Posts Tagged ‘Chalk Stream Grayling’

After some fairly exhaustive research trips around the Winchester area for more fishing opportunities, Geoff and I finally gave up and headed off to a stretch of river that we knew well.  Conditions have been tough recently and we knew the Itchen had been running high and coloured.  We finally arrived at the river around midday and were pleasantly surprised to find the river looking spot on; a nice smooth pace and just a tinge of colour.

I headed to the top of the fishery and tackled up.  The usual set-up would suffice; 14ft float rod, 3lb mainline and a 16 hook-to-nylon.  I opted to use a 3g Bolo style float and had the option of red maggots or sweetcorn.  I ended up trotting a swim that dropped off into a deep glide under a bridge.  In fact it was the M3 flyover!  Noisy but productive.  I seem to have a thing for motorway bridges at the moment!

First trot through produced a bite and they kept coming.  I trickled in a few maggots every cast and after around 30-40 minutes I banked around 8 grayling, 1 trout and at least half a dozen small salmon par.  I then decided to drop downstream slightly into a beautiful glide on a slight bend.  There was a good depth of around 4ft and an easy pace to the flow.  It looked perfect.  First cast; grayling on.  More followed and in fact by around 4.15 I’d had 31 grayling to approximately 1lb 4oz, with the average around 8-10oz.  Not monsters, but on a cold day it was very rewarding sport.

I decided to move downstream further as the afternoon wore on.  My last swim was a long glide which then narrowed by an overhanging tree.  Again it had a good depth and a nice smooth flow.  Yet again immediate results.  The grayling here appeared to be of a slightly better average size, closer to a pound.  10 more grayling followed to around 1lb 4oz+.  I must have lost 12-18 grayling too, probably down to the barbless hooks.  I find micro barbed tend to loose fewer grayling, although some days it’s hard to keep them on any hook, they all seem to be made of rubber.  Still that’s the fun (?) of fishing for grayling.  The trouble is loosing the biggies tends to hurt a bit.

Gay Pigeons or s scene from the Birds!

Gay Pigeons or a scene from the Birds!

Geoff had also fared pretty well.  He had managed to take 26 grayling to around 1lb 8oz and had averaged fish to around the 1lb mark.  By 5.00pm it was bloody cold and we decided enough was enough.  It had been an interesting and productive day in search of new venues and getting the rod bent again.  Those 2lb+ grayling are still proving to be rather elusive though.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Day 1:

I rarely get the opportunity to fish the Test these days but an invite by good mate and Lone Angler’s team manager Jez Brown was very welcome indeed.

I have fished the Test at Timsbury a couple of times but not for quite a few years.  I did try Jez’s beat out last season and managed a few nice fish but lost a couple of big roach, so I was looking for a second chance.

The forecast mentioned something about a weather bomb.  That’s a term I’ve never encountered before and the only thing I’ve heard close to that is Sex Bomb, but hey that’s enough about me!  Anyway it seemed strong winds and driving rain was the general ingredients in this meteorological bomb.  Luckily the area we were in seemed to be sheltered enough by hills and trees to deflect this winter storm of almost biblical proportions (allegedly).

Still this meant we could feeder fish and trot without any interference from Mother Nature.  A simple feeder rig consisting of around a 2’6″ hooklink of 4lb line and a 12 hook, a small cage feeder and breadflake hook bait did the trick.  I used a soft glass tip on a 12ft Avon style rod.    Initially we fished up in the mill pool where there is plenty of deep water to hold a few roach.  The levels looked pretty normal with a tinge of colour.  Everything looked more or less spot on.

The feeders were loaded with crumb with a nice piece of flake on the hook and out it went.  It was a little slow at first but once we got some bait going in on a regular basis, things started to improve.  I missed a few bites as I was a bit too quick to hit them.  Soon a few grayling, dace and trout put in an appearance and then a run of nice roach to over a pound.    Jez trotted a few maggots down and grayling after grayling came to the net.  They ranged in size from just a few ounces to close to 1.8lbs.

After lunch we headed off downstream but that failed to produce much and so we returned to the mill pool.  I managed a few more roach to breadflake with the best going 1lb 6oz which made 4 over the pound mark.  Jez tempted a couple as well, of a similar stamp and we both had a few decent dace to maybe 10oz or so.  As always the trout were active, they are such voracious feeders.  Sadly those really big roach failed to show but hey there’s always next time.

A decent Test Roach

A decent Test Roach

Day 2.

I headed off to another chalk stream this time in search of big grayling.  Geoff and Kevin had fished it the previous day whilst I was on the Test and had struggled, although Geoff had taken a nice fish at just a tad under 2lbs.

The area we headed to was far more open to the elements and the wind was blowing a hooley.  Dark brooding skies suggested rain could come at any moment, almost without warning.  However lady luck was with us and although we had a very squally shower it only lasted around 10 minutes or so and then remained dry for the remainder of our visit.

The key for me was to find a swim where the wind was blowing (howling more like) down stream.  After a long walk I managed to locate a swim that looked fishable at least.  The wind was seriously strong and would make presentation very, very difficult.  I decided on a heavy float with a strung out shotting pattern.  I normally fish bulk shot but felt the presentation would improve with this alternative approach.

Hook bait was double maggot with a regular trickle thrown in with every cast.  The float buried almost immediately as it sailed down a lovely long glide close to the near side bank.  The fish felt heavy and I was confident it was a decent grayling.  I wasn’t disappointed.  At 2lb 5oz it was a lovely big, solid grayling.  Another small one followed almost straight away and a short time later another very good fish fought for freedom.  Luckily I seemed to be keeping most of the fish on the hook this time and a 2lb 9oz fish was the result.

2lb 9oz

2lb 9oz

The other two lads seemed to be struggling with I think one fish apiece and neither particularly big fish either.  Around lunchtime I decided to move.  I hadn’t had a bite for sometime and fancied trying elsewhere.  Kevin jumped into the swim to see if he could tempt something.  Later on he reported he’d just landed a 2lb 7oz fish, so maybe I should have stayed put.

2lb 5oz

2lb 5oz

I wandered upstream trying out spots on the way.  I spotted a couple of unusual old birds!!  Two Antipodean visitors; a pair of black swans.  I managed to get a few shots with the camera before spotting them again later in flight.  They have the most beautiful white wing feathers which are an incredible contrast to the rest of the bird.  Anyway I digress, the odd grayling and trout were tempted but all in all it was difficult.  By 3pm the skies were growing very dark with rain clouds and so we opted for an early finish.  I ended up with 7 grayling and 3 trout. which put me just ahead of Kevin.  Geoff had a tough day and then broke his centrepin!  Not the best day for him.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

These are no Galahs. Fair dinkum Bruce!

There is plenty of time left this season to get back here and hopefully bag a few more of these stunning fish before March.

2lb 7oz

2lb 7oz

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: