Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Kennet with ACW (23rd Jan)

Had the privilege of a trip to Andy's part of the Kennet on Sunday where a group of us gathered to tackle the grayling. This is the exact stretch of river that started my obsession with grayling fly fishing almost exactly a year ago. It was the first time I had ever fly fished a river and under Andy's advice and guidance I managed to catch my first ever grayling (well my first 3 actually). So an entire year of fishing regularly on the rivers of South England and Wales had passed and I was keen to get back to where it all started and see if I had improved.

The day started in the perfect fashion with chat and tea, whilst setting the rods up. We were soon on the carriers though and with such a lot of water available we spread out so as not to interfere with each others fishing. I started at a hatch pool and the first cast of the day resulted in the first fish. He took a size 19 olive PT with a 2mm tungsten bead fished as a dropper with a 3mm beaded fly on the point. The heavy beads helped achieve the depth in the very short drifts of the hatch pool.

Small but perfectly formed, most of the grayling seen on Sunday were young fish but fighting fit.

Two more fish followed from the hatch pool before I managed to use all my stealth and grace to spook the shoal by almost falling in returning the last fish. All were roughly the same size but it was really nice to be able to hit the delicate bites that stalled the leader on its passage through the faster water. All three of the fish were taken after the leader stopped for a fraction of a second as it moved downstream, I still strike at every little twitch as I do not yet have the experience to easily distinguish debris from fish and would rather false strike and recast than miss a bite.

After the success in the first pool I was relaxed, hadnt blanked and already equalled my tally from my first trip here. Atleast my fishing has not got worse over the last year! The water was pretty low and very clear so I slowly approached any darker/deeper water and worked my nymphs through.

The darker water along the far bank held the shoal with only the odd straggler or trout to be found on the glides between pools.

Halfway down the stretch I landed the largest grayling of the day for me, by no means a monster but he bent the rod nicely and gave a fair account of himself.


Lunchtime bought Andy's famous BBQ Steak sandwich with red wine (resulting in a few more lost flies)  and yet more tea. It was good to put faces to names from as I think most of the guys there today were from the forums.

The afternoon was fairly similar to the morning, under Andy's advice i switched to a duo rig with a tiny beaded nymph 3' below a klinkhammer, the bites were much more visual but not as satisfying to connect with as watching the subtle movements of the leader. One trout gave me a bit of excitement though as it demolished the dryfly.


All in all it was a very enjoyable day, I left feeling confident that I have made significant progress over the year and having met a few good guys who I will hopefully fish with again.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Test at Wherwell, Mission Accomplised

Every season I set myself a couple of fishing challenges, they are normally difficult and subsequently rarely obtained. My challenges this year were divided into Summer and Winter. Summer challenge was a 5lb chub from the Avon, I failed miserably. Winter challenge was a 2lb chalkstream grayling on the fly. For the first time in a while I have succeeded in a challenge!

Conditions were warm (10-12 degrees celsius) and drizzly today on the Test but no amount of rain could knock the smile off my face. I did not catch many fish, 2 grayling and a brownie were the only creatures in my net today but it is quality not quantity I keep telling myself.

The 2 grayling came in two casts from a very deep hole on the outside of a bend under my own feet. The first was an unmissable take that just sprinted upstream making me think it was a trout. A few minutes later and a 38cm male grayling was slipped back. I sat for a few minutes checked my rig had a swig of whisky and recast on exactly the same line and the gentlest twitch resulted in a heavy weight lunging at the end of my line. It was a classic grayling fight with an odd gyrating sensation sent up the line as the fish twisted in the current using its dorsal to its full advantage. No worries though and he was soon in the net.

44cm and 2lb 8oz of muscley perfection, fish do not come better than the grayling in my opinion.

The colours on the ventral and dorsal fin were hypnotising, I did not want to let go!

At 44cm long and 2lb 8oz he was well over my target and made my day. A spot of lunch and the obligatory  rogue suicide brown trout saw me driving home a happy man.


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A day's trotting 09/01

I have realised that my angling this year has been less than varied, especially since I have started keeping this blog. I have been concentrating on (some may say obsessed by) fly fishing small rivers and streams. At the beginning of the year I was far more "eclectic".

My first fishing trip of 2010 was in February when a group of friends from Kent and Sussex gathered on the snow covered banks of Stream Valley Lakes in Crowborough. With us we had enough gear to survive the harshest conditions for months on end, we were chasing big carp. That three day session in sub-zero conditions was cut very very short when on the first night the lake froze over completely with our lines and rod tips still submerged. It took the best part of a morning with blue hands and painful ears to get the rods safely out and I promised myself that from then on all of my winter fishing would be spent roving and moving, no more would I sit in one place to freeze to death at Mother Nature's fancy. Big carp chasing has now become a purely warm past time, with pleasant summer evenings watching fish cruising, much more like it.

With memories of the pain from the cold that seemed to last days afterwards (especially when climbing into a hot bath when I got home) I decided that my first coarse expedition of the winter should be spent trotting my way down the Hampshire Avon in pursuit of grayling and chub. The snow had melted a good week previously and the forecast was mild and dry so I was looking forward to my first day without the fly rod for a long time.

I awoke on Sunday morning to discover an exceptionally hard frost, it almost looked like snow had covered the land as everything was white with it and the car showed that it was -4 degrees celsius outside, not mild! It had reached 0 by the time I found myself on the river but looking at the majestic river it dawned on me how hard today would be. The river was high and rising, with a flow that few fish could stand, and the colour of hot chocolate, so much for my easy days trotting.

I started fishing as far upstream as my season ticket allows to try and escape the worst of the conditions, maggots were steadily trickled down a deep, slow glide under a fallen tree for ten minutes and then fishing began. On the second cast the float dipped and the first fish of the day came to the net. I have caught just shy of 150 grayling on the fly this year but this was the first time I had ever caught one on bait, a good start!!

Not the biggest grayling of the year at just under a pound but a welcome start to the day and my first ever on bait!

A biteless half hour followed but half a dozen maggots were going in every cast and just as I had decided that this swim only had five more casts before I moved the float ripped across the surface and the rod bent healthily. I had a very good idea of what had taken the bait and sure enough a little wildie soon became the second fish to have his photo taken.

The wildies in this stretch are real tackle testers, I will be back for him in April!

I worked my way down this stretch with half an hour in each likely spot but no more fish fell to my rusty trotting tactics and I decided to call it a day for the float. I moved downstream with the feeder rod and liquidised bread managing to winkle out a few dace from an eddy on the inside of a sharp bend but fishing was hard. I packed up at 4 o'clock after the hardest days fishing I have had in a long time. I will be back when the river starts behaving and runs clearer and at a proper level and pace!