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"!
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!
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.
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!
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........