Two on the Tone

I met up with Russell on the banks of the wonderful river Tone for a few hours’ grayling fishing on a bitterly cold afternoon recently.

As I ambled my way down the M5, I was struck by the number of rivers I went over on my way down into deepest Somerset. The Avon, The Yeo, The Blind Yeo, The Kenn, The Banwell, The Lox Yeo, The Axe, The Mark Yeo, The Brue, The Huntspill, The Parrett and finally the Tone. And that’s not including the numerous rhynes that weave their way across the wide open spaces of the Somerset levels. I’d really enjoyed my first trip to the diminutive river Chew in December, so I was looking forward to trying another new local(ish) river. I’m keen to have a go on some of these other waterways sooner rather than later too.

It was my birthday weekend, and after a couple of glasses of red too many the night before and a kid’s party in the morning (ouch) it was around 1pm before I finally arrived on the bank. Russ had kindly sorted out tickets and bait, so all I had to do was turn up and fish his prime spots! In the cold weather, the grayling is a reliable species for a few bites and the Tone is a prolific grayling river. Having grown up on the Suffolk Essex border and then spending nearly 15 years in London – none of which are exactly grayling hotspots – it was 2009 before I ever saw one. And the first grayling I ever saw was one I caught – from the Avon in Salisbury weighing two pounds exactly, promptly followed by one of two pounds and three ounces that remains my best.

A stunning autumn grayling
My Hampshire Avon grayling of two pounds

Russell’s advice, as ever, was sock-on. He advised trotting maggots, spending no more than half an hour in each swim and to try even the spots that look as though they wouldn’t contain fish.

We had grayling from just about every swim we tried. One deep, sweeping bend really did produce a fish a chuck for me – I must have had over 25 from that one spot towards the end of the day – all immaculate fish between 8 and 12 ounces. That’s well over double the number of grayling I’d previously ever caught in my entire life!

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However it was a curious, overgrown little run that produced the best fish of the day, with Russ and I taking it in turns to trot through the depression and each taking a couple of pound plus fish.

What also struck me was how differently the grayling fought – with some really thumping doggedly, others twisting and running at speed and some even giving a good impression of a small and especially bored bream.

Between us we must have had over 100 grayling, and on a bright, cold mid-winter day I think that shows what a little diamond the Tone is. A fascinating and hugely enjoyable few hours in great company.

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Ebay Dace

The one advantage of being sent off to collect random Ebay purchases (new hob, Bristol) is that occasionally the places I visit happen to be near interesting bits of water.

A couple of years back I had my best ever perch session, fishing just two hours before I had another Ebay collection to make (TV cabinet)

I’ve also discovered a really interesting bit of canal to try in the summer – overgrown and snaggy – it looks spot-on for a canal carp. I found this spot after another Ebay collection (kid’s bike)

So with my hob collection arranged for midday, I had just over two hours spare to try a new river – the Chew, near Bristol.

I’d purchased a pint of maggots from the excellent Premier Angling beforehand and the plan was simply to trot a few swims on a free stretch and see what was around. From what I’ve read online there seems to be just about most species in the river with dace, grayling and chub the predominant species.

The river was in good shape with decent colour and flow. I had dace from every swim I tried, but it was the last spot that produced especially well. I had two particularly nice dace there and weighed the best at 9ozs. I also had a solitary small roach, but no sign of any grayling or chub. I can’t wait to get back.

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Perch fishing with Russell

I spent a really enjoyable day fishing with erstwhile angling blogger and top bloke Russell Hilton on his local canal patch recently.

We had perch in mind. Russell’s had some really good perch from his local canal network and despite the prospect of a cold, bright day, enthusiasm was high as we met at dawn on a section that was alive with small fish topping under the pale pink skies.

Russell’s strategy involved building a swim by feeding liquidised bread and then waggler fishing bread punch or maggot over the top. Bites from roach, rudd, silver bream and perch came every cast. A bigger bait was then presented nearby in the hope a big perch may be attracted by the commotion.

I was content to reap the rewards of these carefully laid plans by simply sitting next to him!

Russell was soon into a lovely early morning perch
Russell was soon into a lovely early morning perch

We had a really good day with plenty of big, colourful perch, a pike each and all sorts of other fish on the waggler – including some serious rudd. Russell managed a special perch after a flurry of activity just after lunch. Frustratingly, the majority of big perch we hooked during this particular feeding spell came off. I had a decent one not too far from the net when the hook pinged out and Russel also lost a couple of good ‘uns… But of course it didn’t really matter a jot.

My best perch of the day. I lost an even bigger one later.
My best perch of the day. I lost an even bigger one later.
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Slick-sense
X marks the spot?
X marks the spot?

It was a pleasure simply sitting and chatting. From angling blogging to angling blaggers; from bureaucracy to bream via politics and perch – we discussed a range of subjects, interspersed with some lovely fish and regular enquiries from passers-by. Russell was even called into action to help a guy, who explained in broken English that he’d lost his bag by the water. He failed to grasp the notion that the police were unwilling to treat this as an emergency and come out immediately to root around for his bag!

A cracking day all-round. Hopefully we’ll find the time to do something similar again soon.

Fleeting Autumn

So much to see and do, before the cold weather really begins to bite, yet so little time… Autumn is the most fleeting of seasons.

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At this time of year, even an hour in the right spot, at the right time, can pay off. I had these lovely chub and barbel within minutes of each other, during a very quick session when the river had risen slightly after rain.

Welsh Carp – Hidden Gems

You could never claim Wales to be at the centre of the carp fishing universe. Yet its famous wild carp fisheries, Pant y Llyn and Llyngwyn offer a genuinely unique experience for those interested in the history of carp in the UK and some of Wales’ urban waterways – in Cardiff especially – but also Newport and Swansea, offer exceptional fishing with some big, beautiful and even unknown fish. Alan Blair’s brilliant Urban Banx series recently covered Cardiff Wharf and the film is well worth a watch.

I expect some of the huge, deep reservoirs hold carp and potentially some very big ones too. I think a serious, long-term campaign could reveal some genuine surprises – but that style of fishing just isn’t my thing.

There are many day ticket and club lakes, rivers and canals too – from busy, muddy holes in the ground stuffed full of pale, pellet-stuffed pasties to some genuine hidden gems – quiet, beautiful waters holding some lovely carp. And of course the most famous carp fishery of all time sits just on the border of England and Wales…

I’ve spent a couple of evening sessions over the last couple of weeks enjoying the last days of summer doing some surface fishing after work on my own favourite south Wales lake. It’s usually fairly quiet on weekday evenings and while even a twenty pound fish is a rare beast here, the variety of carp – from scaly mirrors to long, lean commons means it’s a place I love to fish. My requirements for carp fishing are simple – I want to be able to fish relatively autonomously, without endless rules and regulations, ideally stalking fish and preferably off the surface.

As the day draws to a close the carp begin to take baits off the top
As the day draws to a close the carp begin to take baits off the top

The carp here can be spooky – taking free offerings cautiously but ignoring the hookbait and disappearing completely with undue noise. One evening a guy started flicking the odd boilie into his swim a good way round from me, yet the two carp I’d got taking crusts confidently simply vanished.

The two highlights have been a beautiful long, dark and scaley linear mirror carp of 11-and-a-half pounds and a big mirror carp of over 16 pounds that took a crust literally under my feet and that I saw eye-to-eye before it took. The noise of that fish bolting as the hook was set was quite something!

I’m really enjoying this carp fishing lark and sooner rather than later I’ll make a real effort to track down a Welsh 20.

A stunning scaly Welsh mirror carp
A stunning scaly Welsh mirror carp
A long and lean Welsh common
A long and lean Welsh common
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16lbs 4ozs Welsh mirror carp