22/04/2019 - When in Rome.......

Sunday saw us down at friends in Exmouth yet again having driven the boy part of the way back to University. Work on Tuesday meant we had only planned a short stop, but there was more than enough time to factor in a quick fishing session, particularly as the conditions on Monday morning - warm, sunny weather and an early morning high tide - looked spot on. 

Unfortunately things didn't go quite to plan, as a late night and more than a few drinks meant our early start went out the window and we didn't get down to the marina until just before slack water. At least the brisk walk served to clear our heads a bit! Setting up on the "compass", my friend Simon and I started off dropping our baited rigs down amongst the rocks to see what was about. About half an hour later and with just two, fat shannies to show for our efforts, we were ready for a move onto the dock. The tide had already started ebbing and running along the dock wall, but I spotted a small, sheltered area of slack water and duly dropped my rig down to the bottom. Literally 10 seconds later the tip wrenched over and after a short, but intense, scrap I scooped a beautifully marked ballan wrasse into the landing net. 

Next cast resulted in another, slightly smaller specimen, so I encouraged Simon to drop his rig into the same spot while I sorted the fish out in the net. I just about had time to unhook it and drop it back in before he announced that he was also into a fish! 

We carried on in this vein for about the next 20 minutes, taking turns in the "wrasse hole" and catching several more ballans in a range of colours and sizes, including a double hook-up to Simon that looked like peas in a pod. Eventually, as the ebb picked up, our little patch of slack water disappeared along with the fish, so we moved on to the next spot at the boat ramp hoping for some pollack. It took a few casts to find them, but they were soon throwing themselves at our artificial baits. 

Our dear lady wives turned up at this point and with thoughts turning to a much-needed cup of coffee and some food, we had a last couple of casts each. I hadn't bothered to change my two hook mini-flapper rig I'd been using for the wrasse and consequently managed to end on a high with two double hook ups, consisting of three pollack and a coalfish, dispelling our wives' theory that we were just catching the same single fish over and over again! Walked back along the front looking for some low water spots to try next time, stopping at Abi's for a quick brunch. Five hours later, after multiple delays on the M5, we were back in Nottingham and getting ready for work! 

13/04/2019 - Time for reflection and a bit of fishing

This week we had a family gathering down in Pembrokeshire to coincide with what would have been my dad's 80th birthday and to re-visit a place that held many happy memories for us - Bosherston Lily Ponds. 

Fishing of some description was always going to be on the agenda while we were here, so early on Monday morning I dragged my lad out of bed to catch slack water at Hobbs Point, stopping off at Tesco at Pembroke Dock to grab some raw prawns for bait. Dropping a mini-two hook flapper down the side of the wall he had a small pollack before I'd tackled up the second rod. Our fishing window was only short due to the tides, but when it started to ebb less than an hour later, we'd had a couple more pollack and several greedy rock gobies between us. 

The following day the family all headed down to the "grassy bridge" at Bosherston, the scene of many autumn pike fishing expeditions during the late 70's and 80's, when a small part of Pembrokeshire would be temporarily annexed by a load of Brummies!

Despite our initial ineptitude and crude tackle, we always caught lots of pike up to mid-doubles, together with the occasional big eel that ended up in the frying pan (different times). There were bigger specimens there without doubt, including a high twenty that went home with it's captor in a black bin bag after he'd come and scabbed some roach off us for livebaits. However, they managed to elude us despite our tackle and methods becoming more refined over the years. 

As I've mentioned before in a previous post, I don't remember dad actually doing much fishing himself. Instead he'd be tackling and baiting everybody else up, dealing with the inevitable tangles, brewing tea, making bacon butties and then packing and tidying up. However, that was him all over - as happy helping as doing.

Bosherston nowadays is probably better known for the photogenic qualities of its resident population of otters than its fishing, but it was a fitting place to pause, reflect and remember. 

The next morning my brother, my lad and I headed up to the North coast to Fishguard for a boys' fishing trip. Set up at the end of the inner breakwater to fish the two hours up to high tide. Had taken a variety of kit, including the LRF rods but, as it was quite windy and very weedy close in, we settled on taking turns with the bait rods. Choice of bait at the local garage had been limited to frozen squid or mackerel, so a pulley pennel rig was baited up with a squid/mackerel wrap and a two hook flapper baited with squid and mackerel strips. 

The rod with the pennel rig on had only been out a couple of minutes when there was good pull down and a slack line bite, resulting in a small dogfish for the lad. Before I'd had chance to re-bait, the other rod started nodding away and was eagerly jumped on by my brother. Unfortunately for him, this turned out to be a small whiting instead! Luckily there were a few more fish about, so I was kept busy re-baiting for my "clients". By the time it got to slack water, we'd all had a couple of doggies each, with a few whiting thrown in for good measure. 

Main thing was that we'd spent some quality time together and had a few laughs. Hopefully there'll be many more to come.

24/03/2019 - A plethora of pollack and a wildlife rescue

Flashed down to Exmouth again this weekend to pick the boy up from university so, not to miss an opportunity and having checked the weather and the tide times, the LRF gear was put in the boot with the overnight bag. 

A gloriously sunny Sunday morning saw my friend Simon, his son and I heading to the docks to catch high tide. Arriving at our favourite spot at "the compass" we found the water clarity much improved since last visit and therefore hopes were high as we dropped our Gulp and isome-baited rigs down amongst the rocks and the structure. However, a distinct lack of immediate interest seemed to indicate there didn't seem to be much at home, not even a usually obliging shanny or tompot. 

Eventually, after a couple of half-hearted nibbles, I had a proper bite that resulted in a small, but colourful ballan wrasse. Had just popped him back when I spotted what looked like a rat swimming towards us from the direction from the other side of the estuary. Heading for the nearest rock it managed to crawl up out of the water, but then just sat there being buffeted by the swell, probably cold and exhausted. Managed to coax it into landing net without any problem and was surprised to find it was actually a water vole! Carefully popped it out of harm's way under some nearby undergrowth where it immediately started preening and drying itself off. When we checked on it a bit later it had gone, hopefully feeling a bit better and wiser after its recent adventure. Decided at this stage that a change was in order, so we headed over to the other side of the entrance to the marina. 

The tide had started to ebb by now and was already ripping past the end of the boat ramp, creating a back eddy in front of the sea defences. First cast the tip banged over as the isome section was taken on the drop, resulting in a small pollack. 

Carried on casting out the dropshot rig underarm and just letting it swing in on a tight line. Invariably, a few knocks and bumps were followed by the tip bending fully round as another pollack grabbed the bait before it hit the bottom.

I could have switched to a more suitable set-up, such as a jig or a metal lure, but as the fish seemed to be packed into a small area and obviously having it there didn't seem to be much point. This got to be so addictive that, by the time the wife and the boy arrived, I'd had over 40 fish, with the best of them nudging the pound mark. I had fully intended to try for some different species once the tide retreated down the boat ramp, but as time was limited I said that I'd hit "50" and pack up. After pollack number 49 I swung the rig out for what was the final time. Again the bait was taken on the drop, but this time the culprit was a coalfish. I'd seen reports that these were in the area over the winter, so was pleased to catch one before they disappeared again. Unfortunately, the wife made me stick to my word after that, so we headed back along the seafront that was now packed with people out enjoying the warm weather.

Wonder if "Ratty" made it back to Dawlish Warren?

05/03/2019 - Thank goodness for grayling, but where have all the pike gone?

Couldn't help thinking that my timing and hence the conditions weren't quite right the last time I went pike fishing, so there were to be no excuses this time. The day I picked was overcast, but still mild, the river was at normal, winter level and clear - what could go wrong?

As I headed upstream from the car park at first light there wasn't even a breath of wind and, as the sun slowly crept over the horizon, the surface of the river became a mirror. Even more puzzling then that the two, fresh dead baits that I placed carefully in the margins failed to attract any attention for at least the first hour. When a take did come it was savage, the downstream float disappearing with an almost audible "plop", swiftly followed by the "smack" of the bite indicator hitting the back rod rest. 

Unfortunately, whatever had grabbed my lamprey section had not taken it down sufficiently for the hooks to take a proper hold, so my strike met with only momentary resistance and then nothing. A quick glance at the still bloody lamprey and it was put back right in the same place. A couple of minutes later and the float disappeared again, darting away under the surface - same fish or a travelling companion? This time the hooks found a purchase and a jack soon graced the net. Blank avoided! Leapfrogged the rods downstream with increasing frequency as runs failed to materialise and my impatience grew. Eventually, a rod placed over next to a boat on the far bank resulted in another jack. 

With him sat in the net in the margins awaiting unhooking I wound in the the other rod and recast it over to the far bank. Tempting fate? Yep! As I went back to deal with the pike in the net, another decided to make off with the smelt I'd literally re-positioned seconds ago. Got the hooks out and the fish back in the water as quickly as possible, but the bait had already been dropped and the chance had gone. Frustrated, I threw everything back in the car and drove a short distance downstream to try and salvage something from my morning off. However, my normally reliable swims failed to produce and I headed home disappointed, but also very troubled. Where on earth have all the pike gone? 

Over the next few days work and the weather conspired to prevent me going out again until, finally, a short window of opportunity appeared one afternoon. Leaving the office at 3 o'clock and armed with a pint of maggots I headed out with the float road once again to the River Derwent. Arriving to find a couple of cars already in the car park I walked to the only spot that I knew would be fully sheltered from the brisk prevailing wind. Thankfully the swim was free, but there were two anglers just upstream. Went to check that they were okay with me dropping in just below them, but found they were packing up not having had anything on the feeder all day - "not even a grayling"! Undeterred, I got set up and waded out into position as they headed off. The river was gin clear and I could easily see the bottom off the end of the rod top. However, second trot down the float disappeared and I was into my first fish! 

Carried on trotting away until I couldn't see the float any longer and the cold had started to seep through my neoprenes. Whilst the bites hadn't been prolific, I had still managed to catch ten nice grayling in a couple of hours. Headed back to the car, my satisfaction tempered slightly by the thought that this might be the end of my river season. Oh well, perhaps the weather won't be as crap as it's meant to be?!

18/02/2019 - Short sessions, meagre rewards

Tried to make the most of the crazy weather last week by slotting in a few, short predator sessions. First up was on Thursday to a section of the River Soar that I'd neglected last season, but one I'd previously done well on at this time of year. However, there was no "Valentine's Day Massacre" on this occasion! Arrived at first light to find the river had fined down to a perfect level after the rain at the weekend, but rather surprisingly it was still carrying quite a bit of colour. Walked up to my usual starting point and quietly dropped a couple of float-legered deadbaits in the margin, a joey mackerel upstream and a smelt downstream.

I find that keeping an eye on two floats can sometimes be like watching tennis, so I always go belt and braces and fish the rods with bite alarms and drop offs. This gives me several visual and audible clues, i.e. a tremble on the float, a nod on the rod top, the bite alarm and, failing all of that, the "thwack" of the drop-off hitting the rear rest! However, for the first hour everything remained ominously stationary or silent. Was therefore just contemplating a move when I saw the upstream float bob a couple of times. Stood poised over the rod expectantly waiting for the float to go waddling off, but it never happened, so wound in and checked the bait. Apart from a couple of puncture marks it was fine, so it went out underarm into the same spot. This time I didn't even have time to sit down before the float showed a bit more determined interest from below. Waited until it was definitely on the move before winding down into the first fish of the day. 

Thought that might be sign that the pike might be waking up but, apart from another dithering take that didn't amount to anything, it was deathly quiet for the next hour or so. I had moved some way downstream and had put one of the baits over to the far bank at this stage and it was this one that was finally picked up. Wound down and bent into a fish, but only stayed connected for a few seconds before the hooks pulled out. Almost immediately the downstream rod in the near margin shot off. Wound down to a much better fish, the rod staying arched over against a solid weight, but agonisingly contact was again short-lived as the hooks failed to get a decent purchase. Was sick as a parrot to lose two fish in such a short space of time on a day where bites were at a premium and a small jack at the death was little compensation. The next day after work I was back on the river on a section further downstream eager for a better result. 

Clarity had much improved and, apart from it being a baking hot afternoon, conditions looked good. Hedged my bets this time by fishing small roach deadbaits on my 1.75 lb specialists. Still adequate to land the stamp of pike that might be present, but a bit more refined should a zander show up after dark. Had a dropped run on my upstream rod within 5 minutes before the downstream rod, fished alongside a bed of rushes on the near bank, tore off. The resulting pike made mincemeat of my thumb in the unhooking process, so the rest of the session was spent with a handkerchief wrapped round it as a makeshift field dressing! Leapfrogged the rods downstream and had another pike as it was getting dark. This one looked to have had a recent and very lucky encounter with a much bigger fish, which made me question my choice of bait and tackle. However, either the big girl wasn't about, or she wasn't interested in my paltry offerings. 

Moved into the final swim, a deep bend with some barges moored on the far bank, where I thought a zed might be lurking. Unfortunately the only only excitement was when a considerate chap decided to clear a whole winter's worth of debris that had accumulated against his houseboat immediately upstream. Luckily I spotted the resulting floating "island" in the gloom just in time to get both rods out of the way before it wiped them out. 
Final session was on Sunday morning on the River Trent near Long Eaton. I knew very little about this part of the river other than, several years ago, a friend had fluked a 20 lb pike on a boilie meant for barbel (not surprisingly, no amount of persuading on my part at the time could convince him that it didn't count).  Also, the deeper, pikey-looking swims were right at the bottom end of the section, which involved a bit of a slog from the car park. 

Got there at first light to find a bivvy installed in one of the swims. Checked with the sleepy occupant that it was okay to drop in downstream and soon had two baits out in the margin. Again, conditions seemed perfect, but an hour later I'd had no interest so made a move. My fellow angler was packing up at his stage after an unsuccessful night after the barbel, so I stopped for a quick chat. He mentioned that somebody had been pike fishing the swim I'd been in the previous day and that they'd had just the one jack, which had been very badly deep-hooked. Tried a couple of swims upstream, but that news and the presence of empty beer cans, Finlandia vodka bottles and discarded, home-made landing net did little for my confidence, so I was back home a lot earlier than planned.

It would be nice to get a big girl before the end of the season, but time is running out and there's still so much to do!!

25/01/2019 - Best laid plans...

I'm usually meticulous in my session planning given my limited free time, but today I got things badly wrong. The plan was to have another day out in Staffordshire on a River Dove tributary. A quick check yesterday indicated that the river was dropping nicely down to the "perfect" level and, whilst there was a bit of rain forecast overnight, I didn't think it was enough to worry about. Set off before first light and arrived at about 0830 hrs, having had to negotiate a couple of hold ups on the A50. At first glance the river looked to be carrying a bit of colour, but was at a nice level, so I headed to the upstream limit and started fishing. Had a nice grayling early on, but then struggled for bites and it wasn't until I was in my third swim when I noticed that the river clarity and colour had significantly changed for the worst. A quick check of river levels on the phone confirmed that I was fishing on a rapidly rising river, presumably as a result of the overnight rain being more significant than I realised. Idiot! Rather than struggle on I headed back to the car to consider my options, kicking myself all the way for not double checking before leaving this morning. 

The River Dove was closest, but a stiff downstream wind would have made things difficult at my preferred venue, so I ended up heading all the way back along the A50 to Derby and to the River Derwent again - where I probably should have been two hours earlier! 

The weather was pretty grim when I arrived - grey, damp and miserable - which didn't improve my mood. I was also probably a bit under-gunned for the bigger river with my 11ft Drennan Ultralite and light stick float setup. However, got togged up again and headed for the long glide that I'd fished the previous weekend. Whilst the river was up slightly, the clarity was good, so I started fishing with renewed optimism. However, after about an hour stood in the drizzle and with just a couple of small grayling to to show for my efforts, I was ready to pack up. Instead, I decided to head upstream to find a bit of slower paced water where I could be a bit more confident that my bait was where it should be, i.e. on the bottom. Dropped in above the big tree again. However, where I had been able to wade well over halfway across the river on previous visits, the higher level meant I could only wade to the edge of the tree-line. 

However, it also meant that there was a nice depth with an even pace close in - just what I was looking for. 

Had a couple of small grayling straight away, but it wasn't until the last hour of daylight that they really seemed to switch on. At one stage I noticed fish boiling on the surface where I'd thrown in some loose feed. Thinking they were dace I watched a bit more closely and realised that they were actually grayling, coming off the bottom and intercepting the maggots before they sank. Sure enough, I had a flurry of fish, including several on the drop right in front of me. By the time the light had faded and the chill had finally got through my layers I'd had another ten grayling, so I was quite glad that I had persevered. 

Headed back to the car feeling a bit better about my day, but I won't be making such a schoolboy error again!

20/01/2019 - Off to the river again

If the "meteorologists" at the Daily Mirror are to be believed, it appears that we are heading for the next Ice Age. However, to be fair, nobody seems to be able to predict the weather at the moment. Whilst there were various forecasts of rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures over the weekend, the reality at first light this morning was a bearable 4 degrees Centigrade and not a breath of wind. For a brief period, as the rising sun bridged the gap between the horizon and the blanket of low cloud, it was glorious. It even made the local power station look good. 

The maggots I'd left in the garage from last week had survived surprisingly well, so I'd already decided that I'd return for another short session on the River Derwent whatever the weather. The benign conditions were therefore a welcome bonus and meant that I could have another go at the attractive, long glide that I'd been forced off by the wind last weekend. Even better, an empty car park indicated that I had the whole section to myself.

 With hindsight, upon arrival at the top of the glide, I made the mistake of wading in straight away to fish the faster, deeper water over towards the far bank. I also made the fundamental error of not changing the hook link, the rod still made up from the last session, as I lost three decent fish in quick succession to hook pulls! Having got the message and changed the hook link I moved a few yards downstream. However, this time I chose not to wade in and just ran the float down the inside off the rod tip. 

Second trot down the float disappeared and I was into my first grayling of the day. Several more followed from that inside line and when that dried up, I waded out a bit further to try another one.

Carried on in that vein and by the time I'd reached the end of the glide I'd had fifteen grayling in a range of sizes to just over a pound.

Had a quick look at a swim further downstream but, whilst there was a nice depth and a smooth, even flow, the bottom looked sandy and pretty featureless. After a couple of unsuccessful exploratory casts I was therefore itching to try somewhere else, so headed upstream and dropped into a swim I'd fished before, another nice glide down to a large, overhanging tree. Five more grayling followed before things went quiet there as well and my self-imposed rule of "ten casts without a fish" saw me move once more. 

Unfortunately my hooking issues returned in the next swim with the first two fish coming off, before I eventually made another grayling and my last fish of the morning stick. Gave my last few maggots to a robin that had been waiting patiently in the bushes behind me and headed home for a late breakfast of my own.