Back on the river, after chub and grayling (Entry 68)

Well it’s chilly out there now. Winter has finally caught up with us. Even when the sun shines, the blue sky somehow looks cooler and any breathe of wind, no matter how slight, feels like an icy breathe, cutting through clothes. Without sounding too dramatic; I love winter fishing. It’s one of my favourite times of year. You get to see some amazingly beautiful and atmospheric landscapes. It also keeps most people from venturing out and on some days you might not see a soul the whole time you are fishing. Oh yes, the fishing. And while yes, it can be hard, when you get it right it feels somehow so much more rewarding. So whats the secret to getting it right? I suppose it’s all about matching the species to suit the conditions to give yourself the best chance to catch.

The warming sun

With a substantial drop in temperature a few days before the session I knew I was going to have to rely on two species. Chub or grayling. That sounded good. But then you know what sounded even better. Chub and grayling! Why not? I was hopefully going to try and catch both species in a few hours roving. There was a hell of a frost the night before and I awoke to a white blanket covering everything. Including, of course, the car which required a lot of scraping and warming up before it agreed to take me to my destination. I thought it was white in the city but in the country it was even thicker. I couldn’t wait to get the layers on and start crunching through the undergrowth.

Chub heaven, apparentlyI headed for the above swim and proceeded to feed with a few maggots. I was itching to get started but far better to feed and get any fishes confidence before putting an alien line, shot and float through the swim. Five minutes later I had an exploratory run down. Just at the end of the trot the float vanished and I struck into my first fish, which kept deep and hung motionless. Chub time! I was in shock to have had a bite on the first run through, Chunky chubthough I didn’t count my chickens, as the fish wasn’t in the net yet. I had a 2lb fluorocarbon hooklength so I took my time. I didn’t want the small size 18 fine wire hook slipping either. I had no need to worry though as minutes later the fish was in front of me and after a little wallowing in the margin, the fish slipped over the rim of the net. It was certainly a fat fish, having the frame of a three pounder and the belly of a six! The picture just doesn’t do it justice. The scales read 3lb 12oz. Very nice fish indeed, especially on the float. Returning it upstream so as not to disturb any other fish present, I continued to feed some maggots. In went the float and immediately sunk from sight. Right where I was feeding the maggots. It had to be a little trout of course, and it darted about momentarily, until the hook pulled free. Oh well, no harm done. The obliterated maggots were changed and the float sent down the swim again. In the same place as the first bite the float sunk from view and another chub was on. A little smaller than the first at 3lb 4oz but very welcome none the less. Twenty minutes fishing and two lovely fish on the bank. Now could I find any grayling?

Another cold morning chubIn the next swim I once again fed a few maggots before contemplating introducing the rig. Time spent winning fishes confidence is never wasted. Just don’t overfeed them. Two or three maggots at a time is fine. By now the sun had rose. Its weak rays melting the frost. Dripping from the trees above me. Steam rose from the churning water and the anticipation of catching a grayling only grew. It was perfect. I just needed to find one or two. I was sure they would bite.

Another lady in the netAnd bite they did. Not in any number but they were all quality fish. In my second swim I took just one fish at 1lb 10oz. One bite, one fish and then nothing. The water here was shallow and clear and I assumed any other fish had backed off or spooked completely. Try as I might I didn’t have another bite. But the beauty of roving is just that. You can move. So off I went in search of another grayling swim. On the day I was looking for crease swims. Where fast water met slower. Swim three produced a trout. A very lively trout that jumped and thrashed the water before slipping into the net and jumping out again. More an error on my part but the commotion ensured another move was in order.

The business endI finally managed two fish from swim four. One of 1lb 12oz and the second at 1lb 9oz. Absolutely brilliant fishing. Two and a half hours on the bank and six quality cold water fish caught. All on the float and double maggot. I had to play with the shotting pattern a lot today. A bulked rig didn’t seem to be working and groups of smaller shot strung out, where the flow allowed, produced positive bites. And its not official; Grayling are the hardest fish to hold after the eel! But aren’t they magnificent. I have a feeling I’ll be doing a lot more grayling fishing this winter.

The biggest of the day at 1lb 12ozThanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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A case of ‘the one that got away’ (Entry 67)

I’m really busy with various things at the moment but I made a promise to myself, that even if it is for just two hours, I will get a little fishing in every week. And thats what time limit I had this week. What better way to spend a short amount of time than roving a small river with some cheesepaste trying to tempt a chub. The river would be the same that I have been fishing for the grayling but much lower down, where it is deeper, a little slower but still as overgrown and ‘fishy.’

I arrived at the river mid afternoon and on first inspection, knew I was in for a tough time. The river still had a good amount of extra water on and the colour had already begun to drop out. But I was willing to try. Find a few slack areas behind trees or on the nearside of bends, feed a little cheesepaste, have a cup of coffee, then give it fifteen minutes before moving on. Sounds good to me.

Chub anyone?I walked away from the car to the furthest swim. It would take me just over two hours to visit all the swims I knew would be fishable. The swim here is usually quite shallow and the water skims over a gavel bottom. There is a deeply undercut bank where the river gouges away the sandy soil on the far bank, and under my feet, when there is extra water on, turns into a slow back eddy. It offers fish a little calm water and will also collect any natural food. There simply had to be a fish or two down there. But would they be interested in the cheesepaste? I’d find out soon enough. I broke a small ball of it and fed it into the swim, just under my feet no more than four feet from the bank, where the water is at its deepest. I had my coffee whilst letting the bait settle and hopefully rouse the interest of Mr Chub. Above me a woodpecker rhythmically tapped at the tree bark. A splash of white, black and red in an otherwise green and brown backdrop. Once he spotted me he soon flew away but it was a nice sight all the same. Time to drop in the rig. Carefully I placed it into position. Free-lined cheesepaste. There was no need for any additional weight. Sitting well back from the edge, I wrapped the line around my finger and waited for a bite. Five minutes past. A little pluck on the line out of the blue, then a more pronounced pull. Fish on. I had to play it fairly hard to keep the fish from finding one of the multitude of snags, but on 6lb line, I felt I always had the upper hand.

A chunky chub

This chunky chub of 4lb 9oz was the culprit and obviously had a liking for some stinky cheesepaste. It was a fish in lovely condition apart from one obvious puncture would on the other flank. It looked fairly recent to. Maybe a cormorant or some other predator. I don’t know. I applied some Propolis to the would, made sure it ‘stuck’ and returned the fish. Propolis is used by koi carp enthusiasts as a natural antibacterial and healing agent. If its good enough for them its good enough for fishing. I use it whenever I see a fish with damage. Big or small, carp, barbel or any other. It’s also good at alleviating hayfever symptoms but I only just found this out so I can’t say wether it works or not. With that swim now disturbed I made my way to the next in the hope of another chub.

Bee propolis

The sun had now made it’s way behind the clouds and this gave me a little more confidence. I changed my plans slightly when I got settled in the swim. It looked really good and I had a lot of water to draw fish from. I therefore decided to give it an hour and slowly build up the swim. I fed a few pellets I had with me and every few minutes, a little chunk of cheesepaste. I used a fairly light leger to search the swim. Bumping the lead down the swim occasionally and letting it come to rest where the flow dictated. As I expected it was slow going and for thirty minutes nothing happened.

On a cast a little further down the swim I had a little pluck which didn’t materialise into anything. Another ten minutes went by before the tip pulled round Slowly. I struck into a heavy weight and at first I thought I had snagged up. Then the snag began to move, toward me thankfully. This was a very heavy fish. Suddenly the fish shook its head and did a complete u-turn, and at some speed. Stripping line off the reel the fish headed away from me. As I said before I was on 6lb line and was not geared up for this. With the fish heading towards a huge dead tree and a raft of debris I had to hold on and hope for the best. Unfortunately the fish was soon free, the hook having pulled, but thankfully I didn’t leave any end tackle with the fish. Quite what the fish was I wouldn’t like to say, it was heavy and very powerful, and its turn of pace was staggering. Barbel or carp? Thats fishing for you. It wouldn’t be interesting to succeed all the time. It’s part of the charm of the sport, so many variables out of your control, its amazing we catch any fish at all. I’ll certainly be rigging up on heavier gear for the next few sessions just in case I happen to meet with that brute again!

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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I love those ladies (Entry 66)

Last week saw me on the local canal. I enjoyed the session but I really wanted to be back on the river chasing those lovely big grayling. The river levels were up and down though and thats why I ended up trying the cut. This week, however, I managed to catch the river as it was fining down after another week of unsettled wet weather. The air temperatures have also begun to drop a little too. But this didn’t worry me much as I was sure if I could locate a group of fish and presented a bait on the right line, at the right depth and the right pace I would get a bite or two. Easy!

Of course I am joking about it being easy. It’s certainly challenging fishing but one of my favourite methods. Coupled with the fact the fish I was after is fast becoming one of my favourites, it comes as no surprise I couldn’t wait to get to the river. With something to attend to first thing though, I indeed had to wait. Early or late on the stretch I am fishing it seems, so I filled my time for the rest of the morning, and arrived at the river just after one o’clock. I planned to fish until I could no longer make out the float which would give me a good couple of hours.

IMG_3271There was still a little water on the river but the colour had started to drop out. The extra pace meant a change of float pattern from last visit; the faithful Loafer. A little heavier, it would hopefully allow me to fish more turbulent water and with a bulk of shot down the line, push the bait more towards the bottom layer. Red and white maggots would be todays bait and I began to feed these, three or four at a time once I had selected my first swim. I’d give it an hour and move on if nothing materialised. First run through produced a bite, a lively fight ensued, a fight that was characteristically ‘trout.’ Obviously training for its pilots licence it spent more time in the air than in the water. Real swim destroying stuff.

IMG_3324It was a lovely fish though at around two and a half pounds. I returned the fish and fed a few more maggots. I was pretty sure any fish starting to feed on the free offerings would have backed well away so I didn’t fish for around ten minutes. Instead just concentrated on feeding and taking in the lovely surroundings. Eventually I made another cast, running the float down the crease, the float being pushed from calm water to fast as the flow dictated. Twenty minutes went by before another bite materialised. Another trout this time and immaculate little fish of around five ounces. Time to move on.

IMG_3332For the next hour I tried a few different swims I hadn’t fished before. Running the float through them a dozen times. Trying to get a feel for them with the hope of chancing upon a fish. No fish came whilst doing this but it allowed me to build a mental picture of them. I was now heading into the witching hour. Behind the tree’s, the sun was starting to disappear and I took this as my cue to head to a previously fished swim to spend the rest of the session there.

With the bottom being relatively clean here, I set the rig deep so the maggots would be tripping the bottom. The buoyant top of the loafer would prevent the float from being constantly dragged under. I started the process again, as I had in all the other swims, feed a few maggots, side cast the rig, run through, holding back where needed, and repeat. Third put through and the float vanished. A solid and quick strike saw me bending into another spirited fight. At first I feared another trout. Except when the fish changed direction, a brilliant silver flank flashed in the depth. It was a grayling and it looked like another good fish. I took my time and played the fish toward the net. As it surfaced and attempted one last lunge for freedom I managed to slip the net under my prize.

IMG_3344The fish equalled my PB set a few weeks ago at 1lb 12oz. A different fish too. I was very happy indeed. With the fish photographed and rested until strong enough to swim strongly away, I decided to have one last cast. By now the light was fading fast and I could hardly see the float. I could see it enough to know it had gone under though and my final fish of the day came in the shape of a plump three pound chub.

IMG_3348A very enjoyable session came to an end just as a huge hailstorm began to rain down. I hurriedly packed away and walked as fast as I could back to the car. It was worth getting soaked for to catch another stunning grayling though. Yes, they certainly are up there with my favourite fish at the moment. Long may it continue.

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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A few hours on the ‘cut’ (Entry 65)

The canals I grew up fishing are definitely not the first thing that would pop into my head when thinking about picturesque venues. There wasn’t just shopping trolleys dumped in them, sometimes cars could be seen half submerged in their waters. Traffic cones flung from bridges stood out like oversized float tips and all manner of other detritus would often be seen floating by. Nevertheless, its on these places that I grew to love angling. So recently, on a trip to the supermarket, I made a slight detour and revisited a stretch I hadn’t seen for years. After a few minutes of walking the bank I knew I would have to come back with a few items of tackle and give it a try.

Canal50Sa-ExposureIt had certainly changed a lot. The banks had been cleaned up and re-surfaced. The factories that sat behind the canal have long since been demolished and replaced by the homogeneous flats, that seem to have sprung up everywhere in Manchester. Its a shame really, I think that the place has lost a lot of character. A little bit of Manchester’s history and heritage lost to property developers. But this isn’t Grand Designs, onto the fishing.

IMG_3249I settled into a small wide and went about rigging up a waggler. Small hooks and light lines would be the order of the day. I only had a couple of handfuls of casters with me and planned to feed these via the catapult every cast, just three or four, until I started to get bites. The rig would be cast over the deeper water of the boat channel to the relatively shallow shelf, overhung by the big willow tree. The canal is heavily used by boats andIMG_3259 I wanted to fish as far from the disturbance as possible. Within twenty minutes I had set up and began feeding casters two thirds of the way across the canal. Not long after this the flow started to increase which could only mean one thing. Barge! I wasn’t too worried though, I knew that there would be some casters on the bottom, stuck in crevices and suchlike, safe from being pushed too far out of my swim. I just needed to wait for the boat to use the lock, go through the swim, and down the other lock for the water to stopped pulling. When the water is pulling through you can still get bites but its more like fishing a waggler on a river, holding the rod and mending the line. On my third cast of doing this the float buried and I struck into a heavy fish. It took me be surprise a little actually, but once under control, I realised I’d hooked a fairly decent bream of around three pounds. Taken on single caster in just over 18 inches of water.

IMG_3246I was thinking roach would be more my target fish, especially where I was fishing, and never even considered bream. But I was not complaining. Shortly after returning the fish the barge passed me and began its descent via the next lock. I fed less often during this time but still a few casters were catapulted in further ‘upstream’ than previously. Another bite in the same part of the swim but this time I missed it. Just a tiny bit of shell came back. Could that have been a nice roach? More than likely. I carried on casting and feeding. Over the next thirty minutes I had two more bites that I missed. I tried altering the depth and changing the shotting pattern a few times. I had a feeling the fish had come up in the water but no bites were forthcoming. In fact in the next two hours I had no more bites at all. No more boats came through either. A flurry of bites in the first hour or so then nothing. I remember the canal being like this. The only fish that fed consistently were the huge shoals of gudgeon that now appear to be absent. All in all it was a very interesting (and wet) little session. Maybe I had been feeding a little heavily but the fish had been responding. I packed away after just three hours but was pretty pleased to have not blanked. It was very nice to revisit the canal and I imagine I will end up on its banks again sometime. Its a convenient location and obviously still has some good fish to offer. Once its worked out that is.

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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Enigmatic river, enigmatic fish (Entry 64)

We have certainly had a very mild winter so far. No frosts as yet an we’re into November! I sat looking through an old fishing book last night; ‘The Ladybird Book of Coarse Fishing.’ I read it cover to cover most nights when I was young. Mesmerised by the illustrated pictures of strange shaped floats, tackle and uncatchable fish. At the time I seemed limited to only catch perch, gudgeon and if I was really lucky, the occasional roach. As I flicked through the pages, carefully as the spine has long since gave way, a page that used to hold my attention for a while caught my eye. It was the species page. From stickleback to king carp they are all there. A page crammed full of mysterious fish. One fish used to stand out above all the rest, largely because it was the biggest illustration on the page. It was the grayling. I used to dream of the day when I would be ‘good enough’ to fish a river with a float set up and catch one of these beautiful fish. To say it spurred me on to head to the river this week would be an understatement. So with a half a pint of white maggots and minimal tackle, the next morning I set off of before dawn, to put into practice what I often thought about doing as a child.

A book from my childhood

I only had the morning to fish but these few hours were certainly going to be enjoyed. It’s been a good few months since I last ran a float down a river and I love doing it. Today I planned to rove around and fish each swim for twenty minutes, longer if I found fish. As ever I kept everything very simple, using a Drennan Bobber float with just a bulk of shot about nine inches from the hook. With it still being relatively mild I felt that the grayling would still be in the faster water. Having said that the first swim I settled into was a slow back eddy under a likely looking tree. It looked good for a chub and it would be rude to pass up the opportunity. As I trickled in a few maggots I slowly drank a cup of coffee. On the first cast the float went through cleanly. I added more depth to the rig and eventually could see that the float was just dragging the bottom. After a few casts I had a bite which resulted in a minnow. Not a good sign I thought. There mustn’t be many chub there. Even so I gave it a few more hopeful casts then decided to look for some faster water where I would hopefully find some grayling.

One of these would do

Before long I found a lovely looking swim just before a much shallower section of water. I primed the swim with maggots for a few minutes and enjoyed my breakfast. Well, as much as you can enjoy a banana and an oat bar. Hunger satisfied, I began to run the float through the swim, trying different lines and working out where I needed to hold back the rig to lift the bait over shallower areas. It’s a joy to fish like this. On my seventh run through right at the end of the swim the float disappeared and I connected with a fish. It began to move slowly across the current and felt like a chub. Then the fish flashed and shook its head. No chub at all, it was my target fish, and a good one at that. I took things slowly, edging the fish inch by inch towards me. The grayling used the fast water to great effect and on two occasions I had to give line. Once the fish was in front of me I applied a little more pressure to bring the fish to the surface and to net. Ping! The hook pulled, catapulting the rig into the tree I was stood underneath. Disaster. I was sure that fish would have set a new PB for me. A few moments passed before I went about retrieving the end tackle from the branches. I looked on the positive side. The fish had not been lost in the swim and had not splashed on the surface. I fed a few maggots and had another drink. I hoped there would still be a good fish or two waiting down there feasting on the free offerings. Five minutes later I sent the rig through the swim. Nothing that time. I tried again with a similar result. Maybe I’d spooked the shoal? On the third run through however I hooked into another fish. Another grayling and another good fish. I took this one even more carefully than the last. When it came towards the net, my heart was in my mouth, and as the fish slid over the rim of the net, I knew I had caught my biggest grayling to date. The ‘uncatchable fish’ from my childhood had been caught.

PB grayling and my first of the season

I’m sure on other rivers this fish wouldn’t be worth mentioning. But thats not the point. Everything has to be put into context. For the river I fished this was a good size. Made sweeter by the back story I wrote about earlier. It is one of the most enjoyable captures I’ve had this year and am so happy I was lucky enough to experience it. For those interested it weighed 1lb 12oz and fell to double white maggot. I also had another good sized grayling of 1lb 9oz from another swim. Two good fish fish in three hours. I had to leave all to soon but I almost floated back across the field to my car.

Another pound plus grayling

A little indulgence on the pictures but why not? They are stunningly colourful fish. Purple, Turquoise, blue, silver, black, yellows and of course the crimson in the dorsal. They have to be up there with one of our prettiest fish.

The colours of grayling are amazing

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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Until Next time tight lines,