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!