19/12/2015 - A busy day for the ladies

Got a credit off the wife for a day out fishing as part of my birthday package so, after watching the weather and the river levels all week, I decided to have my first grayling fishing trip of the year. Not that the temperature was one you'd normally associate with grayling fishing - it was well into double figures when I left the house at about 0730 hrs!

Headed off to a club stretch on a small tributary of the River Dove in Staffordshire where I'd had some success last year. Not huge fish, but plenty of them. Got there at first light (if you could call it that - grey and gloomy more like!) to find that I was first in the parking spot. Set off upstream across the waterlogged field and was pleased to see the river running clear and at a nice level. By the time I had reached my first swim I was pretty warm, so first action was to ditch the coat before setting up the gear. Dropped into a swim that had proved reliable in the past and so it proved again - second trot through and the float buried at the end of the run resulting in satisfying thump and then the mad gyrations of a hooked grayling.

Had a three more out that swim before moving on. Was using my new Drennan 11ft Ultralite float rod with my Speedia centrepin. Found it to be nicely balanced and the shorter rod was definite advantage in some of the tighter swims.

Took my time, dropping into any likely looking spots and winkling out a couple here and there as I did so. Was pricking and losing a few fish, so changed the hook to a size 16 Drennan wide gape that seemed to improve things. Thought I'd caught the mother of all grayling at one stage when I hooked a fish that shot off upstream with me trailing in its wake. However, this turned out to be a skinny, out of season brownie that should have weighed well over 2lb if it had been in better condition. 

All of the grayling I'd caught up until then had been female, with the majority in the 10 - 12 ounce bracket. Was beginning to think where the bigger males were when I chanced on a group of fish in a really tight little spot under some trees - a small depression in the river bed (the flat spot in the photo below).

First trot through was another female, but then I had two males in consecutive casts, both over the pound mark.

That little spot must have been stacked with fish as I landed eight and bumped another three before moving on. I'd been so engrossed all day that I'd lost track of time and was surprised to see I'd only got an hour of daylight left. Again, I'd only covered a fraction of the water. Settled into the final pool of the day where I had a couple of small chub to add a bit of variety.

Fished on until I could no longer see my float through the encroaching gloom. Finished with 25 grayling, all but two of them females - definitely a day for the ladies!

26/11/2015 - Snakes alive!

Carried on fitting sessions in for the zander where I could this month, including a couple more trips after work to the Soar and an afternoon on the Trent up at South Muskham. However, despite some perfect (and atrocious!) conditions and a new stock of bait, pickings were very slim and not entirely what I expected. After a blank on the Soar I found myself back on the River Trent in an old favourite swim - the snag pit. The river was up and coloured, but this made the swim even more attractive as it now provided the only slack area off the main flow. I was therefore pretty confident when I cast my two baits out just before dark. Unfortunately, the zander didn't seem to be in an obliging mood. It was well into full darkness and I was contemplating packing up when I saw the tip my left hand rod knocking. I'd cast this one short close to a tree to the left of the swim. Wound down and felt a fish kicking. Didn't feel that big and I assumed it was a small zed until I saw it writhing on the surface in the beam of my headtorch - yes, another eel! This one was absolutely nailed in the bottom lip by the size 6 single and went 2lb 12oz on the scales.

Managed to get a half-decent selfie before popping him back. Hung on a bit longer, but that was that. A few days later I was back, having endured another blank on the Soar in the meantime in absolutely horrible weather conditions. Tim was already in the snag pit, so I went and had an explore further upstream. Again, the river was up and coloured, which limited my choice of swims, but I eventually settled on a slack area behind a reed bed. Put lamprey sections on out on both rods because of the colour in the water and settled down to wait. Had the rod tops up high to avoid a back eddy, so I easily spotted a couple of small knocks on the downstream rod before anything even registered on the bobbin. Picked up the rod and wound down to feel something there - what exactly I couldn't tell. Wasn't until it was in the margin that I saw.....yep, it was another eel! Shorter, but a lot fatter than one I'd had before, and a decent 3lb 10oz. This one didn't play ball with the selfies, which came out looking like I was trying to tie a balloon animal with a cycle inner tube! Fortunately Tim was on hand this time.

Moved swims after this into the bay upstream of Tim. Whilst there was not much in the way of a slack, it was only a slow walking pace a few rod lengths out. Initally put both rods out into open water, but after half an hour with no indications I brought both rods in closer. The left hand rod I dropped in next to a tree. It had been in literally two minutes when the bite alarm signalled some interest. Wound down into a decent fish that thrashed about on the surface in the shallow margins before being bundled into the net. Lifted the net out of the water to find a fat, well-conditioned zander that went 8lb 9oz on the scales.

I was pretty relieved to get this one as I was heading for my sixth zander blank. So far, my "zander" campaign has yielded 10 pike, 4 zeds and now 3 eels.....the latter in November! Global warming or am I just a snig magnet??

13/11/15 - Zander, the wilderness sessions!

Back from Wales the plan was to try and fit in as many evening sessions as possible for the zander. A promising report from my friend Tim saw us meet up the very next day on the River Trent near Sawley. He'd had a couple of fish from the same swim we'd fished together at the very end of last season, so late afternoon saw us both squeezed into the "snag pit". Up at our house it was brilliant sunshine and blue skies, but down at the river it was foggy, cold and damp - more suitable for Halloween the night before! Visibility was such that we were casting blind into the murk with no far bank features to aim for. However, Tim was out of the blocks early with a zed of about 5lb before it went dark. Unfortunately that proved to be the only fish of the session, with just a couple of dropped runs and some half-hearted pulls that may well have been chub. Undaunted, we met up again in the same swim three days later. This time the fish seemed even more finicky, but it was my turn to get the only full-blooded run of the evening on my last but one bait. Unfortunately, I lost track of the fish in the dark and it got snagged up on the end of a fallen tree just out of netting range. All I could do was look at it hanging there like a bizarre Christmas bauble! I was contemplating how on earth I could free it when it flipped and managed to unhook itself. It wasn't a big fish, but to lose it through carelessness still hurt (we'll laugh about it later, Tim!). 

The end of the week came and, as I was working down at Rothley again, I returned to the Soar to lick my wounds and hopefully get a fish on the bank. Obtaining more bait had been a real problem in the week. All the local shops had run out of suitably sized deadbaits and promised deliveries hadn't materialised. All I had was a packet of eel sections, a couple of smelt and some sandeels left over from Wales. However, on the plus side, the weather was extremely mild and overcast and, after slipping and sliding down the new access track, I got to the river to find it looking bang on and devoid of other anglers. The sandeels actually looked like a decent bait mounted up with the heads snipped off, so they went on one rod while I alternated smelt and eel sections on the other. My confidence in the sandeel seemed to pay off when the rod with it on started nodding a short while later. However, despite the line fizzing off between my fingers, when I wound down there was no re-assuring weight of a fish on the other end and the hook came back empty. Unbelievably, the rod tops remained stubbornly still after this. It was not until well into dark and just as I was contemplating packing up when the sandeel rod eventually went off again. Thinking this was definitely my last chance, I went through the routine of knocking off the bail arm, feeling the line being pulled out between finger and thumb, before winding down to........nothing. It was a beaten and dejected angler that made his way home that night! 

And then....redemption!

Didn't think I'd be able to fit a session in this week but, when an opportunity arose, I made the mad dash to the Trent at Sawley after work, getting there just before sunset. There was a stiff wind blowing into the snag pit, so I moved 'round to the next swim - bit more sheltered and no snags!  I'd managed to get some deadbaits since last session, so it was a small, whole roach on one rod and a lamprey section on the other. The rods had been in literally minutes when I had a very positive take on the roach rod. Hit a heavy fish and, from the head-banging, knew it was a good zander. When I got it the net I was thinking (hoping?) scraper double, but didn't have time to reflect because the other rod roared off as well! Hit another, heavier fish which made several powerful runs before rolling into the net. Not another zander unfortunately, but a mint, mid-double pike. Left them both in the water while I got the scales and the camera ready as quickly as possible. Weighed the zander first. Not quite a double, but at 9lb 11oz it was a new personal best.

Popped him back and turned my attention to the pike. This turned out to be 14lb 8oz, my biggest this year.

Quick snap and he was back safely as well. I'd literally been on the bank about 20 minutes by this stage, so took a few moments to settle down again and sort out the mess. Thing is, I could have left there and then because I didn't have another sniff! Fishing can be a very funny game......

30/10/2015 - Species hunting in the Haven

We were down in Wales for the half-term, so took the opportunity to try and add to my sea species tally. Got some quality ragworm from John at Raven Trading in Pembroke Dock (Raven Trading) ready for the next day, but woke up to find it pouring with rain and blowing a gale. Didn't fancy sitting out in the elements, so the first trip was delayed until the following morning. However, in the interim I managed to persuade my teenage son, James, to accompany me - no mean feat given that it meant him leaving his pit at 0700 hrs! When we got down to Hobbs Point on the Haven, the car park was roped off - the reason becoming clear later. Set the lad up with a two hook flapper, while I fished a scaled down "one up, one down" rig. I was first out of the blocks with a male corkwing wrasse - a new species for me.

This was swiftly followed by a couple of small, but hard fighting pollock.

James was having trouble converting the sharp jabs and rattles he was getting into hook-ups, so we swapped rods while I re-baited for him. Seemed to do the trick as he was soon into the first of many fish of the morning - a fat rock goby.

The reason why the car park was roped off soon became apparent when a crane turned up to remove the floating, mooring pontoon for the winter. 

Didn't put the fish off as we continued to catch pollock and gobies (and crabs...) until the tide turned and the resulting current temporarily pushed us over to the quieter water on the other side of the boat ramp. I'd seen this area at low tide a couple of days ago and knew it to be shallower and mostly mud with a thin film of algae, which was absolutely covered in the marks left by grazing mullet. With that in mind I changed the ragworm hookbait to thin strips of squid. However, the gobies seemed to like this just as much until eventually James shouted he'd got something different. Turned out to be a sand smelt - again a new species (for him!).

About an hour into the ebb the current had died down sufficiently for us to move back to our original position, where we carried from where we had left, catching even more gobies, pollock and the occasional small coalfish.

Unfortunately the bass and ballan wrasse that I've caught previously at the venue never turned up. However, when it came to go home I had to admit that the lad had given me a good thrashing. Probably something to do with me unhooking fish (and crabs....) and re-baiting for him every five minutes! Despite this, the next morning he returned true to form and refused to leave his bed, so I was off down the Haven by myself. Whilst I was able to concentrate a lot better on the job in hand, it was more of the same, with the bigger fish being conspicuous by their absence. The crabs were a particular problem, something I've not experienced before, coming up two at a time sometimes and including some hand-sized velvet swimmers.

These are meant to be good eating - by the Spaniards anyway - so I might take a pot with me next time, even if it's just to thin the buggers out a bit! I did manage to add to the species tally with a couple of poor cod and catch a sand smelt of my own. However, the bass and wrasse eluded me.

The greedy crab population might have been one reason, but another revealed itself as I was thinking of packing up. I'd just seen a disturbance on the surface out of the corner of my eye and was scanning the area at the bottom of the boat ramp when a common seal popped up! He didn't hang around once he'd seen me, but I took that as signal to head for home. That's the sea-fishing tackle packed up for another year, but hopefully the zander gear will be getting a regular run out over the next few weeks as I try and catch a river double. 

22/10/2015 - Zander (but mostly pike!) sessions

Had a couple more sessions out on the River Soar for the zander, but you can probably tell from the title of the post that this didn't go entirely to plan! The first was on a navigable section of the river, one I normally fish at the back end for the pike. The odd photograph and snippet of information indicated that zander were present and of reasonable size, but gave no clue as to how prevalent they were. Got there late afternoon while it was still bright and sunny, so found a swim and waited for the boat traffic to die down and the sun to dip below the trees before casting in. Put one bait over to the boats and one down the middle and settled down to wait.

The downstream rod started knocking just as it was getting dark. However, the culprit turned out to be a small pike. This was repeated a few minutes later, only this time I slashed my thumb to bits (again!) unhooking it and then, whilst bleeding profusely and looking for something to staunch the flow, somehow managed to tread on and break my glasses! With no more action forthcoming it was a bit of a disaster, made even worse by the fact that I did my back in a couple of days later and everything - work, cycling, fishing - had to be shelved for three weeks. Needless to say, once I'd got the all clear and had been discharged by the physio, I was itching to have another go, so took the fact I was working down at Rothley for the day as an opportunity to have a couple of hours on the river on the way home. Again, it was bright and sunny when I got to the river, so had a leisurely wander downstream and was pleased to find that "pole position" was vacant. Popped a couple of dead baits out into the usual spots thinking an early bonus pike might be around and wasn't disappointed when the downstream rod started nodding a few minutes later. Turned out to be a nice double of 13lb 12oz that gave me a really good scrap on the feeder rod, going through my other line in the process!

Spent a few minutes sorting out the "knitting" and re-tackling both rods as a result. However, a short while later the downstream rod was off again, resulting in another double of 11lb 1oz that coughed up a dyed, red sprat in the landing net. Had managed to unhook the first one without any mishap, but returned true to form when I caught my middle finger in the second pike's gill rakers - more blood!

Got runs at regular intervals after this, netting three jacks before hooking into another decent fish just as full darkness was approaching. A flying treble caused me a few problems at the net before I eventually had another double of 12lb 8oz on the bank.

Was running out of bait and heading towards last knockings when something tore off with the downstream bait again. This time it was what I was after - a zed of 6lb 13oz. A bit better looking than some of the examples I've had recently with all of its fins intact.  

Packed up after this and headed home. Wales for half-term next, so planning to get some sea-fishing done. After that, more short evening sessions after work and hopefully a few more zeds!

25/09/2015 - An unusual treble

First zander trip of the season on the River Soar and I probably couldn't have chosen less suitable conditions - a low, clear river and a bright, sunny day. There were two others on the section when I got there in the late afternoon - one chap had just set up after the barbel and the other had been chubbing, but had struggled all day. My favoured swim was empty. However, it was far too early to think about putting any baits out, so I messed about with the float rod for a couple of hours, catching bleak after bleak with the odd small chub and dace mixed in. Waited until the sun had dropped and river was in the shadow of the embankment behind me before putting two deadbaits out into the pool. Was getting a few strange pulls and taps on the downstream rod that made me think of crayfish and I was just about to wind it in to check the bait when a couple more determined taps signalled a fish. Not my target species, but at least a jack to start proceedings.

Failed to connect with the next run, winding down and striking into thin air despite the line initially fizzing off through my fingers and the hooks coming back bare. However, when a further opportunity presented itself not long afterwards, the strike was met with firm resistance. This turned out to be a rather empty zander of 5lb 12oz and another one with "frilly" fins, possibly just natural wear from being in the river?

Missed another run after this, but the one immediately afterwards may go a long way to providing an explanation. Responded to a tap, tap on the rod top by opening the bail arm and feeling the line out between my fingers as usual. However, when I wound down and hit the fish all hell broke loose. I was getting such weird feedback up through the line that I thought that I was fighting a fish through a snag on the bottom. The reason became obvious when, after making some headway, a decent eel popped up, gyrating madly on the surface. I'd only just hooked it on the bottom treble and it had then rolled on the line. Took a few minutes to free it from the unholy mess it made of my landing net, but eventually weighed it at bang on 3lb.  

The Soar has turned up a few big eels in matches recently, including one of 5lb 11oz in a Riverfest qualifier (Eels galore on the River Soar). Could they be the reason for some of the mysterious, unhittable runs I've been getting? Apart from completing an unusual predator treble, it also gave me an opportunity to practice my snake wrestling........unsuccessfully!

11/09/2015 - Earning my stripes

Back home and no trips to the coast forthcoming until October, so my thoughts have turned to river predators. Had a "trotanoster" session on the River Soar to see if there were any perch about to kick things off. Upon arrival, I found that I had the whole stretch of river to myself, so was able to wander up at leisure to my favoured swim downstream of a weir on a nice, natural section off the navigable channel. Obviously hadn't been fished much judging by the undergrowth, so I nearly trod in the plastic tub filled with what looked like cat food in the middle of the path - curious!  

River was low and clear and I could see large numbers of silver fish hanging off the cabbages and streamer weed. As soon as I got the float rod going it was a bite a chuck, mostly from chub and dace, but also bleak, roach, small perch and skimmers.  Could just make out a pale, torpedo ghosting around the swim, so wasn't surprised when the water erupted in front of me as a pike tried to snatch the roach I was lifting out of the water. He stuck around for a bit after that, hanging just under the surface and taking a mild interest in every fish I put back, before finally drifting off and leaving me alone.  As soon as I'd got a few baits together I dropped the paternoster onto the crease between the flow and slack area to my right. Wasn't long before the tip jabbed down and the indicator smacked into the back rod rest. This carried on happening on a regular basis throughout the session - unfortunately, whilst it was down to my target species, they were not the size I was after!

Had eight of the little buggers and numerous stolen or mangled baits before the rod tip went over again I was into something more sizeable. I knew that this was a better perch from the head-banging and so it proved. A very hollow and slightly battered old warrior, but my first 2lb+ perch of the autumn at 2lb 4oz.

Quickly popped another bait out in the expectation that he'd have a companion with him. Again, it wasn't long before the rod started tapping and then hooped over. However, I knew from the solid weight that it wasn't a stripey, confirmed when a spotty missile (possibly my friend from earlier) went airborne and tail-walked through the swim. Eventually got him under control and in the net, where I tried to unhook him, rather than take him up the bank.

Unfortunately he span on my hand, driving two, long teeth on his lower jaw into the ball of my thumb. Aside from the copious blood at the time, I've still got a numb thumb, so I'm hoping he's not done me some nerve damage. My stupid fault if he has! Fished on until dark, catching a few more silvers on the float, but had nothing more on the paternoster - not surprising given the disturbance from the pike. Wandered back the the car by the light of the head torch, noting on the way that the plastic tub was now empty. Even more curious!

31/08/2015 - A mixed bag

After the success with the triggerfish I headed back to Pembroke Dock for a couple more sessions, but for slack water at high tide. Tactics and bait were exactly the same, a two hook flapper baited with raw prawn and/or a strip of squid dropped down the wall to see what was about. The bass certainly seemed to like the prawns as I had three plump specimens on this bait. It's been good to see that the bass size and bag limit is being publicised at various places around the county and whilst the biggest was probably just over the new minimum size of 42 cm it went back nonetheless. 


I've had a few wrasse at this venue in the past, so wasn't surprised that a nice ballan eventually turned up one morning, again on the prawn. The ones I've had before have been quite drab, but this one had fine blue detail to the edge of its fins and irridescent green spots on the tail.

Rock pig

I'd been alternating between prawn and squid strip on the top hook, so when I hooked into a hard fighting fish I was pleased that a) it had actually taken the squid and b) the fish in question was a good mullet. I see plenty of these on the surface further up the estuary, but this one had taken a bait in 20 feet of water!


Perhaps if I'd had some ragworm then I would have had a few more fish, but I was happy enough given that I only had a very short fishing window each morning due to the spring tides. Milford Haven has an extreme range of nearly 8 metres on springs, meaning that there's a lot of water moving through it and that slack water doesn't stay "slack" for long! In order to stretch out the sessions I'd therefore taken a couple of lighter rods to use for LRF or scaled down bait tactics for mini-species in the quieter pockets of water.

LRF heaven

The most successful tactic of the two was a scaled down one up, one down rig with very short, 6lb fluorocarbon snoods and size 10 wormer hooks baited with scraps of prawn or squid. As usual the rock gobies were all over this, including some real "monsters".


I had so many of these that I almost overlooked the fact that I also had a solitary black goby in amongst them all.

Similar....but different!

Not a lot else managed to beat the gobies to the bait other than a couple of micro-pollock and a slightly bigger fish which, upon closer examination of the lateral line, I decided was a juvenile coalfish.

No kink = coalie?

Did have a couple of surprises. Had a thump of a take on a tiny bit of squid in some relatively shallow water next to the car ferry ramp from what turned out to be a big mackerel. This gave an excellent account of itself on the light tackle (and later on my plate!). Swapped over to small metal lures at this point, but there didn't seem to any more about.

Breakfast sorted!

Another fish that took a liking to a tiny bit of squid and gave me a similar run around was another mullet. I've not got around to specifically targeting these yet, so hopefully they will be equally obliging when I do so.

Oi, read the script!

One bonus from my last session was that I managed to glean quite a bit of local knowledge from a friendly native, including the location of a bait and tackle shop that I'd been driving straight past on the way to the venue. Next time!

27/08/2015 - Trigger happy!

Ever since I came back from Gran Canaria I've been hankering to get to the coast for more sea fishing. Chance finally came with a trip down to Pembrokeshire for the last week of August. I'd been watching the tides carefully and the first morning gave me an opportunity to fish low water at a mark that was becoming known for an unusual species at this time of year. My usual bait supplier was out of ragworm, so I had to make do with some frozen squid and some raw prawns from the supermarket - not a hinderance as it turned out. Got to the mark and had an exploratory drop down the side of the wall to find I was fishing in about 8 foot of water, instead of the usual 20 ft.

Sitting on the dock of the bay

Baited up my simple, two hook flapper with prawn and dropped it down the wall. Didn't have to wait long before the rattles started and was a bit over eager, striking into thin air. Next drop down was met by something more positive. Was expecting a small wrasse to pop up, so was over the moon when it turned out to be my target species - a perfect, little grey trigger fish.

Get in!

Took a quick snap and dropped down again and soon had another enquiry that put a proper bend in the rod. Again, I was expecting a wrasse as the fish fought like stink to get down to the bottom. However, one of the local boat owners turned up at this point and I think we were both surprised when another trigger fish finally rolled into the landing net.


Next fish was a bit of an anti-climax as a little rock goby managed to snaffle my bait. However, next cast I was into another battle, with the fish banging away on the end of the line like a perch and making short, determined runs to the bottom. Turned out to be yet another trigger fish - the biggest of the morning and easily over 3lbs.


I was please with the first one....but three in four casts? They are really interesting fish. Mostly grey, but with varying amounts of striping and a flash of azure blue when they "cock the trigger" - the small, spiny dorsal fin. Also have some impressive dentistry for crushing shellfish....and fingers as I nearly found out when one gave me a warning "snap" of the jaws when I went to take out the hook!


Went a bit quiet after this, so scaled down the rig and fished slivers of squid to see if there were any mini-species about. After a procession of rock gobies and suicidal micro-pollack I packed up and headed home for lunch - mission acomplished!