14/03/2023 - Game over

I had clung onto the slim hope of perhaps getting out somewhere today, but everywhere's bollocksed and to cap it off it's snowing here again. Arse!

Oh well, trout and sea fishing to look forward to.

08/03/2023 - Last knockings?

Suspect the impending weather bomb has scuppered quite a few end of season plans. Snow, then rain and potential for a rapid thaw doesn't bode well for the rivers, but my leave is already booked so we'll wait and see if there's a miracle. 

With Monday and Tuesday out this week due to work commitments and the forecast suggesting snow arriving by Wednesday afternoon I was basically left with a window of opportunity in the morning that I couldn't really miss. Still had plenty of deadbaits in the freezer, so decide to head to the Soar again. Left home in the gloom after gratefully finding the van windows ice-free, but as I got off the motorway and into the countryside I could see frost in the fields in the lee of the hedges. As I arrived at the river a text from the daughter down in Bristol indicated that snow had already arrived in some parts of the country giving things a new sense of urgency. The river itself was running nearer summer level and gin clear, the new, bright green crowns of lilies easily visible peeking up through the mud in the margins.

Therefore didn't feel massively confident, but quickly headed upstream to the first bend. Stuck a mackerel up the near side next to a reed bed and a bluey over to the far margin. Sitting down on the flood wall I glanced at my watch to see that it was bang on 0700 hrs. Was expecting things to be slow, so was therefore surprised to see the far float start bobbing literally nine minutes later. Seemed to take an age to finally make up its mind and head off with the bait. However, when I would down I felt momentary resistance and then nothing. Wound the rig in minus bait hoping it had just been a small one. Stuck another bluey out, but at the end of the time I had allotted myself in each spot - 30 minutes maximum - I'd not had any further interest. 

Wound in the nearside rod to find I dropped it straight into a snag, but after a bit of steady pressure via the 30lb braid the hooks bent out. Unlike my previous trip to the Trent a week ago when not only did I spectacularly blank, but similarly dropped my rig straight into a snag whilst checking the depth in the first swim. On that occasion the line parted with minimal pressure and I watched my float slowly disappear downstream, way out of reach of the landing net. Upon returning home I therefore not only stripped off 25 metres of line off both reels, but also put an extra braid stop below each float. Now I have a spare already on the line should the top one split and come off, but more importantly it means I won't be throwing pound coins in the river next time I suffer a break! 

Moved downstream a few times before the float positioned down the near side against a tiny clump of reeds bobbed and moved purposefully away. Not quite a double, but was a nice fish to start. Gave it a bit longer with a fresh mackerel just in case he had a companion before moving on. With nothing doing after another half an hour I walked one of the rods to the next spot downstream. Turned around to see the drop off on the other rod hit the back rest as something made off with the bluey that had been sat in mid-channel and soon had another jack on the bank. Went to remove the hooks but found they'd come out in the net and that the nasty wire-covered trace disappearing down its throat belonged to somebody else. 

Luckily a bit of gentle pulling exposed a treble that I was able to turn out with the forceps through the gills, so was able to send him on his way with significantly better prospects than before. Re-baited with a lamprey section and moved the rod downstream with the other, again lobbing the bait out mid-channel. Must have dropped it right in front of a hungry pike as the float bobbed and then headed off towards the boats on the far bank within minutes, shortly resulting in jack number three. The odd flurry of snow was now being blown horizontally across the fields by the freshening easterly wind even though it was only 11 o'clock, but I decided to stick it out until mid-day. As it was I only added one more jack, the smallest of the morning, in that last hour. 

Hadn't planned to return to the Soar, so bid my farewell to the river for another season and got home before the snow got any worse. Would like to think that it's not quite all over and I'll get onemore chance to go for the grayling, but that's up to the weather now!

02/03/2023 - Mixed bag on the Dove

I first got into grayling fishing when I was lucky enough to be invited to fish on a private section of the River Dove in Derbyshire. Those few sessions provided all of my 2lb+ fish, including my current PB of 2lb 9oz. 

Whilst I've caught hundreds since, I've not come close to challenging the 2lb mark again. Don't get me wrong, anything over a pound is a lovely fish with their unique patterns of horizontal stripes, lilac tinged tails and outrageous dorsal fins, but once they get even bigger and take on that "battleship grey" hue they become an even more impressive beast again. I therefore took notice when such a fish popped up on a club forum. Whilst it was hard to tell how big it was exactly as it was being held at arms length and partly masked by eight sausage fingers it certainly had the colouration and depth of a decent fish. It had been caught on a fly from an, as yet, unexplored club section of the Dove near Uttoxeter. 

I therefore decided to leave the comfort zone of my usual spots and travel a bit further to see what was on offer. Let myself into an empty carpark just after first light and immediately made a nice little discovery in the way of a pristine Pecks meat paste jar in a pile of aggregate and brick ends. Still, I wasn't there to scavenge so got togged up and then made my way across the field to the upstream limit with the plan of walking downstream, making note of any likely spots and then fishing them on the way back up. Initially it looked as if access was going to be difficult due to the high, sheer banks, but I found a couple of spots where I could get down albeit with a bit of a scramble. 

Passing a hawthorn bush I heard the alarm call of a  blackbird. Thought it was directed at me before it was abruptly cut off and I caught sight of a female sparrowhawk making off with her unfortunate victim. Made a grim discovery a bit further on - two dead foxes in pristine winter coats, recently shot and their bodies dumped on the bank. Whilst I can understand the local farmer wanting to protect his ewes and lambs, it was still sad to see. Eventually reached the downstream limit and got down to the fishing. Ran the float through the first spot a dozen times without a touch so moved quickly onto the next, a promising steady glide with clumps of bright green streamer weed already visible on the bottom. After a few minutes the float buried and I was into my first fish. 

Unfortunately from the way it shot off like a scalded cat and the subsequent acrobatics I guessed it wasn't a grayling - confirmed when I bundled an out of season brownie into the net. A couple of casts later I had another, so decided not to stick around in case there were more of the spotty pests about. About this time I was left in no doubt what part of the countryside I was in when a salvo of  shotgun blasts rang out from the fields on the opposite bank. This went on for most of the morning and had me a bit on edge due to the proximity of someof the shots. No idea what they were shooting at, but they had me willing every pheasant, duck and goose to fly off in the opposite direction! Next swim was a blank so it was onto the next one, which saw me scrabbling down the steep, eroded bank to reach the head of another long, tasty glide. After 10 minutes of feeding and trotting I the float disappeared at the very bottom of the swim and struck into a solid lump. 

Carefully eased it back up against the flow until I could see the float in the clear water, closely followed by a large, angry grayling that was furiously shaking its head in an attempt to be rid of the hook. Eventually persuaded him upstream and then let him fall straight back into the net. Got a bit excited when I got a proper look at him, so was momentarily disappointed when the scales only went round to 1lb 8oz. Must have dropped on a little group because I had four more in quick succession including another cracking male of 1lb 7oz  before the swim went quiet. A short hop upstream and more scrambling saw me in another run fringed with dead reed beds. Again it took a few minutes to get the first bite, but whatever it was took me by surprise and shot off downstream, flat-rodding me and snapping the hooklink in the process. Re-tackled and a few casts later I was better prepared.

Struck into a lump but then let the fish have its first angry run before applying the pressure with the acolyte. Again, I knew this wasn't a grayling due to the sheer weight and it was a proper battle to get it moving upstream against the flow. Eventually spotted a big pair of white lips looming out of the depths and after some last minute resistence stuck the net under a decent chub that bottomed out my 4lb Little Sampsons. Repeated the performance a few casts later with a slightly bigger one, albeit very hollow in the belly, which again gave my tennis elbow a good workout. The swim seemed to die off after that and half an hour later I was about to up sticks when the float disappeared out of the blue. This one felt even bigger and after easing him slowly back upstream conscious of my 2lb 8oz hooklink I was just readying the net when it made a final, surprise burst for freedom. Unfortunately, unlike his compatriots, he just about made the sanctuary of the closest reed bed.

No amount of pulling and slackening off could coax him out and eventually the float pinged back as the hookhold finally gave up. That definitely killed off the swim, although I made a note to return with proper gear at some point. Re-gathered my thoughts with some food and a coffee before heading to what would be my final swim. I was already pretty happy with what had been as much a recce as a fishing trip. However, I had four more fish from that run - all grayling and all between 1lb 4oz and 1lb 7oz. 

Contemplated one final spot, but the leak in my left boot had got worse and my foot had been sloshing around in water for most of the day and was numb from the cold. Back at the car I found that a split had developed in the welt between the sole and the upper - cue an email to Daiwa UK! So no 2lber, but a good day's sport nonetheless. Don't know what I'll be doing for the remainder of the season - work and the weather will be the decider of that and it looks as if its going to get very cold again!