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.