08/02/2023 - Grayling from The Grove

I've felt pretty lucky ever since grayling started appearing in the lower Derwent and who wouldn't if they had the best looking fish in the river just fifteen minutes from their door? However, I came across a piece of information recently that potentially brought them even closer to home. During a chance conversation in the tackle shop one of the staff members mentioned that grayling were being caught in the River Trent downstream of Beeston weir. As it had clearly piqued my interest I was beckoned around the counter and shown a picture of a netful of grayling caught in January of this year and although it was difficult to say how big they were they all looked like young, mint fish. Now Beeston weir is less than two miles as the crow flies from my house, so this definitely needed following up. Back home I got the laptop out and started Googling. 

Unfortunately day tickets weren't available on the Beeston bank and I didn't fancy buying a club book at full price potentially just for a couple of sessions. Switching my attention to the Clifton bank it was a similar story for the section immediately downstream of the weir. However, a little further downstream I found a short day ticket stretch on Clifton Grove costing just £4  a day. Better still, you could buy tickets online and in advance, so duly parted with my cash. Next morning I had a leisurely breakfast and waited for the sun to come up and warm things up a bit, although I still had to scrape the car windows, before heading off towards Nottingham and then over Clifton Bridge. Upon arrival at the car park I got togged up in the neoprenes and made my way down the steep track to the river. 

Had to walk a fair way downstream to the head of the day ticket section and had a bit of a sweat on by the time I got there. At first glance the river looked in good nick, albeit more at summer level than winter, and the steep wooded bank behind me hid the fact I was within spititng distance of a housing estate and a busy university campus. I'd also noted several cormorants, goosanders and a single male goldeneye along the section, which I took to be a good sign (although not if you were a fish!). 

Opting to travel light I'd only brought the float rod with me but was begining to wonder whether this was a wise decision as the margins were very silty and with the remains of reed beds close in that made it difficult to wade out safely. Eventually I came across a swim where the flow pushed closer to the bank and a poke around with the end of the landing net handle confirmed a nice firm, gravelly bottom (ooer!) with about 5 feet off the rod top. Had run the float through half a dozen times before it disappeared and I connected with a small fish. Looked like a small dace as I swug it in, but in the hand it materialised into a perfect, little grayling - one of the smallest I've ever caught but as my first Trent grayling it was mission accomplished! 

Bumped the next one but then added several more better, pristine specimens over the next hour before the swim died. Had a wander further downstream and found what looked to be a couple of perfect looking spots, but after half an hour in each I failed to attract a single bite.

Therefore headed back to where I had started hoping that I'd given the swim enough of a rest and managed two more, quick fish before it died once more. Had run out of time again anyway, so made the slog back along the river and up the hill. Had done my 10,000 steps for the day when I got to the car and was feeling pretty knackered, but very satisfied. Whilst I won't be giving up my Dove and Derwent tickets just yet, it was brilliant to confirm that grayling are present even closer to my door and apparently doing well, presumably also having colonised the seven miles or so of river from the Derwent confluence. Definitely worth a return trip!

05/02/2023 - Another short trotting session

Had a rare visit to the office in the week, so took the opportunity to go to Matchman Supplies in West Bridgford - my most frequented tackle shop pre-COVID, simply because of its proximity to work. 

Raided their newly stocked freezer for some more deadbaits then got chatting with the staff. Glad I did because I received an interesting piece of news that could bring my grayling fishing even closer to home - as in five minutes from home! Not to get ahead of myself though as it still needs a bit of research, I had a brief window of opportunity this morning while the wife waded through a load of school test papers, so headed off to the lower Derwent in the van once more with the float rod and the remains of a pint of maggots. 

Was surprised to see another vehicle in the usually empty carpark when I arrived, but when I crossed over the footbridge I could see its owner sat in the first armchair swim downstream with two rods out for the pike. Therefore turned upstream and made for the swim where I'd found a few grayling at the end of my last visit. The river had dropped considerably since then and the sand bar where I had been stood knee-deep in water a couple of weeks ago was now high and dry, so it took a bit of adjustment to get the float running nicely all the way to the tail of the swim. However, after twenty minutes I had only had one  small grayling and was getting itchy feet, particularly after seeing another angler cross the footbridge and head upstream. 

Therefore did likewise, cutting across the field instead of following the river to get to my "banker" swim before anybody else dropped into it! Seemed to be the correct decision as the float disappeared on the second run down, although the fish came off after a couple of seconds. Had a dozen grayling over the next hour, including a couple of nice males, before the bites petered out. Tried a few new spots on my way back downstream, but either drew a blank or just picked up the odd fish and soon found myself back where I started. 

Squinting into the sun, which was now shining straight upstream, I added a couple more small grayling to the tally before I had to leave in order to get back home at the promised time. Whilst it had only been a short session I'd still not been able to locate the fish in any numbers. Also, rather annoyingly, I could feel water in the left boot  of my Daiwa neoprenes, purchased only last October and worn just a few times. Normally I would go throught  the tedious process of filling the leg with water, marking any spots where water was seeping out and then sealing them. However, as it seemed to be a pretty slow leak and I'd be wanting to wear the waders again soon I just ordered a pair of mid-length, waterproof socks off Amazon when I got home instead - bit better than my usual solution of a plastic bag! 

Staying cold with frost overnight for the next few days, so perhaps time for a recce closer to home - fingers crossed. 

04/02/2023 - Pike interlude

Decided to have a break from the grayling and go and soak some deadbaits in the Soar instead. Weather forecast was breezy, but mild and the river had been running at a stable, winter level for several days, so I jumped in the van and pointed it south. 

Headed to the usual section near Kegworth and arrived just after first light to find that I had it all to myself again. Was glad to see that the beds of floating pennywort, so prevalent before Christmas, had virtually disappeared, seen off by a combination of frost, flood and herbicide applications. Walked up to the bend at the head of the section where I would be sheltered from the wind, at least for the start of the session. As on previous trips, a few chunks of old, freezer-burned mackerel were scattered in the margin as I went. Once in my starting spot I popped a joey down the nearside margin and a bluey over to the far bank, the first time I'd tried the latter as bait, and settled down to watch the floats. 

Briefly allowing my eyes to wander, I watched a little egret flap upstream and then saw a male sparrowhawk carry out a low level bombing run over the river, hopping over the flood wall at the last minute and scattering a flock of pigeons that had been quietly sat on the lawn of the house opposite. After about fifteen minutes I was just thinking to myself that I'd not yet failed to catch in this particular swim when I saw the float down the nearside disappear. Was a bit confused when I picked the rod up to find an old, sodden reed stem hanging on the line and thought for a moment that it had caused the float to sink. However, when I flicked it off the line the float failed to reappear, so I wound down to feel a satisfying weight on the end. 

This one put up more than the usual token resistance and gave me a bit of a runaround before sliding over the net. On the scales the needle bounced around the eleven pound mark, so gave myself 10lb 14oz and added it to my short list of rare Soar doubles. Gave it fifteen minutes more before making my first hop back downstream. Once again it was the mackerel in the nearside margin that wobbled off first. However, I failed to connect with anything on the strike, although the bait came back with deep slash marks down each side. Popped it back into the same place hoping something would have another go at it and saw the float dip and start to move off about five minutes later. 

This time the strike connected with a more modest, but extremely greedy specimen that coughed up a piece of my prebait and a half-digested sardine in the net. He'd also suffered some tail damage in the past that had caused a section to weirdly grow much longer than the rest. Popped him back and gave it another few minutes before again leapfrogging into the next spot downstream, where yet again it was the mackerel down the side that did the business with another jack. He'd thoughtfully left me the bait in the net, so I hooked it back on and dropped it in the same spot. Was fiddling around wondering why I couldn't get the line to stay in the clip of the drop off indicator when I realised that the bait must have been taken as soon as it hit the deck! 

Had only just banked the culprit when the drop off on the other rod hit the back rest and after a bit of juggling I ended up with two jacks side-by-side in the net, with the second fish taking the bluey that I'd re-positioned in mid-channel after a barge had passed through. Thankfully both were easily unhooked and quickly sent on their way, although it took a bit longer to sort out the resulting mess and rebait both rods. Despite that five minutes of madness I had nothing more from the swim, so moved on again. The river was getting a bit busy by now and I had to play hokey cokey with the rods to avoid barges, kayaks and rowers. Added a micro-jack and another better fish that missed the ten pound mark by a couple of ounces before I decided to pack up and head home for lunch. 

Have got my eye on a difference section of the river for my next pike session, although there's still also more grayling, chub, perch and zander to consider before the end of the season!