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Archive for January, 2015


It’s not often we are forced onto a stillwater during the traditional coarse fishing season as you know but sometimes needs must.  Despite that, I do quite enjoy a change now and again and it can make for a pleasant distraction from the rivers if conditions aren’t good.

Geoff and I decided to give Hartley Lands a go.  Their website and reviews about the fishery indicated that it can produce good bags of roach, which would be our target species.  We opted to fish the reservoir, as it appeared it contained the better specimens.  The reservoir was a decent size.  It’s a farm reservoir and so only a few acres or so, not the Bewl type of inland sea proportions.  We spotted a couple of good looking swims not far from the car park, which makes a pleasant change for me, I’m normally yomping off to the furthest point on a river somewhere.

I opted for a 15ft float rod, 3lb mainline and a 2.4lb hooklink with a 16 barbless hook.  Baits were red maggots with a squirt of Ocean Pride, casters and sweetcorn if needed and I fed hemp, maggots and casters.  Plumbing  found 2 shelves and I decided to fish off the first one at around 4′-4’6″ deep.  Setup was a simple waggler bulked at the top with one very small dropper shot about halfway down.  I had found myself in the near corner, sheltered from the ever growing wind.  On the way here it had been teaming down with rain and the roads were littered with debris from the heavy storm overnight.  Throughout the day we had a mixture of sunshine and heavy, squally showers but all in all not too bad to be fair.  Luckily the worst of the wind was deflected by the amount of tree cover here, which is nice.  Some of these commercials look a bit barren but not so with Hartley Lands.

A nice double

A nice double

A constant trickle of hemp and maggots soon had the roach queuing up and I lost something much bigger early on.  The roach were only between 2-6oz and probably averaged 3oz.  I did get the odd bigger one up to maybe 8oz but none of the 1lb+ specimens put in an appearance.  Interspersed amongst the roach were a few perch and 4 carp.  The carp certainly put a bend in the rod and with a 2lb 4oz hook link made playing them very rewarding.  The good thing about winter carp is that they don’t go mad.  They do the odd longish run but generally plod around the margins for a while, so it’s rare to loose them.  The carp were 6lb 2 x 8lb and the biggest a smidge under 11lbs.  It was a great, fun day and I ended up with around 115-120 fish chalked up on the fish counter.  I’m guessing at somewhere between 55lb-60lb of fish.  Not bad for around 5 hours or so of fishing.

Geoff also had a pretty good day, catching a carp or around 6-7lbs and loads of roach.  At last knockings he found some better fish close in but even then they were only around 8oz.  All in all we had a pretty good day in fairly difficult conditions.  Luckily we packed up in the dry but oh boy was it muddy.  Hartley Lands is certainly worth another visit at some point.

 

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Sometimes the weather forecast can be most disheartening.  I check almost daily to see if it’s worth making the effort to travel all of that distance to fish for these grayling.  I look at the river levels on one site and the predicted rain fall, wind speed and direction as well as the temperatures on two others.  All of these elements will dictate whether its worth making the effort to go or not.  Sometimes you just hope its a 50/50 call because at least you may get one days fishing in and possibly salvage a second day if you’re really lucky at this time of the year.

As I’m sure most of you know, grayling are pretty much sight feeders, so a heavily swollen, coloured river is not ideal.  I’m always hoping for a river at something approaching normal winter level and with at most a tinge of colour.  Sadly at this time of the year beggars can’t be choosers, as the weather is rarely perfect for more than the odd day or two here and there.  So you’ve gotta be in it to win it, as they say.

Two days booked with Geoff and Kevin saw us arrive early Wednesday morning.  The wind was due to pick up throughout the day and they weren’t wrong!  Thank goodness the rain at least held off until the evening when the heaven’s opened and it rained all night.

Keeping it simple: Rod, Reel, Net and Bait Pouch

Keeping it simple: Rod, Reel, Net and Bait Pouch

Our approach to the river across the fields was met with thunderous bangs from somewhere beyond the hills.  Every few minutes the ground almost shook as yet another bang reverberated in the air.  They were almost deafening.  Somewhere not too far away it was likely a tank battle ensued, albeit war games rather than the real thing.  We hoped it wouldn’t put the grayling off, although if it did, who could blame them.

A report soon came through on the walkie talkie that Kevin had just landed a 2lb 3oz grayling.  I had already taken a couple of smaller samples.  So things were looking good.  I had decided to explore as much of the stretch as possible and so ended up walking around 2 miles downstream, fishing the odd spot as I went.  This was more a recce than fishing, so I was content to just search out new spots to fish for the future.  After a few hours I decided to wander back to the top of the stretch, as rain was now threatening and the wind was very strong.  Presentation in such windy conditions becomes extremely difficult.  Depending on the direction, it can seriously hamper the passage of the float and so becomes very unnatural.  Bites can be few and far between under these circumstances.  I try and get the wind to a downstream direction but in all honesty it’s challenging whatever you do if its gale force!  With gusts upto and possibly even over 40 mph it was tricky if nothing else.

A big float for windy conditions

A big float for windy conditions

I ended up back in a swim I had started the day in.  I was slightly sheltered by trees here and so presentation was made a little easier.  A few trots through produced three bites and all three were lost fish.  Two felt pretty good but fortunately not long after that I managed to land a decent fish which was exactly 2lb.  Kevin had taken 12 by now with another decent fish at 1lb 15oz.  Geoff wasn’t doing so well, although ended up with 7, the same as me.  I sadly lost around 7 or 8 fish and also landed 3 or 4 trout.

2lb Grayling

2lb Grayling

Geoff and I opted to fish the last 45 minutes on the very upper beat.  It produced nothing for me sadly.  Mind you by now the wind had really picked up and a fine drizzle had started.  It was time to call it a day as far as I was concerned and I headed back to the car.  The others followed shortly after.  We headed back to the cottage and prayed that the rain wouldn’t be as bad as forecast.  Unfortunately it was as bad and the following morning we packed the car and headed off to the river not knowing quite what to expect.  Sadly the river had indeed risen around 2 feet and was heavily coloured.  So an early day it was and we headed back home.

Up and Coloured

Up and Coloured

Although disappointed not to get the second day in, we had at least caught another couple of grayling over 2lbs, which made a total of 9 I think between us so far since fishing this chalkstream.  That’s around our 4th or 5th trip, so not too bad really.  So until next time, tight lines.

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The online e-magazine version of Coarse Angling Today is available for purchase and viewing through Pocket Mags.  So if you can’t find a stockist of this great magazine in your local stores, you can at least view the latest copy and back copies online.

 Pocket Mags – Coarse Angling Today

Coarse Angling Today

Coarse Angling Today

Enjoy.

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Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We’re happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Well it may not have snowed but with temperatures down to a rather nippy -4c, for all intents and purposes it looked like the fields and trees were covered in a fine layer of the white stuff.  Looking out across the fields, the heavy frost glistened in the early morning sun. Even the trees sparkled and ice had just about devoured any water that wasn’t flowing.  It truly was a winter wonderland and is one of nature’s most beautiful sights at this time of the year and one of the many reasons we go fishing.  Sometimes it’s very difficult trying to get across to non anglers quite why we do what we do.  For me though, this is one of those reasons that fuels my desire to go fishing.  It is spectacular but by God it’s brass monkeys.  Thankfully the thermals protected the family jewels from frost bite.

Geoff, Dan and I decided to see out 2014 with a couple of days on a beautiful southern chalk stream hoping for some decent grayling.  This particular river has a reputation for producing larger than average fish and perhaps offers a genuine chance of a 3lb+ specimen.   So far all of the fish we’ve caught from here have been exquisite and although not all have been around the 2lb mark, we’ve taken a few that have been.  Grayling are beautiful fish at any size of course but once they reach that magic 2lb mark, they seem to almost metamorphose into something almost mystical.  They become broad and thick set with remarkably big bellies and the dorsal fins are quite extraordinarily large and impressive, with a myriad of colours running through them.

Mad cows and Englishmen!  Apologies to Noël Coward!!

Mad cows and Englishmen! Apologies to Noël Coward!!

There is a strong argument for using feeder tactics in these extreme conditions.  Perhaps when the temperatures are this low the grayling sometimes prefer to forage on the river bed for morsels of food rather than chase them, as they swiftly pass by in the current.  You can of course hold back a float, over shot it and slow it right down but there are times when they just don’t want it like that.  So far I have resisted the urge to adopt the feeder as a tactic, simply because grayling will devour the bait and the hook will end up down in the gut.  Even a barbless hook can be tricky to extricate from this far down without causing any damage.  Having caught quite a few grayling when quiver tipping for roach I find it distressing if I can’t remove the hook.  I seem to recall reading somewhere about the use of artificial maggots which supposedly prevented deep hooking, so this may be worth exploring.

Anyway, in the meantime I’m sticking with long trotting.  I have to say it’s a very rewarding method for catching any fish.  I love seeing that float tip bury as a fish’s mouth engulfs the bait and that exhilarating adrenalin rush as a big, heavy fish thumps away on the end of the line, using the strong current to resist the inexplicable pull from the other end.  To me it’s the main reason for fishing in the winter.  I still love quiver tipping too, particularly for roach and chub but it plays second fiddle to float fishing.

We all knew that this first day was probably going to be tough.  It really was extremely cold first thing and it had only been about the second or third really sharp frost in as many days.  Sometimes I think grayling take a day or two to acclimatise to these harsh conditions.  You will still catch them on the coldest of days and in fact we’ve caught them in Wales when the temperatures have plummeted to -10c!!  So never say never.

Geoff or Dan...no it's just a buzzard not an old one!! :-)

Geoff or Dan…no it’s just a buzzard not an old one!! 🙂

Over the two days we were here I opted for a 3g float and started with the shot strung out.  I will bulk the shot up just underneath the float and then string No’s 4 and 6s out down the line, finishing with a No 6 around 4-6 inches from the hook.  I find that if you want to hold back a little the bait can flutter up more enticingly with this set up and I believe it’s easier for the bait to stay ahead of the float.  Later on though I swapped it over to a bulk shot set up around 18″ from the hook and slowed the passage of the float right down, just easing it through the swim to try and tempt a few bites.  I think this keeps the bait low in the water and near to the river bed and on those days where the grayling don’t want a faster moving bait it slows it right down.  Interestingly both set ups worked and I don’t think one out performed the other.

The lengths some people will go to to get the best swim!

The lengths some people will go to to get the best swim!

It was a tough couple of days.  Bites were few and far between.  Dan’s first fish was a cracker at 2lb 1oz but was not only his only fish, it was his only bite.  Mind you not a bad result really although a bit disappointing perhaps to not end up with a least a couple more.  Geoff had a good first day taking 5 grayling but sadly loosing 6 or 7 and his best fish was literally a smidgen under 2lbs, so again a fair result.  I only managed 3 fish and lost 1 but was fortunate to get a 2lb 5oz cracker.  Maggots seemed to produce the best results but I dabbled with corn and red worms but to no avail.

2lb 5oz

2lb 5oz

The second day saw us on an alternative stretch and completely new to us, so this could well prove to be quite challenging and indeed it was!  We walked a fair bit of the stretch and found some really magic swims.  Sadly though the fish didn’t seem to be in much of a feeding mood.  Most of the swims failed to produce so much as a bite but every now and then a fish was tempted.  I’m glad I had decided to wear my waders as this gave me access to some spots that would have been un-fishable otherwise and this was borne out by the results.  I didn’t do particularly well but at least managed 7 grayling and lost around 7.  None of the fish were big, probably a couple around 1lb. Dan sadly never had a bite and Geoff had just the one fish and I think lost one.  So a tough couple of days but at least we have explored more of this delightful chalk stream and garnered lots of useful info from the other anglers we met on the banks.

So until next time a very Happy New Year to you all and I hope 2015 turns out to be the best yet.

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