The Benefit of a Local Fishing Guide

The local knowledge of a water is invaluable in most cases and can make all the difference between success or failure. In effect having someone guide you acts as a bit of a short cut with you avoiding the need to explore a water and build up a knowledge of swims, times, best tactics, tackle and bait etc.

Last year I had a couple of successful trips to the River Chew, near Bristol. My fishing buddy, Jason had been catching quite a variety of species including barbel, trout and grayling. I joined him for a couple of sessions on the Chew and managed to catch my first ever barbel. Nothing big, but a new species at that time all the same. Whilst I did manage to catch barbel last year, the grayling was another species that has always eluded me, and at the start of this year was one of my main goals.

This weekend’s trip highlighted the benefit of having someone familiar with the water you’re fishing, showing you around. Jason had been exploring the upper reaches of the River Chew with some success this year and discovered a few locations where he was confident in catching grayling. Needless to say, the prospect was too tempting to resist, and we met up with the principle goal being to find a grayling or two.

We were going to be float fishing with maggots for the fish today, travelling light and hopping between various swims. The dense undergrowth and tree cover that greeted us proved that the minimalist approach was definitely the right way to go. Grayling on a fly rod would have to wait. The River Chew is a delightfully wild and overgrown river in places and you can very quickly forget you’re only a short distance from Bristol. The river varies in depth from shallow fast runs where you can stand in wellies to deeper sections which might be too much even for chest waders.

The first swim was fished by standing in the stream and trotting a float down with the flow. I fished with double maggot on a size 16 hook set only just over a foot deep. It was quite difficult fishing with the bankside vegetation closing in over the river. There were numerous bites straight from the off and frustratingly it took me a while to get my eye in, with me missing lots of bites and bumping off a good few fish too, before the first, a trout, came to the net. A couple more trout and several small chub followed whilst Jason patiently and very gentlemanly watched on, giving me free rein. A solid resistance on the line signalled a better fish and my first ever grayling gave it’s all in the current to try to get away. It was such a relief when the net slid under the fish I have to say!

2016-07-31 River Chew 1st Grayling blog

It was to be the only grayling we saw that day, but was well worth it. The fact that it came from a swim that I probably wouldn’t have fished in a million years on my own just reinforced the value of having someone showing you where to fish.

We fished a couple of other lovely swims in the section of river, and had more trout, chub, roach and some monster gudgeon! I’ve always liked gudgeon – they always bring a smile to my face but to catch them at this size was another highlight of my day. Not very often you see them quite so fat – I had to check twice to make sure they weren’t small barbel.

With time running out, we headed downstream to the ‘Mill Stream’ section of the river where we hoped to find a few barbel where we’d had them in the past. We did try several swims with Jason consistently catching trout – and some of them were a good size too. I on the other had struggled to catch, and the barbel eluded both of us. Small chub and minnows made up the numbers on this section.

Not looking forward to the long drive home, I threw in the towel, said my goodbyes and drove home happy. I was absolutely delighted to catch my first grayling, and had a thoroughly enjoyable days fishing. It’s so much fun to travel light with just one rod exploring a new river never knowing quite what you’re going to hook next. Really must return again soon.  Just need to find the time now.


Carp Bonanza on the Fly Rod

This weekend saw some of the years warmest weather so far and it seemed rude to ignore the opportunity to sneak out for an hour or two with the fly rod. I headed out to Newcourt Barton ponds and took my eldest daughter with me to act as official photographer. As it turned out on the day, it wasn’t just her taking the photos.

We’ve fished Newcourt Barton ponds a few times in the past and had some nice fish from here on the fly rod. There are 4 ponds, mainly stocked with carp, although the first pond when you enter is supposedly a tench and skimmer pond. Given the great weather we were surprised to only find one other angler on fishing – always nice as e’d pretty much have the pick of the swims. Rhianna and I parked up near the 2nd pond when we arrived and could see a couple of nice sized carp cruising the surface as we set up the rod. The trip was all about catching fish, rather than worrying about catching them on ‘natural’ flies only, so we went straight to the dog biscuit imitation fly. In this instance I used one I’d tied myself so I wasn’t initially that confident it would do the trick.

We lose fed a half dozen dog biscuits at a time and eventually the fish started taking the free offerings with confidence. When I introduced my fly it wasn’t long before it was taken without hesitation.  I was using my #7 rod and a floating line with a 7lb tippet. The rather scruffy, self tied fly was tied on a meaty size 10 barbless carp hook so on the snag free pond I had very little to worry about. Even so the fish wasn’t to be beaten that easily and really put up a scrap. The end result being a beautifully conditioned carp of around 7lb.

2016-07-16 Newcourt Barton 4893

After the commotion of this first fish, we struggled to get the fish to fed again and It was only by casting right against the overhanging vegetation on the island in the pond that I managed to tempt another fish – this time smaller at around the 4lb mark. No more fish were forthcoming after this so we switched to one of the other ponds.

It was only a matter of seconds after throwing in a half dozen lose fed offerings in our new swim before the place seemed to come alive with fish. we lose fed a little more and the fish were really going for it, often competing with each other for the dog biscuits. Needless to say, the fish came fast and furious from this point onwards. Over the course of the next hour we had another 10 fish – mostly around the 4 – 5lb mark. Rhianna caught 2 fish which was a major milestone for her as she usually uses a pole. This time, she had her first go with a fishing rod, cast out herself, hooked and played the fish all by herself with my role limited to landing and unhooking the fish. Definitely a proud daddy moment! The smile on her face said it all. Think she would of stayed there all night catching fish but my arm was aching from the action so we called it a day.

What a great session though! Caught lots of fish on my self tied fly. Rhianna caught her first fish all by herself on a fly rod – and a nice fish at that. What better way is there to spend a summer afternoon?

Uptiding at Minehead

Sunday saw Mike and myself heading out of Minehead for this month’s boat trip. As usual we both fished two uptide rods each, and were hoping for some decent numbers of smoothhound given the time of year.

The smoothhound just weren’t around in any numbers and we only had a few between us. I did catch a nice pair of small-eyed ray, whilst Mike caught a mid double figure blonde ray. The ray all came to either sandeel or herring. The usual hordes of dogfish were present as to be expected and I gave up counting after I’d had approaching 30 by myself.

Self Drive Boats at Beer.

A day off mid week gave me and Maria the opportunity to grab a few hours fishing whilst the kids were at school. Not often we get to go out together so we thought we’d treat ourselves to taking one of the self drive boats out from Beer.

Mike and I usually fish for the Black Bream out of Beer during September and October, when we go out with one of the professional skippers but today Maria and I decided to try out the self drives. These go out off the beach and can be taken out at whatever time of the day suits, for as long as you like, with you paying when you come back in. Boat trips from Beer aren’t tide dependant and you can go out whatever state of the tide. The only real limiting factor is the wind – a lively southerly wind prevents the boats being launched or recovered from the beach.

We arrived hoping for flat calm conditions and were slightly disappointed to find a gentle southerly breezy, not enough to super the fishing but enough to make it a little choppy, especially in the little boats. The self-drive boats are sturdy and very sea worthy wooden boats with inboard engines, easy to operate and perfectly adequate for inshore fishing. With just the two of us onboard we weren’t short on space.

On arrival, we heard from the locals that not much had been caught over recent days and that the mackerel weren’t around in any numbers. We were planning on drifting for plaice but had been unable to get any ragworm from any of the local tackle shops so had to make do with frozen black lug instead. We did try one rod baited with lug just trickling along the bottom whilst we had another rod rigged up with feathers for mackerel. There was very little in the way of tide and what there was, was going against the wind so that the boat hardly moved at all – not very satisfactory when hoping to drift for plaice..

Maria got first honours with a few chunky mackerel which gave us hope of a productive day ahead. It wasn’t to be however, and we struggled for the next 2 and a half hours to eek out a dozen mackerel between us, before Maria won the day with a baby gurnard. Given the conditions we didn’t feel like persevering and called it a day before too long.

2016-07-07 Beer Mackerel

2016-07-07 Beer Marias Gurnard

Still – whilst not being terribly productive, it was a good fun trip and something that the girls would love to do if it was calmer. One to remember for the future.!