01/02/2024 - A scrappy Soar session

Fancied dusting off the pike rods, so when I saw that the wind was due to ease on Thursday, accompanied by relatively mild temperatures, I booked the morning off and made the necessary preparations. Was up nice and early and made the short trip down the motorway, the moon setting to my right and the first glimmers of orange appearing to my left.

Bumped my way down  the track to find an empty car park and the river running at a prefect level with just a tinge of colour. As usual, I'd chopped up any old bait left in the freezer and as I walked upstream I flicked a couple of bits into any likely looking spots in the nearside margin. Don't know if this actually makes any difference, but I'd like to think that it puts a bit of scent in the water and stimulates the Esox tastebuds for when the main course arrives a bit later. Got to my starting point around the bend and soon had the rods out - a smelt flicked upstream next to a dead reedbed and a headless joey over against the far bank. Unfortunately the baits had only been in the water five minutes when a double scull crewed by a middle-aged couple came steaming towards me. Had been sat concentrating on the floats, so just had time to jump up to reel the far bank rod in as fast as possible, losing the bait in the process.

In total they came passed six times that morning, which had me constantly on edge, as I not only had to watch the floats but also had to keep glancing upstream and downstream for their next appearance. I was therefore relieved when they finally disappeared back upstream from where they came. With nothing doing after half an hour I moved downstream, again putting one bait in the nearside next to a clump of reeds, whilst the other bait I alternated between the far bank and mid-channel. It was the nearside float that eventually bobbed a couple of times and then lay flat on the surface. When I picked up the rod I thought the bait had been dropped. However, after a few seconds the float started to turn slowly on its axis, so wound down and hit it. Met token resistance before winding what turned out to be a small jack upstream towards me. Could see that he was only lightly hooked and as I went to land him the hooks pinged out and he swam into the net! 

Moved again and as I came around the bend and looked down the long straight I could see that two anglers had set up camp right in the middle of the section and had at least five rods spread out between them, which meant that they effectively monopolised all of the swims that I had pre-baited and had intended to fish. Was cursing my luck as I hardly ever see another angler mid-week, but flicked the baits out again, one down the side and the other over to the boats. Wasn't long before I was spotted by my fellow anglers and one soon got up and started walking upstream towards me. Couldn't believe it when he stopped and leant over to peer at my float in the margin! When he eventually ambled over we had the usual exchange starting with "You had owt?. They'd arrived about an hour after me and were yet to have anything. As we talked his mate came over, stomping past my marginal bait again. 

Chatted a bit longer before they both ambled back to their base of operations. As my near-side swim had been well and truly compromised I lifted the rod to wind it in and found that it was in a snag anyway. Bent the hooks hooks with a straight pull, losing another half mackerel in the process. By now it had turned into a bright, sunny day and I had contemplated packing up, but went back to my starting point instead. The jack I'd caught had been covered in leeches, so I decided to be a bit more active and move the baits every fifteen minutes or so in the hope of dropping one on the nose of a fish. 

Nothing in the first spot, but when I put half a lamprey in mid-channel it must have dropped into a slightly deeper hole as the float was barely visible. When it disappeared completely in the ripple caused by the freshening upstream breeze I let some slack out. However, the float didn't re-appear and I saw the line tightening up. Wound down into another jack as it made off with its prize, although again it was barely hooked when I got it on the bank. Moved 25 metres downstream and repositioned the rods. This time it was the rod down the nearside margin that bobbed and disappeared within a few minutes. As I drew this one closer I saw that it was only hooked by one point of the bottom treble, so bundled it into the net where the hook promptly fell out. Seemed that even when I dropped a bait right on their head they weren't really committing. Made another couple of moves before the lamprey in mid-river shot off, the float shooting across the surface towards the far bank. 

However, my strike met no resistance and the bait came back with hardly a mark on it. That seemed to mark the end of the actionas I failed to elicit any further response. Packed up and made my way back to the car, stopping to chat to my angling companions who were still sat in base camp, where they'd had one jack each. One of them showed me a bait that had been down the throat of one of their fish - a very familiar, undigested half mackerel! Oh well, at least I'd had some fish, but I do ask myself sometimes why I keep going back there given recent results. Perhaps time to try somewhere else.

30/01/2024 - A brief window of opportunity

Good riddance to disposable vapes! Not a day goes by without me picking up at least one on my morning walk. 

Whilst acknowledging the risk to children's health, there is a massive environmental cost to them as well. The figures are staggering - according to Greenpeace roughly 8 vapes a second are binned in the UK. The way they are manufactured make it difficult and expensive to recycle them, so in 2022 in the UK alone 40 tonnes of lithium was thrown out with disposable vapes - enough to make batteries for 5000 electric cars! You only have to feel the weight of one to realise how much non-recyclable resource is packed into them, ultimately just to be chucked in the bin, or worse still in the gutter, on the verge or in the ditch. Anyway, as well as discarded vapes, I've seen some nice sunrises on my morning jaunts recently. 

In contrast, today it was grey and gloomy and didn't look very promising at all, but by mid-day I could see some patches of blue sky from my office window and within another couple of hours it was clear and sunny. Not wanting to waste an opportunity and with a few maggots still remaining in the fridge I wrapped up what I was doing by three o'clock and was out the door asap. Was at the river and pulling into an empty car park within 15 minutes. Felt pretty warm as I got out of the car and there was a cloud of midgey looking things dancing in the afternoon sun. However, reckoned I only had about an hour and a half of usable light, so decided to split that evenly between the two swims I'd fished on my previous visit. 

Therefore quickly headed upstream, disturbing a little egret and then a kingfisher in the process, and dropped in behind the island once more. The river had fined down a little since last time, but again it was a case of targetting the steadier water away from the main flow, which was still tonking along the far bank. Waded out onto the gravel and started running the float down off the rod tip. Bumped a fish almost straight away, the hook coming back minus the double maggot, but a few trots later I had my first grayling in the net. By the time my 45 minutes were up I'd had another three and had even seen a decent fish rise on the surface, so was in two minds whether to stay or move to another spot. 

However, the sun had now gone behind the trees on the island behind me and it was difficult to keep track of the float in the ensuing gloom. I therefore upped sticks and legged it downstream to my second swim, where I added three more grayling as the light faded, although I was actually fishless for the last fifteen minutes. Was back home shortly after 5 o'clock and got the kettle on as the wife walked in from work. Whilst it's nice to have some grayling fishing on mydoorstep I just feel like I'm scratching an itch at the moment and I need to be putting in more time and travelling further afield if I want some better quality fish, but we'll have to see what the fickle weather wants to do and there's more wind on the way last time I checked! 

26/01/2024 - Another short session with the float rod

Had a rare day in the office today as I had some scanning and printing to do, but fortuitously had wrapped everything up by mid-afternoon. 

Still had the gear in the car from last week and so had chucked in the remains of my maggots on the off-chance before leaving the house, so took the opportunity to drop in on the Derwent near Draycott on the way home. Despite a brisk westerly breeze it was bright and sunny and at a balmy 8 degrees Centigrade it felt positively warm. Reckoned I had two hours of light at best, so headed upstream to the first sheltered swim in the lee of an island. Storm Jocelyn had brought yet more rain during the week and, whilst the river was fining down, it was still actually higher than when I fished it seven days ago.  The main flow was therefore racing along the far bank. However, it was again far less angry and had much more of a gentler pace down the inside. 

Waded out over the dead reed beds until I was stood on clean gravel and started running the float down off the rod tip. Bites were slow in coming, so doubled up the maggot on the hook to give the fish a bigger target. Also amused myself by flicking a few maggots in the direction of a beautifully marked grey wagtail bobbing up and down on what was left of the sand bank. Eventually the float buried and the hook went home with a satisfying thump causing the grayling on the end to start gyrating like mad. Again, not huge but big enough to put up some stubborn resistance in the flow. Carried on but after about an hour I had only added one more fish, so with nothing to lose and about half an hour of light left I decided to head downstream to another swim. 

This was the same spot that I had failed to attract a bite in last week, but I was sure that it would hold a few fish in the conditions. Avoided the boily water at the head of the swim and moved downstream until the flow had settled into a nice, even walking pace. The sun was now low in the sky making it a bit difficult to keep track of the float in the glare on the glassy surface of the river, but not enough for me to see it disappear resulting in another feisty grayling. Seemed to have dropped on a few fish as I quickly added half a dozen more and lost one that got itself wrapped up in the hooklink, making me think I'd hooked an absolute monster. Called it a day with the best fish of the session as the sun finally disappeared below the horizon. 

A couple of dog walkers came past at this point causing a bird up in the dead tree next to me to start calling in alarm, so I got out the phone and used the excellent Merlin Bird Sound ID app to identify it as a greater spotted woodpecker. Sure enough, peering throught the gloom, I eventually made him out hopping up the side of the trunk. Headed back to the car accompanied by the cackles of the fieldfares roosting high up in the riverside trees. Think this will be the pattern until the rivers and the weather settle down - short trips as and when the opportunities arise. Looking at the forecast ahead the wind definitely can do one - my pike rods hanging from the ceiling of the garage have got cobwebs on them!

19/01/24 - Not getting any easier

With the cold weather continuing through the week I thought I'd have another go for the grayling in the hope that they'd had a few more days to acclimatise to the temperature and make their way back into their pre-flood haunts. Had an appointment in the morning, but wasn't in a rush to get out anyway as it had been minus 4 degrees Celcius overnight. 

Therefore got work out the way first and headed to the Derwent after lunch when the sun was about as high as it was going to get and the temperature was a much more bearable 1 degree! There was a couple of cars in the car park when I arrived, but looking downstream I could see their owners hunkered down out of the breeze with rods up on rests, presumably after a chub, so got togged up before heading upstream. The river was still at about the upper level that I'd normally fish it with the float rod, still influenced by releases from the reservoirs further upstream, and in my first swim I could just about comfortably stand in the margins. However, third trot down the avon disappeared and I felt the familiar mad gyrating of a grayling on the end of the line. 

Bumped one soon after and as there appeared to be a few fish about I decided at this point to put in a couple of droppers full of maggots at the head of the swim. May not have been the best decision as over the next hour I could only manage one more fish so, despite the sun nicely warming my back, I headed downstream to my next usual spot noting where the river had breached the flood bank and meandered across the adjacent field. Discovered that a tree had come down in the margins making access into the water impossible, so found myself in my third swim a bit sooner than expected. Funnelled by the island upstream the main flow was whipping along the far bank. However, the pace inside was far gentler and althought the water was only about three feet deep I reckoned that's where I'd be if I was a grayling. 

Didn't bother with the dropper this time as I was a bit more confident that my loose feed would be getting down to the deck in the shallower water. Seemed to be correct on both counts as after a few trots down I had another grayling that, although modest in size, punched above its weight in the flow. Added half a dozen more over the next hour and whilst not as prolific as normal, at least I was getting a few bites. However, when I bumped a good fish at range (the maggot had folded back onto the hook at just the wrong time!) and with the sun falling lower in the sky, I opted to try another, usually reliable swim a bit further downstream. Again, with hindsight it wasn't one of my better decisons as I couldn't buy a single bite. 

In addition, as the sun disappeared the combination of the falling temperature and upstream wind began to bite and my fingers that were in contact with the metal cage of the centrepin were soon completely numb, so headed back to the car. On the way home, the stubble that had been washed off the fields and trapped on the roadside fence betrayed how high the water level had been over the winter, reaching its highest recorded level, so it possibly wasn't surprising that the river and its inhabitants hadn't yet returned to normal. 

However, looking at the forecast for the weekend we've got rain, double figure temperatures and 70 mile an hour winds to look forward to. Bonkers!

14/01/2024 - Tough going on the Dove

Whilst we've had at least a couple of weeks of dry weather now, due to the ground being absolutely saturated everywhere, it's taken an age for the local rivers to fine down to fishable levels. Even as we speak the Trent and the Derwent have only just come back down to what I would call "normal" winter levels. 

The Dove on the other hand looked to be perfectly fishable at the weekend, so early on Sunday morning I headed west on the A50 into Staffordshire. Let myself into an empty car park, quickly checking before I pulled off onto the grass that I wouldn't sink up to my axles. The sun was just coming up over Nestle's and with the lack of any wind it looked as if it was going to be a pleasant, but cold morning. Walked up to the first glide, flushing a kingfisher from his bankside perch as I did so, set up the rod and slid into the river. 

Sent the float down after a handful of maggots and was surprised when it promptly disappeared halfway down the run. The water still had a hint of colour, so didn't see the fish straight away and thought I'd managed to snag a decent grayling on my first cast. However, changed my mind when it tried to dive headfirst into the nearest reedbed and after a bit of welly a small chub slid into the net. Didn't take long though before I had my target species as I had a small grayling just a few casts later. Thought I was in for a few fish, but subsequent bites were very slow in coming. Over the next hour I could only manage another small chub and a couple more grayling before deciding to move downstream towards the end of the glide. 

In the new spot it was again a first cast fish, but this one put a bit of a bend in the Acolyte as it hung stubbornly out in the flow. Drawing it upstream and into the waiting net it turned out to be a nice fat hen fish of well over a pound. A couple more followed, but it seemed that either the fish weren't there in numbers or that they just weren't having it, so I upped sticks and headed up to another glide at the top of the section. There were hundreds of fieldfares hopping around in the pasture next to the river and as I walked upstream they flew in front of me cackling their alarm calls and showing me their grey backsides. First cast in a new spot yielded another small grayling again, but it was the same story with further bites hard to come by. 

Did have a bit of excitement when I hit a fish that shot off downstream, forcing me to bully it back against the flow. However, when it got level with me it kept going and eventually went airborne showing off a spotty flank. Got him in the net and back in the river and carried on, but my heart wasn't really in it having fished hard for three hours. Called it a day after having nine grayling, two chub and that out of season brownie. Did think about dropping back into my first swim, but two chub anglers had plonked themselves down directly opposite. Carried on back to the car, spotting a mink slinking under a bush on the far bank. Had earlier dropped my Korum rod butt protector somewhere between the car park and the river and fully expected to find it in the grass, but it was nowhere to be seen. 

Possibly picked up by one of the dog walkers that had passed me during the morning. Oh well, that's two odd sets that I can make a pair with now! 

16/12/2023 - Still here, but it's been a bit of a struggle!

Can't remember a stranger few months - did more sea fishing than anything else during September and October and then work, the weather and illness have conspired against me ever since. 

Did manage a couple of after work sessions in early November on the River Trent, firstly to a free, urban section of the river after my interest had been piqued by a picture of a very large perch taken on a float-fished deadbait of all things. Had a couple of hours with the feeder rod, fishing down the side with lobworm on the hook and chopped dendras and dead maggot in the feeder and whilst I caught a few perch, they weren't of the size I was after. As the light disappeared I took off the mono hooklink and clipped on a trace baited with a small, headless roach deadbait hoping that the deep water close in would harbour a zed. However, half an hour without a twitch on the quiver tip saw me heading home, although I will certainly be making a return visit at some point. 

Second session was closer to home and was solely with zander in mind, a species that is fast becoming my nemesis. Thought I'd cracked it a few seasons ago with a run of fish to just under double figures, but have struggled ever since. Needless to say this session wasn't any different as, despite seemingly perfect conditions, I went home fishless yet again without even the eels bothering me. And then came the rain. What a totally shite period of weather we've had (and are still having)! Never mind giving these storms nice names. I know what I'd like to call them and it's not printable. Eventually the promise of a few, rain-free days resulted in just a glimmer at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately with the ground so saturated the main rivers seemed to be taking age to fall to a resonable level. 

However, higher up in the catchments it was thankfully a different story. Therefore booked a morning off work and headed west on the A50 into Staffordshire with my float rod and a pint of maggots hoping to catch my first grayling of the winter. Parts of the fields next to the river were still ankle deep in water, the ground sucking at my feet with every step, so by the time I got to the top of the section I was puffing like a steam train due to the lingering effects of a "hundred day cough". However, the river itself looked absolutely bang on and after I had regained my breath sufficiently to coax an out of season, but energetic, brown trout out of a small nearside slack on my first cast I thought that I was onto a winner. 

Unfortunately it turned out to be completely the opposite and a bit of a grueller instead. Whilst I stayed mobile and tried as many of my usually reliable spots as possible, I left many empty handed. Where I did manage to tempt a bite it was just from the odd, solitary fish. Didn't help that it stayed gloomy all morning to the extent that I was struggling to keep track of the stick float down the runs and had to change over to one with a larger, domed top instead (although I later realised that I was wearing an old pair of glasses that were at least one prescription out!). By lunchtime I'd just had that one brownie and a dozen grayling to show for my efforts. Called it a day when I failed to buy a bite in my "banker" swim where I'd had not only grayling, but perch chub and dace in the past. Just seemed to have dropped on a day when they weren't having it. Still, at least I hadn't blanked and it had been good to be out and not staring at a screen.

It had also been good to get re-acquainted with the river, which had again done a bit of re-modelling since my last visit resulting in the loss of some swims but the formation of others that will get a proper look at next time. Squelched back to the car, disturbing a buzzard looking for easy pickings in the form of drowned worms. Remind me to ask Santa for some nice clear, cold and settled weather in the New Year!

31/10/2023 - Wild, wild West

This half-term the wife and I were meant to be going to see the lad and his girlfriend in Lithuania where he is about to start a PhD on sea eagles.

However, due to the long-winded process required to obtain his residency permit and the risk that he would run out of Shengen days before he got it, he had to come home for a bit. This left us at a bit of a loose end so, whilst the weather forecast was not exactly ideal, we decided to head down to Pembrokeshire instead. On the journey down the effects of Storm Babet were still much in evidence with virtually every river still out of their banks and fields full of flood water. Despite a last minute diversion over the Brecon Beacons to avoid a crash on the M4 we eventually arrived safely, albeit in the middle of the first of many torrential downpours we were to experience over the next few days! 

Managed to get a walk in down on the beach at Amroth on the Saturday during a brief break in the weather, before heading back to watch the rugby. In contrast Sunday looked like it was going to be a complete write off. However, rather than go mad watching the rain batter against the windows, we braved the water-logged lanes and went for a warming bowl of cawl (lamb stew to the non-Welsh) at our favourite cafe at Lawrenny Quay, overlooking a very wind-blown and grim-looking estuary. Persuaded the wife to pop into Pembroke Dock on the way back and got some ragworm from Roddy at JBM Marine. His overall summary of the local fishing prospects was a resounding "crap", the main issue being the amount of fresh, but dirty water being dumped into the sea by the river. 

Had a quick look at Hobbs Point, which only seemed to confirm his assessment as the estuary was the colour of mud, with water pouring in from the storm drains! The following morning I therefore headed up to Fishguard on the north coast instead hoping that the rain would have had less of an influence and that there would at least be some whiting about to pull the string. Walking out to the end of the breakwater at first light I was relieved to see that the water was relatively clear, so got set up on the top of the rock apron well out of the way of the swell. Had a selection of baits with me and started off with ragworm on a two hook flapper on one rod and a mackerel/squid cocktail on a pulley pennel rig on the other. 

Started getting rattles and pulls on both rods and was feeling pretty confident, but after two and a half hours I'd only had one small pouting to show for my efforts. With the wind picking up and the sky darkening yet again I therefore returned home with my tail between my legs! The next day I decided to gamble and headed towards Milford Haven with the light gear. It had actually been clear and calm overnight and the temperature was down to 5 degrees, the grass verges covered in heavy condensation, although it had warmed up a bit by the time I arrived. Whilst the water in the docks was the colour of my Costa coffee, parking up at Hakin Point I was again glad to see that clarity in the estuary itself was pretty good.

This was despite the debris on the high tide line indicating that the pier had only recently been under water due to the combination of big spring tides and floodwater.  Set up my usual two hook mini flapper made up with size 10 Tronixpro Sabpolo Wormers, baited the bottom hook with a scrap of ragworm but put a sliver of squid on the top hook just for a change. Slowly worked my way along the wall, dropping my rig down  every couple of metres or so, until I found the fish literally stacked up in one spot. As soon as the bait rig hit the bottom the ragworm was snaffled by a corkwing wrasse, although they weren't having it all their own way as the squid proved to be as popular with the pollack, who were snatching it on the drop. 

Whiled away the next hour and a half catching both species in equal numbers and adding a few, perpetually glum-looking shannies and the odd, uniquely coloured ballan. Had to tear myself away in the end as unfortunately we had to head back up the motorway for an appointment with the carpet fitter later in the afternoon, otherwise I would have happily carried on all morning. However, having caught one short of fifty fish in total I'd had a pretty busy session. On reflection it's been a strange couple of months as I've done very little coarse fishing recently. Will have to see what impact the storm Ciaran has in the next few days, but hopefully I will be able to get some short, "smash n grab" sessions in after work for the chub, perch and zander. That's the plan but I guess we'll have to see!