19/07/2024 - Summer trotting part III (Summer madness)

Another spell of rain caused the local rivers to spike early in the week but after two days of warm, sunny weather (is it finally summer?) they were back to near normal again, so I went and got a pint of mixed from Stapleford Angling (open this time!) and headed off to the Derwent again. 

The temperature was nudging 30 degrees Centigrade when I arrived at the empty carpark and I contemplated just putting on my boots and wet wading, but pulled on the chest waders in the end, still clammy from last trip. Whilst there were no other anglers on the section, the sun had brought out the local youth and I could see a group of lads tombstoning off the high bank into the big slack upstream of the island. I've often had my eye on that spot for a perch or a pike, so I stopped and had a chat with them. One was obliging enough to stand on the bottom to show me how deep it was (up to his shoulders so a good five feet) and confirm it was a gravel bottom, whereas it was soft mud closer to the bank. 

Filed that away and left them to it. Carried on upstream, the vegetation either side of the path alive with banded demoiselles and various butterflies, including peacocks, meadow browns and large whites. Whilst at a decent level the river was still carrying some colour and looked quite brown in the sunlight but when I slipped into the river the clarity wasn't actually too bad. Swung out the stick float wondering if I'd get a first cast fish and a fat dace duly obliged halfway down the run. No that it continued that way as they appeared to be a bit finnicky as I subsequently missed bite after bite, some so fast and violent I felt them on the rod tip before I saw the float move, so after an hour I'd barely scraped into double figures. 

Thankfully things picked up in the second hour, either because I finally got my eye or in or they were becoming more confidant, and I added a few bleak, including an absolute monster that flipped out of my hand before I could get a picture of it, a couple of "wasps" and a roach to the species tally. At one point, stood in the water shielded by a willow next to me, I could hear voices approaching from upstream. Expecting to see a couple of kayakers I was surprised by a tattooed gentlemen on a blue lilo, closely followed by another chap in a kid's inflatable boat. They were polite enough and apologised for disturbing me, not that it seemed to make any difference as I added a couple more dace before they'd drifted out of sight. 

I'd got itchy feet by now anyway and soon followed them downstream to my next spot. Got the bank spike and rope out for this  one, lowering myself into the water through the Himalyan Balsam and disturbing a decent fish sitting right next to the bank that shot off leaving a cloud of silt in its wake. Passed another couple of hours nailing dace after dace, with the occasional roach and chub thrown in, one of the latter with a dot of blue dye between his pectorals denoting that he'd born and raised at the Environment Agency's Calverton fish farm and was a survivor of last year's stocking. Gave my self one last cast and was in the process of reeling in yet another dace when everything went solid. Realised that the fish I'd disturbed earlier had probably been a pike and that it had just helped itself to an easy meal. 

Gave it some welly with the Acolyte expecting the float to come pinging back at any moment. However, it looked as if my size 16 widegape had found a secure hold somewhere as I managed to prevent it from reaching the bushes on the far bank. After a few minutes of playing tug of war in mid-river I got it up onto the surface and into the slower water downstream of me and it looked as if I was going to win. Unfortunately after all that effort the pike had other ideas and with a last gasp dash into a clump of reeds the hooklink finally parted. Didn't bother re-tackling, but hauled myself with some effort back up the bank. Walked back to the car to find the local youths lined up on the footbridge, so waited as they all tomb-stoned off in turn. 

The intrepid river adventurers from earlier were also there having now pitched a tent and got through several tinnies between them by the looks of it. Left them all to it but had got a thirst on myself, so stopped off at the local Lidl where a 5 litre keg of Budweiser Budvar caught my eye. Less than £2 a pint for 5% Czech lager (not fake Euro fizz brewed in Burton Upon Trent) - what could go wrong?

10/07/2024 - Summer trotting part II (super session on the Soar)

Was hoping to fit another session in this week but was nearly thwarted by the changeable weather with more rain causing the local river levels to spike yet again. 

Checking the levels on .GOV.UK it looked as if the River Soar had fined down sufficiently to be fishable, so at 3 o'clock prompt I'd logged off and was out the door and off down to Kegworth. Parked up on the bridge, got togged up in the chest waders and made my way upstream. The club had strimmed out half a dozen pegs for the start of the season, but further on the bankside vegetation became progressively more and more overgrown. Even the gates at Kegworth deep lock looked more like the hanging gardens of Babylon. Crossing over onto the island I made my way through the shoulder high nettles and had to clamber over a big fallen willow to get to my favourite spot downstream of the weir. 

Lesson learned on the Derwent I had brought my spike and rope with me this time and I needed it to lower myself down the bank and into position amongst the lily pads. Also had a new rod and reel combo to try this time - a TFG centrepin bought for a snip off ebay and a 12 ft Abu Titan. The latter I'd found sorting out my late father's fishing tackle - never used and still with the shrink wrap on the handle, so thought I'd christen it in his memory. The river itself was still a bit higher than I would usually fish it, still carrying a tinge of colour and with rafts of foam coming down from the weir. A previous session under similar conditions had turned out to be a complete bleak fest, so I wasn't surprised when the first few casts resulted in several of the silvery little chaps. 

However, once a bit of loose feed went in the dace and chub started to show as well, including a couple that put a proper bend in the Titan. My new pin was also performing well, my light stick float easily pulling line off the pin without the need to dab the spool with my thumb to get it going, although I found that the line guard was right where I would normally bat the edge of the spool with my palm to retrieve the float. I also decided that I'd probably swap the smooth, machined aluminium handles for something more tactile, especially if I was using it in the winter, but on the whole I was really pleased with it. Got into a rythmn of loose feeding, trotting, unhooking and re-baiting.  

The latter was necessary on every cast irrespective of whether I hooked a fish or not as the maggot was inevitably crushed and reduced to a husk by the time the float reached the end of the swim. Added a few roach and a solitary gonk to the species tally. After three hours I'd had well over a hundred fish, fifty percent of those being bleak, and had emptied my bait apron of maggots. Twice during the session the lilies immediately in front of me had been parted by an unseen, big fish, presumably a pike. Not surprising given the number of prey fish about but which, like on the Derwent a couple of nights ago, made the lack of any perch a bit puzzling. Successfuly extricated myself from the river using the rope and headed home, an hour earlier than planned and well in time for the footie. Game on!

08/07/2024 - Summer trotting part I (out at last!)

Had a very busy June at work, firstly ensuring that we hit our Q1 targets and then planning ahead for Q2 - all so the managers would see little green boxes lined up on their spreadsheets and thereby avoiding the inevitable interrogation if, God forbid, they were amber or red instead. 

Therefore it was not until this week that I eventually got out with the float rod for the first time, but even then I had to wait for a break in the extremely changeable weather - warm, cold, wet, dry, windy, I think we've had the lot this month already. I also had to traipse halfway across town for some maggots, the local tackle shop inexplicably shut on a Monday and my second choice having recently closed down after 53 years in business. Still, the chap in Bridge Tackle in Long Eaton was pleased to see me, even more so when I asked for two pints rather than my usual one to save me a return trip later in the week. For my first river session of the year I decided to head to the River Derwent near Draycott for a few hours after work. 

Getting there about 4.30 pm I was surprised to find that there was nobody else in the car park, so didn't rush getting the waders on and had a slow walk upstream, flushing banded demoiselles out of the long grass next to the path and stopping here and there to peer over the bankside vegetation. The river is a different beast in the summer, gin clear with lots of exposed gravel and nice smooth glides, and I could see quite a few fish dimpling and bow-waving in the margins. Dropped into the water in my first spot and waded out to just above my knees before running the stick float down off the end of the Acolyte. Twenty metres down the swim and the bright orange tip disappeared and I was into my first fish - a nice plump dace. 

Had a few more, all fin-perfect and like peas in a pod, when the float disappeared once again and I found myself connected to something a bit more energetic. Was pleased to see that it was a darkly spotted little brownie, one of only a handful that I've had out of the river, but an indicator of good water quality. Added some more dace before picking up a few chublets and the odd bleak. As the evening wore on a few fat yellow mayflies started emerging from the river, prompting some splashy rises, presumably from the dace. However, any that survived were quickly mopped up by opportunistic winged predators in the shape of chaffinches and blackcaps darting out of the tree cover on the far bank. 

After a couple of hours the bites started to dry up, so I upped sticks and moved downstream to my next spot. The river had done some winter remodelling of the bank and I had to trust to luck and slide down through the Himalyan balsam on my backside. Once down in the water I was straight back into the dace and chub in equal numbers, with a couple of summer grayling thrown in. With about an hour of my allotted time left I decided to give one more swim a go. However, the folly of sliding down the bank was soom revealed as I couldn't get enough purchase to pull myself back up again. Therefore had to wade downstream until I found a suitable place to get out and even then it was a struggle. 

Lesson learned - will remember my bank spike and rope next time! When I got to my final spot I was disappointed to see another angler at the waters edge, but looking closer I could see that he was returning a very big barbel. Upon seeing me he shouted "15lbs"! From where I stood it certainly looked it and when he showed me his pictures a few minutes later there was absolutely no doubt - it was a tank! He'd just popped down for an hour or so and had been rolling a big piece of spam around when he thought he'd got snagged....until it moved and shot off downstream. Needless to say he looked a bit shell-shocked. Had a bit of a chat before he carried on upstream and I dropped in at the downstream end of the glide.

Not that I wanted to catch a barbel (I've hooked one on the Acolyte on two occasions now and neither ended well). Added a few more dace and chub, two more grayling and, coincidentally as the light started to fade, a couple of roach. However, the perch that are also normally resident in the swim failed to show. Nevertheless it had been a decent session with over sixty fish, the vast majority being dace. Was delayed on the way back to the car by another angler who popped out from under the footbridge as I crossed over the river. Not that I minded as I'm always up for exchanging notes and adding a bit more intel to the dossier. No football to rush home for either - hopefully Mr Southgate has sorted out his tactics for later in the week! 

30/05/2024 - "One last cast"!

With the in-laws in France the wife and I headed down to Pembrokeshire to check their house over and have a few days chilling over half-term. Resisted the temptation to pack all the LRF tackle in as I knew I would just get distracted chasing "minis". 

Instead the lure gear went in, the plan being to try a get a bass or two. It was also a chance to try out my new Penn Spinfisher after yet another Daiwa Ninja had bitten the dust - great budget reels but the unsealed bearings are not too fond of the salt. The tides were looking good for it, mid-range and with low water early in the morning. The only possible fly in the ointment was going to be the wind as a brisk northerly was forecast all weekend. However, Saturday morning I was up at 0530 hrs, out the door and down on the estuary for 0615 hrs. 

At first glance conditions looked pretty good, but as I rounded the corner I could see that the wind was blowing straight up the arm. Got togged up and made my way down to the water to find that the clarity wasn't brilliant and the water had a brown hue. Closer examination revealed the presence of the dreaded "May weed" with loads of snot-like clumps of algae suspended in the water column. Not a great sign as its appearance often results in the fishing temporarily dropping off, possibly because it affects the oxygen levels in the water or even irritates fish gills. Wading out mid-thigh I could just about see beyond my knees, so started off with a Savage Gear slender scoop shad in sandeel mounted on a 4/0 worm hook with a 3g cheb weight but soon changed that to one in lemon back. 

Worked my way down to the pontoon and back without any hint of a fish, so made my way up to the point and put on a usually reliable Savage Gear weedless sandeel in white. The wind was now strongly gusting from right to left and making casting a nightmare. The tide was also pushing in strongly now and the combination of wind plus tide was making it difficult to keep the lure out in the channel. Had been fishing away for a few minutes when I noticed a lot of bird activity away to my left. A flock of seagulls were repeatedly diving down onto to the water and as they got closer I could see the occasional splash of a fish on the surface. Rummaging in my bag I found a silver, 19 gramme Westin Salty so clipped it on and whacked it out in the general direction of the commotion. 

Over the next few minutes I had four hookups - first one came off halfway in, the second came off when I wound it into clump of weed and the two I did manage to "land" were micro-bass barely big enough to cover my hand! 

As the gulls drifted off the bites stopped but I carried on with the Salty - for a small lure it flew like a bullet and I was able to punch it out for some distance into the wind. 

However, despite working hard for the next half an hour, I'd had no further interest and was on the brink of giving up but for whatever reason I decided to have one last cast from the point. Whacked the lure out into the flow once more and let it swing in the current before starting to retrieve. After a couple of turns of the handle the rod tip thumped round and I found myself connected to a heavy fish that came up to the surface very quickly. Thought I'd possibly foul-hooked a large mullet, but then caught sight of a spiky dorsal fin belonging to a decent bass. After a couple of runs I caught sight of it again and it was certainly bigger than anything I'd caught before, which had me praying for it not to come off!
Gave me some hairy moments as it made a few more determined runs out into the flow, but I eventually managed to steer it into the slack water of the bay to my left. The Salty looked tiny in its mouth and when I unhooked it I saw that it was only secured by one point of the treble and that this had been bent part-way out in the fight. Measuring 66 centimetres and weighing about 7lb this was a new PB bass for me. Had seen a couple of people heading for the cafe and contemplated going to get somebody to take a trophy shot, but in the interest of fish safety I took a couple of snaps on the phone and watched it swim away strongly instead. Was a very happy angler when I got back to the house, but it could have been so different if I'd not had that one last cast!

19/05/2024 - A plague of tompots

Headed down to Exmouth last weekend to see friends and not to waste a potential opportunity the LRF gear went in the car as well. As usual we had a lot of catching up to do over food and drinks on the Friday evening, so I wasn't really prepared for an early start the following day. 

Had a pleasant morning instead walking along the front, drinking coffee and people watching in the sun. Weather turned a bit grim in the afternoon, so we jumped in the van and had a run down the coast towards Teignmouth and back. Took it a bit steadier in the evening and so upon retiring to bed I set my alarm for an early start. After checking the news to find that, after all the hype and shenanigans, the little bloke had beaten the big bloke I was up and out of the house by 0630 hrs. In contrast to the previous morning it was pretty chilly, with a dense fog cloaking the estuary. The tide was on its way out and through the gloom I could make out the solitary figure of a bass angler, patiently casting his lure out into the flow.

Carried on down to the docks to find another angler already there. He came over to chat as I set up, dropping his two-hook flapper right in the spot I'd intended to fish, promptly pulling out a double shot of  wrasse! After I jokingly said he'd nicked my spot he moved along a bit and we carried on chatting and fishing. First drop down I had a quick rattle on the rod tip, which was converted into my first fish of the morning - a little tompot blenny. 

This was quickly followed by a small ballan wrasse and then another tompot before I got properly smashed by a very powerful fish, probably a much bigger wrasse, that made short work of my 4lb hooklink. I was using my usual mini-flapper baited with salted ragworm, which sparked the interest of my fellow angler and prompted a conversation about the general dearth of places where you can buy fresh bait, hence why I always now have some preserved bait in the bag. 

After catching himself another small ballan he said that he had to shoot off, but not before he kindly offered me the the best part of a quarter of left over rag. Gratefully accepted his gift and immediately set about using it. However, the tide was now well into the ebb and was making it increasingly difficult to hold bottom and after losing a couple of hooks and dropshot leads to snags (the old dodgems from the former Exmouth Pier according to my new friend!) I decided to move to a more sheltered spot around the corner. Also decided to get rid of one of the hooks to try and reduce the snag rate. First cast out onto the sand beyond the rock armour at the base of the dock wall the tip jagged round resulting in yet another tompot. 

After that it was a fish a cast, mostly tompot blennies of all sizes and in a range of colours from sandy to almost black. By the time that my friend Simon turned up on his Brompton I'd had 25 tompots, 10 ballans, 3 sand smelt and a solitary rock goby and was fast going through the bait. Handed over the rod to him and he carried on where I had left off, catching another 13 tompots, 2 ballans and a single, female corkwing. The sun had burned through the fog by now and it was turning into a fabtatsic morning. In addition the Pride of Exmouth had pulled up and the dock suddenly became busy with folks waiting to board. After entertaining a curious audience of small kidsfor a short while and with the fresh rag finally running out we therefore packed up. 

It was bang on low tide now anyway and you could easily see the bottom where we were fishing - sand with a smattering of weed covered boulders. Headed back to the house via a now sunny and bustling seafront to join the wives for a slap up full English. Had been a decent session in terms of numbers if not variety, the absence of any pollack being particularly noticeable. Off to Wales for a few days in half-term, so I'll have to see if I can fit something in before then.

12/05/2024 - A new species and a new venue

Haven't a clue where April went but at least some planned trips in May promised a few fishing opportunities. The first of these was the regular lads' weekend in Saunton Sands in North Devon and whilst the tides weren't ideal I threw some bits and bobs of tackle in the car to try and cover a few different eventualities. 

Early Saturday morning saw me heading to Ilfracombe pier in search of some mini-species. I arrived as the sun was rising above the headland, bathing Verity in golden morning light. The flood tide had already breached the lower part of the pier, so I started fishing from the steps to the upper deck. I'd brought two rods with me and started by throwing out a small metal jig in the hope of a pollack or an early mackerel. Half an hour later and fishless I switched to the other rod and dropped a mini two hook flapper baited with bits of salted rag down the side of one of the wooden pilings. Had to wait a few minutes for my first proper bite, resulting in a scrappy little ballan wrasse. 

Added a small rock goby before I was pushed onto the upper deck. However, bites continued to be slow in coming and I was on the verge of giving up when the tip jagged over and I lifted into what I thought was a snag, but with a bit of pressure the culprit came free and was brought up to the surface with little resistance. Was stunned when I swung it to hand to see it was a topknot, a real prize in LRF circles. Fairly common, but rarely caught, they are a proper little ambush predator. Perfectly camouflaged they are able to cling to vertical surfaces and even upside down on overhanging rocks and on the inside of caves, waiting to suck in any passing small fish and crustaceans with their exendable mouths. Took a quick photo and popped him back into his lair, allowing myself a quick fist pump in celebration. Carried on for a bit longer but didn't catch anything else. Not that I really cared as that ugly, but wacky little fish had made my morning! 

Got back in time to join the others in our coustomary walk over to Georgeham for a drink at The Rock. When we got back there was still a couple of hours to kill before dinner, so I hopped into the car and headed into Braunton for a quick session after the prolific, wild brownies that frequent the River Caen thaat runs throught the town. Fishing with just a small worm on a size 14, 0.5 gram jighead I dropped in at the fish ladder and made my way slowly upstream, flicking the baited hook into any likely spots whilst trying to avoiding the various bits of urban "furniture" as I went. As usual I had plenty of interest from the off, mostly from tiny little trout that pursued and nipped at the worm as it drifted downstream, causing me to curse as I missed bite after bite. 

However, every so often one of their bigger brethren managed to get a look in and by the time allotted time was up I'd managed to land a dozen, colourful spotties. Would have liked to have stayed longer, but the day was roundly off nicely with a huge fish supper at Squires instead. No fishing the following morning. Instead we got the paddleboards out and paddled from Crow Point, up the estuary and then all the way up the tidal part of the Caen to Velator Quay. Unfortunately, when we turned round to go back we found that the breeze had strengthened significantly and we had to battle against a headwind for most of the return journey. Was therefore a bit knackered when we eventually got back to the chalet, so after lunch most of us retired to our beds for a nap! 

Weather took a turn for the worst on Monday, coming in wet and windy, so we didn't hang about and were soon packed up and on our way home. However, after dropping my friend off in Bridgwater I decided to go and have a look at Portishead Marina, which is only about ten minutes from junction 19 of the M5. The venue had cropped up in a few videos on YouTube and there was definitely potential for a couple of different species I'd not had before, such as grey gurnard. 

When I arrived it was still very grey and gloomy, but at least the rain had eased of, so I grabbed the dropshot rod and some salted rag and went for a wander. Was surprised to see that the water quality wasn't that bad seeing as the marina is fed directly by the muddy Bristol Channel. The crabbing platform at the deep end of the marina looked to be a popular spot in the vidoes but it was locked off, so I carried on walking round until I spotted a chap sat float fishing with bread for mullet. Had a quick chat (always after local knowledge!) and it seemed that there was potential for basically anything to swim through the lock gates from the Channel, including bass, pollack, flounders and even gilthead bream. 

Walked on a bit further, eventually stopping near the main slipway. Dropping my rig down the side of the wall I soon started to get little rattles on the rod tip and after a couple of minutes I had my first fish, a fat rock goby. Added a couple more before landing a male black goby with his extravagant, sail-like dorsal fin. After catching half a dozen of each I upped sticks and headed down to the shallow end. There were plenty of small fish about in the margins, possibly bass fry or sand smelt, but rather than try for them I opted to try the small, stone pier on the far side of the marina. However, I couldn't tempt anything else and I was getting a bit twitchy about being stuck on the motorway at rush hour, so headed back to the car. 

An interesting venue and one I would definitely try again, although preferably when the sun is shining! Exmouth next weekend so more mini-species potential, tides permitting.

01/04/2024 - Bank Holiday bits and bobs

Managed to get down to Pembrokeshire for Easter despite the weather throwing everything at us on the way down, including a hail storm near Merthyr. Had an inkling that something was about to happen when the low temperature alert starting pinging as we came over the highest point on the A465. 

Luckily for us the worst of the shower had already gone through, but half a mile down the road we came across the aftermath - banks of hailstones big as marbles in the gutters and a dozen vehicles, including an ambulance, strewn across the carriageway and up on the verge. Thankfully everybody was out their cars and seemed okay, so we inched our way through and cautiously carried on. Once down at the in-laws it seemed as if it hadn't stopped raining since the last time were there at Christmas. The local River Cleddau was the colour of a builder's brew and tonking through, so I left it a day for some of that extra freshwater to flush out the esturary before heading to Pembroke Dock on Saturday morning for high tide. 

Had a bit of salted rag with me, so started off by fishing small sections down the wall on my scaled down, two hook flapper. Second or third  cast I felt a bump as the rig dropped past the kelp, so changed the rag on the top hook for a small strip of squid. Did the trick as next drop down it was taken with a bang by a fat, hand-sized pollack that gave me a good scrap on the light gear. Had seven more of these, all on the squid, whereas the bait on the bottom failed to attract any attention. When the tide starting running along the wall I moved around the corner and had a rock goby, then a black goby in successive casts. However, I failed to buy another bite over the next half an hour and with the tidal flow increasing and making it hard to hold bottom I called it a day. 

Popped in to see Roddy for some fresh rag but found that he'd stopped doing live bait and was winding down and selling off his stock. Therefore headed up to the town to J & M's Tackle instead. With Anglers' Corner over in Milford recently shutting, this is the only local shop to sell live worm now - a bit of a sad state of affairs for the visiting angler. Back home the laddo asked if he could come with me next time, so the following morning we took a bit of a gamble and headed to Hakin on the opposite side of the estuary. 

I knew that the wind had changed direction and was blowing from the South-East. However, I hadn't bargained on it being so strong. When we got to Hakin Point there was a brave soul already there with two bait rods out. However, the pier was being battered not only by a stiff breeze sweeping down the Haven but also by the resulting wind chop, which had churned up the water in the bay. Therefore didn't take much of a decision to jump back in the car and make the 15 minute journey over the bridge to Pembroke Dock. Was still a bit breezy stood out on the ramp, so we tucked ourselves around the corner on the pontoon instead. Tactics were same as before, but with fresh rag on the hook this time. Thought perhaps this would have made a difference, but it was again very slow. 

After a couple of hours we'd only had a few pollack and gobies between us and were getting a bit cold, so we packed up and headed off for a much-needed coffee. I suppose it is still early in the year and the sea hasn't had long to warm up, but equally fellow bloggers on the south coast are already catching what you would consider "summer species", e..g mackerel, garfish and black bream! Anyway, I wasn't going to keep flogging a dead horse, so this morning I headed off to Haverfordwest with a tub of worms and a box of jig heads to try for some brownies. 

Once again it was a bit parky first thing and there was a dense mist shrouding the Cleddau Valley as I dropped onto the A40. Police cars were blocking off Freemans Way due to an accident, so I had to take a quick detour through the town before parking up at the bottom of the section. Whilst it had rained in the night resulting in a slight touch of colour the level had been unaffected, so I got togged up and slid down the bank. Flicking a worm up to the head of the pool I had a rattle straight away as it drfited back towards me and a couple of casts later I had my first fin-perect little brownie. Carried on in the same vein, missing far more than I hooked and landed, possibly because I had to tie on a larger jig to keep the worm down on the deck. The brook was also "hungrier" than usual as I kept snagging up on the urban debris littering the bottom. 

This inevitably resulted in a bent or blunted hook and a new jig, so at the end of the session I had a handfull of scrap and a very short leader! Had to keep an eye on the time as laddo wanted to use the car to meet a friend later, but after a couple of hours I'd had eleven little brownies and a proper little "silver tourist", presumably about to start her perilous journey down to the estuary and out to sea (the vast majority of sea trout are females, their male partners remaining behind as resident brown trout). With a bit of colour in the water it was difficult to see the bottom at times and I had been sliding about on the rocks even with my studded boots. Crossing the brook to get to a spot on the other side I was just thinking to myself "I could have really done with my wading staff" when I slipped and fell forwards, ending up on all fours in the water and cracking my shin in the process! 

Luckily my waders and my rod survived, but it had knocked the wind out of me and when the next cast ended up in yet another snag I called it a day. Headed home to find that the lad had cancelled his plans, scuppered by another closure on the A40 at St Clears and cancellation of all trains from Cardiff, which meant that his friend was now stuck in Swansea. Happy days!

14/03/2024 - A last hurrah!

The rain at the weekend put paid to any plans of adding to my tally of Trent grayling. Having confirmed their presence last winter I had been keen to see whether they had established themselves any further and had got any bigger. 

However, that will have to wait until next winter now - providing that they've all not been washed downstream and into the Humber that is! Instead I was yet again watching the weather forecast and checking the river levels in the hope that there would be somewhere fishable come the 14th as I'd already booked the day off work in anticipation. On the day the local "lowland" rivers like the Trent and the Derwent were still too high for me, although I suspect that the barbel anglers were probably happy enough given how mild it was. The Dove, however, by virtue of it's flashier nature had recovered far more quickly and up at the top end of the catchment it was virtually back to normal winter level. 

I therefore had a leisurely breakfast before heading west once more, hopping briefly into Derbyshire before heading over the boundary into Staffordshire. Arriving at the river I thought I'd made a mistake as at first glance it looked to be far too coloured, but it turned out to be a bit of an optical illusion. A closer look confirmed that there was indeed a bit of colour but I could easily make out the gravel bottom from up on the bridge, so I breathed a sigh of relief and went and got togged up. The club section here is only short, consisting of a single field, and has a limit of two rods at any one time. Whilst all of it is easily wadeable in the summer, there's really only two swims suitable in the winter for trotting that offer easy access into the river combined with a decent, unhindered run. 

I was therefore pleased to find that I had it all to myself again and dropped into the first spot, literally sliding down the bank like a big, fat otter and into the footprints that I'd left behind last session. Although the river was only a few centimetres higher than last time, there was noticebly more flow, so I put a couple of droppers of maggots in at the head of the run before I started fishing just to make sure that I had some loosefeed on the deck. If I had a tenner for every first cast grayling I'd have a few quid by now as the very first run through with the float resulted in a fish that dogged about in the flow putting a pleasing bend in the Acolyte. From then on it was steady if not as prolific as last time with the fish coming in bursts, much like the rain. 

With my Sundridge bait apron finally biting the dust I'd bought a boilie bag for my maggots that I could hang around my neck. The only problem is that it doesn't have a lid, so during the showers I had to clasp the bag shut by holding my arm across my chest like Napoleon! Would account for the funny looks I got from two teenage girls on the opposite bank, although when they got upwind of me it was obvious that they were smoking more than just tobacco. In between the grayling, I was again troubled by out of season spotties, although I felt a little less guilty knowing that the trout season was only 4 days away, but still encouraged as many of the buggers to unhook themselves before I had to put the net under them! 

The dipper was active again, flying up and down the river several times, as was the red kite soaring lazily over the coppice by the bridge. Was also distracted by loud call from the trees on the opposite bank at one point and a quick check with the excellent Merlin Sound ID app revealed it to be a nuthatch, which I eventually spotted before it disappeared higher up into the branches. By lunchtime my interest was waning and my stomach was growling. The bites had tailed off and instead of moving to a different spot I decided to call it a day, consigning the remains of my maggots to the river in a final offering. Finished with 25 grayling and 15 trout, although the bigger fish eluded me once more. 

Can't say that I'll look back upon this winter with too many fond memories as yet again so many plans fell by the wayside, mainly because of the weather. Oh well, time to regroup, sort out the tackle and tidy up the man cave now!

08/03/2024 - That's more like it!

With plenty of flexi in the bank I booked Tuesday off with a view to venturing a bit further afield in search of a 2lb grayling. 

The only potential fly in the ointment was going to be the gusty, easterly wind, so I had a think about where I could best go to avoid it. In the end I decided to head up to the upper Dove to a short club section near Norbury, which would give me options downstream if needed. Had a leisurely breakfast then headed west on the A50, arriving at the venue just before nine. The river looked spot on when I had a quick look over the bridge but more importantly the high, tree-lined banks were providing some protection from all but the worst of the gusts. 

Got togged up in my chest waders and made my upstream spotting a dipper and a kingfisher in the process before dropping into the river mid-way along the section at the head of a nice, evenly paced glide. Spent a few minutes trickling in a few maggots before sending the Avon through the swim for the first time. Halfway down the run the float disappeared and the strike was followed by the mad gyrations of a hooked grayling. 

Was the first of many as I carried on catching steadily throughout the morning. After a few modestly-sized fish I had a cracking, chunky male, the darkening, battleship grey hues of his flanks contrasting with his flambouyant dorsal fin. 

These bigger fish fight completely differently to their smaller brethren, staying deep and plodding away in the current against the bend of the rod and just giving the occasional head shake to test your nerve and the hookhold. It's a relief when they eventually capitulate and the sight of that fin waving above the surface as they head towards the net for me is one of the best sights in fishing and one I'll never tire of. Being quite a way up the river and loose feeding maggots it wasn't long before the resident brownies joined the party. Beautifully marked and in mint condition they were still obviously a couple of weeks out of season, so they all went back as quickly as possible. 

Before I knew it three hours had flown by and by now the bites had understandably started to tail off, so I clambered back out of the river just as a red kite came lazily spiralling overhead on the wind. Dropped in again about 50 metres downstream. However, after a grayling first cast the next half dozen fish were all of the spotty variety. It was also lunch time and I'd left my pack up in the car, so I decided that I'd call a halt to proceedings, have some snap and then head a short distance downstream to a different section. Up to that point I'd had 32 grayling, including several over the pound mark, and 18 brownies, so anything else would be a bonus. Scoffed my sandwich in the car then made the few minutes drive towards Uttoxeter. 

The river down here is bigger and therefore more exposed to the wind, but I'd brought along the feeder rod just in case float fishing became too difficult. As it was the strengthening breeze was blowing straight downstream and it was difficult to control the float from the off and almost impossible to keep track of it any distance down the swim. 

I suppose that I coould have put on a bigger float and nipped a shot on up the line to help things but instead I opted to head for a swim where I could comfortably sit and watch the tip, plus have the chance of a bonus chub. 

There was a pair of black swans in residence when I got there, but after a bit of head nodding and whistling they slid into the river and made their way over to the other bank. Got set up with a 30 gram blackcap with a short hooklink to avoid deephooking the grayling as much as possible. Spent the next hour filling the feeder and casting it down the crease very five minutes. Bites were a bit slow so I let my gaze wander over the fields opposite me, spotting a pair of buzzards, a male sparrowhawk and a huge, noisy flock of fieldfares that landed briefly in the tree to my left. Decided that I'd had enough about 5 o'clock having added just 3 more grayling to the tally for the day.  Didn't catch a monster, but it had been just what I needed after such a crap winter. 

We'll see what we can do with what remains of the season, but it looks to be turning wet again and that wind isn't going to go away!