Thursday, 28 January 2010

Is this the future of salmon fishing in Britain?

Salmon in Britain have had a pretty hard time over the last few decades. Pollution, abstraction, disease and especially overfishing reducing wild salmon stocks. English rivers such as the Hampshire Avon and Wye are a shadow of their former selves with the annual run of big spring salmon, some weighing thirty or forty pounds, being consigned to the history books. Even the Scottish rivers, once amongst the best in the world, have declined to the point when the capture of any salmon is an event.

So why not stock salmon in stillwaters, after all almost all our trout fishing in Britain is now 'man made'? Salmon have been stocked in trout waters since the early 1980's with limited success. These stockings generally consisted of a sprinkling of salmon being added to existing trout fisheries providing a surprise for a lucky trout angler. These fish reared in sea lochs soon lost condition and these early experiments came to little.
Palm Springs Fishery in Rutland is as far as I am aware the first fishery to stock only salmon and these are reared on site in freshwater by Ben the fishery manager. I decided to give myself a birthday treat, although expensive, the cost of a day is a fraction of what you might pay in Scotland.

I was pleasantly surprised to find not a 'raw hole in the ground' but a nicely landscaped small fishery set in an attractive valley. I was met by Ben who gave me some information on the fishing and while we chatted a red kite flew overhead. I tackled the fishing as if I was fishing for winter rainbow trout, concentrating on fishing small lures on an intermediate line. My method is to ring the changes, both in depth (counting down in intervals of 5 seconds), retrieve and lure colour. Rather than filling the fly box with loads of different lures I would suggest concentrating on a single pattern in various sizes and colours, my preference are Nomads. Between 10am and lunchtime I caught and released five small salmon in the three to five pound bracket and briefly hooked a couple more. You do not strike a salmon but wait until it has hooked itself before lifting the rod.

After lunch I promised myself that the next fish would be retained, and with that the lake switched off! With only half an hour to go before dark the line tightened and I found myself playing the biggest fish of the day a hen fish of 6lb 3oz.

Is this the future of salmon fishing in Britain? I hope not as I would love to see wild salmon stocks recover and a 'man made' fish really is second best.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

I just don't understand pike!

I have a confession to make, for some reason I can't seem to get into pike fishing. This is despite the fact that my first big fish was a pike , surely I should be a pike nut!

It's not that I don't appreciate pike, they truly are magnificent creatures, the apex predator in freshwater. Maybe it's because I don't understand pike, and so my pike sessions are usually either pikeless or I fluke out a single fish. Although I have caught a handful of twenty pound plus pike, I somehow don't feel that I deserved to catch them. Maybe it's because I have only fished for them on stillwaters with static deadbaits, perhaps if I fished for them on rivers or employed active techniques such as lure or fly fishing I would finally catch the pike bug?

I tend to pike fish only when the rivers are out of sorts and today was one of those occasions. With the rivers high with snow melt I decided to revisit one of my old haunts, a shallow gravel pit in the Nene valley.

I arrived just before first light and cast a sardine into a marginal spot, or should I say onto a marginal spot , blast it the lake was still frozen. The daylight seemed to take an age to arrive but eventually I could clearly make out a large ice free area to my left so both deadbaits would have to be fished in the same area.  Just after 9am the rod carrying a half herring was away, I hit it and felt the fish for a few seconds before it was off. I recast another half herring to the same spot and that was taken almost immediately, I didn't even have time to attach the drop off indicator. Only around seven pounds, but in my eyes any session that produces a pike is a success. An hour later I had another slightly smaller fish to the same rod and that was it for the day.  I still don't understand pike!

(To make me feel better I have included a photo of a twenty pound plus pike from a couple of years back to inspire both you the reader and me the incompetent piker.)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Small Water Trouting in the Cotswolds

Finally the thaw has set in, too late in the week to make any of the local stillwaters fishable so my planned piking session had to be postponed. A river rising with snow melt and laden with salt is just not worth fishing. A couple of telephone calls later and I had my venue, Lechlade trout fishery in the Cotswolds which was ice free over 50% of its surface area.

I arrived at Lechlade ready for when the gates opened at 8am. I have always found the first couple of hours on small stillwaters to be especially productive. I expected that the trout would be fairly deep and set up with an intermediate line with a 15 foot fluorocarbon leader with a 6lb tippet. In the first couple of hours I had three good takes on a white nomad fished with a slow figure of eight retrieve, landing two rainbow trout including a double.
My trout sessions are relaxed affairs and I like to take regular breaks from the fishing. It always amuses me to watch other anglers flailing away for hour upon hour in the same spot. If you are not catching, move and if you can't move, have regular breaks. It is surprising how fish move into undisturbed water.

I tried various other tactics for a couple of hours without success before reverting back to the white nomad on an intermediate. A move to a vacant area by the ferry, where I had spotted a few fish moving, added another double figure rainbow trout to the bag. Like the first it tipped the scales at 10lb 2oz. Don't you just love the sound of the drag screaming as a fighting fit rainbow heads for the middle of the lake?

I had earlier tempted a follow from a big brown trout but ran out of water. I suspect this may have been the fish I later caught from the next spot along the bank. What a session! Three big rainbows including a brace of doubles and a new personal best brown trout at 7lb 3oz. After a late lunch I enjoyed a leisurely drive home across the Cotswolds, taking in the glorious scenery and villages.

Monday, 11 January 2010

I will be glad when I have had enough of this!

"A strong easterly wind with light snow blowing horizontally will make it feel like -5 degrees" said the weatherman.

On the basis of this forecast I decided to forgo yesterdays planned piking session on my local River Nene and enjoy a lie in. By lunchtime I realised that the forecast blizzard was not going to reach Peterborough and I had missed out on a days fishing. Why do I listen to the weatherman?

The late great Fred J Taylor when fishing in hopeless conditions was quoted as saying, "I will be glad when I have had enough of this!" I have resolved in future to continue to plan my fishing around the weather forecasts but not be a slave to them, after all the weather men don't always get it right.

"Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way......" Michael Fish in October 1987.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Arsenal maggots and the lady of the stream

The last couple of weeks had seen a Siberian weather front locked over the country with more snow and ice than we have seen for a decade.

What do you fish for when the temperature barely moves above freezing? My experience would suggest grayling or rainbow trout, failing that river pike, chub and dace in that order. With stillwaters frozen solid, a winter trout session was not an option. Peterborough isn't renowned for its grayling fishing, but I do know of a small stream locally that holds a few, I lost one last spring whilst upstream nymphing for brown trout. The fly rod would be left at home this time and I would go armed with a 13 foot float rod matched to a centrepin reel.

I have caught plenty of grayling from the Hampshire Avon and Dorset Frome but I have never caught one locally, so a grayling of any size would be a result.
Mobility is key to success on small rivers and most anglers carry too much gear. A pair of breathable waders enables you to kneel or sit on the banks and dispenses with the need to carry a chair. My landing net clips into a ring on the back of my coat leaving the other hand free. A couple of pints of mixed red and white maggots, along with a disgorger, are placed in a bait apron and lastly a shoulder bag carries a flask, camera, scales and a small tackle box.

I arrived an hour after dawn and enjoyed a days trotting, feeding each run for five minutes before running the float through the swim a dozen or so times and then moving down to the next swim. I had a mile or so of small stream to explore and by the end of the day had trotted a float through most of it at least twice. Try it, it is a great way of getting to know a stretch of water!

As is usual on a trout stream the local trout population could not resist the maggots and I ended the day with four pristine wild brown trout and a couple of grayling. I had enjoyed a great days sport trotting arsenal maggots (one red maggot with a white maggot on either side) for the 'lady of the stream' on a freezing cold day in the countryside where the stream glistened in the winter sunshine with only the local birdlife for company.