My breath was clearly visible as I exhaled, the force of which sent plumes of vapour twisting skyward. The ground had stood little chance against Jack Frost; frozen solid in time. Waist high brambles coated with glistening white ice droplets; tree branches too. The distant sun threatened to intervene but its rays were too weak as yet. As I made my way to the river my footsteps crunched through the brittle grass. What other delights would I see today? Maybe mist rising from the rivers surface. A robin will no doubt pay a visit for a feed of maggots. And what of the creatures below the surface. I felt my best chance lay with a grayling, and later as the temperature rose, maybe a chub. For now though, I set my sights on simply getting a bite and soaking up the atmosphere.
The first swim I visited, one I had fished before, proved to be tricky. I fed sparingly, just a pinch of maggots every cast. No more than three or four. The float had been set well over depth and I edged the rig through the swim, holding back hard, teasing the fish into taking. But what fish? As yet I had received no signs. The rod rings were doing their best to make my job even harder. The air temperature still below freezing; my line forever getting trapped in an icy grasp. An application of glycerine helped to resolve this problem and a few minutes later I caught my first fish. A tiny little grayling but a very welcome one. After that fish, where once the fishing seemed hard, it now became quite easy. A number of small, hand-sized grayling fell to my double maggot hook bait. Much welcomed action on such a bitterly cold day.
With the swim exhausted I plodded on, fishing another two swims without success. All the while I looked for spots I had previously not fished. Keen to explore. On a large sweeping bend I found one such place. It cried out to be fished. After negotiating the barbed wire fence, and with a new found confidence for the day, I fed the swim with two generous helpings of maggots whilst I enjoyed a warm coffee. Inevitably I was visited by the local robin who seemed most thankful for beak full after beak full of my bait. It does amaze me how tame they become when there’s a meal on the cards. The first trots through the swim yielded nothing but on my fifth or sixth, way down at the end of the run, I hooked into the solid weight of a chub. In the strong flow there was periods where I couldn’t move the fish. An expert of his own environment. Me at the mercy of every tail flick. But get the better of him I did, eventually netting a quality three pounder. No picture of the fish though, as he managed to emulate Houdini, escaping from the confines of my landing net I had hoped would keep him safe in the margins. Speaking of which look what he had coughed up. I’m guessing my double maggot was dessert.
I fished the swim a good while longer and caught half a dozen quality grayling. Most of the fish around the pound mark. Upon looking at the time, I was shocked to see that my time was nearly up. This short session would soon have to come to an end. I allowed myself three more ‘last casts’ all of which went by without reward. It was time to go. No, not just yet. As we fishermen know a last cast, even three of them, is never truly the end. Onto the hook went two more maggots and I flicked the rig into the swim. My final ‘last cast.’ The float made it halfway down the run before sinking from sight. Amazing! The fish on the other end fought strongly, chub like, but with much less weight. A small chub then. It was only when the fish was a rod length from my net that I realised it was in fact a big grayling. Upon seeing a slightly shocked Mancunian peering through the ripples at it, the grayling shot back powerfully into the main flow. After a blur of failed attempts at netting the fish, and a brief tangle with some near bank bramble stems, resting in the landing net was my third two pound grayling.
I hoped that the fish wouldn’t disappear the same way as the chub, as I rushed to set up my camera for a picture. It was a solid, deep bodied fish and I was over the moon that our paths had crossed. I remember talking to myself in disbelief on the bank. I can’t believe I’ve managed another one, I whittered. I held the fish for a good few minutes in well oxygenated water before releasing back into its home. It was terrifically cold but worth doing to ensure the fish swam strongly away. And that really had to be the end. The walk back across the field allowed time to reflect. On just how important it is to keep up the tradition of the last cast. To think ‘what if’ just one last time before home. I for one will do my best to uphold it. After all if I hadn’t, I would have just missed out on a fantastic experience indeed.
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Until Next time tight lines