I don`t participate myself – I am at work – but several anglers fish for our grayling at the behest of the Environment Agency: they require mature fish for the grayling breeding program at their Calverton Fish Farm. It`s a simple symbiotic relationship: we provide them with fish, they then strip the fish of eggs and milt. The EA then return the adult fish to our water and we then get restocked with all of the juvenile gling at a later date.
Well, todays Fellowship of the Gling catch enough mature fish to satisfy the EA as all eight anglers catch, so its `job done`.
I`m on the same stretch that the lads fished yesterday which isn`t ideal, but it`s the only place that may give me some protection from the intermittent howling wind.
I catch an 8 oz umber straight away and hope I might be in for a good day, but I don`t get any more takes from what is usually a very reliable swim; I drop a maggot that wriggled from my grasp, and, as I track its descent to the water I spy the remnants of a pint of red maggots lying in the margins, I begin to suspect the grayling have been well fed. I prepare myself to battle the ongoing hurricane, and then I move. As I reach the top of the bank I am swept off my feet by a swirling tornado; I am unceremoniously brought back down to earth with a thud, and, when I regain my feet, next to me stand a tinman, a small dog, and a little girl wearing red shoes – they`re off to see a wizard. I bid them farewell and return to fishing.
The day is a struggle, the highlight being the endless game of chase the long-tailed tits are engaged in, they are having a great time and don`t seem to be bothered by the strong gusts; I can`t say the same of me. If today had been a match I wouldn`t have bothered weighing in. I begrudgingly concede defeat and depart those blustery banks, I am looking forward to a cuppa and some shelter, after all “there`s no place like home”.
Some bankwork to do on the Crowcroft length, the usual suspects are in attendance. We create two new pegs, and a mountain of twigs and branches that will need to be cremated at a later date ( we have permission from our licence holding riparian to burn debris `in situ`) – I`ll bring the firelighters, Shed can bring the marshmallows.
Mother Wharfe is really low.
I intend to wander, so I am travelling light. I start at the top of the stretch in the early afternoon and I fish in any spot that takes my fancy. I am puzzled – I don`t get a bite in any of the six swims I visit, so I decide to plonk for the last couple of hours of the day. A text arrives from Crabtree – the anglers that chose to fish the Nidd are struggling too.
I pick a peg in which to finish the day.
I run a light waggler through all parts of my swim but I don`t get a bite. I set up my feeder rod, and just as I make my first cast with the bomb another text arrives from Crabtree – he is still blanking and, of the other six anglers on the Nidd stretch only two fish have been caught. I reply in a similarly negative tone.
A fish rises at the top of my swim, two minutes later one rises at the bottom of my swim. A tiny tap on the quivertip is swiftly followed by a second and then a third. I am spared a blank, but I didn`t really want to catch a minnow. The first minnow is soon joined by two more, in an attempt to dissuade them I up my hook to a size 16.
I fire in a quartet of `volunteers`.
I swap the bomb for a maggot feeder.
Two minutes elapse before the tip jags round - if this is a minnow it`s chuffing enormous. In comes half a pound of pulsating grayling – at last !. I cast again; the tip jags round as the feeder settles, and in comes grayling number two and it is of the same stamp as the first one. I quickly catch another pair of pristine grayling before pausing to unwrap a boiled sweet. A familiar voice says “I thought I`d find you here”, The Doctor has come to say hello – he was on the Nidd and couldn`t buy a bite, he is confounded when I tell him I am catching. I chuck in. I am distracted by The Doctors anecdote about a severed finger, and he even does the “ I`ve pulled off my thumb” trick. It is during this display of digital dismemberment that the rod flies from its rest; a savage bite akin to that of a barbel. Only The Docs leg and my ninja like reactions prevent the rod from entering the river. However, this is no barbel, The Doc can see the fish and he says `big trout`. Following hours of catching bugger all I am in no rush to get the fish in, I play it gently, and finally slip my net under a chunky brownie. The Doc reads the scales – 3 lb 6 oz, and a great scrapper. I am pleased, but this is too much for The Doc to cope with after his ordeal on the Nidd, he returns to his car and his almost genuine sounding congratulations disappear with him.
The fish are now forming an orderly queue.
I enjoy a frantic last hour of fishing and catch plenty of grayling in the 8 – 10 oz range, one tiddler, and one tackle testing brute of a pound and a half to give me approximately 10 lb of grayling, and the one chunky trout as reward for my dedication. If today had been a match I would have been hoping for some winnings.
The Doctor texts me to see how I got on, I tell him. He curses in disbelief and once again suggests that I am a very fortunate illegitimate person – I certainly was today, long may it continue.
I have three days off. I head to the same peg I fished on Sunday to see if the fish are still there.
A familiar pattern emerges – there are no bites to be had when trotting, a stationary bait is much preferred. I am mindful of the hard biting trout, so I keep my hand on the rod butt but this is unpleasant due to the heavy rain. I get a few little knocks but no fish are landed.
The rain stops. The bites become bolder. I catch a pair of self-hooking grayling in quick succession, and this proves to be the start of `happy hour`, and I catch another dozen or so in that hour before the bites tail off. I am contemplating packing up when I discover that my coat is no longer waterproof. I am soggy. I head home before I get cold.
I check the river level in the morning, Mother Wharfe rose four feet overnight, dropped a little, and then went back up again. This isn`t supposed to happen, I am on holiday. No fishing today.
My wife politely informs me that our boiler is being serviced today. If the stars align the engineer will arrive on time and I might sneak in a couple of hours. There is no celestial harmony: the engineer is late and the boiler isn`t serviced until 5 o`clock. The river is still raging. It looks like the end of the season could be a washout.
A bit of bankwork at the Sewage Works, but nothing too close to the river – the bank is very slippery, so it is no surprise when Shed ends up on his backside; The Baron helps him up, Baloo and a very hungover Crabtree giggle at his misfortune.
Last day of the river season; the water is still high and very cold.
At various stages of the day my fishing mates park themselves by the river, none of them catch. I go down in the late afternoon and opt for one of the `new` pegs on the Crowcroft stretch. I don`t want to upstage my mates so, in an act of angling solidarity, I decide to blank too ( and if you believe that…. ).
Goodbye, fickle river, I`ll see you in June.
I have a week off from fishing.
I get my Covid jab.
The river has looked perfect all week.
My arm still feels like it has been hit by a cricket bat, but I am a brave little soldier and I attend the bankwork party. I suspect I was more of a hindrance than an asset. As we toil the news reaches me that Peter Lorimer has died. I`m running out of heroes. R.I.P. Lasher.
I don`t fish. I sort out my seatbox, and donate my remaining maggots to the blackbirds.
A bit of judicious chainsaw pruning is performed on the Crowcroft stretch, but there is still much to do. When I return home I am given some more sad news – the ornamental carp that fell from my roof and became the `Zombie Fish` finally ran out of luck: either the skewering from the heron, or the impact of landing on my frozen lawn ( or a combination of both ) seemed to have damaged its swim-bladder, as it would only swim on the surface of the pond it lived in. Well, the sustained cold spell saw the Lazarus fish become trapped in the surface ice where it duly perished.
I had received an invite from Baloo to join him at our ponds. I accept for social reasons, I suspect the fishing will be tough. I`m not wrong. Baloo has a smorgasbord of baits none of which are working for him. I collect the grubs he brought me. I sanitize my hands and then rinse them in pond water ( not in my own swim, obviously ) taking no chances when bites will probably be as rare as rocking horse doo-doo. I catch a lone stickleback before moving to a different pond. It isn`t long before Baloo joins me. I catch a few rudd, and Baloo avoids a waterlicking too. We`ve managed to catch ( and chat ) but enough is enough. We leave.
The clocks have gone forward with the arrival of British Summer Time. I rock up to Tevant ponds in the morning, and it`s anything but summery – the wind is blowing a right hoolie, and the mercury is below zero. Trueman and I have the pond to ourselves but there are three other anglers on the other pond, however, they soon move as they`re all blanking. We catch small roach and rudd, but they`re not exactly crawling up the rod. The fish are spread out, and bites come quickly, or not at all.
Trueman gets busted, we suspect a carp is the culprit.
I decide to follow the wind, so I move.
I get a rudd and a roach immediately, but the howling side-wind is playing havoc with my line. The float buries and I lift into something heavier than a rudd, the reel screams but not in a good way – the line has gone under the spool and become trapped – I can`t reel in. By the time I clear the tangle the fish is long gone. I cast again. The float vanishes as it settles, and I manage to land this one – it`s a bream of about two and a half pounds. Another cast. I retrieve the huge bow of line carefully and manage to sink the line – who says blokes can`t multi-task. Another bream obliges. I wait a good while before the third and final bream takes my bait, it is the largest of the trio and is a good three pound plus. Nothing of note happens for the next hour and, as the wind is still fierce we pack up and head to our respective homes.
Well, the joys of spring fishing have been stereotypically represented by the weather, and catch rates reflected this. The river season fizzled out - Mother Wharfe was not in the mood. The amount of big chub and barbel featured in the Angling Times suggests other rivers fared a lot better than ours ( absolutely no envy on my behalf ) but that`s fishing.
Now it is time to fish the stillwaters: the carp and tench will be fancying a munch in due course, and our crucians may have put on some timber. Before we know it the rivers will be open again and we can look forward to catching minnows.
That`s all folks.