23/11/2020 - A proper grayling day

Hopes of a quick session on the Derwent last Friday were dashed by rising water levels as the lower river presumably reacted to rain higher up in the catchment. At least that gave me time to repair the hole I'd somehow bodged through the seat of my neoprenes last time out!

The weekend was therefore spent consulting XCWeather and the river level service on .GOV.UK to determine the next available window of opportunity. Luckily one presented itself sooner than later with calm, albeit cold, conditions on Monday looking ideal for a trip to my favourite Dove tributary, which was in the process of fining down rapidly. Was a bit of a shocker waking up on Monday morning to find out how cold it actually was, but after a few minutes spent scraping the car windows I was heading west on the A50. Arrived at the venue just as the sun was burning through the fog and lighting up the frost covered fields. Got all my layers on and headed upstream, defacing the otherwise blank, white canvas with the imprints of my size nines. 

At first sight the river looked to be at a nice level, with just a tinge of colour and not too many leaves. My only concern was that the drop in temperature from mid-teens on Saturday to low single figures in the space of 36 hours would put the fish off. However, on just the third trot through the first swim the float buried as the two maggots (purchased pre-lockdown and now over two weeks old!) were scoffed by my first grayling of the day. Had a couple more, but didn't hang around as only half the pool was fishable due to a fallen tree and I was keen to see what other re-modelling had gone on since last visit - the beauty of fishing a small, spate river is that things are always changing from one winter to the next.
Next spot downstream was actually unchanged and one that I'd had several fish over the pound mark from in the past, but had recently become a bit of a bogey swim. I therefore wasn't expecting much and was on the point of moving on again when the float disappeared and I found myself connected to a much better fish that dogged around in the current before heading upstream. Frayed my nerves a bit when it went airborne a couple of times and I saw it was a decent grayling. 

However, the size 16 Kamasan Animal held and the Ultralite eventually took its toll as a cracking male rolled into the net. Carried on downstream picking off a few fish here and there, with some swims being a bit kinder than others. Had a couple of grayling out of one pool before hitting into another good fish, only this time when it erupted from the service like a missile I saw it was a spotty instead. Out of season and in mint condition with a buttery yellow belly it went back straight after a quick snap in the net. 

Stopped for a late lunch in the next spot, again one that had always been good for a few fish. 
However, first trot down after finishing my chorizo, hummus and salad cob I had a chunky dace instead of the expected grayling. He was followed by five of his shoal mates before the swim died and I moved on again. At this point I decided walk much further downstream to another previously productive swim. As I approached I could see another member who I'd met before just in the process of packing up. He'd been fishing with nymphs all day but hadn't had a touch. After we'd had a chat he said he was calling it day, so I had a cup of coffee before dropping into the swim he'd just vacated. 

Felt a bit guilty when the float buried not once, but four times in quick succession! My fellow angler re-appeared on the opposite bank just as I was unhooking the fourth grayling, mumbled something about "giving up fishing" then carried on back to his car. Was starting to lose the light by now, so I had a quick walk to the downstream limit, more out of curiosity than anything as I'd not ventured that far before, although I did bump a couple of fish in a swim that was marked for further attention at a later date. Went back to the car and had another coffee in the gathering gloom before heading home. Had 28 grayling, 6 dace and 3 brownies in total, so was glad that I'd taken a gamble on the weather. 

The only downer to the day was Bozza threatening stricter restrictions when we go back to the tiered system after lockown, so I'll have to wait and see if and when I can return.

10/11/2020 - Grayling and minnow soup

Mentioned in my last post that I'd splashed out on a 14 ft Drennan Acolyte Plus. With the best part of two pints of maggots still in the fridge from pre-lockdown, I was itching to try my new toy out on the local grayling population. 

Scanning the weekly forecast, Tuesday morning looked to be calm and dry. Taking account of the lockdown travel guidance, my choice of where to go was dictated by two other factors - the continuing release of water to the Derwent from Ladybower Reservoir and another dreaded 2 o'clock work telecom. I therefore headed for my next closest venue, the River Dove, arriving just after first light to maximise my time on the bank. Walked upstream in the lifting gloom to a long run where I'd done well in the past. 

Starting at the head of the run I ran the float down the inside and had a bite straight away. Not my target species, but a big fat minnow. The swim must have been black with the little buggers as virtually every subsequent cast resulted in another stripey bait robber, two maggots on a size 16 Kamasan Animal apparently no obstacle. Obviously the mild weather had not yet put them to bed for the winter. The Acolyte was hardly getting a workout, so it was a blessing when a sweep of the rod eventually connected with something a bit more decent in the way of a small grayling. By now the procession of dog walkers on the far bank was in full swing, the odd one casting me an accusing look, but most a friendly wave. Whatever their demeanour, they all certainly help to keep the "Black Death" away!

Took me a good three hours to work my way across and down the run, taking a few more grayling and what seemed like millions of minnows in the process. On what was to be my last cast before moving I finally caught what I was after - a mint, male grayling well over a pound.That fish put me in a bit of a quandry - stay or move? In the end I opted to run the float through a few more times, which would have been the right decision had I not bumped or lost the next three decent fish! Something that comes wth grayling fishing I suppose, but frustrating when you are struggling a bit. Hastily legged it to the other swim I had in mind, which happened to be the furthest point away on the stretch, so I sweating a bit in my neoprenes when I got there. The freshening breeze was blowing straight upstream in this spot, which was not ideal, but the move was vindicated with a small grayling on my first trot through. 

More importantly, there didn't appear to be any pesky minnows in residence! Had another half a dozen grayling in quick succession, which had me kicking myself for not moving sooner. With time running out I gave myself one last cast and again found myself attached to good fish. Did the usual grayling trick of hanging out in the flow like a dead weight, but then decided to go airborne a few times when it got into the margins. Played it out carefully, eventually putting the net under another mint male. Unfortunately I really had to call it quits at this stage and yomped back across the fields shadowed by a big flock of fieldfares, the first I've seen this year. Got back home and dialled into my call with a minute to spare! Had been impressed with the Acolyte - unbelievably light, scarily thin at the tip, but with back bone to deal with the bigger fish, whilst not feeling over-gunned for the smaller stuff. 

Hopefully, it'll be getting a few more outings if the weather behaves, although there's more wet and windy weather forecast as we speak!!

04/11/2020 - Pre-lockdown piking

Writing this now in our second "lockdown" we've already received the good news that angling is one of the few recreational activities allowed to continue under the new restrictions. As long as we are sensible about the distance, it seems that we can still travel to do so as well. However, earlier in the week I was grappling with the consequences of the tier system and what that meant in terms of where I could and couldn't fish. Having finally got some respite for a few days from the intolerable high winds we've been experiencing, I was keen to get out somewhere.  

Ideally I would have liked to try out my new Drennan Acolyte 14 ft float rod on the grayling population, but my local River Derwent was out of bounds, being just the wrong side of a Tier 3 boundary. In any case, it was also at an artificially high level due water being released from Ladybower Reservoir to create some capacity for the winter, so the debut of my new toy would have to wait. Instead I dusted off the pike gear, raided the freezer and headed off to the River Soar near Kegworth. Day was forecast to be bright and sunny and there wasn't a cloud in the sky when I arrived shortly before sunrise. River was looking good, but what shocked me were the dense beds of floating pennywort, which were present as far as I could see. 

Walking upstream I was relieved to see that there were some fishable gaps and soon had a couple of joeys soaking in the near margin. Waited for an hour for the first indication on the downstream rod. The float was dithering around for so long I thought crayfish were responsible until it finally submerged. Had a fish on briefly before it decided to head under the nearest bed of pennywort. Couldn't bully it out, so slackened off and let it swim out of its own accord. Tightened down again and promptly pulled straight out of it! Rebaited then decided to leapfrog both rods downstream. Had just re-positioned one and was walking to get the other when I looked back to see that the float had already disappeared! Managed to get the hooks to stick in this one, although another late dash into a weed bed meant quite a bit of "salad" ended up in the landing net. 

Carried on leapfrogging downstream, losing another and landing three more - all small and barely hooked. They didn't seem to be really having and it appeared that I had to land a bait on their heads to get a reaction. When I did the reaction was immediate, but the rest of the time I was staring at motionless floats (apart from when I was duped by the bleak shoals pecking at them!). I was therefore trying to decide if  a move to another section for the last hour would be worthwhile when the Canal & Rivers Trust hove into view with their weedspraying boat. Was good to see that they were taking some action to control the pennywort, but they had effectively wrecked the near margin in the process, so my decision was made for me. 

Jumped back in the car and made the short hop downstream. With time limited before afternoon work Zoom calls beckoned (God, I hate them!), I set up opposite some boats, dropping one bait down the margin and the other just off the back end of a barge. Had just got settled when the bailiff arrived, although the fact I was "not Polish" seemed good enough for him as he didn't actually want to see my club book! Was just having a chat when the indicator on the margin rod hit the back rest with a clunk. Normally I would have been watching the float and would have been on the rod and feeding out line at the first indication. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the rod the float was lying ominously still, the bait having been dropped and the chance gone. 

"Oh dear!", I thought to myself. Bailiff must have been a mind reader as he hastily took his leave at this stage, so I changed the mangled smelt for a roach and popped it back into the same spot. 
However, it was the other rod that went next, the responsible party heading under the boat with his prize before I dragged him kicking and screaming to the net. Eked out the last few minutes without any further action and headed home under a mackerel sky, fitting given I'd four out of the five fish on joeys. Bit of a slow session, but in the process I had found a deeper hole that I'd previously been completely unaware of and one that was worth a look at in the future, possibly for an elusive Soar zander. 

As for the lockdown I need to re-assess my options, bearing in mind that there's plenty of people who have not been fortunate as us anglers and have had to give up their recereational activities for the month. Time to sensible I think.