Tuesday, 3 January 2017

River Test Grayling plus the Inevitables

The sun had just risen over the horizon as Martin and I pulled into the car park following our long journey South to fish the Hampshire Test. It was time for what has become an annual pilgrimage to the mecca of Trout fishing however our aim was to plunder the stocks of Grayling that live among the spotties.

The Test is a truly stunning waterway and despite yesterdays torrential downpours it was reasonably clear with just a tinge of colour-perfect conditions. It is truly amazing the different depths of each swim in this river. I began the day in an old favourite spot that is only three feet deep but the weed, which should be long gone by January made trotting impossible so I moved upstream to a swim that was over nine feet deep. With the freezing cold overnight temperatures I fancied some fish could be holed up in the deeper water.

I wasn't wrong and soon enough good numbers of Grayling fell for the maggot hookbaits up to a biggest of 1lb 4oz.

Inevitably Trout were attracted to the loose feed and it didn't take long for the thrashing Salmonids to clear out the swim.

 One interesting visitor to the swim was this Little Grebe, that is their imaginative name, nothing to do with their size and the first I have ever seen/identified- thanks to Google.

A move down stream became imperative and I focused my attention on a lovely long glide close to the confluence of main flow and backwater.

Again plenty of Grayling were landed up to a pound but after a while they didn't get much of a look in as a procession of Trout were landed. To be fair they were good battles on light tackle.

Quite a variety of good looking Brownies with one Rainbow thrown in for good measure. I lost count of the total number of fish caught but it was well over sixty. A great days fishing and a lot more fun than a commercial Carp-filled puddle, Cannot wait until the next visit.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Severn Roach and an Opportunity

In days gone by the middle Severn was a mecca for Roach fishing and it seems to be making a bit of a comeback as far as it's silverfish stock are concerned. There are even a few over that magical 2lb mark, Andy having landed one only the week before. Having seen the photo my appetite was wetted for a big Roach of my own so when he offered to take Martin and I to the scene of his success we didn't have to think twice.
A few little issues (and Andy's love of a full cafe breakfast!) meant we were a bit late starting but with a heavy overnight frost I don't think we missed much.
So with a bucket full of maggots we set about plundering the Roach. It wasn't easy going but there were a enough fish biting to keep up the interest and I do love trotting for Roach.

The kingfisher flitted about and I fed a rather friendly Mallard a few grubs to help him along.

Late in the day Andy popped down to my swim to say he was packing up as a Pike had just taken the Roach he was playing and he couldn't be bothered to set up again.
Thankfully I had chucked my Pike rod in the bag so I attached a freelined Roach deadbait and cast it out into Andy's swim. I let the bait sink before giving it a slow and twitchy retrieve. The bait got within a few feet of the bank before getting nailed. A feisty little battle followed before I put the net under a short but fat little Pike. 

Andy wasn't convinced it was big enough to be the culprit of his bite off but a few further casts failed to produce any more action so we set off home before the freezing fog descended.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Dorset Frome: A long way for Trout

A seven hour round trip to a coastal section of the Dorset Frome that is fast becoming an annual trip. We don't endure this considerable effort to catch Sea Trout but they love trotted maggots and are resident in such abundance it is difficult to avoid them. Within the first couple of hours I landed over thirty. Most around half a pound but a couple were a bit bigger, the largest weighing 1lb 9oz and technically a pb for a species that I never specifically target. It put up quite an acrobatic display of head shaking and leaping clear of the water several times.

I did manage a couple of chunky Dace in amongst the Trout but the monster Roach this stretch is famed for eluded us again.

I moved swims in time to see Andy land a huge Trout of his own, the dark colouration and lack of tail fork makes me think it was a 'Brownie' but Andy is not so sure and thinks it is a spawning male Sea Trout. Answers on a postcard please...
We fished on through dusk before treating ourselves to a KFC on the long trek back to the Midlands. A chat with one of the locals has given me plenty of ideas for tackling next year's trip, a change of tactics is in order to avoid the gregarious Trout and give the big Roach and Dace more chance to find the bait.

Monday, 12 December 2016

A Rant and some Chub

The Warwickshire Avon at Marlcliffe looking her resplendent tree-lined best in the height of Summer. The banks lined with colourful trees, bushes and reeds full of wildlife and plenty of Willows helping to combat erosion.
A short amble downstream and we reach the lock island, another haven for wildlife. I have seen Kingfishers aplenty down here feeding on the fry that take shelter in the roots and reeds, Swans nesting and nurturing their ugly ducklings, and even a family of Mink.  

Even in the depths of Winter it is still a lovely place to be, maybe even more so when the banks are less crowded.



So who's idea was it clear the whole far bank of every tree and the whole island as well!! Rumour has it that the Avon navigation trust are trying to make the river deeper to enable bigger boats to be able to travel upstream to Stratford. I'm no expert but surely the bankside clearing will only increase erosion and therefore the widen the river making it shallower? or is it not that simple?

The weir height has been increased with loads of rocks added to the slope. This will increase the depth of the water above but surely it can only be a temporary measure as the first few floods will soon wash these down the slope.

Rocks on the weir

The island is now a shadow of its former self. It is not easy to tell from the photo but the bank is now a bolder-strewn wasteland with sharp rocks stretching well out into the water. I am sure the Barbel will return to spawn as they always do but I implore anyone fishing for them in these swims to use really strong tackle. Any fish that are landed will probably have mouths full of hooks from lost battles where the hooklink has sheared on the rocks. This whole exercise has not been done without any thought on fish safety whatsoever. A beautiful area has been decimated and cannot be the haven for wildlife it has been. I will be looking for pastures new come next season. Rant over!

My (former) favourite swim
Anyhow I did manage to wet a line in a banker swim much further downstream. Chub were the target and I landed a couple of them.

One four pounder and a smaller one fell to a lump of last years cheesepaste. An enjoyable bit of fun in the Winter sun.

Friday, 18 November 2016

A Pair of Jacks

The late afternoon turned out bright and crisp following a stormy lunchtime. I had a couple of hours free, a rarity these days, so I grabbed the Pike rods and headed local.
Half Mackerel and small Roach were deployed in a particularly snaggy but very likely looking swim in the hope of nailing some toothy predators.

I fished on well into darkness thinking I might just land a Zander or two but sadly the only fish to show an interest were a couple of Jack Pike. To be fair they both fought very hard for their weight and I did enjoy the battles but not quite the size (or species) I was hoping for. Next time...


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Return to Mexico (Day Two)

Three days later and I was back aboard the same boat, same skipper. Again we were chasing sharks and this time we would stick to our guns.

It took a while but finally we managed  to hook into one, and a good one at that. I have landed several big species in various countries but never have I been hooked up to such a determined hard fighting fish as this one. If it didn't want to move I could not shift it.

Half an hour in and my arms burnt from the lactic acid in my muscles, my fingers cramped up so much that I couldn't straighten my hand, stinging blisters appeared on my fingers and the sweat flowed from my pores. I would be lying if I said that I didn't contemplate throwing in the towel but I grit my teeth, dug deep into the last of my reserves of strength and determination and finally after what seemed like forever I won. The tail was lassoed and the shark hauled aboard.

At 72 inches, approx. 120lb it wasn't the biggest ever landed but it was mine. I emptied a bottle of iced water over my head and posed in the searing heat with my prize- job done.
I informed the skipper that I didn't want another but could we fish for other stuff, jokingly I said Wahoo but within minutes I was hooked up to a Wahoo! 
Blue sharks are quick but nothing like the 'Usain Bolt' of the sea. This thing stripped line off at such a rate I thought the reel might run out but thankfully the ensuing fight was not as gruesome as the shark. I got a grip and was able to deal with it more easily. Another first and another species ticked off the list.

Half an hour bottom fishing resulted in two more new species, a Red Hind and a Porgy and on the way back we spotted a cruising barracuda which was obviously hungry.

Two awesome days fishing, seven new species landed, three off the bucket list and a personal best shark. Paraiso!!

Back in Mexico (Day One)

At the end of September our business celebrated its first birthday. The hard graft is paying off and we definitely deserved a well earned break so the whole family jetted off to Mexico for twelve days. 

Frigate bird
Like last year I scoured the internet for suitable boats for a couple of days big game fishing. Always a shot in the dark but I dare not leave it until arrival in case they were fully booked. 
October is possibly the worst month for fishing in Mexico, all the bill fish species are notorious by their absence however there are still plenty of bait fish and tuna about and because of that the sharks stick about also. So shark fishing it was then, with a chance of a few other species besides.

To increase our chance of action we would fish several methods at once, feathers for the Bonita, Tuna and Mackerel (all great shark baits), teasers in case a Mahi Mahi turned up and whole fish baits for Barracuda and Wahoo. 
The shark baits are loaded on a down-rigger and trolled at depth but it was a surface bait that took off first and within minutes I landed a personal best barracuda.

Removed a tooth for my son!
Bonito and tuna followed but the sharks remained elusive. Several hours of inactivity forced us to ring the changes. We fashioned up some tuna steaks and bottom fished over rough ground for only a few minutes. In that short period of time I landed two stunning trigger fish and my very first Amberjack.

Great Dentistry
Back trolling we managed one shark bite which resulted in a bitten through leader and a 'merde' from the captain-didn't need a translator for that snippet of Spanish!
However we did catch one more fish, the highlight of the day for me, another first and a fish that has been on my bucket list for years but I have ignored in favour of bigger fish. Shame on me as there can be no fish more stunning.