Sunday, 24 October 2010

Lower Itchen Fishery

Saturday was our, now annual, trip to the Lower Itchen Fishery in Hampshire. This was our second trip and I was very much looking forward to trotting this fast flowing chalk stream for the Grayling. It would be an early start from our Island base as we have to catch the Ferry to the mainland but fortunately it is only a fifteen minute drive to the Fishery from the terminal at Southampton.
Unfortunately I had a bad nights rest on the friday and felt terrible when I got up to get ready for our trip. A couple of Coffees later and I began to feel halfway human though still fatigued.
The heavy overnight rain which had partly been responsible for My lack of sleep had cleared away, and as I riddled the Maggots for the final time I began to brighten at the prospect of what the day held in store.
Car loaded, I set off to collect My two companions for the days fishing and headed for the Ferry.
A large cooked breakfast on the Ferry and another cup of Coffee and we were set up and raring to go, as the Sun began to light up the morning sky.
Arrival at the Fishery showed that the overnight rain had swollen the river only slightly and had introduced a bit of colour, which was probably a good thing, but nothing compared to our previous years trip when it had been in flood, chocolate coloured and charging through like an express train!
We took this as a good sign and headed towards the upper reaches of the Coarse fishing beat.
Exitement was at fever pitch as we tackled up, and headed off in seperate directions to find our own little pieces of fishing heaven for the day, arranging to meet back by the car for lunch and compare notes.

I guess you could say that I chose to fish the Car park swim, as I found a nice looking run within sight of our base. A gravel shallow led into a deeper pool with fast water on the outside and slower water on the inside, a perfect spot for the fish to hang out and dart in and out to intercept food as it washed past in the faster current. I waited patiently for a while before fishing it though and just fed Maggots to build up the confidence of any fish that might be there.
First run through and the float buried immediately. On striking, I knew that my first fish of the day wasn't to be a Grayling, but a fiesty Trout! In fact, it turned out to be a Sea Trout and not a Brownie. ( Silvery and no red spots).

The next run through however provided My target fish and a small Grayling was brought to the net, good start! The sport continued alternating between Trout and Grayling, and I even caught My first Salmon, though only a Parr! In fact I had several.

Salmon Parr, Identified by several differing features over Trout. One red spot between each of the Parr fingers, longer Pectoral fin, sharper snout, and the gill cover not extending almost to the eye.

After maybe an hour or so I decided it was time to rest the pool as it had slowed down and a fellow Angler, who had observed the consistent action I was getting, was trying to edge as close upstream to me as he could.
Satisfied that I had achieved enough I decided to wander down to the lower reaches in search of a Chub or good Roach. Sadly despite trying several areas in the deeper slower stretches, all I could muster was  brown trout and so headed back upstream, observing a large Ghost Carp mooching about in the edge as I went. I didn't fancy trying for him on the ultralight tackle I was using though, the out come would be a foregone conclusion!

The Forecast for the Day had specified isolated showers and by the time I got back to base for lunch the heavens had decided to open, and we had a mini typhoon with the wind gusting strongly and rain lashing down hard. I was soaked as were my companions who both arrived as
I did. Shelter was sought in the Car until it had passed and we tried to dry ourselves off with the Car heater. Some food and warm drinks were consumed and we compared notes. It seemed the fish were in feeding mood and we had all caught plenty but with the Trout being a strong feature in the catches.
After a while the rain and wind eased and the sun came back out, so, still damp though re fuelled, we resumed fishing, though a bit more socially for the afternoon stint, fishing within earshot of one another. Once again within sight of base, and on a bend in the river, I spotted what looked like a decent Grayling sitting on the river bed. My personal target for the trip was to catch one of over a pound in weight. There are a lot of Grayling in the Itchen but getting through to better fish is tricky as the little one's tend to jump on the bait first, or the Trout do!
Settling slightly upstream of the fish I began to feed maggots, from My angle I couldn't see if the fish was feeding but My first trot through produced a bite and I knew stright away that it was the same fish I had seen as it felt in a different class to the small fish I had been catching all morning. I was jubilant as the fish went into the net as I knew I had a new personal best Grayling. The fish weighed 1lb 4oz, not a monster but a fair Grayling and a lovely specimen.

A few more trots through the swim produced no more bites, and so a move was in order. Both My companions upstream of Me were catching some fish, so I decided to have a look on the next bend in the river above them. There were two areas here that looked interesting, one a deep pool next to a wooden saging in the river and the other being the run down from the bend where a tree was hanging in the water . First fish from this run was in the form of another species for the day, a small Chub of about a pound or so which was a nice bonus.


Alternating between the two spots in the swim I took a good number of Grayling, all of good average size as well as a fair number of Trout. It was while fishing this swim that disaster struck...

Swimming with the fishes........

By now I was beginning to feel the strain of having not slept all night and being continuously on the go and was feeling very tired and fatigued despite still enjoying myself, I stepped onto the wooden staging to have a few trots through the deep pool next to it and as I did I misplaced my foot, slipped, lost my balance and ended up in the water! Luckily for me, one of my companions had brought some spare clothes that he lent to me, if it wasn't for that my fishing would have been over there and then.

The swim, surprisingly continued to produce fish, despite the big hairy man trying to take a swim with them! I truthfully lost count of the number of fish I caught, but the tally for the day must have been around 30 or 40 Grayling and nearly as many Trout, Plus the Chub and several Parr. Between the three of us the count must have been well over a hundred Grayling and almost as many Trout, quite some fishing.

All in all a great day even with my little mishap! It's great to get the opportunity to practice the art of trotting as we don't have any trottable rivers on the Island. The Lower Itchen Fishery is a lovely spot, and very prolific, I look forward to hopefully returning the same time next year for some more Grayling, but hopefully not taking another dunk in the process! 

Next it's Roach time!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Four seasons

My friend remarked the other day about how we have had four very defined seasons this year. So many years go by when we seem to go from winter to summer in one bound, without anything resembling spring in between or from summer to winter with out experiencing a proper autumn. This has in some ways helped me to define my fishing better and make plans according to the season. Now Autumn is well underway I have a clear view of where the Fishing is going over the next few weeks and months, and there is much to look forward to! Roach, Perch and Grayling are the main targets, species that are epitomal Autumn and winter quarry for many anglers including myself. There are few better fish to try and catch than these during this period. How you go about catching them can be crucial to not only the enjoyment but also part of the reward. For instance I tried fishing for big Roach in several different ways over the years, but I have found that fishing for them on stillwaters using a Pole is hard to beat. Not everyone's first choice probably but it is surprisingly rewarding to play good Roach on a Pole, Moreover the presentation is far superior for Autumn and Winter Roach, and a good bag of decent specimens can be put together very efficiently. I think it's the finesse that I find so rewarding and I hope to demonstrate what I mean when I begin My Roach campaign, but the small floats, fine lines and soft stretchy elastic can give as much feedback from a relatively small fish like the Roach, as bigger fish give on heavier rods and lines.
Thats not to say I am adverse to catching them on other menthods when conditions negate the use of a Pole. I am happy to revert to feeder tactics when it isn't possible to fish with the Pole, but will use as light a rod and line as possible to try and maximise the enjoyment as much as possible. The same can be said of targetting Perch, and I may have a go at fishing for them with the Pole as well at some point during the Winter as an experiment just to see what transpires. The Grayling will be fished for with conventional trotted maggots with some change baits such as sweetcorn to try and single out a bigger fish, and whilst on the river I will try for some river Roach or Chub with bread. The first trip for Grayling is this coming weekend, the 23rd and myself and three companions are very much looking forward to our trip to the Lower Itchen Fishery in search of 'The lady of the stream'. Our trip last year was in late November and although we all caught fish, the conditions for it were horrendous to say the least! Hopefully things will be more conducive this year and a bit more relaxed. Target this time is a 1lb plus Grayling, not a huge specimen but a respectable one as there are a lot of Grayling in the stretch, but getting through to a bigger one can prove tricky. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Stark realities...

I have long been a fan of the Horizon science documentaries on the BBC, and a recent one entitled ' Death of the Oceans' focused on the efforts to census the planets Oceans, something never before done on the current scale. A fascinating insight and superbly put together programme, but as you can guess by the titles a very worrying, no..., frightening message about the future of not only our fisheries but of the Oceans eco systems as a whole. I have never wanted to use my Blog as a political soap box but I have to vent My feelings somewhere but if a few readers follow My lead then maybe I will have done some good by writing this piece.
The programme covered the various aspects of how we, Humans, are fundamentally damaging and altering the Heart and Lungs of our planet, which is what the Oceans are. Commercial fishing, and our output of Co2 emmissions into the atmosphere being the main focus. Commercial fishing's affect on the fish stocks and the Co2 acidifying the waters thus destroying the Coral reefs and habitats that generate the very beginnings of the food chains that sustain all life in the Seas. According to current studies, if we do not begin to manage our fisheries, in just a short 40 years there will be nothing left to fish for Globally. It almost makes me want to weep.
There are many other ways that we are having a destructive impact on the creatures of the Oceans and you really should watch the programme if you care in the slightest about the future of our beautiful but ruined planet. ( Available on the iplayer ).
So what can we do as Anglers? Recreational fishing takes it's toll along with commercial catches, which makes us as accountable, and the more we needlessly take, ( or waste as I see it ), the more of an impact we are having. There are many needless and wasteful and selfish practices going on in sea Angling, and still not enough Anglers practicing catch and release, preffering to keep all and any fish, wether for money, glory or 'just for the cat'.
I have stood on the shore and watched boat after boat hammer a shoal of Bass and not seen one fish returned, and it's made me want to sink to my knees and scream at them "what the Hell are you doing you morons???" can they not see and understand that every one they take is worth hundreds if not thousands less of the species in the future? Every fish is capable of spawning several hundred offspring, but not if they are not allowed to. If these practices continue year on year where are the next genrations coming from? I suppose it doesn't concern them, as long as they get their money, or fame or whatever,  it's irrelevant, and besides it's not as bad as every one makes it? Watch the programme and tell me what you think.
Simple practices such as crushing the barbs on hooks will make a huge difference to the " oh it had swallowed the hook so I had to take it anyway" scenario. Barbless or crushed barb hooks don't lose fish, and if the fish has been deep hooked, often  the situation can be salvaged, certainly more than if the hook was barbed at any rate. 
It's the little things that make the difference, but as Anglers collectively we have a huge voice, if we all begin altering our practices and leading by example then the powers that be cannot help but sit up and take notice. If we remain complacent then we can eventually give ourselves a pat on the back when the Oceans are finally empty, and say what a good job we did in our apathy. Remember this WILL happen in our lifetme and what then ? Perhaps we will start to consume our Coarse fish stocks then..."I'll have Carp and chips please mate"!