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Posts Tagged ‘Grayling Fishing’


As those wonderful long summer evenings relentlessly draw in, winter arrives all too quickly.  However it’s not all doom and gloom.  With those dark, cold mornings when breath vaporizes in an instant, comes the grayling season.  Despite hating the cold I feel a certain tingling sensation at the thought of chasing those ladies of the stream.  Not sexual healing as Marvin would put it but rather a therapeutic endeavour that sends the pulse racing at the thought of a large grayling gracing the net.

A sign of things to come?

A sign of things to come?

The colours of a grayling’s fins and dorsal are quite exquisite, with hints of blue, magenta, red and other exotic hues.  They truly are a magnificent fish.  They are famed of course for the impressive sail like dorsal which they use to good effect in the fast flowing chalk streams of which they call home.

A decent grayling

A decent grayling

A big grayling can test the very best tackle in the pacey flows and often results in heart in the mouth action.  Sadly all too often, as you draw the fish to the net, a final head thrash will throw the hook and a monster grayling will sink back into it’s watery home.

I have traveled the length and breadth  of the country (well almost) in search of these jewels amongst freshwater fish.  The Shire’s have produced well, as have the valleys and mountain streams of Wales.  Now we have returned to the southern chalk streams in search of that elusive 3lb grayling.  In one or two rivers the grayling have prospered on the quality and biodiversity of their surroundings.   A chance of a 3lber is a real possibility and so over the coming winter months, Geoff, Kevin and I (aided and abetted on occasions by Danny) will be targeting these most magnificent of fish in some of the South’s most scenic and unspoilt countryside.

Our first opening gambit saw us tackle the river over a two day period.  First up was a stretch that has produced some seriously big grayling and has a reputation as being one of the prime beats on the river.  The levels have returned to normal after a great deal of rain over recent weeks, however the colour hasn’t quite dropped out and probably doesn’t over the winter months.  This is a fast, generally shallow river with lots of twists and turns.  This creates an abundance of fishable glides both deep and shallow and all over pristine gravel.  It’s simply mouthwatering.  Depths range from 18 inches to around 4 feet, with the odd 6 or 7 foot hole or short run.  Personally I don’t like the deeper areas and have rarely succeeded in these swims.  For me 2-4ft produce the best results.

We traveled light (well light for us) with a single rod, centrepin, net and an array of floats and odds and sods.  I still use my rucksack that I use for my barbel fishing, only because it can accommodate my flask, float tubes, towel, food and a camera.    I have just purchased a new trotting tool in the shape of a 15ft Matchpro Ultralight.  I have also just treated myself to a new Young’s Purist II but sadly that has yet to be put through its paces.  However the rod performed admirably and I’m delighted with it.

On the first day I chopped and changed baits and depths to try and tempt some fish.  However the fishing, for me at least, was slow.  I covered most of the upper two beats, giving each swim an hour or so to produce.  Bites were few and far between and perhaps the first of the heavy frosts had chilled the grayling’s appetite somewhat.   So I kept swapping baits with red worms, maggots and corn all getting a workout and altering the depth and speed of the float.  Anything was worth a try, just to entice a bite or two.

2 pints of maggots, sweetcorn, worms, spare hooks, shot and still room for more in the Lone Angler Bait Pouch.

2 pints of maggots, sweetcorn, worms, spare hooks, shot and still room for more in the Lone Angler Bait Pouch.

Eventually a few fish put in an appearance and I ended the day with 6 grayling to 1lb 4oz and 5 trout.  Like me Geoff also found it hard going, whilst Kevin had more success taking 12 grayling and I think 8 trout.  I’m not sure what the secret of his success was down to but he certainly finished well ahead of the field.  I don’t think any particularly big fished were landed but I lost around 12 fish with 3 being notably big.  However their identity remained anonymous as I never actually saw the culprits.  Sadly one fish in particular felt like a very big grayling indeed.

Later that night we were treated to a superb meal in the local pub and washed down with perhaps the finest real ale produced in England; Timothy Taylor Landlord!  Wow what a pint of ale that is, my absolute favorite.   Early the next morning we left the cottage and headed off to our final destination.  This section was around a mile long and again abounded with twists and turns and long gravel glides galore.

I achieved early success taking a couple of nice grayling and several big trout including a really big brownie of around 4lbs.  I enjoy searching a river and so spent the day swim jumping and trying to cover as much water as possible.  This helps to map the stretch and slowly build up a picture of the beat and gain some essential knowledge of depths and likely swims.  Grayling do tend to move around a lot, so a swim may produce well in the morning but nothing later on, or vice versa!  In fact a brilliant swim one day can be useless another.  I find it best to keep exploring and fish several swims in a day.  I think it’s worth persevering in a swim if you think it looks like it’s got potential, so give it an hour or so before moving on.

I kept a trickle of maggots going in on every cast and today maggots seemed to produce the most bites.  Worms and sweetcorn caught just a couple of fish.  By the end of the day I had landed 9 grayling to 1lb 7oz and 6 trout.  I lost around 4 or 5 grayling that I saw and a few that I didn’t.  Geoff was also struggling a bit but towards the end of the session he came up trumps with a new PB; a grayling of 2lb 5oz.  Meanwhile Kevin was yet again top rod, taking 13 grayling and a number of trout.  More significantly he manged fish of 1.12, 1.14, 1.14, 1.15 and a beauty of 2.4, five stunning fish.  He just seemed to have the knack over the last couple of days and put Geoff and I to shame.

Geoff's new PB 2lb 5oz

Geoff’s new PB 2lb 5oz

So our time here had come to an end.  It certainly showed promise and we are looking forward to many more trips here over the remainder of the season.

Kevin's 2lb 4oz Grayling

Kevin’s 2lb 4oz Grayling

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Andy Frances kindly gave the green light to me arranging a grayling fish-in for the guys on BFW.  A good, central location was needed and so Britford on the Hampshire Avon at Salisbury was selected.  We just had to hope the weather was kind to us and that the river conditions would suit our target species.

Luckily the weather was good and river conditions were excellent.  Sadly on the day a very cold, strong wind made things a little tricky but certainly didn’t deter those that attended.

The idea was for me to arrive at Britford around 7am and prepare the teas and coffees for the attendees.  Of course these things always have to have some degree of disaster and so it was, through bad planning on my part, that we didn’t arrive until 8am!!  Still a few remained for a cuppa, whilst the others headed off to start their campaign.

We had a reasonable attendance, with around 15 of us.  The cream of the crop you might say.  Then again you might not!  It was good to see some familiar faces and meet a few new ones.  That’s the great thing with these sort of days.  You can put names to faces and create a much more friendly atmosphere on the forums.

Stuart Wilson was on hand to take our money, oh and give help and advice to those that wanted it.  He’s an absolute star and couldn’t have been more helpful and I’ve got a bottle of malt whisky to give him the next time we meet, well if I haven’t ‘enjoyed’ it by then.

So we all headed off to target the grayling or roach or chub or dace, whichever you wanted or ended up with.  Reports kept coming throughout the day from different sources.  It was proving to be tough, probably due to the cold, strong wind making float presentation difficult.

Before I’d even left the carp park young Mt Tucker (chubby to his friends, although I can’t think why) was into a pike on the dead bait gear.  It turned out to be a feisty jack of about 6lbs.  I headed off upstream to feeder fish the carrier, hoping for a few roach.  Sadly I gave up as the tip was just bouncing around all over the place and it was almost impossible to detect a bite.  So I headed off to the main river and started to catch pretty much straight away.  Wading does make a big difference here as you can target the runs that are difficult to fish from the bank.  So I ended up with 10 grayling to maybe 12/13 oz, 25-30 dace to maybe 8 or 9 ounces and a chub of around 2.8lbs.

On returning to the carp park we all gathered to share the successes and stories of the day.  Ian T ended the day with 4 pike to 11½lbs and Crooky a couple of jacks and some grayling and bits on the float.  It sounded like pretty much everyone had a good day with the likes of Medway Kev taking 13 trout to 4lbs (ish).  Perhaps the days top rod award should go to Graham Elliott who we all know is a barbel angling God and proved his angling skills by taking 5 good chub and a roach of  1½lbs.  Sadly though he lost a very big roach, which fell off the hook whilst heading to the net, as they have a habit of doing unfortunately.  He estimated it to be about 2½lbs.  I think it was Steve Sorrell that had over 90 dace including some very good fish too.

So we headed off to the Bull Inn at Downton for a pint (courtesy of Mark Nicholls, what a gent) and a bite to eat.  The usual fishing banter ensued, perhaps a little lighthearted mickey taking but above all a nice end to what was a really enjoyable day.

So a big thanks to all those that took part and in particular to Andy Frances of Barbel Fishing World.  Oh and to Keith Speer for proving he is human after all 🙂

Check out Barbel Fishing World for yourself:

BFW

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With the recent run of mild weather, Geoff and I both felt it was worth taking a break from the usual winter roach/grayling fishing and having a bash at the barbel again.  So on Wednesday we headed to Aldermaston on the Kennet.  It was a bit colder than earlier in the week and the wind was biting.  The river looked good.  It had a touch of colour and looked to be up since our last visit back in about October.

The Kennet

I opted for a mobile approach whilst Geoff decided to stick it out in one swim.  I went for the boilie and paste wrap method and I think Geoff swapped around with baits a little.  He also used two rods to my one (although I did use 2 in one particular swim).  I ended up fishing four swims, all with similar results: bugger all, the same as Geoff but at least he didn’t trudge up and down the river all day, like what I did!

I had one halfhearted bite, which was probably a chub, otherwise the only thing moving the rod tip was the gale force winds!  I suppose the highlight of the day was seeing a couple of Red Kites wheeling overhead and a couple of Roe deer in the adjacent field.  However it got progressively colder as the day wore on.  By early evening it was bloody freezing, so we packed up and headed to the Reading services for some well earned fish and chips.  Well, we had to get something remotely fishy in the end.

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The rain of the previous day was bound to have an effect on either water clarity or levels, if not both.  Luckily the river didn’t rise but it was very coloured.  We were at least heading to a stretch that we were familiar with.  Over the next three days we would be fishing a stretch of approximately 2½ miles in length.  This is a tributary of the Wye and is home to some very good grayling fishing.

Geoff's '2'

Due to the wet conditions, access to either the middle or lower car parks would be virtually impossible.  So we parked at the very top of the fishery.  This would involve a considerable walk to some of the spots that we hoped to fish but at least we might walk off a few of those breakfast calories. Over the following few days we walked pretty much the entire fishery a couple of times a day, or at least that’s what it felt like.

We need a bigger float

This section sits in a beautiful valley, surrounded by hills.  It really is God’s own country.  With Red Kites, Buzzards, Ravens and dippers, there was plenty to keep the ornithologists amongst us quite engrossed.  The weather had improved although it got very breezy as the week went on, which made for quite a challenge.  The idea was for the four of us to explore and hopefully find a few hot pegs, as well as fishing some that we had already discovered in the past.

We found ourselves leapfrogging each other up and down the river. Wading on the first day was made a little tricky due to the colour but we all took care and encountered no problems.  Over the next couple of days the colour dropped out and by Thursday, viability was much improved.

Beautiful

We all did reasonably well, taking lots of good quality grayling on all three days.  We found some very good, productive spots and visited some old favourites, with all providing a few decent fish.  I would say the vast majority of the grayling caught were between 1lb and about 1lb 12oz, with a lot around the 1lb 8oz mark, so a very good average size.  The sort of quality you would once of expected of the upper Kennet, Hampshire Avon, Test and Itchen.

I think most days we each got into double figure catches but again the gold medal goes to the Grayling King: Geoff.  His best day was 28 grayling to 2lb 1oz, so congratulations and you’re not coming on the next trip Geoff.  Dan, Kevin and I all caught well but couldn’t quite emulate Geoff but did end up with 16 or 17 on at least one day.

It's not always size that matters.....

Oh and we also managed to get the cars stuck in the mud on the middle car park track.  It’s probably about 1/2 mile long and quite narrow and slippery, with a few sheer drops.  I got stuck about half way but miraculously managed to reverse my way back up the slopes and out of trouble.  Kevin was stuck right at the bottom but a little bit of brute force on Geoff’s part got him moving again.  Never get complacent or blasé about winter tracks, even when they are mainly gravel!

So we ended our three days here having enjoyed some pretty hectic sport at times, despite the poor conditions.  Luckily swapping baits and playing around with the set-up and holding back quite hard on the float, all helped to make the most of the difficult conditions.  We thoroughly enjoyed the venue, as always.  There is such a mixture of features to fish.  Lots of riffles, islands, gravel runs and glides, deep pools and slacks that you are kept busy just exploring.  The scenery and wildlife further enhances what is a truly memorable experience.

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Grayling fishing is a real passion of mine.  I thoroughly enjoy those crisp, winter mornings when the ice sparkles in the sunlight.  We haven’t had much ice of late and that’s possibly not a bad thing, especially considering what happened around this time last November.  The weather of late has been pretty mild.

Four of us had booked a cottage just outside of Builth Wells and we were treated to yet another superb property of the very highest standard.  The owners; Richard and Jane, were wonderful.  We joined them for breakfast at the farmhouse on 2 mornings.  Oh boy, what a breakfast.  A full Welsh cooked breakfast on both occasions.  Two rashers of delicious bacon, 2 Welsh sausages, 2 beautifully fried eggs, fried bread, mushrooms and tomatoes, plus toast, cereal and some excellent Welsh tea. God knows what my cholesterol is like now!  I have to say it was possibly the best cooked breakfast I’ve ever had.

The Wye

Anyway enough of the food already.  On to the fishing.  We were splitting the week between two rivers-the Wye and one of its tributaries.  Both rivers can be fairly prolific and both can produce big fish, given the right conditions.  Sadly on the Sunday night prior to our arrival the skies had opened.  Still, on arrival we found the Wye in good sorts.  It was quite a wide stretch, with a mixture of the usual shallows, deep glides and runs.  It looked good for wading, which we all enjoy.

The weather forecast was for some heavy rain, but at that point we seemed to be OK.  This is quite a long stretch and it was time to explore.  The fishing is simple trotting tactics.  Between the four of us I’m certain our set-ups were pretty much the same.  Rods were 14′, centrepin reels, mainlines of about 3-4lbs, floats in an assortment of styles but all around similar weights.  Baits were to be maggots, worm and corn.

The local toboggan run

We each found a swim to our liking and the fishing began in earnest.  I find this sort of fishing so exciting.  You really don’t know what to expect.  On these particular stretches there is always a chance of a really big grayling and that’s what we all hoped to come into contact with over the next 5 days.  I waded out about mid river and fished a fast run about 3/4 of the way across.  Sadly I only had 1 bite and that resulted in losing what felt like a very good fish.  At this point Kevin wandered upstream to tell me he had just caught his first grayling.  It was a magnificent fish of 2lb 10oz! Wow, what a start.  A new PB for Kevin and a tantalizing glimpse at what this part of the Wye has to offer.  What other unknown monsters swam in these waters?  Sadly at this point the rain started.  It got worse and worse and rained pretty much for the rest of the day.  We were all soaked through and so packed up a little earlier than expected.

Kevin's 2lb 10oz Grayling

I think we all caught some nice fish.  Geoff caught the most, with around 16 or 17 I think.  The rest of us mere mortals managed considerably less but they were all a good average size.  Most of the fish seemed to be in the 1lb-1.8lb bracket.  So it was off to the cottage for a spruce up followed by a very healthy fish and chip supper.

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I always look forward to a day on the upper Hampshire Avon. It’s a beautiful, narrow and intimate river in its upper reaches. During the summer months the river is a colourful mix or fauna and flora and thick, flowing ranunculus dominates as it thrives on the gravels in such a vibrant and healthy environment.

During the winter months the weed generally dies back and those magnificent gravel runs become accessible to the winter float enthusiast. With so many mouth-watering swims, runs and features to fish, you really do feel like a kid in a candy store.

The depth varies throughout. There are numerous deep runs, a few deep depressions (cue Marvin from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!) and the usual mix of shallows and riffles. There are plenty of overhanging trees and bushes to offer sanctuary to the fish. So all in all we have a wonderful fishery for those cold winter days, when the ice sparkles on both grass and leaf.

We had decided to target the river a little earlier than our usual visits. This has coincided with some decent rain of late and much milder temperatures. On arrival, we found the river had risen since Geoff visited here a few weeks ago, whilst visiting his daughter in Somerset. The water was also a little coloured. The weed was still prevalent and this made for some very difficult fishing. Had the water been a little clearer, Kevin and I could have seen the clear runs through the ween. Sadly this was not possible, so it was trial and error. Mainly error on my part, I might add!

The Avon

Kevin got off to a good start. He found a short run over some marginal ranunculus. After a couple of hours he had managed a few trout and grayling to over a pound. Meanwhile I was struggling to find a clear run. I did entice a couple of small trout to take the maggots and then bumped off a couple of fish, but overall was struggling. Added to this a couple of nightmare tangles around the internal workings of two centrepins, resulting in damaged line and thus resulting in a need to re-tackle, didn’t help things.

So it was soon time for lunch and a change of plan. Kevin’s swim had gone quiet and so we both went for a wander. We re-visited a swim that I had tried earlier on in the day. Kevin’s Polaroids helped in spotting fish, mine were left at home somewhere. Throwing in small quantities of maggots soon had some nice fish boiling on the surface. Kevin ran his float through the middle of them time and time again, but the fish just didn’t want to know. Yet they continued to boil on the surface when the free bait was thrown in.

Luckily I had worn my chest waders and so manged to wade in above the fish, which would enable me to hold the float back hard, as it passed through the feeding fish. I was sure this would illicit a few bites. I removed the dropper shot and moved the bulk shot up to the float. Maggots didn’t seem to work, so I tried a piece of corn. This produced a fish straight away. Then I bumped a couple off before managing another trout and then a grayling. The swim seemed to die after that. I tried a few more spots, taking another few fish here and there. Kevin’s catch rate had slowed down a little too.

Typical Avon Brownie

In the end Kevin went down to a 2lb hooklink and an 18 hook with a single maggot. Each trot had to coincide with 3 or 4 maggots being thrown in at the exact spot. Lots of very fast bites ensued, many of which couldn’t be hit. Kevin did manage a couple more fish before the light faded. I had already admitted defeat. I think I ended up with maybe 8 fish and Kevin about 15 I think. A tough day at what is normally a very prolific venue.

We were lucky with the weather, despite the forecast and the dark, foreboding skies on our journey up. We enjoyed the day and the company (well on my part anyway) and look forward to returning once the hard winter frosts have taken care of the weed.

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As the evenings draw mercilessly in and the frosts creep over the land, it’s time to hang up the barbel rods for a while and head to one of the countries great chalk streams, the Hampshire Avon.  It’s a river shrouded in history and endless tales of mythical giants are regaled in the local hostelries.

It is a magical river and one that I’m proud to say I fish on a regular basis.  I still feel I don’t fish it enough and I’m sure the day will eventually come, when I end up joining Christchurch Angling Club but only when I can do it justice and that time is not now.

Britford Dawn

Still, today Geoff and I headed down through the Wallops to Britford.  The river here lies in the shadows of Salisbury Cathedral, which gives it an almost hallowed feel and rightly so.  For those that know of the Avon in this region, they will be aware of the treasures that it contains.  Visit the river in the height of the summer, when the waters are gin clear and you’ll soon see why this river is so famous.  With a little patience, discretion and some Polaroids you’ll soon be spotting huge roach and dace.  The old river also contains a healthy stock of grayling up to specimen sizes and with the odd decent chub, a few barbel and plenty of trout thrown in for good measure, it makes this quite a mixing pot.

The Cathedral

As we arrived at the river, the late autumn mists hung in the fields.  The sky was clearing after a night of rain and there was still a dampness in the air.  Still, the sun was beginning to break through, so the day held some hope of decent weather.  We took a wander down to the river, expecting it to be up a little and with a touch of colour.  We were surprised to find the old river still gin clear and very low.  There was still thick, flowing ranunculus evident throughout the river system, which would make for some tricky float fishing conditions.

So on went the waders and I headed off in search of a few grayling and dace.  I found numerous deep runs in between the weed.  I had set-up my trusty Drennan float rod and coupled that with my Young’s pin.  The line was a little on the heavy side for this sort of fishing, but I had not brought another reel with lighter line on.  Ideally I would like to have used around a 2lb 6oz mainline.  So I had to make do.  I spent the morning wading along the river and fishing all the likely runs.  The fishing was tricky due to the density and abundance of weed but nevertheless I started catching from the word go.

Two red maggots seemed to do the trick, on a very light float set-up.  First up were a couple of nice grayling and shortly followed by some reasonable dace.  Nothing big mind you.  Grayling to about 10oz and dace to 5 or 6oz.  By now they were coming thick and fast.  Each new spot produced a few bites, before the inevitable presence of the minnows became known. Once they come every cast, I will move.

It is wonderful wading out into the river.  You find all the deep runs and gullies.  Even slight depressions are easily found and a mental note made for future reference.  It amazes me how close you can catch fish to where you are wading.  The fish rarely take any notice.  After a while and several moves, I had taken about half a dozen grayling, and couple of dozen dace to about 8oz, 2 enormous gudgeon and countless minnows.  I decided after lunch to fish for another hour and then have the last 2 or 3 hours on the main river, above the sluices.

Grayling

Geoff was sticking it out for the roach but as they often do, they were not playing ball.  Surprise, surprise!  I wandered upstream and found a nice swim, with a reasonable depth and not too much weed.  The swim produced plenty of dace over the next hour or so, including the best of the day, a fish of about 9oz.  As the light was beginning to fade, I decided to head downstream and try for some roach.  Again wading out into a likely spot by some alders, the first trot through produced a bite.  This time something much bigger was banging away on the end.  I guessed it was either a British record roach or possibly a chub.  After a nice scrap the fish turned out to indeed be a very nice chub of 4lb+.  I always think if they look like a ‘5’ they are probably a ‘4’ and this is invariably the case.

As the sun started to sink below the horizon, I was getting a fish a cast.  Another grayling and lots of nice dace.  Still, eventually it was time to call it a day.  I guess I ended up with around 30-40 dace, 7 grayling and that nice chub.  Oh and fifty hundred minnows…..well that’s how it came out anyway.

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