Archive for November, 2013

Geoff and I headed to Hertfordshire to tackle the upper reaches of the Lea.  The river here is narrow and shallow, with an average depth of around just 24″-30″.  However despite its brook type appearance it holds some surprisingly good fish.  Whenever we visit this stretch we are always hoping to find some of the big roach that call this stream home.  It regularly throws up big fish in the 2lb+ bracket and a three is a distinct possibility.  The only drawback here is the amount of barbel  that frequent this stretch (even in the winter months) and often bully out the big roach.  It’s not often you’ll hear me complain about the amount of barbel present but here they can be a right pain in the proverbial.

Recently I’ve been using the Pallatrax Bloodworm and Maggot Crush Groundbait.  Normally I’d be using either liquidized bread or maggots and hemp.  On receiving the groundbait I was impressed by the amount of bits in it.  Let me expand on that comment.  It contains bloodworm and maggots of course, as the name suggests, but there are other little bits and pieces in there and it offers a very nutritious and highly visible alternative to liquidized bread.  I hoped it would be good for roach fishing and maybe give me that edge that you sometimes need here.

Bloodworm and Maggot Crush Grounbait

Bloodworm and Maggot Crush Grounbait

Our day here was met with what seemed like ideal conditions.  The weather had finally settled down a little and remained dry for around a week.  Temperatures had also steadied and it was far from chilly.  The river had a slight tinge of colour but was a little lower than we had hoped.  Nevertheless it looked promising.  Geoff and I split up, I headed upstream whilst Geoff remained on the lower section.  We both hoped the roach would show but we had both tackled up with chub and barbel in mind too.

I had two set-ups; a light chub one and a much beefier one geared towards barbel.  The lighter one was still a little too heavy for out and out roach fishing in all honesty but would give me a chance if they showed and at least I would stand a good chance of landing any big chub or barbel that put in an appearance.  If the barbel were active then I had a power float rod and 7lb low diameter mainline and 6lb hooklinks set up that would deal comfortably with these powerful fish.  I had a number of baits with me but was pinning my hopes on maggots and the Pallatrax Hidra small snails.  For those that don’t know the Hidras are professionally dried natural baits that can be soaked in water and rehydrated back to their normal state.   I think they will make ideal chub, roach and grayling baits.  I also had some hemp to loosefeed and some of the Winter Almond squabs and paste if I decided to leger.

The Upper Lea in it's winter cloak

The Upper Lea in it’s winter cloak

I started the day by checking the depth of the swim and set both rods up with Avon style floats with the shot bulked around 12-14 inches from the hook.  Small dropper shots around 6/7 inches from the hook finished the set up off.  On the out and out barbel rod I used a size 16 Pallatrax ‘The Hook’ which are incredibly strong and I’ve been using them for quite some time.  They are a nice shape and can cope with really big fish.  On the lighter outfit I used a much lighter gauge 16 hook.

I baited up the head of the swim with a couple of balls of groundbait and rested the swim for half an hour whilst it got a little lighter.  I mixed the groundbait fairly light so that a small ball would explode on impact with the water.  Some lumps would still hold together and sink to the bottom, whilst other parts exploded into a cloud of tiny morsels of food.  I hoped that this would pull in the roach and chub.

The Upper Lea

The Upper Lea

Once light, I started to run the float through the swim.  With each trot through a pinch of maggots and or hemp were thrown in.  This is important; you must keep feeding a very small amount with each and every cast.  This keeps food constantly flowing downstream and past the fish.  Eventually they become more and more inquisitive and start to hone in on this free stream of food.  That’s when they often let their guard down and you start to catch some decent fish. Then every 30-60 minutes I put out another couple of small balls of groundbait.

Initially the chub put in an appearance however I could tell it was going to be one of those days.  You know the ones where absolutely everything goes wrong!  I managed to land a small chub of around 1lb 8oz but lost two much bigger fish to hook pulls.  Very frustrating but I hoped there’d be plenty more to follow. I was in an area where the chub are very prolific and 20 odd chub a session would be quite normal.  The chub here go well over 5lb too so they aren’t small fish either.  For some reason though the chub more or less dried up.  I had a couple more around the 1lb – 1lb 8oz mark or tiny ones.  Luckily though after throwing in another couple of small balls of groundbait the roach seemed to show themselves.  I had several roach to around 12oz and they were in pristine condition.  I love to catch roach regardless of size, they are just such lovely fish.  The roach bites genuinely seemed to coincide with the burst from the groundbait, which I would expect anyway.

A Typical Lea Roach

A Typical Pristine Lea Roach

Overall bites were few and far between but I wasn’t the only one struggling.  Geoff had managed some near record breaking Gudgeon and the odd roach but otherwise not much and other than the odd barbel, no one else had caught anything earth shattering.  Despite the conditions looking ideal the fish seemed to have other ideas as usual.  I continued with the float tactics, altering the depth and speed at which the float travelled downstream through the swim.  As the day wore on I lost another couple of big chub to hook pulls but had failed to find any barbel.  The roach remained and I ended up with a nice tally of fish to around the 1lb mark.  Towards the end of the day I shallowed up and trotted through at around a depth of 12-18 inches.  I used this in conjunction with much larger amounts of maggots going in and this produced instant results.  The fish had moved up into the water to intercept the freebies.  Several big chub took the bait and a couple of nice roach.  Yet again I lost two decent chub to hook pulls…..argh….! I did land a couple though at around 2lb 8oz-3lb.

Geoff decided to change to a leger and fish luncheon meat and managed to tempt several barbel before darkness prevented me from trotting any more.  Perhaps I should have set up a barbel rod and legered but it had been a very early start and enough was enough.  We finally called it a day at around 4.30 and it was time for Geoff and I to indulge in a family feast designed for about 4 people at the KFC….it’s finger licking good. 🙂



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It’s that time of the year again.  After a long and reasonably dry summer the winter has finally arrived and what a mixed bag of weather conditions we’re having.  We’ve had loads of rain over the last month which has caused a certain amount of flooding in places.  Then a severe drop in temperatures has put cold rain into the rivers and made the fishing a little difficult, to say the least.  However with luck things will settle down and we can get on with some decent fishing.

November brings not only frosts, it also signals our annual trip to mid Wales for some grayling fishing.  Things have been looking considerably iffy weather wise.  The Wye has been over the banks in places during the last couple of weeks and we were keeping our fingers crossed that conditions would settle down prior to our mid November trip.   They did but only for a few days.  It always amazes me at how forecasts can change so quickly and so dramatically in a very short space of time.  Still it is called Mother Nature and we all know why! 🙂  Despite the forecast indicating that conditions should be just about spot on from Monday onwards, by the time we arrived a change was in the air.  We were met by rain on arrival, although that was expected.  In fact things improved quite quickly at first.  It was nearly lunchtime by the time we were able to commence fishing.  During the afternoon the sun came out briefly and the whole of the valley was ablaze with autumnal colour.  The hills and trees were resplendent in the sunshine, a mix of rich colours of varying hues.  It at least offered a temporary respite from the harsh conditions that were to follow.

The Wye

The Wye

It proved a tough afternoon.  Between Geoff, Dan and myself I think we had just 5 or 6 grayling, despite targeting swims that have always produced good catches in the past.  Even Kevin’s banker swim proved fickle with only 9 grayling coming to the net, although the best was a 2lb fish.  So that first few hours of our trip proved arduous but we were confident that with a settled spell of weather ahead, we would soon be amongst the fish.  How wrong we were!

The following morning we switched on the news, eager to see what lay ahead of us.  That delightful young girl on the local news channel beamed broadly in that enchanting way that they do and informed us that basically the forecast had changed and it was going to be shite.  She didn’t quite put it like that but that was how it translated.  And yet she did it with such feminine guile that we were almost grateful! 🙂

Snow was falling as we watched from the comfort of a warm sitting room.  Hot cups of teas and coffees steaming quietly which remarkably seem to ease the burden of what we were witnessing.  Still snow we could cope with.  It was rain that would be our downfall, yes that old arch enemy of the seasoned grayling angler.  High and coloured water is the kiss of death for this species and things were not looking good.  Tuesday night and Wednesday morning were now going to consist of high winds and heavy rains sweeping in across Wales.  Not only that, the rain was due to last the best part of 10-12 hours.  I think ‘bugger’ pretty much sums up our feelings at this point.  Originally the weather had looked very promising.  There was some rain forecast for Wednesday but nothing Biblical like this.  And oh boy did it rain.

Still Tuesday morning saw us tucking into a very hearty Welsh breakfast, as always provided by our excellent hosts Richard and Jane.  The accommodation provided is of a very high standard and Richard is always happy to contact his friends for us to locate beats of rivers that normally wouldn’t be available to fish.  They really are the perfect hosts and nothing is too much trouble. I can’t recommend them highly enough: www.pwllgwilym-cottages.co.uk

Pwllgwilym Cottages

Pwllgwilym Cottages

After breakfast we headed off to try the upper Severn around Newtown.  We haven’t fished in this area before but with the Severn producing some quality grayling fishing recently we felt it was time to check it out for ourselves.  The drive up was incredible.  With snow on the ground and then then the sun breaking through the clouds we witnessed perhaps the most stunning views we have ever encountered.  The drive from llandrindod Wells to Newtown winds its way up through the surrounding hills on the A483 and presents you with the most spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding valley, which is quite simply breathtaking. My only regret is we didn’t find somewhere to park so we could take some photos of this incredible view.

Upper Severn

Upper Severn

After wandering through Newtown we eventually found the tackle shop.  We managed to glean a certain amount of information from the owner, purchase the day tickets and get to the river.  Just above the footbridge we found the river to be deep and slow.  It certainly didn’t look like your typical grayling river.  However as we explored further upstream we discovered a much more enticing section.  Here the flow was much swifter and clean gravel could be seen in the shallower depths.  We were soon tackled up and fishing away.  The sun occasionally broke through the dark clouds and was interspersed with sporadic rain and snow showers.  However when the sun did break through, the surrounding trees sparkled in the winter sun.  There were just so many colours to see; coppers, browns, golds, reds and so many hues it was stunning.  It seems autumn is late this year and we were treated to one of Mother Natures finest spectacles.

Anyway back to the fishing.  It was getting late already, we didn’t commence fishing until around 12pm which was much later than we had hoped.  Because of the delay we really had to get a move on.  I had hoped to try out the Pallatrax small hydrated snails and Bloodworm and Maggot Crush groundbait today but in the rush left them in the car, which was now about a mile away from where we were fishing.  Although disappointed, I thought there would be further opportunities to put this promising bait to the test later in the week so carried on regardless.  The run I was fishing was much deeper than I at first expected.  This area was below some shallow water and dropped quite dramatically into a deep gulley.  The bottom was gravel and there was little evidence of weed.  The depth was around 6 feet and shallowed up after around 15 yards and so offered a decent trot.  First trot through and the float disappeared.  A quick, sharp strike connected to the unseen culprit.  It stayed deep and the occasional thump, thump was clearly felt as the fish headed upstream.  Then as quickly as it came it went, as the hook and fish parted company.  Still it was encouraging.  A few more trots through provided me with a couple of small grayling and a few trout.  Sport at least but I was hoping for something a little bigger.  Geoff reported a complete lack of action in his chosen spot, whilst Kevin had found a swim with some good grayling in.  He took around 14 in the end to just shy of 2lbs.

Jammed packed with nutrients - Pallatrax Bloodworm and Maggot Crush

Jammed packed with nutrients – Pallatrax Bloodworm and Maggot Crush

Pallatrax Baits

Pallatrax Baits

My day provided slow but steady sport.  I kept changing depths and baits in an effort to entice more bites.  However the fish liked the bait on the bottom and held back slightly.  By the end of the afternoon I had taken 9 grayling to around 1lb 6oz and 9 trout to around 2lb 8oz.  I lost 1 grayling at the net and a couple of big trout.  Geoff only managed 2 grayling and I think a trout.  As the light faded we decided to call it a day and head back to the cottage.  Danny had opted to remain on the Wye today and fished the town section.  Despite only fishing for a few hours after a certain amount of trials and tribulations, he managed a decent net of mainly trout plus a number of nice grayling to around 1lb 8oz.  So he was happy with that and had some entertaining stories to recount about his numerous trips to and from the river, collecting things he’d forgotten to bring or lost along the way!

The weather forecast that evening proved grim viewing. It seemed very heavy rain was definitely moving in early hours and would remain until Wednesday lunchtime. Still despite this we thought we’d actually give it a go on the Wednesday.  The rain eased off by late morning with the sun braking through the gloom and so we headed to the town section of the Wye.  However not only was the weather shocking, there were two anglers in the spot we had hoped to fish.  What is the world coming too, I ask you?!  What a bloody cheek.  Two blokes in our swim.  Bring back the birch, hard labour and yes, even the death penalty for people like this.  However the river was rising even as we fumed at our misfortune.  The levels crept over the banks and started to spill into the trees.  The river had that muddy look and it was like a cabbage broth made with leaves, and I mean millions of leaves.  Every cast resulted in a hooked leaf.  Brown ones, red ones, yellow ones, every conceivable colour and shape and all on the end of my hook at one point (pun intended 🙂 ) or another.   Incredibly I actually hooked a fish, which typically and in good old “that’s just my bloody luck” type fashion, twisted and shed the hook after a few seconds.

It was time to go.  The fishing was by now almost impossible and I had to keep moving my tackle (ooh er missus) to stop it from being submerged in a quickly rising river.  It seemed appropriate that night to indulge in a little ‘surf and turf’ at the excellent local hostelry.  A big sirloin steak, scampi and some superb  tempura prawns with chips, mushrooms, onion rings and tomatoes helped to settle me down after such a trying day.  Oh and of course a pint of the local bitter helped too.

The next day was a right off.  The river was bank high and heavily coloured although the Irfon looked much better. It was still high but seemed to lack the murky colour that ruins grayling fishing.  We had expected to call it a day and head home early, however we now felt we might just squeeze in the last day on the Irfon.  As we’d come all this way it was worth taking the chance.

Sadly the final day didn’t live up to our expectations. The river was remarkably clear despite the amount of rainfall, however it was a little high and pushing through.  We explored around a mile and a half of beautifully wild water and yet we couldn’t muster a bite.  The sun had come out today and the whole place was awash with every conceivable colour and hue.  It was a stunning spot to end our visit.   We persevered until around mid afternoon and by the end 3 of us had caught a solitary grayling each.  They were all over a pound with the biggest around 1lb 12oz but that was it.  It was time to say goodbye to Powys and head home.

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One for you Steve

My good mate Kevin has been going through some tough times lately.  He was at last rewarded with a fish that he more than deserved.  Dropping onto the Thames tributary that we have been targeting this season, produced a tremendous new PB barbel for him.

Amazingly the trip that produced this fish was due to be a roach session on a local lake.  However the weather seemed perfect for barbel and so Kevin and Geoff changed their minds on the day and instead decided to head to the Kennet.  The traffic was horrific on the M25 and the normal 90 minute trip dragged on into several hours.  Due to the severe loss in fishing time they felt it would be better to head to the Thames tributary instead, it was closer and could be fished later if necessary.  It seemed fate was playing her part in more ways than one.

On arrival Kevin and Geoff went for a scout around and eventually picked a couple of swims.  They hadn’t been fishing long when Kevin’s rod top slammed over and he was in.  Fortunately as Kevin was playing the fish, Geoff had decided to wander up to see Kevin.  After an amazing fight and one which entailed Geoff struggling to net Kevin’s prize, the fish was finally subdued.  They both looked at disbelief at this leviathan staring up at them from the folds of the landing net.  They weighed the fish and could hardly believe it, she went 15lb 2oz and smashed Kevin’s previous PB.

Kev's 15lb 2oz Barbel

Kev’s 15lb 2oz Barbel

Kevin’s brother Steve has been suffering with a degenerative illness for the last year.  Over the last couple of years Steve has enjoyed numerous fishing trips with us.  Steve was a very keen angler in his youth but due to family commitments his fishing pretty much dried up.  Despite Steve’s condition he enjoys fishing with us when he can or at the very least getting constant running commentaries throughout our trips about what is being caught and by whom.

When Kevin went to see him in hospital and told him of his monster barbel, Steve was overjoyed at the news.  Steve loves to hear about what we catch and loves to read my blog (well someone was bound to at some point 🙂 ).  The fact that his brother had caught such an impressive fish really delighted Steve and rightly so.

It is with great sadness that I have to report that Steve finally succumbed to his illness a couple of weeks a go.  It happened far quicker than expected.  My thoughts are with Steve’s family.  I know Steve will be sat by that great barbel filled river in the sky, filling his boots.  Kevin has dedicated his barbel to Steve and justly so.  RIP Steve.

RIP Steve.

RIP Steve.

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