Archive for November, 2012

Wow, this year just seems to have flown by.  It didn’t seem that long ago that I was in Wales in those Arctic conditions back in February, battling snow in the south east and incredible sub zero conditions in Wales.

This time around we wasn’t so lucky.  I wish it had of been -8c again but instead it was the wet stuff that proved to be our downfall.  On arrival at the river on our first day in Wales, conditions looked pretty good.  The river was in good sorts with a nice level and colour.  The fishing was a little slow for me but I managed a few nice fish to about 1lb 8oz.  We hadn’t been there very long when the rain started.  It wasn’t particularly heavy, more of an irritation really and quite windy.

I was having one of those very impatient days and this really is one of my biggest faults.  There are days where if I don’t catch within 10 or 15 minutes or at least get a few bites, I start to loose interest.  I find it hard to settle into a swim and find myself quite restless.  This often proves detrimental to my fishing, rarely giving the swim a chance to produce.  This was borne out by my poor performance in one swim, only for Geoff to go in 30 minutes latter and take a shed load of grayling.  I think where grayling are concerned a good 30 – 45 minute attack on a swim is about right.  If there are grayling resident or at least in close proximity of your swim, you should be catching within that time frame.  Ten to fifteen minutes really isn’t enough!

As the rain set in we all agreed enough was enough and we called it a day and headed off to the cottage.  As usual we were greeted by our hosts and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and generous help with fishing venues.  Their local knowledge and contacts have proved invaluable.

The following day we headed to a new river, another tributary of the Wye.  It was a beautiful, narrow and intimate river.  It wasn’t particularly deep but had a nice flow and plenty of   features.  There appeared to be a deep run in the margins and the river shallowed towards the opposite bank, a feature that seemed to extend to most of the section that Kevin and I fished.  Geoff and Danny had decided to try another short section a little further upstream.

My initial attack failed to produce a bite after about 40 minutes and so I decided to wander downstream.  I found Kevin in a lovely looking spot on a deepish bend.  He hadn’t had a bite but shortly after I dropped in some way below him, he lost a very big grayling at the net.  At least we knew there were fish here and obviously of a good stamp.

It wasn’t long before Kevin was into another decent grayling and he called me up to photograph his capture; a pristine fish going 2lb 2oz.  The colours were absolutely stunning and the fish was in perfect, mint condition.  Just a magnificent grayling.  Kevin needed to walk back to our starting position to grab our bags and get his camera.  I decided to make the most of this opportunity (with Kevin’s permission of course) and run a float through his swim whilst keeping a watchful eye on his prize.  Second trot through and wallop, fish on.  After a very exciting fight I finally managed to subdue the fish sufficiently to do a ‘John Wilson’ and pick the fish by hand from the water, having left my nets up the bank somewhere and not daring to chance landing the fish with Kev’s net and risk loosing his fish.

2lb 2oz

2lb 2oz

On Kev’s return there were two beautiful grayling in the net, like peas in a pod.  Mine proved to be the smaller of the two at 1lb 12oz but was equally as stunning.  Photo shoot over and it was back to my swim.  It wasn’t long before Kevin was in again and I had to return to his swim for another photo.  This time the fish went 2lb 7oz and was again totally stunning.  This was proving to be some river and Kevin ended up with 7 nice grayling.  My efforts proved less successful but I did manage another grayling of 1lb 12oz and lost another of a similar size at the net.  Other than a couple of trout and a dace that was it for me.  The rain had set in and the river was rising and colouring up quite quickly.  Both Kevin and I felt it was now pretty pointless carrying on.  Neither of us were getting any bites at this point and so it was time to call it a day.

2lb 7oz

2lb 7oz

We managed to get Geoff on the radio and it seemed they had struggled.  Despite fishing some really mouthwatering spots they had only managed a trout each.  Dan had become stranded on the opposite bank as the river rose quite quickly and Geoff managed to wade across but felt it was too dangerous to attempt a return crossing.  They were both wet and pretty fed up and were quite happy to pack up early.  It was quite disconcerting how quickly the river rose and by the next morning, after a night of heavy rain, the rivers were a torrent of foaming stewed tea.  More rain followed and the river Wye and it’s tributaries were at bursting point.  That was an end to the fishing and we were all understandably disappointed.

We made the most of the next day to explore fishing possibilities.  However an opportunity arose to watch the Red Kites being fed, which although some distance away, was something I was keen to witness.  On arrival there were already dozens of magnificent red kites circling overhead.  We made our way to the hides and watched the spectacle unfold around us.  We watched dozens and dozens of Kites swooping down to grab the beef offerings laid out by the local farmer.  Mixed into this spectacular were buzzards, ravens, rooks and crows.  It was really incredible to watch such magnificent birds up so close, a real treat.  Sadly none of us had brought a camera and with only my mobile phone to hand had to make do with some rather poor quality photos.

Red Kites

Red Kites

We made use of our time here to also visit the magnificent Elan Valley Dam and drive through the rugged countryside that surrounds this stunning region.  As you stand there looking up at the incredible wall of water cascading down into the river below, you feel very humble.  The Elan valley has five lakes; Caban Coch, Garreg-Ddu, Pen-y-Garreg, Craig-Goch and Claerwen reservoir and are all formed by the rivers Elan and Maytag.  The waters here provide sustainable drinking water for Birmingham and are supplied by  gravity alone, no pumps.  Quite amazing.

As the weather forecast was for worse to come and with the rivers now almost un-fishable, we took the decision to cut the trip short and return on Thursday after a hearty Welsh breakfast.  Hopefully when we return in February the weather will be a little kinder to us.


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This is a detailed instruction on the removal of the ball bearings in a Bob James centrepin reel and has been kindly compiled by Geoff Parmenter.  Thanks Geoff.

The bearings are just a push fit into the bearing housing and no heat or extraction tools will be required.
1. Remove spool from reel
2. Remove circlip ‘A’ using circlip pliars or thin nosed pliars
3. Pull off the gear ‘B’ easing it over the small locating pin
4. Remove the thin ‘O’ ring ‘C’
5. Unscrew and remove the locking collar ‘D’ by inserting a small screwdriver blade in the gap in the collar and pushing in an anti-clockwise direction until it is fully unscrewed.
6. The outside bearing ‘F’ should then just come out with a few taps on the palm of your hand and the spacing bush ‘G’ will probably come with it.

7. Unscrew and remove the small brass end float screw ‘E’ from the opposite end of the spool.
8. To remove the inner bearing ‘H’, insert a narrow probe (I found a small Allen key was ideal) into the hole exposed by the removal of the end float screw and gently push the edges of the bearing until it is far enough up the bearing housing to allow it to be tapped out as for the outer bearing.
Note: the probe/allen key needs to be narrow enough to be angled in the hole towards the outside of the bearing before pushing commences otherwise you may damage the bearing shields which may cause the bearing to bind. Push at various points around the circumference of the bearing to ensure the bearing is removed evenly. If the outer bearing and spacing bush did not come out easily, you should be able to push all three out at the same time using this method. Some penetrating fluid may help if they are particularly stubborn but none was needed in my case. 
Replacement order is the reverse of the above. When replacing the bearings, use the spacing bush to push the inner bearing to the end of the housing and then insert the outer bearing.
Bob James centrepin

Bob James centrepin

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After the recent spell of chilly weather, with the odd sharp frost, the weather this week took a change for the better with a warm front moving across the country.  With that warm front came some fairly significant rain and much higher temperatures, particularly overnight.  So after a couple of days of these improvements to the conditions, I thought it was worth a bash at a bit of barbel fishing on the Kennet.

We headed to a new stretch for Geoff and I (well actually I think Geoff has fished here once before).  On arrival conditions looked pretty good.  The river had a nice pace and colour to it and it was a beautiful mild day.  It started overcast but by early afternoon the skies cleared and the sun came out.  Although a stunning day, the cloud cover was keeping the warmth in and when it diminished, the temperature dropped quite sharply.

We set up in our chosen swims.  I fished a nice deep bend with a slack area on the inside.  I cast a lead around to check the depth and the structure of the riverbed.  It was deep (about 7 feet) and a good, clean gravel bottom.  There were quite a few leaves around, which is quite understandable for this time of the year but fortunately they didn’t cause me too much of a problem here.

Having had a very late night the night before, I was in no mood for moving around a lot today.  I’d had about 3 hours sleep and far too many G&Ts, whiskies and wine for my own good.  I’d been entertained at the rather swanky RAC club in Pall Mall, where we had lunch with wine, snooker, drinks, snooker, drinks, more drinks, food with drinks, snooker with more drinks, oh and some drinks to wash it all down!!  It’s a magnificent place and the sore head this morning was worth it….I think.  I got to play with a lovely young lady (snooker that is…filthy minds you lot) who is ranked 4th in the World.  She had a magnificent action oh and her snooker wasn’t bad either!  She was my partner in a fourball match and needless to say we won, which was primarily down to my considerable talents of course!

The RAC Club

The RAC Club

Anyway, I digress.  So I decided to fish two rods, as I was certain that the fishing wasn’t going to be hectic.  However the first rod was snagged solid when I pulled into what appeared to be a bite.  It wasn’t the usual savage three foot twitch but then at this time of the year they do tend to be a little more sedate.  Anyways, I decided to reel in the 2nd rod and use that downstream but cast a little further and to keep the rod just a bit higher.  Hopefully this would keep the line out of the unseen snag.  After tangling with the snag for a second time (I managed to retrieve everything this time though) I found the right area where I wasn’t affected by it.

I was fishing a fishy boilie with a real thick paste wrap ( no offence intended paste 🙂 ) and I cast this downstream and away from the danger area.  I called Geoff to see how he was getting on when the rod banged a bit and then slowly pulled round a bit and then a bit more.  Oops sorry Geoff I think that’s a bite…..wallop it was off.  Phone slung, rod grabbed, fish on.  After a really good, hard fight I finally netted my prize, a lovely fat Kennet barbel.  It weighed in at 9lb 13oz, so what a great start to the day and made the late night/early start worth it.

9lb 13oz

9lb 13oz

Geoff popped down and did his Lord Snowden impression and all was right with the World.  That afternoon the skies cleared and the sun came out.  Although the fishing was slow, with neither myself or Geoff having any more bites, I was able to concentrate on the wildlife.  A troop of long tailed tits kept me occupied for a while.  Later on from about 2pm onwards I watched a couple of bats feeding in the bright conditions.  That’s the first time I’ve seen this during the day and they remained out feeding all afternoon.  At one point I was nearly flattened by a Kingfisher.  It hurtled towards me from the far bank.  I’m certain it had intended to use my fishing rod as a perch to fish from but on seeing me flew straight past the rod and looked like an exocet missile heading straight for my face.  At the last minute it gained hight and just cleared my head.  It was a funny sort of day really because on several occasions throughout the afternoon a large flock of geese would fly overhead and each time they passed by there was a slight delay prior to being carpet bombed by their rather sloppy droppings.  Ah I love the smell of Napalm in the morning!

Anyway darkness was approaching and nothing had happened.  I began to pack away my bits and bobs when I looked round and the rod top pulled right round.  Fish on.  I initially thought it was a good chub, as it just didn’t fight.  However it was a Geoff special, you know one of those chub he hooks from time to time that morph into a barbel as they get near the net.  It was a lovely plump fish that was about 7-7 1/2 pounds and a nice end to what had been a lovely day.

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With only two days left to go, I had hoped that a late surge might put me close to Kev’s tally.  How wrong could I be?!  On Thursday we headed to the Wye.  It was a beat that had fished well when the river was up, however now it was at normal summer level and still reasonably mild.

Despite wandering from one end to the other I could barely muster a bite.  Meanwhile both Kevin and Geoff managed a few grayling.  I seemed to be doing well on the minnow front and that was about it for me.  However it even died for the maestros, so it was time for a move.  We packed up and headed back to the Irfon.

It wasn’t too long before we were waist deep in those cold, clear waters of the river.  Again I opted to wade down river in an effort to check out the depths.  It was pretty much even all the way down; around 2’6″ to maybe 3′, with the odd short, deeper run.  However I could only seem to find the odd grayling or two.  Meanwhile Kev was yet again slaying the fish. He ended up with several up to 2lb 5oz which turned out to be the same fish as the one I caught the day before!

Geoff also struggled a little here but not quite as much as me I think.  Still I did end up with a bonus big chub of around 5lbs, which put up a tremendous fight in the flow.  Later Kevin also had a nice 4lb+ chub to go with his burgeoning tally of grayling.

The fishing really died later on and we called it a day.

The following day saw us back on the Wye.  It was going to be a shortish session of around 4-5 hours.  Despite my best efforts I struggled for fish.  I managed a few to about 1lb 8oz but it was an effort.  Kevin of course had become a bagging machine.  I think he ended up with close to 30 on that last day, which meant he ended up with around 90-100 grayling over the four days.  Geoff also had a reasonable day and ended his few days with close to 60 fish and I bought up the rear with a meagre 35 grayling.

Ah well, you can’t win em all 🙂  Well done boys.

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On our second day in Wales we decided to head to the Irfon.  The Irfon is a beautiful, intimate river in comparison to the much wider Wye.  It cuts through the hills and rocks and joins the Wye somewhere around Builth.  We were fishing some way upstream of here on a truly stunning section, set amongst the heavily forested hills and high cliffs.  The trees were in their full autumnal transformation and the array of colours was quite spectacular.

The river was gin clear and as it cascaded over bedrock and tumbled down into the deep pools it looked quite magical.  Fortunately for wading purposes there was a good mixture of gravel and bedrock and this made life a little more comfortable.  Depths were average for the Irfon, often 2′ 6″ to 3′ seemed to be standard.  We had plenty of smooth runs to go at and we hoped the fishing was going to be as good as the conditions looked.

I opted for a slightly smaller float or around 3bb as the depth was minimal and the flows moderate.  I took a walk along the entire length of the section and eventually settled on a nice run of about 2′ 6″ which narrowed at the end of the run as it was squeezed between the bedrock.  A little and often baiting approach soon paid off, with the float burying and a hard fighting grayling vying for freedom on the other end.  I’m pleased to say I won the battle and a stunning grayling of 1lb 11oz was soon returned unscathed.   Both Geoff and Kevin had stayed on a deep bend and although Kevin had managed a couple of reasonable fish, Geoff hadn’t had a bite.  I had another couple of decent fish when Geoff arrived.  He dropped in below me and proceeded to hook numerous big grayling.  Sadly he was having ‘one of those days’!  Virtually every fish he hooked came off.  I at least learned a few new words!

I continued to catch and eventually hooked what felt like a bigger fish.  Despite it’s best efforts at shedding the hook as it left the water like an exocet missile on numerous occasions during the fight, I finally managed to land the fish.  Other than an old wound on the flank the colours and condition of the fish was stunning.  It turned out to be my best Irfon fish to date at 2lb 4oz and I followed that up shortly after with another good fish going 2lbs exactly (honest Guv).  That’s the first brace of twos I have managed on either the Wye or the Irfon and I was chuffed to bits.

Towards the end of the day the fishing died and we decided to head off lower downstream.  We all managed a few grayling and some very nice dace before calling it a day.  Geoff even hooked and promptly lost a couple of unseen monsters. Judging by the speed with which they accelerated, we think they were probably salmon.  Throughout our stay we saw lots and lots of salmon jumping, so it made sense to come to that conclusion.

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Having managed to escape work for a few days it seemed appropriate, with the onset of winter, to head back to Wales for some early season grayling fishing.  We left Kent and the M25 corridor in thick fog.  It appeared it was going to take some time to get to Wales in these conditions and after a sustenance stop at the Swindon services, it’s generally a good 5 hour trip anyway.  However we were lucky.  Once we reached the M4 and progressed on past Reading, the fog lifted and it was plain sailing all the way.

We had decided to fish the Wye on our first morning.  We were keen to get started. As we looked across the Wye Valley, the hills were shrouded in low clouds.  It looked amazing.  It really lifts the spirits to fish in such incredible surroundings.  We couldn’t wait to get going and I headed downstream with Kevin, He headed to his favourite swim and I decided to explore a bit more, something I love doing.  It doesn’t always pay off but if I’ve gone all that way I want to explore every nook and cranny.

Kevin started as he meant to go on and caught from the off.  I dabbled here and there and never really got into any big numbers of fish.  With frequent ‘little and often’ baiting tactics you can keep quite a good shoal of grayling interested for some time, especially on a river the size of the Wye.  This generally means you can put together quite a big bag of grayling before they spook too much.  On a small river you would really need to rest the swim or keep moving.

As always the crease of the river seems to produce the goods.  Often that means wading out to mid river and fishing that distinct line that marks the edge of the main flow and that of the slightly slower flow on the inside.  With a regular trickle of bait and allowing the float to manoeuvre down this line, sometimes holding back quite hard, you should soon be picking up bites and fish.  Every now and again you’ll hit into an obviously bigger fish, although sometimes at distance.  With grayling being such feisty fighters it can be quite frustrating trying to keep them on.  They love to twist and turn, shaking their heads and utilising that huge sail like dorsal fin to full effect in the powerful flow of the upper Wye.  Often they launch themselves out of the water, thrashing their heads from side to side in a desperate attempt to shed the hook.  Often they succeed too unfortunately and of course it’s always the big fish that you lose!!

In terms of tackle I like to keep it quite simple really, especially here on the Wye as they don’t get fished for too much by coarse anglers (and they don’t come much coarser than me!). I’ll fish a stick float with around 3-6bb which I’ll bulk around 18 inches from the hook.  I will then use a dropper shot of around a number 6 or 4 around 6 inches from the hook which is generally a Kamasan B983 hook with the barb pinched down and in size 14 or 16.   Bait depends on the time of the year and what is allowed but it would mainly be maggots (red seem to be best) or small red worms.  Corn can occasionally produce a bite but nowhere near as many as the previously mentioned baits.  It’s that simple really.  In terms of float control you need to vary the presentation.  Let it runs through unhindered a few times, trying holding back occasionally, which allows the bait to flutter up enticingly in the flow.  You can even hold it back hard and quite literally inch it through the swim.  All can be deadly and you need to keep ringing the changes to see what’s the most effective.

Anyway, back to the day in question.  Despite the mildness of the day I had a distinct chill in the bones and it seemed to get worse as the day wore on.  Neither Geoff nor Kevin could really understand why I was so cold.  Eventually I worked it out.  My waders had a leak in the right leg and I was soaked from the upper thigh down.  As this wasn’t due to incontinence it had to be a hole in the waders.  Luckily it was quite late in the day when I discovered this, so I stopped fishing for the last hour.  Besides which Kevin had emptied the river and I was feeling decidedly inadequate.

We headed off to Richard and Jane’s to settle in to the cottage.  As always they were tremendously welcoming and we booked ourselves in for a full breakfast the next morning.  We were all cream crackered and so after a decent hot meal we decided to call it an early night and I slept like a log 🙂

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