Saturday, 12 November 2011

Back on the Wharfe at last! - 10th November.

Looking at the Wharfe for the first time in two months - a welcome return!

So, this week is the first time since September that I’ve had any appreciable length of time back in good old Yorkshire. I’ve been stranded in Penrith studying my forestry course, and consequently I missed out on the entire last month of the Wharfe trout season, not to mention October – my favourite month of the grayling season! In fact now that I think of it, the last time I’d even so much as set eyes on the river was way back in August, so naturally when I realised I had a reading week in which to nip home, my first thoughts weren’t of the piles of paper that needed filing or assignments in urgent need of drafting (they’re all still waiting as I write!), but of reacquainting myself properly with the river, and hopefully a few of its finned inhabitants, so yesterday morning I gathered together some gear, filled a flask and headed out into an overcast November morning.

When I reached the bankside, I was taken aback by just how much the river had changed since my previous visit. The green of summer had been replaced by the reds, browns and golds of autumn, and the great swathes of Himalayan Balsam which had towered over the footpaths were now little more than a collection of withered, anaemic stems slumped on the ground. There was a tad more water around than usual, which was carrying a tinge of colour, and I was fairly confident that with a crafty application of maggots I should be able to winkle out a fish or two.

The river carrying extra water and a tiny tinge of colour - to be expected with the time of year.

Larch (Britain's only deciduous conifer) in its striking autumn finery: things had changed since the summer!

This sycamore was displaying a range of colours too..

I found a slow, deep bend, proceeded to set up with a simple block end feeder and began to fish. I opted for bait rather than fly simply because in the colder months, standing all day up to your unmentionables in ice cold water, trying to keep your eyes trained like a hawk on your leader, watching for practically imperceptible movements, is... well, frankly the mere thought of it makes my brain hurt! However, soon I was kicking myself for my decision, as a fish were rising all over the river, and were doing so all day whilst my rod tip remained motionless! Sod’s law strikes me another monumental blow to the plums. Interestingly, whilst I sat in wait, a number of large fish flopped around the pool – rogue Salmon perhaps? I saw one last October so it’s not entirely impossible, and if they are there and breeding then all the better in my opinion. It was very pleasant indeed to sit and watch nature’s goings on whilst hoping for a bite. A kingfisher flitted its way downstream past me and then back up again, and a dipper hopped about here and there, searching the far bank shallows for food. I had one sharp knock which failed to develop into a real offer, but other than that nothing was doing whatsoever, and after a fruitless couple of hours I concluded that a hot cup of tea and a move to new pastures was in order.

The first swim of the day - fish were rising and salmon were moving, but the grayling were having none of it.

Watching the wildlife is one of the great pleasures in angling, but overfed, over confident mallards can be a royal pain in the behind!

A short walk downstream brought me to an outfall pipe flowing into the river... not the most picturesque of locations you might say, but I was confident that there would be fish lying in wait in the run below the pipe, and so I switched to a stick float setup (much more aesthetically pleasing to watch a float anyway) and began to trot the swim along the fringe of the foam line being produced by the outfall. After about five minutes my float zipped away and I connected briefly to a decent fish before we parted ways and my rig went sailing gracefully into the branches of the sycamore behind me. Bugger. No matter, as after a military style retrieval operation and some tedious untangling, I threw in a few free offerings before dropping in again. After a short while my float dipped under once more – success! Well, perhaps not depending on how you look at it, as a sprightly out of season brownie began cartwheeling around the pool in front of me. It was soon subdued, and after a brief lecture about seasonal boundaries I slipped it back. Not what I was after, but good to make a catch in order to simply keep my blood pumping!

An outfall into the river - not the prettiest spot but it draws in fish.

Swapping to the stick float.

A healthy brownie - would have been very welcome in the season!

Considering the disturbance the trout had made, I thought it best to move on once again, and so following another quick cuppa I shifted downstream to where I could see a number of fish nosing the surface. Some time passed with no response, and the temperature began to drop noticeably as the sun began rapidly to dim in the sky. Hands were starting to freeze now, and my sense of optimism was dwindling, but all at once I was reawakened by a sharp bob of my float. Taken by surprise, I inevitably panicked and struck into nothing, but next run through brought the same response, which this time I was prepared for. For a few moments I was uncertain as to what I had hooked, but then to my relief a silver flank flashed below the surface – no trout this time then! After a brief but tenacious resistance I slid the net under a lovely wee grayling of around 3/4lb. Not a huge fish, but on a chilly evening at the end of a difficult day’s fishing, it was certainly a sight for sore eyes, and I returned it to the water satisfied that my reunion with the Wharfe had been worth the wait.

Success at last with a grayling in the net.

Back it goes...