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!

07/03/2024 - Give us a break!

I'll be glad to see the back of this winter. Fishing wise it has been very poor, with just a handful of snatched sessions in the few windows of opportunity available. 

However, with the local rivers out of sorts yet again at least I had a weekend with our friends in Exmouth to look forward to and with it the prospect of some early season LRF. 
When Friday came around the fishing tackle went into the boot with the suitcases along with some of last summer's salted rag that I'd found in the back of the bait fridge. However as we drove down the M5 it soon became apparent that it had been pissing down in the South West all day. Sure enough a check of the conditions the following morning revealed the estuary to be the colour of a fresh turd (probably contained a few as well) with zero visibility. Any thoughts of fishing were therefore abandoned and we headed over to neighbouring Budleigh Salterton and had a mooch along the seafront instead. 

Sunday morning my friend Simon and I headed down to the marina hoping that conditions had improved. Unfortunately it appeared that the incoming tide was just returning all of the crap back up the estuary as again the water was highly coloured with little or no visibilty. Undaunted we tried a few of the usual spots and actually found a few fish, including a few shannies, a tompot and a couple of mini-ballan wrasse. However, fishing blind into structure had the inevitable result and after snapping several hooks and losing a set of gear we packed up and headed back for a full English. 

Upon our return to Nottingham it not only looked as if the local rivers were finally heading in the right direction, but that the weather was also going to behave itself as well. By Tuesday I therefore reckoned that it was worth a quick punt on the Derwent for the grayling, so I wrapped up work early and was 
out the door shortly after 3 o'clock. Fifteen minutes later I was at the river in bright sunshine. Whilst the level was still a bit higher than I'd I was sure that I would be able to find a few fish and headed for a spot downstream of an island where I knew from previous sessions that that the flow would be a bit gentler. Had a few trots down the inside without a bite then had a speculative cast upstream into a slightly deeper pocket of water right under the hanging branches of the trees on the island. 

As the float trundled back towards me it promptly disappeared as a grayling snaffled the double maggot. Added half a dozen more in the same way from this little spot before it all went quiet and I headed downstream to "the beach". By now the slight breeze had dropped away to nothing and the surface of the river was like a mirror. Found that the river had done a bit of re-modelling and had scoured out a channel down the nearside bank forming a bar. Added three more grayling stood out on this new feature, but rather annoyingly pulled out of a much better fish that hung deep in the flow and never showed itself. However a mini-murmuration of starlings over the fields as I made my back to the car was a nice highlight.

Two days later I was back again, but in contrast it was dull and overcast with a cold, brisk Easterly wind. The river had also dropped significantly allowing me to try a couple of my more usual spots further upstream. However, whether it was because of the conditions or that the fish had yet to re-distibute themselves after weeks of high flow I don't know, but I failed to buy a bite until I got right back down to the beach. Thankfully I managed to avoid the blank by adding a trio of graying before the gloom descended, which made me rue the decision to head upstream when I first arrived. Hopefully the rivers will continue to improve for the remainder of the season as I've got some flexi to take, although it's looks like the east wind is going to be with us for another few days at least.