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.

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Beat 19 (Druxton), River Tamar

Fished Beat 19 (Druxton) of the Westcountry Angling Passport scheme near Launceston midweek. Great to be out fishing rather than in work. The weather was perfect but the river was quite fast and coloured with not much sign of fish rising. Only had 2 trout rise to take dry flies which I missed, and also hooked and lost a very small one. No interest from the fish at all on any nymphs or wet flies and certainly no sign of any grayling that I’d been secretly hoping for.

Being the first time I’d fished this river I really have nothing to compare it against but I’m assuming it’s not usually as coloured as I found it. Whilst the river was generally comfortably wadeable, there were a few deeper sections that given the fact I couldn’t see the bottom to tell how deep it was, I decided not to brave.

The river was picturesque and peaceful enough that I would consider returning – but overall I finished the day feeling less than satisfied with my efforts and had that nagging feeling I could of enjoyed myself more elsewhere. Maybe that’s not a fair assessment of this charming water and maybe the next time I visit will be a different story….

Brown Trout on Ham Mill, Beat 22

Having had some recent success with Brown Trout from the River Dart my appetite for small stream fishing for wild brownies had been wetted of late, so being ever on the look out for new venues to explore I set my sights on one of the Westcountry Angling Passport Scheme waters near Launceston. I settled on beat 22 – Ham Mill on the River Ottery – being a suitably picturesque spot with not only trout present but the possibility of Grayling. Grayling is a species I’ve never fished for and never caught so was to be the days ultimate quarry.

The River Ottery and Ham Mill is a cracking little river. Amazingly picturesque and peaceful. The water on the day was running reasonably clear and for the most part around knee deep with the odd deeper section. In a few places I found myself in waist deep water so would certainly recommend chest waders for this particular venue.

River Ottery, Ham Mill Beat 22

Peering over the edge of the bridge near where you park, I could see a grayling below straight away. Alway promising! After tackling up and getting down to the water, I started to work my way upstream towards the bridge where I my mind, a hungry grayling awaited. Alas, it wasn’t to be quite so easy and no suicidal near ravenous fish of any description seemed to be present. That’s not to say there weren’t fish feeding because there was loads of activity further upstream with fish rising. But no matter how carefully I waded the activity was always further upstream…

Eventually after trying various dry flies and nymphs, I had a result with a tiny beaded nymph below an indicator cast into a section of fast flowing water. As soon as the fly had touched the water, the indicator shot under and a quick lift of the rod meet with a feisty little fish. Disaster struck however just as I reached for the net – a stunning little grayling slipped the hook!! many, many choice words were spoken at that point!!!

Nevermind, where there’s one there’s bound to be more.. Not! I only had two further bites, and those were on dry flies, both of which brought beautifully marked brown trout, which whilst magnificently pristine fish, were not the greatly desired grayling.

Brown Trout, River Ottery.

In the end it was the River Ottery’s hungry brown trout that made the day. Neither of them big but both supremely energetic. A small brown dry fly cast into a riffle proved their undoing. Not a very technical description of a fly which undoubtedly has a name, but then hey – I’m a sea fisherman….

Dry Fly