Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman

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Robbie Northman

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A pretty trout for Rob on a small crayfish imitation

Lure fishing for Trout: Day 2

THE LURE DAY

In last week’s blog I wrote about catching up with Rob and Sam for some lure vs fly action. The fly paved the way to a fantastic day’s fishing, but I was still hungry to have a go with the lures. So we set out on Day 2, with the goal of solely lure fishing for these magnificent spotted rockets.

After a morning searching out fresh venues, we decided to finish the afternoon back at the spot from Day 1, eager to get on the water, having seen some great fish follow on the first day.

I left my fly rod in the car to focus on lure fishing. The three of us went straight in with our previous top tactic. Fishing with the tiny Savage Mayfly Nymph on one gram jig heads. A slow start with the micro lures, just a few lazy follows. So we decided to switch it up and find the right tactic. I continued with the Mayfly while Rob and Sam tried the bigger crankbaits and soft plastics that we had struggled with the first day. Suddenly it happened! It was like a light had switched on as I hooked into my first fish of the day. Rob and Sam were also in! A triple hook-up, chaos erupted on the bank, and soon we landed three quality brown trout. We slipped them back, hopeful of a bigger fish, and continued fishing. The finesse approach soon dried up for me, meanwhile the twins were getting lots of follows and action on the larger lures. I decided to switch it up, rigging up with a 7.2cm Craft Shad on a 2.5g jig head. I fished the larger lure through the swim much faster, allowing it to pause occasionally between bursts of speed. Whack! The tip slammed around, and I was into another nice brown. Charging with lots of short fast runs until it reached the net. The next hour in the swim was just as hectic. I managed to lose a few and witnessed the twins land a few more. At one point Rob was getting teased by a quality brown around 4lb. After missing the lure, it became a frequent follower, unfortunately not willing to commit to a take, definitely one for a more subtle fly approach. The fish had become cautious, it was time to change area.


A decent trout on the PVC Mayfly for me

The twins got in on the action too

BRIDGE PRODUCES

After walking the banks we came to a bridge, the perfect hiding spot for a large trout or two. The twins took that spot, both banking cracking browns around the 5lb mark. Meanwhile, I disappeared off downstream to a wide, slow, area that looked perfect for a decent trout. I cast my lure downstream, working the near bank flow line. This time I slowed my retrieve down in the slightly faster current, allowing the lure to sink down before winding in slow and steady. I felt a tap and carried on with the retrieve. Suddenly, the tip jerked round, I had set the hook into a powerful fish. An epic fight followed as the fish took line while performing an acrobatic display. My ultralight rod was bent double and I had very little control. I followed the fish downstream as it thrashed at the surface, deciding to net it where there was less flow. A beautiful trout, smaller than the others, but featuring defined sharp markings, possibly one of the wild residents. Either way I was thrilled. After the excitement I sat back and watched the twins fish for the final half hour or so.


A belter for Sam on a 7cm shad

An unusual looking fish for me on the Craft Shad. This one gave a brilliant fight

Having mainly fly fished for trout, lure fishing was a learning curve. I was eager to try some of the retrieval techniques that had worked with lures and translate them to streamer fishing. Hopefully this would fire up the trout back home, and get me closer to beating my PB. Trout are extremely fun to fish for on light tackle. Lure fishing is inexpensive and a great way to experience the species. It also opens up a lot of water that isn’t suitable for fly fishing, granting access to locations many wouldn’t attempt to fish. Below I’ve added a brief piece about tackle and lures, hopefully helpful if you want to have a go yourself.

TROUT LURE FISHING KIT

Rods, reels and lines


Ideally for trout, rods in the 1-5g range are perfect. A 2-10g model may be ideal for snaggy rivers, larger lures and big trout. 6-7ft long is ideal and a softer action is preferable. Trout have very bony mouths and love to jump, a softer action will help retain hook holds. Spinning set-ups, using fixed spool reels are perfect for all scenarios. Many enthusiasts enjoy fishing with finesse bait casting set-ups. They can be heaps of fun to fish with. Often they’re paired with even shorter rods in the 4-5ft range. The drawback, a good quality set-up is considerably more expensive than its fixed spool counterpart. Line choice really depends on the venue, lure weight, and size of fish. Some anglers fish incredibly light. But for most situations 6lb mono or fluorocarbon will work a treat. Braided mainline in similar strengths works perfectly, when paired with a fluorocarbon hook length.

The lures

Many styles of lure can be used for trout. Spinners, micro spoons and crankbaits. These can really provoke reaction bites with lots of flash and vibration. Modern soft plastics can imitate almost any kind of moving prey. Working lures upstream and flashing them through the current proved extremely effective, while downstream fishing performed well in slower areas. You can really vary the retrieves – a faster steady retrieve will work sometimes, while on other occasions simply bouncing the bottom is more than enough. Trout have amazing eyesight and can easily pick out prey. However, trout are delicate, and for best catch and release it’s important to consider swapping out treble hooks for small singles. Keep handling time to a minimum, and where possible handle them in the water, or with wet hands, as their protective slime coat is extremely delicate.

  • Trout fishing bye-laws vary from region to region. Some areas open in March, while others start in April, and not every region allows the use of lures. It’s always important to check, to ensure you’re safe and legal on the bank.
  • Whether you use fly, lure, or both, it’s a fantastic way to stay connected with nature, and get out on some of the UK’s beautiful streams and rivers during the coarse close season, and throughout the summer months.

A mix of trout lures

Trebles vs singles
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liphook

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That's a sea trout there I'd say! You might want to up your rod licence to one that covers the migratory fish!!!
 

grayson

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Unmistakeably a sea trout - 'unusual looking '?? . And much as I love lure fishing for perch and pike. fly fishing is so much more fun for trout . The huge explosion in lure fishing has , sadly, created a whole bunch of new anglers who have the sexy gear but not much clue how to use it - and their impact on some of my local waters has been pretty dire . Double check if you can lure fish at all , and not just the byelaws, but with the club that owns the fishing rights . You'd get pretty short shrift on some waters chucking a spikey shad around ....
 
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Robbie Northman

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A pretty wild brown trout

Luring Trout with Streamers

Faced with Arctic weather and very poor hatches, I decided to go big this year for trout. Fishing with streamers for an early season giant was my plan. To improve my streamer fishing I went South, catching up with friends and learning about lure fishing for trout. Trout fishing with lures has helped better my understanding of the types of movement, speed and patterns that trout respond to. Now armed with fresh ideas, I set out with the fly rod back home.

THE HUNT BEGINS

I recently gained access to very inaccessible section of chalk stream. Deep, slow and overgrown, access from the bank would be impossible. I decided to tackle it from the water, going afloat in my kayak. Fly fishing from a kayak would prove challenging. I even managed to snap a rod navigating through dense brush. I was beginning to question my idea, feeling like an idiot as I paddled back to the car for a second set-up. Deflated but undeterred I carried on, carefully paddling through the stretch. Suddenly, I spooked two big browns. I knew I was in the right area so I stopped, took an hour’s breather, and waited for my opportunity.

An observation I made when lure fishing, was that lures fished upstream had a far more successful catch and hook-up ratio. In a deep, fast river this it would be difficult with a fly. A sinking line would be necessary, paired with the heaviest fly in my box. A big Fish-Skull Woolly Bugger. I cast the fly upstream as far as I could manage, allowed everything to sink, and then began to strip my line back fast. I wanted to maintain a constant movement in the fly, adding the occasional flick and wiggle of the rod tip to dart it through the water column. The progress was slow as I cast and worked my way quietly upstream.

Hours passed, and suddenly a take, my stripping hand jerked forwards by the force, I raised the rod as the fish tore upstream. There was little I could do but hang on as more backing released from the reel. The fight was intense, the fish bolted and jumped at every opportunity, keeping out of netting range. Eventually the fish slipped up, swimming a little too close, a well-timed jab with the net, and I sealed the deal. I was blown away by the behemoth in front of me. A trout of immense proportions, estimated somewhere around 5lb. My second biggest trout from a river. I took a very quick photo and slipped her straight back. Having fought so hard I wanted to ensure she was released with minimal fuss. I fished on a little longer before calling it day. Eager to try again.


A monster brown trout

I like to use the Rapala knot to add extra movement

THE FOLLOWING SESSIONS

Unsure if the larger fish are all well-established stockies or huge wild browns thriving out of sight, I returned to the venue. I wanted to catch more, and see just what lurked in this section. I returned a few times, finding the fishing challenging. I experimented with different styles of streamer, and even managed a few nymphing. By far the most effective colour I found was black, and they almost always preferred a quick retrieve. Fishing upstream was the only way to get close. I succeeded in tricking a few stunning wild trout, but continued to hunt for a giant. I really was in the thick of it, the most overgrown part of the section. I hadn’t yet dared to fish this part. It looked fantastic, a big hollow carved out beneath the surface, and below the roots of a willow. Prime habitat for a trout on a very bright day.

Casting was near-impossible. I crept really close, wiggled some line free, and managed a short roll cast. Seconds later I was into a powerful fish. An aerial, acrobatic display broke out, giving me a rush of adrenaline. Trout really know how to fight and they don’t give up. This one had me on the ropes, diving through tree roots and snags. I thought my chances of landing the fish were slim, eventually the fish tired and slipped in to the net. I was shaken, beaten, and in awe of the magnificent creature in front of me. A stunning, big, wild, male brown trout. I have been searching for a specimen like this for years. I slipped the fish back, relaxed for an hour to take in the experience, and thought about the journey. I was happy to end this chapter of my mission.


A truly magnificent brown

My previous lure fishing adventures had definitely helped my streamer approach, leading to some early season success. Now I’m keen to return as the weather warms and the fly hatches become more abundant. Hopefully, I can tempt a big one on the dry fly, among my days targeting bass.



STREAMER FISHING KIT

Fishing with streamers and lures is a great way to get into fly fishing on still waters and rivers. You don’t need quite the variety of flies associated with traditional styles. A handful of patterns is plenty to get started with. They are easy to cast and stronger lines will work, making mistakes far more forgiving.

The rod I was using is a 9ft #5wt Scierra Salis. It’s designed for heavy flies and big fish. I use a pretty basic Scierra Track 2 reel, it has a drag system which I prefer when using light lines. A 4 or 5wt will cover a range of venues, while being great fun for smaller wild trout. You can go lighter but may struggle with larger flies in windy conditions. Sinking lines are great for keeping lighter flies down, and are usually easier to cast.

I de-barb my flies prior to fishing with them. I find they require far less force to hook up, and are better for catch and release. Usually hook holds are great on fly rods, as they cushion so much of the strain.

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grayson

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A few comments - I am lucky to have fished a small river noted for its big wild trout for nearly twenty years. Fish have been caught to over six pounds and those have been weighed too- lots of trout anglers aren't as fussed about weights as some all rounders are Streamer fishing has its place, but if practised insensitively can be a bit shock and awe compared to more subtle tactics. Fast retrieves aren't necessary - they work , but not as well , in my experience , as fishing upstream on a dead drift, with just the occasional lift . Having done lots of invertebrate sampling I am convinced that the reason this works so well, and why black Woolly Buggers are so effective work , is that large , black leeches are so often present .

Few , if any , big wild river browns are exclusively piscivorous , unlike the monster ferox of the north. That means you can have a very good chance of catching one on conventional fly techniques , for which I use an 8ft #4 with a WF line. Reels aren't very important and I use a German Vosseler reel because it feels hewn from solid , makes a nice noise and has no clever drag system - which I don't feel adds anything to an educated finger. I don't use entirely barbless hooks on trout as when I did I lost too many which threw the hook on a leap. They can move astonishingly quickly and sometimes slack line cant be avoided for a second or two . I have caught fish to over five pounds with this set up but you do need to be adept at pre-empting where a fish will run as , just like chub , a big wildie knows every snag.

Sinking lines ? I really can't see the need on any small river and floaters are also easier to cast in my experience .

The cream of wild trout fishing is stalking a big wild fish located in a tricky spot (for example where drag is a problem ) and when it is taking fly on or just under the surface . It is nail biting , thrilling and hugely rewarding - and heart breaking . I can still see the fish I lost five years ago - a huge wildie I'd estimate at a big six or even seven pounds. Leader frayed on a sunken snag after five minutes .
 
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Robbie Northman

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Blame it on the weather

A BASS FISHING FAIL

Last week we were bombarded with high wind, snow, rain, and everything in between, laying waste to my bass fishing plans.

At last, with the weekend approaching, the weather began to stabilize, so I decided to head to the coast. Knowing my main coastal marks would be carrying the colour of stirred-up sand and chalk, I decided to head to an early season banker spot, to focus on an estuary, targeting numbers of smaller 30 – 50cms bass. Hopefully, it would kick-start the season, boost my confidence, and put some cool new lures to the test. I expected slower-than-usual fishing, with temperatures still low and an afternoon tide, but I would be happy to get the ball rolling. Stood on the edge of a fierce tidal rip, I cast my lures through a strong headwind. My session was short, focusing on the final stage of the flood tide, when flows ease and the water clarity improves. I continued to blast soft plastics into the wind for an hour or so without a bite. Suddenly, I struck into my first fish of the day. A feisty scrapper on light tackle but no monster, at around 34cms I quickly slipped it back. Where there’s one there’s often more. I continued to cast, searching the water, now hopeful of another rod-wrenching take. After another 40 minutes of casting, I hadn’t had a bite and packed up. I left somewhat defeated, but was happy to be off the mark for 2021, a sign things will pick up soon. The following day it chucked it down – rain, sleet and hail in biblical amounts. I planned to re-visit the estuary for a dawn session the following day. I followed through with my plan and returned, as expected it was uneventful. I packed up and decided to focus on trout to salvage the day.


I was keen to get out and try the new Sandeel soft plastics

THE UK LURE SERIES

I recently joined the UK Lure Series as a fun way to have some friendly competition with other lure anglers around the UK. There are two divisions, a monthly and yearly league. The monthly taking place like a giant match across the UK on select days. To suit my time off, I chose to join the yearly league. You submit your best captures across Pike, Perch, Zander, Chub & Trout, and the winner takes a £1000 pot. It seems like a good laugh with some great guys to fish against. They allow fly fishing captures too, so I decided to spend some time putting a solid trout on board. Maybe I could redeem my poor morning’s bass fishing by upgrading my trout.

DRY FLY TIME

I arrived at the river with an amazing sight, despite the coloured floodwater there were rising trout. Hatches this year have been incredibly poor, but for the first time this season there were consistent risers. They were working the tree lines and banks. I had to find out what they were feeding on and get in on the action. I sat at the water’s edge, pond-dipping, scooping up any passing nymphs and insects I could find. The strong gusts of wind blowing across from the woodland had carried a buffet of beetles and bees, but most of all Hawthorn flies. There were hundreds. Small males and big juicy females, perfect trout snacks. A few days prior my friend Scott & I had been going shot for shot, and I’d managed a nice one on one of his home-tied Hawthorns. Still in the box, I tied it on and covered a rising fish. The line dragged and the fish rejected, spooking upstream. I sat back for 10 minutes, picking out another riser. This time the drift was perfect and the fish slurped it down. I set the hook into a quality brown, which shot towards me before tearing off downstream in the strong floodwater. I kept the pressure on and eventually netted a lovely brown trout. Not quite big enough for an upgrade, however I was thrilled to tempt one with a dry fly.


Hawthorn fly and Scott’s fly

A cracking brown on the dry fly

The weather turned again and stopped the rise in an instant. I decided to take a break and grab the streamers. An aggressive approach may pick out a much larger fish. It was slow work with poor water clarity, eventually I noticed a spot that had to be holding a trout. Brambles and overhanging branches provided perfect cover. I did a low cast, placing the fly below the branches. After a few strips of the line connected to a heavy fish. The fight stayed close quarters as the fish fought tirelessly to snag me in the edges. The hook held, I netted a fantastic trout. Unusual in appearance, very silver, perhaps due to the coloured water. A quick measure and picture then I slipped her back. A 1cm upgrade for the lure series, I’m certain I’ll need to catch one much bigger.

Spotting my first mayfly of the season while packing up, I think there’s definitely a chance of a monster or two.


Measuring a new top brown trout for the lure series

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Robbie Northman

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Carp on the Fly and Start to the Bass

STARTING THE WEEK WITH CARP ON THE FLY

With the tide times not fitting my schedule and tired of trout fishing I decided to mix things up, again!

One of the young staff at work was keen to do some fishing, so I suggested meeting at a local lake to stalk some carp. We set off for an evening on one of my local fisheries. I’ve been fishing this lake for over a decade, it’s a small fishery with an old stock of carp, running into the mid-doubles. They can be quite wary, with some of the fish being over 20yrs old, there’s plenty of young fish from successful spawning too. We arrived, to one of the first warm afternoons in a while, and to my surprise the fish were showing up in numbers. I could hear the sounds of fish picking naturals off the surface along the wind-facing bank. I snuck around with my fly rod and watched for the next fish. The carp were feeding along the undercuts of the bank, so I rigged up a foam beetle and placed a short cast. A patrolling fish moved to check out the fly but decided to leave it. I covered a few more fish with similar results. Perhaps they had suspected something was off with my presentation.

I crept a little further along the bank to a couple of overhanging bushes, and spotted a decent fish feeding in the branches. This one looked like a nice double-figure fish, so I watched and waited until it left the sanctuary of the overhangs. The opportunity arose as the fish cruised into open water. I quickly placed a cast in its estimated direction. The fish spotted the fly and carefully approached it before slurping it down. I paused for a moment, waited for the carp to turn away, and set the hook. There was a large eruption at the surface as the fish bolted back to cover. I held on, maxing the curve of the rod in an effort to slow the fish down. I could feel the line bouncing off the snags as the fish ran, taking line from the reel. It was close-quarters combat! I’d gain a few feet then lose a few, the fish stayed down deep. Suddenly, the fish would run, taking metres of line. There was little I could do. Eventually, the fish tired and I began to make progress, catching glimpses as it came close to the surface. After a few more attempts to snag me, the fish tired and I slipped the net under her.





Tackling carp on fly gear can be a ton of fun. Stalking them with natural imitations can be really challenging. Equally, getting them feeding, then using bread/mixer imitations can provide great sport. The delicate and accurate presentation can trick wary fish. Ideally a rod around #7 will give you all the power you need for carp well into double figures. A reel with a drag makes fighting them far more enjoyable. Floating lines will cover most situations.

THE BASS HAVE ARRIVED!


“A menacing coastline stirred up by recent storms”

I decided to take a trip to the coast to see if the bass were ready for action. Catch reports of quality fish to bait tactics boosted my confidence. However, after more high winds, rain and even hail, the sea was in a sorry state. I arrived at the beach to coffee-coloured water and few signs of life. It didn’t deter me, I was a man on a mission and I’ve waited long enough for the bass. I rigged up with the new V2 Sandeel and added a bit of extra flash. I knew I would have quite a brief window of opportunity on the ebb of the tide, and wasted no time covering ground. Fishing felt hopeless, I relentlessly cast my lures into the gloomy water.

I spotted a bit of break water and quickly cast to it, moments later I was in. Wow! It felt good, the head shakes and aggressive pulls of a schoolie bass. It gave a great account of itself, slipping it back, I was happy to get of the mark on open coastline. This spring the action-packed estuaries have been difficult, now it’s starting to happen. A sign of better things to come? Absolutely. The water is slowly clearing, weather fronts stabilising, the bass are here. Come rain or shine, I’m determined to find a big one. I’ll be out this week on the hunt for a bigger specimen, armed with plenty of new lures to try. I have a feeling it’s going to be a great season ahead. With the rivers now only a month from opening for coarse fishing, there’s certainly lots of angling targets on the horizon.


“Off the mark on the open coast”
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Robbie Northman

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Back to Bass

TACKLING SOME VERY MURKY WATERS

With the bass beginning to make an appearance, I decided to team up with my mate Lee Rackstraw. With two goals in mind, we wanted to get Lee’s first fish of the season ticked off the list, and in the process see if we could crack catching bass in terrible conditions.

We arrived at the coast on low tide, once again the sea was in a terrible state. A nasty shade of brown with little more than four inches of visibility in casting range. We hoped that as the tide rose and the water became deeper some of the colour would drop out, giving us a fighting chance. After days of extreme wind, it seemed unlikely to happen, but we were here and giving up doesn’t teach you a thing. Blank or succeed, fishing is a never-ending learning curve, and you only get better by pushing your boundaries and raising expectations. Bass are regularly caught on bait in similar conditions. So, with fish in the area, surely it’s just a case of being lucky enough to put a lure in front of one.

After an uneventful start, we decided to take five and think about our battle plan. Deciding that our best shot would probably come at high water, it was time to sit back, acknowledge defeat, and mess around with the lures ready for Round Two.


Lee casting his lure into a gloomy-looking surf

Edges. If I was targeting perch or pike in these conditions, I’d be looking for an edge. An extrasensory attractant. This could be scent, vibration, sound, or visual attractants. The same should apply for bass, picking the right lure colour is a great start. Bright, white and dark lures can all be effective in murky water, but on this occasion white seemed to fit the situation. The lures were fitted with rattles, so sound was ticked off the list. I went one step further with my Savage Sandeel, adding an underspin blade to bring extra visual and vibration appeal. We had two new lures to put to the test so I stuck with my favourite V2 Sandeel, while Lee rigged up the new Weedless Minnow.


Savage Minnows

Extra attraction

Round Two. As I predicted, the water clarity did improve as we drew closer to high water. Our measly inches of visibility had probably turned into a foot or so, still very murky, but I felt confident that our extra-attractive lures would produce… if we could get them near a fish. We fished hard for an hour or so, covering ground, searching for a bite.

Suddenly, I struck silver! A heavy knock on the rod coupled with the scream of drag and braid singing in the wind, this fish felt good. I kept the pressure on, gaining ground, teasing the fish towards the shore. It would run again, stripping metres of line, putting me back to square one. The fight and raw power of a bass on lure tackle is an adrenaline-pumping experience. Runs so fierce and rapid you question the limitations of your gear at every turn of the handle. I have my drag set tight to keep the maximum control on a bass that I can, braid grating over sand and stone weakens quickly.

As the fish came close to shore, I released the drag, expecting a final run for open ocean. As anticipated, the fish made a dramatic final run, tearing yards of line from the spool. I regained control, steered the fish into the shallows, and waded into the surf to net my prize. In the process, I received a face full of salty muddy water. A beautiful big bass, fresh and silver, a stunning early season fish. I grabbed a picture and quickly released her. I felt entirely content after a great fish and battle.

I sat back as Lee persevered. It wasn’t long before Lee struck silver. His rod hunched over as he gave the fish some stick in the strong current. This one gave him a run-around, I leapt into action, ready to offer my netting skills. I charged into the surf taking a few pounding waves, and focused at the ready. Up popped a bass! Not the monster we were expecting, but a highly spirited schoolie. None the less, Lee was thrilled to get off the mark, knowing there’s a season of monsters ahead. A quick picture, and this one bolted off through the surf to grow big and return one day.


Lee with a hard-earned bass

My prize

It was certainly a learning curve. Out of frustration, I fished conditions I’d usually leave alone, and water clarity poor enough to keep the beaches empty. Although my confidence in these conditions is not brilliant, feeling like we may have stuck lucky. I certainly feel confident in fishing terrible conditions.


Dry storage has been a life-saver in recent downpours
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Robbie Northman

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Magical Mayfly

MASS HATCH OPPORTUNITY

Finally, the wind has turned a 180°, temperatures have soared, and the flood water’s receding.

While I’ve been enjoying targeting bass, the change in conditions has opened up a magical fishing opportunity, one that I look forward to every year. The mayfly hatch.

Mayfly symbolise the very best of dry fly fishing. There are over 50 species in the UK, but it’s those big beautiful cream-coloured trout snacks that really get the fish going. They hatch in mass throughout May and June, creating a feeding opportunity so great even large predatory trout take up feed lines to enjoy the buffet. It’s my favourite time to tempt a belter or two. Mayfly start life hatching into a nymph from a tiny egg, the next year or two is spent feeding on the river bed, before the call to reproduce spurs them on to the next stage of their life.

Trapping air, they rise to the surface emerging into a winged insect (subimago) where they fly to the banks to dry. The mayfly moult again, shedding their dull skins for a golden cream colour (imago). They gather in large swarms to breed, and shortly after die, thus completing the life cycle. Most adult mayfly live little more than a day. Understanding the basic mayfly life cycle helps with choosing the correct fly at the right time of day. My favourite stage of the hatch is probably the spinner fall, when the mayfly, spent after breeding, float down the river in numbers, with trout queuing to mop them up.


A spent Mayfly

HEADING OUT FOR THE EVENING RISE

I arrived at the river around 5.00pm, and sat back watching and waiting for rising trout. The sun was bright and the river quiet. After an hour of observing, a few mayfly began to appear, and the occasional trout would rise. It was time to move into position. I rigged up an 8ft #4wt fly rod with a 16ft leader and tied on a pale Mayfly Dun. I spotted a fish that looked like a fun challenge, feeding under the shelter of a tree, and made a cast. I landed slightly short and received no response, so I covered the fish again with a little more range.

Perfect, a steady confident rise, and I was into my first trout of the evening. Charging for the undercuts and bankside brambles, this was a fish determined to snag me. I kept the pressure on and soon landed the fish, a lovely brown. I spotted a few more fish rising on the river, and quickly banked a couple more, both beautiful little wild browns. The action began to slow as the evening drew colder, so I watched the river for a while to pick my next target. Mayfly action can be amazing. Fish feed so aggressively on them, so providing the leader turns over nicely and there’s no line drag, you can usually secure a take from a rising fish.


A quality brown



SPINNER FALL

As evening drew closer, a few mayfly spinners started to drift past, and with them a few trout took up positions on feed lines. One fish in particular caught my attention, it looked a good size, feeding in a slack eddy. Rising every minute or so for spent mayfly in the swirling back current. I had some mayfly spinner patterns but decided on a Grey Wullf dry to resemble the overall silhouette. I crept closer and closer to the fish, ready to present a cast. Another rise, I counted down, expecting the fish to rise again soon, and placed my cast. The position was great, but fishing across the faster current my line began to drag quickly, putting the fish off as it came to investigate. Another cast and the fish rose, mouthing my fly. I struck prematurely, missing the chance, and the swim went quiet. It looked like a quality fish, so I stopped for ten minutes to let it rebuild confidence, then I would try again.

The fish began to rise again, I prepared to cast. This time, I flicked the body of the fly line upstream with a big mend hoping to counter the faster inside flow. The improved presentation worked. The fish head-and-tailed on the fly like a breaching whale, I paused for a second, then set the hook. An eruption of water as the fish bolted off, tearing upstream. I put the pressure down and turned the fish, but was faced with a new problem as it bolted towards me. Stripping line as fast as I could I managed to maintain some contact, now this was no longer an issue as the fish spotted me and bolted downstream, tearing off metres of line. I was becoming more nervous as the loops of fly line vanished, revealing more of the backing.

At this point I was beginning to win, gaining a little ground, and then losing it in short powerful runs. Eventually, the fish tired enough to glide it towards the net. I landed a very pretty, big, brown trout. Content with my catch, I slipped her back after a quick photograph. I fished on until the rises stopped and banked another quality brown, choosing to head home on a high note. Mayfly season is a crazy time of year, it’s a fortnight late for us, but awesome to see it finally arrive.


A quality brown trout
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I was thrilled with this corker

A Clearing Coastline

A new day, fresh tide, and gorgeous weather. We are back on track this year, aside from a bit of lingering May bloom, the coast is pretty clear. I received a very cool delivery this week, a rod that I’ve been wanting to get my hands on. The Savage Gear SGS8. It’s a collaborative effort between Henry Gilbey and Mads Grosell. Designed solely as a lure-launching bass machine. The most expensive lure rod Savage Gear have produced at £300, ouch. It’s a tackle tart’s dream with 1100 Toray carbon and Fuji Torzite guides. I was keen to put it through its paces, but sad to retire my trusty old Salt CCS, a reasonably-priced rod that has served me well. Softer rods can be heaps of fun for bass. Many early lure rods have softer fish playing actions that are lost on modern carbon. When range is necessary there has to be a compromise.


Nothing motivates you like new toys

I started my session covering ground, distance casting with metals. I launched them to the horizon, allowing them to sink and slowly jigged them back. Walk, cast, fish, walk, cast, fish, a man on a mission. I continued this process for about 45 minutes, and suddenly found a school of bass. Three fish in consecutive casts, fierce little fighters around 40cms. After the bites dried up, I carried on fishing and roaming for another 10 minutes or so. I felt a tap and hooked up with a small schoolie, followed shortly after by another fish. I had found good ground and decided to scale up, hoping for a larger fish.

I rigged up a 31g 13cm Sandeel Shad and cast back into the productive area. I felt a few taps from smaller fish but didn’t connect. Continuing my search for bass, I waded deeper into the surf amongst the pounding waves. Perhaps if I could gain a little range there may be a better fish behind the schoolies. My hunch proved correct, a few jigs into a long cast the tip slammed around. I was in! A much better bass. Drag-screaming runs and adrenaline-fuelled lunges followed as I fought a strong fish amongst breaking waves. I balanced the fight between dodging big breakers and playing the fish, a difficult task. The fight was ultimately won, I reached down to net the fish taking a wave to the face! The soaking didn’t matter as I had netted my prize. A beautiful bass around 6lb. An awesome fish to reward the day’s effort. Nothing that followed came close in size, but I was thrilled to experience that magical moment.


Hard lures and metals are great for searching water.
Soft plastics can pick apart a mark once fish have been located

COASTAL BASS FISHING

Tackling barren sections of coast for bass can be challenging. My go-to approach is to cover ground. The shoals can move quite fast, and surprise you when they do turn up. Long-casting metals and crankbaits are perfect for the roving approach. Once I find fish, I often like to pick apart an area with soft plastics. There are hidden features to target, and finding those can bring bonus fish. I pay attention to the birds, if I see gulls diving it’s a good indication of a baitfish shoal, hopefully, the bass aren’t far behind.

Other features are noticeable on the lowest tides. Changes in depth, contour, bottom texture, gulleys etc. It’s worth finding a reference point on shore to locate these features once submerged. Often a small feature can attract fish. Sometimes break water indicates a change of depth or contour and is well worth targeting. Looking for lines caused by current can give you an idea of where the fish may be sitting. Moving water brings a steady stream of food. There’s often much more going on than first meets the eye.


Breaking waves on freshly covered ground

ROD AND REEL

Traveling light is essential, picking a rod that covers all techniques helps. Long rods aid in casting but good balance equals comfort throughout the day. I find rods around 9ft, paired with a 4000 size reel, feel good in the hand. Casting weights around 15-40g cover most styles, but you may not get the optimum performance when fishing with lures under 30g. So, for anglers that prefer smaller hard lures and soft plastics, a rod in the 10-30g range is better suited.

I fish heavy braid. 20lb stands up to saltwater and abuse, with a matching fluorocarbon leader you can feel confident in the limitations of your gear. Knots are where most set-ups fail. I will explain the two I use to maintain maximum breaking strain with my tackle. First is the Back-to-Back Uni Knot. My favourite due to high strength. I use this to join braid to leader. I often double up on the braid to reduce wear over multiple big casts. I’m not a fan of swivels and clips, my go-to knot for attaching lures is the Non-Slip Loop. Having a loop attaching the lure improves lure movement and reduces line twist.


Non-Slip Loop. I start by tying a knot in the line…

…I pass the tag through the eye of the lure then through the knot.
I then twist four times up the line and pass back through the knot

The finished knot. There’s lots of movement,
allowing the lure to flutter and roll without line twist

Both knots adapt nicely to freshwater use and are definitely worth learning.

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A quality summer chub which took a crankbait

Chub on Lures

THE DAWN OF A NEW SEASON, GLORIOUS WEATHER, WHAT TO TARGET?

For many years now my summers have been spent burrowing through overgrown banks in search of summer chub. My favourite way to catch them – lures, topwater and crankbait. Targeting chub on light tackle with small lures is heaps of fun, they are often visible, tempting and frustrating. The gut-wrenching lows as a fish misses the lure are soon superseded by the adrenaline rush of an explosive top-water take, coupled with a ripping drag as you hold on for dear life, hoping to keep them free of the many snags. Writing this prior to opening day, my heart is pumping and I’m longing to get out on the banks and target them.


A near miss

JB gets in on the action

This week I’ll cover the techniques, tackle and lures I use to fish for chub.

THE RODS

A sensitive yet soft rod is ideal for chub fishing with lures. They can hit the lure very hard, often making big runs. A rod with a soft tip will reduce the chances of hook pulls. Rod class depends largely on the venue and size of fish. Ultra light models 1-5g, through to medium light models 5-20g, cover most scenarios and pair nicely with 10-20 size reels. I favour a longer rod, giving me a little more control when battling fish out of the close-in rafts, especially when bank fishing. My main combo is the 3-16g 8’6″ Custom Predator, paired with an Okuma Helios 30 size reel. Although it’s a very fast action and strong rod, the tip is forgiving enough to absorb the takes. I also carry a 6ft 1-8g Ultra Light. This combo’s perfect for tiny lures on small streams, and loads of fun to use.

LINE CHOICE

For me braid is the way. High tensile strength, low diameter, floating and lightweight. These factors help present small lures, while cutting through the dense weed that chub love to try and snag us in. Breaking strains fall between 6lb and 18lb depending on the job. On my heavy rod I use 17lb to cut through weed and vegetation. On the lighter combo I use 8lb, offering strength while retaining a reasonable cast. HD4 / 4 strand braids are my favourite. They hold up to abuse, but slicker 8 strands often present better. For my leader I use fluorocarbon between 6lb and 15lb, usually in a 30inch length. I often use a fine wire trace if I’m not sight fishing and where pike are present, wire doesn’t seem to put the chub off. I carry all my terminal tackle in a waterproof backpack, perfect if I decide to wade.

THE LURES

Crankbait, topwater, spinners, micro spoons and soft plastics. All of these make up my chub fishing armoury.

Crankbaits are perfect to fish through deeper runs, they bounce and deflect off gravel, giving an erratic action and strong vibration chub love. My favourite technique is to cast them upstream on a gravel run and rip them back fast. The takes are aggressive and big fish fall foul too. Crankbait fishing for chub has produced fish up to 7lb 1oz for me.


A spawning minnow and matching crankbait,
a huge food source for summer chub

Topwater fishing is my favourite method, using either micro poppers or small insect imitations. Casting them blind to cover can lure fish out, but my favourite technique is sight fishing. Creeping along the banks and targeting a specific fish can be deadly. It’s a great way to pick out the biggest fish on many venues. A few summers ago I stalked and sight fished an amazing chub at 7lb 2oz. A simple retrieve, either straight or with small twitches, often does the trick.


A colossal summer 7

The topwater crawler that tempted it

Spinners are an age-old classic, timeless and deadly to this day. They work year-round for chub. I enjoy fishing them against the current with a super-slow retrieve. They work their way into slacks and cover. I’ve often watched chub swing out of a close-in raft to engulf a spinner. Not my go-to for picking out the larger fish, but they have produced quality fish to 5lb.

Micro spoons can be deadly, particularly on fast gravels. I like to cast them upstream, fluttering and dancing them through the flow. I’ve mainly used micro spoons to target smaller chub on intimate little streams.

Finally, soft plastics. These can vary from larger imitation crayfish and fish to tiny imitation insects. Casting them into cover and jigging them back can be effective. I enjoy using tiny plastics on small 1-2g jig heads. Casting them to sighted fish and twitching them slowly can produce great takes. Jigging them back through fast is a lot of fun. Chub big and small will readily take micro plastics.

When looking for early season chub I’m searching for faster-flowing water. Often fish lay in numbers on gravel runs. Bankside rafts and large overhanging trees also hold fish. I always start on a venue downstream and fish my way up. Chub have amazing sight and easily spook if you don’t take caution.

Chub are amazing fish to target with lures. If you haven’t tried before why not have a go this summer? Prime time to catch chub on these methods is usually June 16 – late September.


A topwater chub. Sighted, stalked and caught
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A Start to the Season

June 16th came, and for the first time in years I didn’t fish! The 17th passed by too, and with it the glorious weather. Enter the 18th, my time to shine. Throughout the day we were bombarded with heavy rainfall and awful conditions. Finally, as evening drew in, the rain eased to a fine mist, and I took the opportunity to fish. Clad with waterproofs, I set off, armed with a small handful of lures and a 3-10g spinning rod.

Pleasantly surprised on arrival, the rain had not yet drained into the river, leaving me with perfect clarity. Ideal conditions for topwater lures. The lack of light would make it impossible to spot fish, so covering likely areas would be the best bet.

I rigged up with a 3.3cm black Savage Gear Cicada. I love black surface lures for chub, they stand out exceptionally well against a grey skyline. I made my first cast of the session, placing the lure alongside an overhanging bush. A few twitches of the lure, and I was in. Not the expected chub but a greedy dace. I slipped it back and cast again, a few feet of retrieve and splosh! A greedy chub had engulfed the lure, darting towards cover. I netted the fish, my first chub of the season. Not a monster, at around a pound in weight. Once you’ve pulled a fish from the swim, chub wise up quickly. It was time to move on.


You see some interesting things on the bank, like this emerged dragonfly
and empty nymph. A formidable predator to a fish fry,
he also has to evade being eaten by larger fish to reach this stage

I continued to fish for around an hour, managing a few false takes and some frustrating poor hook holds. This resulted in lost and spooked fish. I was certainly rusty, striking aggressively at any take. Something you just don’t do with chub. It’s best to maintain tension and do a small set as they begin to hook themselves. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and started to fish with a little more accuracy and finesse. I came to a fallen branch, backed up with weed creating a lovely raft. I cast my lure just upstream with a plop, and watched as two chub came racing out to get it.

The larger of the two swiped at the lure and missed it, spooking off, but the smaller fish was still searching. I quickly placed another cast intercepting the chub’s line of sight. It worked, the fish raced towards the lure and grabbed it, hooking up as it began to pull drag. A short thrashy fight followed, and I slipped the net under my first quality chub of the year, probably nudging 4lbs. I slipped the fish back, relieved after some frustratingly bad angling.


Bugs! A Salmo Lil’ Bug and Savage Gear Cicada.
The audible plop of a surface lure often grabs the attention of an opportunistic chub

I continued on, covering several more likely looking spots without a sign of fish. The light was low and I knew the next 45 minutes would be my best chance of another bite. I picked out a narrow swim where the water was faster, an overhang on either side would provide the perfect home for a chub. I made a few casts upstream without so much as a follow. Then switched and cast one downstream, allowing it to drift under the overhang, before starting my retrieve. I worked the lure with a steady crawl, allowing the wings to rock it from side to side, splashing water as it moved.

Out of the blue the surface exploded with an eruption of water, and the rod hunched around with screaming drag. I was hooked up to a better fish. I used the full curve of the rod, attempting to steer the fish away as it charged for bankside snags. I was unsuccessful. Everything went solid as the fish buried deep in the reeds. I changed the pulling angle several times, and suddenly felt the kicks of a fish on the line. I quickly grabbed the net, intercepting my prize as it made another run for cover. I had netted a quality chub, deep-flanked and broad. I gave it a quick measure at 56cms, probably in the 5s. A quick photograph, and I slipped the fish back, happy with my first session of the season.

The light was almost gone and the rain had picked up. I decided to head back to the car on a high note. Another swim caught my eye. Offering similar conditions to the last one, I had to stop for one last cast. My hunch was correct, and I watched as another nice chub bow-waved towards the lure. I hooked up! Another hard-fighting fish, I managed to keep it clear of the snags and moments later it was in the net, another fine chub nudging 4lbs. A fantastic start to the season.


My first session prize, a fantastic chub

I used the lightweight 3-10g combo for this session
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Keith M

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Robbie, your excellent series on lure fishing has sparked my interest in trying some lure fishing for Chub.

Apart from doing a bit of drop shotting with small rubber dropshot lures and some spinning with small Mepps spinners for Perch I’ve never caught or even tried for a Chub on a lure so any help would be eagerly lapped up.

I bought some small plugs many years ago (see pic) with the intention of trying them for Chub (once I had swapped the trebles for single hooks) but as you can see I still haven’t got round to doing this yet.

Have you used very small plugs such as these for chub? and if so did you find they were effective lures for Chub?
I suspect I’d be better off using rubber lures instead, however it does seem a shame to not try them.



Keith
 
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Robbie Northman

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Hi Keith, I'm glad you're enjoying the series.

Soft plastics are reliable, but those little cranks look ideal for chub. You could take off the front treble and just nip down the barbs a little on the rear ones if you're eager to give them a go. The colours look great, using a marker to darken the belly can be a good edge if they work near the surface, it casts a really strong silhouette.

Tight lines, Robbie.
 

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Thanks Robbie, I've give them a go with a little more confidence now; after I've removed the front trebles and nipped down the barbs on the rear ones. I might get a marker to darken a couple of their undersides too; like you suggested; before I try them.

I'll also try changing over to just a single rear hook on one or two of them too and see if it doesn't spoil their action a little too much; which is what I originally intended to try.

Thanks again for your help.
Tight lines, Keith
 
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grayson

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Keith _ I did a hell of a lot of lure fishing for chub in the Eighties and plugs like small Big S (were they Medium/Little S ) were very effective. I went on to learn that on my rivers, fly was even better (especially dry flies like Hoppers and lures like Woolly Buggers) and the single hook appealed .

These days I find small soft lures on light jigs most fun to use.

I'm sure Robbie has emphasised this already but if you are using lures , don't believe that nonsense some Youtube gurus spout that you can get away with flourocarbon if pike are a risk. You can sometimes , but you will not be immune from bite offs. I use knottable wire - not the godawful Drennan stuff , which kinks so easily, but the US brand , Surflon . It is pricey but superb and I have caught chub, perch, trout and ide while using it , as well as random pike - it doesn't affect lure action.
 

Keith M

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Thanks Grayson; I’ll look into the Surflon knotable trace wire; as my other choice (Wondertress) no longer incorporates any wire I’m told.

I have never seen or heard of any Pike being caught on my local stream/river; the only predators that I’ve caught there are large Perch and the very occasional trout and of course decent sized Chub; but that’s not to say for certain that there’s no Pike in there as several miles downstream where the river starts to widen and deepen there definitely are a few Pike present so I’ll not take chances.

Keith
 
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Philip

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my other choice (Wondertress) no longer incorporates any wire I’m told

It is a bit sad that they seem to have discontinued it. It did seem to anwser the supple but Pike proof conundrum .
 
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A beautiful scene on the Derwent

A Day on the Derwent

I found myself heading to the Midlands for a day’s work. Travelling to that region, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to fish, so I got in touch with my good mate Andy Buckley, a Derbyshire fly fishing guide, to see if he fancied a day’s fly fishing. Andy was fully booked, guiding for the week, but he managed to help me with a pass on the beautiful River Derwent. A river I had never fished for trout before.

I arrived at the river around 1pm, blue skies and a slight breeze made me eager to fish. The Derwent is a beautiful river, fast-flowing, stone-bottomed, with deep pools and steep banks hosting mature trees. There’s a very diverse range of habitat to target, so the first course of action was to take a long walk.

Not far from the car I spotted my first trout of the day, sheltering behind a rock under tree canopy. I decided to cover him with a small olive emerger, although this fish wasn’t rising. A few casts later, I was in. A great scrap followed, as the fish took off downstream. Unfortunately, unprepared, he slipped the hook. I carried on walking the stretch, passing beautiful pools and riffles. In the bright sunlight I hadn’t seen a fish rise, but gained an idea of the areas to target. I began my walk back up the stretch, keeping an eye on the water, suddenly, I spotted a quality wild brown sat in no more than 8 inches of glossy water. I watched as he occasionally moved for a nymph. I had to catch him!

Rather irritatingly, his line of sight blocked my entry into the river, I decided to stay low on the ground and cast from high on the bank. I tied on a size 14 jig nymph with a New Zealand indicator for reference, and made my cast. I overcast to compensate for height, and luckily got it right first time. I watched the indicator land and guessed the nymph was probably about 18 inches behind it, deflecting off the stone and gravel. The rig passed the fish perfectly. I watched as he flashed his flank and mouthed at what I assumed was my fly. I struck and chaos ensued, the trout bolted off across the shallow, almost reaching the backing. I sprang into action, sliding down the steep bank to the water below, quickly realizing I hadn’t changed into waders. Now I had to land this one!

I increased the power, trying to steer the fish away from the rapids below, succeeded, and the fish took off upstream. The battle was almost won, and after a few more runs the fish hit the net. A magnificent Derwent wild brown. A fine example of the beautiful trout the river holds. I slipped the fish back in awe, my first trout of the day would be a difficult one to top.


My prize, a beautifully marked wild brown

The small nymph I used

A little cloud cover moved over through the afternoon. The odd fish began to rise, I switched over to the tiny 7ft #2wt and decided to have some fun, tempting some beautiful wild browns on a mixture of flies from tiny size 20 tricos to size 16 emergers. It was challenging, engaging fishing, and the hours soon passed by. Time to have a break and change spots for the evening rise.


The average stamp of beautiful Derwent browns

I arrived at the new location a few hours prior to dusk. The spot was beautiful, and while there weren’t many rises, I did spot a few very tight under the overhanging trees. I crept into position and worked a few casts under the trees, picking up a nice wild brown on a small olive dun. I continued to cover the banks, and soon hooked into something much bigger. My tiny #2wt combo buckled over as the fish charged upstream, putting me on to backing. It went for every snag on the river, somehow I managed to keep it free, eventually steering the fish closer before taking a chance with the net.

I landed a cracking rainbow trout, more than likely a stocked fish from another section, but a great fish all the same. The Derwent does throw up the occasional wild rainbow, with the river Wye flowing into it the occasional juvenile washes down.


A quality rainbow on light tackle

As the light began to fade the river came alive with rising fish. There were more species of fly than I could count. Mayfly, Yellow Mays, caddis, and many varieties of olive I couldn’t see up close. Finding the right fly proved challenging, and each fish required the right choice to confidently rise. Over the next hour I managed several wild browns, and missing takes from many more. I picked one final riser to target and in the low light decided on a Mayfly spinner pattern. The choice worked and I hooked a fish. An acrobatic fight followed and the fish launched 3-4ft in the air several times. Incredible power from a trout of about 10 inches. Finally I slipped the net under my final catch of the day. A beautiful little wild rainbow trout. A great way to end my session on an amazing river.


A beautiful wild rainbow

If you enjoy your fly fishing I would highly recommend booking a day on the Derwent. I fished the Peacock at Rowsley beat, which offers both day ticked and guided days.

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grayson

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The Peacock water is indeed delightful , if ...umm .. reassuringly expensive. I fished it in the Nineties a few times and it was about 35 quid
a day , and it's now nearly double that . But I really wanted to catch a genuine wild rainbow and while the real thing was actually rather underwhelming, compared to wild browns, it was an ambition realised . My only caveat about the water was that at weekends it did sound like the Isle of Man at TT time..
 
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