Monday, 30 December 2013

Big Welsh Grayling

Afon Irfon
Our final session of the year was another far flung Grayling chasing sortie into deepest darkest Wales. The Afon(river) Irfon starts life on the upper slopes of Bryn Garw(rough hill) in the Cambrian Mountains and flows through the Abergwesyn valley until it meets the River Wye at Builth Wells. It is a spate river that rises and falls rapidly but the majority of the time it is crystal clear, bounded by woodland and has many rapids interspersed with some tempting looking pools and runs. I have fished it a few times now and it has never disappointed me, the fishing is excellent and the scenery stunning.

This trip had to be booked a few weeks in advance which is always a risk, our timing could be out and we could end up being faced with a raging angry tea-coloured torrent or the weather at this time of year could make the long trip impossible. This time we were lucky. The river was swollen three days ago but it had now dropped to almost it's normal level and the clarity was returning. The weather forecast was sunny and dry.
Martin and I set off at 5am, there had been a really harsh overnight frost, the roads were fine where the gritters had been but we still had to take it steady. We arrived in Builth Wells at first light and grabbed some refreshments. The stretch we were fishing is about three miles from Builth up and down a narrow little country road. As we came down the first sharp incline the van started to gather speed. I touched the brakes gently, the wheels lost their grip and we started to slide. I tried to ground the vehicle up a verge on the left hand side but this only succeeded in flicking the back end out and we entered into a full on spin. With the van bouncing off one verge then the other we rotated a full 720 degrees before I managed to straighten it out again just before the bridge at the bottom. Thankfully neither of us were hurt and there was minimal damage to the van.
With the small bridge negotiated we pulled into a lay-by next to another van. The driver was also an angler on his way to Linear but he had skidded down the other side of the hill and thought better of it. He had been watching us coming down the hill with the headlights going round and round, it must have looked hilarious.
From hereon in we had a choice, sit in the van and wait for the road to defrost or slide our way up the hill (on foot!) to fetch grit salt to help it along. The three of us set off and within 3/4 hour we had both slopes gritted enough to finish off our journey. After a slight detour (wrong turning!) we finally arrived at the river well after sunrise.

Abergwesyn Valley
A roving approach trotting maggots was the order of the day but we struggled to either find fish or get them to feed and after a couple of hours we were biteless. Martin was upstream, trotting the sedate edge of a stunning pool when finally he struck into a decent fish. After rolling around and leaping clean out of the water several times the fish finally succumbed and he put the net under a quality Sea Trout of a couple of pounds. Not the target species but it was good to see a fish.

I decided to head downstream to where the water was calm and deep. I figured the bright light and overnight temperature had forced them into that area. I remained biteless for another hour and I was sure fish were in front of me so I turned to desperate measures. I set up the feeder rod-I know it is sacrilege but blanking was not an option after the arduous journey we had undergone to get there!
Within twenty minutes I finally struck into a bite and landed a 1lb 3oz Grayling, a welcome fish but the target was a 'two'.

1lb 3oz
Next cast produced another bite which as soon as I struck felt different. I was using a very light hooklink and putting as much pressure on as I could in the fast flow but the fish was using it's oversized dorsal fin to great effect and at one stage we reached a stalemate. Then gradually the fish started to come towards me, inch by inch. After what seemed an age I slipped the net under the biggest Grayling I have caught for quite some time.

2lb 1oz
On the scales it went 2lb 1oz and equalled my previous personal best for the species.
The rest of the day passed without any more fishy interruptions. This stretch is normally prolific but was decidedly difficult this time. Hopefully the lack of action was down to the conditions and not the creatures that made these tracks that we found!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Boxing Day Blank

The run up to Christmas has been particularly busy this year and has prevented me from wetting a line for quite some weeks.
However it has long been a tradition of mine to fish Boxing Day, although I cannot it recall it ever being a successful session and this year was no different.
I have been watching the river levels online and the Avon had dropped about two foot, looked good on the screen but when I arrived my heart sank at the muddy, still raging torrent before me.

Chub had to be my only chance of a fish and I dropped a lump of smelly cheese paste into a slack area  between two(now submerged) trees.

A biteless hour followed and when I got bored of messing about with the camera and I lost all terminal tackle, snapped off by an unseen snag I decided enough was enough. Still it was nice to be out in the Winter sunshine and to give it a go.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Lechlade Rainbow Chasing

With a few days holiday left to take before the end of the year I decided to dust off the fly rod and go chasing some big Rainbows at Lechlade Trout fishery. Conditions were perfect for a change, overcast, mild with just a gentle breeze. This fishery comes into it's own at this time of year, the water is crystal clear, ideal for stalking big Trout.
Despite all that it is still a challenge especially it seems today as the half dozen or so anglers at the venue found.
When I am fly fishing I like to stay mobile, the fish are not spread out evenly around the venue instead seemingly in pockets here and there, find one and there are generally others about. For the first couple of hours I struggled to find any but then I spotted one in a quiet corner and that was the area I concentrated on.
I watched it for a short while and it seemed to have a specific patrol route and a lie that it favoured. I cast several flies towards it but it ignored most of the offerings, bloodworm, stalking bugs, an orange lure got it's attention but it turned away at the last moment. After half an hour of teasing me it started to get annoying. I changed fly again to a small white cactus lure which got it excited but I missed the first take. Finally it took again and this time I connected and we had a spirited battle which I eventually won.
5lb 5oz
The disturbance from that success put paid to any more action in that bay so I moved off up to the deeper section. I overheard another angler telling his mate that he had had a take trundling a fly along the bottom so I put on a pink critter

 and let it sink the depths before slowly retrieving it. The second cast and the lure was dropping through the water when I noticed the end of the fly line 'twitch'. Instinctively I struck and it was fish on. The hooked Trout twisted and turned, set off on runs and generally led me a right song and dance before I finally netted it. Again not a monster but a satisfying capture none the less.
5lb 6oz
That was that for the day as I only had a two fish ticket, at least I was the first angler to fill their card!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Tough Winter Perching

6am and the kettle is boiling to fill a  flask prior to my first session for three weeks. Unusual for me but family commitments and work have stopped me from wetting a line since the Hampshire Grayling trip. This time it was to be a Winter Perch session on a new pool with potential to throw up a biggie. There are so many commercials around where the stock of Perch is unknown so I was excited by the anticipation.
Martin had found the place and I met him and Danny in the car park just after 8am.

The fishery comprised of three small pools that were stream fed and we chose the middle of the three, it looked the part, lined all the way around with reeds and the odd lily patch still visible. 

Our high hopes soon started to melt away, the water was gin clear and the sun came out, overcast skies and coloured water are always preferable for Perch. Whilst Martin and I blanked Danny did catch a small Perch and a half decent Roach but not enough to satisfy and we decided to up sticks at lunchtime and head to another spot thirty minutes down the road.

Right from the off at the new venue we felt more confident, the sun still shone but there was more colour in the water although you wouldn't think so from the photos. Yet again Danny struck first with a decent Roach, followed by another. I soon followed suit landing several Roach to about a pound, lovely fish in excellent condition. I also caught a few of the target species-Perch but none to warrant getting the camera out.

Martin joined in too landing a Perch that was so small the whole lobworm got wedged in it's throat whilst the hook was still outside it's mouth and then just as it turned dark he hauled in a signal crayfish.
The fall in light values heralded a run of unhittable bites that were also blamed on Crays. We gave up when we could no longer see the floats.