Not the best conditions for grayling (Entry 22)

I have been determined to get out on the river after some grayling for a few weeks now, but with the water levels rising and dropping so much, I’ve not had the best conditions. Well the weather didn’t help this weeks plan either but I decided to give it a go regardless. Two nights before the session we had a lot of cold rain fall, and to make matters worse, the air temperature went from being fairly mild to having us a harsh overnight frost which resulted in a very bright, but cold, day. On arriving at the river there was still a lot of colour in the water, not dense colour, but I felt it was enough to make fishing difficult. The river had levelled out, no longer rising at least, but not yet fining off.

Pictured above is a typical swim I fished today. I was trotting a shouldered stickfloat using white maggot as bait. The river itself is only a maybe 16-20 metres wide and I usually fish it with a centrepin, but today I had brought with me my trusty Abu 501 closed face reel, primarily because there was strongish winds forecast and I felt I would tangle less using it instead of the ‘pin. I’ve only recently acquired a ‘pin and I must say, apart from when its very windy, it is a joy to use and offers amazing presentation if used correctly. I am sure I will write more on it in the future as my skill with it improves but today the Abu 501 was the reel of choice. Rig wise I used a 6 no.4 float, a little heavier than I usually use due the extra water and pace, and knowing the bigger grayling like to hug the bottom and wait for food times to pass, I wanted enough weight down the line to be sure the bait was in the vicinity of the bottom. I used a 4lb mainline and a 0.09mm bottom which breaks at roughly 2lb. To this was tied a size 18 Drennan Maggot hook which would hold a single white maggot. The shotting was simply bulked at the swivel, which incidentally, I use to attach the hooklength to the mainline to stop any line twist on the retrieve. A very simple rig but one thats very good for grayling on fast, shallow rivers.

After a few trots through the first swim it was clear it was going to be a tough day. In the hour I had been walking the river sussing out some swims I had not seen a single fish top and underfoot the ground was solid. If theres one fish thats going to feed in dire cold conditions it would be the grayling. It wasn’t this cold that bothered me though, it was the coloured water. Ive never really had good results in coloured water but I was here now and I was determined to catch a grayling before I left. Its still important to feed after every trot through the swim to attract any fish. The key is to feed as little as you can. Today I was feeding just three maggots. After around an hour I had my first bite. A tiny little dip of the float was the only indication I had but it just looked a little to ‘fishy’ to be the hook catching an debris. A jagged, little fight ensued, the fish darting lively around the swim. I felt sure it was a tiny trout. It was in fact a tiny grayling! Although small I was very happy I had caught it. This little fish had given my confidence a real bost. The tactics were working I know felt that as long as I found a few fish, and fished the right area of the swim, I might get a few more before the day was out. Encouragingly I also noticed that the water visibility was getting better. The colour was definitely dropping out a little. So with some purpose I trudged through the weakened beds of nettles to the next pool with renewed optimism.

The next swim looked as good as the last. I decided to stick with my tactics but I upped the amount of feed a little. Five maggots at the end of every trot through. Retrieve the float, check the bait, side cast the rig out and trot through, holding the rig back, and running it through at the speed of the current. After ten minutes a positive bite resulted in my second grayling. A lovely, brightly coloured fish weighing exactly 1lb.

After returning the fish I put the float through on a similar line which resulted in another bite,  which I bumped off on the strike. For an hour after that I had not a single sign or bite. I cut the feed down. I even stopped feeding for a while. I decided to stop for a cup of coffee and decide wether to stick it out here or move onward to the next swim. It was now around noon and I decided to move the the last swim I would fish today. After finishing my coffee naturally. It gave to me a perfect opportunity to admire the beautiful countryside I was in. Absolutely tranquil, wagtails visiting the gravel banks looking for food, shrews scurrying in the long grass. Frost covering everything still not fortunate enough to be warmed in the suns rays.

I arrived at the last swim and proceeded to fish it as I had done the previous few swims. The fish were obviously being very finicky. I fished this swim in the deepest water I could find which was tight against the far bank where the current was strongest. It took three trots though to get a bite. The strike met with solid resistance. It must be a chub I thought. No head shaking though instead the fish just kept deep and then energetically darted in every direction possible. I caught sight of the fish flash and was sure it was a grayling, a decent one too, surely over a pound. I was relieved when the fish was in the net. I rested the fish in the margins to recover whilst I readied the scales. It turned out to be a new PB for me at 1lb 4oz, beating my old one by 4oz. I was made up on such a difficult day it was the perfect way to end the session.

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Until next time,



More Grass Carp (Entry 21)

Having really enjoyed my last session after grass carp, if you havent read it you can by clicking here, I decided this week to return there to see if I could tempt another grass carp before the weather totally turns into winter. I say totally, it was pretty cold already, but I still felt confident of at least catching a few fish.

Arriving just before first light I had a walk around the lake, taking my time and seeing if I could find any moving fish. There was the odd small fish dimpling the surface but apart from them, the water looked quite still. I could feel the cold air nipping at any exposed parts of skin. The signs were not great as this water does hold a lot of small silver fish which are usually extremely active during dawn. But I wasn’t after roach and rudd so I tried not to let this fact bother me. I walked back to the north bank, and slowly crept down into one of the swims. After a few seconds a small dark fin broke the surface and the fish it was attached to made the water wake. Definitely a small fin attached to a decent sized fish. Definitely a grass carp I thought, and made my way back to the car for the gear. The fish had been located. Somehow it didn’t feel as cold anymore.

Illuminated by the early morning sun is the first fish I caught. A lovely brown goldfish and surprisingly it didn’t take too long to catch, only about thirty minutes. It fell to a single grain of corn fished under a delicate float. Like last week I set the rig to fall slowly through the water, only a few number nine shot down the line. I believe that grass carp spend a lot of their time off the bottom, in the upper layers of the water and, like winter carp, like watch a falling bait before deciding whether to take it or not. For feed this week, given the cold conditions and the nature of the fish I was targeting I decided to try something a little different. With a pole cup I fed a few grains of corn every thirty minutes or so but I also added some ‘neat’ liquid flavouring to the pot. In this case I added a yellow scopex flavour that not only created an enticing visual cloud that hung in the water column but also gave the fish a scent trail to home in on. This way I could constantly have attraction without any food content.

After only an hour or so of fishing I had my first grass carp of the session. Like last week the fish took the bait on the drop and simply stopped the float from dotting down. A firm strike and the fish was on. In the cold water there wasn’t much of a fight and I was grateful as it allowed me to get the fish in the net quickly. Not a big fish my any means, maybe 3lb, but again it was my target species and in the conditions as I stated last week, I was more than happy just to be catching. I also had another nice late autumn tench, and several small crucians.

I was more than happy with how the session was turning out. Using the flavour as an attractant was working well and the few grains of corn that settled on the bottom were holding fish long enough for me to be able to present my bait to them. I cast and re-cast my rig a lot, maybe every two or three minutes. On the day all bites came within this time. Leaving it longer didn’t help so it was better to keep the bait active. I caught the tench and crucian hybrids, pictured left, after the rig had settled when the rig was dragged slowly through the swim. The small carp and grass carp I caught on the drop of just as the rig settled and I mean, just as it settled. It was a very enjoyable session. The sun was out, not the best conditions in all honesty, but the fishing didn’t seem to reflect this. A few other anglers were struggling at the other end of the lake which made me glad I wandered around the lake at dawn, giving me the clue as to where the fish were. I really wanted to catch one more grass carp before the session was over. I felt confident they were around. I had seen plenty top in the area I was fishing but they are tricky fish to catch. Still I carried on with my method and for the time being simply enjoyed being there. I watched a small wren flitting from branch to branch in the dense and tangled brambles to my left. Slowly it made its way nearer to me until it was an arms length away. I have never been so close to a wren before. In my experience they are normally so timid but this one appeared to not even notice me. We, as anglers, really see some privileged sights that could be so easily overlooked. Eventually the wren made its way back to where it came from and I continued with my fishing.

And eventually I caught another grass carp. Only a little bigger than the first but I feel a well deserved reward for thinking about how to feed the swim in the cold conditions. I doubt I would have had as many bites, and therefore fish, feeding something with actual feed value, groundbait, hemp or micro pellets for example. As well as the two grass carp, I had numerous crucians, crucian-hybrids, and brown goldfish. Add to that a tench and some hard fighting 2lb commons and ghost carp and you have got yourself a thoroughly enjoyable session on a beautiful, if a little chilly, late autumn day. I hope the river levels are constant over the next few days which will allow next weeks update to hopefully feature some grayling fishing.

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Until next time,


Let’s try for a grass carp (Entry 20)

After the enjoyable session last week I thought I would head back to the same venue and this week try to single out a grass carp. I guess you could call me a species chaser at the moment. In the past few weeks I have become less concerned with individual weights and am simply getting a lot of enjoyment trying to single out specific species of fish. I’m sure this will change but for now I think I will be fishing varying methods and trying out some new waters to see just exactly what is in them. From there I can build a better picture and then maybe set myself some target weights.

I arrived at the water well before dawn. I had got up early to attend to something and there was no point wasting petrol driving home and then returning later so I made up my mind to catch a few hours sleep in the car whilst I waited for first light. It arrived splendidly, over the hills in the distance the sun slowly made its way out, revealing a thick, white frost covering everything. A little mist rolled over the fields at the foot of the hills and further added to this wonderful scene. Setting up slowly I watched the water. Very important in fishing, but even more so when its cold and the fish will be hard to catch. I spotted a decent swirl close the the margins underneath a tree to the left of my peg. It looked like a grass carp. And again, before a small patch of bubble rose from the bottom. Sure sign of a fish. My confidence was boosted and I felt confident of a fish or two, even in achieving my target for the session.

In my last entry I outlined how I like fish this water and today was no different. At least in terms of rigs and method. Even the bait was the same, but the way I fished the rigs would have to be a little different. In my experience on this water, the grass carp tend to swim in the upper layers of water and seem to follow a bait down through the water, and take on the drop. Therefore I needed to fish my rigs with a strung out shotting pattern and not leave my rig too long in the water before resetting it. Lets face it, its better to be active especially when it is cold. Not only will it keep you a little warmer but this active style of fishing does, I believe, get more bites. Not just on this water but others too. A little movement in the hookbait can more often than not spark a take from fish, especially lethargic carp.

I fed the line sparingly, little and often, trying to keep at least a few tiny pellets and odd grain of corn traveling through the water column. First put in with a corn hookbait produced a sail away bite just after the hookbait touched the bottom. A powerful, lunging battle ensued, the responsible fish could only be one thing. A very welcome tench weighing roughly 3lb. Its nice to get your first bite on a difficult day but when it is converted into a nice fish its even better. The session however was proving to be a tough one. The lake wasn’t fishing well at all with many other anglers struggling for bites. I counted my blessing, at least feeling there was a few fish near me and continued in much the same way, feeding very sparingly and moving my rig a lot.

The lakes resident were tempted by my tactics and I was happy for any bites given the conditions. I was sure there was some grass carp moving occasionally under the tree where I had seen one setting up in this morning. I’m good at persisting with things so if nothing else I was sure I would eventually bore a grassie to the bank! In all seriousness I was catching the odd decent fish to single grain of sweetcorn and they were coming soon after moving the bait, or just as it settled. I was fishing correctly I just had to hope that a grass carp decided to turn up. And eventually it did. Only a small one of around 3lb but success tastes sweeter than failure.

The fish gave a good account of itself, a typical energetic fight and a real flap-fest once in the landing net. It fell to a grain of corn and took the bait on the drop. As well as the pictured fish I did have a few small carp, a true and very dark brown goldfish, some of the crucian/hybrids and plenty of those troublesome, tiny rudd. A nice mixed bag of fish, all in lovely condition, caught on a bitterly cold day when keeping active and thinking about what you are doing, and why, was of utmost importance.

Oh and plenty of these are usually needed too!

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Until next time,


Brown goldfish-crucian-common carp hybrids… or something (Entry 19)

The weather has certainly turned now and with a lot of cool rain falling in the night the decision of where to fish was a tricky one. I had originally planned to go in search of chub and grayling on a lovely small river but with it being prone to rapidly rising levels I felt sure it would be out of sorts today. I quickly changed my bait of maggots and bread for corn and pellets and headed to a small lake with the hope of catching some of its mongrel inhabitants.

Let me explain what I mean. You see this venue has a good head of small crucians to little over eight ounces, numerous small common and ghost carp with some reaching high doubles, and a very good population of brown goldfish with the odd colourful surprise. Because of this mixture of closely related fish there is some goldfish crucian hybrids, not quite goldfish, not quite crucian, and they grow to good sizes. It was these fish that I was looking to target. And one of over two pound was going to be my target. Also present are large shoals of tiny Rudd, which can be frustrating at times especially when presenting small or soft baits. Maggots are a definite no no for me on here. There is also some large roach and good sized tench reaching five pound or more. And to round it all off, plenty of grass carp. In my experience on this venue all these fish tend to feed well, even through the winter, so I was hopeful that a good session would be on the cards.

I settled into the swim pictured above and set up two rigs. The floats are in the picture to the left. The silver diamond shaped float is a pattern I make myself and its a great pattern for holding the rig very stable. I would be presenting a 4mm expander pellet on the rig fished at dead depth or just an inch over depending how the fish were feeding. The other float with a thicker cane bristle was set up for my margin swim and would fis a grain of corn. Usually my margin swim on this venue only produces the odd better fish and never really produces a lot of fish. I also like to add a few 2mm or 4mm pellets to both lines, depending on conditions, and today with the temperature dropping and the cool rain going in, I opted for 2mm pellets dusted with some groundbait.

First fish was banked on my first put in and was inevitably a tiny rudd. It was encouraging though at least to see that the fish were moving. I had fed both lines and was on the open water swim at about 10 metres. As when fishing for roach, and indeed F1’s, on difficult days it pays to move the bait to try to induce a bite. Lift and drop the rig, move it along the bottom slowly, or simply sometimes try just off the main area of feed.

Today however, the open water swim wasn’t exactly fishing well, and it was a struggle to get a confident bite that didn’t result in a tiny rudd. So after an hour of fishing, it was time to have a quick look down the margin line. And I’m glad I did. As happens so often in fishing the fish decide to re write the rules all the time. My margin swim today produced a lovely 1lb goldfish/crucian hybrid on my first put in. On the second it produced a small 8oz crucian. The third another hybrid, and so the pattern continued. My theory being the cold rain, heavier than warm water, had settled in the bottom third of the lake pushing the fish into the slightly shallower and therefore warmer margins.

Switching between corn and 4mm expander pellet I managed string together a nice catch of fish and build the swim so that the fish size began to increase. Small 2lb common carp fought well and even the odd small tench made an appearance. Just after noon I started to make contact with some of the bigger hybrids. The fish were all falling to corn pushed up the marginal slope and the bites were very confident. It seemed best today to feed two or three grains of corn with a few 2mm pellets every put in, and virtually guaranteed a bite. I ended the day with well over 30 decent fish, the best hybrid being a fish a 2lb 10oz. Sure its not a ‘pure’ species but I really enjoy catching them. They give fantastic sport and even in the harshest of conditions, are willing to feed providing you can find them and present a bait properly. Last year I caught them in sub zero temperatures.

Until next time,