30/07/2022 - The Usual Suspects

Got to Wales late last night after a delayed departure and a diversion to find some sustenance after discovering that the food hall at Monmouth services had shut just before our arrival, much to the annoyance of the daughter who had been salivating for the previous half an hour at the thought of a Booger King. 

An 0600 hrs alarm this morning was therefore less well received in some quarters than others, but that's what the tide times at Milford Haven dictated if I wanted to get in a couple of hours either side of high water. Was a bit gloomy when I set off and when I arrived at the stone pier at Hakin half an hour later it had turned to drizzle, blown straight up the estuary by a freshening breeze  - a nice Pembrokeshire "wet wind" that creeps into your nooks and crannies! Was also a bit of a chop on as a result. 

Still, it looked reasonably calm in the lee of the pier, which had a brand new set of railings installed since last visit. Luckily they had been set back a good metre from the edge, so it was possible to fish in front of them. Had salted down my leftover rag from our last trip down and it was this I was using for bait on a scaled down flapper rig. 

Unfortunately, salt, drizzle and wet hands don't mix and I soon had it everywhere, causing me to rinse everything thoroughly when I got home! I was also having a job keeping the rag on the hook as it was being stripped off as soon as my rig hit the bottom. Partially remedied that by cutting longer sections, doubling them over and then squeezing them flat to put the hook through. 

Kept it on fractionally longer and enough to start getting hook ups, but I was still having to re-bait every cast. Set about converting the rattles and pulls on the tip of my Rock Rover into fish and wasn't surprised that Mr and Mrs Corkwing were the first two up - the place being absolutely snided with them last time. 

Several more followed, interspersed with the odd ballan and small pollack. When the tide started ebbing and pushing along the the side of the pier I moved to the end, dropping my rig into the triangle of slack water between the outgoing current and the wall. The fish had followed suit as I continued to catch yet more "corkies", with a few shannies and rock gobies thrown in for a bit of variety. Had been rattling through the rag, so the session naturally came to an end when it was completely depleted. Therefore stopped off at Anglers Corner for some fresh bait and a chat, although the proprietor confessed to not knowing much about mini-species and pointed me to venues I already knew about. Then fancied a coffee and something to eat before heading home so pulled into the local Costa. Conversation at the order point went:

Me - "A latte and a bacon cob please."

Them - "Any sauce on your cob?"

Me - "Ketchup please."

At the pick up point:

Them - "No sauce with that?"

Me - "Yes. Ketchup please" (acknowledged by a nod and a smile).

Drove up to the viewpoint over the Haven to enjoy my coffee and cob......with no ketchup on it.

28/07/2022 - Cooling off

We were down in Cornwall for my lad's graduation on the hottest day of the year. Thankfully, although still in the mid-twenties, the temperatures didn't reach the heights experienced elsewhere. 

It was only when we got home after travelling back up the M5 whilst watching the thermometer climb into the high thirties that we experienced the difference. Since then the weather has regained some sort of normality. Still warm, but overcast and with some regular smatterings of rain - sadly insufficient to resurrect the parched, brown grass everywhere, but certainly far nicer conditions to be wandering along the river bank in a pair of waders again! However, with the Derwent still very low and clear I opted to try the River Soar instead. The left-over maggots from the my last session were duly retrieved from the fridge - not in best condition and could have benefitted from some riddling but, as it turned out, the fish didn't give a monkey's. 

Parked the van up on the bridge and walked upstream towards the weir where some flow and oxygen would be guaranteed. The club had been busy strimming out some armchair pegs for the seat box and trolley brigade on the wide navigable section, but these ran out well before I got to my planned destination and I had to push through shoulder-high nettles and balsam to get to my favourite swim on the island. Spooked the obligatory little egret working one of the shallow channels on the way - these appear to be so common now that it's almost a novelty not to see one. In fact their larger cousins, the great white egrets are starting to appear regularly in the area as well. Whilst the river was low, it had a peaty, brown quality about it and there were plenty of fish topping in the faster runs. 

First trot down with a handful of loose feed resulted in a roach and from then on it was a bite a chuck. Dace turned out to be the pre-dominant species, interrupted by a few chub and bleak. 

Whenever the float drifted into slightly slower water more roach, skimmers and an odd gonk were added to the tally. Not surprisingly given the amount of silver fish action a shoal of stripeys soon bullied their way in and I had several hand-sized specimens before they themselves were targetted by something a little bigger. 

Was just bringing one across the surface when a pike of about 6lb slashed at it and missed, almost ending up in the net himself. As he drifted back down to the bottom I realised that he had a similar-sized companion and for a period they were sat side-by-side, holding station with lazy movements of their pectorals. 

Their presence in the swim didn't slow down proceedings, but I made sure to carefully steer any hooked fish away from them until they got fed up waiting for dinner and ghosted away again. Once they'd disappeared I had a dabble off the rod tip on the edge of the lillies to see if there were any ruffe about, but just got plagued by tiddlers. Back on the trotting line it was dace and more dace until my daughter called me to say that tea was going to be on the table in half an hour. Had been fishing for about three hours, had seven species and well over a hundred fish. Packed up and starting hoofing back to the van. However, having not seen anybody else up until that point, I was stopped twice by folks wanting to chat about the fishing. 

First chap was from up near Chesterfield, which is a fair trek in itself, but the next one was from Maidenhead! Only stopped talking long enough to be polite, signposting them both to Scott at Soar Tackle in kegworth, but was still late back home having been further delayed by a 40 mph speed limit on the motorway.  Fortunately the meal timings had been a bit optimistic, so I was assigned bar duties and instructed to make everybody large gin instead of getting a rollicking. We're whizzing down to Wales for the father-in-law's birthday in a couple of days, so hopefully some fun in the salt to follow. Was pretty prolific last time in terms of numbers, but will be looking to try for some species variety in the short time we have down there.

12/07/2022 - Geting too hot to be sensible?

Still had a few maggots left over from my last session but, with the rivers continuing to drop, the bright, sunny days just didn't inspire me to get out there. That changed when the forecast showed some overcast conditions and correspondingly lower temperatures were on their way. Sat in my "office" (the end of the dining table) with the patio doors open on the day in question I was even briefly distracted by the sound of a few drops of rain hitting the decking - something that has become so rare in these parts that I took a couple of seconds to realise what it was! 

Not that it even touched the sides, but it was enough to freshen things up a little and later in the afternoon I headed off to the River Derwent once again. Whilst the car park was empty I could see a couple of anglers in the first two "armchair" swims upstream of the footbridge. Optimistically casting large maggot feeders into a shallow, clear swim they'd understandably only had one grayling between them when the conditions perhaps dictated a bit more finesse. I therefore plodded on upstream in my chesties, the insides of which were still nice and clammy from sweat from my last outing, flushing a little egret and a pair of kingfishers out from the marginal reeds as I did so. A brown hare out in the hay field was less skittish, but kept a watchful eye on me as I walked past.

Stopped about halfway up the section and was relieved to drop into the relative cool of the river. Started off with double maggot on a size 16, but quickly realised that I needed to drop down at least a hook size if I wanted to catch anything today. Unfortunately the masses of minnows quickly became a pain in the arse - reducing the single maggot to a husk by the end of the run with all but the gluttonous few avoiding the hook.

Whilst a couple of small perch and dace managed to get a look in I was soon on the move back downstream. Next spot was deeper and slower and on the second trot down I had decent hand-sized roach, quickly followed by a couple of nice dace. However, it wasn't long before the ravenous hordes moved in again and the float started dithering all over the place as the hookbait was harried mercilessly from below. I'd seen a few fish topping in the next spot on the way upstream and, although it was a bit of a scramble down down the bank, it looked worth a go. A few casts later the identity of the mystery "toppers" was confirmed as several, silvery bleak came to hand, along with a couple of chub. Had not had a grayling up to now, so moved downstream once more to the run where I'd had a couple last time.

Briefly shared the swim with a couple of dog-walkers that were letting their pooches cool off in the water, but they soon moved on when I waded out into mid-river. The dace and chub were again in residence and I quickly had a handful along with another perch.

Had a bit of excitement when reeling in a small fish - a couple of big stripeys appeared from nowhere and before I could react one of them gobbed it. The Acolyte took on a healthy curve as the fish plodded around and for a couple of minutes I thought I had been lucky enough to get a hookhold.

However, I was soon corrected as my float suddenly went flying over my right shoulder. That seemed to kill the swim off and although I had a few more dace from a bit further downstream I'd really had enough and was wanting my tea.

I get a bit "hangry" when in need of sustenance, so my mood wasn't improved by the amount of crap left behind by the gang of youths that had been tombstoning off the footbridge earlier. Spent a couple of minutes filling my landing net with crisp packets, food wrappers, bottles and pairs of socks that the little bastards had seen fit to discard before they left. I just cannot understand the mindset that thinks this is acceptable, but you only have to look at the verges of our motorways and A-roads to see that it is a common one! Headed home feeling a bit better anyway having "done my bit". Looking at the forecast ahead I fully expect Paola Fisch to pop up on the weather to announce that it will be "scorchio"!

But seriously, with river temperatures approaching levels where some species start to feel uncomfortable, highlighted by reports of a couple of dead salmon in the Derwent and some game fishing clubs suspending angling on their waters, I think I'll be giving it a rest until temperatures drop to more sensible levels again - for my own wellbeing as well as the fish!

30/06/2022 - A late, but decent opener on the Derwent

Was away the first two weekends of the river season and work prevented me from doing anything in between, so today was my first opportunity to get out. Just planned to take a float rod and a pint of maggots and to have a bit of a recce somewhere. 

However, it took me three attempts to get some bait as apparently Thursday is maggot delivery day round our neck of the woods and the first two tackle shops I tried were still waiting for the driver to turn up. At least when I got some they were fresh! Talk in the shop was how low the rivers were and how poorly a recent match on the Trent had fished, won with only 5lb. When I said I was thinking of trying the Derwent I was met with a sucking of teeth and "Ooh, very low, very low". To be honest I think the reaction would have been the same whatever I had said, so a couple of hours later I headed off to Draycott anyway. There wasn't a soul in the carpark when I arrived. Whether that was a bad sign I would soon find out!
The river did look very low and clear as I crossed the footbridge with gravel exposed where I would normally be standing thigh deep in winter, but I could also see quite a few fish topping further upstream. Walked up to weir at the head of the section just out of curiosity and with thoughts of returning using different tactics, so I was pretty hot and sweaty in my chesties when I eventually pushed my way through the head-high Himalayan balsam to get to my first swim. 

I'd treated myself to some Dave Harrell "shallow sticks" in the close season and today seemed a good opportunity to try them out. I fancied them because of the large, flourorescent domed tops that even my crap eyes wouldn't fail to see, but their compact, chunky design also makes them very stable in fast, shallow water. Ran the float through the first run a few times before eventually getting a small dace, but after half an hour of feeding and trotting there didn't seem to be much about so moved swiftly on. Next swim I tried is a favourite of mine, but I found access blocked by a recently fallen willow. Scrambled around it to find I could still drop into the river and was again running the float down as far as my eyes would let me. 

Seemed to be more about here and I started hitting dace, roach, perch and a single summer grayling. As this time last year there were a few late mayflies heaving themselves off the surface of the river, only to be nailed by an assortment of opportunist avian predators, including chaffinches, tits and wagtails. Those that did make it above the tree canopy were quickly mopped up by a waiting squadron of swifts. Had an eye on the clock as there were a couple more swims I wanted to try, so as bites tailed off I headed back downstream once more. Next spot involved a scramble down a virtually sheer 10 feet bank eroded by the winter floods. However, once at the bottom the low water allowed me to wade across and run the float close to the far bank trees. 

Started getting bites straight away and added several more dace and a few chub to the tally before my loose feed attracted a horde of small dace or bleak, the water erupting as soon as the maggots hit the surface. The hook bait was just getting mullered, reduced to a hollow skin by the end of each trot down, so after persevering a bit for a couple of better fish I scrambled back up the bank (harder then coming down!) and headed for my final swim. 

Had been overcast all evening and it eventually started to rain at this point, so the jacket came out of the bag. Was quite pleasant stood in the river with the rain peppering the surface and the sound of the drops hitting my hood, even more so when I picked up another couple of grayling in successive casts - strangely warm to the touch unlike in the depths of winter and needing a bit of tlc to allow them to recover properly before swimming off. 

The dace were there again in numbers, along with a couple more perch and chub. Had just released another grayling and the biggest of the evening when the wife rang saying that the Prodigal had returned safely from Uni and that a Chinese takeaway was in the offing. Along with the rain the temperature had dropped swiftly, 23 down to 12 degrees, so I had started to feel a bit damp and chilly anyway (I only had shorts on under my waders), so the offer was too hard to resist. Finished with a nice, mixed bag of fish despite the conditions and the doubts of the doom-mongers and now I've got out once I'll be back again very soon.