12 months after making our first enquiries, we were finally granted the angling rights on the Old River Irwell in Irlam in May 2012. Now we have the task of restoring a water which lost most of its fish to a dreadful pollution incident in 2008 and has struggled to recover. Many of the pegs have fallen into a terrible state of disrepair, and the bankside willow has overgrown to such an extent that many of the pegs are inaccessible.
The stream which runs drains out of the Old River has been allowed to clog up with woody debris resulting a slowly rising water level in the Old River which has started to drown out many of the pegs.
Fish stocks are low, as previously good stocks of carp, tench and bream were wiped out back in 2008 when the over the course of a few months large amounts of sewage entered into the Old River from misconnected sewers, and a large proportion of the fish died. A few roach pike and perch seem to have survived the pollution (which is strange seeing as though perch are normally the first species to belly up when water quality deteriorates) but the fishing is currently very poor.
However - its not all doom and gloom, the water quality in the lake seems to have recovered. The EA tell us that they have sorted out 16 of the 17 sewage misconnections they have found in the local area. There are large amounts of fry in the lake. Its possible to see Kingfishers feeding on the fry every day, so they must be nesting in the area, and I found this lovely little newt in the bankside undergrowth yesterday.
We've also have offers of support, time, materials and fish stocks from the EA and the Salford Council in order to get the place back to some sort of semblance of a fishery again.
You cant tackle a project like this without a starting plan - so here is ours for the Old River
1. Sort out fluctuating water levels.
The existing fishing pegs are regularly being swamped by the fluctuating water levels on the Old River. These fluctuating water levels are being caused by the exit stream being blocked by large and small woody debris, so when it rains, water is being held back in the Old River rather than flowing away down hill via the exit stream. It should be possible to maintain a reasonably constant water level by clearing the first 100yards of the exit stream from blockages. However we have to be carefull as the exit stream runs through an SSI so anywork we do will have to be minimum impact on the surrounding woodland.
The benefit cleaning out the run off stream will also have the effect of preventing the filth from a combined sewage overflow backing up into the main water body - one of the main causes of the 2008 pollution incident.
2.Repair fishing pegs.
The constant wetting/drying of the fishing platforms has caused many of them to rot beyond repair - there are 36 pegs on the Old River, and the majority of them are in a dangerous state of repair. The EA have generously offered us treated timber to repair the fishing stages.
3. Cut back Willows and bankside vegetation.
The bankside vegetation is seriously overgrown - more than 50% of the pegs are inaccessible - and need a good chainsaw attack to get to them.
4. Restock with fish.
We have held a few matches on the Old River, and held a few pleasure sessions to see whats left after the pollution. Roach seem to be making a comeback with lots of very small fish, perch and pike seem to be thriving - however the once prolific tench and bream seem to have been completely wiped out in 2008.
Salford Friendly Anglers have so far raised over £1000 through our restocking fund matches, a couple of VERY generous donations, and from our collecting tins which are located in various local fishing tackle shops and pubs. We also have the promise of fish 5000 from the EA. We have also put in an application to Salford Council for a grant from the Salford Communities Fund to help with restocking.
Our overall intention is to restore the fishery to being a venue where a family can come for an afternoons fishing and have the reasonable expectation to catch a fish or two of different species. Not stocked to the levels of a commercial fishery - but a venue where an expert can have a good days fishing - and a novice can catch a few.
At present - even the so called experts are struggling to catch anything other than a couple of tiddlers.
It isnt an impossible task to return the Old River to its former glories - however as with most things in life it cant be achieved without a little time and effort.......................
So on Saturday the 18th we started off with a little bit of our time and effort ----- well actually alot of time and effort.
On the hottest day of the year, a few of us gave up a day to make a start - a proper 9 to 6 day of hard graft.
The EA delivered timber to the Boathouse pub last week, so theres no time like the present to make a start.
And our first task was to drag out woody debris from the exit stream, to release water being held back in the lake.
The amount of junk blocking the stream was incredible - but half an hours work with nothing but a garden rake taking out 3 blocked pinch points has resulted in the water level now being 6 inches below, rather than level with the top of the wooden pegs.
Our volunteers strimmed back the nettles from the footpaths, and the ten pegs we decided to tackle. Once the vegetation had been cleared back the poor state of repair of most of the pegs became apparent - however, 9 inch tannalised boards supplied by the EA, and lots of 6 inch nails soon made them safe.
Sounds easy when your writing it on a blog - but was real hard graft on the hottest day of the year so far.
We raked out many of the snags/ironmongery/rubbish from these first ten pegs - and had to launch our club boat twice to retrieve the rake from immovable objects. Henley on Irwell - with a plank for an oar.
6pm soon came round, and a welcome pint in the pub before we went home...... I cant thank the members who helped out on the day enough - for a real hard days effort.
Bob Morris, Barry Carney, John Polding, Emma Pickergill - thank you, thank you, thank you.
The EA in addition to donating timber towards the reconstruction of the fishing pegs have promised to kick start the restocking of the Old River in October 2012 - with an initial restocking of
500 crucian carp
followed by a further restocking in Feb/March 2013 of
1000 crucian carp
These fish will be little hand size fish. Salford Friendly intend to restock with larger fish in order to create different year classes, however this will be dependant on the success of our bid for grant funding from Salford Council.
If we can have a good turnout for a winter workparty - we should be able to complete most of the work in a day.
I will email all members when we've set the date.