Sunday 27 November 2022

Predator Season Looms.


 Given the tough conditions for Barbel over the back end of last week, Brian and I hatched a plan to come away from the Barbel and start our predator season. So Friday we headed back to the rivers and set about targeting Pike, given the mild conditions I had some reservations but it's late enough in the year and with water temps hovering around 7.5-8.5c it should be good enough to begin.

 We opted to float fish Sprats and rove around, trying to find the odd fish in amongst the tree-lines and deeper holes that litter the river, the sense of excitement was building as we rigged up our roving rods. The flavour had well and truly settled in before this trip, recently I purchased Mick Brown' new book and it is awe inspiring, the level of dedication he has shown and the results he has reaped has got me wanting to spend more time searching out the species and try to get a few more fish on the bank, one day I truly hope I become half as proficient as Mick, if I did it will be one hell of a ride!

A superb book!

 With the low sun we couldn't really see into the water and the clarity was pretty poor given the recent rains too so we relied upon our understanding of the fish, plus I had Pike-catcher-in-chief with me and I didn't have to wait long before I got bob on the float, a good solid run was met with a firm strike and with the hook set I was locked into battle with a good Pike that rolled on the surface thus showing itself, certainly around the mid-double range and as she approached the waiting net inexplicably the fish came off. I thought she gobbed me but it turned out my snap-link failed and the treble came loose.

 I know we all experience things like this over the years but it was a first for me and knew I wouldn't get many chances to catch a Pike as I don't think there are many around. I will certainly do a thorough check of tackle going forward and replace any of those components should I not be happy with them.

 About an hour later Brian was away with a decent fish, which I shall leave for him to publish on his blog.

 I was chuffed to see Brian get his winter season under way but there is always the shadow of doubt cast over your head when it hasn't happened yet, so I worked a few spots and fished all the likely looking areas where I thought something may happen and fortunately for me I got another shot at glory.

 A swift take followed by a strong but short battle where the fish hung under the rod-tip, before "just" squeezing into the net. At first she looked a decent fish of 15-16lbs, however when I lifted her up on to the mat it felt a bit more weighty, the scales confirmed that as they settled on 17lb 8ozs and my winter predator season was up and running! 

Chuffed with that!

 I stood back as she briefly lye on the mat and just marvelled at the markings and colours, don't think they come much prettier!
 Once the photos were done she slipped off back to the shadows, no doubt to continue her pursuit of optimum weight with spawning due in 2 months.
 We continued on downstream as we both felt 20mins in each area was probably the best plan of action and although we both felt that we were fishing well it turned out those two Pike would be the last of the action as the final 6 hours of fishing slipped by without another touch, maybe we just caught the back end of a morning feed? It'll be interesting to find out whether that rings true. 

 A seventeen to open my account for the season is a great start, hopefully I can find a big girl somewhere in the lead up to Christmas.

Saturday 26 November 2022

Wash Out Wye.


 Brian and I had a trip earmarked for the R.Wye to target the Barbel, ultimately the plan was to play the numbers game and catch a double figure off the river and chalk off river number 18 and then move on to the Severn. Little did we know 3 weeks back when we planned these three days of fishing that it would rain incessantly for days and the Wye and Severn were up and raging. 

 We knew it was going to be hard going before we left, however Brian's optimism was too assured to ignore and we made the journey to Ross. 2hr 40min later we were at our destination and the river had fallen overnight but still way off the level that would be deemed good, but it did create slacks which Brian and I fished, unfortunately such was the lack of action day one ended with one 10oz Chub and a 1oz Gudgeon, not the return you associate with the Wye, but this was hardcore stuff.

 Some of the storms that rolled across Wales were atrocious, 50mph gusts, horizontal rain/hail along with a few bolts of lightning and plenty of thunder made our first day pretty dire, thankfully Brian' mum and dad popped along with tea and cake to break up the monotony of motionless tips.

 Day two and we both woke up with a pessimistic slant on proceedings as the river had risen overnight like we thought it would and rose from 1.8m 4pm (Weds) to 2.4m by 7am (Thurs) with alot more to come through aswell, the only bonus was the water temp had risen from 7.7c to 8.3c overnight, so we went and gave it a go.....two hours later we sacked it off and went to the drawing board.

2nd morning and it looked even more unlikely.

 That meant making the journey back towards home and dropped on our local for a couple hours to save face and glad we did as I had two Barbel, one around 4lbs and another at 8lb 11oz which produced a superb take on the pin whilst watching over the rod. After landing the eight pounder the river became unfishable as wet wipes and other crap came through, thanks Thames Water 👌

Young gun.

A better one! 8lb 11oz

 So as we had finished our trip a day early we had to make up a contingency plan....where would we go and what would we target??? 

Saturday 19 November 2022

Red Letter Day!

 Over the years I've had a few of these, whether it be Roach, Chub or Barbel they are usually a moment in time of immense enjoyment. Yesterday I joined Mike once again on the picturesque R.Wylye for a days Grayling fishing. 

 Last winter provided some superb sport where I banked numerous "2lb specimens", with the outside chance of a 3lb specimen to add to my growing portfolio of "big fish". Don't get me wrong, my PB of 2lb 11oz is very special to me and deemed to be a very large fish for the species, but would like to go one better! 

 We both arrived around 9am and had a leisurely wander up to the top boundary where we garnered the attentions of the resident cows and one very very big BULL! no signs on the field entrance seems a little bit crazy given the size of it and the propensity for them to charge or be a right pain in the bum! To begin with myself and Mike worked a large inside crease where the water drops off to around 8ft. Previously we had done well in this peg and with the cows in attendance we waited for them to get bored of us.

 That gave us plenty of time to catch some fish and my first Grayling of the season was a belter! A sharp pull on the 11BB drake quill float was quickly followed by a strong fight in the flow which was a little stronger than usual as it was carrying a little more water and plenty of colour which initially did have me a little worried as historically I have not faired well in murky water when targeting Grayling.

 Nevertheless it did not take me long to register my first fish of the winter which weighed a very pleasing 2lb 5oz, glistening in the low winter sun what more could you ask for!!

 That was the start I would have hoped for whilst making the 109 mile journey! 
 Once she was released I set about running the float through the same runs and shortly after Mike picked up a lovely 2lb+ specimen before losing a big one to a hook pull which seemed to be a theme and most of the fish caught across the day were actually hooked by flaps of skin or just set in the smallest part of boney/fleshy mouth, I suspect that was solely down to the fish feeding quite tentatively and maybe the coloured water had played its part. 

 Once the cows moved to the other side of the field we made our break for freedom and got beyond the stile, from then on we split up after having a chat to try and find some more Grayling, to begin with it was actually quite difficult to find fish and even the areas I classed as banker swims last season provided nothing but the odd small Trout. There was a distinct lull in sport before I found another grayling, albeit small it meant there was fish around, next up was a fish around 1.04 and then I had a brilliant half an hour which spun the session on its head.

 My float sailed down on the crease which I struck and immediately I knew it was a big fish so I allowed it plenty of room to fight and didn't rush it, problem was the sun was right in my face and even with the polaroids I could not see the fish or where the fish was in relation to the net, so when the splashes of the corkscrewing fish looked like it was over the net I lifted it and thankfully a Grayling was nestled in safely, and it was a bigger one! 

2.10, my second biggest ever Grayling.

 A big broad bodied specimen that missed out on my personal best by 1oz! when I saw her on the mat I thought it would be very close to a new PB and wasn't wrong when the scales settled on 2lb 10ozs, super chuffed with that fish, but it got even better twenty minutes later when I had a carbon copy bite and a similar battle with a heavy fish holding deep in the flow with the rod bent double and the centrepin paying line as another big fish ploughed around the swift run with the wind whistling through the line.

 A cloud came overhead as I reached for the net so I could see what I was doing and it was another big Grayling! it looked bigger than the first, the burning question I asked myself was could it be a new personal best?, bigger still could it be a 3lb+ fish?
The verdict? 2lb 11oz, a joint PB!

 I did my best to jiggle the scales but it settled on 2.11 which I could not be disappointed with, what a brace of Ladies! By this point I had had 6 fish and 3 were over two pounds! 

 I fished that peg for half an hour longer with a couple more smaller fish coming to the net before we broke for lunch. After the pitstop I headed downstream to a few 'banker' swims but they were nothing like the pegs I fished last winter, now they are weeded up, branches in the slacks, topography all changed it really does put into perspective how changeable the rivers are. 

 For about an hour I didn't have a Grayling but did have a few nice Trout, one of which was just approaching the net when a decent Pike charged at it and piled off downstream, broadsiding the Trout which nearly flat rodded me as the pin sang! After a minute it let go and the Trout came in none the wiser with a couple of war wounds to show for it encounter.

 Given the time of year the days are short and sunset was fast approaching, thankfully I found another shoal of feeding fish and managed a few fish with another two "2lb specimens", weighing 2lb 3oz and 2lb 2oz. 

My 2.11 in all its glory.

Wonderful colours.

 That took my tally to 18 Grayling with 5 over two pounds. What a day! 

Sunday 13 November 2022

Making Me Work.


 As expected when fishing down on the lower stock southern rivers I am suffering from a dose of the blanks, left the banks of the R.Taff with a double under my belt and full of confidence, to only blank on the Itchen for 48hrs! then blanked on the Loddon a week or so back too.

 Sunday evening I had planned to head back to the Loddon to try and get myself river number 18 chalked off. I know the Loddon is a tough nut to crack and seem to have a few of these "tough ones" on retainer, what with the Itchen, Sussex Rother, Kentish Stour, ColnBrook and Loddon all taking up a decent amount of time with very very little to show for it.

 When I arrived at the top of the river it became very clear very quickly that it was high, the fields were reminiscent of an inland sea! Somehow I picked my way to the river on the tufts of grass that were slightly elevated than the rest, the question was, was it a good idea? I couldn't tell if it was rising still, however the conditions were far too good to pass up on and carried on with my plan, just needed to make sure I could still get back to car which was a good ¾ of a mile, my boots were really getting put to the test. As a side note I could still exit the field at the bottom of the section (another ¼ further down so a mile back to the car! so I wasn't any danger, just wet and cold feet! 

 When I arrived I took the water temp which registered at 14c which I was amazed at. With the added flow it did limit where the Barbel may be, you'd have thought the conditions were perfect, I fished one rod upstream on meat and the downstream rod with boilee wrapped in paste, the plan was to wait it out in each swim, typically about two hours to allow fish in the general area to locate the smell/scent and get acquainted with me. The first 6hrs! yes six hours passed by without incident and was just about to move for the third time (I spent longer in both swims just in case) when a huge Otter passed me going upstream when a huge bow wave came from under my bank, which I can only assume was a Pike ( which was big ) bolted from under my feet going downstream as the Otter continued on, the fish that spooked was very big and made almighty noise and disturbance, oddly old Tarka just going, hopefully loaded up on crayfish!

 For me the next two moves yielded nothing either and of course, by the end of the trip (around 7am) I had blanked. I can't say I'm surprised and since then I paid another 10hr visit to the river on Friday (11th Nov) overnight where river levels had come down around 4ft but still good colour with a temp of 13.1c so it had dropped around a degree in a week. Thats my fourth trip this season to Loddon now and I haven't had a bite, even a small Chub wouldn't go amiss now and again! 

Another night under the stars...
I did think it was in focus!

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...