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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


02/01/2019 - New Year's Day Fishing

One of several nice grayling

New Year’s Day Fishing

I was on the river bank for 0900 hrs today, having caught on the last day of 2018 my ambition now was to catch on the first day of the 2019 New Year, the sky was overcast with a light wind, the river low and clear, checking the water temperature I got a reading of 42 degrees F a drop in the past 24 hours of 2 Degrees F, as I only had a short 2 hours session today I chose to fish for dace, no doubt the trout would put in an appearance. I chose to fish with lovely light 3 piece built cane Aspindale Avondale matched with my Watermole c entre pin The Beult with 3lb line, I attached a Russ Shaw made float taking 4 BB shot, I then attached a size 16 barbless hook to the main line by the loop to loop method, I bunched the BB shot some 15 inches from the hook, with an additional BB shot some 4 inches from the hook, hopefully this would stop me getting any deep hooked trout should they show. Putting two pouches of gentles a few feet upstream of the swim, I then spent ten minutes putting in half a dozen gentles ever two or three minutes, then rested the swim while I fed a robin, which was soon joined by a blackbird, after a minute or so it hopped on to the edge of the bait box getting quite a few red gentles down its throat, before flying off across the river.

                                                         Dace Were Willing to Feed

First trot through the swim the float dipped, lifting gently I hooked my first fish of the new year, a dace about 8 inches what we would call a “Goer” in the old days, though some of us ancient anglers still use that term. Every cast I threw in half a dozen gentles, the next two casts were fishless then I had 4 more dace in succession all around the same size as the first. Sadly that was the end of the dace as the trout moved in a bullied the dace out of the way, I had 5 trout in the next half an hour averaging around 2lbs. Yes, they do pull the string and bend the stick but I don’t enjoy catching them on course fishing gear, I feel a lot happier catching them on a dry fly when one has to use some skill in picking the correct pattern then casting that fly so it lands like thistledown, providing you get everything right you have the satisfying sensation of a hook up. Having caught those 5 trout I packed up and went off home.

2nd January 2019

I arrived on the riverbank today about 0930 hrs, overnight there had been a very heavy frost, the frost was the only brightness on a very over cast day, looking around my surroundings, the trees were dark and bare, the only brightness in the wood were the silver birch, several jays could be seen, along with pheasants and blackbirds, in the back ground one could hear the tit tit tit tit of the wren, for such a small bird it does make a lot of noise. On my peanut feeders were blue, great and coal tits. Suddenly there was a deathly silence, the birds had gone, I spotted a Sparrow hawk swooping low along the hedgerow. I don’t think it was lucky this time. Walking across the frost covered field towards the river I spotted a hare, the a couple of pheasants scratching around the fence line, it was nice to be alive in the countryside that was so peaceful and still.

Grayling and Dace Were My Quarry

Checking the water temperature I got a reading of 39-40 degrees F, I reckon it could be a tough proposition today. I chose to fish with the same tackle as I used yesterday, bait would be red gentles, I also had 8 red worms, that’s all I could find among the dead leaves in my garden. The first swim I chose today was the tail of a small weir, that had been created by some large boulder to help oxygenate the water during the summer months, After twenty minutes with no action, I moved on downstream to a small copse where I had some steady water flowing over gravel with a depth around 4 feet, after spending 10 minutes throwing in half a dozen gentles every minute, I then made my first cast, as the float moved down the swim it dipped then dipped again, but nothing I felt I could strike at, retrieving the tackle I checked the bait to see the gentles had been nipped, no doubt about it minnows, which really did surprise me in such low water conditions. I then increased the amount of gentles going through the swim in the hope of feeding them off, I made a bait change to a red worm, casting upstream I mended the line then watched the float go down the swim taking line off the reel as it did so.

On the third trot the float had gone halfway down the swim then moved sideways, lifting the rod gently I felt the satisfying thump of a fish on the end of the line as I was forced to give line, for a few minutes I kept thinking a trout, at the same time I really got the impression it was a grayling, a minute or two later I netted a good size grayling, I will tell you now “I was over the moon with joy” I didn’t need to touch the fish as the hook fell out in the net, all I had to do was lower the net in the water then watch it swim off strongly.

Don’t Strike Hard

The reason I gently lift the rod when trotting shallow water, rather than making a hard or powerful strike like I see so many anglers do is more often than not, the fish will often roll on the surface, or if you miss the bite, the tackle often come out of the water wrapping itself around the rod then you have a tangle to sort out, angling is all about doing everything smoothly and quietly. Fishing long range is a different matter. Three casts later I had another good fish, this one was of similar size again unhooked without touching the fish, there is no getting away from it grayling are such a beautiful fish especially when seen on a cold winter day. The next two casts I had two dace of around 7 inches, then a quiet spell for fifteen minutes. “Should I move or stay” I asked myself, being I’d caught 2 nice grayling and being they are a shoal fish, I chose to stay. I spent ten minutes feeding the swim with red gentles, first swim through the float dipped then disappeared, as I gently lifted of the rod, I felt the kick of a fish, yes the grayling are still in the swim, a few minutes later I netted another good grayling, with an improvement in the light level I chose to take a quick picture of this latest grayling, then watched it swim off strongly. In the next hour I had 7 more good size grayling and 4 dace. With my shingles starting to give me a problem also my eyesight getting to be a problem I chose to go off home, I had not left my painkillers art home I reckon I could have carried on for an hour or more, but there is tomorrow. Looking back over many many years I have caught some excellent grayling in Sweden, Norway, Finland, also the even the more beautiful Arctic grayling in the North West Territories and Northern Canada, though from these countries all my grayling were caught on weighed nymph patterns or big caddis often under the midnight sun.

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Martin James Fishing
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