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!

tone-fishing-web

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.

fishing-the-tone-webruss-webreturning-a-grayling-webstunning-grayling-web

Viaduct carp

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot recently – finding a genuine carp fishing adventure. Exploring new waters off the beaten track; perhaps even landing a special fish. But of course these things take time. So it’s a very loose project that will take place over years rather than weeks or months – but I’m determined to find it.

For all that, my carp fishing skills are pretty rusty. I don’t really know my chods from my Spods to be perfectly honest. So I decided to ease my way back in and head to a day ticket water in an effort to get to grips with catching carp again.

Viaduct fishery in Somerset is a well established venue. The largest, most mature lake features some huge arches that give the complex its name. They loom large and offer a dramatic backdrop to what is an attractive lake. There are enough shady corners, shallow bays, dense overhanging trees and reed beds to give the angler plenty of features in which to find carp.

Viaduct fishery in Somerset.
Viaduct fishery in Somerset.

And on a warm afternoon, floaters take some beating. Although the Viaduct fish are plentiful, they are not mugs. I hooked two carp quickly, but suffered hook pulls on both occasions. The fish were very cagy after that. Some would intercept all the free offerings without ever going near the hookbait. Others nudged it along the surface, testing it before spooking as the line moved. I must have had two-dozen near misses before I swapped from bread crust to a small, single imitation mixer. Even this failed to work until I actually moved the mixer ever so slightly up the line and added a piece of bread flake to the hook that sat just underneath the fake dog biscuit. A six or seven pound common carp was the result of the hard work and I was delighted – the first carp from a new venue is always a memorable one.

Fishing for carp using floating baits is enourmous fun.
Fishing for carp using floating baits is enourmous fun.

Soon after a nice mirror carp made the same mistake before, just as I was beginning to clear the gear away, a confident, lumpy fish muscled in and took the mixer as bold as brass. The carp put up a great scrap and eventually a bullish mirror of just over 14 pounds rolled into the net. I took some photos and released the fish carefully back to her watery home.

A near-double from Viaduct.
A mirror carp from Viaduct.
The best carp of the evening.
The best carp of the evening.