I consider myself incredibly lucky to live in the heart of the Staffordshire Moorlands. Leek is truly the gateway to the Peak District. The Pennines rise here and within that rugged landscape, our beautiful rivers are born. The rivers Goyt, Dove, Manifold and Churnet all rise within a few miles of Leek, all born out of an area of absolute outstanding beauty that rivals any other in the British Isles.
The nearest river to my home is the Churnet. My hometown of Leek stands on it's banks, and it was here, after the industrial revolution, that mills started to be built, harnessing the power of the river to drive their machinery. James Brindley built his famous water mill here, and had is offices in Leek and come the days of the Arts and Crafts movement, Sugden and William Morris had offices here in Leek, such an important place was Leek to the British textile industry. Long ago, the dye works of Leek were the textile manufacturers in the world that had the ability to dye cloth black, from here, cloth for the clergy was dyed and shipped out all over the world...and it's all down to the little river Churnet.
Of course, it was this heavy industry that eventually ensured that for a long time, the Churnet was regarded as one of the most polluted rivers in Europe and absolutely devoid of life, let alone Salmon, Brown and Sea Trout.
I've been lucky enough to gain permission to fish the Churnet just minutes from my home and it is a beautiful place to spend an hour or two. The wildlife in and around the river was severely damaged a couple of years ago when a pollution incident caused a massive fish kill. As well as the hundreds of trout, chub, perch and pike that could be seen dead on the banks, other wildlife was affected too. The heron, kingfisher, dippers and many other birds that could once be seen along the banks disappeared too. At long last, these have returned, along with the fish.
Apparently, the Environment Agency has restocked the river, and I've certainly seen a few fish but I wouldn't have said they were stockies. Most are a hand length, and I may be wrong but I would have thought stockies would be bigger. I would say that all the fish that I have seen rising freely along the stretch are wild. There have also been reports of large silver fish being seen a little down stream at the weir of the Brindley Mill. Not possible some people would say, there are too many obstacles for the fish to negotiate further downstream. Well, the same people said that it would be impossible to see these fish in the upper Dove, and I know that they are the because I've caught them, and a week or so, I saw two caught in the Derwent too. The thought that Sea Trout and Salmon could possibly be trying to spawn so high up in our river catchments amazes me.
I've been lucky enough to catch a few of the small brownies, most have come to a very small olive or a cdc Klinkhammer. I've missed a massive amount of takes purely because the rises are so frantic and come from completely out of the blue, but when they are on, they give a right scrap considering the size of the fish. I'm looking forward to coming across a larger fish maybe in one of the two or three deep pools further upstream from where I've been catching.
Being able to walk out of my door and onto this lovely little trout stream is a privilege and I'm looking forward to spending the occassional evening there, with my kelly kettle, 6ft glass rod and a small selection of flies.