18/01/2017 - Grey day grayling.

One of the redeeming features of my job is that I work flexi-time and get to exchange my extra hours for 13 flexi days a year. Most of these get taken up with family holidays, but a few always get squirrelled away for when I need to relieve the pressure with a day out on the bike or on the bank. The plan today was for the latter, but it didn't look that promising on two fronts. Firstly, according to the level graph, the river had still some way to go before it was at "normal" level. 

Secondly, the weather was looking distinctly miserable - cold, grey, overcast and with a fine drizzle. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained! Headed west in the gloom with my fingers crossed. Arrived to find nobody in the car park, so togged up and squelched my way across the field for my first look at the river. As suspected, it was quite a bit higher than on my last visit but, most importantly, it was clear! 

Walked upstream to the upper limit of the fishery, the flood debris on the trees and standing water in the fields an indication of high the river had been just a couple of days ago. Whilst the river was now only a few centimetres above normal level, the extra flow was enough to turn my usual first swim into a pacey, boiling, turbulent mess. However, I knew from previous experience that, under these conditions, the fish would be sitting in quiet pockets and gentle eddies off the main flow. 

Rather than conventionally trotting through, it was just a question of dropping the float into these pockets and letting it wander about. Had ten grayling from the first spot doing this before moving on downstream to the next swim. Again, I let the float search out the quieter margins, picking off a few more grayling in the process. Next swim down the extra water had created a fishable run over what was normally a very shallow, gravelly riffle. Still had to hold the float back quite hard, but first trot down the float shot away, accompanied by a clonk on the rod tip as the fish hooked itself. 

Carried on in this vein, picking up fish a few at a time out of each likely-looking spot, until I came to another fast run upstream of a sharp left-hand bend. Let the float trundle down to the bottom of the swim, where it promptly disappeared. Hit a heavy fish that immediately tried to head off downstream around the corner. Managed to stop it twice before entering into a bit of a stalemate with it hanging in the flow on the end of a taut line. Eventually it got moving and slowly plodded past me. Dropped the net in behind it and lifted the rod to get it up onto the surface and.....the hook pulled out under the pressure! Briefly saw a big, dark tail that could have been anything - chub, grayling or trout - disappear out of sight. Had a cup of coffee to calm the nerves then carried on. A couple more grayling and decent brownie went some way to getting over the disappointment of that lost fish before I moved on again.

A bit further downstream a tree had fallen in the river since my last visit on what was normally a straight, shallow run. Wading past it I found that the flow had already scoured out a knee deep depression alongside it, with a similar looking hole immediately downstream. Dropped the float in, held it back and was rewarded immediately with a fish! Not only that, the next four casts produced fish as well - all out of a spot as big as my bath. Up to this point the light had been pretty ropey all day. However, once past about 3 o'clock it soon started to deteriorate. Had a couple more grayling from another new swim right at the downstream end of the section before calling it a day. 

Squelched back to the car again and finished off the coffee, reflecting on a pretty decent day given the circumstances. Ended up with 36 grayling to just over a pound and that solitary brownie. However, I'll be back for that lost "monster"! 

08/01/2017 - A morning salvaged.

With an unsettled, windy weather forecast casting doubt on a planned day off next week, I managed to get a pass out for a few hours this weekend instead for another go at the grayling. Sunday duly saw me heading West on the A50 in the darkness of the early morning. Thought I'd try a section of the River Dove near Tutbury that I'd neglected for a while, a decision that nearly back-fired on me. Arrived to find a car park devoid of life, apart from the scattered remains of several Saturday night fast food meals. Squeezed into the neoprenes (first time after Christmas!) and then stomped across the meadows through the fog up to the weir at the top end of the section. Had fancied the run off the main weir pool for a grayling or two, but had never got around to fishing it last season. Had the rod set up in a jiffy and was soon running a float downstream with two, juicy maggots tripping the bottom beneath it.

The fog decided to descend at this point so the light quality actually got worse before it got better, so initially I was struggling to see the float in the broken water beyond about 25 metres. Didn't actually see the first bite, just felt the fish when I lifted the rod at the end of the trot! However, the size 16 Drennan widegape did it's job and I had the first grayling of the session in the net - not big, but the first one is always welcome. Bumped off a bigger fish, then had a couple more before I noticed several folks in identical, resplendent black and blue outfits pushing trollies, heavily laden with fishing tackle, across the meadow towards me. Turned out that the whole section had been booked out for a match and I was getting booted off - just as I had started building up a swim! Wasn't happy, but I suppose it was my own fault for not checking the club website. Went from bad to worse when I found out that they were pegged from the weir all the way downstream of Hatton bridge, with another section at Marston on Dove. Walked all the way back downstream to the car park fuming to myself and trying to formulate a plan.

Luckily I had the book for the club on the opposite bank, so two minutes in the car later I was off again. Was going to head all the way upstream of the weir and out of the way, but noticed a big gap between two of the far bank pegs that coincided with a nice, 3 feet deep run on the near side, so dropped in 75 metres above the chap downstream of me and 100 metres downstream of the chap above me. 

Didn't stop the chap downstream shouting up to me, "Oi, there's a match on!", but as I politely pointed out, I was well out of his way, fishing a different bank belonging to a different club. What made it even sweeter was that, three trots later, the float disappeared and my strike hit into a solid lump. Turned out to be a fat, well-conditioned chub of 3lb 15oz, which had my friend twisting 'round on his seatbox.

Carried on trotting away, building up the swim with a few maggots each cast, and didn't have to wait that long before the grayling started making an appearance. First few were like peas in a pod, madly banging and twisting all the way to the net. However, eventually struck into one that felt a bit more weighty than bonkers - 1lb 5oz to be exact.

Added a few more, including another one over the pound mark at 1lb 4oz. Matey downstream had also caught a couple of fish by now, despite talking on his phone (probably about me!), losing at least one feeder and two float rigs to snags and all the time twisting 'round to watch what I was doing. Briefly stopped to talk to a chap walking along the bank, but when I started trotting again the fish had either switched off or had gone as I didn't get another sniff. Sat down and had a drink and snack bar before deciding that lunch was probably a good idea and called it a day. Finished with 14 grayling and that bonus chub, which after chatting to several, fishless matchmen on the way back to the car, was a pretty good result!

01/01/2017 - A New Year afloat?

Passed a milestone last year in that it was my 50th birthday at the start of December. Wasn't really expecting much. I'd told my wife that under no circumstances did I want a surprise birthday party (luckily she knows me well enough that this wasn't a bluff and I really didn't want a party!), with celebrations limited to a weekend with the relatives and a night out on the beers with the lads. However, got more than I bargained for when we travelled down to the in-laws in Pembrokeshire at the end of November. First inkling was that my parents' car was already on the drive when we arrived. Second hint was that, after a cup of tea, everybody started hovering around me, at which point the wife handed me a set of "clues" to my birthday present. Having deduced it was hidden somewhere down the yard, I had to traipse off down there with a torch with the others trailing behind me. Bearing in mind that the only thing I'd asked for was an HTO LRF travel rod, I could be forgiven for scratching around in the dark for something about two feet long and missing the obvious! After a few minutes I was gently directed to a tarpaulin-draped object in the barn. I was absolutely gob-smacked when this turned out to be a 14 ft Dejon Coastliner with a 25 hp outboard! Turns out the wife had taken my idle musings about having a little boat to potter around the corners of Milford Haven and go for the odd mackerel trip off Saundersfoot seriously, so one had been sourced on Ebay, bought and then collected by the father-in-law from Llanelli earlier in the Summer.  

Was able to get a proper look at it in the sun the following morning. Father-in-law had already tank-tested the outboard and, whilst the boat was perfectly usable in its current condition, there were a few obvious cosmetic issues - like a very bad paint job on the bottom of the hull, some fogging of the perspex windows and some rotten woodwork where the cuddy had been boxed in with non-marine plywood. Father-in-law had also already removed the non-original and grossly over-engineered pulpit off the bow. More of a concern was that the four flotation compartments that had been filled with foam had been emptied and converted to storage lockers (personally I would favour safety over storage!). However, as a project and ultimately a day boat to potter about in, it looked really promising, so it was wheeled back into the barn for the time being. 

The first opportunity to do a bit of work on the boat came when we were down again at Christmas. Luckily I was able to escape down the yard for a couple of hours on the day after Boxing day and started off by taking out the rotten wood that had been used to box in the cuddy, just a question of removing a lot of screws!

Decided that it probably looked better without the boxing in, particularly after seeing another one on Youtube, which had been left open, just leaving me with a bit of sanding, some fibreglass repairs and a touch of re-painting to cover up where the wood had been attached.  

Next job was to have a look at the windows. On the side windows the seals and insert strip had started to perish, whilst on the front the insert strip was missing and so mastic had been used to keep the window in place. The cabin had also been painted at some point with the windows in, so the seals had quite a bit of paint on them.

Was a simple enough to pop the windows out, scrape off any mastic with a knife and give the cabin a clean. The perspex window panels weren't as bad as first thought and, according to the father-in-law, would come up nicely with some T-Cut and metal polish. Called it a day after that, or rather dinner bell rang and I was forced to go back up the house!

We were going home the following day, but I couldn't resist another hour on the boat.

A number of the pop rivets holding the bump strip on were missing and the rest were badly corroded. A mallet and a chisel made short work of the remaining rivets. Eased the bump strip off and cleaned off the crud and algae that had accumulated underneath it. This revealed a couple of places where the boat must have taken a knock, damaging the "lip" that the bump strip was fixed to. However, nothing that a bit of fibreglass couldn't fix. Unfortunately, that was all I could manage before we had to head off back up to the East Midlands, but I'm already planning what needs to be done next time we're down in February. I've started looking at remote throttle & gear control and steering for the outboard and have been scouring the internet for boat jumble sales! I really hope everybody knows what they've done........ 

09/12/2016 - Fifty up!

Gave myself an early 50th birthday present today and went grayling fishing on a small tributary of the River Dove. I'd booked the day off work ages ago with grayling in mind. However, Sod's Law, after days of cold, sunny weather, some unsettled, windy weather threatened to throw a spanner in the works. Rain was forecast over in Staffordshire early on Thursday, so the river level graphs were watched intently and contingency plans drawn up just in case.

Whilst the river had indeed been affected by the rain, it seemed to be dropping as quickly as it came up, so I gambled and made the journey West on the A50. I needn't have worried because, when I got there at about 8 o'clock, I found the river to be absolutely top condition. Still fining down, but at a nice level with just a tinge of colour.

It was still rather gloomy when I started off in the "banker" swim at the top of the section. However, first trot down with the double maggot yielded a nice grayling. In fact the first seven trots down each resulted in a fish - five grayling, a brownie and a dace. Had previously caught chub from a couple of swims further downstream, but never a dace, so it was pleasant surprise. 

Carried on trotting away, eventually ending up with a total of fourteen fish from that first swim before the bites started to dry up. Moved down to the next pool, but this didn't seem to hold any where near as many fish. However, it did throw up a small chub and another dace to go with the first, which was already more silver fish than I'd had in any previous session on the river.

Carried on downstream from here to the first of a number of fast, shallow runs where I'd found some fish before. Shallowed the float right up and inched it down the run, holding it back so it was almost horizontal. Was rewarded by a "clonk" on the rod tip and the sight of a grayling madly gyrating just under the surface. Steered him into some slacker water to land him, popped him back and then repeated the whole thing next cast with his mate.

Moving downstream, the impact of previous floods was visible in places, both in terms of the flood debris on the banks and trees, but also where the river had undergone some "re-modelling". One such spot was where gravel had been thrown up in a bank, creating a fast riffle that dropped into a new pool. Fed a few maggots in before swinging the float into the riffle. Held it back then let it drop over the lip into the pool where it promptly disappeared. Was left in no doubt what was on the end when a spotty went airborne! Proved to be another productive little spot, yielding several more grayling and a couple of chub, so was filed away for later. 

In contrast, the next usual "banker" was a bit of disappointment. The bankside woody debris (and dead cow!) that had previously diverted the flow had all been washed away and the gravel had been pushed up to create a slower, deeper channel. First trot down I caught a greedy, fat minnow. Had another seven of the little buggers before I gave the swim up as a bad job and carried on to the next run.

      Continued dropping into spots here and there, picking up more grayling and the odd chub. Had passed fifty in terms of total number of fish a while ago and was on forty-two grayling when came to another fast run with some slacker water to the side. Again, it seemed to have quite a few fish in residence and I was quickly up to forty-nine. One more trot through and I had my fiftieth grayling in the net. Decided that was a good a time as any to bring things to a close (I was pretty hungry at this stage anyway) and made my way back to the car pretty satisfied with my six and a half hours work. Finished with fifty grayling, nine chub, two dace, two brownies and a few minnows. Fully justified a guilty pleasure on the way home! 

05/10/2016 - Perch sessions, here and there.

September is usually the time when, after the slack period of the summer, I start to get my serious fishing head on again with perch being the first target. I had various new venues and swims in mind this year, but my first session was on the River Soar in a spot that is becoming my autumn "opener" and one in which I've not failed to catch a 2lber every time I've fished it...famous last words!

Arrived to find the river low and clear, but with lots of small fish topping in the area. Set up the float rod and started working the stick float down the crease. First trot down I had a little chub, which was soon followed by more chub, dace, bleak, roach, skimmers and the odd small perch. Set up the perch paternoster and positioned it on the crease at the downstream end of my swim and carried on trotting. However, didn't have to wait long before the rod tip showed some interest. Pulled the line out the bobbin and watched it shoot away across the surface before winding down to the fish. Felt more like a jack the way it was charging about, so gave it some welly to limit the disturbance to the swim. Was a bit surprised and then relived when a decent perch popped up instead and went straight in the net, a nice fat and young-looking fish with vivid red fins. Thought it would do 2lb and this was confirmed by the scales, albeit by a gnat's whisker. Popped him back and re-baited.  However, as it got dark, the only other action on the perch rod was from an inevitable jack, but at least I was off the mark.
The following week saw me back on the Soar, but in a different swim. As with many of the swims along this section, lack of maintenance by the controlling club meant that the willows had encroached, forming an impenetrable curtain about three feet from the bank, so a couple of days earlier I'd been along with the extendable loppers. 

After half an hour's work I'd cleared the swim enough to give me a decent length to trot through, but enough cover and space downstream for me to position the paternoster.First run through with the stick and I was into a hand-sized roach and it continued from there, with some clonking dace, skimmers, bleak, chub and perch and even a small jack that took a roach off me, transferring the size 16 to his scissors in the process, all falling to the float. Once I'd got a few  baits in the bucket, the paternoster was duly positioned at the tail of the swim to work its magic. Unfortunately, two more jacks were the initial result, doing their best to ruin things by charging around the swim. It wasn't until it started getting dark that I started getting some indications that something else was around. First had a bait snatched off the hook, then a dropped run with the bait coming back virtually scaleless. 

Third time lucky I struck into fish that went head banging into the cabbages before rolling into the net - another scraper 2lber with a few battle scars. Fished on into full darkness without any more interest. Had a funny experience on the way back to the car. Had crossed over the lock from the island where I'd been fishing when a fox appeared and kept pace with me along the far bank. When I stopped, he stopped and when I turned and walked back the way I'd come from, he did the same. He only stopped following me when he ran out of bank and even then he sat and watched me walk off. Don't know if he's been fed by the boaters, but he certainly wasn't at all afraid of me! 

One week later and another venue, the River Derwent, on a section recommended by a work colleague. It certainly looked the part, as I settled into a tasty slack in between two overhanging willows, my only concern being that it was a bit shallower than I would have liked.

However, got the float rod out and soon found that the swim was actually full of perch, just the wrong size! Managed to catch a few silver fish in amongst all of the stripeys, including some chub, roach, dace and bleak. Put the paternoster rod out up against a willow, but after two hours I'd had no interest. Moved to the next swim downstream, where I stayed until dark. However, despite concentrating on the paternoster rod alone and moving it around various features, a bigger perch remained elusive. It was a similar story on the River Trent a few days later. This particular section had been kind to me in the past, with five fish over 2lb in two session, including my current PB of 3lb 10oz. However, arrived to find that some of the swims were completely different in nature to a few years ago and were unfishable, or inaccessible. Undeterred, I managed to find a suitable spot, but then struggled to catch anything on the float rod. Resorted to shallowing right up and snatching half a dozen bleak off the surface. Even that wasn't worth the effort as the paternoster rod failed to attract anything and I was back off home once again with out any decent reward. 

The last of this series of sessions saw me back on the River Soar. A stiff, Easterly wind meant that I was back in the swim where I started four weeks ago. However, the river was carrying a bit more water this time, which made trotting a much easier and more enjoyable affair. Soon had a few suitable baits in the bucket to allow me to deploy the paternoster, while I carried on trotting for the hell of it. A couple of sharp knocks on the rod tip alerted me to some interest and a few minutes later a nice perch was in the net. Had one more take that resulted in a stolen bait before I upped sticks and tried a couple of spots upstream before it got dark. However, apart from a greedy half-pounder, that was it. Ran into my foxy friend again on the way back. This time I'd not even made it across the lock before he appeared no more than six feet away from me. Judging by his boldness and a certain air of expectation, he must be being hand fed. Said I'd probably see him again (I fancy some of the swims for a chopped worm approach after Christmas) but, after a short break for surfing and possibly mini-species hunting in Devon next weekend, my next mission will be to up my zander personal best.

04/09/2016 - Go (South) West!

Considering I live in the Midlands, I've had lots of opportunities this summer to indulge in a bit of sea fishing, particularly light rock and light game fishing for the smaller species.

The August Bank Holiday saw us down in Pembrokeshire again. However, the fishing didn't go entirely to plan as I had a blank for the bass and then again for the trigger fish. However, I did find a spot where I caught some donkey-sized shannies that will come in useful for next year's species hunt. 

This weekend we were down in the South West again, but this time in Exmouth visiting friends. Saturday morning saw the lads and dads heading down to the docks for high tide armed with a pack of fresh rag. Unfortunately, ongoing works to the slipway and a residential development meant that access was quite limited. However, we found a spot near the compass where we could fish over the wall into a large slack next to some rocks.

My friend Simon had brought his kayak rod, so I set him and his lad, Daniel, up with a two hook flapper rig baited with whole rag on size 4 Aberdeens for the "big" stuff, whilst my lad, James, and I fished with scaled down scratching rigs baited with scraps of rag on our LRF rods. Simon was quick out the blocks with a couple of small ballan wrasse before I'd even got the other rods set up.

With the other baits in the water we soon started picking up more ballans, along with the occasional male corkwing wrasse, James getting a "triple shot" at one stage! Despite being the only fishable spot, it soon became apparent that there were loads of fish about and, whilst we were fishing over rocks, they were flat and relatively snag-free. Along with the wrasse there were lots of small pollock to keep me busy unhooking fish, re-baiting hooks and tying new rigs for everybody else - deja vu! We weren't the only "fishermen" in attendance either - the local seal popped up a couple of times and there a couple of cormorants fishing off the little beach in front of the apartments.

        As the tide started to ebb, the bites from the wrasse seemed to dry up and, whilst Simon got a bonus little bass, it was the shannies that moved in instead. James started bringing them up two at a time and Daniel caught some real "donkeys" by sight-fishing for them in the shallower water. However, I was holding out for either a scorpion or my first tompot blenny, both of which had featured in various Googled write-ups about the venue. Just as we were thinking of packing up, I had a determined rattle on the rod tip and as I wound the fish to the surface I realised I'd added to the species list after all.

Bizarrely, next and last drop down I had another, so I was quite chuffed when we headed home for a well-deserved sausage bap!

Simon and Daniel had rugby training on Sunday morning, so it was was just James and I that headed back down to "compass point" for high tide again to use up the last of the rag. Unfortunately, I'd not checked it before we left. Upon unwrapping the newspaper, it was obvious it hadn't fared well in the utility room overnight, i.e. it was dead and well on the way to decomposition! However, whilst this made the baiting up process not particularly pleasant, it didn't seem to put the fish off at all as we picked up where we left off the day before. The juvenile pollock appeared first before James found a spot in between two rocks that yielded a number of ballan and corkwing wrasse and a couple of bass. The fishing followed the same pattern as the previous day, with the shannies becoming more prevalent as the tide turned. James added a tompot to his tally before I got smashed up by a much bigger fish that took the very last scrap of usable bait. Packed up at this stage and headed home after another successful session, but stinking of semi-rotten ragworm and very keen to wash our hands!

05/08/2016 - Gars and silver bars

Happened to have a chat with John at Raven Trading about how his species hunting was going and got around to garfish. He mentioned that there were quite a few coming out at Saundersfoot so, having managed to procure a mackerel at the last minute for bait, James and I headed off down to the harbour for a evening high tide.

The outer wall was lined with grockles flinging mackerel feathers to the horizon, sideways or straight up in the air depending on their competency, but we spotted a gap where a couple of chaps and their kids were packing up. Had a quick chat with them, but it didn't sound too hopeful as they said nobody had caught anything all evening! However, undeterred, I set up the float rod for James with an adjustable two-hook rig baited with thin belly strips of the mackerel, which turned out to be less than fresh! To start with one of the size 6 hooks was set at about 18 inches below the float and the other at 3 feet. Cast it out about 20 yards to the edge of the ripple. It was then just a question of getting the boy to keep an eye on it as it drifted back towards the wall, hopefully to be intercepted by a garfish or a mackerel. 

In the meantime I set up one of the light rods with a scratching rig and dropped it down the side of the wall baited with bits of equally stale ragworm and prawn to see if there was anything about. Didn't have to wait long before I had the first of many rattles.

Basically there just seemed to be a couple of species present. Either the bait on the bottom was taken by a shanny, or a sand smelt grabbed the bait on the top hook - it was a race between the two! However, didn't mind as there were plenty of both and I still appeared to be the only person catching anything! The garfish rig had been re-cast a couple of times when James said the float had gone under. Told him to wind the slack in quick and he briefly felt a fish on before it came off. Cast out to the same spot and it wan't long before the float was off again. This time I wound down and struck for him and then handed him the rod. After some brief, surface acrobatics our target species was safely in the net.

Unfortunately, he turned out to be deep-hooked, so he was swiftly dispatched for the boy's tea. Re-baited and cast out again for the float to disappear almost immediately. James confirmed fish on and got it to the point of lifting it out of the water when it fell off. However, there were no problems with the next one. This was hooked nicely in the beak, so was released with a quick shake of the forceps. Not long afterwards I had an unexpected silver eel that made a complete mess of my end rig! It was getting a bit dark to see the float by now and the crabs seemed to have moved in under my feet. John happened to turn up at this point as well so, after thanking him for his tip off and gleaning yet more useful information off him, we gave the crabs the leftover, manky bait and headed home. 

A few days later, I had the opportunity of lure fishing a couple of early morning low tides down on the estuary at Lawrenny for the bass. 

First morning I was up at 5 am, making my way down to the estuary in the half light to catch the tide as it turned and started flooding back in. Kept faith with the "teaser rig" - a bass fly on a dropper about three feet up from the lure. It was nice and still when I arrived, so started with a surface lure, but after about half an hour I'd had no interest, so switched to my favourite Megabass X-120. However, whilst this obviously got down the where the fish were feeding, all of the subsequent takes were on the fly. Had a couple of mini-bass, then lost a decent fish as I was drawing it into the shallows to unhook. Working my way up the beach I had a better schoolie before the racing tide and bright sunshine called a halt to the session.

In complete contrast, whilst I got an extra hour in bed, the following morning was cold and windy. Got to the venue to find somebody already fishing from the point and, as I put my waders on, another van pulled up beside me. Had a quick chat with the driver who was also down for the bass. He said that there'd been some decent fish coming out on soft plastics. I'd not got any with me this trip, so that was filed away for future reference. He was obviously keen to get going, so left him to join his mate on the point, while I went down onto the beach.

Over the next couple of hours I methodically fished my way towards them, occasionally having a crafty look to see how they were doing. Saw van chappie catch at least two nice fish. All I'd had at that stage was a micro-schoolie that you would have struggled  to make a fish finger out of! However, that was to change with the weather. The wind dropped completely and a fine drizzle set in.

My companions on the point packed up, confirming as they walked past that they'd just had the couple, whilst I persevered a bit longer. Walked up to the point where the incoming tide was now creating a pronounced crease between the main channel and the beach. Cast down and across the crease and was rewarded by a thump on the rod tip from a plump schoolie. Next cast the tip thumped over again, resulting in a bigger, albeit skinnier, fish. Carried on for a bit, working back down the beach, but that was it. 

Stopped off on the way home to pick some samphire, which I made a very satisfying breakfast of with a poached egg on toast. Well...you can't have a bacon sarnie every day!