16/07/2023 - A swift change of tactics

It was the daughter's graduation down at Falmouth Univeristy at the start of this week - her second in fact, as she started an on-line masters in Illustration during COVID to complement her degree in Graphic Art & Design. Anyway, we decided to make a few days of it and found a campsite within walking distance of the town. 

My lad already had spent four years down there doing his own Masters in Zoology and we'd been frequent visitors, so I was pretty familiar with the area. With space limited in the van I therefore opted just to take the wrasse gear as I knew there were plenty of nice, deep rock gullies along the headlands. Got delayed on the M5 as usual around Bridgewater, but otherwise had a leisurely journey down and got settled in on Saturday evening. The next morning we had a quick breakfast, got packed up and walked down to Swanpool. 

Left the others on the beach - laddo snorkelling and the girls with their books - and made my way further along the coastpath towards Maenporth. A quick look on Google Maps had shown that there were some promising, big gullies on the Swanpool side of the headland, so that was where I headed. Got down onto the rocks and had a quick forage around for some bait. Was about an hour before high tide, but managed to get a dozen limpets within a few minutes before setting up the gear. Had got my 15 - 60 g lure rod, paired up with a 3000 size spinning reel loaded with 10 lb Big Game. My wrasse rigs are made up from shop-bought size 6 or 8 Sabikis - the string of 8 feathers cut up to give 4 two-hook flappers, with a swivel tied on one end and weak link for the lead tied on the other. Nice and cheap and simple.
This would prove significant a bit later, but for the moment the hooks were baited up with bits of limpet and the rig lowered down the side of the gully. Was getting a few knocks and pulls and was waiting for the tip to pull round properly when the surface of the water erupted in front of me! Was so surprised that it took me a few seconds to work out what was happening. Basically the mackerel had herded a huge shoal of whitebait into the gully where I was fishing and was now smashing into them in a feeding frenzy. 

I could clearly see the larger, darker shapes of the mackerel underneath the fry, so quickly wound in, took the bait off the hooks and waited for the next eruption, dropping my feathers right into the middle of it. The rod tip thumped round after only a couple of turns of the reel handle and I thought I'd actually got a bass on as it fought like stink, but it turned out to be a sizeable mackerel instead. Had nine in quick succession, each time dropping the rig into the middle of the maelstrom. Kept two for the pot before my fun was curtailed - not by the fish leaving, but by a group of local kids turning up and thinking it would be great fun to start tomb-stoning straight into the shoals - but for a mad fifteen minutes it had definitely been a case of right time, right place! 

Therefore found another gully and went back to the wrasse fishing, but was just getting little rattles, so cleaned the two fish I'd kept and made my way back to the others. Back from his snorkel my lad reported also seeing loads of whitebait close into shore being harried by shoals of foot-long launce, but his highlight was a ballan wrasse as long as one of his flippers! 

Seems I should have stayed on the beach. However, back at the campsite the mackerel - filleted, seasoned, pan-fried and eaten with some bread and butter - was amazing! 

P.S. if you like your sea fishing and are looking for a diamond in the usual mountain of dross on YouTube then check out Wayne Hand aka The Shore Hunter here - he's very knowledgable, very funny and above  all honest!

13/07/2023 - Summer trotting part III (more Derwent dace)

Weather's all over the shop at the moment, blowing a hooley and heavy showers at the drop of a hat. However, looked as if there was going to be a bit of a respite on Thursday, so made plans to return to the River Derwent. Restocked with maggots and headed to the river for late afternoon. Car park was empty again, but I knew that would change as the "night shift" started to turn up a bit later. 

Crossing the footbridge I was distracted for a couple of minutes by a huge shoal of fish, possibly bleak or dace, topping along the far bank willows. It's always looked like a spot where the chub would also hang out, so made a note to perhaps come back with the waggler rod at some point. Headed up to the second of the swims I fished on Monday hoping that I could latch into some of those roach again. That day there had been a distinctly "autumnal" feel about things what with the weather and the amount of leaves coming down the river. There had also been a nice tinge of colour in the water, but now the river was absolutely gin clear and I could easily see the bottom a good few rod lengths out. 

Dropped into the river and sent the float on its way accompanied by some loose feed. Had a dace after a couple of trots down, followed by one of the biggest bleak I've seen for a while. However, the maggot hookbait was being completely destroyed by the ravenous hordes on each run down and I spent a frustrating hour try to hit "unmissable" bites. Was so clear that at one point I saw an unmistakeable bronze torpedo with coral fins come slowly mooching upstream before he caught sight of me an vanished with a flick of his tail. Did manage to add a few more dace to the tally, but hadn't had a sniff of a grayling or a roach  yet, so decided to move on. Next spot was on a long straight where the flow was a bit faster and a bankside willow was creating a nice crease on the inside. 

Required a bit of a scrabble and slide down the steep bank and I was at the bottom before the thought of how I would get up again even crossed my mind! Anyway, started trotting away and was immediately rewarded by yet more dace, interspersed with a the odd chublet. Again, the water was clear enought to see fish flashing under the surface as they pursued my loosefeed, with one in particular looking pretty decent and few trots later the float disappeared resulting in a cracking grayling. Let him recover and had just seen him safely back when I heard voices, fully expecting to see a couple of fellow anglers walking up the bank. However, a couple of paddle boarders appeared instead, struggling upstream against the fast flow. I am a paddle boarder myself and have a waterways licence from the Canal & River Trust to allow me to paddle on navigable rivers - certainly not the case for the Derwent. 

I personally wouldn't paddle it in any case because it is too fast and shallow and potentially dangerous in places. However, they were polite enough and didn't really affect me, but I did warn them that the twobarbel anglers fishing at a pinch point in the river further upstream would be less happy to see them! Carried on trotting and added more dace, chub and smaller grayling over the next couple of hours and even had a couple of roach, again absolutely pristine but not quite the stamp of the fish I'd caught earlier in the week. Had a bit of excitement when the float disappeared and I struck into a solid lump. Nothing happened for a couple of seconds then the acolyte bent round as it slowly moved upstream and out into mid-river. Could feel a slow thump, thump through the line, but as I tried to apply a bit of pressure the size 18 Kamasan widegape pinged out. 

Assumed that it was a barbel and that it probably hadn't even known it was hooked! Heard voices again shortly after that and assumed it was the paddle boarders returning, but it was two kayakers this time. Again, they were polite enough and stuck to the far bank as soon as they saw me. Had stayed warm all afternoon and I was nicely tucked out of what breeze there was. There were even a few big, yellow mayflies coming off the water. However, they were being swiftly nailed by not only the great tits, but also the larger banded demoiselle damselflies. 

Was still getting bites and as much as I wanted to carry on I eventually decide to call it a day as I had promised my lad we'd have a Chinese. Managed to scrabble out of the river using handfuls of grass and Himalyan balsam to haul myself up the bank. Made me think that a spike and a piece of rope would be a sensible purchase for the winter! Ran into a couple more anglers on the way back to the car and one of them mentioned that he'd lost a barbel earlier in the week under the bush I'd been stood next to, which probably confirmed what the lost "monster" had been. Resisted the temptation to have a couple of casts in the "perch swim" - that'll be one for another time - and headed home. Got a long weekend in Cornwall for the daughter's graduation coming up, so I'll have to see if I can sneak a rod in!

10/07/2023 - Summer trotting part II (River Derwent after the downpour)

With the wife off all week on a school field trip I was obviously hoping to get some fishing in. However, looked liked my plans were going to be scuppered right from the outset when thunderstorms and heavy rain swept across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire  at the weekend. 

Luckily, whilst the rain was truly monsoon-like in its intensity and enough to cause flash flooding in Beeston town centre, it was blown through very quickly and only had a minor impact on the local rivers. By Monday afternoon levels had all but returned to normal. Unfortunately the weather forecast wasn't brilliant - blustery showers - but I was confident that I could find somewhere to tuck myself away. Therefore wrapped up work as early as I could and headed off to the River Derwent near Church Wilne. Arrived to find the car park empty and the river running at nice level with just a tinge of colour - bliss! Got togged up in the chest waders and headed upstream, the long grass either side of the path full of painted ladies and banded demoiselles. Had a brief look at the weir pool at the head of the section with a potential future session in mind before dropping into my first swim where a fast, shallow riffle dropped into a little pool. 

Fed in a few maggots before swinging out the stick float, holding it back hard and then releasing it as it passed over the drop off. Had a couple of fast, un-hittable bites that rattled the rod top before one of the culprits revealed themselves - a fat, brassy, fin perfect dace. Added a couple more, but I was itching to move down to the next swim and do some proper trotting. Sheltered from the wind by trees on both banks it looked spot on. Dropped into the river and waded out to the edge of the reeds. 

First trot down the float disappeared and the acolyte bent round as a fish went crackers out in the flow. After a few acrobatics a summer grayling slid into the net. 

Added a few more of a stamp that I'd be happy catching over the winter, but all requiring a bit of attention to make sure they went back properly after their exertions rather than belly up! 

In between the grayling came yet more dace along with a few bleak, chub and small perch. Unlike the last session when I didn't really have to work for my fish I was getting into a nice rhythm, running the float through to the end of the swim and then batting it back with the centrepin. When this didn't result in a fish the maggot invariably came back crushed by the tiny hordes and needed changing anyway. The showers up to this point had been light and short enough to be bearable in my shirt sleeves, but a heavier squall saw me reaching for my coat.  The very next trot down I hooked into another angry fish and fully expected another grayling to grace the net. However, I was pleased to see a pristine, hand-sized roach on the end of the line instead. 

I added half a dozen more of this size and quality over next hour or so, which made me wonder where they subsequently disappear to later in the year, as I've never had a sniff of one fishing the same swim for grayling in the winter. Carried on with just a couple of kingfishers and a buzzard, kiting on the wind above the treetops, for company. However, eventually the bites started to slow down and I had to drag myself away as my lad was cooking us an authentic carbonara for tea and there was another one of my "banker" swims I wanted to try before I left. Unfortunately when I got there I found that another angler had plonked himself in the middle of it since my arrival. Had a quick chat and discovered that a big snag had been deposited there over the winter and the barbel had moved in, hence why he was now there, so I moved downstream to the next run. 

Added a few more dace and chub to the tally, along with a couple more clonking roach before my time was well and truly up and I headed home after another successful, multi-species outing with the float rod. And yes, the carbonara was great! 

06/07/2023 - Summer trotting part I (a super Soar session)

Bit of a late start for me, but I've been incredibly busy with work. On top of that it just didn't feel right to go fishing in June with fish kills happening all over the country due to the abnormal temperatures and plummeting oxygen levels. 

Locally, thousands of fish died trapped between the locks on the canalised section of the River Soar in Leicester just a couple of days after the opening of the season. In fact one of the clubs I belong to put out a plea to members to wait until temperatures had dropped before going fishing, so as not to add to the stress that the fish were obviously under. Sign of things to come? We shall see, but it was certainly a testing time for the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust, with staff out deploying aeration being stretched to the limit. 

Anyway, once things had cooled down it was time to dust off the float rod and do a bit of what I like best - getting down the river with minimal gear and trotting for whatever comes along. Had been down at Rothley for the day, so on the way back up to Nottingham I took the opportunity to pop in and see Scott at Soar Tackle in Kegworth for a pint of maggots before heading to the river. Got togged up in my chesties and had my first look at the section, which was alive with topping fish as far as I could see. The club had cleared out the usual armchair pegs nearest the car park, but as I carried on upstream I soon found myself out of reach of the strimmer and when I crossed over to the island I had to push through chest high vegetation to reach my swim. 

I was therefore surprised when I emerged onto the bank and found another angler already there. Luckily he wasn't in "my" spot and was chucking a maggot feeder to the far bank, but had struggled all day with snags and tangles and just had a few, small fish to his name. I had got a sweat on walking up and wanted to get into the relative cool of the water, so politely wound up the conversation and carried on a short distance upstream past a recently downed willow that would provide an obvious feature for the predators later in the year. Filled up the bait apron and dropped into the river, wading out until I could reach the faster flow coming down from the weir. My theory that the fish would be stacked up in the oxygenated water was correct as first trot down the float disappeared, resuting in a chunky dace. 

After that it was literally a bite a cast for three hours. Got to the stage that I just had to swing the rig out and just run it down a few feet off the rod tip, no line actually leaving the reel. Could have easily fished the swim with a whip. Dace were the predominant species, like peas in a pod, along with bleak, chub, roach, perch and a few welcome gonks.

Dabbled the float along the edge of the lilies at one stage to see if I could tempt a ruffe or a silver bream, but couldn't get past the dace. Had also been keeping my eye on my neighbour who had been dilligently bombing the far bank but hadn't seen him catch anything, which he confirmed when he appeared behind me to tell me he was off - just in time to see me add yet another dace to the tally. 

Packed up myself not long after and headed back to the car, fish still topping along the length of the river. Final numbers were 85 dace, 25 bleak,14 chub, 8 perch, 5 roach and 3 gudgeon - not bad for quick session and hopefully bodes well for the rest of the season.