I'd booked two mornings off this week based on the fact that the forecast of last Friday appeared to show that we were in for some calm and dry conditions - fat chance!
By Sunday night it was all change with several fronts looming in the Atlantic promising us yet more wet weather. Worse still, my local rivers that had been fining down so nicely were forecast to rapidly respond to the rain that would arrive as early as Monday afternoon. With nothing important booked in at work I therefore swapped one of my days and got the pike gear ready for an early morning foray on the River Soar before conditions deteriorated. It was raining when I left in the morning, but it was just some patchy stuff and it had cleared up by the time I got to the river at first light. The sun made a brief appearance as an orange glow on the horizon before it was smothered by a damp, grey blanket of low cloud. Just gave me enough light to do a "stick test" to confirm that there was about a foot of visibility. Not brilliant, but I'd brought some suitably "attractive" baits - smelt, mackerel and lamprey - and had the Predator Plus in the bag if I needed to boost them.
A stiff breeze was already blowing straight down the river, so I headed upstream to the first bend where I knew I'd get some shelter. Set up the usual float leger rigs, starting off with a lamprey down the nearside, while half a mackerel was launched over to the far bank piles. Hadn't had a touch after half an hour, so moved the mackerel closer to some boats. Five minutes later the float bobbed and waddled off, resulting in the first jack of the morning. Leap-frogged the rods along the far bank over the next hour or so, with another run coming in front of the pub. However, by it's mad gyrating it only felt like a tiddler and it promptly unhooked itself halfway across the river. With no more interest forthcoming I upped sticks and moved downstream. The wind made it impossible to float leger a bait over on the far bank, so I concentrated on the nearside margin, putting a bait upstream and downstream of my position.
Didn't have to wait long for the lamprey on the downstream rod to signal a take and for another jack to hit the net. However, the chop on the water was making it difficult to decipher the movements of the floats and I didn't realise I'd got a take on the upstream rod until I noticed I had a big bow of slack line. Slowly wound down to feel a couple of sharp tugs, so carried on winding only to bring back an empty set of hooks minus smelt. Again, probably just a small one. Started leap-frogging the rods again and had a take almost immediately on the lamprey I'd just re-positioned downstream - must have dropped it on its head. Wound into a much heavier fish, the rod staying bent round in a satisfying curve. Well, for all of five seconds at most as the hooks pulled out - b*llocks! Dropped a fresh bait back on the spot more in hope than expectation and then checked on the upstream rod.
Glanced back to see that the other float had already disappeared! Wound down again to feel a nice weight and a couple of head shakes before the hookhold failed once more - double b*llocks! Checked the hooks on both rods and whilst they seemed "sticky" enough I gave them a running over with the file - something I should have done at the start of the session with hindsight (I never learn). Moved downstream again, but lobbed the upstream bait back into the area where I'd lost the fish. Was therefore amazed when the float disappeared with confidence a few minutes later. However, whilst the hooks stuck this time (amazing when you sharpen them!), it turned out to be the smallest fish of the morning. Added another on the downstream rod before deciding to pack up while I was dry, although if it wasn't for work and the daughter wanting the car to go to the gym I could have stayed a couple more hours before the rain eventually arrived.
Was glad to have caught a few, even if they were only jacks, but the lost fish were annoying. Will now be a case of watching the weather and the river levels and making use of every opportunity until the end of the season. Let's just hope it's not another wash-out.
Suspect along with a lot of other people, I am getting absolutely sick to death of these seemingly unrelenting wet and windy conditions we've had to endure the last few weeks. Whilst I suppose in desperation I could have found a sheltered spot on a lake or on the river somewhere and hunkered down behind a a set of buzzers or a quiver tip, I still had the best part of a pint of maggots in the fridge and really wanted to get out with the long rod and do some more trotting. However, after days spent scanning the weather forecasts it finally looked like that there would be a brief window of opportunity coming my way, with the wind dropping away to a gentle breeze accompanied by some sunny intervals, albeit just for a few hours in the morning.
All the local rivers had also been fining down nicely from the last lot of rain, although that was definitely going to change with yet more wet and windy weather building from the South-West. It was now or never so, having hastily booked the morning off work, I headed off to the River Dove near Tutbury once more. Made the effort to get there for first light, so was again surprised to see that I'd been beaten to it again. Thankfully the occupant of the white Prius taking up pole position in the car park was nowhere to be seen and I was able to drop into my first choice swim. The temperature had dropped overnight along with the wind, so I spent a chilly half an hour waiting for the sun to creep above the ruins of Tutbury Castle on the hill opposite.
As the light level improved I started getting a few bites and had a couple of small grayling in the bag when I struck into a lump right down at the furthest extent of my swim. Thoughts of a big grayling were dashed as it took off across the river towards the far bank snags like a startled rabbit. Gave the Acolyte a proper workout as I gave it some stick and turned it back towards me, whereby it capitulated and a short, fat chub a smidge under 4 lb came grudgingly to the net. A couple trots down later I hit another lump, but this time was left in no doubt that this was a decent grayling as, after a couple of big head thumps, it just hung there in the current. Trick with these I've found is not to bully them and just keep the pressure on until they get fed up and swim upstream of their own volition. Always a bit of a squeaky bum time with grayling, but not usually a problem if the hook hold is a good one.
Unfortunately it was not the case this time as the usually reliable Drennan wide gape pinged out just as the fish started to move - b***s!! To make things worse I bumped the next three fish before I eventually did what I should have done at the start of the session - change the flippin' hook! Carried on trotting away, having now committed myself to staying in the swim for the remaining hour or so. Continued to catch grayling in little bursts of twos and threes, including a nice male that was some recompense for the earlier lost fish, but I suspect not quite the same calibre. Left it right up to the wire before I had to pack up and head back having caught 19 grayling and that solitary chub. The downstream wind had already started freshening by now and creating a chop on the surface that was making it difficult to keep track of the float. However, with hindsight I wished I'd booked the whole day off.
Sat here now looking at the havoc that Storm Eunice is going to wreak over the next few days it's difficult to know when I'll be out next and a "Big G" still eludes me.