Sunday 27 October 2019

Grayling Away Day.

 To tell the truth this trip wasn't necessarily in search of Grayling but knew the likelihood of my initial target, the Roach making an appearance on the bank would be quite a long shot. A beautiful mid-autumn morning gave way to a largely bright sunny day and although fishing was far from easy I did make the very best out of my time in what is as close to angling heaven as I've come to experience.


 Excluding out of season trout I didn't catch a fish in the first three of my time on the bank, first Grayling of the day was very much worth the wait however, first go for them this season and the first fish is a two-pound plus specimen, can't get a lot better than that. As I gazed through the crystal clear water that flows through the pristine Hampshire countryside more fish of similar calibre sauntered across perfect gravels, simply teasing me as countless attempts to add to my great start slipped by without as much as a flinch.

2lb 2ozs, first Grayling of the day!
 It took some getting used to the constant assault from the Trout with some of them well over five pounds and putting my very light but well balanced trotting setup to the test, often beating Grayling out the way to the double/treble white maggot, some were really stunning too in great autumn condition. I did get another chance at a big Grayling but through all the control I had at the start of the fight the last ten seconds went horribly wrong as I lost concentration and the hook pulled as the fish turned on the frame of the net and dislodging the hook in the mesh. 

 Plenty of Trout action continued to marginalise the Grayling and in the end, the Roach. It took most of the day to find a Roach, but when I did I watched two monsters easing across the other side of the river to a slack under a bush, nothing much I could do about it as the Roach had already made me. Seeing them gave me my plan for dusk and concreted my hopes about at least targeting one or more.

 Having struggled with the "Ladies of the Stream" I had a little blast at the pike and was treated to five in a short spell, nothing big which was to be expected, nevertheless good fun and then it was back to the Grayling to tie me over until an hour before dark when I changed tactic to a small 10g cage feeder with mashed bread in a marginal slack.

A pristine Test Valley Esox.

A few in the end came along, I seemed to get into my groove, not before time!
 My wait for dusk had been patient as I could see Roach starting to appear from downstream of where I was sat and as the light began to fall the delicate liners began as the now fifteen strong shoal of redfins, some which were way way way over 2lbs sifted through the weed on the bottom, only to get a quick tap on the quivertip, followed by a brutal wrap around, I really thought for a second or two that a monster Roach was on the other end, that hope was quickly dashed as large trout, possibly 7-8lbs bow waved across the river backwards and forwards, much to the irritation of the Roach that after 30-40 seconds slowly drifted away downstream to whence they came. One shot to catch the seemingly impossible was done, but not without one last go.

 Having seen them already make their way upstream once the hope they would repeat that feat now the commotion had settled was firmly in mind. I settled a new feeder full of mashed bread down on the same crease and sat back listening to the Tawny Owls in the trees behind me calling away as a fox harked across the fields for its partner. A lovely atmosphere to be immersed in, all I could wish for at that point was the serenity to be broken by a blabbering wreck of an angler as a monster Roach lay in his net...

...but no matter how much I wished, my time came and went and once again these leviathans eluded capture, more often than not this is the outcome when targeting such weary and measured fish. I will be back to give them another go, the cards may well be stacked in my favour on another day.

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Home Comforts: Part Two.

  For many years I treated my local river, which isn't so local now as my training ground. Learning most of which I'd need to know in my quests across the country. There are many things that we down here are blessed with, large numbers of Barbel, Roach to make the head spin, Gudgeon to warm the fondest of piscatorial hearts and massive swathes of Chub.

 The latter is a species that in the coldest and in the most uncomfortable of times do these offer themselves up for capture, not many other species seem to have the need to feed as much, now whether its out of necessity or pure greed its almost always welcome, (when targeting Barbel or Roach they can scupper entire plans), but through all the greed they never seem to get above 5½ pounds, even these are very rare.

 That is until this season, a handful of upper four pounders and fives have been out (5.10 & 5.08) so far for me this season, with very little time done so far I suspect there will be more! or is there more already?!

 Twenty-Six years has elapsed so far, since I first wet a line on this diminutive chalk stream with my father, all the way back in 1993. Crazy to think that portion of time has already slipped by, without seeing or catching a Chub capable of threatening that magical barrier of 6lb that I have achieved on four other rivers. Not for a very long time did I think that that milestone would be achieved, but in the light of recent events my confidence in catching such a fish had vastly improved.

 With only a few hours available a couple of weekends back I fancied going localish and giving the river a go, when I arrived at the river there was plenty of colour so my approach of stalking fish looked to be up in the air, but my arrival was well timed as the level had already dropped over a foot and the colour dropping out fast. First port of call was a run of overhanging bushes that offer plenty of cover to passing fish and residents alike. With only a tin of meat on hand, rolling meat was my desired tactic.

 Drawing a blank in the first run a quick wander upstream proved a real good call as I could see a couple of sizable shapes gliding across a patch of sand, all I had to do was get a long enough cast with the centrepin to hit the spot where a take was likely, this was a lot easier in theory, rarely getting the bait out far enough to where the chub were holding. When I did get the bait as far as I needed the attention was emphatic!

 The result was another five pound chub, this one weighing 5lb 6oz and it did not want to come in, beds of ribbon weed, tree stumps, you name it it tried to dislodge the hook, but my fairly stout tackle was enough to win the battle!

Lovely and Stocky.
 That, however wasn't the end game and boy was I in for a real treat. All those years of waiting and hearing the odd humour on the grapevine of possible six-pound Chub were to become wholesome truths!

 Half a mile down river before I next cast a bait was where the unthinkable happened. My first roll down the inside margins produced nothing, as did my second roll down in mid river, the third roll, second in mid river I got a faint pluck on the line and just made out a silhouette drop the bait when it took it again and the hit was much more vigorous, now I could see it was a chub and a good one too but hit it some twenty-five yards downstream in murky water, so I couldn't be sure.

 The hook-up led to a powerful scrap which had me believing the unthinkable, not that I thought possible, just a couple of minutes later and a heart in mouth battle had ended I was convinced I was close or just over the line.

 Much to my delight she didn't just make it, but clear daylight!

 6lb 2ozs and a new personal best for this river, a far greater achievement than any of the other six-plussers I've managed elsewhere, I simply could not top that capture, I slowly packed up and then released her, a fish I may never see again but thankful for our brief encounter!

22.6 inches long and 14.8 inches girth, likely to be a high six come April.

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Home Comforts: Part One.

 Since our most recent deluges the rivers are looking in fine fettle and the confidence levels are starting to increase as the Barbel begin their pre-winter munch. Now we have entered October I am a little more inclined to target Barbel, as the nights draw in the chances to fish into darkness improve and with darkness often comes prolonged feeding spells as they seek to avoid detection on what can be a busy river. The hoards of louts often slip back under their rocks this time of the year until next spring when they can come back on to the river, albeit illegally.

 Over the next few months I am seriously hoping to get amongst some fish in what is one of the most under fished sections of the river. Knowing that fishing won't be easy I am playing the long game and having already devoted nine short trips and a day session with only three Barbel and two Chub to show for my efforts the fruits of my labours will be counted when March 14th passes!

 My previous visits below:
 July 16th   - 4hr approx - 1 swim - 2 fish (Chub 4.03 ( 1747 ) & 5.08 ( 2020 ))
 July 17th   - 2hr approx - 2 swims - 0 fish
 July 23rd   - 2hr approx - 4 swims - 0 fish
 July 29th   - 2hr approx - 2 swims - 0 fish
 Aug 1st     - 2hr approx - 5 swims - 0 fish
 Aug 2nd    - 2hr approx - 2 swims - 1fish (Barbel 6.03 ( 0637 ))
 Sept 6th     - 4hr approx - 3 swims - 0 fish
 Sept 24th   - 13hr approx - 6 swims - 0 fish
 Oct 3rd      - 2hr approx - 2 swims - 1 fish (Barbel 6.09 ( 1721 ))
 Oct 9th      - 3hr approx - 3 swims - 1 fish (Barbel 8.13 ( 1912 )) This session!

 Now, getting out and doing a bit has been tough, with lots of work on I have been struggling for anything more than what you see above, I mean I have eked out every drop of time possible.

 I arrived at the river in a lot better shape than it was the previous trip where the river was a swirling monster, most little cut outs that I am poking myself into were completely unfishable, the pegs I could get into I did not fancy and a quick 2-hr stint was all I could muster before my own mind defeated me.

 This time around the river was within its banks and all cutouts were easily fished with just a 1oz running ledger. I couldn't wait to get on with it, funnily enough I am not massively confident with daytime fishing here and I often find myself twiddling my thumbs awaiting dusk and for good reason too.

 I sat in one of the handful of pegs I have cutout trickling in 6mm HookBait Co nimrod pellets and the matching dumbbells along with a few other bits of boilies. Only little and often, but only enough to feed off the hoards of small Chub and Roach that are present.

 As darkness fell myself and a friend who came along for a nag sat there chatting away as all anglers can and do quite easily, only to have the background silence broken as the ratchet on my centrepin went into meltdown. With it being so dark I couldn't see the quivertip, I simply threw out a hand to grab the rod! Immediately clear it was a Barbel my heart started to properly thump, I had no idea how big the fish was, 6ft deep in quite pacy water this fish really put on a show, the first two surging runs were impressive on quite heavy gear ( plenty of snags are present, possibly big fish around I'm taking no chances ) as she powered off about twenty yards above me and held firm in the flow. head torch was failing me miserably as I couldn't quite see the surface of the river and could only make out the white belly occasionally before she disappeared again and again. A few minutes since the violent take I had won the battle, with tiring arms she slipped into the net!

 For me, that Barbel represented a good evening' work for me and I hit the road.

Saturday 12 October 2019

Little Mirror on the Wall...

...who's the prettiest of them all?

 This one of maybe ten-eleven pounds is certainly up there. A quick fire morning on a local lake had this scamp running riot as I stalked it off the top amongst four commons, thank goodness this one was a little more hungry.

 Zip perfection :) and that was that, another day on the road in London, plenty of money to be made!!

Wednesday 9 October 2019

The Trent: It's Easy I Tell You!

 For years now all I have heard and seen splashed across the angling prints and social media is the abundance of Barbel and Chub that the Trent holds and the sheer numbers of fish being caught to anyone who reaches its banks. Whether it's 8ft on owing to a couple of months rain falling in just a day or so, or when the river is flat on its arse and the flow has almost ceased.

 Such can be the numbers of fish being caught by seemingly everyone, I and my party of two ( Father and Brian ) could not blank and in fact end up having to fish just one rod such would be the pace of the sport that we would experience, or would it be a crock?, simply a river that in good form can deliver some awesome returns for anglers but by and large just be like most other big rivers, hard most of the time and bar the "hotspot, in Collingham Weirs top ten pegs" have the ability to wow the travelling angler on the odd occasion but resign them to hours of head scratching for the remainder of time.

Standard procedure.

 I will on this case cut to the chase and tell you it isn't easy, yes we weren't shall we say in the hotspot but I know the conditions should have given us more of a reward for the 362 mile round-trip. I won't say I fished badly even though I couldn't even muster a bite, my approach was no different to what everyone else employs, my watercraft had me fishing exactly where I would expect a fish or two and to compound my theories furthermore my father above me and Brian below both caught on the same line I fished both rods ( 10-15m apart ).

 I won't play the blame game either, it simply didn't happen for me, I fished the same conditions as everyone else and yes it wasn't fishing well, even some very experienced Trent locals had only managed 2 to 4 Barbel in 72 hours such was the difficulty, many turning up, fishing a couple of hours and realising it wasn't going off so back off home they went, for us that style and approach wasn't an option as you could imagine!

Rods out at witching hour.

 It will simply serve as a stark reminder when I do go back up to not read into all the hype, go up there when I can next and give it hell! However, I could not see this trip go down as a failure as I had the pleasure of witnessing my Dad' first Barbel for quite sometime in the form of a stocky 6lb 15oz torpedo and Brian of course catching one as his rich vein of form on the Barbel front continued in stella fashion with a lovely specimen a fraction under nine-pounds.

 In the famous words of Arnold, "Get to the chopper, Trent bound"!

 For us who stayed up we were treated to one hell of a night sky too! the clearest I have seen in the UK for many years and excluding the two fish on the bank the highlight of my trip, how small our existence really is in the grand scheme and offered me at gone 3am a chance to reflect on a what has been a tough year for me in all aspects of life as I gazed into the wonderful it is to be a brother of the angle.

Sunday 6 October 2019

Peas in a Pod!

 Back on the river again and back amongst the fish. For so many years I've been doing this but never have I seen so many young fit Barbel coming through the ranks! Fish between the 1-4lb barrier were seldom seen or caught, most likely owing to their disproportionate numbers to larger fish 5-9lb bracket. For what seemed like the river was going to turn into a big fish river has quickly entered its cyclical downturn in terms of larger fish to smaller fish ratio, but has exploded in the last 5 years into life as a vast number of young fish seem to have made it through the tough "early years" where predation and delicacy to the pollution that often enters the river, especially in these conditions!

 Targeting big Barbel just six years ago was a task that I'd often set myself and fairly often achieve, big fish for me here would be anything over nine pounds. Currently I am trying to build on my early season success of a mid-nine pounder and look to build up a head of steam as we enter a very wet autumn. In the south our aquifers have been running on bare bones and although flash floods are never a good thing for anyone or anything the surrounding countryside has benefitted of late as additional rain has entered at a decent rate allowing the water table to start filling up and my local rivers have slowly started to hold a good level with varying clarity.

 Big Barbel are difficult to find nowadays and the hope that one will come along at night whilst fishing static is almost my last real hope.

A typical trot, makes less than accessible areas easier to fish.

 However, with the rivers smaller inhabitants float fishing for Barbel has become an even more likelier approach than most other tactics and no more so than the other day, an hour available, two swims and three Barbel. Nothing large, but action all the same, two of which may well have come up through the ranks, side by side from a neighbouring spawning ground some 8-10 years ago!

A pair of little tikes.
Best of the day at 5.06.

What A Start!

   Since the river season ended I've taken a 3 week hiatus from fishing, work as usual the excuse! Storm Kathleen however was predicted ...