Thursday, 16 February 2017

Legering for Grayling, the Twig Rig and the Senses.

'Legering for Grayling'?   Some of you are probably now recoiling in horror.  And I  largely agree with you.  It is not really the way of the enlightened, the path of the Ninja.  One of my clubs actually bans legering in their river beats, and I agree entirely with their decision.   But elsewhere there are many swims that simply cannot be fished with fly or float.  Depths, varying, or too deep, snags, trees and everything else imaginable, can render civilized grayling fishing quite impossible.  So what of those swims?  Are they to be ignored?     The grayling ( and other species) certainly do not ignore them.  So we can either treat them as sanctuaries or in some cases, maybe they can be legered.

But what is the problem with legering for grayling?   Apart from the aesthetics of  it, the grayling is a fish that can be very prone to taking the hookbait deep into its mouth, often so deep as to leave the hook out of sight.   Float fishing and fly fishing tends to lead to the fish being lip hooked most of the time.  Legering though, can result in 50% of fish, maybe more, being hooked in disgorger territory.  Contrary to the strength of their wriggles, as you try to extract the hook, probing deeply into a grayling's digestive tract is fraught with danger to the fish.  Even using a slammo disgorger is no guarantee that an unseen hook, deep down, can be extracted.  The more caring angler would cut the line sooner rather than later, and pray that the barbless hook he should be using will be dealt with and disposed of naturally by the fish.  I do not know how often fish actually dispose of hooks. I don't know how often they die as a consequence of deep hooking.

I do not wish to deep hook fish. and have usually avoided the leger for grayling.  In the same way many years ago I stopped fishing for pike when the Jardine snap tackle was ubiquitous, and the advice was to 'strike on the second run'.  I did not like the surgical operation needed to extract barbed trebles from deep inside a pike.  And at the time no-one had invented the method of slipping the hand into the gill slit to aid and abet unhooking of the fish.  Pike fishing is far more acceptable these days with modern methods now in place, and almost all of my pike these days are hooked such that the hook shank is visible outside of the jaw.  My pike fishing has become a lot friendlier to the fish, and I enjoy it more.  

But could there also be a better method of fishing for grayling?   ...and for chub, roach etc of course. In my youth I used to fish for big bream with a paternoster rig.  Not the usual rig but a rather extreme version.  From the T junction of the paternoster line, one arm was a couple of feet or more of line, with an Arlesey bomb attached to the end of it.  Tied on, not sliding.  The other T was only an inch or so long, and lead to the hook.  This gave a very direct route from hook to bite indicator should a fish swim away from me.    I had already concluded that there was nothing to gain from a sliding lead if a fish swam back towards me, the lead would move back towards me at half the speed of the fish, and could easily totally mask out any bite indication at the rod. It worked well for me. It was possibly even working as a bolt rig, something that had not been invented at the time. Hooks then were not nearly as sharp, so that bolt effect may not have been quite so frequently the case.  Such a paternoster style was also completely tangle free,  and certainly caught fish in stillwaters.

Would such a rig work for grayling, and why would it be an advantage?   Well, the line between lead and rod is under a small amount of tension, and only that inch long hooklink is free to move, free to be sucked in by the fish. The tension in the main line to the lead would prevent any of the main line from being sucked into the mouth of the fish. So my theory was that the fish could therefore not take the bait any deeper than an inch into its mouth.   Any fish hooked inside the mouth, at only an inch deep is no problem for a disgorger.  But would it work, would it catch fish?  Yes it did, and to date I have not hooked a single fish deeply when fishing in this way.   Was it as efficient a way to catch fish?  That I cannot answer easily, and so the conclusion is that it remains a definite maybe.   The current and angle of the main line could easily lift the bait off the bottom, although that could be counteracted by a shot somewhere near the T.  The method works for both up and downstream legering.   I even used it fishing with a maggot feeder for chub, fishing downstream. My bait being a foot upstream of the feeder did not seem to concern the chub, the trail of maggots below the feeder attracted the chub sufficiently close, that they were then able to find my baited hook some distance above the feeder.
A second problem is that the fish might prefer a long length of line, allowing the bait to flow and meander more freely up and down in the current.  Clearly the paternoster method is not going to provide that.  So here, for the first time in print, I will present to you the JayZS Twig Rig...the result of five minutes of idle thinking during a boring morning when few fish were feeding.      Designed for downstream legering for grayling, allowing a longer flowing link and yet, in theory, still preventing deep hooking. 

The details:
Set up your leger rig, with your long flowing link, in any way you would normally prefer.  Simple running lead,  a link leger, or a couple of swan shot directly on the line two feet above the hook.  It does not matter: the Twig Rig  just redefines the last inch or two.  Find, on the bank, a bit of thin twig. Cut it down to about an inch of so, and then remembering your DIB, DIB, DIB, or maybe your DOB, DOB, DOB, make a clove hitch in your line very near to the hook, and put the twig through its loops. Add an extra half hitch for security, and you now have a twiggy crossbar, an inch or so above the hook, sitting sideways across the line.  The theory here is that the fish can engulf the bait, but the crossbar will prevent the bait from progressing very far down the throat of the fish. Its lips and limited mouth gape stop the crossbar from entering its mouth. My initial thoughts were that the twig would put the fish off, and I did not know whether I would catch anything at all by using it.  But the twig is very natural, so why should a fish be suspicious of it?   And does it work?  Limited testing to date, due to recent bad river conditions that have not been ideal for a grayling hunt.


Caught on a Twig Rig.
   But some fish have already taken a bait on this rig, including my best grayling of the winter so far: a nice male of 1-14.   The jury is still out on the method, but they left the dock with smiles on their faces.  

Both methods rely on being able to prevent a fish taking a bait down deep. Both seem to work, and I have not yet had a deep hooked fish on either method. Only a dozen or so fish into the experiments, but with ordinary legering techniques, several of those would have certainly been hooked deeply.

I bought a Berlingo van.  For fishing.   Something I had promised myself for many years, but four years ago, having had a Saxo written off, I flunked it, and bought a Ford Fusion instead.   Worked just fine as a fishing car, but I was always worried that anything inside the car could be seen.  So finally I splashed out on a van.  Not had a van for many years.  Had an HA Bedford ( MK 1 Viva) van and a couple of minivans many years ago, but they were very different.  Smaller, and much easier to drive.   The new van has no rear windows, and so for the first time I am dependent on the wing mirrors.   Had it long enough now to be ignoring the interior mirror, but have no idea why one has been fitted to a vehicle with no rear windows, and which also has a bulkhead immediately behind the driver, doubly blocking the view. Mind you I was still more surprised by a transit van I followed last week.    It too had no rear windows, but was fitted with a pair of rear screen wipers.  They were both switched on....and it wasn't even raining.  They have probably been cleaning the rear paintwork for years, with the driver completely unaware they were switched on.    I also need to point out that my van is NOT white.   So the "white van man" epithet will not work.    I feel I am seated very high up driving it, and it seems huge, although only about 9 inches longer than the Fusion.  That said, it feels more secure for stowing the few bits of tackle that I am not carrying as I walk to my swim. Parking is a little more difficult to accomplish with style, without a functional rear view mirror, and some non right-angle junctions can be difficult, there being limited views at 45 degrees to the rear and left of the van.   Narrow roads, single track,   just the sort of tracks I need to drive down to reach the river will also be problematic at times.   Having to reverse, on meeting another vehicle, will be interesting for I cannot now see if there is another car close behind me.  Thinking in advance has become more necessary.    Maybe I need some sort of 6th sense, to alert me to problems behind me.

But could I trust that 6th sense?  Any more than the other senses can be trusted? 

Take vision.    When watching a stationary float on a lake, with a crosswind, and therefore ripples passing sideways in front of you, something very odd can happen when you look away.  Look at vegetation on the bank and it seems to be moving, creeping towards the water, yet getting no closer to the lake.   The brain must  be filtering out some of the left to right, or right to left, ripple movement whilst watching the float.  And it must be doing this by adding in a component of virtual movement automatically. The brain sets up this background moving picture, which it then adds to the real scene.  Changing it for God only knows what reason.   So, when you stop looking at the ripples, the added on bit of the scene, that generated by the brain, remains for a while, and seemingly causes stationery objects to appear as if moving, trees drifting down the bank.   All very strange.

But this added component is not confined to vision.   Take hearing.   I live a hundred yards or so from a main line railway. It runs in a deep cutting but that is not so deep as to be able to mask out the noise from a Manchester-London Virgin express train, nor even that from the local services.   Yet I do not notice them at all, I hear nothing. Not unless I try specifically  to hear them.  The brain appears to be able to ignore these intermittent chunks of noise, selectively, in the background, only alerting me to them if I am specifically wanting to hear them.   Amazing.

Next smell:      Houses each have a particular smell.  Go into someone else's house and it is often both apparent and detectable.  This applies to your own home too.  But you smell nothing when you enter it. Again the brain seems to filter out that which it expects.  This, I guess, allows it to more readily determine any slight differences from the norm.  Useful in this modern age where we have gas fires and the like, all of which might imply danger of some sort.  ( I once came home from work and could smell gas in the house. So could the emergency gasman, although his sniffer device failed to find any signs of gas. It turned out that next door had had a visiting plumber, who had completed the job, and left the property, leaving an open gas pipe, and then turned the gas back on.  Next door's house was a bomb, waiting for a spark before exploding. Smell saved my property, if not my life.)  In the distant past a change of background smell probably also warned of danger or perhaps the nearness of food.   Not really a sense we have had to rely on too much, or else evolution might have given us the same sensitivity to smell as it has given to dogs, bears fish and other creatures.  Taste is very closely related to smell, and although I guess the brain can detect and ignore a "background" taste, I cannot recall any examples.

Touch, the fifth sense is also intriguing.  Sit on a sofa or a chair and you have a large area in contact with the seating.  Yet you can largely ignore it,  it is not constantly firing messages at you, at least not once the nerves have transmitted those messages to the brain.  They are once more ignored.  Yet it only takes a minor disturbance to the norm, say, sitting on a sofa with a stray split shot on it, and it immediately tells you, and causes you grief until you remove the shot.   Once more the background is being ignored.  The unusual being amplified.  And I suspect that, like vision, background 'feel' gets ignored by the brain, in that it creates a "negative" of what it feels, thus cancelling out everyday feeling.  To support this I recall years when I spent a whole week on a punt, fishing for tench at the start of the coarse fish close season.   Even with the punt lashed to some stakes, there was still a small amount of swell, with wave action constantly rocking the boat.   It did not take long to ignore, to not notice this rocking motion.  I believe that it was ignored by means of the brain generating the inverse of the motion, making the sum total of the rocking experienced by the conscious brain to be effectively zero.   How do I justify this statement?   Quite simple really.   At the end of the week, tired, and fairly happy with my catches, I went home to sleep.   And for several hours the bed seemed to be rocking with a wave action.   This must have been the brain being quite slow to switch off its compensatory  signals.  The effect was very noticeable though.   Quite astonishing what the unconscious brain is capable of: from diluting the senses, thus ignoring the irrelevant, to solving a sticky crossword clue in the background.  Yet it has one hell of a time remembering where I have put my car keys, just moments earlier.

  
   


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Disaster: A Grayling on the First Cast!


Indeed, a catastrophe on the first cast. I hooked a grayling with moments of the float hitting the water...and in a swim where bites are normally rare.  But more of that later perhaps.


When I am not fishing, I like to take moderately long walks.  I stay local, usually. No point in going walking with the car when there is so much I have never seen within a few miles of home.  If I remembered all I see I should by now have an encyclopedic knowledge of the local area.  But my memory prevents that. I retain far less than I should like, and sometimes less than I need.  I see it and move on.   A fair bit of my walking is alongside the local rivers and streams, and it is not easy to forget the effect that floods can have on them.  They are spate rivers, and about 3 weeks ago ( 3 weeks from when I first started to write this) we had rain, heavy rain overnight.  Some parts of nearby towns were flooded. The rivers are spate rivers, but that flood was more of a flash flood than a spate, and viewing the EA water levels websites shows a truly astonishingly rapid increase and decrease of depth.   I measured an increase of ten feet at one spot I visit.  Not the highest I have seen it there, which was 13 feet.  On that day I calculated, having made some rough estimates of flow speed, that the river was carrying about 100 times its usual  flow rate.  Visually it was terrifying.  In any major flood the river carries a tremendous about of debris, from sand grains all the way up to fully grown trees. All are swept downstream with apparent ease.  An astonishing amount of sand and gravel is transported at each flood, and the river changes its looks at some spots, every time we have such storms.  Unfortunately, with the natural material transport, is carried a mass of human detritus too.  From raw sewage as the local sewage farms fail to cope, to sanitary towels, old tyres, supermarket trolleys, plastic bags etc. On my last fishing trip I decided to count the sanitary towels caught up in the vegetation within 10 feet of me.  The total was 34. It would have been higher had I been fishing near any of the bankside trees. I once caught 6 towels in 6 casts: a river record.  So much rubbish is strewn along the banks that it really is probably pointless my taking my own litter home.   But I will continue to do so, as I know I would feel guilty if I didn't.  Luckily there is no club rule about cleaning up other peoples rubbish from the peg before fishing.  It would just not be a practical proposition: far too much stuff.
Grayling Swim  ;-(
Trout Swim  ;-)

























On the  left, debris left after the flood in just one spot.   On the right, normal summer level a short distance further downstream.  You make think your rivers are bad,  but I feel fairly confident that you have probably seen nothing compared to this.  And there are always footballs.   Rather like in another scenario, there are always carrots.


Football Swim
It is intensely annoying that, after the Herculean attempts of the EA and others to clean up the water quality, to allow the rivers to show some life again, that the locals continue to use the rivers as dumping grounds. Not just annoying, but disgusting.   The unusually steep banks make any sort of access exceedingly dangerous, and so I know that this muck is never going to be cleaned up.  The post industrial era has left another mark on the stream beds: they are extensively paved with bricks and other dressed stonework.  The residue of riverside industrial era buildings, long abandoned and crumbling.  That which has not already fallen into the rivers, is, or will be, swept into them as flood after flood courses through what remains of the archaeology. 

P.S. If you didn't understand carrots, think "pavement pizza", or the old schoolkid joke. "Mummy, Mummy, Johnny has been sick and Susie is getting all the big bits." I cannot tell you how long I have waited to re-use that joke.  I love the term "pavement pizza". Although very much a slang term, it is so visually descriptive that it fully deserves an OED inclusion. Rather like "arse over tit", another great expression.  There is much, good, entertaining slang, but also slang that I find intensely annoying.  "Innit?", at the end of a sentence as a confirmatory expression, regardless of whether it should be  "won't it?", or "can't I?" etc, drives me crazy.  Even the better brought up kids merely tidy it up as "isn't it?" How did this usage become so pervasive? And so quickly?


Why, oh why, did I have to hook a grayling first cast.   So annoying. The world was against me, Almost as annoying as the fact that I had nearly finished this blog entry when I must have hit the wrong key and deleted it all save for the letters "ybe".  The letters are the latter part of the word "maybe" which I was typing at the time.  Maybe I hit a wrong key, maybe not. It may be that the program just had a hiccup.  Either way I lost all my input, photos included.   Not happy!  

I had two or three trips to an area of another river, catching a few grayling as usual, the odd decent trout muscling in, out of season.  A lady walking her dog has promised to talk to them daily, until mid-March to try and make them recognize and remember when they are to be caught, and when not.  More pleasingly a few chub have been added to the mix, about a dozen, most between 2 and three pounds, short solid fish that fought better than I remember chub scrapping in the past.  Best fish was 3-10, one of three that took simple float fished maggots trotted downstream. Some interesting birds: a dabchick that I spotted once before it did the usual dab disappearing chick trick. And one of the peregrines was doing the occasional fly past.  Jays too in profusion, arguing the toss with the magpies.

One day last week, I chose to fish another swim, one in which I have never had any success. I once lost a good fish, probably a chub, unseen, but that was the sum total of my lack of success there.  A difficult swim both to fish and to sit in.  Amidst a bankload of freshly deposited sand, it was a little precarious to say the very least.  I didn't slip in, but was worried a couple of times.   The river was proving as
Surprisingly Hard Fighting Chub
unproductive as ever, and 40 trots down I had seen not one bite.  But the swim looked so good, and on the 41st ( approx) run down of the float, it disappeared. I was on a light trotting rod, fishing with 3 pound line, which for me is very light indeed.   The fish fought magnificently, and from initially suspecting a good chub, my mind wandered through trout, and even a good bream kiting sideways in the current.  The bream idea soon evaporated as the fish made its way upstream against a fairly heavy current, and passed me, still unseen, and by this time I was playing it very carefully indeed.  It surfaced, a chub, and looked to be 5 pound plus, but once on the scales it made 4-8.  A good fish for the river, and indeed one of only two chub , small or large, that I have had from the river in the last two years. They used to be somewhat more common, although never prolific.  It was a while before the next fish, a couple of grayling, which were to complete the day's catch.   But as I reeled in one of them, a massive swirl was  immediately confirmed to be a fairly good Esox  making an attack.  A pike for the very few of you that might not know the term Esox.  It missed the fish, and sat there lurking, a foot from my foot, looking up at me rather like a robin begging for maggots. An oddly, it had a little 1/2 inch red something on its head.  Christmas decoration?  I have no idea. I returned the grayling behind it, and told the pike that I would see it again the day after.

I don't know why I even took the grayling rod with me.  In retrospect it was plain stupidity.  I should never have cast in at all, but I had been seduced by that four and a half pound chub the day before.  It was  a plot, in which the characters, chub, grayling and pike were all in collusion.

Now I try to always keep my promises, and having told old Esox that I would return , I arrived the next day, determined to find out what the red thing was. In short, I intended to catch that pike.  As I tackled up, 4 birds flew across the river. My immediate thought, looking at one of them was that it was a kestrel.  But there were four, and the tail was too long and thin.  They were parakeets I concluded, and probably green in colour had they not been seen in silhouette. The first such birds I have seen, apart from a large flock in London a few years ago.  At about the same time a female mink stole along the far bank. I had seen a bankside disturbance a bit further downstream, but did not have the foresight to ready the camera.  I still have no good shots of a mink.

 The pike bait went in, and was ignored.  After ten minutes I tackled up the float rod, intending to see if another chub might show itself.  No of course, but a grayling did:  On that first cast I hooked a grayling.  And that  was the mistake that all the red text has been wittering on about. How could I have been so stupid?  For as I reeled the grayling in, the pike grabbed it, grabbed it when it was no more than 18 inches form my pike bait, which was a dead rudd, suspended and fluttering about in the current. After a short tug of war, the barbless hook came away. Although there might well be no such thing as a free lunch, a free breakfast is another thing entirely.    And having stuffed himself with a foot long grayling at my expense, it was inevitable that the pike would not be interested in my 5 inch dead rudd.  And it wasn't.    So I gave the pike a couple of days to digest its hearty breakfast, and then went back with yet another rudd.  There was a swirl within moments of my first cast, but the bait remained untaken.  Two minutes later I provoked a second large swirl, but not a take.  And that was it: no more interest from Mr Pike.  But it had done just enough to thumb its nose at me, and confirm it was still there, sniggering at me.

 3 -nil to the pike. 


But it all makes the chase that bit more interesting, and maybe in a week or so I shall be back, risking all on a 45 degree sloping sand pit.  This story is NOT yet finished.


But it is finished for the moment, the river being in a constant state of "a bit too much water for me".


And here endeth the blog entry.   Taking far  too much time to write, so I am publishing this regardless of it seeming, to me,  to be incomplete.

P.S.  Diet still progressing well. A pound short of losing 4 stones to date.  My stomach has changed from looking as if I was carrying one of those horrible bloated mirror carp under my T-shirt, to looking as if I only have a pound and a half chub flopping about in front of my belly.  Those carrots help again. They add bulk and longevity in the gut, without adding greatly to the calorie intake.