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

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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hanging-tree-mosaic-web

bridge-web

Bloggers Challenge – Aiming for Europe

While Leicester continue to confound expectations in the Premier League, I don’t think it’s any surprise to see James Dennison running away with the Bloggers Challenge 15/16. A very good angler indeed.

I think Russell and George have second and third place tied up respectively, but beyond that I think there are Champions League and Europa League places up for grabs!

I’m quite pleased with my current seventh place position. And I’ll try and squeeze in two or three more short trips before the 1st May in an effort to find a few more points.

My one shot at real glory came a few weeks back on the Wye. A tricky day came to life as dusk arrived and I hooked a succession of good fish on worms. A surprise 1lbs 8oz roach / bream hybrid had me convinced I’d hooked a special roach in the gloom (and earned me an invaluable ten challenge points) and was accompanied by a number of good perch to 2lbs exactly.

Tintern gulls
Tintern gulls
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A nice perch of two pounds - how I wish I'd landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!
A nice perch of two pounds – how I wish I’d landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!

But the last fish I hooked was, I’m 99% sure, a very special perch indeed. I never got a glimpse of it, but having had the two pounder just previously on the same gear, this fish felt easily twice as heavy, with my 6lbs line and medium feeder rod at times feeling seriously under-gunned. I finally steered it away from the nasty snags downstream, got it to the relative safety of the near bank and out of the flow, only for it to do me on a totally innocuous looking twig right under my feet.

I went back for a couple of hours at dusk a week later – but the river had dropped and was cold and lifeless.

I finished the river season in traditional fashion – at the wonderful Britford fishery with my friend, Mike. Mike’s getting hitched this summer, so we had a mini stag-do of sorts, fishing followed by beers in Salisbury.

It wasn’t easy, but a couple of swims on the old river produced the goods. I was hoping for a decent grayling for the challenge points, but also as I’d not had one in a few years. I think third trot down I had a lovely fish around a pound, followed by one a shade bigger at 1lbs 1oz.

A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
An Avon perch
An Avon perch

We had dace, trout, perch and minnows – all great fun on the float. After a good few beers in town and an overnight stay, we awoke to the most horrid weather. Very wet, very windy and bitingly cold. ‘Orrible. We put it off for as long as we could, but eventually trudged down at 1pm. The river was rising rapidly and to be honest we toyed with the idea of heading straight home. Still, at least it hadn’t burst its banks – yet. We headed to the sluice to hide in there for a bit, have a coffee and see if things might improve.

We decided to flick out big baits from the sluice and see if a suicidal trout or chub might oblige. None did, so Mike went wondering and I set up a maggot feeder and began casting from the sluice again. Half an hour later I had, during the briefest of lulls in the wind, a subtle pluck. Next cast and I was in. I just presumed it’d be a small chub or trout, so when a big roach rolled on the surface I eased right off!

It was a stunner of 1lbs 9oz and a best of the season for me. Neither of us had another bite, but it’d been a good couple of days in great company.

1lb 9oz Avon roach
1lb 9oz Avon roach
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike braving the elements!
Mike braving the elements!
Couldn't resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.
Couldn’t resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.

Wye roach – finding silver

Having a birthday at the arse-end of January has always been a bit shit. Christmas is but a distant memory; the weather is invariably dire; the days are short and most people are still a week off payday and skint after the festive excesses.

And yet I always seem to manage a decent birthday fishing trip on or around the 22nd Jan. A few years back I had a lovely, big Lea barbel on the day itself and I had a personal best perch at the time just a couple of years ago.

A lovely Lea barbel that I had on a memorable birthday trip a few years ago
A lovely Lea barbel that I had on a memorable birthday trip a few years ago

This year I managed to get out the day after my birthday, for a few hours on the Wye. I’d originally planned to fish purely for perch, but the tackle shop had no lobs. I thought I’d hedge my bets and try trotting maggot with a view to targeting roach and perch, hopefully.

The river was in great shape. A lovely murky green colour, up slightly, and after the freezing weather just a few days before, we were back in the early teens in terms of temperatures. The fishing was really enjoyable – far from a bite a chuck or even any really big fish – but totally absorbing; technical, methodical, interesting. I managed nine or ten really good roach, with the best two weighed at 1lbs 8ozs and 1lbs 4oz respectively. Plump, silver, unblemished fish – Wye roach really are lovely creatures. I had a solitary, small perch and one dace too.

A brace of big river Wye roach
A brace of big river Wye roach

1lbs 8oz Wye roach web

I’ve only been fishing the Wye for four years now, but by all accounts much of the river offered great roach fishing ten, fifteen or so years ago. Yet today they are quite localised with many formerly productive areas now barren of roach and other ‘silver’ fish. The Wye rightly is famous for its truly fantastic barbel fishing in beautiful locations, but this wonderful river offers all sorts of other interesting opportunities for some of our less glamorous, but perhaps more interesting species.

Winter on the Wye
Winter on the Wye