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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


21/01/2022 - Angling For Grayling

Pre-war bait dropper


After the hard conditions of the previous days, Wednesday 5th January was so much better when I arrived on the river around 0930 hrs I was greeted by fields covered in frost, there was no cloud base, just a light wind with a blue sky, the sun was just rising over the trees on the opposite bank, the river level was good with a tinge of colour, it looked ideal conditions for grayling, checking the water temperature I got a reading of 38 degrees F, this didn’t deter me, knowing grayling are a true cold water fish. Sadly it wasn’t suitable for fly fishing as the river had two feet on, in my book, it was perfect for float fishing, with some weight on the line, to get the bait on the bottom, also it helps to boss the float.


Tackle Set Up


As I was going to be trotting for several hours I chose to use my 14 ft Acolyte rod, matched with a Richard Carter Avon Classic Centre pin, 3lb breaking strain line to which I attached a balsa on cane float, taking 5AAA shot eighteen inches, with a BB four inches from the size 12 hook. After running the float through the swim a few times, I ended up with the float set around four feet so the bait would trip the bottom, in the area where it could perhaps snag up, I would hold the float back hard, allowing the bait to continue down the swim. I had 2 pints of red gentles, I started off putting in three bait droppers of gentles using a pre-W W 2 bait dropper with a thin wire below the trap door, I find it a better substitute than modern ones, with there heavy weight at the bottom, which often gets caught up in the rocks. I well remember losing four droppers in half a dozen casts in one session when trying to get casters on the bottom. I do find this old dropper ideal, though I would hate to lose it. Having put in four droppers of gentles, I spent fifteen minutes with a catapult placing gentles well upstream, roughly a pouch full every couple of minutes. In the first half an hour, I made cast after cast, every cast I would add half a dozen gentles, then trot the float some fifteen yards, without a sign of interest. I then got three good takes, hooking and losing two of the fish, netting the third, a grayling, not big but enjoyable and welcome, I reckon the two lost fish were also grayling. I then had three trout in the next dozen or so trots through the swim, good fish around 2lbs plus, they were quickly unhooked in the net then released, these were triploid trout which don’t spawn, though they do put up a spirited fight, But I dislike catching trout out of season.  I quickly had five grayling similar in size to my first fish. A few minutes later, I allowed the bait to drag hard on the bottom, then as the float moved sideways out towards the main flow, I set the hook, into when felt like a heavy fish, fifteen seconds later the fish gave a shake of its head then was gone. Saying to myself, “I reckon that was a good chub” Checking the hook point on my thumb nail, I found it as sharp as a new one.

At Last I Find The Grayling


Baiting with 4 gentles I commenced trotting, a few gentles being introduced every cast, at the end of the swim, I’d retrieve the tackle rebait then make another cast, as the float reached an area where a small side stream flowed into the main river, the float dipped, striking I was into another grayling, I feel I can tell this species from trout or a chub by the fight they put up. I then had a succession of bites, hooking them all, losing four landing seven, having lost those fish I was concerned the shoal would depart, but thankfully they were still in the area. I continued to trot the swim catching several trout usually within five yards of starting, no doubt attracted by the free offerings I was putting in every cast. I also had several more grayling, as they continued to feed. suddenly the river coloured up, then started to rise. In the next half an hour I didn’t get a take so decided to call it a day. It was a good catch of grayling today, I really enjoyed the sport. With the weather forecast for another very old night with snow forecast. I expect a further drop in the water temperature. So it will be crust on a short link tomorrow in the hope of a chub.


Thursday morning around 0900 hrs 6th January I arrived on the river to be greeted by a mixture rain, hail, sleet with a strong cold southerly wind in my face, as I got out of the car, I thought for a few seconds, should I go back home?, but very quickly changed my mind to fish on despite the conditions, I’d fished in far worse, I often say to myself ”Am I a man or a mouse”? the answer is always the former. Tackle set up was a soft Avon action rod, a Mitchell 300 reel 6lb bs line to which I added a float stop then a size 4 hook, the weight would be plasticine moulded around the float stop, the distance from hook would be decided once I’d checked the water temperature. In my tackle bag, I had a loaf of bread, some hooks, camera, towel and thermometer. Having got kitted out in lined waterproof over trousers, with a thick coat, also a pair of mittens purchase in Oregon some fifteen years ago, which I find are perfect in cold weather, I like to hold the rod, not do as I see some anglers do sit with their hands in their pockets, but who am I to question that idea, though I don’t reckon it’s an efficient way of angling. Often the fish will only move an inch or two. Having put seat and bag over my back, I picked up landing net, rod rest and rod for the mile long walk to the swim I wanted to fish a bend below a wood where the flow is less than other places with about six feet of water also plenty of overhead cover. The only life I spotted today were two buzzards, though I could hear a woodpecker at work. Having settled in my swim I checked the water temperature getting a reading of 36 degrees F, I decided to fish a short 3 inch link. the fish were not likely to want to chase a bait. I would have to keep casting every fifteen minutes, in the hope of dropping the bait close to a chub.


A Chub First Cast


Having moulded some plasticine around the float stop, I made a couple of casts to ensure I had enough weigh, not too much, as I wanted the bait to move slowly around. Baiting with a thumb nail piece of crust, Having made cast, I sat holding the rod, as I was buffeted by the wind, also keeping the rod tip within a few inches of the water so it wouldn’t be blown about so easily, no more than five minutes later, I felt a slight pluck, immediately striking I connected with the first fish of the session. A chub about 2lbs which was quickly released. Over the next three hours I had four trout averaging some 2lbs each, but sadly no more chub. Despite the horrid conditions I stuck it out until around 1430 hrs, as I looked across to the hills opposite side of the river, I could see they had a thick covering of snow. Not knowing what the conditions would be like on my way home, where I have to drive up a steep hill, I made a hasty retreat back to the car. On the way home several cars driving towards me had a thick covering of snow, thankfully apart from an icy stretch of road, I arrived back home safely. Not sure if I will be able to get out tomorrow. There is a yellow weather warning for frequent sleet, hail and snow showers which may cause some disruption to travel during the night and Friday morning.


Richard Carter centre pin

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Martin James Fishing
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