Twelve Dace of Christmas!
A strong feeling of déjà vu. I have been here before. Conditions are not conducive – the river is up, and the water is blinking cold. If I was a fish I wouldn`t want to eat, let alone chase a maggot, but I only intend a short session, so I may as well make the effort before frostbite claims me. I alter shotting pattern first, then depth – it pays instant dividends, I am rewarded with 5 minnows. The session is predictably slow, and I am contemplating packing up early when my phone rings. It is Crabtree calling. The fish must recognise his voice, because the quivertip bursts into life and bends accordingly- a grayling, and then another. Two fish in 10 minutes, scant reward, but better than a blank. Cold fingers, and cold toes. Pack up, go home, thaw.
A day off. A lie in. Some jobs to attend to, and then a small window of opportunity to fish.
The river was behaving itself, the Sun was making a feeble appearance, and the biting cold wind had dropped. I took a leger rod, a chair, net, and the remnants of a pint of red maggots. I was just about to make my first cast but had to pause and fight off a very licky Labrador. One profuse apology from the owner later, I chucked in on the edge of the crease. It took five minutes before the first twitch on the tip, but the twitch turned in to an insistent pull, and the first grayling arrived. Would the feeding window last more than twenty minutes ? It did. When not watching the rabbits in the field opposite, or gawping at the heron on the far bank, I managed to nab over a dozen grayling in a couple of hours. A couple of decent ones were netted, and a couple of tiny ones too.
Match. Bitter cold air, cold water, and a cold wind. I draw a peg – not one I wanted, but that’s the joy of match fishing. All in. A few dace being caught, but not on my stretch. Just like last Sunday, there is a brief feeding spell for my peg and I catch two small dace, and my customary gudgeon [ which I apparently brought with me – oh, the banter ], before the river rose rapidly and I was forced to move four times, and forced into saving my float rod from floating away atop my `stinkbag`. Someone has to win, and The Doctor caught a lump of a perch – 4 lb 3 oz- and took the money with his gargantuan perch. A fish worthy of winning any match, and we`ll be regularly reminded I`m sure.
It had lashed it down overnight. Mother Wharfe was swift twixt her banks, and loaded with debris.
The water was very cold. I too became very cold, but not before I`d caught some minnows, and many, many recently deposited snags. I gave up, went home, and watched some football. I should have stayed at home.
Not that I needed one, but an excuse to escape for a few non-festive hours was seized with both hands. I made my way to the river accompanied by The Doctor, we would be joined by Trueman once he`d had his car repaired.
I picked a swim, The Doctor set up in the one downstream. I cursed him for his chicanery, and doubted I`d see a dace all day, as he would surely intercept them all.
I had a decidedly mediocre start to the session. A couple of small grayling, a large handful of minnows, and a pair of dace. With fish in the keepnet, I noticed a series of ripples coming from its centre. Upon closer inspection the source of the ripples proved to be a pike atop my keepnet. Cheeky bugger! I poked him with my landing net and he drifted off, downstream.
No bites coming on the stickfloat.
Maybe a static bait was needed ? Feeder on. I cast mid-river and quickly positioned my bait on the edge of the flow ( or thereabouts ) and had a very positive bite after a short wait. I reeled in my prize, ` a big dace` according to the Doctor, having appeared from nowhere. It dropped off as I reached for my net. The Doctor galloped back to his minnow infested peg repeating the mantra `feeder, mid-river` to himself. I continued with my own feeder campaign, and had a good run of chunky dace, a few decent grayling, and an on-going duel with a big, violent biting fish that I failed to catch. Constantly aware of the pikes proximity, I played the fish as hard as I dared, and netted them swiftly. The star of the show came next - A typical grayling bite produced an atypical grayling, this one had a seasonally appropriate pot belly. I`ve never caught an umber with a gut, and this fish was the biggest of the season so far. I guessed at 2 lb, but didn`t weigh it, much to my regret.
By now Trueman had arrived, and was catching small dace and minnows. The Doctor had quit his minnow farm and headed upstream where he was now catching more minnows , and the odd grayling. His move paid off.
My feeder line died so I went back on the float. The inevitable then happened. The pike had returned. A gentle fight with a 4 oz dace suddenly turned into a tug of war with a tractor. Needless to say, the pike won. He nabbed two fish as the light faded, so I packed up, unwilling to provide the croc with further easy meals.
Trueman had packed up too, and he arrived as I pulled my keepnet. I picked out the big one for a quick photo. Trueman let out a curse of approval for the fish, and its constant thrashing – “ it`s a f big flappy b isn`t it “. He got the giggles as he took the photo, which explained the blurriness when I saw it, but the fish had been returned, so no re-takes. I finished with a very pleasing haul – 16 grayling, 12 dace, and one chublet.
A pond. The less said the better. 4 anglers, 3 fish. I blanked. The Doctor caught two skimmers.
I blame Santa.
He was kind enough to bring me Whisky aplenty for Christmas, but his generosity was the reason for my late arrival on the bank. I rolled up just before midday, set up, plumbed up, and flicked the little stickfloat into the flow for its first journey of the day. Two more runs produced nothing. I poured myself a drink, necked a couple of paracetamol, fired in a few maggots, and finished my drink.
The freebies woke the swim, and I had an amazing run of grayling for the next three hours.
I caught at least 8 fish over a pound, several that were around 12 oz, and over a dozen smaller ones. They just kept coming. Whether it was in sympathy, or I just picked the right place at the right time, I`ll never know. Maybe it`s lucky to fish with a hangover ?
The grayling were joined by a trout, a dace, and a chublet, and, when an extra flappy grayling broke my hooklength whilst in the landing net, I decided to call it a day. 3:10 pm. I guessed at a conservative 15 lb + of fish, and the grin remained on my face for ages.
Just to prove no two days are the same, I fished yesterdays peg, today.
The Doctor and I arrived mid- morning. He chose a peg a respectable distance downstream.
I lost a big grayling on my second trot, the rig pinged into a tree. I managed to recover it without falling in, but it was a mega-tangle, and I had to bin most of it. The Doc had had a poor start too – he had picked up the wrong rod bag, and drove home to get the right gear.
I started to catch some grayling - not of the same stamp as yesterday, or in the same numbers, but decent fish nonetheless. Then I connected with one that was heavy. It took me on a tour of the swim, and I couldn’t do much to stop it. Slowly, and gingerly, I got the fish within netting range, but then got the `please don’t come off` jitters when I first saw it, and a few words my grandma wouldn’t want to hear fell from my lips. Relief ! it nestled in the net. I had a wet carrier bag to hand, and my scales zeroed, the needle flicked round, and when the fish was briefly still, it clocked 1 lb 14 oz. It wasn’t as big as the pot bellied one from earlier in the week, but a big boy it was.
A few more fish came along, but it wasn’t the thymallus fest of yesterday.The 11 grayling had the usual lone dace and chublet with them, and it had been a very enjoyable afternoon. We all met up to compare our fortunes ( 4 anglers today ), everybody had caught, the Doc had been menaced by a pike for most of the afternoon, Agent Orange had had a few dace and a couple of grayling, and I`ve no idea how the other fella fared as he`d gone home early.
December has been a mixed month of floods, bitter cold, low and clear river, and balmy days too. Blanks and bonanzas, single maggots and single malts, fishing solo and fishing with friends.
Fingers crossed for more of the same, next year.