14/03/2022 - Trout like maggots

Felt strangely apathetic when I woke up this morning given that it was the last day of the river season. Didn't help that we'd flashed down to see the in-laws in Pembrokeshire at the weekend and I'd stupidly crocked my back by trying to be helpful and doing a few jobs in the yard, so wasn't feeling 100%. 

However, after a leisurely breakfast, a strong coffee and a couple of paracetamol I decided to throw some tackle, including my float and quiver tip rods, into the van and see how the day developed. Had it in mind to head to the River Dove anyway following a tip about some decent grayling captures from my friend Dai, but on a complete whim I opted to try a club section upstream of Rocester that I'd never been to before. Limited to just two members at any one time there was a chance that I'd get it all to myself and so it proved. Standing on the bridge in the early morning sun I could see all the way up to the top of the section and it looked perfect for trotting - steady pace with a nice green tinge as the water deepened in the centre of the channel - so struggled into my chesties and headed upstream. 

It turned out to be a bit streamy right up the top end, so dropped into the river a little way back downstream where it had flattened out and dropped to a brisk walking pace.

Started trotting away and on about the second run down had a small, but perfectly formed, grayling. Quickly added a few more before I caught the inevitable brownie. Somebody had obviously forgotten to tell them that their season didn't start for another few days as they became an absolute pain in the arse. 

At one stage they threatened to overwhelm the number of grayling I was catching and at this point I think I would have been forced to go elsewhere. Thankfully the grayling count kept ticking over and I started to catch some better fish although sadly quite a few had bird damage, including what turned out to be the best fish of the day - a male with a split dorsal and big stab wound in his back. 

Whilst I was fishing a pair of very vocal greater spotted woodpeckers were getting frisky in the trees opposite me and I saw a dipper heading upstream with what looked like a large beakful of material for its nest - something they take very seriously, taking as long as a month to build a large domed structure of moss, grass and leaves on a ledge or in a crevice over running water. A less welcome sign of spring were the viscious green nettle tops peeking through the grass, several of which I found with my exposed wrists and hands whilst clambouring out of the river on all fours (still tingling a day later). More unexpected was the cheery "hello!" that came from the opposite bank. 

Looked up to see two middle-aged ladies carrying towels and watched them head a bit further upstream where they divested themselves of their robes to reveal swimming costumes and then jumped in the river! 

They must have been hardy souls as I was able to vouch for the fact that the river was still flippin' cold. Lulled into a false sense of security by the weather forecast I had negelected to put on my thermals on this morning, so was losing feeing in my legs after  an hour or so. I was therefore glad when the bites dried up giving me chance to sit in the sun to warm back up a bit. Moved a little way downstream and scrabbled down the bank into my next spot where something had made a recent snack of  large signal crayfish. 

This swim gave me a much longer run down towards some trees so was able to give the Acolyte a proper test, the only limitation to how far I could let the float go being my crap eyesight. 

The extra length made it easy to pick the line up on the strike at distance and I only bumped a handful of fish all day. Equally, playing fish all the back way upstream was no problem even when I managed to "t-bone" a decent trout, hooking it right in the middle of it's back, which lead me to believe for a few stomach-churning minutes that I'd got the mother of all grayling on the end of my line! Had only meant to fish until lunchtime, then go and get some food and perhaps try somewhere else. 

However, time had absolutely flown by as I'd been enjoying the fishing and surroundings so much - even when the farmer decide to fire up his muck spreader upwind of me in the field opposite! Made one more move downstream and carried on catching grayling and spotties in almost equal measure before finally calling it quits at around 4 pm. Ended up with 24 grayling to 1lb 8oz and 21 brownies to just under a pound. We'll see if I can be bothered with any close season dabblings, otherwise roll on June!

08/03/2022 - Snappers and sore knuckles

Could have done with coming a week ago for me, but at least the spell of dry weather we are experiencing now means that the local rivers will be fishable for the last few days of the season. However, with some fining down quicker than others it still meant that I had to think about what I want to achieve in the limited time available. 

With the Dove and the Derwent still a bit high for my liking I settled on another morning pike session on the Soar where the fresh, Easterly wind would at least be at my back. Having learnt from dropped baits and lost fish on the previous session I tweaked my rigs, incorporating some low resistance run rings on the lead link, and tied on new traces made up with some new, extra "sticky" Mustads. I'd also come across a video by a very successful Danish Pike angler called Jens Bursell about his "skating hook release rig" here, developed in order to increase hooking efficiency. Basically the trace is attached to the deadbait using bait spikes so that the trebles remain free. This means that a casting link must be used, so perhaps more suited for fishing stillwaters where you are sitting out for a big 'un. However, the principle of reducing the number of hookpoints buried in the bait looked sound so I decided to incorporate it into one of my traces as a trial. 

After a bit of experimentation in the garage I decided that I would head or tail-hook the bait as normal with the top treble, but the bottom treble would be free and, as I didn't have any bait spikes, held in place with size 8 with two prongs snipped off and opened out to 90 degrees. Tension would be provided with an elastic bait band so that the trace lay nice and straight along the flank of the bait.  Suitably armed I therefore headed off this morning, having  first scraped the ice off the windscreen of the van. However, the sun was already rising into cloudless sky when I arrived, so it promised to warm up provided I could stay out of the wind. 

Walked up to the start of the straight and soon had two baits out in the near margin, a smelt upstream and a lamprey on the experimental rig downstream. Was fairly quiet for the first half hour with just a couple of lady crews out for an early morning row to disturb me, the blades of the second boat cutting the water within inches of my floats despite my polite remonstrations.  Despite this, a few minutes after they had disappeared back upstream, the downstream float bobbed a couple of times and started to trundle off. My strike was met with some token resistance before the responsible jack allowed itself to be pulled straight into the waiting net where the hooks promptly fell out. 

He was also kind enough to give me back my lamprey section, so it was re-hooked and sent downstream again. Had a repeat performance on the upstream rod a bit later - another jack and hooks spat out in the net again. Seemed they were just holding on long enough for me to land them! Moved downstream and was just in the process of positioning a bait over on the far bank when I was honoured with a phone call from the one and only Dai Gribble, former Drennan Cup winner and the best angler I know. My bait therefore ended up sitting in mid-river instead while we discussed the highly immoral subject of feeder fishing for grayling (effective too!). Was therefore surprised when the float disappeared within about 10 minutes and I had to hastily hang up. This one was properly hooked with the half mackerel well down its throat but, from the point of view of my experimentation, was unfortunately on the normal trace. 

In between waiting for bites I was treated to a raptor-fest, including four buzzards, two kestrels and a red kite  - the closest I've seen one to home yet. Moved downstream again, this time placing a smelt out in the middle of the channel by design rather than accident. 

A couple of unexpected narrow boats had me doing the hokey-cokey with the rod, but shortly after I'd repositioned it for the second time the float in mid-river again developed a life of its own and headed off for Kegworth, resulting in another Soar snapper. Blanked in the next swim despite my utter conviction that the lamprey on the marginal rod would go sailing off, so swapped it for another smelt when I made my final move of the morning. After a biteless hour it appeared that it had gone completely dead, when the downstream float finally disappeared. This one put up a bit more of a fight and didn't give up once it was on the bank. Hooked fairly and squarely by the bottom hook on the experimental rig it needed a bit more attention with the long-nosed pliers. However, in the process it decided to do a death roll, shredding my knuckles in the process! Long and lean in the net it looked worth a weigh, but failed to scrape into double figures. 

Time up I made my way back to the van - again it was nice to catch a few, but quality had eluded me once more. Jury's out on fancy rigs as well - I'll probably just stick the hooks in the bait like everybody else next time and strike harder! What next? Decisions, decisions!

02/03/2022 - Wet, but happier days

Black dog day today. Couldn't concentrate on work - my mood not helped by the grey, miserable conditions outside and knowing there's more rain to come later in the week.

Just feels like every weather front that pushes in across the Atlantic is another nail in the coffin of my river season. Eventually had enough by lunchtime, so put the boots and waterproofs on and went for a stomp across the fields to clear the head. The usually dry drains and ditches were running hard with muddy, brown water, all destined to end up in the Trent a mile down the hill. At least the crows were happy picking dead lobworms off the surface of the water-logged soil. However, it got me thinking that there was a time when I actually relished a bit of rain (cue flashback)!

It was a typical evening in June….

Got home from work and switched on the television to see rain bouncing off the covers of Centre Court, signalling the end of play at Wimbledon. Shortly afterwards it was announced that proceedings had been called to a halt at a storm-lashed Edgbaston between England and Australia. What a perfect night then to grab a few hours on theTrent! An hour later I was busy with the bait dropper in a swim that had yielded barbel to just over 11 lb to me in the past. However, as I finished I could hear the ominous rumblings of thunder approaching from the southwest. The rods were quickly made up and two cage feeders full of a scalded pellet mix were swung out over the baited area. As I ducked under the brolly it suddenly became very gloomy and it wasn’t long before the first drops of rain started to pepper the surface of the river in front of me. By now the overhead power cables in the field behind me were humming like a swarm of angry wasps. Within minutes the rain had turned into a deluge and I was literally plunged into darkness. Visible flashes now accompanied the rumblings of thunder as the storm crept closer and closer.

I was soon treated to one of the best light shows I have ever seen. The trees on the far bank were lit up time after time by bolts of lightning of such intensity that they left after-images in the sky like tracers!  By now the storm was all around me and the flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder were virtually simultaneous. It was right in the middle of this that the tip of the downstream rod flew ‘round. Keeping the rod tip low (hopefully to avoid electrocution!) I quickly steered what felt to be a reasonable fish into the waiting net. 

Back under the brolly I was pleasantly surprised to see a stocky, well-fed chub and even more surprised when I weighed it at 5lb 2oz. A quick photograph and it was returned, just in time for the upstream rod to rattle off. Another chub estimated at around 4lb was quickly landed and returned. The rods were both then rebaited and the feeders swung out into the river once more. Again it was only minutes before the two 10 mm shrimp boilies on the upstream rod proved irresistable, resulting in another chub around the 4lb mark.

I was now pretty wet from my trips out into the rain. However, I didn’t have long to dry off and recover before the downstream rod was bouncing in the rest and soon yet another chub graced the landing net. Although this one was a bit hollow in the belly, it looked slightly longer than the first. I was therefore pleased to confirm a  weight of 5lb 6oz. Another quick photo and it was released to join its brothers. I didn’t have long to take in the fact that I’d just had my first brace of “5’s” from the Trent before the upstream rod bent round signalling an unmistakable barbel bite. 

Sure enough, the culprit turned out to be a pristine 7 lber. By the time I had sorted this fish out I was well and truly soaked. A small stream had started running down the bank behind me and I was having difficulty clambering back up in the mud. With no sign of the storm abating, I therefore decided to “abandon play” myself. The gear was unceremoniously packed up and I sprinted the 50 yards or so back to the car. A little over two hours after starting fishing, I was safe back at home, but not without a necessary detour.  At one point I was turned back by the crew of a fire engine as flash flooding had blocked the road. I also later learned from the news that Nottingham railway station had suffered a lightning strike that had knocked out the signalling system, resulting in commuting chaos the following day. Electric fishing indeed!