February 28, 2015

Spring Grayling

In mid 2013 I organised a grayling competition through a forum and two lucky chaps were to accompany me and my old mate Mike Perry on a trip to the river Wylye during the winter months. Alas the weather gods had other ideas and we eventually convened at Bird and Carter farm shop for a superb full English last Wednesday. Dave and Richard were the competition winners and both were eager to wet a line having, like me, driven well over a hundred miles for the privilege. Dave had done it in his immaculate Morris Minor who's odometer turned 32000 en route.

Its fair to say that the morning was not as productive as we would have liked as the river, which 'looked' perfect, played hard to get but a few fish came to the net and the afternoon's entertainment was assured. We moved to the 'Farm Stretch' just a little area of the seven miles that the club owns but which is simply full of grayling.

As I was a ghillie for the day and have a buggered shoulder, I only dabbled when pointing out a method/swim for the guests but I still had fish. Dave experienced the heart break of a big fish only spot where he missed a couple of bites but successfully landed a stick that put them down. However, when we all met at the bridge pool is was like those halcyon days of our youth when Dave and I ended up sat on the bridge, legs swinging above the flowing chalk stream and watching a little float drifting thirty or more yards below..... until it disappeared time and time again. Dave's old Alcock Isis bent well as a fish was hauled back from the next county to be met by two beaming men in their element.

Meanwhile Rich and Mike were making a mighty catch amongst the shoal that sits in a little eddy and the day was filled with the banter that easy fishing provokes. It was great fun.


Two days later and I was back, this time with my good friend Bunny with whom I haven't fished for about a year due to the weather and my annoying health issues. Anyway, we filled up on another breakfast and set about putting the long absence to rights. Poor Bunny, he puffs and wheezes like an old train and had to take a few stops along the short stroll to the first swim but he never stopped smiling well, he rarely does .... unless he's discussing immigration or the government.

The swim was known to me and one that we had been unable to fish the other day. Its simply full of grayling that queue up for red maggots all day long and when the sun hid behind a cloud for half an hour the average size vastly grew. Once Bunny was catching I decided to go for a wander downstream and fish for as long as my shoulder would allow. Stopping just long enough to tie a new hook for the old bugger I dropped into a lovely run and tossed a few maggots in - left handed.

It was one of those swims where virtually every cast brought a bite, most bites brought a fish and each fish brought a smile. I took a quick snap of the first as it was the first on that rod, a Lucky Strike just back from being refurbished by Andy Sliwa. It really is the perfect grayling tool as it absorbs all of those thumps and lunges beautifully. The fun lasted barely half an hour before I had to concede and return to Bunny, just in time to tie him another hook.

I've no idea how many fish we took, it doesn't matter. Its a type of fishing that we all need from time to time, bites and fish guaranteed, an easy pace and great company, I also spotted the first celandine of the spring which means that winter is drifting back to where it belongs and although there will doubtless be a sting in it's tail, better weather is only a short wait away.

I won't pick up a rod again until I've recovered from the operation I'm having in a few weeks time but I shall certainly be spending time on the banks - nothing can keep me away.

February 07, 2015


Took a drive to Aberystwyth the other day to watch the starlings murmurate as they settle overnight beneath pier. Alas, they were not in a showy mood so the swirling shapes were few and far between but it was nonetheless a very interesting and exciting display.

As we took up our watching position - out of the biting wind - the first little group of about twenty flew in over the roof tops and circled picking up another little flock so twenty became forty. This continued as more groups crossed flight paths and, like rolling drops of mercury, they seamlessly formed a bigger flock which was soon over a thousand strong. It was then that we had a few of those amazing displays as the flock twisted and rolled in flight but yet more birds came in and went straight under the pier. This was seen by the main group and quickly a number broke off and joined them. Within two minutes the entire flock was ensconced beneath the pier and for a moment the sky was empty.
Not my photo unfortunately

The final dive for cover
Was that it? No, of course not. In came wave after wave containing thousands of starlings but, probably due to the others showing that all was safe and well, they didn't hang about and dived for the cover. It was amazing to see a black cloud of birds taper at the front as a line of them dropped to their roost. It was like seeing a floating bowl of liquid being poured and seemed to defy the rules of flight.

Pretty soon it was dusk and the show was over for another day. We left to the sound of over ten thousand starling voices now audible above the traffic and waves.

It was a single starling that stopped me in my tracks a couple of days ago. Whilst walking the dog I heard that little 'cheeit' sound that tawny owls make to each other. It was repeated and I turned to see if I could see the bird but all I saw were starlings. Then I heard a long, slightly too high pitched and reedy 'tweeeeit' again repeated and realised that it was a starling imitating an owl. It went through it's repertoire several times and I really wish I could have recorded it.

Continuing on the bird theme, a house sparrow dropped a beak full of nesting material at my feet this morning and I've noticed the males have been squabbling a lot of late, a sure sign that spring is on the way. Dunnocks are also displaying and I've heard a woodpecker drumming out it's territorial proclamation over the last couple of days. Despite the bitter weather we are going through its satisfying to watch the signs that the season is about to change.

I hope to bring some fishing related stuff for you soon but it won't last. I've got until the end of the season and will fish as much as the shoulder and back permit but I'm having surgery on the shoulder in mid March which will knock my spring carping on the head before it even starts, which I'm a bit grumpy about. Then, two days into the new season and I have some spinal injections and physio to look forward to. But that, hopefully, will put me back on track and I will be fit and healthy for the end of the season.