Friday, 25 December 2009

Dovedale Christmas Day 2009

Merry Christmas All,

After tucking in to a massive breakfast this morning, we decided to have a run out and a wee walk up Pointon's Glen at Dovedale. After a misty start the weather turned out to be fantastic.

We saw lots of people out and about sledging and walking and I was surprised to see just how many cars there were when we arrived at Dovedale car park.

From the footbridge, the Dove looked perfect, running low with the slightest hint of colour. The paths are very icy but if you've got studded soles on your wading boots you'll be fine. Walkers were finding the paths quite hard to negotiate the paths and I even saw a runner give up and turn back towards the car park.

I couldn't resist a few casts with my new 6ft 3wt Hardy glass rod...or "The Brook" as they have christened it. I've not got myself any 3wt line yet so I loaded it up with 4wt and it was casting like a dream. I can't wait for the trout season when I shall arm myself with this nifty little rod, I can imagine it being perfect for narrower stretches like those found in between Ilam Rock and Doveholes.

No fish to report I'm afraid, after all I was only there for 20 mins, but it was great to be there with the snow around and in the cold fresh air.

Its off to Islay for us in a couple of days and have set myself up with some sea fishing gear so that I can have a go at landing a few Pollock from the rocks at Bunnahabhain distillery.



Sunday, 20 December 2009

Plenty of Snow in the Staffordshire Moorlands

Couldn't get out to join the other lads up at Dovedale on the JT masterclass, but managed to get out for a bit with the kids to do a bit of walking on The Roaches in between the snow showers. This pic of Hen Cloud was taken just before the snow really started to fall and we only managed a short distance before we had to turn back. The snow covered the road within minutes.

Looking forward to seeing some pics of the lads fishing up at Dovedale today in these conditions. They all deserve medals, especially if they've managed a Grayling or two, which I'm sure they have.

The busiest week of the year for The Wine Shop starts tomorrow, and we're looking forward to a rest and a dram on Christmas day.

A couple of days after that we'll be off to our fave holiday destination...The Isle of Islay, post and pics to follow.


Sunday, 22 November 2009

Glen Pointon's Living The Dreamworks: Episode 1: Stillwater Techniques

Sir Stanley Matthews, Slash, Josiah Wedgwood, Robin Williams, Captain Edward Smith (from the film "Titanic"), Lemmy, Anthea Turner, Nick Hancock, that bloke from "Men Behaving Incorrectly", Frank Bough, Robbie Earle, Owd Grandad Piggott, Oatcakes, Garth Crooks, Sagger Maker's Bottom Knockers. Names synonymous with the quaint village of Stoke upon Trent. But now, there's a new star on the rise and folk up and down the quiet streets of The Potteries are talking about nowt else.

"Ooo the blooodyell's Glen Pointon???"

After his meteoric rise to fame, appearing with Oliver Edwards on Sky Sports' "Tight Lines" coverage of the BFFI Fly fair at Trentham Gardens this month, I was proud and honoured to have been asked to be the cameraman for his very first tutorial video, "Glen Pointon's Living The Dreamworks: Episode 1: Stillwater Techniques".

Pointon introduces a new, refreshing, if not sometimes a little challenging, style of presentation to the world of Angling, and whilst passionate about the subject, he refuses to conform to the usual etiquette associated with this piscatorial pastime.

He's been described as being like a cross between TV's John Wilson and Roger Mellie (Viz's Man on The Telly), and is quickly becoming a famous, household name for his breathtaking command of the Queen's English, and softly spoken, polite manner.

"Pointon's taken a subject matter that is full of tradition and complexity, and made it appear unbelievably simple" a bloke, aged 46, from Fegg Hayes said yesterday. "Cos kick a bow agen a wow an yed it till yer boss it?", he added.

We decided that Glen's first episode should be recorded at Marton Heath Trout Pools near to Congleton. Please click on the videos below to see one or two clips. They will change your fishing for ever.

Please make sure you haven't got a hot drink in your hand when you watch these clips and be advised that we have found it necessary to award the first clip with an 18 certificate. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Glen will know that expletives are a common occurrence in his speech, and it was inevitable that one of these would be caught on film. We originally had 4 hours of footage, but after we'd removed all the cursing and swearing, these 3 short clips were all that remained.


Glen Pointon's Living The Dreamworks: Episode 1: Stillwater Techniques

Part 1: Stillwater Techniques Part 1: Landing a Rainbow

Glen Pointon's Living The Dreamworks: Episode 1: Stillwater Techniques

Part 2: Large Dark Olive Techniques

Glen Pointon's Living The Dreamworks: Episode 1: Stillwater Techniques

Part 3: Presentation Techniques

Join Glen next time as he struggles with stalking incredibly rare Sturgeon in the Trent & Mersey Canal in the very heart of industrial Stoke on Trent.

A great day's fishing with some Rainbows for the pot to boot. Cheers Glen.

Live The Dream Brother!

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Dove, A Salmon River: Part II

This afternoon, I went over to the same spot on the River Dove as I visited with Glen yesterday just to make sure that I wasn't going bonkers through knocking about with Pointon, and to confirm that I had indeed seen dozens of Atlantic Salmon, and Sea Trout trying to negotiate a weir on a river just outside a quiet little village in the heart of rural North Staffordshire. How often have you seen the words "Atlantic", "Salmon", "Sea", "Trout", "North" and "Staffordshire" in the same sentence without them also being accompanied by "Aren't" and "Any"?

Please click on the images below to start a couple of brief videos of Salmon leaping. The first is a single Dove Salmon leaping at about 9 seconds into the video, and the second is of two Salmon jumping. The fish that I managed to capture on film were smaller than most that I saw jumping. The fish in the videos I would say are of around 5 - 6lb in weight. As yesterday, there were lots of double figure fish on the move, I just wasn't filming at the right times!

I bumped into a couple of other chaps who were having a look at the river, one a fisherman and one who wasn't. Both of them expressed the opinion that the weir should be altered in some way as to allow the fish to get up. Some local fishermen have objected to this apparently, as they are concerned that the Brown Trout would also leave to spawn upstream. This would be the case, but surely, having spawned they would return to their usual swims given the fact that they are notoriously territorial?

The River Churnet has also been stocked with Salmon Parr, and according to one of the chaps that I spoke to, they will only get up the river so far, as there is another, even bigger weir that the fish won't be able to get up. Both were of the opinion that given the time and expense that the Environment Agency has committed to this project, that it should be a priority to allow the fish to travel as far up the river as possible. I am inclined to agree.

If these fish were helped to negotiate huge man made weirs and dams, as they are on Scottish rivers, we could quite easily have Salmon and Sea Trout running up through the Rivers Hamps and Manifold as well as the Dove. How fantastic would it be to see Salmon running through Ilam, Dovedale, Wolfscotdale, and Berrisford Dale as they surely must have at one time. One could even watch them running through the beer garden of the Jervis Arms in Onecote! Imagine Salmon running up the Dove past Walton and Cotton's fishing Temple in Berrisford Dale, what an achievement would that be?

One of the men I was speaking to said that he had read something that was written in the late nineteenth century about Angling in our rivers. It said that at that time, there was no better Salmon nurseries in Britain than the little rivers Dove and Lathkill. I was also very interested to hear in a radio 4 programme, "The Philosopher, Fish, and The Dove", (please click to hear) that said that the decline in the numbers of Salmon running up the river, which was usually between 1100 and 1500 fish at a time, was indeed attributed to the Industrial revolution but not just because of pollution.

By the late seventeen hundreds, Richard Arkwright along with other contemporary Industrialists, had began building large scale factory style mills on the rivers and streams of Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Arkwright's first mill was built in 1771 on the Derwent at Cromford and he went on to build another on the Dove at Rocester.

Mills were popping up everywhere and always with large weirs which kept water back to supply the millraces that inturn supplied the power to the machinery. None of these weirs, many of which still exist today, had fish passes and so the population of Salmon and Sea Trout declined as the fish simply couldn't make their way up the rivers. (Not surprisingly, the Otter population declined at exactly the same time due to the dwindling supply of it's staple diet). Our weir, where I've been watching fish today, supplied a mill with power that ground flour, and last did so in, wait for it, 1890, so it's a little redundant then, and deserves a fish pass in my book.

Both of the men that I spoke to earlier today were sure that, despite the weirs, a few of the fish do manage to travel further up the Dove. One also said that there is quite a bit of rain forecast for Wednesday and Thursday and that if the river rises another couple of foot, and if the flow is stronger over the weir, then the whole shoal will be over late Thursday night and Friday morning.

Once again it was amazing to see these beautiful fish in such close proximity and just upstream from a swim that I regularly fish.

Please do leave me a comment if you have any further info, history or stories about Salmon or Sea Trout in the River Dove.


PS Here is a link to an article written by the BBC and an episode of "The Philosopher, Fish and The Dove" . You can "Listen Again" to a radio programme about Salmon in the River Dove....Please click here

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Dove, A Salmon River

We've had a fair bit of rain over the weekend and Glen Pointon and I were doubtful that we would be able to fish either the Wye or the Dove because of the conditions. Glen picked me up from Leek and we headed off to a spot on the Dove where Glen has seen the Salmon leaping at this time of year. I couldn't believe my eyes. The Salmon were taking advantage of all the rain that we've had, and the high water levels, to push further up the river.

When we arrived there were another couple of chaps there trying to spot a fish or two. One of them kindly let me have these photos. After only a couple of minutes we started to see fish trying to get up the weir. Some of them were absolute monsters of well over 10lb each.

I was surprised to see very large Brown Trout leaping up the weir too, so as to get further upstream to spawn.

Many years ago, the River Dove and The River Churnet, one of it's tributaries, were Salmon Rivers until the Industrial Revolution began. Leek was a textile town famous for it's dying works, and much of this dye found it's way into the Churnet, some historians say that it was the most polluted river in Europe. Up until quite recent times, the Churnet downstream from Leek, could be any colour of the rainbow at any given time. Thankfully, all this has changed.

A few years ago, many thousands of Salmon Parr were introduced into the Dove and the Churnet and now, these huge fish travel from the North Sea via the Humber at Hull, onto the Trent and eventually our River Dove and their epic 150 mile journey to spawn is complete. Apparently, some of the fish that we saw jumping were Sea Trout. I'm not too up on the subject but Sea Trout won't have been stocked as Parr so they must have returned to the river of their own accord and took it upon themselves to make that 150 mile journey upstream.

If anyone reading this has seen Salmon or Sea Trout in the River Churnet, please leave me a comment as I'd be interested to know just how far upstream and near to Leek that they are reaching.

The chap who kindly gave me these photos said that he never thought he would see it in his lifetime, and seeing these amazing fish here in our rivers goes to show how much work has been done to remove pollution and how much more care is taken to keep our environment clean. I consider myself to be incredibly lucky to be able to fish these water life rich rivers in North Staffordshire....oh ok then...and a little bit of Derbyshire.


Monday, 9 November 2009

A Perfect Autumn Day with a Lunker in Dovedale

It seems a lifetime since those warm and late summer evenings, Kelly Kettle bubbling in the background, tall tales being exchanged, stalking lunkers, proper lunkers, clunkers, and all manner of classes of large, wild Brown Trout. Russell Crowe charging up and down Dovedale with his merry men is a distant memory, an event that now seems so surreal that I question myself as to whether it really happened. It seems that Crowey and his mates filmed at just the right time as, visiting Pointon's Glen yesterday, I noticed that the main area that was used for the set has now been dissected by a sturdy new fence.

It was a classic November morning. Thick mist shrouded Highfield and Leek but the sun was just peeking through. I wondered whether it would be worth a run up to Dovedale, whether the levels would have come down, and whether the Ladies would be on the feed given the heavy frost we'd had during the early hours.

I grabbed a bacon, egg and black pudding bap and sped of in the Wine Shop van, armed to the teeth with my Greys Streamflex 6ft 6, waders and other essential angling accessories.

I arrived and made my way up to the footbridge, my first impression being that, after seeing how much water was pushing over the measurement weir, today may turn into more of a pleasant Autumnal walk rather than an angling session. How wrong I was.

All was quiet at first until I had fished up to the mid section of Pointon's Glen. At one point, I caught myself looking around to see who was chucking stones at me, having heard a couple of splashes in the pools that I fished, but it soon became apparent that these were Trout on the feed. I made my way to the pool where recently, I hooked into, and landed the biggest Grayling I've ever seen never mind caught, and made a few casts. As usual, I'd rigged up a duo set up, weighted Pheasant Tail Nymph on the point with a Klinkhammer on the dropper.

The water was running through quickly and I had to really concentrate so as not to loose sight of the klink. After a couple of casts, the klink darted under and I struck. A big fish was on and I was desperate not to loose it. I could tell straight away that it was a Grayling by the way it was twisting and turning like an eel. Eventually, I landed this beautiful fish. I'm convinced that it wasn't the same fish that I caught a few weeks ago, this one being slightly smaller. Chuffed to bits, I'd exceeded all my expectations, having caught, and not only that, having caught a cracking fish. I wondered whether to pack in there and then, or whether to have a few more casts upstream.

As I walked up past the nursery pool I was surprised at just how many rises there were given the time of year. There were Olive hatches everywhere and the trout were on the feed. I had a few more casts, managing a couple of smaller Grayling and an accidental, but very beautiful and quite large Brownie.

All in all, a great angling session, in a stunning location, which I consider myself incredibly lucky to live so near to.

There are a couple more pics in the right hand panel of this page.


Monday, 2 November 2009

Wood and Pointon Go for the Grayling In The Highlands of Derbyshire...At Last

This was a day that had been coming for weeks, and well over due. Well, a week overdue. Last week, Leonie and I even booked into the Peacock in Rowsley so I could fish the Wye in and around Bakewell, in the right Royal Highlands of Derbyshire, twinned with Pitlochry don't you know. But it turned out that it was a charity day, so, I wasn't allowed.

And so, once again, I'd been lucky enough to be invited to fish the Wye with none other than my old chum Glen Tarquin Pointon of Haddon. (Formerly Lord Rocher of Oshbonk, previously a member of Leek and District Fly Fishing Association and Derby Railway Angling Club, but now moved on to pastures new)

I'd been looking forward to the day's fishing immensely. I hadn't been able to get out onto the rivers at all over the last couple of weeks through one reason or another and was ready for a laugh with Glen. And so, I was pretty annoyed when, at 5.30 am, I was awoke when, basically, a gale happened in our front garden. Crap. Tarquin and I exchanged a couple of phone calls at around 9am, would we go or wouldn't we, and eventually, we decided that we may as well have a run out and at least have a look at the river.

More often than not, one hears Glen before one sees him and this morning was no exception. I could hear his van and his accent as he drove down the track towards chez Wood. Wisps of B&H smoke rising from the crack in the off side window, "American Idiot" shattering the still, Sunday morning, autumnal air.

We packed up all of our kit into the back of Glen's van and we were all set for the off. All I needed to do was to negotiate my way through the Pointon debris and into the passenger seat, a feat easy than one may first imagine. It's full on advertising for Bensons, MacDonalds, crisps and disposable coffee cups. By his own admission, Glen isn't the most organised of chaps, and on top of this, the heaters were on full bore, "arr lark it worm" he explained. It was a bit like sitting in the middle of a council waste incinerator.

So we sped off up the Buxton road, through Buxton itself and on down the A6 towards Bakewell. Here and there we had a peek at the river and it didn't look promising at all. In places, the river was nearly onto the road, full of foam and colour and looking totally unfishable. However, as we got towards Bakewell, things started to look up. We stopped near Ashford and to our amazement, the river was only slightly up and had a faint milky tinge. Confidence started to grow.

Confidence started to grow even further when we decided that it would be rude not to start off by discussing tactics over an unfeasibly large breakfast, accompanied by the hottest coffee we'd ever, ever tasted (it had a half life of 150 years), and 14 rounds of toast. The waitress looked at us as if we were a bit odd.
Anyway, Glen read me the rules. No wading, barbless hooks, avoid hooking a trout at all costs, and off we went into the town stretch. The water was colouring up more and more as the day went on and I remember thinking that this could make picking out Grayling from the Trout a little on the tricky side.

Anyway, on my first cast, somewhere near to the cricket pavilion, I hooked into my first Grayling of the day, kindly modelled here by Glen Tarquin Pointon himself.

I had rigged up with a duo set up, a balloon caddis on the dropper, with a weighted pink shrimp about 2 1/2 Feet below on the point. I took a risk in the morning and packed my 6ft 6 Streamflex, wondering whether I would not have the length I might need, but it turned out to be perfect and great fun with the smaller fish.

To compare methods, Glen had decided to use his 9ft 5 wt Streamflex as he would be nymphing with a team of bugs.

Throughout the day, we both had success on our methods and we'd exceeded all our expectations. We set out in the morning thinking that a fish a piece would be good and we ended up with about a dozen or so between us.

It was another great day's fishing. Our usual haunts on the Dove further South would surely have been flooded and the Wye had given us a brief, 3 or 4 hour window to get some top quality Grayling fishing in. As well as the fishing, we'd also had a good laugh too as we always do, and we'd had a chance to put the world to rights.

The last fish of the day was this mini-lunker that took the shrimp on the lower reaches of the stretch in Rowsley and was the perfect end to another great angling session.

Cheers Glen for a great day's sport.


Monday, 26 October 2009

Wye The Peacock after The Grayling on the Dove

So, the anticipation was over, the day had come, Sunday 25th October was to be a big do. I was all set to fish with Lord Pointon on his beloved stretch of the river Wye in and around England's slightly bigger version of Pitlochry, and without the salmon, the wee toon of Bakewell. I'd also booked Leonie and I into the Peacock for The Wine Shop Christmas party and was looking forwards to collapsing in front of the big log fire with a pint of fine ale and a big dram of Laphroaig after a breezy autumnal day on the banks of the bonny Wye.

"Way conner goo youth", I was dismayed to hear, as apparently the Wild Trout Trust had got it for the day so they had priority. So, that was that.

I headed up to Milldale for the morning. The weather was, fine, bright and a little breezy. I crossed the bridge at Milldale and noticed immediately that there was a fair bit of water and colour in the Dove today after the sporadic rain showers we've had during the last few days. It was clear that Autumn had began to really kick in since my last outing given the amount of leaves on the water. I noticed that the colours were changing everywhere, lush greens giving way to gold, reds and browns.

I decided to pay more attention to the first couple of hundreds of yards of the Leek and District Angling Association stretch, staying longer than I usually would in each pool, given the amount of extra depth there was to explore.

I dropped a couple of fish early on and decided to move down to a pool that I usually find to be quite tricky to get at and cast in given the amount of snags and low branches that are here and about.

I was sure that today, I'd have a bit more chance of catching here though as there was more depth to the pool and I'd bought my shorter, 6ft 6" Streamflex, given me a little more room for casting than usually afforded by my 8ft Snowbee "Pike rod". (As so cruelly christened by Glen). I also find it much easier to flick a fly about with a short rod like my Streamflex. I did, however, still manage to loose a good few flies.

I caught a nice couple of Grayling on the duo and then hooked into the one in the pic, right in mid stream and he gave me a right old scrap. A lovely fish. I decided to quit while the going was good and made my way to check in at the Peacock, where, needless to say, we had fabulous food, lots of drinks, and a very posh bedroom.

Didn't see any fishermen though??


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Glendronach 18 Year Old Single Malt: An Early Christmas Tip

I've got a dream job. I work, with my wife Leonie, in a whisky shop. One of my tasks, and, it goes without saying, one of my very favourite tasks, is quality control. I get to taste many whiskies, whether it may be samples that arrive when I'm at work, or when I'm out and about in the bars of Glasgow, Islay and other places whisky related.

More often than not, I find that one dram struggles to differentiate itself from the next, surprises are few and far between and it doesn't always follow that paying a premium guarantees a quality dram, furthermore, sometimes a product that looks good, but has an inexpensive price tag, can turn out to be incredibly uninteresting.

Last week I received a a consignment of many different whiskies from our main supplier. As ever, I enjoyed looking through the boxes to see what new treasure might lie within. I'd ordered a few bottles of each of the new(ish) range from Glendronach and was glad to see that there was also a sample bottle for us to have a wee taste of.

And so, on Saturday night, I sat in front of the fire, armed to the teeth with a bottle of St Peter's Ruby Red Ale, and a large glass of Glendronach 18 year old Highland Single Malt.

The first thing I noticed was the deep burnt orange colour, (the label had spoken about 100% Olorosso Sherry cask maturation, which sounded very promising). I stuck my nose in and immediately got Xmas pudding, and rich, sweet, toffee aromas...on the palate the Sherry was obvious but pretty sweet for Olorosso. The finish was immense and everlasting, all in all a classic whisky and I have to say a real surprise given the price tag of £52.99 which is nowt for an 18 year old dram of this quality bottled at 46%, with natural colour and no chill filtration.

I've a friend who works for BenRiach Distillers who own Glendronach and I contacted him immediately so that I could source some direct as these whiskies will be terrific for us at The Wine Shop for the Christmas period as they will make the perfect gift recommendation.

As well as the stunning 18 year old expression, there is a 12 year old (£31.99), a 15 year old (£41.99 which apparently, is better than the 18 year old!!) and a 33 year old which I know absolutely nothing about only that it is about £130 per bottle which is incredibly inexpensive for a whisky of that age bottled by the distiller.

So there you have early Christmas 2009 Whisky recommend whether it be for a gift or for drinking in front of the fire on Christmas day. It's not often that we taste something so exciting at that price point and is certainly in the league of the greats at that age such as Bunnahabhain 18 years old, Highland Park 18 years old and dare I say it...even Macallan 18 years old. Call in at the shop and we'll give you a taste....if I haven't drank it all in the meantime!



Monday, 12 October 2009

Looking for the Ladies in the Land of Lunkers

Sunday 11th October. It's my first outing since the end of the trout season and the session of mixed blessings, where I bagged a couple of monster trout and then promptly erased all the pics I'd taken of them. I'd been gutted. Anyhoo, Johnny (Colemans) had been in touch to see if I fancied a fishing session somewhere and I suggested Milldale as I reckoned that some of the other local rivers may still be out of sorts with the rain that we'd had of late. So, at 10.30 sharp, we met up at Milldale, tackled up, had a brew and a natter, then made our way down to the Dove.

The weather was a little dull and there was a fair mist of drizzle, but the weather man had declared that by 1pm, things should start to improve. It wasn't wet enough to bother us, and it certainly wouldn't do the river any harm, given that it was as low as I've ever seen it and could have done with a little bit of colour.

I decided to rig up with a duo setup. I've been pretty successful of late with this method and confidence is riding high. I had a few casts into the first couple of pools and caught a brace of wee Grayling and dropped one too...all was looking good.

Johnny and I made our way down to Doveholes where we had lunch in the caves and chatted about angling, football and various other things that blokes chat about, and we devised a plan as to how we'd fish the rest of the day out.

We decided to walk straight down to Ilam rock, resisting the temptation to stop to fish en route. I had a good look for fly life on the way, and there didn't seem to be a great lot going on. Rises were very few and far between, all in all, everything was pretty quiet. We crossed the footbridge at Ilam rock and couldn't even see the monster Grayling that chill out there. We made our way up the Staffordshire bank of the Dove from the bridge, an area that I've never fished before, and in my opinion, the most beautiful part of the LADFFA stretch at Dovedale. Here you can get away from it all. Few folk walk up that way and the main footpath on the other bank is far enough away for its users not to bother you. The walkers, dogs, horses and day trippers never bother me at Dovedale, no matter how busy it gets. I enjoy the odd chat with some of them, it often forces you to take a break and to move on to a more promising swim. Sometimes though, you just want a bit of peace...and this is where you can find it, along with some cracking fishing.

It's much more like a stream up there. I'd say it's about 10ft wide and there are lots of riffles. The water hurries along over the lush green weed beds, and here and there, a dark patch winks it's fishy eyes at you and beckons you to cast, whilst the spindly branches of the trees on the far bank reach down to tickle the surface of the water and await your tippet and flies with glee.

I lost many, many flies..and it's become clear that I need a new rod for up there. My 8ft 4wt is about 2 foot too long as I need only to drop a fly in to the river right in front of me to have a chance of a take from an unsuspecting fish.

I cast into a dark hole about 6 foot in front of me. Each time I cast, I only had about 5 foot for the balloon caddis to travel before I would have to perform a quick flick to avoid a huge tangle with weed and debris. The caddis disappeared, I struck, well, lifted and a fish was on, bam, bam, bam, and then off. I cast again, 1 foot, 2 foot, gone, and the fish was on. A lovely, although accidental wild Brown Trout of just under a pound.

Monday 12th October. It was cold in the night. Certainly the coldest we've had since summer.

When I woke this morning and looked out of the window, the weather was beautiful, the sun was casting long dark shadows from the trees in the orchard, but in between them was betrayed the sparkle of the first frost of the autumn. I couldn't resist supplying my fly box with reinforcements to compensate for yesterday's numerate casualties, grabbing my rod, reel and waders, throwing them into the car, and racing down to my favourite Dovedale...just to see how this sharp change in the weather might affect really, a bit of an experiment if you like.

I love the view towards Dovedale as you drive down through Blore Pastures. The entrance to the valley reminds me of a portal into a different world, a lost world almost reminiscent of those remote places in Africa, where explorers have reported sightings of creatures reported to have become extinct years ago. I find the dramatic change of scenery incredible, the second you leave the car park and walk up the valley. It's a place that, despite the millions of visitors that it receives each year, has remained largely unchanged for hundreds of years. It's magical.

I fished the pools on the way up to the stepping stones but it was way to cold, the frost had obviously had a detrimental affect on the fish and so I decided to walk all the way up to the little pool that I'd been fishing yesterday beyond Ilam rock. That way, I'd have walked the whole stretch between the two days. I arrived at the wee pool and started to cast. Yesterday, I must have found the perfect spot to fish from, as I never got into a tangle once and I was very relaxed with my fishing. Today, however, I couldn't stop getting into a mess, losing flies and swearing, most of the time at the top of my voice, and it was just not working, just not right. It was a cold walk up to there too. I'd put my warm hat and gloves on, and I was togged up to the eyeballs, as were the walkers that I saw and said hello to on the way up the path.

I decided to turn around and to head back. All the while, the sun was starting to creep into the valley and things were warming up pretty quickly. The air temperature was rising very quickly and I noticed that loads of fly life was starting to appear, it was clear that there were multiple, localised olive hatches going on...and the fish started to switch on.

I can honestly say that I've never seen so many rises all year so far, and none so violent. These were mostly trout, and I got the impression that the cold snap had given them a sharp reminder of what to expect in the near future, urging them to feed up for the winter months.

Eventually I arrived at the pool where I had had great success in my fishing session with Matt last week. I cast into the riffle at the head of the pool, into fast flowing water a maximum of 6 inches deep, with my balloon caddis and pheasant tail nymph duo setup.

Suddenly there was a huge explosion of water, I never saw the caddis disappear, I just jumped at the sudden, violent activity. It was clear I had a right scrap on my hands and the fish gave me the right old run around. I'd accidentally hooked a big 2lb wild Brownie, and it was livid.

I played him into shallow water, unhooked him (he'd taken the caddis) and quickly let him go. I had a cast in the spot where Matt had hooked into a massive fish last week, that sadly got away. Suddenly it happened again, there was a huge splash and flashes of silver and a good fish was on, twisting this way and that and darting up and down the swim at speed. By this time, a good half a dozen or so walkers had stopped to watch me so the pressure was really on.

I was desperate not to drop this one...what a start to my winter Grayling fishing, and what a confidence booster this would be if I managed to land him.

I would say that this was a minimum of 2lb and what we now know as a Proper Lunker. It's the biggest Grayling I've caught...ever..and I was chuffed to bits. If this is what Grayling fishing has to offer...bring it on..I'm loving it.


Friday, 9 October 2009

2009. The Best Trout Fishing Season I've Ever Had

What a season. I've just counted up how many times I've fished this season, and it appears that I have fished on 65 different days since it started...thank you Mrs Wood.

It's certainly been the best trout season I've ever had. It's been the best for a number of reasons, the new clubs that I've joined are brilliant, the people I've met have been great, the fish I've caught have been stunning, the scenery I've fished in has been breathtaking, and, we've had many a laugh along the way.

At the start of the trout season, I was a member of one club, Leek and Moorlands Fishing Club. For my £40 ticket (reduced to £30 the following year), I had access to one piece of water between the bridge at Eaton Dovedale Farm and the point at which the river Churnet joins the river Dove. This water was very good for me during the early part of the season. Although it is often in poor condition for a good few days after rainy periods, and it is a stretch of only a couple of hundred yards, I have had some fantastic fishing there, plus, I managed to catch one of my best fish of the season, on a corixa, a beautiful 2lb plus over-wintered wild Brownie.

I wanted to be able to fish a bigger stretch at Eaton Dovedale so I joined Derby Railway Angling Club. This also gave me access to the lovely stretch of the Dove at Ellastone which can be in good condition when Eaton Dovedale isn't, and, it's stuffed with fish, Brownies, Grayling and one or two decent sized rainbows.

Joining DRAC also meant that I instantly met many more trout fisherman, of a similar age to me, all dead keen, and all willing to lend a hand to a new trout angler, sharing tips, giving help and tying up a few patterns for him. It also helped that I'd now got access to the fly forums website, again, loads of info, and great for a laugh. I also met, the larger than life, certifiable, Mr Glen (expletive) Pointon, who has been director of the comedy department ever since.

Glen invited me to use a guest ticket up at Dovedale. "Angling Paradise" is how he described it to me, and he was right. I was taken with the place immediately, especially given the fact that I caught a lovely wild Brownie on my first cast into the pool just upstream of the footbridge.

That session on the Dove was enough for me, I had to join Leek and District Fly Fishing Association, and I soon found out they had many other great stretches of river too, all within 20 minutes of home.

Soon after, I was off to Scotland for a week or so with work and I was dying to get back to fish at Dovedale. I loved the place and couldn't wait to explore all the way up to Milldale. It's just a beautiful place to be, when the visitors have left and the quiet reigns supreme.

I'll never forget my fishing trip with Tony Slade, Russell Crowe and a hundred or so Medieval knights on horseback, what a bizarre night, and one that I will never forget. (See top pic and the post Russell Crowe and I: Living the Dream in Dovedale)

I've got Gary to thank for passing on loads of tips, particularly about fishing small rivers with "The Duo". This pic was taken only a few days ago on the Churnet at Eastwall, which is a cracking LADFFA venue, seemingly, stuffed with big Grayling and Brownies like this one that Gary caught on the Duo, and had a head like a Salmon! A beautiful fish.

I had a couple of very enjoyable angling sessions on the River Wye at Rowsley. The first time I day ticketed there was with Glen, Mick and Johnny. Again, I picked up loads of tips and caught some nice fish. Mick landed his famous 9lb wild Brownie from the town stretch in Bakewell, and Glen told us about his bowel problems and stories about Spongebob Squarepants at a car wash at the bottom of Larm Kiln Bonk in Stoke.

Glen was so taken by the river Wye, and so determined to bag a couple of those "Hoora-Lunkers" in the town centre stretch that he just had to join the Peacock Fishing Club, and on his first outing last week, he went and bagged this huge 10lb monster Brownie, wait for it, on his very own design, LTD (Living the Dream!) Sedge! In terms of size, easily the best fish I've seen caught all season. Well done mar mate! Click here to find out how it all happened!

I was lucky enough to fish with our Bri from Stoke. He was kind enough to tie loads of flies for me, particularly the famous LTD Sedge, which I have to say, was definitely my top fish catching fly of the season, and upon which, I reckon Glen is placing all of his trust for his pension fund.

Bri is a top bloke, and a again, another easy going, non-pretentious bloke, eager to help a newcomer to trout fishing.

Way back at the beginning of the season, I'd also purchased myself an Islay House Estates permit so that I could fish whenever I was on the Isle of Islay on work trips. During the Islay Festival of Malt and Music (Feis Ile 2009), I managed to get loads of fishing in and caught plentiful wee troots. I got to fish with my mate David Morris and even entered a competition, catching a good few fish. David was the champion of the competition bagging 37 fish in 4 hours.

I had 4 trips to Islay during the season, the last one being by far the most memorable. I was joined by a fly forum member, Peter Dracup, and also, Mr Pointon joined us for what would be a great few days of fun and fishing.

We fished on Jura for Salmon and Sea Trout, and on many of the lochs on Islay for wee wild Brownies.

Please click on the links for posts about the trip..

Among my best fish of the season were the two 2lb plus Brownies I caught on the very last day at my favourite spot at Dovedale. Here we have enjoyed many a late evening Kelly Kettle, discussing the day's fishing and devising plots to catch those elusive Lunkers in the depths of the dark pools.

This pic that I took with Mr Pointon's camera, speaks for itself...and is a fair reflection of the mood of the fishing this year. It's been enjoyable, a great laugh, exciting and very rewarding.

Tonight I'll have a dram to celebrate the end of my first full trout season, and the beginning of my first full Grayling seems fitting that that dram come from Islay, and more specifically from Bunnahabhain where we spent an ace week whilst fishing.

Bring on the Grayling.



Wednesday, 7 October 2009

What a Way to End the 2009 Trout Season. Dovedale with Matt and a Couple of 'Proper Lunkers' For the Road.

I hate computers and the digital age.

In the last two days, I've been lucky enough to have had some of the best of the season's fishing. I've fished the Dove on three different club waters, Derby Railway Angling Club, Leek and Moorlands Angling Association and Leek and District Fly Fishing Association.Yesterday with Mr Gary Fishcake, at Eaton Dovedale, and today with LADFFA member Matt, at Dovedale.

A blog is as much about images as it is about text, it's a record, a diary of one's interests. Without a few pics here and there, its boring. When I looked for a camera to record some of the events and fish of the season, I had my blog in mind, I wanted to get pics from A to B, in an effortless manor. So I selected a camera which had a package of software called "Easyshare".

And so, this evening, I sat at my PC looking forward to "Easyshare" with it 70 odd pics from the last 48 hours. I looked forward to it greatly. The software began transferring my photos to my PC, deleting them from my camera as it went merrily along, and when it had done so, the software crashed, I had to restart my computer...and yes, the pics were no more.

Thanks Kodak, what a camera.

Anyway, Yesterday, I enjoyed fishing the Dove at Eaton Dovedale with Gary. I was keen to get Gary to fish one of my favourite swims that I knew he would be able to pull some ace fish out of. This is a favourite spot of mine, where, right back at the beginning of the season, I hooked and landed a 2lb wild Brownie, I remember how pleased I was at the time as I was completely fresh to river trout fishing. Within minutes, he was into one, but sadly didn't manage to land it. He landed many others though including a good few Grayling and a very healthy looking wee Chub.

This morning, I met Matt at Eastwall. I knew that there had been a fair bit of rain during the night and wondered whether the Churnet may be a little too challenging for us who didn't really know it that well, and I was right, It was up a good foot and running the colour of hot chocolate. A quick decision was made and we motored off to Dovedale. Yippee!!

It was a beautiful morning. We tackled up and headed up Pointon's Glen, casting all the way and picking off one or two Brownies. I spent a short while at a large pool, casting my duo rig just a few feet out. Suddenly there was a swirl, I honestly didn't expect it, and the balloon caddis was nowhere to be seen. I struck, there were a couple of thuds, and it was clear that I was in to a good fish, the best fish, infact, that I'd ever hooked into at this venue. I shouted to Matt to come over and give me a hand...especially with the (insert expletive) camera. I desperately didn't want to loose this fish. I didn't. It was a beautiful 2lb wild Brownie. Honest.

Please imagine a very professional shot, taken by Matt, of a perfect, and if I may say so, a very good example of a 'Proper Lunker'.

We carried on up and beyond the Nursery Pool. Matt taking a couple more fish towards the next weir, and I, a good fish in the pools among the trees. The time was flying by though, as it tends too when you are having fun, and catching fish, and we reckoned we'd better make our way back down Pointon's Glen, casting all the way of course.

And so, I found myself back at the pool which had been so good to me earlier and I had a few more casts in the fast running water. Suddenly there was a massive take and I found myself, once again calling for Matt to come over and give me a hand.

"If it's not 2lb its a little over" was Matt's judgement of the size of the beauty, and I was over the moon. What a way to end the trout season. My two best fish since joining LADFFA in May. What place, what a river, what fish, what a great club and what a season.

Just a shame about Kodak. Who next season will not be invited.


Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Troots are in Feeding Frenzy. On the Dove again at Ellastone

Since Sunday, Autumn has really began to set in. Leaves are falling from trees, the wind is up and the air is cooling rapidly. Leonie has been away at tastings in London all week so Friday would be the only chance I would get for a weekday fishing session...and that would have to be squeezed in to a 2 and a half hour slot. Gary and I exchanged texts as to what local venue to fish, and, to be honest, I was in two minds whether to go at all. I'd be leaving Leek at 11am and need to pack up to return for the school run no later than 2pm, and the weather prospects looked a little grim too.

But I did Ellastone, and how glad am I that I did....It was one of the best fishing sessions of the season.

I tackled up at the van and had a quick look over the bridge. The water was lower than I had seen it before and quite clear, though nowhere near as clear as I have been used to further upstream at my favourite Dovedale.

As I walked upstream, I couldn't believe how many rises I was seeing, definitely the most I have ever seen at Ellastone, they were everywhere. I started to wonder whether I had doubted the conditions too much.

I dropped in half way up the DRAC stretch. I'd rigged up with the Duo pattern, a Balloon Caddis on the dropper and a tiny black beadheaded nymph on the point, a good two feet below.

On the third cast, the Caddis disappeared almost immediately and I struck into a good fish. It was fighting like stink and I was doing my very best to keep my rod lifted high, a couple of times he neared the surface and I got a glimpse of a sizable silver flank. He must have seen me because he made one of those final, and definite lunges towards the deep, I ran out of rod, and he was off.....gutted....again. I lost what could have been my biggest ever Grayling.

I made a few more casts in the same spot and took two or three average sized Grayling, casting towards the bank and drifting the nymph slowly downstream. I turned round and faced up stream and made a cast right up the middle, dropping my flies towards the foam, midstream. The second they hit the drink there was a huge splash and an immediate wollop on the rod. He didn't like what was happening and fired upstream, I was desperate to keep him on given my mishap with the Grayling, so remained calm and kept him under pressure until I finally brought him to the net. He'd taken the dry Balloon Caddis and was a good pound and a half in weight. I was delighted....but gutted as I had forgotten my camera again! (The pics on this post have been very kindly donated by one Mr G Fishcake of Cheddleton, who arrived a little later!)

I made my way slowly upstream, a step or two then cast, another step then cast. The rises became fewer just after midday but they were still plentiful as Gary arrived and dropped into the river where I had began earlier in the day. Gary is one of the best anglers I've ever met, and as usual, he started to take fish immediately, from a swim that another large fisherman had just waltzed through with all the elegance of a Sherman Tank.

As I finished off in the fast water at the top of the DRAC section, I managed a couple more good sized wild Brownies and a couple more Grayling. I'd had 6 or 7 fish in 2 or 3 hours, the Brownies in particular, being some of the best fish that I've caught all season, and all looked in perfect condition.

Some times before a fishing session, for one reason or another, the angler, whilst full of confidence, doesn't feel particularly optimistic about an impending fishing session, maybe because of weather conditions, too much light, not enough light, too windy, not enough ripple, water levels too high, not enough water, etc, etc...sometimes, these turn out to be the best, expectations having been kept to a reasonable level.

A great speed fishing session, and picked up a load more tips from Gary.

Watch out monster Grayling, here I come.


Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Grayling Trail, Milldale to Dovedale with La Petomane

....The end of the trout season is here. The weather has changed. The warm evening breeze and the late evening fishing sessions are becoming a distant memory. Sitting around a smoking Kelly Kettle is no longer just a luxury, it's nearer a necessity to keep us going as the air cools and wind picks up during these autumnal evenings. The nights are drawing in will, as the saying goes, soon be Christmas.

So, it was one of the last Sundays of the season and I had finally managed to persuade my angling and dramming chum, Chris Kelting (aka Keltong) to join me on my favourite Dove. We left Chris' car at Dovedale and made our way round to Milldale, tackled up and walked down to the start of the LADFFA stretch. I'd told him that it would be much quieter at that was heaving.

Chris dropped into one of the first pools and I into one further downstream. We both hooked into Grayling in our first few casts, Chris landing 3 good fish in three minutes on the duo. The water was the lowest I have ever seen it and incredibly clear.

After a while, we made our way down to Ilam rock where we were to meet up with Matt and Glen who were making their way up from Dovedale carpark at 2pm.

A few yards upstream from the footbridge, I had been watching a massive Grayling that was just sitting in an opening in the weeds. I pointed it out to Chris and he was on it with his Klinkhammer and nymph. Chris couldn't believe how close he was getting to it without it being spooked...he also couldn't believe how the big fish was completely ignoring the fact that a wee nymph was repeatedly passing it's nose without it flinching or having a snatch at it. Please expand the pic to see the fish.

We soon met up with Matt and Glen and we decided to stop at the boards to light the Kelly and to get our snappin out. We all made our contributions to the feast. Chris produced chocolate brownies, lovingly baked by his wife Nik, Matt pulled out a huge banana loaf he had made the night before, encouraging eyes to become way bigger than bellies, I layed out a dozen or so freshly cut ham baps for all to share, and we all looked on in anticipation as to what delight Glen might have procured on which we may all hungrily feast.

A box of individually wrapped Ferrero Rocher chocolates arrived on the boards, accompanied by much merriment and mockery on our part.

"Whats up with yer, get them Rochers in yer youth, nowt up with em."

The deal at "The Spar", apparently, had been buy one, get one free, so one box stayed at home chez Pointon, and the other was before us now, embarrassed by it's edible, and considerably more impressive culinary neighbours. Nevertheless, ignoring the funny looks we were being given by passing walkers. We shared the food around and filled our bellies, and made ourselves ready for the evening of fishing ahead.

The fish were fewer than the laughs, and we spent the evening learning fishing skills from one another. finishing off our cakes and butties, and making fun of Glen's chocolates. One passing visitor, having spotted them remarked...

"Oh, Ferrero Rocher, you must be a different class of fisherman"

I remember thinking he'd hit the nail absolutely on the head!

Please expand the pic above to see Mr Pointon impersonating the windy French performer, La Petomane, much to the amusement of Matt and Chris.

In terms of amount of fish caught, this wasn't one of the seasons best, but in comedy's a cracker.

Don't worry. We returned Mr Pointon safely back to the sheltered accommodation well in time for his medication and his doze.


Friday, 25 September 2009

The Churnet at Eastwall with Fishcake 24/09/09

I've walked the Churnet valley many times. I remember the first time I saw Eastwall farm and the pond and thinking that this would be my dream place to live. Its great that now I'm a LADFFA member, I get too fish there too.

Gary and I were overdue on the fishing session front we had a chat beforehand to decide on where to go, Bentley Brook or Eastwall? We only had a couple of hours to spare so we decided to meet up at Eastwall.

We both set up on the duo...I used a big balloon caddis on the dropper and a wee pheasant tail nymph on the point, about 2 feet below the dropper.

Gary gave me plenty of tips on how to fish it...and I did find it a little tricky at first negotiating casts between the trees to get to the right spots.

Gary had a good Grayling early on and I quickly followed. I also had a nice Brownie from a spot where I was surprised to catch from...these being the sorts of spots Gary encourages you to look out for.

There has been a bit of talk of late on the Fly Forums that Eastwall has not been fishing too well. Gary and Alex had a go at it a few days ago and caught quite a few good fish between them, just like we had today....the fishing looks more than fine to me.

Just as we were about to leave, Gary said that he wanted to try a few casts in a pool where he had dropped a big fish on the previous Sunday. He had a couple of casts and the fish was on. It gave him a right old scrap on his light tackle.

I couldn't believe the size of this was at least twice as big as it seems in the picture...if you know what I mean...It's mouth was just like a Salmon's.

I'll definitely be visiting Eastwall during the winter for the Grayling...especially when the bulls have been sheltered.

Thanks again for all the help Gary.

A great afternoon's angling.