Return to the Mines!
The Glen Maye River in it's higher reaches flows through Glen Rushen and the old mine working area. This has to be one of the best Tenkara waters on the Island. Unfortunately Rushen Road is not fairing too well. I hope they do something about it or access to this stunning water will become very hard indeed and it will end up lost to the scramble bikes.
Pools pockets and runs. Lots of places for fish to hide under the rocks. Some have told me this is a difficult water to fish and I can understand that. It certainly offers a technical challenge. Fly placement has to be precise. The fish, if touched my the hook and not held are gone. I wanted to come back up here to test my new Strooan 2 prototype rod. I had factory issues and production set backs that have nearly driven me demented. They should have been with me in January, but they made the wrong rod!
The first prototype was an exact match of the original Strooan and I could have put it into production there and then. Instead I wanted more. I wanted a better balance and a lighter rod. The factory said they could deliver and we worked on the new rod. This prototype is the end result of that process. It's lighter, better balanced, smoother in the cast. I needed technical water to really put it through it's paces.
The trout in here have huge shovels, relative to size, for tails. Probably as a result of this being a fast flowing water when in spate. There are very few deep pools. This was just a little chap. It darted out from under a rock to grab the fly passing by in 6 inches of water. You have to change your concept of where trout are on this water. Yes, they are in the usual places but if you spot a dark shadow beneath a rock, even in shallow water, it's worth pitching a fly.
The new Strooan delivered accurate casts, fly first, at these dark little homes. Golden darts from beneath the rock strike outward. I love a big fish, but these wild little beauties bring me a special joy.
There are slabs of hard volcanic rock in places on the river bed. Covered in a brown algae they can be treacherous under foot. I slipped a couple of times. I've Rock Treads, aluminium grip disks for wading boots, on the way. I'm fascinated to know if they'll work on these testing rocks. I'll have to come back and try them. The pool above yielded 4 fish. the first two came from the tail just before it swept over the slab. Staying low in the water below the pool I cast upwards giving me the cover I needed to ambush these spooky fish.
This fine example came from a little higher in the same pool. The fly is dry'ish. A Cochy-bondhu hackle is trimmed beneath so the tapered black thread body with copper rib sits in the water. The tail of the fly is deer hair held in place by the wire and laid over the flies back. The profile remains slim not like a "humpy" back. The fish either wanted it riding high in the fast current, or gently pulsed beneath the surface of the deeper, slow water. Imitating a rising nymph. This versatile fly lets me fish both ways without changing.
The above picture is a perfect example of where multiple fish can be found. I took one from behind the big boulder in the deep water. I missed one that shot out from under the slabs in front of the smaller boulder. Caught the fish in front of the boulder and had a beauty from the deep channel where the water comes in. Stuffed with fish this water is, but I didn't see one of them to cast at. They are so well hidden.
Once above the bridges the nature of the river changes. For a while the steep heather banks give way to swathes of bluebells and grass. this is a product of the mining in the area. Here was where there were wash floors, and various other mineral processing operations. I am sure the river has been artificially channelled in this area. There are deeper pools and straighter glides.
I got stuck at this pool taking fish after fish. They were so very obliging. With all the casting and playing fish my hand wasn't at all tired with the new Strooan. The re-balancing had worked really well. I wasn't thinking about the rod at all. I was focused on where I wanted the fly to land, and it did. It's magic! Well, no, but I'm not putting it all down to technique. The rod certainly played it's part.
Seeing the image above you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a different river. A couple of times I had to collapse one segment of the Strooan to accommodate tight casting around the foliage. A few feeder streams join the river through this stretch. The fish are still here and obliging. Holding the fly in the still water beside a small fall usually brought the desired result.
I haven't changed my fly yet. There's been no point. fishing it as a dry or as a sub surface wet fly it's bringing the fish. A quick twang on the rubber band drier and an application of Bob-it, she was floating as high as when she first came out of the box. I'm not sure how many fish I've had at this point. I know it's not a numbers game, or a size thing but some people like to keep tabs that way. My catch rate was still steady. I missed quite a few of the fastest feeders but in these waters, that's not unusual. Glad to know the fish was there and I fooled it into showing itself.
Eventually you get to the old weir that directed water to the mining operations. This weir is totally impassable for fish. Below it are a couple of pools with fish in. In the slower water I could even make out some of them sitting tight to the bottom. The question is always, are there fish above? I had time today to go and have a look.
For a short way above the weir the water is like a mill pond and clear. Only a few inches deep the trout are there, but skittish in the extreme. An old tree stump provided a little deeper water and cover. I saw several fish take cover in the roots. They were not to be tempted out. Certainly less water to work with up here. Fewer fish as well. My catch rate had dropped dramatically. There weren't the fish under the rocks or in the glides. I disturbed a couple but couldn't make anything stick.
Out of the trees and you're in classic Manx upland water. Pools and pockets and very few fish. There are other waters of similar nature that hold far more fish. Perhaps I'll head out to Druidale next time and see if they are still there. I had heard from a friend that he had struggled last season. There are fish, I kept repeating that mantra. I would see a splash in a higher pool, but by the time I'd worked up to it there was nothing coming for my fly. Eventually I got to one of the larger pools.
Instant action! I had fish fighting for the fly! I got 2 to the net, almost. I'm putting it down to being tired at this point. Both times I fumbled the camera and they got away. There are pools above this point but time was pressing on and I had a long walk back down river to get back to the car. I'm at an age now I have to consider the trip back to the car. Too tired, and up in these remote locations it could be dangerous. I collapse the new Strooan with a smile. The performance had been exceptional. My previous testing outing with it wasn't as technical and had impressed enough that it was going into production. The new Strooan should be available in a month or so, hopefully.
One the way back I spot some wood sorrel. It's a white flower with clover like leaves. An interesting little flower, it was once used to treat scurvy because of it's high vitamin C content. Also good for cramp, fever, nausea and soreness. I picked a little and ate it. It's quite sharp and a little sour but not in an unpleasant way. Notes of citrus and apple in the flavour. The texts are quite right, it is rather refreshing.
There are many such plants to be found by the river and in the woods. Perhaps I'll try a few others and report back. Tight lines till then!
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