Sunday 15 March 2020

Last Action of the Season.

 Now if Carlsberg did fishing trips I'd have bitten off your arm for it. On a whim, I phoned Brian ( AKA PikeMan ) and pitched a plan, he said yes, 440am I was on my way the next morning to collect him, we were heading south. Target, Grayling. Find a big one and hope for the very best. After a crazy evening the day before trying find a tackle shop to get maggots I couldn't wait just to get home, sort some bits out and grab some sleep. Midnight came and went and I was still wide awake, as the excitement of the unknown kept me from sleeping. At some point I obviously managed to conk out as I woke to hear my alarm buzzing away.

 Like a coiled snake I was up and out, but only to forget where I put my centrepin, cue the f*ing and blinding under my breath as I rampaged in silence through draws, boxes etc to find it. Why must things insist on vanishing when you want them the most? utterly frustrating and Brian's express service to the river was now late!

 Once I finally arrived we shot off south and hoped that the river would be fishable as I did put the feelers out the previous evening to try and work out whether it was a no go or that in parts it was okay. Upon arrival down a long winding track we finally came to the river and yes it was up but I certainly felt we stood a chance.

 A deep sweeping pool was our first port of call which in the past has played host to some exceptional fishing, however size of the fish have not been of specimen proportions and hoped one day we would cross paths with possibly one or two fish that would exceed the 2lb barrier, no doubt they are already present, they simply haven't been caught by me.

 After a fast start from Brian it was myself that got the first decent pull on the float and very quickly realised it was a big grayling, a few rod lengths out, twisting and turning in the strong flow my knees jangled as the fish then went broadside with its sail-like dorsal fin proudly erect and causing me all sorts of problems as the line gained was stripped off and some as it now played a foot under the surface about 30 yards downstream before it mercifully stopped taking line. Another minute or so of tussling and finally Brian swept up the grayling. That was nerve wracking.

 In the water she looked a good "2lber" and throughout the fight I thought it all along but on the bank she felt lite and when she settled on 1.14 I wasn't surprised as such. At some point this would be comfortably over that milestone.

 I guess you can't be disappointed with a beauty like that! For probably another twenty minutes or so we continued to try our luck but it quickly became apparent there wasn't much feeding in that area so we moved downstream, my luck was in for sure!

 As we bunny-hopped pegs it was even more apparent that it wasn't going to be an action packed day, scraping the odd fish together was testament to how difficult it was turning out to be. That said on possibly my 10th or so trot, fishing a fraction over-depth I got a sharp tug on the float and soon enough I doing battle with a good fish, with it being unsighted had me wondering if I'd hooked another good Grayling and soon enough the culprit broken the surface, flashing a massive dorsal well clear of the waterline, it was time to stop playing hard and ease her in. Yet again, just like the first used every trick in the book to avoid coming to the net as it went broadside and flew off down stream, all I could do was hold on, matching it would have surely been a disastrous decision to make.

 Patiently waiting for my chance to gain on her up the inside margins I took my chance as she slowly eased up to the waiting net with Brian in control of the situation. Another good'un in the net, convinced this was over two pounds I awaited the reading on the scales....1lb 13oz?! how? I asked myself, she looked bigger than the first that should have been over two pounds too. Have they spawned already? that is the only explanation I can muster, yet they were pristine without a mark on them and I know Grayling don't mess around then spawning, affairs can be vigorous so I had doubted that reason since.

 As to why the fishing in general was tough I can only imagine it is that the river has flowed with plenty of detritus for weeks now and that the Grayling are only just getting back on the feed, as by 2pm I had caught four trout and five grayling. As we approached the later stages of the day a couple more Grayling were added to my days total but found fishing very hard, even bites were few and far between.

 Then I decided to leave my gear with Brian and went for a wander with the polaroids and about quarter of a mile downstream I caught sight of a few small Roach, those were sights for sore eyes, but then my eyes began to focus through the gentle ripple and glare of the sun and the small Roach were ganged up with big Roach and big big Roach, the sort I've been searching for a couple of seasons. I watched them for five minutes before heading back to grab the gear, with silt puffing out the gills of the Roach it was time to get a bait to them.

 Bogged down by boots covered in mud the walk to the gear and back was taxing, all I could think of was a big Roach slipping up. Maggots and bread available and a couple of hours to try winkle one or two out. Once I got the depth right and worked out they wanted bread and not maggots I was getting bites, but so fast and tentative I couldn't hit them which was frustrating until about an hour in we both realised we had to let them hang themselves as they were cornering the bread flake and it was taking 20-30 seconds for the fish to get close enough to the hook point.

 Even with tiny pieces of bread just covering the hook point it took some skill to finally connect with the first one which was about half a pound, from that moment on it was a case of sticking to the task and the rest followed suit, some really nerve wracking moments followed but it was a thoroughly enjoyable evenings fishing as I came close twice to breaking the two pound barrier with a pair of Itchen pearlers. The biggest that weighed 1.15 was played to my rendition of "Another day in paradise" as it felt like it and enabled me to see past the fact I was playing a large Roach that at first I didn't think was close to two pound or over until it was in the net, by that point I thought I was in the money.

 Awesome fish and I was proper over the moon, my days tally stood at 11 Roach ( best two @ 1.15 & 1.14 ), 8 Grayling ( best two @ 1.14 & 1.13 ) and 5 Trout. A tough day but brilliant too. That was the last action of the season.

1.14 (top) & 1.15 (bottom) awesome fishing.
 A great end to an indifferent season owing to many factors external to angling, the next twelve months will hopefully see me get on the bank a little more.

 Tight Lines all.


Saturday 14 March 2020

One Hit Wonder.

 Just before I jetted off for the Caribbean one last chance presented itself to head out and wet a line. With the time available I could only think of one target, Barbel. With a night going begging I opted for a static approach and feed a little as I fished a few pegs, the target Barbel being a double if at all possible and given how few are present in this river it was a tall order.

 First swim that I slipped into was stupidly steep and with the persistent high levels the banks were covered in a sludge that I could barely grip, even with my proper waders ( in case I fell in! ) I struggled at times. Having finally got a bait in the water I sat patiently, hoping that the wait wouldn't be too long. Typically I give thirty to forty minutes per swim and in the winter I feed very little, sometimes just a broken boilie and maybe a PVA bag of just twenty 6mm pellets, enough to put a scent in the water and nothing else as feeding off a single fish in the winter given the difficulty of my task would be a major blow.

 Forty minutes or so slipped by quickly as myself and Stu ( a fellow barbel man ) nagged about football and fishing before deciding upon a move. A similar issue faced me downstream in just about every peg as each resembled an ice rink. With the river still shifting through I was limited to fishing in the margins, that however suits me just fine as quite often its the best place to ease down a lead without alerting fish in the vicinity that they are being targeted as these fish, especially the Barbel are very weary and any sense of an angler they stay well away.

 A single 15mm dumbbell and with a tiny PVA bag lowered onto a clear gravel patch I was happy the bait was free of weed and hopefully wouldn't get fouled like it did in the first swim by flotsam. With the rod out and bag organised Stu and I continued our chat when we both interrupted by the awesome tune of my match aerial screeching into life and my mark IV rod tip thumping downstream, without a doubt a Barbel was on the other end, size was very difficult to gauge at first as the flow was so powerful that night, but she held firmly in the middle without breaking into a sweat. Doing my best to ease her into the margins she produced a very good fight and easily the strongest I've experienced in a while. As she came up in the water it was clear I had managed a good one, within a minute of negotiating one last burst for freedom she slipped over the rim of the net and I was confident that fabled target was achieved. ( Not many of these left unfortunately ).

A trademark chalkstream double, just lovely.

 Waited all of five minutes for that take in the second swim, just proves with a bait in the right place at the right time anything is possible. With a few hours still ahead I decided to move on down as I felt the swim was well and truly trashed. With about a mile of water still below me there was still chance another fish and after passing a few cutouts I got myself into one that I could sit in, the ones in between were a total mess and too dangerous to attempt accessing.

 Fishing a short hook-length meant I could gently lead around to find gaps in the weed beds that were still present in vast numbers and enable the rig to sit properly on the gravel rather than in the weed or other detritus. 

 Midnight slowly crept up on us as we checked in on a couple of other pegs that I have caught from in the past but didn't present any opportunities and with a little rain starting to fall one last swim was fished as it felt good for a bite as the recent floods had scoured out a channel with a large weed bed at the bottom of the run and shallows either side, the perfect feeding spot for a Barbel or two.

Just a few stars out that night before the rainclouds moved in.

 Out of all the pegs fished this one in particular had me sitting almost expectant, to begin with my hand was hovering over the rod at times at the slightest tap, fifteen minutes later I began to relax a little as it slowly became apparent my expectation was possibly too high and spent the final thirty minutes chatting away before packing up in the rain, albeit light before the heavens opened as we reached the car. 

 That for me was the end of my Barbel fishing for another season and considering my efforts I don't feel I did too badly at all. 

Six Foot.

   Well, winter still hasn't arrived and the rivers are in a constant state of flood, now for Barbel that isn't the end of the world...