Every now and again you get an opportunity to fish some new water. Most of the main rivers of the Isle of Man are open to everyone to fish. There are a few tributary glens when the land is privately owned and fishing them is not permitted without the land owners permission. I was hoping to get into one such glen on the weekend but, with one thing and another, it took until the afternoon of bank holiday Monday to give the owner a ring and get myself onto the water.
Not the widest of streams. In fact you would hardly know it was here. The outflow into the River Dhoo is only a small culvert and where it runs along side the road between the culvert and the glen it is nothing more than a drainage ditch.
Once it enters the grounds of the former mill you can see how it has been channelled and controlled to power the expertly restored water wheel. However, a picture would be to give too much away as to the location. Fishing is by permission only and I wouldn't want the owner to be pestered by too many people.
The nearside bank is very steep with dry stone walling to be proud of. I slipped into the water after crossing the little bridge, avoiding the bluebells and primula growing along the bank. It seemed the best course of action to be able to land and return any fish without hauling them up the bank and then dropping them from a great height back into the water. I was certainly hoping to catch fish and their welfare is important to me.
It's always of interest to me what is living in the water I'm fishing. Turning a single small some I was amazed at the invertebrate life. It was crawling with bugs and had a cased caddis tube as well.
With this much to eat in the water I was sure there would be fish to cast a line at. I wasn't wrong either. Just up ahead was a deeper section with a small water fall. Although the picture doesn't show it, and you can't see the fish be assured I saw at least seven trout lined up. Variation in sizes from 4 inches up to what looked like very respectable fish indeed. There was hardly any flow to the water which made it trickier. We haven't had significant rain for a while.
One of the lined up fish was obviously not a trout. It was a silvery blue colour with a very forked tail. Despite this being a very skinny water the salmon must be getting in here to spawn. With the gravel bottom I wouldn't be surprised it they spawned here. There were no obvious salmon reds though.
Could I catch any of these fish? Could I heck as like. They looked at the fly and swam round it. They ignored everything on the surface without a single fin bristle. I put on one of my hybrid nymphs and as soon as it plopped into the water a larger fish of about 7 inches lunged at it. I got a bit over excited and struck too soon. The nymph shot out of the water into an over head tree and that was that. The fish were spooked and a chance at those fish was gone.
I continued as quietly as I could up to the falls without a single offer. I saw fish darting in and out of cover in the walls made by gaps in the stonework. Some of them were of descent size which was not surprising given the abundance of food in the stones. It was not until I climbed out and crossed another bridge did I get a chance to cast at free feeding fish again.
I saw a rise on a bend, under a tree. The water had cut a deep channel under the bank and with some tricky casting I got the fly in close to the nearside bank without snagging. I couldn't see the fly line entering the water but the BMS Azayaka has blocks of colour. I used the next block up from the one at the end as an indicator. The line stabbed. I twitched the rod and a fish was on.
A very typical, slightly above average, Manx brownie of about 7 or 8 inches. Fat, fully finned and a great relief to catch one in these tricky waters. Up ahead is the old mill pond. There is a substantial waterfall which would prevent the migration of any sea trout beyond it.
I don't usually cast a fly into such deep, slow moving water because Tenkara isn't really the right method to be using. However this time I did, to be rewarded.
It was skinny, but it was at least 12 inches long. By far the biggest trout I have caught in our Manx waters to date. The size of it's fins were huge compared to it's body.
It was the gentlest of takes. The dipped slowly only an inch and I lifted out of curiosity. The trout took off around the pool. I could see it was no ordinary trout and I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I was fortunate that it came quickly to hand. I snapped a couple of pictures and released it unharmed back into the depths. It would be a crime to take such a beautiful fish from our waters. If it fattens up over the summer it will be a specimen and a half.
To one side of the waterfall is a curious little opening in the side of the bank. I know there is an old mine just over the back and I wonder if this was an adit going towards the main shaft? As there was water flowing freely from the hole I would imagine the mine workings are seriously flooded these days.
The mill pond has been drained several times, according to the owners son. I walked round it but there was no evidence of anything living in it at present. Apparently there are some very big eels in there. However, Tenkara is not really an eel catching method. The mill pond is quite silted up but a tranquil, hidden gem of a spot. The intake to the mill pond at the top is blocked with some big rocks. The river runs down a race at the side.
Above the mill pond it starts to get a little wild. There are certainly fish here, but they are even more spooky than the trout down below. I only just got sight of this run and I could see the trout darting up and down the far bank looking for cover. There was no chance of catching any of these startled fish even if I could have cast a longer line to them.
The owner has a man working on clearing the fallen trees from the glen and opening it up again. The trees have had an adverse effect on the river. You can see how wide the water way is. Fallen trees have diverted the river this way and that and it hasn't got a definite channel any more. Hopefully once cleared a more definite channel can be established with pools and runs that the trout would find appealing.
Without my little magic wand I don't think this water would have been fishable. There is no chance I'd have been able to use my favourite Strooan on these waters because of the restrictions the vegetation imposes. Trust me, it gets very thick with many low hanging branches to catch your fly.
Having climbed through that log jam I was faced with another and in the end I was beaten!
I could just make out the water under that lot and the end of the glen only 10 meters ahead. However, discretion being the better part of valour, I bid a retreat. I know there are fish higher up, because I've caught them. With some management of the fallen trees and some restoration of the stream bed I have no doubt there will be a healthy population of trout in this upper section of the glen in no time at all.
I tried a few of the spots I had spooked on my way up with a downstream presentation and had one fish on for a few seconds. That was it. Although this was not a report with huge numbers of fish, there are certainly a heck of a lot more fish in there to be caught. The big one was a delight to catch and release. I hope it goes on for a few more years and fattens up over the summer.
A huge thank you, to the owner, for letting me have the privilege of hunting for trout in his glen. I had a very enjoyable time working out the challenges of presenting a fly to the fish. There are plenty of fish to cast to in the stunning surroundings. I'm jealous. I admit it.
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