November 27, 2014

Worth It

Fishing for grayling should be a gentle pursuit with relaxed fishing on a cold day, taking time out to enjoy the countryside. It should not therefore, be attritional. However, my recent trip to magnificent river Frome became just that but through the grief and grind came a moment or two of pure magic.

Day one was full of optimism and wonder at my first chance to fish this hallowed venue. I had been offered free access to a long, private stretch many years ago but, at the time was unable to take them up on it and so a golden opportunity was lost. It has rankled me for ages so here I was redressing the situation.

The weather was destined to be wet and I had forgotten to bring a brolly. No matter, I'm made of stern stuff and headed off upstream until I found a delicious looking run that screamed fish. The rain started and I chopped and changed floats to try and get perfect presentation and visibility, but never quite achieved it. I decided to move and that is when my butt ring fell off.

After the long walk back to the car, the drive to two garages in the search of insulating tape and the long trudge back to my swim, my sense of humour had taken a bash. The next hour saw it disappear completely. I'd changed reels to make casting and retrieving 'easier' than with my little 3" Hodder but my Speedia decided to fall in love with the line and hugged it tightly to the spool. The wet rod didn't help nor did me leaving out a ring when I set it up but that was soon rectified amidst Anglo Saxon mutterings.

I was aiming for a far bank run that would surely give me a bite but I never managed to trot it effectively. I had a lovely selection of floats gifted by my friend Richard who's guest I was but none of them was capable of bossing the current as the river had come up over the last couple of days. I stumbled from swim to swim getting into all sorts of tangles and mess and angrier and angrier with myself. It was cold and the rain was relentless. I decided to pull my coat zip up further to warm the top of my chest but it stuck. I swore and then swore again when the zipper popped off one side and the coat slowly opened fully leaving me colder and wetter.

I had seen a fish top in the previous swim and another in an unfishable spot but, when I eyed yet another good looking run I saw a grayling take something from the surface right in front of me. This urged me on and I eventually broke my duck with a grayling of about three ounces.

When the phone rang I was unable to answer it as the screen was wet and my fingers too cold to register on the touch screen. But it was Richard calling and as he'd left his phone in the B&B I knew he's long since given up so I quickly followed.

Day two saw us eying each other at breakfast, each waiting for the other to be the first to cast doom over the day's proceedings. But we headed to the river anyway and grimaced at the brown, turbulent and very ungrayling like conditions. "Sod it" I said, "I'm going to keep walking upstream until I find some quiet water". Richard agreed and off we set.

A few yards later we watched an Osprey fly across in front of us and disappear over some trees. It was my first Osprey in the UK and we both agreed that it must be a good omen. A few yards later the confluence between main river and feeder stream that looked bland yesterday suddenly looked perfect. "This spot is calling to me Rich, I'm going to give it half an hour" I declared. He carried on up river whilst I put my tackle together and tried to suss out the movement of the water. There was a fast run on the far bank (albeit much slower than the main river), which hit the main flow and created a long, almost dead section that eventually found its way back upstream in a back eddy.

I cast into the flow and let the float trot down then around the slower water where a gravel bank had formed. I let the float drift it's way, exploring for a fish or two sheltering from the flood. It stabbed under, reappeared then slid across the surface - I struck! I found myself playing a good fish
which I teased gingerly over the net - it was mine.

My hands shook as I slipped it into a plastic bag and onto the scales - two pounds two ounces, a new personal best and my first grayling over the magic two. I was elated and so was Rich when I rang him.

He was soon back we shook hands warmly. I offered him my swim but he politely refused. I rather suspected that there were few places that would produce today and insisted but still he declined. I stopped fishing and sat writing my diary, now Richard decided to maybe have a little go at the bottom end of my spot and, in no time at all, was playing a fish of his own. This one went two pounds three, the cad!

It was a perfect conclusion and although we fished on the river got higher and no more chances came out way. We packed much earlier than intended but were well satisfied with the result and know that in different conditions ....... well, maybe next year.

November 17, 2014

Fishing is a lot like.......

Fishing is a lot like making love to beautiful woman. When you are young you plunge straight into any available water with inadequate tackle and no experience. It doesn’t matter where or when, you just want to catch that first fish and your recklessness and ineptitude means that many desirable specimens are lost.

As your ability grows so you find an obsession for the pastime and will visit any muddy hole just for the chance of a dabble, its quantity not quality that you crave.

Ultimately, as you become accomplished, your desire to specialise comes through and your efforts are likely to be rewarded with much more success. You will be tempted by distant venues and will fish every selection of water from headland streams right down through curvaceous flood plains and even taking the odd dip into the estuary.

A time will come when you will settle on one given venue. It will give you everything you desire pretty much whenever you wish. You will explore its every inch and find certain areas that are either more productive or which are more receptive to your chosen methods. You will happily remain on this venue for many years unless you are affected by poachers or a new, fresher venue becomes easily available.

Of course there will come a time when you will still have a yearning to fish but the ability to do so will be affected by other causes. At such times you can sit back and take solace in the trials and tribulations of your past and know that when the urge is strong enough, you can choose your swim for comfort rather than ambition and just be content with being there.

I went chub fishing yesterday. I have to admit that my choice of swim was, once again, down to comfort but, in my defence, it is a very good winter chub spot. I know I’ve dripped on about my ills and have been inundated by your flood of indifference but it's my blog and I write about my exploits, and this year the ‘ills’ have had more influence on my fishing than anything else. I’ve got a couple of herniated discs and am waiting for a further hospital visit for some sort of injection procedure which ‘should’ help, and a buggered shoulder that will be operated on in the new year. That will put the kibosh on my spring and maybe some of my summer plans but hopefully (and nothing is guaranteed), I’ll then be back to paragraph four. In the meantime I shall probably bitch and moan a bit so please be gentle with me :o)

Back to the chub swim and what a glorious autumn day it was again. Unlike your average weather reporter, my life does not crumble every time a cloud covers the sun. Quite why they are so apologetic when it rains in the winter is beyond me. I think it's all to do with them sending a ‘positive message’ to try and cheer people up, perhaps they could try another way and get rid of the badly dressed anorexics and the effeminate mother’s boys and just tell the truth. 

See, told you I’d be grumpy.

Anyway, it was bleak but mild and in my chosen spot the sounds of the 21st Century rarely encroach, instead you can listen to the birds and be enthralled by the skeins of geese passing overhead in the growing gloom. There is always something happening around you when you fish and I become quite absorbed, how people fish with headphones on is beyond me.

Nothing much happened on cheese paste bar the odd rattle from minnows or gudgeon. It's odd but that’s the second time that paste has failed despite it being a great favourite of mine on the river, I’d usually fish with it with complete confidence. But once again this season, meat has saved the day. I went a few years without even opening a tin as I firmly believe it had become way too spooky for most fish to go near it but not now. Come dusk and chub cannot resist it and when fished over a bed of small pellets, a little piece of meat has been a winner for barbel. It has outfished every other bait I’ve tried.

And so I put on a little ragged lump and had a slight but positive knock and landed a chub of three pounds or so. The swim went very quiet but I was comfortable and happy to sit touch ledgering into dark when a sharp pull had me back in action. This fish scrapped well and was easily over four pounds but I slipped it back rather than faff about with a camera after dark. Like the first, it was plump, scale perfect and a pleasure to catch. I just know there’s a five pounder or two in this area and maybe even a six, but they can wait for now.

I hurt and ache in many places today but my river understands and will doubtless accommodate me again as soon as the urge returns.

November 09, 2014

Six Bloody Weeks?

Is it really six wholes weeks since I last wet a line? Its been a patchy season to say the least but today at last, I was able to get out. I had planed to visit the Vintage Tackle Fair at Redditch to catch up with some mates rather than go bargain hunting but, with a break in the weather, the river at a nice hight and a deep, deep yearning to get to the water's edge, a decision was made.

As I approached the Wye I saw flocks of Fieldfares sweeping over the orchards as a light rain fell through a lifting mist - chub time. I headed for a favoured chub hole whilst Neil went off in search of a barbel. Then the rain got harder. I was well equipped and parked with a minimal walk (quite deliberately), to my swim. Poor Neil had shunned wet weather gear as the sun had earlier shone and arrived after his long trek with wet trousers and a dour attitude to life in general.

I introduced samples of meat and cheese paste and varied my end gear to explore the crease along which I was fishing. I found that allowing the lead to roll merely found slack water full of leaves so settled on a bit more weight and fished on the crease. It was slow going but a few knocks from small stuff kept me alert. I hit one determined pull and landed a gudgeon hooked in the cheek.

The rain came and went then, as the light started to fail and as I spoke to Neil on the phone, I had a solid pull which I managed to completely miss. I cursed and Neil laughed. A couple of minutes he too had a bite only he hit his, a small chub preventing his potential blank.

The jackdaws noisily found their roost whilst the ravens gave a more solemn call as they drifted overhead. It had been a busy afternoon of bird life with long tailed tits, kingfisher, buzzards, flocks of finches and, as time progressed, an owl. Every call vivid in an environment free of the sounds of modern life and amplified by the still conditions.

By now I was using meat as the small fish were getting through the soft paste too easily. Having missed the previous bite I was now fishing it on a hair with a paste bobbin hanging from the line between the first and second rings. The current surged at times, lifting then lowering the bobbin. A swan had the same effect and received a sharp rebuke from yours truly and it eventually left me in piece.

The light was failing and the mist rose bringing a chill with it. Neil had headed for home but I was certain I'd get one eventually and I did. A steady lift of the bobbin, a gentle strike and I said out loud "That'll do". It was only a little one of barely two pounds but it brought me a huge amount of relief and pleasure.