With the end of the season in sight me and James decided to treat ourselves to a day off work and a trip to the Test Valley. The grayling challenges had been met, time for a relaxing day's fishing - no targets except to enjoy ourselves. And this time we were joined by James Senior.
While Senior and Junior targeted grayling I targeted pike but due to the rain over the past few days I couldn't see the fish well enough to stalk them in the slightly murky water, and as I soon found out fishing blind meant the trout would get there first. I landed 4 trout to about 4lb on sprats, and many more sprats were nicked or shredded - about midmorning I gave up.
I set up the stick float on the pin and went chasing ladies, which was the right move - landing a couple of dozen of them over the next few hours. I weighed the best three, 1lb 13½oz above...
A 1lb 12oz grayling above, while James was handy to take a photo...
And a 1lb 15½oz fish above, really wish this one had had a bigger breakfast!
By the afternoon both James' had beat their grayling PBs, blog details here, and despite the lack of pike it was a great day all round. Then, out-of-the-blue I caught a 14oz roach - might not sound like much but it was my biggest roach for a long time, I'd found a challenge - I wanted a pounder!
I stuck it out in the swim, reasoning where there is one there will be more. And almost had my chance loosing one that looked a stocky pound. As the sun set and I was down to my last cast I got one! Hours of trotting under the same tree and I beat my 18 year old PB, a 1lb 12oz beautiful roach was in the net - brilliant!
A new PB each, what a trip, and what a roach. Again thanks to Chris and the guys - tonight I dream of Roach!!
Well after 22 barbel sessions without a blank it had to happen sooner or later - I haven't blanked for barbel since June, so I can't really complain. I did have my chances, loosing two barbel, one of them right at the net - in the end I had to settle for a consolation chub.
The afternoon was spent trying to find a pike in a local pond - not even a run. To be fair I'm not sure there are any pike in there, it may just be a fools errand... But I'll give it a few more tries...
I could tell as soon as I arrived the gudgeon wouldn't want to play today, the water was high and grey - but I still gave it 2 hours spread over three swims for one missed bite. I did bring the rolling gear and hoped a barbel would save the morning.
I tried half a dozen swims without a touch, it's difficult if you can't see them. But first cast in a fast run was nailed. Great fight in the fast water and a 4lb 7oz barbel was in the net. Where there is one there are often more so I returned the fish a few yards downstream and let the swim settle for 15-20 minutes before lobbing out another bit of meat...
Nailed straight away, another great fight and a second 4lb 7oz barbel was in the net. Or was it? Both exactly the same weight, both had a bump on their dorsal fin. I've caught the same pike twice in one session several times, and on one occasion in consecutive casts - but I thought barbel were smarter than that.
Camera phone photos on the bank were inconclusive, but I was pretty sure it was the same fish - I even text James. Photos side-by-side on the computer revealed they were different fish, it was just a glitch in the Matrix.
With horrible water conditions and a couple bonus of barbel on the scorecard I headed for home, working it out on the train - the total for the season is 297lb 2oz, I need a 2lb 14oz barbel to hit my target - just under a month to go...
After last week's grayling trip there was only one place we wanted to be this weekend, and this time me and James were joined by Richard. A 4am start meant we were ready at dawn, and we really hoped the sequel would be as good as the first visit.
Both James and Richard were soon into the grayling but I struggled with the trout, watching them in the water the grayling were quickly bullied out of the way - frustrating stuff.
We spread out and after a couple of hours, and only one small grayling, my struggle was interrupted by a phone call - James had landed a two pounder just downstream. I shot down for photo duties and to admire a stunning fish, a two is rare on this stretch - but I still wanted one.
James was stalking individual fish in the slower paced water with far fewer trout, and I was soon following suit. It worked, a lot of searching but I started getting a few grayling on the bank, including two over a pound, 1lb 3oz (above) and 1lb 12oz (below) - great stuff!
With a few grayling on the books I set out looking for a pike, scanning the bottom with polaroids, but instead of a pike I spotted a big grayling holding station - and shot back to get the trotting gear.
I returned and it was still there and hit my maggots first trot, monster on and my knees were jelly - next problem, in the excitement I'd forgotten the landing net - but James was in earshot and was soon there to net the biggest grayling we'd ever seen.
The scales rested on 2lb 1½oz! A beautiful old warrior, new PB and a fish bigger than I'd even hoped for - before seeing James' fish a few hours before.
We fished on into a day that seemed to go by in a flash, sunset was soon upon us but there were plenty of fish and more of the beautiful river had been explored. Both myself and James had a two, and although Richard didn't manage to get among the bigger grayling he did manage his first rainbow trout. Everyone had a great time.
A fantastic day - again, I'm really liking this grayling fishing and although I think that's it for this season I'd love to return when it gets cold next season. So it's a massive thanks to Chris and the guys, a brilliant sequel to last week's trip!
Yeah, like I could resist those pike! Landing my old friend, the eleven from last week and after numerous scrapes and near misses in the clear water a beautiful 5lb 0oz jack on a wobbled sprat. Taking my weight for the season to over 100lb, but I'm still going to need a few good trips if I'm going to achieve my target.
Facebook Update: Well I was after an initial target of 50 'likes' on the Jack's Pike Facebook page, and the total was over 500! So a massive thank you to everyone who liked, followed and shared. And another massive thanks to Mike Pike who published it on his fantastic Pike-In_Lens page.
Help spread the work of Jack, page is here - cheers.
A five o'clock start and a walk through the snow was the order of the day on Saturday, I soon met James and we drove south in search of grayling. An hour or so later we arrived at probably the most beautiful stretch of river that either of us had ever seen.
The river was gin-clear and averaged about 1-2 foot deep, ideal for a bit of fish-spotting and trotting with the centerpin. But it was cold, we were both going to get blue fingers today.
I started fishing a deep hole and it didn't take long to find my first grayling, a fish about 10oz, followed by my target, a 1lb 1oz grayling. My new PB which I was going to better several times during the day.
I soon discovered it was going to be easier to target the fish in the shallow runs, and easier to avoid the ever hungry trout. We moved down the river, each spot more beautiful and fishy than the last.
It wasn't easy fishing however, locating the target species without spooking them and watching the trout beat them to the bait but what a day's fishing. I managed 6 grayling over my target weight, upping my PB almost every time, 1lb 1oz, 1lb 2oz, 1lb 5oz, 1lb 11oz, 1lb 13oz and 1lb 0oz, with a few smaller ones thrown in.
James really struggled with the trout beating the grayling to the bait in the beginning, so I was delighted when I saw him sprinting round the corner with a new PB resting in the net just down stream - but I'll leave the details to his blog.
We tried to avoid the trout the best we could, but I must have landed a couple of dozen of them, out of season brown trout and a sea trout, but there were about half a dozen rainbow trout mixed in - I weighed the biggest, a new PB of 3lb 1oz, great stuff.
We both had a fantastic day, dusk came far too quickly and we really didn't want to leave. So it's a massive thank you to James for all his research and driving duties and another massive thank you to Chris for pointing us at the fish. I could have happily spent the rest of the week fishing here, even in this cold!
Well that's not quite the end of the story, with a new PB each under our belts we headed for a slower stretch where James couldn't resist targeting (and catching) a big roach, while my attention turn to pike - landing this 11lb 1oz pike on a wobbled deadbait. A real red letter day!