Thursday, 13 December 2012

Trotting For Grayling - Lucky Ladies

The branches and twigs were cloaked in ermine and the mercury couldn't pull itself above the zero. Lakes were covered in glassy wafers, pathways encased the marks of foot and wheel as if sculpted. In my many dreams of grayling, this was the perfect day. I knew that at the end of the journey lay a gin clear stream, gliding, steaming,
 I didn't need to deliberate over the invite. I've had a longstanding desire to catch 'The lady of the stream' for many years. Today was to be my first ever attempt at meeting her acquaintance.

At first glance, this small stream seemed unassuming, reluctant to snitch on it's contents, rather like a chap that might say, "You aint seen me, right ?"..The veil was lifted and those contents were easily betrayed though by the addition of a handful of maggots. There, right in front of me, I saw my first grayling, then another ghosting in from the main flow to devour the scarlet grubs.
 The invite for this day had come from friend James, and as I watched those gorgeous fish effortlessly gliding over the pebbled river bed, it was he I turned to, "I am actually a little bit excited" I exclaimed, with not a little understatement."They're getting confident" he said,"Have a cast".
 Having assembled my now beloved, Lucky Strike and Speedia combination with a loafer style float, bulk shotted to size 18 hook, I gave an underarm flick. We both watched the little float with eager anticipation, alas no bite. The float was batted back home and after a few maggots, another trot.....and it was gone, strike, resistance. I was connected to my first ever grayling, a fish that didn't have any desire to be auspicious and promply shed the hook to groans of despondency.
 After a period of brief analysis, the float went out again. Almost immediately it jagged under and I struck into a small hard fighting fish that soon came to net.
 Now, I can describe this capture with an aire of nonchalance, but it would be disguising one of the most satifying moments of my angling life. These beautiful fish do not prevail near my home, the nearest being an hour and a halfs drive away in the Windrush, but even there they are not abundant. Every year I mean to try one of the better known rivers, every year something scuppers the plan. I had waited long for this, and I was elated. It would be fair to say that had I gone home that instance I would still have had a great day. The smile says it all....
My first ever grayling.

The rod once again living up to it's name, what joy it has brought to me since I fully restored it. My pb chub, my first redmire gudgeon and now my first grayling.
 We moved upstream, James and I continuing to catch fish, more grayling and the odd small brownie, such wonderful colours, along with the azure flash of the 'fisher contrasting against the frosty surround.

This pool looked interesting, with a fast bottleneck upstream, gliding even and smooth to shallows downstream.

James disclosed that he had caught well from this area on a previous visit, so with confidence I primed the glide with maggots and watched a shoal of shadows dart around competitively for them. One fish was bigger than the rest, and though my first trot produced a grayling, as did my second, then my third a trout, fourth another grayling...the bigger fish evaded me.

 I remembered the sweetcorn in my bag and having baited and hooked a grain, chanced another cast, right into the messy upstream area. The float disappeared iimmediately and I struck, swiftly setting the hook, the fish shot downstream with the flow. The old Lucky Strike performed superbly and the bigger fish was soon in the net.

I was so pleased to catch this beautiful creature, I had targetted it and made the change of bait that enticed it, it's nice when things come together in such a fantastic way. There was only one way to celebrate....Eccles cakes, they seemed to me to go quite divinely with a cracking grayling. Strangely, James didn't quite see it that way and politely declined, swiftly followed by a change of heart when he came to his senses.

IP rating *****

James suggested that we head further upstream, the air was still crystalline and the rings of the rod regularly became entombed in miniature ice cubes. Whenever this occurs I always think of a quote by, I think, John Bickerdyke..."If you have no grease with you, and your rings are full of ice, do not cut out the ice with a pen-knife, but get your man to put the rings one by one in his mouth, and so thaw the ice." Always makes me smile.

Taking time to watch the flow beneath us, we pondered the day so far. We'd caught many fish already, but James just thought he might know of a nice long trot a little further upstream.

He was right, it looked ideal for a very long trot.
Once again,  I baited with red maggot and dunked the float out in front of me. Far from trotting a long way, it went under almost immediately!
 I soon landed another small grayling. Having unkooked and released her, I proceeded to spend another five minutes or so (not for the first time today) trying to untangle my end tackle.
 At this point, James, who had steadily been catching fish all day, hooked into something a bit special and had a rather impressive curve in his carbon rod. However, the excitement turned to exasperation when the fish was lost at the net. I felt truly gutted for him.
 Having rested my swim a while, the next cast produced a right little scrapper, probably the best looking fish I caught all day.

The hours were marching on and it was that time to slowly make our way back downstream, catching a few as we went until we reached the very first swim.
 We had to have 'one last cast'......It was decided that we would stand upstream of the area I'd caught my first fish and trot down to it.
 On the upstream side was a mid-stream feature with a slack area beneath it. I thought there may be fish holding-up there so cast directly at it.
The float bobbed around, almost static, before trundling a short way and vanishing, I struck. The float shot out of the water and landed back upstream near the feature, whereupon the bait was taken by a larger fish, as yet unseen, tanking off into the main flow.
 Having gained some control we both yelled 'Trout'.. a beautiful coloured brownie which soon after shed the hook.
 James was convinced that a recast would re-snare it. Not for the first time today, he was right. It took the recast instantly and after a small tussle was netted to howls of delight.

Released to fight another day, it was a great end to a day that will live long in the memory. 
What a magical time. I didn't feel the cold at all.  I'm so indebted to James for generously sharing this day with me. He was so unselfish, putting me on the best spots first and sharing the joy of that special first fish...Cheers mate.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Does It Count?

Having been a carp angler through the 80's and onwards I was never averse to a bit of stroke pulling. Most of us have stretched the rules a bit. I remember fishing in the close season under the infamous 'Any method trout fishing' rule at Farlows in esteemed company with boilies and hair-rigs. Most of us have also fished a 'snide' rod from time to time. I remember one particular lake where most of us fished with three rods during the two rod rule era. We took it in turns to fish the swim near the car park. If the authorities showed up the plan was that the the fellow in this swim shouted "NRA" at the top of his voice, swiftly followed by the sound of optonics as the rest of the lake reeled in the third rod. Best that one got nicked instead of the lot of us!
 Then there comes the subject of poaching, or 'guesting' as it's dressed up as these days. Some tales have become legendary, take for example the escapades on 'The 'mere', a 'no fishing' SSSI site containing the ill-fated Black Mirror.
 The reason I have just started to ponder such things is a conversation I had recently regarding the capture of a massive chub. The fish caught after dark and 'out of bounds'. It had me thinking. I actually stated in jest that the fish was "worth double points", almost glorifying the illegality. It's stealth guerrilla angling and is almost a cult now to some. My question is this though. With a sporting ethic in mind, do these catches count at all?

Friday, 23 November 2012

A Little Dabble

I had the chance to have a little dabble on my beloved Ouzel this week. It gave me the opportunity to test out my Allcocks Nimrod. At 8.5ft and originally produced as a salmon/pike spinning rod. It has the characteristics I require for a decent little chub rod. Those characteristics being :- Short enough to avoid overhanging branches, a nice short handle for those tight swims, a test curve strong enough to stop old Mr. Chevin getting in to that snag.....and relatively inexpensive.
 Upon arrival myself and mate Malc were greeted by a white egret. They're not too common in these parts so it was a nice start to the day.
 We walked the entire beat to find that we were the only anglers present. Conditions seemed favourable, confidence was high.
 Making our way downstream we noticed one swim contained a new raft of debris, we'd both previously caught there and new it would be a banker. There is however an unsaid etiquette amongst some anglers which found us both avoiding it, choosing instead to fish above an below it. Imagine our dismay then, when after a short while, another angler arrived, and with a mile of bank to choose from sat directly between us and proceeded to launch a bucketful of everything into the river.
 I upped sticks immediately and headed upstream. As I passed, the chapped bellowed, "There's some tackle in another swim up there, but fish where you like." I hotfooted away head down.
 I did find what I'd call a comfortable swim to set up in. I opted now for the 'bait and wait' method, not wanting to bump into Mr. Stealth again.
 Within five minutes Malc was in my swim with tales of the fellow following him around so he'd opted on the same plan as me.
 I baited a while, no cast, a few turmeric maggots (our original plan was to trot the Gt. Ouse for roach, but the Ouzel had greater appeal) and also some mashed bread.

I fished for a good few hours, baiting frequently in an attempt to lure a chub upstream from the snags below, I know they live there. Hookbaits of breadflake, maggots and even a cherry from today's Morrisons Genoa cake couldn't persuade one.

IP cake rating ****

Malc on the other hand had skipped about above and below my position and wangled a couple of chub, two and four pound respectively. He's a better river angler than I'll ever be, with experience I could only dream of, I'm sure he'll share a few secrets with me along the way.
 Time rolled on, I gazed down at my Grandfather's old silver pocket watch. I only ever use it when I'm fishing, strange really, I don't think he cast a bait in his life, bless him.

Darkness comes all too quickly now, so we called it a day.
 I was genuinely surprised to have drawn a blank. It wasn't until the day after that I found out there had been a match the day before and my 'comfortable' swim had been pegged. Never mind, I'll be back out soon trying to get a bend in the Nimrod. Maybe a Perch trip is on the cards.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Something Fishy At The British Museum

I had a little trip to the British Museum this week. It's nice to get a bit of a culture fix now and again. I was quite amazed to find so many artifacts related to fish or fishing. I suppose I shouldn't have been really. It's been an activity humans have enjoyed since we've walked the earth.
Detail of above

Monday, 19 November 2012

Catch Up

It's been a while, I've finally recovered from the rather damp Redmire jolly and it's about time I was back on parade.
I'm happy to say that I have nearly completed Christmas shopping, the very thought of fighting the crowds nearer the time fills me with dread so I make a habit of completing the deed early, thus enabling me to sit back and watch the slackers with a smug knowing grin.
 I've been given a couple of interesting photos to share with you all.
 The first is evidence of just how harsh the velcro-like pads in the jaws of the Wels Catfish can be to flesh, even on humans. This picture is the aftermath of a friends capture of a 50lb'er.


This week I also saw a photo of a sizeable carp with pad damage on both sides. It's quite amazing really, the size of fish these giants will consider as food.
 On the subject of carp, take a look at the following picture (apologies for the quality). This fish was taken fairly recently from the famous Willow Lake at Billing Aquadrome. Could it be one of the old Leney's? It's weight was over 30lb and although doesn't have the good looks of the Redmire stock, it does look similar to the Leney's of Savay. What do you reckon?

 Another item that has recently come my way is a Kingfisher Guild certificate, apparently awarded (before my time) by the Angling Times to juniors for noteable catches. Does anyone else have one framed up in the toilet or suchlike ?

What about my fishing then? Well I have been out a bit. The trip was supposed to be a venture in pursuit of fine roach on the Grand Union canal. I have this hunch you see about a stretch of the canal and it's likelihood to give up a decent roach or two.
 My Dad was invited along, it's nice to catch up and chat fishing. It has to be said that although we have many similarities we do differ in one area. When I fish I like the quiet solidarity and shy away from the crowds. Not Dad, he invited two of his mates and my Mum along, bless him.
 Unfortunately, we were unable to fish the intended area,beaten by two minutes by a Preston Innovations laden trio, blimey I thought that carpers carried some kit!

Having finally found a spot for three anglers (one mate stayed in bed, Mum arrived later) we set about tackling up. I had brought along my Lucky Strike, Speedia combo with roach in mind but with warm weather and an unlikely could only mean one species....bream.
 They loved my float fished punched bread....

Fishing was hard. It seems to be the order of the last couple of weeks from what I hear in the shop. It was nice to be out though and I wasn't unsociable all day. I did share my cake, McVities Carrot with sultanas, not bad. I think it was all gone by the time Mum turned up though.

IP Cake Rating ****

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Redmire Bites Back

It was now monday, the time was 11:31 a.m, it hadn't stopped raining entirely, but it had stopped raining torrentially for the first time since our arrival around 21 hours ago.
The Willow pitch, where I'd set up for the night in a deluge was now under 6" of water.

I'd had to abandon ship at 7am as the lake came up to join me.

I was so thankful of the refuge of the boathouse as the rain just hurled itself upon me. I estimate that the pool rose around a foot overnight. I'd have been no more wetter had I  jumped in. My only option was to drag all my sodden gear around the pool to the Evening Pitch in the pouring rain. This swim was higher, though not much drier.

Everything, and I mean everything , was drenched. Not the ideal first dawn of a Redmire session.
 I checked on Malc in The Stile, he had a small tributary of the Wye running through his bivvy, he looked at me asking,"What shall I do?"..."Move", I replied. He knew he had to, but was so reluctant to face the outside of his bivvy. Eventually he moved to Pitchfords.
 Remarkably, there had been two runs in the night. Malc had lost a good fish and Tony, in the relative comfort of Stumps had landed a fine common. He had remarked how wet he'd become whilst playing the fish, but was soon humbled by mine and Malc's plight.
 Eventually the rain subsided enough to take a few photos.

 Note the relative clarity of the water at this point, it was soon to change dramatically. It stayed dry for an hour and the place took on the look of a shanty town with clothing hanging from every available tree.
 As I took out my MkIV for the first time a shard of sunlight flashed through the trees.

Float fished lobworm at the dam wall produced nothing but a few tugs , perhaps by an over ambitious gudgeon, their time would come.
 I was joined by Malc with his new Avon, we sat and discussed the weather, all very british.
Back at the Evening Pitch it was time for Redmire Cake, made by the ever thoughtful Lady Sarah, it was a welcomed treat.

If I'm honest, I didn't want to be in the Evening Pitch. I love to indulge the fact that it has a history of being haunted, that fact doesn't bother me. I just don't think it is one of the better swims on the pool. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers.
 I cast the rods out as the wind blew, what would my first ever night in the Evening Pitch on my fourth visit to the pool bring.
 At around 2 a.m. I woke with a start. A ghost ?, A demon?, A fish?......No..Music! I could clearly hear a song. It was horrible outside, but there, through the wind and rain, was this tune. I didn't know what it was but picked up my journal and wrote down the words., "I don't want to set the world on fire".

This is tune I heard, I make no claim for it being supernatural, but I have no idea where it came from. All very odd.
No fish overnight, morning brought a trip to Ross for provisions and the chance to feel human again.
 On return, I decided to take the MkIV down to one of the platforms for a couple of hours.

Note the way the pool had now coloured up. The rain and wind continued but I was treated to a low fly past of a buzzard over the shallows as I took shelter beneath the trees.
 St.John phoned to say he would be down the next day, I told him of our plight and living local he was aware how bad the weather had been, he actually had genuine fears over the integrity of the old dam wall. Bless him, he tried so hard to be sympathetic but couldn't quite supress his laughter.
 Malc had seen a few carp from the dam wall but bites were not forthcoming, I headed back to the Evening Pitch.
 I was soon joined by the legend that is Bamford who had come down to see how we were and remove a few bricks from the overflow to take some of the strain off of the dam, we shared

The rain soon returned with some venom and I hurriedly sorted the rods for the night.
 Organised soon became disorganised and at times chaotic, the rain and wind just came with a frenzy I'd never witnessed on the bank before.
 With the band 'Stomp' performing on the roof of my bivvy I prescribed myself a small amount of Napolean to aid sleep and calm real fears of a tree falling upon me.
 The rain continued into all of the fishless night. Spiders ran from all around the pool to seek sanctuary in my shelter, I half expected Noah to float by.
 Fortunately a dry dawn broke, kettle on, re-think. Then more rain...more tea.

With the removal of the bricks the pool level had started to recede. I had seen a fish top on the other side of the lake. As the rain persisted, I made the decision to move again , back across the dam to In-Willow.
Having finally rebuilt the camp I took out Lucy, the Lucky Strike with my mind firmly fixed on Gudgeon.
 I headed for the relative shelter of Cranstouns, armed with a pot of pinkies, my 'Redmire Pinkie-Pult and a size 22 hook.

Not long after the first cast, a bite, strike and I'm into one of the mire's finest. I was so excited, I couldn't have been happier had it been a carp.

I was soon having a ball, getting one of these cracking little fellows on every cast, catching around twenty in all.

I called Ash, Tony's son to tackle up a rod and join in the fun. Sitting in my swim, his face soon shone with the happiness only a gudgeon can bring. I moved aside to the right as the rain came again and was joined by Malc, who was allowed to use Lucy to catch his first fish from Redmire.

Later, at In-Willow, the weather had taken a turn for the better. I think it is my favourite swim on the pool. The view, when the sun shines, is just great.

St.John arrived and we met for the first time on the dam wall. It was a Livingstone-Stanley moment. "You must be Gurn" he said with outstretched hand.
 He'd made some ferrule stoppers for me, for the Lucky Strike. Excellently made, I recommend them to all cane users. He can be contacted via the Redmire or Traditional Fisherman forum or you can buy them here.
 He also brought the bottle of Glenmorangie I'd won at the TFF AGM raffle. This was soon followed by Sir Les Bamford who'd kindly supplied two thirds of a bottle of Coke and two mugs.
 It has to be said that the scotch didn't last very long, but what a laugh we had.
I'd taken the opportunity of tying some new rigs earlier whilst confined to the bivvy, these went out overnight on spots I'd trickled bait into over the course of the day. Alas, another fishless dawn broke.

Looking out from the bivvy I could see dappled reflection and the trails of jet planes. This could only mean one thing, the sun had finally appeared.
At around 10am I reeled in the overnight rods and took the MkIV up to Bramble Island with a view to try to persuade one 'off the top'.

The colouration of the pool made the task of fish spotting incredibly difficult. Every now and then I'd see a dark shadow through the polaroids. Of course, the colour also stopped the fish seeing the riser pellets and floaters I pulted in at regular intervals. The fact is, that after four hours of continuous baiting without a cast I didn't get a single rise, I tackled up a float for carp and strolled down to the dam.

The view from the dam, when the sun shines is one of the finest in fishing. One can sit, relax, reflect and be at peace.

The float shot out of sight and my heart thumped. For a short time I had illusions of it being a carp. It was not to be, however. A few sharp shudders on the end of the line signified an eel It was the biggest eel I'd ever caught. No photo though, I'm not fond of them and it was soon returned safely to it's home with not too much drama. I have now caught all species in the pool.

That evening, our last at the pool, we enjoyed the fabled 'Redmire Risotto'...Yes I know it looks hideous, but it tastes bloody marvellous, and though not exactly haute cuisine, it hits the spot. This year we have the recipe.
 You will need ......One Can of Chilli Con Carne
                            One Can of Minced beef and onions
                            One Can of Irish Stew
                            One can of Lentil soup
                             Drained boiled rice.
Basically throw the lot in a big pot and stir and heat. Only ever to be consumed on the banks of the pool. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

As the sun set on our final night I was still confident that we might get another carp. Unfortunately, it didn't happen, this was not to be a tale of triumph over adversity.
 With two runs on the first night, I'm sure that if the rain hadn't arrived and continued for so long we have continued to catch.
 The amount of cold water that went through the valley and the way the pool coloured had scuppered our plans. I have fished the pool four times now. Twice under coloured conditions I have failed to catch carp and twice under clear conditions I have caught carp.
 We still enjoyed it. I loved catching those gudgeon, they'll stay with me forever, and we'll be back next year.
As I looked out on the final morning I saw leaves falling from the trees and settling on the surface of the pool. a squirrel buried food, sensing the rapidly arriving colder months, and the rain started again.

Thanks to Les, Nick, Rob, St.John, The Richardson Family and my angling companions.

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