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Posts Tagged ‘Long trotting’


I might be wrong but roach seem to be making a bit of a comeback, despite the odds.  In particular there are quite a few rivers that seem to be producing good numbers of red-fins including the odd clonker over the last season or two.  Good news for us river anglers.

It's quality roach like this that keeps me coming back for more!

It’s quality roach like this that keeps me coming back for more!

I headed to Hampshire for a spot of chalk stream roaching.  There is a good mixture of water here; from deep pools to shallow, gravel runs, and long glides to tackle.  We started off in a deep pool that shallowed up and ran off onto fast flowing gravels of just a few inches deep.  A large piece of breadflake and a feeder packed with crumb was the tactics of choice.  We picked the edge of the crease.  Casting needed to be precise, a little off the mark and the roach didn’t want to know.  We both managed a couple of nice pound plus roach, quite a few grayling and the odd trout.

We decided to move and I fancied a go on the float.  Light tackle was set-up and a spot chosen.  The area just below an island offered up a nice long crease to fish.  The depth was good; probably 5ft of mainly gravel with the odd spot of weed.  A few trots down sorted the depth and just holding back the float slightly allowed the bait to trickle down the run.  The swim looked perfect but it does hold a few pike and once a few small roach and dace started to come to the net the pike moved in.  Despite this the biggest dace was probably around 10oz and finally the float buried and that tell tale jagging indicated a better roach.  After an exciting fight, with a big pike following the roach almost to my feet (I was wading to just below the waist), I finally netted my best roach of the day.  At 1lb 7oz it wasn’t headline news but was a belter of a fish.  It certainly made my day.

By now it was 2pm and so we decided to head back up to the mill pool.  Again targeting a particular area with flake and breadcrumb.  More grayling, dace and trout followed but eventually a nice roach fell to my fishing companion’s rod.  It was 1lb 10oz and made a nice accompaniment to his earlier fish of 1lb 9oz and  several more 1lb+ roach followed that one.  I managed to tempt a nice fish of approximately 1lb 4oz.  By now the light had faded and it was almost 5.30pm.  My quiver tip bent right round and on striking a large roach broke the surface.  This was followed by raised and rather excited voices.  Things like “please don’t come off” and “don’t go to hard on it”, “Oh God please don’t come off”, “watch out for the weed”, “walk back, walk back” and “come on, come on, get it in the net”!!  We both sounded like a couple of excitable school children catching their first ever fish from a local pond.

Eventually the fish was coaxed into the net and hoisted out to the wonderment of our eyes.  It looked simply huge.  It had a massive frame and we slipped it into a carrier bag to weigh.  The scales were zeroed and it was that time.  We both looked at this magnificent, pristine roach and both thought it looked 2lb 8oz – 2lb 12oz.  Well it didn’t quite live up to those ambitious estimations, however at 2lb 4oz it was a new PB and an absolute minter.

2lb-4oz

2lb-4oz

My hands were still shaking during the photographing of this magnificent specimen and the smile will last for a very long time.  We slipped her back and with a powerful kick of her tail she disappeared back into the dark pool.  We carried on for a while but only big sea trout seemed to be present.  We had managed to tempt lots of roach with around 10-12 over a pound.  Not a bad days fishing really! 🙂

 

 

 

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I was very privileged to be invited to fly fish a delightful syndicate water in Penshusrt last Spring by a fellow piscator.  It is a lovely spot in the shadows of Penshurst Place and takes up a minuscule part of Penshurst’s 2500 acres of formal gardens, woodlands and parkland.  Although only a tiny part of this grand and ancient estate, the setting is beautiful and seems very secluded despite its proximity to the main house.

Penshurst Place

Penshurst Place

I’m no fly fisherman but I do enjoy thrashing the water to a foam occasionally and Peter Bentley was the perfect host.  After a few casting lessons I was free to wander and enjoy the spring delights.  Numerous changes to the fly followed throughout the day and Peter finally found one to the trout’s liking; a small black buzzer.  I swapped and it wasn’t long before the fish were hitting the fly.  We both managed to coax a few fish out and I left a wealthier man for the experience.

It was now my turn to return the favour.  I offered Peter a day trotting for grayling.  I think Peter said he had not coarse fished since his childhood but a fisherman is a fisherman.  I hoped a day on the Itchen fishing for grayling wouldn’t bore him senseless and I’m delighted to say it didn’t!  A day’s fishing isn’t the same unless a hearty breakfast is involved and our usual eating establishment was the port of call.  The breakfast is ideal to keep you going for the remainder of the day.

A good quality centrepin

A good quality centrepin

We arrived at the river around noon and began the laborious process of getting the waders on and all of the other usual apparel before heading off to the river.  I think Peter was pleasantly surprised by the Itchen.  I guess that’s hardly surprising; it’s a beautiful, fast flowing river that winds its way through some lovely countryside. I think what really amazed him was the fact that so much of the river offers free fishing.  We wandered the river a little bit but settled for a really nice long glide that angled away from a long sweeping bend.  With the waders on we were able access the river and trot the perfect line.

I attempted to demonstrate to Peter the art of trotting with a centrepin.  As a fly fisherman Peter was pretty much used to the concept of a pin and now it was just a case of familiarizing himself with the reels action. The key was to ensure the line came off the reel with a controlled motion.  It’s imperative to keep a very slight pressure on the reel’s drum so it doesn’t over-spin resulting in the line spooling off the reel in a huge tangle.  It also allows you to strike whilst using the thumb as a break.  There is no need to use your other hand to feed line, a good centrepin will need no assistance there, unless the flow is barely discernible.

I have to say that after a very short demonstration Peter was soon trotting reasonably well.  I left him with some maggots and corn and wandered off to have a dabble myself.  The river was a bit higher and more coloured today after quite heavy overnight rain.  It didn’t look ideal and judging by the results, it had obviously affected the fishing.  I managed to tempt a few grayling from the top of the beat but nothing of any size.  I noticed Peter was talking to Geoff, who had wandered upstream and they looked like they had just landed a fish.  It turned out to be Peter’s first grayling and a very worthy one too at 1lb 8oz.  Not a bad fish for this stretch.

Success

Success

It didn’t take too long to add a few more to Peter’s tally including another fine fish over a pound.  Peter seemed genuinely delighted with his day and the method of catching them.  Fly fisherman are used to constantly doing things; casting, moving, changing flies and looking for fish.  Trotting is also a very active method and can so often involve being in the water as well as changing baits, depths, shotting patterns and floats and of course working the float through the swim at different speeds and lines.  I think Peter found it a very rewarding method and I could see him doing it more frequently.

As the day drew to an end I decided to try a deep run of around 6-7ft that I had found by wading upstream.  A few trots through this hidden spot produced a quick result.  The float buried and the fish on the other end felt very heavy and fought hard.  It thumped solidly on the end of the line.  I had a couple of problems; no net and I wasn’t near an accessible bank.  As I drew the fish close I realised it was a really decent grayling.  I managed to hand it out and only just managed to keep hold of it.  I had no scales and no bag either to weigh it in.  I don’t think it would have gone 2lbs but it wasn’t far short; maybe 1lb 12oz-1lb 14oz.  A very nice fish to end the day on.

Geoff had managed to tempt a few fish too and Martin Porter had also turned up for a go and he too winkled a few out.  I haven’t seen Martin for a while and it was good to catch up again.  Hopefully it won’t be so long until our next encounter. As the light faded we decided it was time to head home.  All in all a successful day and hopefully a new course fisherman has been born.  I think Peter will venture down again and I’ll be kept busy with another golf club member looking to try his hand at a spot of trotting in a week or so’s time.

 

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There is something very special about big roach. The desire to catch them seems to consume me sometimes. However finding them and spending enough time actually fishing for them, is difficult. It must be a throwback to my childhood days, catching those lovely red finned, silver bars from my local lake and the river Medway that has never really left me. As much as I love catching barbel, chub and grayling, roach still gets the adrenaline pumping and the sort of excitement levels that a kid normally only experiences on Christmas morning when Santa has been! I just can’t seem to shake it off.

For me a big roach is over a pound. At that weight they become rather special, no longer something that just gets pulled in on a couple of maggots every cast. No, the bigger specimens are harder to come by, particularly from flowing water. Of course there are a few venues that I could visit like Lochnaw Castle, Sway Lakes or Linch Hill and one day I may just do that. These days I much prefer to trot a float for them and if absolutely necessary lob out a small blockend feeder. For me it’s the venue and the method that gives me the most reward.

It's quality roach like this that keeps me coming back for more!

It’s quality roach like this that keeps me coming back for more!

There are plenty of rivers that can and do throw up some really big specimens. The Frome produces fish to over 3lbs, the Kennet still produces the odd big fish, the Hampshire Avon produces plenty of fish to over 2lbs and of course further afield the Trent and Wye both produce big fish. It’s not so much finding the rivers to target, its more of a case of finding the right stretches and then spending plenty of time trying to catch them. I seem to spread myself a bit too thin sometimes by fishing for everything, all over the country rather than concentrating on just one species at possibly one venue. Mind you that’s how I and my mates like to fish, so I’m certainly not complaining.

The Lower Itchen Fishery

The Lower Itchen Fishery

My latest effort was a venue that produced some nice roach for me last season. It was close to the end of the season last year when I heard the tragic news of Keith Speer’s passing. On that particular day it produced a magnificent 2lb 3oz fish for me. I will always remember that day because of that fish and the sad circumstances that transpired during the morning.

So I was due a return visit to the Lower Itchen Fishery, again in search of a special roach. I had a swim in mind and on arrival at the river Geoff and I were met with promising conditions. The river was a bit higher than normal and perhaps pushing through a bit harder, but with a touch of colour and very mild conditions, it looked good for a roach or two. Geoff decided to tackle the straight below the weir, whilst I headed upstream to a known holding spot.  With planes taking off from Southampton Airport at regular intervals and the M27 traffic thundering past, it was hardly tranquility personified!  However I’m used to it and actually enjoy watching the planes taking off and I hardly seem to notice the motorway traffic either.  There is a distinct lack of wildlife at the lower extremities of this fishery, however wander upstream a mile or so and that changes quite dramatically.  I’ve seen quite a few deer, owls, buzzards and an assortment of other feathered wildlife to keep even the most ardent of twitchers occupied.

A big Itchen Grayling from a few years ago

A big Itchen Grayling from a few years ago

My plan of attack was quite simple; feed in an occasional ball of groundbait laced with maggots and a good glug of Ocean Pride flavouring whilst keeping a steady trickle of loose feed going in all day. My hope was that it would eventually bring on the roach. Tackle was a 15ft float rod, centrepin reel loaded with 3lb line and a size 16 hook-to-nylon fished with either a single caster or maggot. I also had some size 18s if the fishing was proving a bit slow, however with the colour and pace I felt fishing that light unnecessary. After a cup of coffee and a toast to absent friends, I tackled up and started to trot through the swim. It was around 6ft deep and started to shallow as the swim reached the bridge around 20 yards or so downstream.

Groundbait laced with maggots, a tub of casters and a good quality bait pouch.

Groundbait laced with maggots, a tub of casters and a good quality bait pouch.

Almost immediately the float dipped and something writhed on the other end. It felt like a grayling and indeed it was. The float continued to dip most of the day and I ended up taking around 25-30 grayling to just over a pound. On around 12 occasions I hooked something much bigger, which pretty much towed me all over the river, once or twice heading towards the Solent!  They turned out to be trout of course, either brownies or sea trout up to nearly 4lbs. They were good fun to play in the flow but I don’t think they helped with the roach. Sadly, despite my best efforts, I only managed to tempt one small roach. Perhaps the flow was too much and the roach had moved, or maybe I should have fished lighter? Who knows?

I managed to hire a model for the day....yes young Danny is still going strong.

I managed to hire a model for the day….yes young Danny is still going strong.

As the light faded I had a call from Geoff who was now barbel fishing below the weir. There was a palpable air of excitement in his voice and he informed me he was playing a big barbel but was struggling to get it into the net. I reeled in and with a few bits of gear tucked under my arms, I headed downstream to Geoff. I dumped the tackle at the car and rushed round to Geoff’s aid. It was already over and a big barbel lay recovering in the net. It was thick across the back and looked comfortably a double. We both thought it looked 12-13lbs however the scales recorded 11lb 5oz. It was a lovely, well conditioned fish and without a doubt the highlight of the day. It was also Geoff’s first Itchen barbel and a day he won’t forget in a hurry. It seemed a fitting time to end our proceedings for the day and head back home. We’ve had some great sport at the Lower Itchen Fishery over the years and although our visits here are few and far between these days, we still enjoy our time here and it can still throw up something a bit special occasionally.

Geoff's magnificent 11lb 5oz barbel.

Geoff’s magnificent 11lb 5oz barbel.

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The Itchen Valley offers the chalk stream angler some of the best grayling and trout fishing in the country.  The run of salmon may not be what it once used to be but they do still show in reasonable numbers.  The Itchen starts it’s life in Mid Hampshire near the village of Cheriton before heading north and then south through the historic city of Winchester.  Winchester dates back to certainly the 1st century BC.  It became a Roman settlement and later fortifications were added and Winchester’s importance was set in stone, if you’ll pardon the pun!  The cathedral grew in significance and the city later became the home of one of England’s most famous kings; Alfred the Great.

Winchester Cathedral - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Winchester Cathedral – Courtesy of Wikipedia

After Winchester the river flows south to join the Southampton Water below the Itchen Bridge in Southampton.  Between Woodmill and the upper reaches the fresh water provides some exciting opportunities for the coarse angler.  Pretty much all species can and are caught from these crystal clear waters; barbel, chub, pike, perch, roach and of course grayling.  The roach grow to exceptional sizes and I’ve seen chub to over 6lbs caught and barbel well into double figures.  All in all its a great place to while away a few hours trotting a float.

An Itchen Roach

A 2lb+ Itchen Roach

Geoff and I have been fishing the middle Itchen on and off over the last few weeks.  Sadly due to the exceptionally wet and windy conditions these trips have been few and far between.  Luckily the Itchen copes quite well with heavy rain and both the levels and colour improve very quickly, although it does have to stop raining at some point for it to do so.

These recent trips have provided plenty of action as always.  It would be almost impossible to blank here I think.  Often we end up with a really good bag of grayling and trout.  Our latest 2 trips couldn’t have been more different though.  The first saw us tackle our usual stretch from around 10.30am.  We always start with a cooked breakfast in a very nice local cafe that has a roaring wood burner to keep you toasty on those cold frosty mornings.  The river was up and quite coloured and we know that will be more challenging.  Still we explored the mile or so section of river from one end to the other.

The water was pushing through quite hard and so a big bolo style float seemed appropriate.  I ended up using a 3g one straight through to a 16 hook.  Bait was the faithful maggot or sweetcorn, lightly nicked on.  Both of these have been tremendously successful here in coloured and clear conditions.  It’s remarkable that in one swim you’ll only catch on maggot and yet in another only on sweetcorn.  Also as the day passes, again a change from one bait to the other seems to make a marked difference.

On this particular day the fish were hard to come by.  I think that was mainly down to the heavy, tea like colouration.   Grayling are sight feeders and therefore harder to come by in these conditions.  Still we persevered.  By constant bait changing and a mobile approach, we ended up with quite a few between us although mainly on the smaller side.  I think the biggest was perhaps a pound.  We had to cover a lot of ground to keep catching and all in all managed to see most of the mile plus stretch of river.  I can’t remember the actual numbers of fish caught but it was well down on what we would normally expect.  I seem to recall around 10-15 grayling between us but it could easily be more.  The old grey matter is not what it once was I’m afraid!

The second trip this week saw improved conditions.  The river was still higher than normal but a lot of the colour had dropped out.  Earlier in the day (after breakfast of course!) we took the opportunity to check out another stretch, which sadly proved to be not so good.  We finally arrived at the river around noon.  The flow had lessened and the river was looking damn good.  I opted for a slightly smaller float; an Avon with 5bb shot and a 16 hook.  I started off in a favourite spot with double bronze maggot.  The results came after about 5 minutes of trickling bait in.  A really hard fighting and heavy fish used the flow to its full advantage.  They turn sideways into the flow and feel incredibly heavy in the conditions.  Initially I wasn’t sure what the fish was but soon that magnificent sail like dorsal cut through the surface film and gave its presence away.  This looked a good fish and after a heart in the mouth fight we netted a really decent fish.  It looked every bit 2lbs but looks can be deceptive.  It weighed 1lb 12oz and is certainly up there with the biggest specimens we have caught from here.  I followed that up with another similar sized fish but probably a few ounces smaller.

1lb 12oz Itchen Grayling

1lb 12oz Itchen Grayling

The afternoon proved to be most enjoyable.  The sun was out and it was a typical cold, frosty winter’s day.  The sort we are more used to at this time of the year.  There was a slight wind but not enough to make it unpleasant in the winter sunshine.  The water was cold though and wading almost waist deep at times had a certain time-span.  After around 20 minutes the cold got into my bones and I would have to get out and try and warm up.  I love days like these.  To me it’s what winter fishing is all about.

Geoff and I covered around half of the beat during the afternoon and some really good quality grayling came our way.  I ended up with 19 nice fish and probably a similar number of trout.  Not bad for around 4 1/2 hours fishing.  At one point I hooked a proper zoo creature.  I couldn’t budge it off the bottom and it just headed wherever it wanted.  It powered upstream until it got bored and then decided to head off towards Southampton with me in tow, chasing it down the bank until I could go no further.  Something had to give and it turned out to be the line at the hook knot.  I never saw the fish but suspect it was a decent sized salmon.  A little later on Geoff hooked something similar and the fish came out of the water like an Exocet missile,  It was indeed a salmon of around 10lbs, so my leviathan was likely to be the same.

The Itchen Valley

The Itchen Valley

This was one of those rare occasions when I managed to catch more grayling than Geoff.  That’s two consecutive sessions I’ve managed to outdo him.  It’s so rare for the maestro to be bested, I thought it worthy of inclusion here!

 

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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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Temperatures have plummeted with hard frosts and as I write this, heavy snowfall covers most of the country.  I guess this is what winters should be like.  However we are often spoiled and  end up with relatively mild winters and become a little soft when mother nature bites back.

Often at the outset of these chilly conditions few fish are keen to feed.  Once they have acclimatised, chub, roach and dace will feed quite happily.  However after that initial hard, biting frost there is only one fish that will provide the float angler with plenty of sport and that is the beautiful grayling.  No matter how cold it gets, the grayling will still feed quite voraciously at times.  So the winter float angler is very fortunate that not only is the grayling so accommodating but also that it fights fantastically well and is one of our most stunning of quarries.

At this time of the year we like to head to Hampshire and Wiltshire to fish the numerous chalk streams that abound in this region for these magnificent fish.  Today we were heading to the upper Avon.  Although a relatively short stretch, it does hold a really good head of decent sized grayling and some nice dace too.  After a good breakfast in the local cafe, we headed to the river.  It was quite high and has been since those late spring floods but worse of all it was much more coloured than we had anticipated.  Levels are never really a problem where grayling are concerned but a heavy colour in the water can be the kiss of death.  Still we were here now so had to make the most of it.

The Avon

The Avon

I opted for the carrier stream to start with.  As I tackled up a buzzard drifted by overhead and circled the meadow.  What a magnificent sight these huge majestic birds are and they offer such a nice distraction from the fishing sometimes.  Once tackled up I got as close to the waters edge as possible.  The river was quite high and the banks were partially submerged in places.  At some points the river had broken its banks and there was a heavy flow to contend with too.  Despite that there appeared to be some nice smooth glides available and there was bound to be a few grayling in situ.

I fished a heavier stick float than usual to contend with the flow, with sufficient shot to get the bait down.  This would also enable me to hold the float back and allow the bait to remain deep in the water.  First trot through and the float buried but the fish came off.  Then I hooked into a reasonable fish.  It turned out to be a trout of about 2lbs.  Often in coloured water trout are aggressive feeders and at least put a bend in the rod.  A couple more trout followed and then a very small grayling.  Nothing more was forthcoming and so I decided to have a wander.

The Avon

The Avon

The sun broke through the clouds and suddenly the grey gloom of recent weeks was lifted and the sun’s rays transformed the countryside into a bright and glittering vista.  It was so heart lifting and warming to see it again after what seems like an eternity of greyness.   I opted to fish near the main road bridge and the flow here was smoother and there was a nice deep glide to fish.  Soon a fish was gyrating in the coloured waters and it was obvious it was a grayling.  A flash of silver and the sight of the sail like dorsal fin confirmed my beliefs.  Sadly it then came off.  Typical I thought.  Still at least they were there and feeding.  I missed a few very sharp bites, which I suspect were dace before eventually banking a couple of nice grayling pushing the pound mark.  A few more trout also put in an appearance.  The fishing was slow though compared to normal and both Geoff and Kevin were also struggling to find the fish.

I kept moving and picking up the odd trout and a few more grayling.  I ended the day with 9 trout and 5 grayling.  Initially I had thought it was four but forgot about the first and rather small one that came from the carrier.  Both Geoff and Kevin had 5 grayling but very few trout.  Geoff had the best fish of the day at 1lb 6oz.  All in all not bad given the tricky water conditions but not a patch on this stretches normal results.  Once again good to be out even though Geoff nor I were in the best of health.  For me it was just the beginning of a nasty spell of the flu.

 

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No, that’s not a reference to Middle Earth and Bilbo Baggins but very much one of England’s fine chalk streams in the Shires.  Geoff, Kevin and I ventured to a new river to try our hand at the stocks of grayling.  It was a bitterly cold day, with a keen wind that could cut through granite.  The temperatures remained sub zero pretty much all day, with a wind chill factor well into the minuses.

We arrived at our venue mid morning and walked the length of the stretch.  It was a lovely, narrow chalk stream.  There was an abundance of cover from the trees and bushes and plenty of features in the river itself.  Riffles, deep gravel runs, groins and depressions all looked likely to offer some exciting fishing prospects.

Must be mad

Fortunately we had all worn chest waders and without these we couldn’t have accessed some of the best spots.  Anyway we started at the top and worked our way back down the stretch.  I must say chalk streams often look remarkably shallow, that is until you decide to go in all ‘John Wayne’ style and find yourself in over 3 feet of icy cold water.  Not only does it make you shiver, it makes you ‘shrink’ pretty damn quick too!  Gin clear water and gravel are very deceptive.  What appears to be a foot or two is often much deeper.

So after that shock I tried the swim for about 15 minutes without a bite.  I decided it was a little too deep for the grayling so moved downstream.  After a short distance I found an area that narrowed up quite considerably, creating a really nice flow over clean gravel and then it dropped into a deep run under a weeping willow.  It looked perfect.  Set-up was the usual affair: 2.6lb mainline, 16 barbless hook and a 5bb stick.  Bait was double maggot either red, bronze or a combination of both.

A few trots through sorted out the depth and I eased the baited float through by holding back fairly hard.  I missed a couple of bites and bumped a fish off but then as the float dipped out of sight I stuck into a much better fish.  After a hair-raising fight (well OK not on my head but there are other places……) I finally managed to net the culprit. It was a fine grayling that weighed 1lb 7oz and was just stunning to look at.  The colours on these fish were quite exceptional.  I took a few more fish from here including several more over a pound.

1lb 7oz

This continued on and off all day in all of the swims that I tried.  Some swims produced better than others but always with the best ones being with a good flow over clean gravel, even in fairly shallow water.  Kevin was having a similar day, although he didn’t seem to get in amongst the bigger fish.  Saying that, he still had a good few over the pound mark.  Geoff, as ever, was having a field day.  He moved into one particular swim that gave him about two dozen grayling and each subsequent move produced a few more for him.

Geoff ended the days proceedings with 48 grayling with approximately 15 or 16 over a pound and up to around 1lb 8oz.  I ended on the same number as Kevin, which was 34.  I had around 12-14 over the pound mark with numerous of those between 1lb 4oz and about 1lb 8oz.  All the fish were pretty much taken on maggot, with the exception of maybe one or two to corn.  They were also in mint condition and perhaps the nicest coloured grayling we have seen.

Considering it was our first effort here, we were delighted at the results.  Another visit should see an improvement in those catch statistics.  One thing that surprised me was how much the grayling seem to totally ignore you in the water.  This is something I have encountered before but I walked upstream through a couple of reasonably deep runs too and then trotted back down through them, catching good fish almost immediately.  It just shows that once you are in their home, they seem a lot less bothered by the angler, than they would if they spotted you on the bank.

So even in such Arctic conditions we ended up having a really good day and look forward to a return visit before the end of the season, time permitting.

A good grayling

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