Irwell Clean Up September 2015

A new start to our series of river clean up and habitat improvement events.

We deliberately chose a section of river we know well at Dumers Lane, Radcliffe which benefits from nice easy access and shallow water. Our new Gazebo got its first airing and the kettle boiled promptly at 10.30am by which time 15 volunteers had showed up ready to crack on.

River Irwell clean up - a nice bright start

River Irwell clean up – a nice bright start

We split into two groups, the first doing the hard graft of removing decades worth of tyres, traffic cones, push bikes, assorted grot and a sweet little dolly. By 2pm when we finished, an amazing pile of grot had been accumulated (awaiting council removal on Monday morning).

Cleaning out the tyres

Cleaning out the tyres

And the shopping trolleys

And the shopping trolleys

An Irwell Doly

An Irwell Mermaid

A good days haul !! Many thanks to everyone for their efforts

A good days haul !!
Many thanks to everyone for their efforts

Our other smaller group took on a very different task – a mini habitat improvement project, cleaning a section of algae clogged river bed, turning the gravel over with rakes, and then planting rannunculus (water crows foot) to show what the Irwell could be if given a chance.

As you can see from this series of photos, the river bed is coated in thick slimy algae (caused by over enrichment of the water by sewage). This algae coats and clogs up the river gravels which need to be clean and well oxygenated in order to support the wide variety of insects a river needs to develop healthy ecosystems.

The left of the photo showing dark algae clogged river bed. The right showing lovely bright clean gravel

The left of the photo showing dark algae clogged river bed. The right showing lovely bright clean gravel

It only takes a little raking over before the difference can be seen – and then a little green magic was dug into the river bed (ranunculus) which has the effect of stripping the water of nutrients, providing homes for insects and little fish, and also providing spawning material for coarse fish.

Ranunculus (water crows foot)  Looks amazing in summer

Ranunculus (water crows foot)
Looks amazing in summer

Green magic

Green magic

Why can't the Irwell always look this good ?

Why can’t the Irwell always look this good ?

Despite us only clearing 5 metres sq of river bed, the contrast was stark – the dirty grey river bed clogged in algae and the clean brown gravel flecked with the bright green fronds of ranunculus.

Now we have to determine a way to ensure it remains this way.

Our next clean up event is taking place on the River Irk in Blackley on Sunday the 25th October. If you fancy doing something different with your time – you are welcome to come and join us improving our local rivers.

You can keep up to date with future events via our events page


Old River Plan Updated

I’ve spent some time writing a bid application to get some funding for a further restocking of the Old River in Irlam

I added a few pages of back ground content – to give the funders a better idea of who we are, what we do, why we do it and our relationship with the Old River in Irlam

Makes and interesting read

Click on the picture or link below to get the full story


H1 – The Old River Restoration Project

Irwell Ramsbottom 26 Jun 15

I was surprised to find that I had not fished this piece of the river since April last year. Why I stopped going there I can’t remember, it used to be one of my regular haunts. It can be a problem to fish when the river is up, which it wasn’t today. Nice and dull again with a forecast of rain, which did come but not enough to change the river.

Fished a Peasant tail nymph down stream and was soon into a fish.

 Not monsters but better than the average Bradshaw Brook fish.

 All had much better colour than the silver ones that I have been catching further down the river.

 Once I was down to the rail bridge I changed to dry Adams and started back up, missed a couple,

 Then caught this one, by far the best of the day

 Carried on up to the Ramsbottom Road bridge without any luck.

Above the bridge is a weir, as I went under the bridge I was herding a family of  Malards towards the weir. The mother went up the weir and the dozen young tried to follow, all but two made it, the last two were in a panic and kept slipping back down. I tried to help but this upset the mother so I left them at it.

An Irwell Sea Trout?

Every now an then, anglers catch the most beautiful silvery blue wild trout on the Irwell, which if caught on other rivers such as the Ribble, we wouldn’t hesitate to call a sea trout.

These silver trout have cropped up time and time again, sometimes only 10 inches in length, sometimes a couple of pounds in weight.

We have often raised the question with the EA if these fish are true sea trout, and their standard response is no – they can’t be, and that without the proof of their being to sea, they continue to claim that the fish we are catching are normal brown trout which have undergone the smolting process before going to sea.

The proof required is a scale from the fish. The growth rings on the scale show if the fish has been to sea or not. And so far, us anglers have never been able to provide a scale sample for the EA to analyse  UNTIL NOW !!


Click on the photo to see it in full size.

This fish was caught by SFAS member Adam Mack near Manchester City Centre this afternoon.

The photo doesn’t do the fish justice, it was a pure bar of silver and blue when it was caught.

Sadly the fish didn’t survive as it had swallowed the spinner and the trebles had caught in its gills. So not only do we have the photos as proof, this time we have an entire fish to take to the EA offices on Tuesday morning.

So…..lets see what the experts say. Will the growth rings shown on its scales be tightly packed as per a river fish, or will there be rings that have wide separation which show the exponential growth that trout experience when they go to sea !

We will of course let you know the outcome.

What A Cracker

Well done to SFAS member Stewart Carson who caught the brownie of a lifetime this evening from the River Irwell.

This cracking 10lb brown trout fell to a gold and red size 2 mepps, and was safely returned to the river.

It looks like a wonderfully strong, healthy fish with plenty of growing left to do – if it keeps growing it could easily go on to surpass the existing Irwell record brownie of 12lb 2oz.


Salford Inner City Wetland

Please click the photo to see the full size version of the plans for our new inner city wetland, currently being created on the site of the old Salford Racecourse at Castle Irwell.


River Irwell Concept Plan

The EA and Salford Council are constructing a new £10m+ flood storage basin, which they say will protect low lying areas of Salford from a 1 in a 100 year flooding event. Lets hope they’ve got their sums right.

Anyway – this new wetland/flood basin has been designed by the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust – and we have had some say in the project – and think its rather good.

Originally we hoped to get a new fishing lake, but that was soon quashed by the planners at the EA – however we all love wildlife and this new habitat area will tick all the boxes for bring life back to inner city Salford.

What do you think about it ?

Irwell Nob End to Stoneclough 23 Apr15

Went to Nob End, crossed the Croal and then the Irwell, by the canal aqueduct, and made my way down to the river. I have fished the stretch above and below the Bury Bolton Manchester Canal Aqueduct, but not for some time. The main reason for today’s trip was to make my way down river to where there used to be a weir that was taken out last year.

 This is what it used to look like with the large weir pool above.

Quite a change

and of course no more weir pool.

I had hoped the the change would bring an improvement in the fishing but the man in the distance, who fishes here quite often told me that it is not the case. The weir pool used to hold a good head of Chub, they have moved on as the river is now fast and quite shallow, some trout are still in attendance, not that I caught any in the stretch in the picture.

 I fished my way back up until I was opposite where the Croal joins the Irwell, nothing rising nothing caught.

 Where the Croal joins the Irwell I found a couple of fish rising and got one to take a look at my fly but nothing else. The structures in the distance are the footbridge that I crossed the river on, sewage pipes and the canal aqueduct.

 Looking back towards the Croal Irwell confluence, looks good but nothing to show, until I was just short of the footbridge where I hooked and lost two fish. Sorry I forgot to say I was fishing dry fly.

Looking back at the Canal Aqueduct.

 Up above the canal aqueduct, it looks much better but it is very hard to get to, changed rig to a Greenwells and a Iron Blue.

Where I actually managed to land a fish, it took the Greenwells.

The river is summer low and I would not have been able to access all that I did if the river rises by as little as a foot. The bottom bit where the weir used to be can be accessed from Stoneclough, not that I think I will bother to.

Rain forecast for tomorrow evening all the rivers and brooks could do with a good flush to move some of the alga, Surprised to read that it puts oxygen into the rivers in the day time, but takes it out again in the night.

Angling Trust NW Pollution Mtg


Old River Irwell – The Plan Revisited


Does anyone remember our Old River restoration plan which we first set out back in August 2012 ??

We were so bright eyed, and eager with anticipation after signing the lease.

How have things worked out since then, what have we done wrong? what needs changing – I think we need to open up a bit of debate………. which will be carried out at our next club meeting on April 15th at the Kings Arms, and on our facebook page we would really appreciate any comments or information that you can add to the mix.

So this was the state of the nation back in 2012

And to be fair – we have done everything we said we would do – repair pegs, stock fish, keep the water level fairly constant etc.

Our re-stocking plan changed from the original – we didnt stock any crucians, but we have so far stocked 500 tench, 1000 rudd and 3600 bream.

Once we re-stocked – the lake quickly became a focal point for the local cormorant population – so with the help of the Environment Agency – and in particular Andy Eaves, we introduced 14 fish refuge cages, and 14 floating islands to help break up the open water and give fish features to gravitate towards.

Once we installed these features, visits by avian predators have significantly reduced

So – how do we measure the success of this plan ?

More people are now fishing the old river – thats a fact – so its a success

People are catching more fish in summer months than they used to – another fact – and another success

Average match weights have fallen, and the numbers of dry nets in matches has increased – a conundrum !!

We stocked 3600 skimmers between 4″ and 10″ – no one ever catches skimmers or bream on the Old River – a big fail

We stocked 500 4″ tench – very very few tench have been caught over the last 3 years – and none in a match – a big fail

We stocked 1000 6″ rudd – they feature in catches on a regular basis – so we count them as a success……..

The pike fishing is great !! Some people blame the pike for eating the fish and want them to be thinned out. But if thats the case, how come they’ve only eaten all the bream, rudd and tench and not the roach?? I really dont think that the pike are as big a problem as some people make out.

We agreed not to stock any carp – so that we could try to create something different – a tench and bream fishery.


However – overall the fishing hasn’t appeared to improve since we took the lake over. Despite the cosmetic work on the banks, pegs etc – the acid test is how well does the lake fish, and to be honest its not fishing well (apart from the pike fishing which can be great on some days – and none existent on others)

A simple knee jerk reaction could be to simply say – lets remove the pike. Take away a level of predation and the silver fish fishing will improve. Its not that simple. Pike are a necessary species in any mixed fishery – most of the committee would resign and walk away if this is what was required. We love pike – a pike cull is never going to take place. They are a necessary part of a balanced fishery.

However- we still have an unbalanced fishery. Lots of small roach to be had on bread punch for anglers who are competent at this method – but very little for anyone else.

The average size of fish has remained the same over the last 3 years – growth rates appear to be very poor.

A couple of members have suggested buying sacks of fish pellets, to see if we can grow the fish on better – as their still arent that many anglers fishing, throwing in bait etc.

Should we stock with small carp – they’re very cheap – we could buy a few thousand of them and then accept a high attrition rate for the first few years. Having lots of small carp will attract anglers and more anglers mean more bait and food. And more anglers on the bank also mean few opportunities for our black feathered friends….

The first thing we need to do, is to get some sort of professional water quality testing done – so we can rule out unbalanced water quality as the underlying cause.

Then we need to look at some sort of fish stock survey of the lake – maybe an electro fishing sweep might reveal plenty of info ?

Its such a shame that things arent working out for us – take a walk around the Old River – its a cracking venue its just fishing rotten

Please add your comments below and let us know your thoughts – and no holds barred please


Old River Work Party March 15

The sun shone, we litter picked, cut back over grown willow, cleared pegs and generally got stuck in.

Before and after

OR1OR2       before and after

The area behind the pub was the worst affected area – all the pegs were spotlessly clean – a credit to our members who have been fishing the Old River during the winter months.

John and Adam took to the water and litter picked the far bank of the lake, at the same time litter picking the lost lures from the floating islands. If you spot on of yours in the pic below, you now have to opportunity to get it back by buying a raffle ticket at our next club meeting. You have to be in it to win it 😛

OR4 we got plenty more like these


We gave the willow a good seeing to, re-opening up a good few pegs


With everyone lending a hand


A good haul for the day


And the righteous reaped their reward on the dot of opening time



We will be holding another work party (ecological/habitat based) on the 11th April when we continue our “greening the river” project in the Bury/Heywood area. Further details will be available shortly on the next club update email, and then pn our facebook page.

Many thanks to everyone who gave up a couple of hours of their time this morning, it was very much appreciated.