Sharing and caring (Entry 112)

By now the mist had long since cleared up and the sun was shining down. The high sided banks of the river seemed to lessen the effect though. Some of the runs would never see the sun, eternally stuck in a dark, cool shadow. For the sections that ran in a different direction the complete opposite could be said. Here the water looked much more inviting. The river cast in a warm, orange hue. Partly from the peaty looking water and partly from the rich gravel underneath the ripples. In stark contrast, tendrils of green weed still clinging on this late in the year, waved mesmerisingly in the current. A reminder of just how mild Autumn has been. Today I was fishing with a friend. Although ‘fishing’ I use as a lose term. At least for me. I was to spend a fair chunk of the day simply watching and talking. Quite happy to take a back seat. It really was going to be refreshing to be out with a like minded angler, sharing stories and whetting our appetites for future conquests. Grayling were to be our target but with a healthy number of solidly built chub present, this was not an exclusive target by any stretch of the imagination.

There's a river here, somewhereI had arrived before dawn. A chance to soak up the atmosphere, watch the mist rise, and see the sun break from below the horizon. I had begun by having a good search around and found some new swims by fighting my way through balsam and nettles. Having found an inviting run on a corner, I hurriedly set up the tackle and proceeded to feed the swim. The first trot through a new swim is usually a memorable thing. For the wrong reason in this one. A hook lost on an unseen snag. Oh well, I thought, lets avoid that area. My next trot through I sent the float on a different line all together. Halfway down the swim the float tip once more sank from view. Hook number two lost and for now time to move on to familiar territory. By this time my fishing partner for the day had arrived so I went to meet him. Back across the field I trudged, watching a hare charge at some ludicrous speed in the opposite direction. With the pleasantries exchanged, a plan was formed to make our way to the head of the stretch and work our way back down. Waders donned, we explored previously un-fished areas of the river, and with good results. Shaun taking a number of sizeable grayling from the first swim we fished, two of which were well over the pound mark. Certainly fish befitting of the glorious autumn day and certainly ones to be proud of. I myself fished a little downstream and had to make do with a procession of little minnows. Some of them, not so small, at least for minnows. Very pretty little fish if truth be told but a devastating interceptor of hookbait intended for bigger species. It was time to move on to more familiar territory where it would be hopefully my turn to catch something bigger than my finger.

A very welcome chub

With the water still quite low and clear we were looking for swims offering a little depth. We were also looking for swims with a little pace too, where the water would be more oxygenated and food more readily available. With these features ticked off, and the addition of a overhanging tree, I felt this was a near perfect swim for a chub. Shaun made himself comfortable with a cup off coffee and I had a few exploratory runs down the glide. After a good five minutes of feeding the float deliberately sank from view. My strike locked up to a unmovable weight. At first I thought it was goodbye hook number three but thankfully this ‘snag’ then began to move toward me. On light line chub really fight well. Using their huge mouths and weight to great effect. A deeply coloured fish due to the clear water. I was very happy with my reward. A few casts later and I was into my second, a slightly more washed out example but another chunky fish.

Snap! Another chub for me

It was a real treat to see these fish swim off in the shallow and clear water but the return of these fish ultimately spooked any others present so it was time to move on once more. Over the next few hours I did a lot more talking and watching than fishing. It was great fun though. Lovely to share and appreciate the surroundings with a fellow angler who I kew would be doing the same. I had to leave well before Shaun (it might have had a little to do with hooking the only stump in a swim and losing my rig) but it had been an enjoyable day none the less. Shaun caught a good amount of grayling, the odd trout and dace, before informing me via email that he also added a good chub to his tally just before dusk. Well done that man! Each fish landed, cared for and returned to give another angler as much pleasure as they had given him. The true spirit of angling.

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

NorthwestFisherman

Earl grey and grayling (Entry 111)

The water ran slowly. Disappointingly so. In fact, the word ‘run’ itself was a bit of an over estimation on my part. Ambled? Still too quick and this now implies an air of relaxation. It was far from that. More one of desperation. This river had not seen any substantial rainfall for weeks now. Beneath the gin clear water dead algae sediment lay in the margins, carpeting the smooth pebbles underneath in a rust coloured fur coat. Quite pretty really but one I knew probably didn’t bode well for the fishing. I had a feeling the grayling on my to catch list would be gathered in the more oxygen filled water. Those places of the river that always offer a little extra pace. Over the shallow riffles and beyond, where the water once more regains depth. Here I’d surely find grayling, laying up and leisurely picking off any flies and insects washed their way.

The above swim with its calming golden, hazy light penetrating through the trees was unfortunately no place to hang around for too long. The water here was much too sluggish but it was a great place to set up the rod and put a rig together. And have a cup of tea whilst doing so. Tea never tastes as good as it does on the bank. I decided to scale my end tackle right down; using a small size 16 hook, fine 2lb fluorocarbon hooklength and a small loafer float. I would need a float with a little buoyancy in order to present a bait properly in the erratic and boiling currents of the shallows. It was then just a case of setting off to find them. After finishing my tea.

My first swim choice, offering no more than a foot of depth was tricky to fish. Plenty of obstacles to hamper the cast and an unseen snag just before the area I expected to get bites in. I’d spent five minutes working this out without a bite. Time to overshot the float to enable me to hold the float back hard. It never fails to amaze me how tiny changes can see a biteless swim transformed. Especially with grayling. If the rig is not presented how they want it, at that time of day and in that swim, they simply won’t take it. You could be forgiven for thinking a swim is devoid of fish, only to change the depth a little, and catch several fish on the trot.

The lovely colours of the graylingWhich is what happened when I began to hold the float back, three bites in succession resulted in three lovely grayling, the disturbance of which was enough to see the bites dry up. I knew I had a lot of river to explore so rather than feed the swim and not fish, waiting for the graylings confidence to rise, it was a case of moving on. A chance to explore not just the river but the landscape surrounding it. The towering trees were still holding on dearly to their summer colours though it was clear that this wouldn’t last too much longer. Soon they would change to crisp yellows and if I’m lucky, rich crimsons. The pink flowered balsam stems will die back too, taking on a deathly brown hue and fragile texture. Before I know it winter will have took a hold and completely changed the way the stretch of river looks. I enjoy witnessing the transformation of the surroundings just as much as the fishing taking place there.

Back to it's underwater homeI was now another swim. A little less pace than the first and one I was unsure if it would hold any grayling. Only one way to find out I told myself. I began to feed maggots but was in no rush to send the rig through. A time for another quick tea. All the time trickling in five or six maggots. I hoped that there would be some grayling getting rather excited about this bounty. With each passing second their confidence rising. The first trot through saw the orange float tip vanished from view. A writhing and determined fighter on the other end. Unmistakably a grayling. They are terrific sport, not as erratic and supercharged as a trout, the fight fraught with much uncertainty as to who will be the victor. Their bony mouths making them far more inclined to simply dropping off the hook. This time however the grayling gods were smiling and I landed the fish, adding another two soon after.

Recovering from the fightLike barbel, grayling do fight hard and require the same care, so that they may swim off strong and healthy. We must be aware of how precious our fish stocks are and do our utmost to help protect them. The grayling above was one such fish. One that took a few minutes to ‘catch its breathe’. I gave it all the time it needed to recover in the landing net. Once it was kicking its tail and could hold itself in the flow, it was simply a case of dropping the front of the net, and allowing it to make its way back to its watery home. Time for me to find another swim and see if I could add any more grayling to the days steadily growing tally. After another cup of tea.

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

NorthwestFisherman

Zig zag wandering (Entry 110)

I imagined the car would be understandably bemused when I didn’t take the usual exit on the motorway this week. It was time to head for somewhere a little further afield. Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band were keeping me company on the journey and I simply couldn’t wait to get to my chosen location. It has been a good few months since I last ventured onto a river and it felt like it too! Much, much too long. The conditions haven’t been great for weeks though, and from talking to friends and reading reports online, the rivers are in desperate need of some rain and a good flush through. Today however, the expected low conditions and warm, bright sunny day did not bother me one bit. Neither did the idea of catching. I was simply looking forward to once more being sat by moving water. Fishing for the unknown amongst the currently subdued currents. Even if that ‘unknown’ meant not catching. It really didn’t concern me one bit.

I didn't see a soul all dayI settled into an inviting swim, positioning my chair on a small mound, that ordinarily would be a foot or more underwater. A chance to walk the stretch and look for features not usually obvious in normal or flooded conditions? You bet, and thats exactly what I did, straight after I had a quick lead around the swim. In doing so I found an interesting depression in the river bed and deposited a few bait dropper loads of bait. I was in no hurry to fish just yet. Time to give any willing fish plenty of time to settle. I was already finding the place absolutely stunning. It’s funny how we become immune to places we visit often. Sometimes it takes a jolt to make us realise that just because they become familiar they shouldn’t be allowed to lose their charm. I once read a book by a famous architect who said that if you find your journey to work boring then you aren’t using your eyes. What a very fitting observation and one that I find myself taking stock of when I feel a place doesn’t have the ‘magic’ it once did. Anyway, enough philosophical rambling, back to the fishing.

Take a closer look when out on the bank

I left the majority of the tackle in the swim and I had a wander around the stretch. Up the bank, down the bank, up the bank and down once more. I took with me my rod, landing net, unhooking mat and a few pieces of meat. Should the opportunity arise for some freelining in amongst the fronds of ranunculus. Although I was looking for any features, I wanted to be prepared for the chance of catching my first fish from the river. I found lovely looking shallow glides and areas where the river was noticeably deeper and slower. I noted a few obstructions worth remembering for when the river returns back to its usual level. I didn’t see any fish on my travels but I did have a few exploratory ‘blind’ casts in some likely looking areas none the less. Nothing fancied my offering so I returned to the swim I had baited an hour or so ago. When I returned I set up a light running rig with a fairly long hooklength and smallish hook. Bait would be a small pellet or whittled down boilie and for an hour I watched a motionless rod tip. I also watched a vast amount of wildlife coming and going. Still an abundant amount of insect life zooming about, trying to evade the attention of the hungry birds. As the light began to fade I could hear small mammals making their way through the undergrowth. No way to see them but I found it strangely comforting to be surrounded by a place so alive. Time for one final top up of the swim with the bait dropper. Then it was a case of waiting for darkness to set it. Slowly the isotope became more apparent until this tiny dot of fluorescent light was the most obvious thing in the landscape. The sky had clouded over and became a deep Prussian blue which in turn transformed the bank side trees to a dense blackness.

I watched the isotope for a further three hours. It remained more or less stationary the whole time, apart from a few tiny plucks made by small fish. Well, thats what I’m telling myself. The river conditions were against me and I didn’t manage a fish, but as I said in the opening, I wasn’t really expecting anything. It’s an easy thing to say but I really wasn’t. For me, like all of my fishing, the wild water of a river is about so much more than simply catching. But fishing a river seems to heighten this somehow. Maybe its because they are ever changing. From day to day, season to season, and year to year. A place where you don’t need to use your ‘fresh eyes’ to find something different.

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

NorthwestFisherman