Still Chasing Ladies (Smashing my PB)

After catching my new PB grayling a few days earlier, I was looking forward to a trip for big roach with my mate Martin. I’d been to the tackle shop and bought a load of casters when a thought dawned on me; I wasn’t allowed to take guests on to the lake on a Friday! I rang Martin to arrange a trip to another venue, but he was happy to wait a few weeks for another crack at the redfins. That left me in a quandary. I was looking forward to pitting my wits against some big roach, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my new grayling hotspot. I couldn’t help but feel there were more and larger grayling that had evaded me a few days earlier. The fact I could have an extra 90 minutes in bed also helped my choice. I was back chasing the ladies!

As I arrived in the Wye Valley, I noticed there was rain about the hills. The weather came on the cars radio and said there’d be heavy rain moving in from the west around mid morning. I’d forgotten to check the weather before setting off, but I’d still have a few hours fishing before the worst of it was forecast.

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I headed to where I’d fished before, but moved upstream this time. There were a few pools I’d failed to fish on my last trip, and by moving upstream I was covering new water. After walking a few hundred yards, I noticed an area where a lot of fish were rising for flies. Both banks were heavily tree lined so it was hard to see into the water. I presumed they were trout, but when I got right where most of the activity was, I couldn’t see a fish. The water was very shallow and clear, so much so, that I could see almost every pebble on the bottom. I couldn’t see any fish though!

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Eventually I noticed a few dark marks that moved slowly. When the sun popped out for a few seconds I could see these marks were the tails of grayling, they looked good ones too, though they were superbly camouflaged. Here came the problem. The water was far too shallow for floats or feeders. I’d have to just use enough shot to cast to where I wanted, then watch or feel for bites. A couple of AAA shot was pinched onto my 3lb line, then a hook link of 0.9mm was tied to a size 20 hook. This might seem fine for grayling, but these fish were very line shy.

Straight away the grayling were interested in my maggots, but many times they shied away from my hook at the last second. They were certainly suspicious fish, but I hoped a constant trickle of maggots would fool them into slipping up. It didn’t help that they shot up for anything that resembled a fly on the waters surface. I own no fly fishing tackle, but anyone ‘fluff chucking’ that day would surely have cleaned up.

After a very frustrating hour, I didn’t think I was going to catch. Then one of the grayling came into a shadow where I could see it very clearly. I flicked my maggot a few yards upstream of it, then bounced it down so it was right within it’s eye line. The graylings fins twitched, it moved forward, then my white maggot vanished, so I struck. The rod curved into a weight, then the grayling started twisting; fish on! In the shallow, snag free water, it was just a case of not making any mistakes and hoping the hook held firm. The fishing gods were on my side, as grayling are well known for slipping the hook during the fight. I netted my prize and placed it on the bank for a better look.

The fish was long, very long in fact. It must have been 6 inches longer than the 2lb 4oz fish that I’d caught earlier in the week. It was also wide across it’s back, almost like a chub. I zeroed my scales against my sling and placed the fish inside. After a slow lift, the needle flew round to a fraction over 3lbs. I couldn’t believe it. I’d hit my winter target already. I repeated the weighing, just in case I’d made a mistake, and got the same number. I settled on a weight of 3lbs exactly, what a fish.

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After a few photos I rested the fish in the margins until she swam away strongly. I noted when it swam back into the river, it didn’t look that big. I’d have said 2lbs tops!

Even though I didn’t think I could top that fish I carried on stalking the odd fish here and there. My next grayling weighed 2lb 10z, a weight that I’d have been delighted with 10 minutes earlier as it would have smashed my old PB. I just took a pic of this in the net, as getting a good grayling pic is hard work, plus they swim away a lot better the less time they’re out of the water. A walk to a different area produced a few more grayling around 2lbs, but I never bothered weighing them. The 2lb barrier is now a thing of the past!

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As forecast, the bad weather moved in and it started raining heavily. I’d travelled a long way, but having had such a good morning I didn’t care. I simply packed up and went home a happy man. I think it’s barbel and roach time now!

Chasing Ladies, A New PB

It’s now well into September and the weather’s cooling down nicely. Autumn, for me, is a time for catching big roach and barbel. With most rivers very low and clear, and roach fishing trips planned in October, I decided on a recce for some winter sport.

Grayling are a fish that a lot of anglers associate with winter. It will feed on the coldest of days, plus they give a good account of themselves, warming you up no matter how cold it is. My grayling PB stands at a lowly 2lbs 2oz, despite me catching a dozen or more fish over 2lbs! They all seem like peas in a pod. I set off to an area of the UK where there seems to be a lot of rivers that will give me a good chance of breaking that weight, Wales.

Driving into Wales with my mate Danny Johnson, we were soon crossing loads of rivers that screamed grayling. We were acting on some information though, and carried on to our chosen stretch of a river, deep in the Wye valley.

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The river looked very ‘gamey’ lots of shallow riffles with the odd deeper pool. These pools were the obvious place to start, and I was soon teasing a loafer float through them. After lots of walking and fishing these pools, all I had to show for my efforts were a few small trout. Despite being small and like bars of soap, these trout were in pristine condition, true wild fish.

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Danny had fared even worse. He was on for a blank, but then saved the day. With most likely looking areas producing nothing, Danny crept under some tree branches and lowered a feeder full of maggots in a good looking glide. We had ignored it because it was almost impossible to fish. Over hanging trees on both banks, plus a 5ft drop to the water meant the only way to fish there was to just drop your feeder in. You couldn’t lift your rod to land a fish so it was a 2 man job. Almost instantly, Danny’s tip flew round and a good fish was on. It was a grayling and I bundled it into the net, then dragged it up the bank. Weighed at 2lbs, it was a new PB for Danny.

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Next it was my turn. I lowered a feeder in, not quite where I wanted to, but it would do. After 30 seconds I felt 2 taps on the tip and lifted into another grayling. It was soon netted by Danny and placed in the long grass. I could see it was a good fish, so quickly weighed it at a new PB of 2lb 4oz, not a bad start to the recce.

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Just when we’d found the fish I cocked things up. The swim was impossible to float fish, but I discovered some of the trees weren’t actually trees, they were giant weeds. After flattening them down, I figured if I slid into the water, with my chest waders on, I had enough room to trot the glide and lift my rod to land fish. That way I could cover more water, and hopefully more fish. I slid into the water, disturbing the bank as I did. Then it happened, wasps, hundreds of the blighters!! I was stung several times around my eye, and on top of my head. It would have been worse but I’d got a coat and my chesties on so they couldn’t sting me through those. I hurled my rod as far as I could, put my head down, then dragged myself up the bank and through the swarm of very angry wasps. I ran into the middle of a field, but they were still flying after me! Danny swatted most of them away, whilst laughing, but I was in pain, plus we couldn’t fish our ‘hot spot’ We called it a day, we’d found what we wanted to and could return at a later date.

Summer Blues and Blanks

Sorry about the lack of updates through the summer. I did manage the odd trip fishing, but didn’t catch too well. I did learn a thing or two, plus I witnessed some special fish.

Firstly I renewed my ticket with Godalming Angling Society to take advantage of their wonderful crucian waters. It’s a few years since I’d set my eyes on Harris or Johnsons, the lakes that contain the most and largest crucians. It was a shock to the system to find how busy they are now. It was like a who’s who from the angling world. Despite the amount of anglers on the lake, it was nice to see some old friends and chat about things.

24 hours later I’d just managed to catch a few small tench. My heart wasn’t in it, despite some crucians rolling over my baits at dusk. When, or if, I return, it will be in the autumn when the lake will be a lot quieter. I packed away and haven’t been back since.

Another session was after big tench on an Oxfordshire gravel pit. The weather was getting pretty hot now and if it wasn’t for the fact I was meeting my old buddy and top angler Dai Gribble, I probably wouldn’t have gone.

Dai was already set up when I arrived and we soon spotted a couple of tench roll. Dai fished 40 yards out onto a plateau while I fished the margins, after giving it a good raking, where a warm wind was blowing into. Dai caught 5 lovely tench over the 2 days and 3 of them were over 10lbs. While I never caught, I did miss one very good bite shortly after a big tench rolled over my bait. Still, it was a privilege to see such magnificent tincas . The only downside was the pollen was quite literally getting up my nose and the heat was uncomfortable. That’s why I’ve waited until the weather has cooled before getting the tackle out again.

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