09/12/2022 - Post COVID pick-me-up

My first (and hopefully last) experience with COVID was thankfully a bearable one, the boosters doing their job and minimising any effects, with just a bit of a sniffle and a phlegmy throat to remind me of its presence. It also seems that there are lot worse things about at the moment as a colleague at work has been off for nearly three weeks now with a nasty chest infection.

Tried to minimise any social contact anyway and spent the last week keeping out of the way of the kids, so hopefully I've not passed it onto them - the daughter particularly has got far too much going on before Christmas and my life simply would not be worth living if that was cutrtailed! Had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast whilst sat on my arse as I had a good half pint of maggors in the fridge and was itching to have another go at the grayling.

The current conditions looked spot on - freezing cold, bright and sunny and no wind. Had a window of a few hours this morning, so headed off in the van to the River Derwent again. Arrived just after first light, the moon and sun having a brief battle for supremacy before the latter burst over the horizon and flooded the frost-covered landscape. Wasn't in a rush so made myself a coffee and waited for the sun to get a bit higher in the sky before donning the neoprenes and making my way over the footbridge and across the field, leaving dirty great footprints on the otherwise pristine, white canvas. Had just over three hours before I had to leave in order to give me time to get home to dial into a meeting.

I therefore walked straight upstream to the first swim I'd fished last week in the the hope that the grayling were still in residence. The river had visibly dropped since my previous session. However, the newly exposed mud indicated that the only visitors in the interim had been those of the furred and feathered kind. The water clarity had also improved and my only doubt about the temperature was dispelled when the float disappeared on the very first trot down resulting in the first grayling of the morning. Wasn't massive, but was nice start particularly when another one followed next cast. Blank avoided I settled down to catch a few more despite it still being cold enough for ice to form in the rod rings and requiring me to periodically dunk the rod tip in the river to free the line.

Eventually the sun rose high enough to warm my back and I got into a rythmn of trotting and feeding. When it came time to leave I'd had 21 grayling and could have quite happily stayed and caught more if it wasn't for that inopportune meeting.

Bumped into the bailiff when I got back to the van, so gave him a catch report. Seems very few people bother with the river when the barbel fishing tails off and few venture very far from the  carpark, which suits me fine. However, think even I need to leave my comfort zone and  travel a bit further afield if I'm going to catch a "two" this winter.

02/12/2022 - Grayling therapy, but with a twist

Couldn't ignore the prospect of another dry day without any wind and with a pint of maggots already waiting in the fridge I booked the morning off work and headed to the River Derwent with the long rod hoping for the first few grayling of the winter.

There was a car already in the carpark when I arrived and as I got togged up in my chesties I was surprised to see my fellow angler coming back over the footbridge. Turned out he'd just forgotten something, but from his albeit "traditional" gear - canvas bag, split cane rod and matching landing net - it was clear that he was also after the grayling. Had a very informative chat before going our separate ways - him downstream and me upstream - having agreed to compare notes if we saw each other later. It was 4 degrees Centigrade and another overast day when I arrived, but thankfully the gloom had lifted slightly by the time I reached my first spot. Nobody had fished the peg since the floods had receded and I slid down the muddy, wet bank more than stepped into the river. 

Water clarity was also pretty good, although I'd asked at the tackle shop for a few orange and yellow fluoro maggots to be included in my mix just in case and picked these out for my hook baits. Started off with a single grub on a size 16 Drennan widegape, running it downsteam under the Avon as far as my eyes would let me. After a few trots, each accompanied by a few freebies, the float buried and I felt the familiar mad gyrations of a modest grayling on the end of the line. Carried on catching at regular intervals, the fish apparently spread out rather than bunched up in one place and ranging in size from a fingerling to just over a pound. They were obviously feeding well, coughing up maggots in the net and properly nailed by the widegape, although it never ceases to amaze me watching the lengths that grayling go to shed the hook, sometimes more successfully than I'd like. Got into a nice rythmn, disturbed only by the occasional test explosion from the cracker factory on the opposite bank.

Before I knew it two hours had gone past and I'd had 19 grayling grace the net. Bites had slowed by now so I gave myself a couple more casts before upping sticks and moving downstream, disturbing a few redwings in the hawthorn bushes as I went. With just the morning off I wanted to try at least one more swim, so dropped in upstream of the pipe bridge where the sun finally made a welcome appearance for the first time. It had stayed cold all morning and I'd had to put the gloves on to keep my fingers warm. Started getting fast, jabbing bites straight away and missed several before I hooked one of the culprits, a small dace. Seemed to be quite a few in the swim as I added half a dozen more, along with three more grayling. My fellow angler appeared behind me at this stage and reported that he'd had fifteen grayling to over a pound.

He'd also lost a large chub that he'd managed to coax thirty yards upstream before the hook pulled out. Gave it a couple more casts after he'd departed, but I really was pushing it with the time so packed up, pretty happy with a few hours work. However, the twist was yet to come. The wife had been in locked in isolation in the spare room all week with the dreaded COVID after finally bringing it home from work (neither of us had sucumbed to it until now). During the morning I'd started to feel increasingly ropey with what felt like the onset of a cold. First thing I did when I got throught the door was to take a test and yes - I was positive! The two of us are now isolating away from the rest of the household, although I suppose there are worse things than being waited on by the kids! 

01/12/2022 - Zander fails and a few paltry pike

Gave myself a couple more sessions to try and break out of the zander rut and for my "lucky" mascot to repay the debt of rescuing him from the floods last winter. 

First one was back on the River Trent. It had hammered down with rain the day before and the river was on the rise, but not too coloured and not yet at a level that was unfishable. Unfortunately what I hadn't accounted for were the floating rafts of flood debris that forced me to fish a maximum of a rod length's out, or risk getting wiped out every five minutes. However, I was still fishing in about 8 feet of water and there was the likelihood that any sensible zander wouldn't be sat out in the main flow anyway. Out of the two rods I was convinced that the one with a lamprey section positioned next to a bush downstream would be the one to go and I had my eyes glued to the tip for any signs of movement. However, as it started to go dark it was the other rod, with a headless roach swung out into open water in front of me, that started nodding instead. 

Wound down and bent the rod into a fish that banged its head a couple of times before getting momentarily snagged up in something soft, but it was quickly out and free again. Reaching for the net I was prematurely congratulating myself for breaking my run of bad luck when the hooks inevitably pulled out! Took a moment before rebaiting and casting out again, but my heart wasn't really in it. The river had continued to rise and when the slack I was fishing started to furiously back-eddy it was time to go. 

Next attempt was on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Burton, usually a reliable venue that has produced zander up to 8lb 4oz in the past.

Weather conditions seemed perfect - mild with not a breath of wind - and the canal was carrying a nice tinge of colour. However, upon reaching "the spot" it was clear from the worn and muddy bank that it had been receiving quite a lot of attention. This was confirmed shortly after I'd put out both rods when a portly chap came wheezing up the towpath and asked me how long I was stopping as he had intended to fish the same swim. Turned out that him and his mates, including "Polski Pete", had been fishing the section solidy since the summer and, whilst they'd had some good zander and pike (which they'd given names to after several re-captures), the last month had been "crap"! Didn't seem to register with him that this was possibly because they'd hammered it. 

As he carried on I could feel my confidence slowly ebbing away and it was nearly at rock bottom when he finally departed with a cheery "I hope you catch something". Fished a couple of hours into dark, changing and moving the baits around, but failed to attract a single bite. More disappointing was that the venue had been discovered and probably sucumbed to angling pressure, let's hope temporarily. For my next session, rather than face the prospect of another blank straight away, I headed out to the River Soar with the pike rods. Again, weather and river conditions seemed perfect. The recent flood had removed the beds of floating pennywort, sending them off to cause a nuisance further downstream, and it was clear that none of the pegs had been fished since the river had fined back down. 

I'd also been and got some sardines from the local fishmongers (cheaper than off Mr Fickling!) to supplement the bait bag, so was feeling pretty confident.

Walked up to the head of the section, flushing a kingfsher and a heron from the reeds on the way, and soon had a sardine and a lamprey positioned in the near and far margins. As the gloom lifted in what passed as a sunrise the sardine developed a life of its own and the first jack soon hit the net. Shorty afterwards it was the lamprey's turn. Didn't have time to put this rod back out again before a fresh sardine on the other rod went off again. Briefly felt a fish on the other end before pulling out of it, although judging by the dithering about with the bait it was probably a tiddler. Still, three runs within the first hour was looking promising. However, as quickly as they turned on, they turned off again! Despite regularly leap-frogging the rods downstream and fishing hard for the next three hours I could only manage one more jack before it was time to pack up for work. 

Think it's time now to pick up the float rod before it gets cold and windy over the next few days. Surely the grayling won't let me down?