Left it until today for the main rivers to sort themselves out before deciding where I would be heading for another grayling session, this time with the "long rod". Settled on the River Dove near Tutbury and set off down the A50 and into the gloom.
October flashed by without me wetting a line - more pressing family matters to attend to, followed by a well-earned break in rural France. With things settling down I thought I would take advantage of the continued mild weather and fish some short sessions into dark for the zander. Last seasons zander "campaign" consisted of one trip out onto the cut where I was lucky enough to catch a new canal PB of 8lb 4oz. This time, however, I would be concentrating on a section of the River Trent about 15 minutes from home where I'd had zeds of up to 9lb+ in the past.
Eventually the inevitable happened and everything locked up solid and I could no longer feel the fish, it presumably having shed the hooks. Pulled for a break with the wire trace coming back "pig-tailed" just above where the top hook would have been. To say that I was gutted was an understatement, particularly as I carried on for another hour and a half without another sniff.The following session proved to be a total blank despite renewed enthusiasm and some fresh deadbaits, so tonight was really make or break. Ignored the snag pit this time and instead settled into the next swim upstream, which gave access to a lot more water. Put the roach straight out in front of me and then cast the lamprey down alongside the margins to my left. The bailiff arrived shortly afterwards and we had a quick chat before he took his leave and I settled down properly to await proceedings. Once again it felt a lot milder than forecast, which brought a late plague of midges buzzing 'round my head. Darkness brought some respite from the little buggers, but I'd not had a twitch on either rod until, completely out of the blue, the bobbin on the margin rod dropped off. Picked up the rod and felt the line pulling slowly through my fingers before winding down into what felt like another lump.
Steered it away from the trees into open water where I was confident that my balanced tackle would do the job and after a couple of short runs and more tail slapping I had the fish on the surface and sliding over the net. I'd not had to use my head torch up to this point, so it was only when I went to lift the net up onto the bank that I realised how big the fish was - not a zander, but a very decent pike. Quickly got it unhooked, into the sling and onto the scales. Thoughts of a twenty briefly went through my mind as the arrow span 'round the dial, but it eventually settled at 19lb 10oz, still beating my previous best by an ounce.
Snapped off a couple of photos and then had a good look in it's mouth where a recent mark on the lower jaw suggested that this could have been the fish I'd lost a few nights earlier. Let her rest in the net in the margins for a bit before watching her swim away strongly into the darkness. Had no further action, but couldn't have cared less really. Went home in a much better frame of mind, but certainly puzzling over the apparent lack of zander.
Arrived back in Nottingham from my Cornish idyll to be plunged into a family crisis. Mum's dementia carers had arrived at her home one day to find empty packets of pills and she had been rushed to hospital on suspicision of an accidental overdose. Thankfully this was not the case, but then safeguarding issues were raised and social services became involved. Mum then had to spend six days in hospital with no visitors whilst various assessments were carried out and paperwork completed - a very confusing and frightening experience for an 80 year old with her condition. The family has basically now been left to deal with the aftermath. For me this has already meant several 2hr+ round trips to Birmingham to visit her while she is temporary respite care. As a result, before this week had even started, I was feeling mentally and physically drained. My wife therefore suggested that I take a break and go fishing to clear my head.
First trot down and the stresses of the week were temporarily forgotten as the float disappeared at the end of the run and my first fish, a bleak, came to hand. Was therefore able to get the perch rod out early doors, positioning the bleak on a paternoster at the downstream end of my swim just off the crease. Carried on trotting away and building up the swim with a few freebies each time, hopefully attracting some predators at the same time.
Flushed with the success of the previous morning I once again zig-zagged my way down the cliff at first light. On this occasion the day dawned bright and sunny. Again, the cormorants and the seal were in attendance and at one stage I had a shoal of sandeels at my feet. However, despite going through my whole repertoire of lures, I eventually headed back up to the cottage frustrated, frazzled and fish-less!
This time I knew straight away that I had my intended quarry and after another one-sided tug of war I was looking at my first giant goby and he certainly was a splendid chap - fine scaled and deep brown in colour with a head like a bulldog.
Failed dismally to catch a bass on lures last time we were in Pembrokeshire at what is usually a reliable venue, so I was keen to try and make amends. However, rather than artificials again I decided that I would try bait fishing this time, so duly made a trip to J & W Tackle in Pembroke Dock for some worm.
The small neap tides of the last trip had also been replaced by some big spring tides that I hoped would push the fish further up the estuary. However, it also meant that the water level was already well up the beach by the time we arrived and the gullies were submerged, so I got to put my plan into action. Set up a one up, one down rig with each hook baited with a couple of the bigger worms and cast it out as far as the crease formed by the incoming tide.
He confirmed there was a fish on, so I let him carry on playing it into the beach. A couple of minutes later we were looking at a small, but very welcome bass. Popped him back and then carried on with renewed enthusiasm that lasted approximately another ten minutes, an earlier promise of eggy bread and bacon being too hard to resist. Two bare hooks also suggested that the local crabs had switched on, so confirmed it was time to go.
Made me think of the elusive gilt head bream that are meant to be present in the estuary and whether this would be a feeding area for them, but that could be a path to madness!
Anyway, I've got a hot bass tip to follow up next time we're down!