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!
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.