Posts Tagged ‘trotting for 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.

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It’s that time of the year again.  After a long and reasonably dry summer the winter has finally arrived and what a mixed bag of weather conditions we’re having.  We’ve had loads of rain over the last month which has caused a certain amount of flooding in places.  Then a severe drop in temperatures has put cold rain into the rivers and made the fishing a little difficult, to say the least.  However with luck things will settle down and we can get on with some decent fishing.

November brings not only frosts, it also signals our annual trip to mid Wales for some grayling fishing.  Things have been looking considerably iffy weather wise.  The Wye has been over the banks in places during the last couple of weeks and we were keeping our fingers crossed that conditions would settle down prior to our mid November trip.   They did but only for a few days.  It always amazes me at how forecasts can change so quickly and so dramatically in a very short space of time.  Still it is called Mother Nature and we all know why! 🙂  Despite the forecast indicating that conditions should be just about spot on from Monday onwards, by the time we arrived a change was in the air.  We were met by rain on arrival, although that was expected.  In fact things improved quite quickly at first.  It was nearly lunchtime by the time we were able to commence fishing.  During the afternoon the sun came out briefly and the whole of the valley was ablaze with autumnal colour.  The hills and trees were resplendent in the sunshine, a mix of rich colours of varying hues.  It at least offered a temporary respite from the harsh conditions that were to follow.

The Wye

The Wye

It proved a tough afternoon.  Between Geoff, Dan and myself I think we had just 5 or 6 grayling, despite targeting swims that have always produced good catches in the past.  Even Kevin’s banker swim proved fickle with only 9 grayling coming to the net, although the best was a 2lb fish.  So that first few hours of our trip proved arduous but we were confident that with a settled spell of weather ahead, we would soon be amongst the fish.  How wrong we were!

The following morning we switched on the news, eager to see what lay ahead of us.  That delightful young girl on the local news channel beamed broadly in that enchanting way that they do and informed us that basically the forecast had changed and it was going to be shite.  She didn’t quite put it like that but that was how it translated.  And yet she did it with such feminine guile that we were almost grateful! 🙂

Snow was falling as we watched from the comfort of a warm sitting room.  Hot cups of teas and coffees steaming quietly which remarkably seem to ease the burden of what we were witnessing.  Still snow we could cope with.  It was rain that would be our downfall, yes that old arch enemy of the seasoned grayling angler.  High and coloured water is the kiss of death for this species and things were not looking good.  Tuesday night and Wednesday morning were now going to consist of high winds and heavy rains sweeping in across Wales.  Not only that, the rain was due to last the best part of 10-12 hours.  I think ‘bugger’ pretty much sums up our feelings at this point.  Originally the weather had looked very promising.  There was some rain forecast for Wednesday but nothing Biblical like this.  And oh boy did it rain.

Still Tuesday morning saw us tucking into a very hearty Welsh breakfast, as always provided by our excellent hosts Richard and Jane.  The accommodation provided is of a very high standard and Richard is always happy to contact his friends for us to locate beats of rivers that normally wouldn’t be available to fish.  They really are the perfect hosts and nothing is too much trouble. I can’t recommend them highly enough: www.pwllgwilym-cottages.co.uk

Pwllgwilym Cottages

Pwllgwilym Cottages

After breakfast we headed off to try the upper Severn around Newtown.  We haven’t fished in this area before but with the Severn producing some quality grayling fishing recently we felt it was time to check it out for ourselves.  The drive up was incredible.  With snow on the ground and then then the sun breaking through the clouds we witnessed perhaps the most stunning views we have ever encountered.  The drive from llandrindod Wells to Newtown winds its way up through the surrounding hills on the A483 and presents you with the most spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding valley, which is quite simply breathtaking. My only regret is we didn’t find somewhere to park so we could take some photos of this incredible view.

Upper Severn

Upper Severn

After wandering through Newtown we eventually found the tackle shop.  We managed to glean a certain amount of information from the owner, purchase the day tickets and get to the river.  Just above the footbridge we found the river to be deep and slow.  It certainly didn’t look like your typical grayling river.  However as we explored further upstream we discovered a much more enticing section.  Here the flow was much swifter and clean gravel could be seen in the shallower depths.  We were soon tackled up and fishing away.  The sun occasionally broke through the dark clouds and was interspersed with sporadic rain and snow showers.  However when the sun did break through, the surrounding trees sparkled in the winter sun.  There were just so many colours to see; coppers, browns, golds, reds and so many hues it was stunning.  It seems autumn is late this year and we were treated to one of Mother Natures finest spectacles.

Anyway back to the fishing.  It was getting late already, we didn’t commence fishing until around 12pm which was much later than we had hoped.  Because of the delay we really had to get a move on.  I had hoped to try out the Pallatrax small hydrated snails and Bloodworm and Maggot Crush groundbait today but in the rush left them in the car, which was now about a mile away from where we were fishing.  Although disappointed, I thought there would be further opportunities to put this promising bait to the test later in the week so carried on regardless.  The run I was fishing was much deeper than I at first expected.  This area was below some shallow water and dropped quite dramatically into a deep gulley.  The bottom was gravel and there was little evidence of weed.  The depth was around 6 feet and shallowed up after around 15 yards and so offered a decent trot.  First trot through and the float disappeared.  A quick, sharp strike connected to the unseen culprit.  It stayed deep and the occasional thump, thump was clearly felt as the fish headed upstream.  Then as quickly as it came it went, as the hook and fish parted company.  Still it was encouraging.  A few more trots through provided me with a couple of small grayling and a few trout.  Sport at least but I was hoping for something a little bigger.  Geoff reported a complete lack of action in his chosen spot, whilst Kevin had found a swim with some good grayling in.  He took around 14 in the end to just shy of 2lbs.

Jammed packed with nutrients - Pallatrax Bloodworm and Maggot Crush

Jammed packed with nutrients – Pallatrax Bloodworm and Maggot Crush

Pallatrax Baits

Pallatrax Baits

My day provided slow but steady sport.  I kept changing depths and baits in an effort to entice more bites.  However the fish liked the bait on the bottom and held back slightly.  By the end of the afternoon I had taken 9 grayling to around 1lb 6oz and 9 trout to around 2lb 8oz.  I lost 1 grayling at the net and a couple of big trout.  Geoff only managed 2 grayling and I think a trout.  As the light faded we decided to call it a day and head back to the cottage.  Danny had opted to remain on the Wye today and fished the town section.  Despite only fishing for a few hours after a certain amount of trials and tribulations, he managed a decent net of mainly trout plus a number of nice grayling to around 1lb 8oz.  So he was happy with that and had some entertaining stories to recount about his numerous trips to and from the river, collecting things he’d forgotten to bring or lost along the way!

The weather forecast that evening proved grim viewing. It seemed very heavy rain was definitely moving in early hours and would remain until Wednesday lunchtime. Still despite this we thought we’d actually give it a go on the Wednesday.  The rain eased off by late morning with the sun braking through the gloom and so we headed to the town section of the Wye.  However not only was the weather shocking, there were two anglers in the spot we had hoped to fish.  What is the world coming too, I ask you?!  What a bloody cheek.  Two blokes in our swim.  Bring back the birch, hard labour and yes, even the death penalty for people like this.  However the river was rising even as we fumed at our misfortune.  The levels crept over the banks and started to spill into the trees.  The river had that muddy look and it was like a cabbage broth made with leaves, and I mean millions of leaves.  Every cast resulted in a hooked leaf.  Brown ones, red ones, yellow ones, every conceivable colour and shape and all on the end of my hook at one point (pun intended 🙂 ) or another.   Incredibly I actually hooked a fish, which typically and in good old “that’s just my bloody luck” type fashion, twisted and shed the hook after a few seconds.

It was time to go.  The fishing was by now almost impossible and I had to keep moving my tackle (ooh er missus) to stop it from being submerged in a quickly rising river.  It seemed appropriate that night to indulge in a little ‘surf and turf’ at the excellent local hostelry.  A big sirloin steak, scampi and some superb  tempura prawns with chips, mushrooms, onion rings and tomatoes helped to settle me down after such a trying day.  Oh and of course a pint of the local bitter helped too.

The next day was a right off.  The river was bank high and heavily coloured although the Irfon looked much better. It was still high but seemed to lack the murky colour that ruins grayling fishing.  We had expected to call it a day and head home early, however we now felt we might just squeeze in the last day on the Irfon.  As we’d come all this way it was worth taking the chance.

Sadly the final day didn’t live up to our expectations. The river was remarkably clear despite the amount of rainfall, however it was a little high and pushing through.  We explored around a mile and a half of beautifully wild water and yet we couldn’t muster a bite.  The sun had come out today and the whole place was awash with every conceivable colour and hue.  It was a stunning spot to end our visit.   We persevered until around mid afternoon and by the end 3 of us had caught a solitary grayling each.  They were all over a pound with the biggest around 1lb 12oz but that was it.  It was time to say goodbye to Powys and head home.

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Wow, this year just seems to have flown by.  It didn’t seem that long ago that I was in Wales in those Arctic conditions back in February, battling snow in the south east and incredible sub zero conditions in Wales.

This time around we wasn’t so lucky.  I wish it had of been -8c again but instead it was the wet stuff that proved to be our downfall.  On arrival at the river on our first day in Wales, conditions looked pretty good.  The river was in good sorts with a nice level and colour.  The fishing was a little slow for me but I managed a few nice fish to about 1lb 8oz.  We hadn’t been there very long when the rain started.  It wasn’t particularly heavy, more of an irritation really and quite windy.

I was having one of those very impatient days and this really is one of my biggest faults.  There are days where if I don’t catch within 10 or 15 minutes or at least get a few bites, I start to loose interest.  I find it hard to settle into a swim and find myself quite restless.  This often proves detrimental to my fishing, rarely giving the swim a chance to produce.  This was borne out by my poor performance in one swim, only for Geoff to go in 30 minutes latter and take a shed load of grayling.  I think where grayling are concerned a good 30 – 45 minute attack on a swim is about right.  If there are grayling resident or at least in close proximity of your swim, you should be catching within that time frame.  Ten to fifteen minutes really isn’t enough!

As the rain set in we all agreed enough was enough and we called it a day and headed off to the cottage.  As usual we were greeted by our hosts and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and generous help with fishing venues.  Their local knowledge and contacts have proved invaluable.

The following day we headed to a new river, another tributary of the Wye.  It was a beautiful, narrow and intimate river.  It wasn’t particularly deep but had a nice flow and plenty of   features.  There appeared to be a deep run in the margins and the river shallowed towards the opposite bank, a feature that seemed to extend to most of the section that Kevin and I fished.  Geoff and Danny had decided to try another short section a little further upstream.

My initial attack failed to produce a bite after about 40 minutes and so I decided to wander downstream.  I found Kevin in a lovely looking spot on a deepish bend.  He hadn’t had a bite but shortly after I dropped in some way below him, he lost a very big grayling at the net.  At least we knew there were fish here and obviously of a good stamp.

It wasn’t long before Kevin was into another decent grayling and he called me up to photograph his capture; a pristine fish going 2lb 2oz.  The colours were absolutely stunning and the fish was in perfect, mint condition.  Just a magnificent grayling.  Kevin needed to walk back to our starting position to grab our bags and get his camera.  I decided to make the most of this opportunity (with Kevin’s permission of course) and run a float through his swim whilst keeping a watchful eye on his prize.  Second trot through and wallop, fish on.  After a very exciting fight I finally managed to subdue the fish sufficiently to do a ‘John Wilson’ and pick the fish by hand from the water, having left my nets up the bank somewhere and not daring to chance landing the fish with Kev’s net and risk loosing his fish.

2lb 2oz

2lb 2oz

On Kev’s return there were two beautiful grayling in the net, like peas in a pod.  Mine proved to be the smaller of the two at 1lb 12oz but was equally as stunning.  Photo shoot over and it was back to my swim.  It wasn’t long before Kevin was in again and I had to return to his swim for another photo.  This time the fish went 2lb 7oz and was again totally stunning.  This was proving to be some river and Kevin ended up with 7 nice grayling.  My efforts proved less successful but I did manage another grayling of 1lb 12oz and lost another of a similar size at the net.  Other than a couple of trout and a dace that was it for me.  The rain had set in and the river was rising and colouring up quite quickly.  Both Kevin and I felt it was now pretty pointless carrying on.  Neither of us were getting any bites at this point and so it was time to call it a day.

2lb 7oz

2lb 7oz

We managed to get Geoff on the radio and it seemed they had struggled.  Despite fishing some really mouthwatering spots they had only managed a trout each.  Dan had become stranded on the opposite bank as the river rose quite quickly and Geoff managed to wade across but felt it was too dangerous to attempt a return crossing.  They were both wet and pretty fed up and were quite happy to pack up early.  It was quite disconcerting how quickly the river rose and by the next morning, after a night of heavy rain, the rivers were a torrent of foaming stewed tea.  More rain followed and the river Wye and it’s tributaries were at bursting point.  That was an end to the fishing and we were all understandably disappointed.

We made the most of the next day to explore fishing possibilities.  However an opportunity arose to watch the Red Kites being fed, which although some distance away, was something I was keen to witness.  On arrival there were already dozens of magnificent red kites circling overhead.  We made our way to the hides and watched the spectacle unfold around us.  We watched dozens and dozens of Kites swooping down to grab the beef offerings laid out by the local farmer.  Mixed into this spectacular were buzzards, ravens, rooks and crows.  It was really incredible to watch such magnificent birds up so close, a real treat.  Sadly none of us had brought a camera and with only my mobile phone to hand had to make do with some rather poor quality photos.

Red Kites

Red Kites

We made use of our time here to also visit the magnificent Elan Valley Dam and drive through the rugged countryside that surrounds this stunning region.  As you stand there looking up at the incredible wall of water cascading down into the river below, you feel very humble.  The Elan valley has five lakes; Caban Coch, Garreg-Ddu, Pen-y-Garreg, Craig-Goch and Claerwen reservoir and are all formed by the rivers Elan and Maytag.  The waters here provide sustainable drinking water for Birmingham and are supplied by  gravity alone, no pumps.  Quite amazing.

As the weather forecast was for worse to come and with the rivers now almost un-fishable, we took the decision to cut the trip short and return on Thursday after a hearty Welsh breakfast.  Hopefully when we return in February the weather will be a little kinder to us.


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Having managed to escape work for a few days it seemed appropriate, with the onset of winter, to head back to Wales for some early season grayling fishing.  We left Kent and the M25 corridor in thick fog.  It appeared it was going to take some time to get to Wales in these conditions and after a sustenance stop at the Swindon services, it’s generally a good 5 hour trip anyway.  However we were lucky.  Once we reached the M4 and progressed on past Reading, the fog lifted and it was plain sailing all the way.

We had decided to fish the Wye on our first morning.  We were keen to get started. As we looked across the Wye Valley, the hills were shrouded in low clouds.  It looked amazing.  It really lifts the spirits to fish in such incredible surroundings.  We couldn’t wait to get going and I headed downstream with Kevin, He headed to his favourite swim and I decided to explore a bit more, something I love doing.  It doesn’t always pay off but if I’ve gone all that way I want to explore every nook and cranny.

Kevin started as he meant to go on and caught from the off.  I dabbled here and there and never really got into any big numbers of fish.  With frequent ‘little and often’ baiting tactics you can keep quite a good shoal of grayling interested for some time, especially on a river the size of the Wye.  This generally means you can put together quite a big bag of grayling before they spook too much.  On a small river you would really need to rest the swim or keep moving.

As always the crease of the river seems to produce the goods.  Often that means wading out to mid river and fishing that distinct line that marks the edge of the main flow and that of the slightly slower flow on the inside.  With a regular trickle of bait and allowing the float to manoeuvre down this line, sometimes holding back quite hard, you should soon be picking up bites and fish.  Every now and again you’ll hit into an obviously bigger fish, although sometimes at distance.  With grayling being such feisty fighters it can be quite frustrating trying to keep them on.  They love to twist and turn, shaking their heads and utilising that huge sail like dorsal fin to full effect in the powerful flow of the upper Wye.  Often they launch themselves out of the water, thrashing their heads from side to side in a desperate attempt to shed the hook.  Often they succeed too unfortunately and of course it’s always the big fish that you lose!!

In terms of tackle I like to keep it quite simple really, especially here on the Wye as they don’t get fished for too much by coarse anglers (and they don’t come much coarser than me!). I’ll fish a stick float with around 3-6bb which I’ll bulk around 18 inches from the hook.  I will then use a dropper shot of around a number 6 or 4 around 6 inches from the hook which is generally a Kamasan B983 hook with the barb pinched down and in size 14 or 16.   Bait depends on the time of the year and what is allowed but it would mainly be maggots (red seem to be best) or small red worms.  Corn can occasionally produce a bite but nowhere near as many as the previously mentioned baits.  It’s that simple really.  In terms of float control you need to vary the presentation.  Let it runs through unhindered a few times, trying holding back occasionally, which allows the bait to flutter up enticingly in the flow.  You can even hold it back hard and quite literally inch it through the swim.  All can be deadly and you need to keep ringing the changes to see what’s the most effective.

Anyway, back to the day in question.  Despite the mildness of the day I had a distinct chill in the bones and it seemed to get worse as the day wore on.  Neither Geoff nor Kevin could really understand why I was so cold.  Eventually I worked it out.  My waders had a leak in the right leg and I was soaked from the upper thigh down.  As this wasn’t due to incontinence it had to be a hole in the waders.  Luckily it was quite late in the day when I discovered this, so I stopped fishing for the last hour.  Besides which Kevin had emptied the river and I was feeling decidedly inadequate.

We headed off to Richard and Jane’s to settle in to the cottage.  As always they were tremendously welcoming and we booked ourselves in for a full breakfast the next morning.  We were all cream crackered and so after a decent hot meal we decided to call it an early night and I slept like a log 🙂

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Thought I’d have a cheeky pre BFW grayling day at Britford this week.  It was the four Musketeers in action; Kevin (Aramis), Dan (Athos) and Geoff (Porthos…or Poor Sod)  and of course myself.

Conditions were good and I just hope they stay that way for February’s visit on the 15th.  The river level has increased since the drought like conditions of earlier last year but the level is still perhaps a foot down.  The clarity was good, with just a hint of colour.

It looked like a good day for maggots and worms.  I headed off to the lower section, below the lower sluices, for a dabble and immediately hooked and then lost a big chub.  I stayed in the area for a while and managed to loose another fish (yes, very careless, I know) and then banked a small brownie.

So, along with Kevin, I decided to start making my way upstream.  Both Kevin and I decided to drop into a few likely looking swims along the way.  The river is still fairly low but we found some nice runs.  The dace were throwing themselves on the hook.  I couldn’t begin to guess how many we caught between the four of us.  Most of them were fairly small but later in the day a few better quality ones showed themselves.

I couldn’t seem to find any grayling and neither could Dan, despite our best efforts.  Kevin started to catch a few to a pound+ and lost one particularly good fish at the net.  He said it looked every bit a 2 pounder.  Great shame.  Britford does hold some stonking grayling but they are few and far between at that sort of stamp.  Kevin sadly lost two other big fish afterwards, which is starting to get a bit careless, if you ask me.  Hard luck Kevin, we have all experienced it and it’s bloody frustrating.

Stuart the river keeper was on hand as always offering advice on swims.  He put me in a swim that provided me with half a dozen nice grayling to just short of the pound mark.  Geoff found a few decent chub and some grayling and Kevin’s swim dried up.  Dan finished on a high taking some very good quality dace on breadflake.

A reasonable day as ever at Britford, where fishing is always enjoyable and offers the tantalizing opportunity of some very big fish.

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