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 go....to 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.