Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The Wessex Trio.


 As we approach the crux of the season my brain usually goes into a state of overdrive to try and fit in any snippet of time on the rivers before the closed season, however, for the first time in living memory I am actually not that sad to see the season off, I have had some good spells but with less time on the bank and targeting more specific fish my returns have certainly tailed off slightly. Maybe over the last four or five seasons I have fished so hard that it's the inevitable ebb and flow of angling taking hold.

 One achievement that I want to achieve is a Wessex Trio, this for me is a 3lb+ Grayling off the Frome, 20lb+ Pike off the Avon and lastly a 7lb Chub off the D.Stour. Now I have come fairly close on all three and would love to push the limits just that little bit further and achieve what I have set out to do. All of the above aren't easy, but certainly feel that they are within reach. Time is what is required to try, so with the weekend just gone myself and the vice admiral made the 120 mile trip down south for three days.

Sunrise on the Frome.

 The first day was spent trotting the pacy D.Frome in fairly typical winter conditions, a little more colour than I'd like, creases pushing just a little too hard and the wind made fishing a much less comfortable affair than perhaps I'd have liked. Having started at dawn with the rising sun illuminating the surrounding countryside I looked to put my new 15ft rod through it's paces with an early Grayling.

 By the time my rod had it's first taste of action the sun had covered 70 odd percent of the horizon!, a sharp thump on the tip as the float vanished was a very welcome feeling, one I was beginning to wonder if I'd feel at all, within seconds the culprit revealed itself on the surface, not a grayling, but a trout.

 Great fun on the extremely light gear but not my target.

 London buses usually come in two's right? or so the saying goes, this trot (the very next one) the float sailed under in very much the same position the last did. This was no trout, the first ten seconds of the fight were a dead giveaway and this was my reward after a nervy couple of minutes. Some excitement at last.

2lb 3oz, my second largest grayling ever.

 Seeing a big grayling in the flesh is always a pleasure, this one behaved for a quick snap and went back into the river without any fuss at all...why couldn't they all do it! next trot through another tug on the rod, another fish and another grayling. This one of half the previous ones size but a pleasure to see.

 That's when my day became un-intresting again, I spent the rest of the day staring at a float waddling downstream without a tap. A nice curry and few beers to wrap up the evening, next up, a day on the Royalty.

Sunset on the Frome.

 What more could an angler look forward to than a day on the banks of such a fantastic fishery. Well, feeding fish would have been one thought, seems as if they didn't read the script. -4c overnight temps for three nights on the bounce and harsh easterly winds pulling the air temp well below freezing meant the conditions both above and below the waterline made for grim reading.

 The sport reflected that, one small Chub off the Trammels and a Salmon Parr made up the total for the days catch, unfortunately that could have been so much better if the dodgy chub I hooked in Mugs Hole had not done the dirty on me and parted my hook link on a snag just as I was inching it toward the net and just before dusk too. Not cool!

3oz lead barely holding in the middle crease.
My only Chub of the day.
 More beer and pizza, although I probably shouldn't have been so hasty with the pizza.....

 I just hoped that the ever faithful D.Stour would turn the trip around for both of us on the chub front. Maggots, bread, meat, boilies and cheese were all the arsenal, the sort of dream team you'd think a chub simply couldn't resist? well the sods had clearly had their fill before we arrived as my baits remained completely untouched for practically the whole day (apart from two liners which crapped the life out of me), tough going indeed.

 This is pretty much why I don't feel the same this season in regards to how quickly the end is upon us, yes I have had some very good fish at times but the away days this season have really kicked me in the plums. When will the stars align? Guess I just have to keep going until the magic happens.

Rather the Deer than me, that river was damn cold, good swimmer though.

 Maybe this weekend coming I locate those golden balls I keep getting told I own.

 The bird life was pretty cool though, so not all bad, I saw over the course of the trip, Oystercatchers, Buzzards, what looked like a Little Owl, a wader (pictured below) which I have never seen before, Kingfishers and all the other predatory birds the wessex rivers are unfortunately inundated by.

One very efficient Kingfisher on its teasle stem. 

The mystery wader.

A hungry Wren which ate its body weight in maggots in two hours it would seem!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Boat Pikeys.


 It's been nearly three months since I last took the boat out and my god it does feel like it, with slightly poor circulation of air in my fishing den it had a little mould beginning to form on it so the intention was to go for a gentle motor up the Thames to wash it off. Hmmm, I had visions that the river would be at its normal winter level, it is safe to say I was wrong!, the ample rainfall has the Thames pushing nice and hard with a distinct colour to it which I thought would make it very tough for Pike fishing.

Glad I and the vice-admiral don't suffer seasickness!
 Brian and I got the boat set and we hit the high seas, it really did look and feel as if we were on the sea, plenty of power in the flow, decent chop and that crisp sea-side feel out of the sun. I have to be completely honest that my confidence was not high, typically trips out in search of Pike in coloured waters have not been successful, I could only try knowing that we had six hours on the water. We both set up and put out a bait each, the piking pirate turned briefly after casting out to pass me his sandwiches to put in the dry bucket, within twenty seconds the bait was cast out and taken, the float had vanished before he turned back, now that's a confidence booster, a jack within a minute of anchoring up!

 For me that early fish filled me with an early optimism, as the hours ebbed by and the tide came up to it's full volume my confidence had wained away entirely, then out of nowhere my float finally bobbed and slipped away as if to keep my focus on the job. That was the take I'd waited for, a good pull on the end was all I wanted, so that's what I got.

Not quite a double, but hooray its a pike!

 I did earlier in the day suffer a couple of dropped runs and a lost Pike but not to cry over spilt milk I continued to see if something would finally come good.

A Beautiful winters sunset over the tidal Thames. 

 On something of not such a good note I found this horrible little rascal hunting on a local river of mine, something I've never seen before and had the displeasure of witnessing it catch a gudgeon of around 1.5oz which it had broadside across its snout before disappearing into some overhanging bushes to eat its breakfast, not good to see at all!


 

Thursday, 15 February 2018

River Test Roaching.


 For more than a week leading up to last Saturday I had dreams every night about monster roach, specimens over 3lb certainly live here and the numbers of 2's are amazing, catching them however has proven so far to be a very difficult task. I like to think I know a thing or two about catching large roach as over the last 17 years the number stands at 28 over the 2lb mark, my ultimate fish of a lifetime would be a three-pound specimen, for me, that would be the pinnacle of my angling achievements regardless of what I achieve thereafter.

 Trotting waters where these creatures reside just gives me goosebumps, the deep glides amongst the far bank tree-lines and swirling pools are the real lures when I begin fishing them. These very swims are where I began my pursuit last weekend. 430am wake up call and on the road before 5am sounds crazy and yes, it might be, but with a 80 mile journey ahead and a sunrise at 720am time was and always is of the essence. Roach simply have that ability to captivate me like no other species. Armed with all the best winter baits for roach I felt confident that should their location be found I stood half a chance to get amongst a few, however, the game fish ( Brown Trout and Grayling ) are also in good numbers here which does make targeting the roach even more of challenge.

Sunrise to rival all, truly magical, but cold at -4c.

 Grayling seemed to be playing ball early on as a few came in quick succession to just over a pound before the Trout moved onto the loose feed and proceeded to trash the run, it was soon time to move on as once the trout really get feeding the competition is so one-sided, everything just either moves up or down or as often is the case shut up shop until the trout ease up. I find with roach they feed best when the trout aren't present at all, so floating trout out of a trot with bread crust often works wonders, not fool proof by any means but better than nothing. Throughout the next four runs all I could find was more eager trout until I came across a nice slow deep run which typically isn't a natural holding area for trout, a couple of maggots were flicked out before fishing and my second trot down resulted in an above average grayling of a pound or so, not bad but not as big as the next one.

 I sent my 7BB float, bulk shotted, down the run again and as it reached a dead spot where the float eased off the flow it sailed away, I struck into the fish and it leapt clear like a trout, it looked like one too, so to keep it out of the swim from ruining it further I played it fairly quickly, luckily for me it didn't come off, as it approached the net out of the deep water it quickly became a big grayling! it wasn't panic stations and all that but that could have gone wrong easily, not this time though. A stunning 2lb 2oz grayling lay in the net whilst I waited for a gap in the rain to take a photo, it wasn't easy either.

 Not a monster roach but a big grayling are a very pleasing substitute, it wasn't the only one either, an hour so later, a couple of hundred meters downstream I landed another exactly 2lbs which took maggots just 10-12 inches under the surface in four feet of water, I could have sworn it was a trout for a few reasons, alas, I was very happy to see it nestled in my net. The session had taken a rather expected turn in relation to the grayling showing in good numbers, the roach population still remained completely anonymous.

2.02

2.00

 When roach are difficult to locate I tend to just fish areas where I can't see the bottom, on the Test there aren't many areas where this isn't possible and often a nice tree-line would also play into my hands, both of which were present on this next run, I decided to spend the rest of the day fishing and had some success on the redfin's front as a flurry of activity over the course of a forty five minute period saw seven roach to 1.07 come to the net before the trout realised there was food available, bane of my life! But a great day in what initially started in appalling conditions after sunrise and the weather closed in, as the forecast predicted.

Little beauties.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Gracious Gudgeon.


 Is there a more enigmatic species than the Gudgeon, for months on end they vanish, as if they aren't even in the river at all, its a complete mystery as to where they go, yet in the blink of an eye they appear. Last week Wednesday I popped down the local for an hour after work, with the intention of christening my new acquisition which is the new Maver Reactorlite 12ft feeder rod 2-piece, super lightweight and looks the business, it comes complete with three tips for varying targets.

 The plan was just to sit behind the quiver until dusk, Gudgeon the main target but Roach and Barbel were also a possibility and after 30 mins or so of basically nothing more than a few tentative touches a fish finally slipped up, funnily enough it was the species I was after, a big one too at 2oz 6dr, best of the season and unfortunately my only fish of the brief trip. Short and sweet, over and out.


Saturday, 3 February 2018

Winter Blanks, Part and Parcel.


 Over the course of this winter (when I've been in the country) I have found fishing quite challenging and that narrative seems to have continued, much to my disappointment. I was rather hoping for a purple patch where I got amongst some big fish. So far my winter fishing except for the Pike has been dour, conditions can be blamed but the buck often stops with me and my ability. The ever evolving angler will come across times when fishing is hard, just have to learn whats not going right and try to affect it.


 What with only six weeks of the river season left and so much still to aim at I can only manage short little trips locally as the post-christmas madness ensues where work picks up very quickly thus leaving with not much time and an untimely car issue that required a repair which rendered that out service for last weekend where I had the chance to shoot down to a Wessex river.

 Rewind just a week before and I enjoyed a trio of barbel in just a couple of hours (10.06, 8.06 & 8.02), seven trips later which included five blanks, I added a further five barbel to that tally, three being youngsters around the 3-4lb mark, the other two were slightly more reasonable weighing in at 8lb 13oz and 6lb 7oz. Both taken on the float, which is a method of angling for barbel I adore, I just wish I could catch more doubles on the tactic, although you can only catch what's in front of you and over the last few years the doubles have been disappearing with only a smattering of them left as the youth are pushing through and the cycle will hopefully turn full circle over the coming years (possibly by 2022).

 During my run of five blanks I fished all kinds of tactics, from roving about to staying out up to 90 minutes in each swim and laying a small bed of bait down with the hope of marauding fish finding my offerings and slipping up, I went through the phase of lengthening hook-lengths to fishing single baits, to small PVA bags and so on, no matter what I tried the outcome was the same. Maybe the fish weren't there but during this time of the year barbel are very predictable fish and I know "most", not all of their hold ups where depressions in bottom offer slightly more cover, these are often what I target knowing catches are more likely. Maybe they are just feeding late at night when I'm not on the rivers, over the next couple of weeks when a snippet of time comes up I may stick it out just to see if that theory rings true.

Best at 8lb 13ozs
 Current stocks are impressive but many small fish which bodes well for the future. This presents me with a dilemma as really would love to achieve a 15lb+ barbel over the course of the next 12 months and feel to do this I'll have to go elsewhere, as much of a shame as it is there isn't much point trying for something that ultimately isn't possible and efforts can be pushed elsewhere, so thats what I intend to do.

 Catching barbel of this size though can never be disappointing and on the contrary I still enjoy every scrap now as I did when I caught my first one of 7lb 10oz when I was just 9 years old.....21 years ago!

River Don Barbel Record!

 The elation of catching a R.Don double in such a short space of time was there for all to see, I was beaming! No one can ever confess to ta...