Wednesday 9 October 2013

Please Stop my Wife from Murdering the Tackle Shop Owner.

The tench fishing is fading now, and so, maybe, time for a change.    Again, I should probably go and fish for some barbel, but somehow I cannot really find much enthusiasm for the species at the moment.  True: they fight impressively, but they are a little predictable, and I don't really find them to be much of a challenge.   That is not to say I will not fish for them again: just not this week.

So I drew a card from the pack: perch.  And why not,  and I stabbed a pin into a list of locations: Yorkshire rivers.   So, tucking a bunch of lobworms under my arm, I set off.  The venue and species was not of course chosen entirely at random,  more that I really wanted to fish for some perch and fancied somewhere different in which to do it.

On arrival, I noticed a small, tied up, Tesco plastic bag, at the bottom of my rucksack.  Ah yes, I remember. A fortnight before I had placed a few big halibut pellets in the bag, intending to use them for barbel.  The trip never happened, and the bait was forgotten about.  I pulled the plastic bag out, and it disintegrated.  In some way, the oils and other emanations from the pellets had destroyed the plastic bag.   The plastic had become very brittle, and disintegrated in much the same way as burnt paper in a fire-grate does, breaking up into tiny pieces.   Very odd indeed!  Have I inadvertently discovered a way to make plastic bio-degrade in under a month?  Should I nip down the patent office tomorrow?

The venue turned out to be a bad choice, for, after 5 hours my float had not moved, even whilst in the very fishy looking bit of slack water I had chosen.  Again I lie, for it had twitched slightly a few times, nothing worth a strike, and examination of the worms showed that they had been dismantled, probably by crayfish.  No fish at all came to my rod, but I was entertained by several speedy and low kingfisher flypasts, and a solitary sparrowhawk that zoomed along the far bank, chasing nothing.  After a couple of hours of inactivity in the swim, a pike of some ten or twelve pounds cruised slowly past me, no more that a foot from the bank, and had I brought deadbaits, I would have tried to catch it.  I quite often see pike patrolling the river's edge, always heading upstream, often very near the bank in a foot or so of water. Maybe I should be more prepared for them.  Pack the odd lure or two.

A Lively Little Yorkie Pike
By lunchtime it was obvious I needed to change tactics, so I moved downstream to a short stretch of very fast water, much of it very ripply, all of it motoring a fair bit.    A small section of worm was cast into the area where the rapids began to get more sluggish.   A second rod went across to the far bank, still with perch in mind, where it was once again ignored. A while later, a bite on the fast water rod produced a microscopic grayling least three ounces. My first grayling of the season though, and very welcome. An hour later, a second bite, also from a small grayling.  I reeled it up through the fast bankside water, and as I did so, there was a very large swirl, and something unseen grabbed the hooked fish.   It soon let go, without having revealed itself, although a pike was the obvious culprit.  Obvious, but surprising, for I would never have thought to try for pike in that swim.  The water, I would have considered to be far too fast for pike.  The grayling was rather worse for wear,  alive, but would not make it through the night, not without the aid of a full team of A&E anaesthetists and surgeons.   I quickly rigged up a wire trace on my barbel rod, and free-lined the damaged grayling down through the fast water near the bank.   It was not long,  and very soon I was playing a pike, very much  in the fast lane.   It put up an excellent performance, and I was only slightly disappointed to find its size was a mere seven pounds or so.  Neatly hooked in the scissors, it was returned unharmed, and swam off strongly.  Inadequate net for pike, I know, I know!  But it was to be as exciting as the day was to get.

But, the day did inspire me to  change from perch to grayling for the rest of the week.   In anticipation of this, a trip to the tackle shop was needed.  Maggots, simple maggots, which must surely be the ultimate bait for grayling.   The owner of the shop apologised, for he had only bronze maggots in stock.  No problem, and a couple of pints was soon stashed in my "new" bait fridge.  Wanting a bit of a challenge, and being my usual slightly daft self, I ignored the Dove, decided to bypass the Derwent, and chose to fish a river that is not well known for its grayling. I did initially fish it for chub, but after a few hours of fighting nothing but snags, and losing tackle every time, I then cast further downstream into an area where the water speed looked right for the "ladies of the stream" to be lying.  But first, a couple of out of season trout were to take the bait. See picture. You may well have read that grayling have a pear shaped pupil in their eyes. Look closely though, whilst zooming the photograph, and you will see that trout have pear shaped eyes too. The trout were returned after a quick photograph and eventually
A Brownie, Just out of Season I Think.
a grayling gave a typical, jagging bite, and was landed after a brief scrap.  I weighed it at 1-6,  any grayling of over a pound I consider to be a good fish.  Any grayling smaller is still well worth catching. I have added a photograph of the swim where the trout in the picture came from. As you can see, there are at least five old truck tyres, certainly one pedal cycle, and much assorted other junk in the swim.  It is such a shame that, now the river is clean enough to support trout, it is still so completely infested with these types of rubbish. But I do sometimes wonder whether the human detritus, apart from the tackle losses it causes, would make the river less productive were it not there. In much the same way as I read that sewage outflows, if not too clean, actually help fish growth. This area has a simple sandy bottom, not the best for promoting the growth of weed and insectivorous river life.  The rubbish does provide anchor points for weeds, and hiding places for bugs and creepy crawlies. Would there be many fish at all in the stretch were it not for the junk?
The Swim the Brownie in the Photo Came From
Further downstream, a willow stretched out across the river, just downstream from me, and through its foliage, I saw a heron flying upstream.  The tree was some twenty yards downstream, and masked me from the heron's line of sight.  But as soon as the heron cleared the tree it spotted me.  I was being completely still,  in dark clothing, blending well into the background, yet it still spotted me. Instantly.  It panicked and did a vertical U-turn, with a half roll, to leave it flying back downstream, some five or 6 yards higher than before. Quite a manoeuvre. Herons are quite brilliant, with some superhuman powers.

 I more clearly defined my challenge as:  trying to catch a grayling on every trip to the river, spending no more than three hours of time after the grayling , before moving on to another species.   And so far I have shocked myself,  this little river has produced 9 grayling for me in five such short sessions,   smallest maybe 14 ounces or so, best at 1-7.  A great average size. Just as astonishing, if you knew the river, each session has also produced trout.  A few tiny dace and some crayfish have joined in with the party.
A Fair Sized Crayfish
Finally, at the close of the fifth session, something took the bait, in a bit of quite fast water, that was  significantly bigger, and much harder fighting.   It proved to be a chub, as near to 4 pounds as makes no difference, and truly the most gorgeous looking chub I have seen for a long long time.   Had I shaken the scales a couple of times it would have gone to four, I am sure, but I don't like exaggeration, so 3-15 it will have to be. Most good chub I catch seem to have areas of displaced scales, and often look old and tatty.   Not this fish. A pleasure just to look at it.  I am certain it has never seen a hook before. Session three produced a surprise too.  As I watched the river and rod tip, a movement to my right caught my eye.   A crayfish was trying to move upstream. It was half out of the water, and being over-washed by a very powerful, bubble filled current.   I have no idea how it held on to the stone.  I placed my rod between my legs, dug out my mobile phone and tried to photograph the brute.    Not entirely successfully, and eventually the cray was washed away.   Fearing my bait would have been moved from its position, I reeled in, to find my first crayfish of the year attached to my hook.   More coincidence?  Or maybe the crays always appear as twins?   So each of five short spells produced grayling, nine in total, plus 6 or 7 out of season trout.  Kingfishers were present each day too, as well as the ubiquitous grey wagtails, sine waving their way up and down  the stream.

Back home, well satisfied.   Until my wife spotted me.   I was in trouble.  Bronze maggots:  very bronze maggots.  The dye used to render them such a superb colour seems to want to similarly colour the rest of the world, and my hands have become stained in a quite wild shade of deep orangey-yellow.   And it won't wash off. Not even after twenty minutes, of soap,  bicarbonate of soda, lime juice, etc.  Nothing shifts it.

Evidence for the Murder Trial
   My trousers too appear to have gained orange patches above the knees.  So Nina now wants to kill the tackle dealer. My own punishment is likely to be amputation at both wrists. She claims my hands have stained the cushions on the sofa, the fridge door, and I am not allowed within a yard of either her or her best china.  I am eating off a chipped old plate, and drinking from a plastic cup as I write this.   I have warned the owner of the fishing shop of his impending doom.  Good maggots though, to judge by how much the fish liked them.  


  1. As always a good and funny read - out of interest I'm trying to track down any fishing info on the Mersey near Sale, dont suppose that's an area you know much about?

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  3. Just found this blog, a great read, I've added you to my reading list on my blog