Again, the navigable channel upstream was full of the horrible stuff. However, when I happened to bump into the bailiff he assured me that the spraying contractors had done their job downstream. Making the long walk to my usual spot, I found that the river was indeed pennywort-free, but that it was very low, more like summer level, and gin-clear. Put two, small roach deadbaits out into the pool and sat watching the tips, not really expecting anything until dark...and so it proved. A couple of positive knocks on the left-hand rod was followed by a slow, but definite run. Wound down to find a bit of weight on the end, but my hopes of a decent zander were quashed when a skinny pike rolled into the landing net. Hopelessly out of condition, it was easily long enough to be a double, which had me checking his throat for stray snap tackle. However, he seemed to be fine other than in need of a decent meal!
Stayed on for a couple of hours into dark, but that was the only action to be had. It was also the end of a very short zander campaign as a few days later the winds rolled in from the East and temperatures dropped into single figures! Not to be outdone by the weather, my thoughts immediately turned to another seasonal favourite - grayling. It's a fish I never tire of because of its unique beauty and its fighting ability, which ranges from a mad, possessed twisting and gyrating to the nerve-jangling doggedness of a really big fish.
I'd also promised a couple of friends that I'd take them grayling fishing last season, but not got around to it, so thought I'd recce a couple of club waters at the weekend as possible venues. First up was the River Dove near Tutbury. Got there for first light and wandered upstream from the car park with just the float rod, landing net and a bait apron full of maggots. Whilst the River Trent outside the office had been like a mill pool over the previous couple of days, a stiff breeze from the north-east that morning meant that conditions for controlling a float on my chosen section were a bit tricky. The river was also very low and clear and I found myself having to wade well over halfway across the river in order to find sufficient depth to run the float down the head of a long glide where I'd had some success in the past. However, I'd only had a couple of casts when the Avon buried and I was into my first fish of the day.
Unfortunately, it soon became obvious that it was going to be a bit of a struggle with subsequent bites coming very slowly. I'd had couple more grayling when I struck into a lump that just sullenly sat out in the current, leading me to believe I'd hooked a barbel (my current PB of 12lb 6oz came from the same section on 3lb line when I was perch fishing). Eventually it grudgingly decided to move upstream into the landing net, by which time it had changed into a 3lb 8oz chub! Carried on trotting away, moving slowly further down the glide as and when the bites dried up on each line.
By lunchtime I'd had that solitary chub and a dozen grayling to 1lb 3oz, the biggest of which had a fresh stab wound just behind its dorsal and flanks devoid of scales as record of a lucky escape from the black death. Packed up and walked back to the car park to find the first two swims occupied by two elderly chaps with feeder rods out. Both had been there for two hours, one was yet to catch and the other had caught a couple of dace and grayling, which made me feel a lot better about my morning, as did the sight of a male sparrowhawk that came and perched briefly in a tree about 10 feet away as I peeled off my neoprenes at the car.
Next morning I was up and out early once more, but a lot closer to home this time. I'd heard reports that grayling were appearing in numbers in the River Derwent downstream of Derby, so headed off to a club water near Draycott to have a look. Again, just armed with the float rod, I headed straight up to the weir right at the top of the section. Unfortunately the weir pool wasn't really suitable for float-fishing, with the only decent run over on the far bank and inaccessible. However, heading back downstream, it didn't take long to find a couple of nice glides. Like the Dove the day before, the Derwent was similarly low and clear, but I didn't have that tricky wind to contend with and it only took a couple of trots down before I hooked my target species, a small but perfectly formed grayling.
Added a few more, along with the odd dace and chublet, before the bites dried up and it was onto the next swim to repeat the process. Whilst the grayling weren't massive, they were all fresh, young and unmarked fish, which hopefully bodes well for the future and also means I have a grayling venue 15 minutes from my door!
All too soon it was lunchtime and time to go home as I'd promised the wife I wouldn't be late on account of her being kind enough to let me out two days running! Finished with two dozen grayling, chub and dace, but left with a couple more swims un-fished and earmarked for a return visit in the near future.....weather and work permitting!