with it. It wasn't long before both lads were landing fish and both were clearly enjoying the afternoon.
The lads were using a few different fly patterns but I find that the klinkhammer always does well. There were a few mayfly coming off in the warm afternoon sun and I'd be tempted to stick one of those on at this time of year. There were plenty of large dark olives coming off and quite a few swarms of gnats and the fish were slashing and jumping at them, particularly in the upper reaches of the beat.
The lads caught a few few fish between them, most quite small but beautifully spotted, but a couple were much bigger, one in particular that gave Richard a right good run around late on in the session was closer to the 2lb mark.
Sam enjoyed sitting on the bank watching the anglers landing the fish but later on started to wonder when his owner might start thinking about arranging his tea so it was with heavy hearts that the lads packed up, having had a great afternoon and we made our way back home and then on to the Earl Grey for refreshments, the favourite of which seemed to be Union Hop from Moor Brewery!
Haste ye back lads and I hope to take you up on your offer of fishing with you down Worthing way sometime in the near future.
Had a great afternoon out on the river yesterday with my pal Sean Ruffell. I've fished with Sean many times but mostly on Islay for the wild loch browns on the many occasions that he visited the Islay. He's a huge fan of float tubing the lochs and of Islay single malt whiskies.
It was an overcast afternoon and a little cooler than it has been of late. The air temperature was around 14 degrees c. We soon started to see lots of fly life as we walked down the river and also started to see rises.
Eager to get on to the fish I was set up before Sean so thought I would have a cast to a spot where I had seen a large trout taking olives a couple of days before. I put on a new tapered leader with a Jingler tied to the business end.
I cast to about a foot above where I had seen the trout feeding and he walloped my jingler on the first cast.
We fished out the rest of the pool, missed a couple of slashy rises and decided to make our way back to the car to enjoy a dram (Caol Ila 2014 Islay Festival of Malt and Music limited edition the casks for which specially selected by yours truly), a cup of tea and some posh cake. I told Sean about the rest of the beat and where we should fish and then made our way to the upper stretch of the beat.
There were many hatches of olives coming off and the odd mayfly, all of which the trout were more than happy to feed on and the river was alive with rises.
I switched to a Fulling Mill Mayfly Flyine size 14 and started to attract rises.
In all we had 4 fish all around the 2.5lb mark. A splendid afternoon in good company. Things are really starting to warm up on the river now and before long there should be plenty of mayfly about.
PS nice to see a pair of woodpeckers at the bird table in the fishermans car park today.
Waiting for the rise at the Upper Falls Pool, river Dane. Lots of hatches this week, one or two may fly but mainly large dark olives and smaller olives. Lots of swarms of gnats just off the surface making the wildies slash and go crazy. Missing lots of takes and am wondering if the fish are trying to sink the fly when they are rising.
I walked the whole stretch today. it was lovely to see the bluebells out. 14 degrees so warmer than the weather man said, and lots of fish were showing up and down the river.
The hatches in the late afternoon sun were quite spectacular. The fly life at the moment is abundant.
Found a lovely glide below some water falls and many trout were smashing emerging flies. One or two were topping and tailing. It was great to see so much activity.
This large trout came to a Fulling Mill mayfly 'flyline'.
As far as I could tell most of the hatches coming off were olives but there were one or two mayfly coming off and all the fish I landed or missed takes from were whilst fishing a size 12 Fulling Mill Mayfly 'Flyline' (rear of the pic below). I've also stocked up on size 12 Fulling Mill Mohican Mayfly for when the hatches start to be more prolific.
Quite a bit of the upper Dane is in a very narrow steep valley so quite sheltered. On days like today when the air temperature is quite cool for the time of year, there are quite a few pools that benefit from quite a bit of sun and I think these factors have encouraged long and plentiful hatches where anglers on other local rivers are reporting short sporadic activity.
Anyway, off to enjoy a Caol Ila Distillers Edition 2015 in front of the fire and to reflect on the fishing.
The trout season is well under way in sunny Staffordshire. I'm missing the sea trout back on Islay and I've been struggling to decide where to fish and which clubs to join for the season. I love fishing the upper Churnet but I've been keen to supplement that with some other waters. I definitely wanted to find a stretch that where I could not hear traffic and off the beaten track.
A couple of weeks ago I took my lab Sam for a long walk from Rushton Spencer following the River Dane right up through Danebridge, over The Roaches and back down in to Leek. The Dane valley was beautiful, I'd never walked these beats before and I was surprised just how wide and deep in places the river was. It looked to me very much like a Scottish West Coast river, deep, dark peaty pools and long sweeping shallow glides with riffles aplenty.
After a while I spotted a small 'private fishing' sign and noted the details of the club. I managed to get in touch with the club and was really happy to find there was a space available and so I joined.
I enjoyed my first outing greatly and whilst the fishing was hard I did manage to catch a few lovely little wild browns. I timed the journey from my house the river and it took 12 minutes. I can't believe I've never walked the stretch before and to have this gem on my doorstep is fantastic.
Usually at the end of May I'm tied up with all things Islay Whisky Festival but for the first time in more than ten years I'm looking forward to fishing during the mayfly hatches.
Well what an amazing 3 years and 5 months that was. We are now back in the Staffordshire Moorlands after having an amazing adventure on the Isle of Islay, the longest Fly Fish Islay trip yet!
I moved to Islay in July 2012, lived in a lighthouse keeper's house for 3 months then in the exciseman's house at Caol Ila overlooking the Sound of Islay (Caol Ila) and the Paps of Jura.
I moved to Islay when I was appointed Brand Home Manager of Lagavulin and Caol Ila distilleries, a job I enjoyed greatly which mostly involved talking all day every day to visitors about all things Islay and whisky. After just a year I was moved up to Caol Ila as Manager which made me very proud given that Caol Ila has always been and will remain my firm favourite single malt whisky.
I'm now working at a great Craft Brewery which makes some of the world's best beers. This means now able to get back to fishing my favourite Staffordshire and Derbyshire rivers with trips back up to Islay for Fly Fish Islay events.
I'm about to bottle one of the casks that we filled back in 2005 (See top pic) which is creating a lot of interest, so get in touch if you would like to reserve a bottle.
Happy New Year! I'm back on Islay after having been down South for a bit of grayling fishing and a catch up with pals on the river bank. The wind is howling outside but the fire is in and a warming peaty dram will be to hand shortly. I was lucky enough to fish a stretch of the Churnet down stream from my usual beat, where the last time I'd fished was with my Grandad more than 35 years ago, when the river was running all the colours of the rainbow with the dye from the dye works in Leek.
I'm hoping to blog a little more in 2015, the season will certainly be longer as I intend to be back on the Staffordshire and Derbyshire rivers a little more this year as well as fishing the lochs of Islay for brownies and the sea for my favourite fish of all, the sea trout.
The pic above was taken after a session on Loch Drolsay in May 2014. Glen and Woz were walking back through the heather discussing the fishing, in particular the very large brown trout that Glen had dropped in the margins.
I have no pictures to post of the lovely grayling that were being caught last week as I've managed to lose my camera in the back of Glen's van, but watch this space as I hope it'll be full of fish in the months to come!
I'm a keen angler and whisky enthusiast. I'm lucky enough to have lived and worked on the Isle of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides, angling and dramming paradise! I fish for wild brown trout and sea trout whilst up North, back in Leek in the beautiful Staffordshire Moorlands I like to meet up with my pals and fish for wild brown trout, grayling and other river species in the Dane, Dove, Churnet, Manifold and Wye.
(firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to contact me)