Archive for January 1st, 2015

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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