Monday, 3 January 2011

Pike & Grayling Sessions - my last of 2010 and my chance to try out some new gear!

After more than a month of abstinence from fishing, I finally got myself back out on the bank between Christmas and New Year. I had a few new bits of tackle – mainly Christmas presents – to try out too. The first trip was an ill-advised, two hour drive to Boston with Craig and his mate Arran, only for us to find all of the drains were still completely frozen over with a good 3 to 4 inches of ice! After a brief bout of self-deprecation for not calling a local tackle shop to check, a swift re-think was required. We needed to find some flowing water to be guaranteed some ice-free fishing. The nearby Witham was an option, but as none of us had ever really pulled up any trees on there, so we opted to head back as far as Newark and try a stretch of the Trent which none of us had fished before. It was close to a boatyard and seemed a logical place for us to find some lethargic pike seeking food close to shelter. Craig quickly caught a small jack, probably less than a couple of pounds, and that was it as far as action was concerned between the three of us. A big fat blank for me, which was disappointing because I was fishing with a new gear combo of a Shimano Purist Deadbait Classic rod (Christmas present from my very thoughtful better half) and a backbiter alarm which I’d never used before.

I’m pretty sure that once the drains thaw, there will be some very hungry fish just waiting to be caught. The second major freeze-over in a year can’t be bad for the long-term future of the drains, as it will give the pike a rest and will hopefully even have stopped some of the unscrupulous bastards catching and killing fish using illegal deadlines, as the PAC reported on their blog last month here.

My second trip out, on New Years Eve, was thankfully much more successful and enjoyable. My mate Titch (of my Mahseer fishing article fame) had been given some fishing tackle for Christmas and understandably he wanted to test it out at the earliest opportunity. I also had another new piece of kit to try out, a Centrepin reel called the “Ikona”, which at £50 is a real bargain-basement ‘pin, but having never tried using a centrepin before, I didn’t want to spend £200+ on a good one. So, we headed to Matlock Bath on the Derbyshire Derwent for a bit of day ticket fishing. I showed Titch how to set up with a running maggot feeder rig whilst I paired my new 'pin with my 15 foot Fox stick float rod and a medium-sized wire stemmed stick float. We started off fishing in around 6 feet of steady-paced water but nothing here seemed interested in maggots or bread; we didn’t have a bite between us in two hours. A move was in order, so we headed to a couple of swims with fast, deep water on the far margin and a slowly sloping sandy bed heading away from the near bank.

After a few initial problems I had got to grips with trotting with a centrepin and I was really pleased with how the Ikona reel was working. Not being a centrepin connoisseur, I can’t give any in-depth critique, but the bearings seemed to turn extremely easily, the spool ran smooth and true and I really enjoyed using it. I got into the habit of flicking on the spool latch (or “clicker”) with my little finger each time I netted a fish or re-baited my hook, to prevent unwanted spool spinning/bird nests/expletive shouting. From my experience using this reel, I reckon it makes a great introductory reel for newcomers to 'pins and certainly opened my eyes to the joy of participating in the only true art form in coarse fishing.

Almost from the first cast in the new swim my float was dipping with bites I didn’t manage to connect to, then Titch hooked and lost a fish on the feeder. My very next trot through yielded us our first fish of the day in the shape of a grayling of around half a pound. A couple of casts later I landed my second grayling of the day, but this one was only maybe half the size of the first. Titch managed to get through 7 hooklengths and three feeders in the space of about an hour, through various altercations with trees, rocks and fish, but eventually whilst trotting a waggler through, he managed to land his first ever trout. It was a wild brownie and after a few eerie moments around the aforementioned snags, the new rod & reel was christened and Titch was very relieved!

Meanwhile, my swim had seemingly come alive.  I landed 4 wild brownies myself and missed plenty of bites.  The thing was, three of the trout were the exact same fish!  It had a small red ulcer on its left side so it was easily recognisable.  I have caught the same fish twice in a session before but never three times!  The second and third captures were within 3 casts of each other so it was getting a little ridiculous.  I decided a switch to feeder tactics would allow me to fish further across the river, away from this greedy, suicidal trout which had staked sole claim on my swim.  Within minutes of casting out the maggot feeder I had a good solid bite and connected with my biggest fish of the day.  I think it was a large trout, but it started swimming quickly upstream towards me and as I guided it towards the net it suddenly turned and bolted, straightening my size 20 barbless hook, so there’s also a chance it was a small barbel.  I’ll never know.  Another small grayling came from this swim before I decided we’d had the best of it and we moved further upstream to some of my favourite pegs.

Titch was into the action straight away and it wasn’t long before a couple of young, wild spotties had been caught and released and also his first ever grayling so he was now a very happy man.  I caught a couple of small trout but it was grayling I was really after.  I remembered having joy with bread on this peg a couple of years ago, so I pinched as big a piece as I dare around a size 20 and swung out the rig.  Any bites I’d been getting from trout had been coming early on in the trot and the float passed this area without any sign of interest; as it neared the end of the trot, my float gently disappeared.  I struck and instantly knew I had a good fish attached.  It was the first time I’d actually needed to play a fish with the centrepin and I now see the appeal of it.  Extremely direct, with no drag to help me out, it really was heart-in-mouth stuff.  Again, I assumed this fish was a good trout but as it surfaced halfway out, I saw it was actually a decent chub.  Thankfully the hook held and I netted what was a very battered old chevin, with a strange sky-blue hue to its body, a bulging-out eye, a rotted anal fin and a fairly fresh mouth wound, presumably from a previous hook tearing out.  I treated this and set the fish up for a photograph alongside my centrepin before returning it as quickly as possible.  I didn’t weigh the fish but it was a chunky old chap which I think would weigh around 3lb 12oz.  It was also the first chub I’ve ever caught from this stretch, though I’ve always known it held a few.  All in all, a pleasant end - to a day of education for both Titch and myself - and of course, to 2010.  the only disappointment of the day was that I still had a Christmas present I hadn't tried out - a Zippo hand warmer - but better to have it and not need it than vice versa!  Happy new year everyone and tight lines for 2011.