23/01/2022 - Grayling are stupid!

Title of today's blog aside, I really do love my grayling fishing and am lucky to have a plethora of grayling venues available to me, the closest being just 15 minutes away on the lower River Derwent. Not so in other parts of the country, so I was delighted to read that fellow blogger, Mick Newey, had caught a rare Warwickshire grayling on his first attempt. Small, but perfectly formed, and hopefully indicative of an established population - we shall no doubt see as Mick continues his quest for a bigger one! 

Now, whilst my grayling season had got off to a good start with nearly 100 fish in the net already, I had not got anywhere near to beating my PB of 2lb 9oz, a fly-caught fish from a private section of the upper River Dove back in 2014. It was the Dove that I still believed gave me the best chance having seen friends catch fish knocking on three pounds in recent years. With another few hours available this morning I therefore headed off again over to Tutbury. Arriving at first light and making use of the new car park, I was shocked to see two vehicles had beaten me to it. However, walking upstream I found their occupants, one of whom was the club bailiff, with feeder rods out and having a social in the first accessible swims. Had a quick chat, during which I learnt that the match I'd witnessed last weekend had been won with a 30lb net of chub, so filed that information away for later and carried on up to the spot I'd fished previously.
The intention was again to stick it out, build up the swim and hopefully work through the little 'uns. The river had dropped by about 20 centimetres over the week, but still had a nice tinge of colour and was looking good. However, things didn't go to plan. Caught a couple of grayling straight away, but as I introduced more loose feed the float started dithering about instead of pulling straight under. The culprits were minnows of all things and became a right pain in the arse. Had probably caught a dozen of the little beggars whan another couple of anglers came walking up from the car park. Again, had a bit of a chat before they carried on. Gave the float a few more runs down before I too decided to try my other "banker" further upstream. Luckily my two friends had settled in just a short distance away, so made it to the new spot unhindered and undetected. Seemed to be a few more fish in residence here and, more importantly, no minnows! 

Quickly caught half a dozen more grayling before striking into a fish that went ballistic, pulling line off the 'pin as it shot downstream and then turning and shooting upstream just as fast. A glimpse of a spotty flank confirmed what I thought it was and, after a bit of tug of war, a nice brownie with a big gob on it rolled into the net. Took a quick snap and got him straight back before having a bite on an energy bar to rest the swim for a couple of minutes after his theatrics. The very next trot through I hit another good fish, but from the head banging I knew this was a decent grayling that put up a great scrap in the flow before capitulating. Again, nowhere near a PB, but at 1lb 9oz and a smidge it was my biggest so far this season. A distinctive male with a split dorsal, I posted his photo on Facebook when I got home only for a friend to reply straight away that it was fish he'd caught last week! 

Sure enough his own picture confirmed it - he was even sure that he'd hooked and lost it a few casts before he actually landed it. Add to that the fish that I've already caught three times (twice in about 30 minutes last session) then it appears that grayling are really thick 'cus they just don't learn their lesson! Carried on catching a few more culminating in another nice fish bang on mid-day. Had told the wife I would be back by one o'clock and had started to feel the cold through my waders, so packed up at this point. Had been a bit of a struggle compared to last week, but I'd managed a dozen grayling and that single brownie. Ran into the bailiff and his mate on the way back - they had moved swims a couple of times, but had also struggled with just one chub between. Walking further downstream I found that one of the other anglers had jumped into the swim I had started in. "Thought you'd gone home" he said, so I told him how I'd got on and then asked him if he had done any better there than I had. 

His swift reply was "no!", which put a smile on my face for the rest of the walk back to the car. Probably need to think about leaving my comfort zone now and doing some pioneering if I want to break that PB, although I might have a crack at some chub first.

16/01/2022 - Fishing against the clock

The family had a triple reason to celebrate this weekend - the daughter had come to the end of her isolation with two negative tests, which happened to be just in time for her birthday, and the lad had been offered a job with the National Trust down in Cornwall. 

Family fun times therefore meant that my personal fun time, a planned trip to the Dove, could still go ahead but I was under orders from the wife to be home by lunchtime. Therefore shot over to Tutbury in time to see the sunrise, the clear sky contrasting with the mist covering the fields, and made my way up to the head of a usually productive run. Rather than rove about, the plan was to methodically make my way down the swim and pick off as many fish as I could on the way. Dropped into the margins and fed a few maggots down the crease before sending the float on its way for the first time. It dipped straight away resulting in my first grayling of the morning - all six inches of it! 

Quickly added a few more and I was up to half a dozen fish before I knew it. However, while I was engrossed in this early action I had been blissfully ignorant of several ghostly figures emerging through the mist and pushing heavily-laden barrows across the field on opposite bank. It became glaringly obvious that there was a match on when a chap plonked himself in the swim about 100 metres downstream  of me and another a similar distance upstream. 

Luckily the tree cover on the far bank mean that nobody was going to drop in between them, but it meant that I couldn't fish down the whole length of the run as planned. 
However, by wading out a bit I could at least cover some different lines and depths. Therefore carried on feeding and trotting, steadily picking up fish as I did so, much to the interest of my match-fishing chum. Was just putting back a 1 lb+ male back when the bailiff from the club downstream appeared. 

Had a productive chat with him for 10 - 15 minutes before carrying on, adding a few more to the total, including another nice male. It was only when I looked at the photos later that I realised from the distinctive pattern of spots around its gill cover that this was the same fish that I'd caught less than 30 minute earlier! It must have gone straight back to its lie and carried on feeding regardless - not actually the first time this has happened while I've been grayling fishing either. 

However, even better, when I checked back further I found that I'd also caught this fish on the 19th of December. Obviously a glutton for maggots! My friend downstream in the meantime had hooked a couple of chub, unfortunately losing one in a snag, whilst his colleague upstream was yet to get off the mark, so I felt I was doing pretty well.

By the time I had got to my cut-off point at mid-day I'd had two dozen grayling. Nice to see amongst them were a few tiddlers that had managed to avoid their numerous predators - finned, furred and feathered - no doubt helped by the constant foot-fall of dog walkers on the opposite bank. A downstream breeze had started to blow by now and the culmulative effects of three hours stood in the river were taking effect, including an involuntary twitch in my right buttock! 

Managed to clamber back up the bank despite my feet feeling like two blocks of wood and stamped back to the car. Was interesting that sticking it out in a single swim had been equally as successful as roving, so it might be something I do more of in pursuit of that elusive bigger fish. 

12/01/2022 - Out nicking a few more

"Better out than in" was a comment on one of my previous posts. It was a phrase much used by my grandad and usually followed a healthy burp, produced solely to amuse us grand-kids and and annoy my nan. However, it also applies nicely to today's trip. I was getting fed up with this grey, gloomy, miserable weather we've been having lately, so the bright, sunny conditions this week came as a welcome change and a chance to top up depleted Vitamin D stores. 

The rivers had also continued to fine down nicely and, whilst the likes of the Dove and Derwent would probably be at their best by the weekend, the smaller tributaries looked spot on for another crack at the grayling. A cancelled meeting happened to give me the few hours I needed (synchronicity!), so I had booked the morning off quick before anything took its place. After a quick scrape of the car windows I headed west on the A50 to Staffordshire with the first glimpses of light appearing in the rear view mirror. 

The temperature had yet to creep above freezing by the time I arrived, but with not a single cloud in the sky I knew it was going to warm up as soon as the sun got high enough. Set off across the frost covered fields, my footprints spoiling an otherwise pristine, white carpet. With limited at my disposal the aim was to quickly nick one or two fish out of each little spot (no need to build a swim here!), so I adopted a simple rule to keep myself mobile - ten casts in a swim without a fish, move on. Mist was rising off the river and the sun shining weakly through the trees as I fed a few freebies down the first run and sent the float after them. Sure enough, it promptly disappeared and a little grayling came to hand. Had another one before my self-imposed time limit came into force and I moved downstream.

Despite the cold conditions the grayling seemed to be in a feeding mood as the first drop into a new spot generally brought an instant response. 

The quality of the fish improved as well and I'd had three nice males over a pound by the time I reached my final swim with about half an hour to spare. 

I'd wanted to spend a little longer in this spot as it was where I had caught several chub and dace on my last trip. 

However, after just a couple of  greedy, fat minnows to show for my efforts, it looked as if the freezing overnight temperatures had put the silver fish to bed. Had a quick cup of coffee whilst continuing to feed a in few maggots and next run down I struck into a fish that immediately shot upstream towards me like a startled rabbit and had me spinning the centrepin to keep up with it. After a brief tangle with some tree roots I therefore wasn't really surpised to see an out of season spotty eventually roll into the net. 

Added one more grayling after that, albeit another nice one over a pound, before it was time to leave. I'd had twenty five grayling and that single brownie, so not bad morning's work and certainly better than the equivalent three hours sat on a Teams call!

02/01/2022 - Blowing away the cobwebs

Had over a pint of maggots that had been in cryogenic stasis in the bait fridge since my last trip out a couple of weeks ago, so with the excesses of the holidays finally out of the way I was keen to wet a line again, particularly as the weather in Wales had prevented me from going on the usual Christmas whiting and doggy hunt. 

Current forecast was for it to be mild and dry, albeit quite windy, and my local River Derwent had been dropping nicely, so I threw the waders, a bag of bits and the long rod in the car and set off for a couple of hours trotting. Arrived at an empty car park and then slipped and skidded across the saturated field to the river. Found it to be carrying a bit of colour and, in truth, probably still about half a metre above ideal level. As a consequence it was tonking through the usual spots and boiling angrily in the slacks. However, I was confident that I could find some steadier water and hopefully with it some fish, so headed upstream to where I knew I would be sheltered by the trees from the brisk south-westerly wind. 

Couldn't even get in the river at the first swim as it was too deep for me to safely get in down the bank, so had to just run the float down the nearside margin as best I could. Hadn't had a sniff after half an hour, so moved downstream a couple of times but again the float stubbornly refused to disappear. Wondered if it was because I was being forced to fish close in and therefore likely to be over silt or sand, so had a think about where I could find some water that would be running over gravel instead and moved downstream again to a spot where I would normally be standing on a bar in mid-river. Looked bob on with the main current raging down the far bank, but with a nice walking pace on the near side and about four feet off the rod top. 

Took a few trots down to get the depth absolutely right, but as soon as the hookbait was in the zone the float disappeared and I was into a small grayling. The blank saved I applied myself a bit more seriously to getting a few more in the net, concentrating particularly on the spot in the swim where'd I got the bite.

Had three more grayling of a similar size over the next few trots through, but then started getting some fast, missed bites before eventually connecting with a small dace. Thankfully he had a few slightly larger brethren with him, all looking slightly washed-out in the weak sunshine. Added a few perch, roach and chub to the tally, one of the latter apparently a recent stockie from the EA's Calverton fish farm according to the tell-tale blue dot of dye between his petorals. By the time I had to pack up and head home for lunch I'd had a mixed bag of two dozen fish, which wasn't bad given that it had taken me two-thirds of the session to find the fish in the first place and I had only been fishing that last swim for the final hour.

I'd also added another piece to the jigsaw by finding a spot that appeared to hold fish when the river was higher than normal. However, what I really want to do now is to go all out for a big grayling but looking at the weather forecast for the next week or so I'm going to be waiting a bit!