14/03/2017 - The lady, the beast and the snake!
After a quick check of the weather I formulated a plan for my last day on the rivers. Decided to have one last fix of grayling fishing on the intimate little river in Staffordshire I love so much, but with the option of dropping in somewhere on the way home for a couple of hours for something different.
Dropped in at a tackle shop on the way home from Rothley for the usual pint of "mixed". However, when I got home I found that they'd added dust when I had specifically asked them not to (on previous outings, I had found that dust transferred off wet fingers had gummed up the works of my centrepin). In addition, the measure looked a bit short. Suffice to say, if that had been a pint of beer it would have gone back for a top up! Sieved off as much of the dust as I could whilst wondering how many other times I'd been short-changed. The next morning saw me heading West on the A50. There was already a stiff wind coming from the North-West, which had been a factor in deciding what to do for the day as I knew that the twists and turns and high banks of the little river I was heading for would shelter me from it. Got to the venue to find the parking spot vacant - that's how we like it! Got togged up, left a note on the dashboard for the bailiff and set off across the fields. A glance at the river confirmed that it was low and very clear, the weed beds that had persisted over the winter clearly visible and the stony bed starting to "green up" with algae and moss.
Got to the upstream limit, set up the rod, donned the bait apron and then settled in at the top of the run. On the second or third cast the float shot away and I had my first grayling of the session. Took a couple more from the run before letting the float travel further downstream into deeper water. The sun had come out by now and was making it difficult to see the float. However, I just spotted it disappear at the very end of the pool before striking into a very different animal indeed. Found myself attached to a heavy, powerful fish that put a proper bend in my Drennan Ultralite. Lost track of how long we battled backwards and forwards, but I began to think that I'd hooked one of the mythical 2lb grayling that were supposed to be present. However, the glimpse of a spotty dorsal confirmed what was actually on the end of my line. Eventually he tired and I was able to admire an immaculate, wild brownie of 2lb 6oz in the bottom of my net. A real beast for the size of river and obviously the apex predator in his own little domain judging by the kype and teeth on him.
Popped him back, watched him disappear under some tree roots to sulk and then took a few minutes out myself to recover with a cup of coffee. Carried on working the pool for a bit after that, but only had a couple of fingerling grayling, so moved down the next spot. Followed the same pattern, starting at the head of the run before working the main body of the pool, then finally the tail, altering the float as required. On this occasion I was only taking one or two fish from each spot, possibly due to the level and clarity of the water. In some of the very shallow swims it was amazing to see a previously invisible fish take the bait and then become instantly transformed into mad, gyrating bar of silver when I set the hook. Unfortunately, this probably had the unwanted effect of spooking his mates!
On the plus side, it was more knowledge in the bank being able to find those spots that worked when the river was low and clear like this. There were also a few fish rising, presumably to some early olives. However I couldn't tell whether these were grayling or trout, but there were enough to warrant thinking about returning with a fly rod later in the year.
By mid-afternoon I'd got to the large pool where I'd had a few chub and dace in the past. Took a few more grayling at the head before running the float through the main body. Sure enough it disappeared and I struck into a reasonable fish. Whilst I hoped that it was one of the bigger grayling, I wasn't really surprised when Mr Chub popped up instead. Next trot down the float disappeared in exactly the same spot, but this one was more canny than his mate and headed straight for the far bank and into a tangle of tree roots, breaking me off in the process. Fished one more swim, catching a couple more grayling and taking my total up to 42 for the day. It was now 1500 hrs, so I had to make a decision - fish a previously unseen section of the river or head somewhere else?
In the end I decided to do something completely different for the last knockings of my river season and a couple of hours later I was on the banks of the River Trent with two deadbaits out in the hope of a last gasp zander. As it had been bright and sunny most of the day, I wasn't really surprised that it stayed quiet until it got dark, at which point I had a slow, steady run on the lamprey section on my right hand rod.
Wound down to feel nothing on the end, the bait coming back apparently unmarked. Popped it out again to have the exactly the same thing happen again. Had an inkling of what was responsible, but the next run on the same rod was completely different, the bobbin doing a jerky, staccato dance more typical of the species I was after. Wound down and eventually caught up with the fish, which had run towards me. Felt a decent weight on the end and the tell-tale head-banging of a zed. It came in quite quickly and before I had sorted my head torch out, but I managed to catch sight of a long, pale flank on the surface and got the net ready. Unfortunately, at that point the rod straightened and the lead went flying past my head as the hook pulled out - oh dear, or words to that effect! Re-baited with another lamprey section and put it on the spot once again. However, it was the left hand rod with a roach section that I had positioned off the end of a tree that went next. The Micron beeped a couple of times and the bobbin twitched and dropped off, but there didn't appear to be any line taken. Wound down and had a tentative feel to find something on the end. Switched on the head torch to see a long, thin shape gyrated towards me - yep, a flippin' eel and probably the explanation for the funny runs I'd had earlier. Not that I was surprised as I'd had eels at this time of year from this spot before. Weighed him at 2lb 6oz before popping him back. My end rig had been destroyed in the process and my stomach was complaining, so I called it a day at that point. Just a shame that I couldn't add a "vampire" to the list, but I'v got some closed season plans for them.