River of gold…

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Having spent yesterday in the pouring rain under Paynes Grey clouds today started with a crips chill to the air, frost on the rooftops under a clear blue sky.

It was also a day of drying out everything, sorting out tackle bags and replacing a tyre on the car which suffered from a sharp stone piercing the tread so deeply it caused a puncture.

I thought I may get an hour or so by the river using up the remaining bait from yesterday targeting the fine river roach and dace which seem to be prolific on the tidal Thames but that was not to be, however when watching the tide late in the afternoon I was witness to the river taking on the most fabulous colour of the sky which turned it into a river of molten gold.

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Let it rain…

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After what has been a long dry summer the rain fell heavily all day. We had chosen to venture down to the River Itchen once again in pursuit of Grayling known as the ‘Lady Of The Stream’, however she was elusive on this wet November day. Young Tales has spoken about it all week, there was in fact no let up in his focus to go Grayling fishing this weekend. The rain could be heard on the skylight in the hallway just before first light and confirmed the forecast by the Met Office, that it would rain all day. Undeterred and dressed for the occasion Young a Tales and I bid farewell to Mrs Tales taking to the road in the sliver arrow which was packed to the gunnels with tackle, bags, waders, coats and a light lunch. We arrived at the stretch of water at just before 10am, tackled up and walked along the riverside path, watching the water carefully for any signs of a rise of fish laying in the crystal clear water of this iconic Hampshire chalkstream. The river was flowing quickly, the surface broken by the rain drops, these being different to the ripple of a rising fish. There were a few fish moving on the far bank where the gardens of some substantial riverside houses swept down to the river, their manicured lawns still a vivid green in the murky morning light. We took a vintage float rod, Avon and stick floats paired to a Young’s Avon Center pin plus a small 7ft fly rod and old Hardy Marquis reel and a box of Grayling flies comprising of PTN nymphs, red tags, spiders, woven nymph and shrimp patterns. It wasn’t long before Young Tales was into a fish, it took quite close to the bank but wasn’t the quarry we were after, it was a small Salmon Parr, beautifully marked and in prime condition. I actually hate it when we hook one of these as I dread harming them during the unhooking process as these juvenile fish tend to take the bait or nymph deep down, even with barbless hooks it’s difficult to unhook them. After several casts Young Tales had work his way through the species list, two Salmon Parr, one Sea-Trout and one juvenile Brown Trout, alas no Grayling. The hours passed by. Young Tales’s idol was racing towards another World Championship, yet focused on the job in hand he was determined to net a a Grayling. Much like Hamilton’s team mate somethings elude you, Rosberg was to miss the opportunity of the World Title and for Tales the catch record was not to note a Grayling. There is still plenty of time this winter to net one of these splendid pewter coloured fish. Hopefully on a clear dry frosty December day over the next few weekends or over the Christmas break we’ll be able to note a Grayling on the fishing record for this season.

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You vote….

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Recently a friend of mine ask me to recommend a centre pin reel for float fishing for grayling, my instant response was to recommend a narrow drum Speedia. I did however consider a JW Young Trudex or Hardy Conquest but it was a Speedia that I felt most comfortable with.

In light of the rapid increase in prices of vintage centre pin reels where a good quality Speedia will set you back over £100-150, a Rapidex £65-85 and a Trudex in the region of £100 -130, Aerials in the region of £100-190, k. Dowlings & Sons in the region of £90 to a Hardy Conquest, Triumph or Wallis topping out at over £180. So the choice is endless, just depends on how much you want to spend but for my money you can’t beat the WR Speedia.

One interesting contemporary alternative is the Marco Cortesi a very underrated reel that for the money will out perform reels costing well over £100, there is one currently on eBay for less than a pint of beer!

If you are looking to acquire a vintage reel then try Mr Andrews of Andrews of Arcadia who stalls out in Spitalfields Market on a Thursday from the hours of 6.30-3pm.

So I’ve decided to open up the debate to readers of my blog. What centre pin reel do you take trotting?

My other favourite float reel is the Abu 1044 or 706, as closed faced they are brilliant when fishing in windy conditions.

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Hidden treasure….

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Found on the outskirts of the City at a car boot sale not far from the Fullers Brewery a hoard of fishing items, these vintage floats, plummet and a Wheatley Silmalloy Fly Box were buried under piles of household cast-offs, fabric and bric-a-brac. These vintage angling items will see the light of day and will be used once again.

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Speedia, Trudex or Rapidex

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Recently I have noticed the prices of Speedia reels are changing hands from £99 to a staggering £200 on a well known on line auction site, the question I would ask is why so much?

There has always been a centre pin craze focused around good quality reels and namely the Allcock Aerial where a reasonable reel would set you back £150-200 with the odd one found at auction for £100 but to find the average price of a Speedia exceeding £100 surprises me.

For years I have fished with a narrow drum Speedia or my trusted JW Young’s Trudex but again the Trudex is changing hands at £180 for a clean wobble free reel, so where are prices going? One thing for sure you can pick up a clean Rapidex for £55, still a very usable and capable reel.

I guess I do have to question why such high prices, it’s not for rarity as they are often found at tackle fairs and appear on eBay, at least half a dozen are up for sale each week, so is it that the average angler wants to fish with vintage tackle to capture the nostalgia of childhood memories or is it that modern reels just don’t live up to expectation.

For me you just can’t beat the timelessness of an old British reel and its ‘click click’ sound, like a vintage car there is something that draws you in…but at what price?

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Hibernot….

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It feels like a 24hr fishathon, this time last night we were heading back up the M3 from another outing to fish the River Itchen, the only thing we caught were two small fish however at dusk we saw two large sea-trout and one salmon resting in the margins. What is memorable is the atmosphere, a light mist coming off the meadow, cows silhouetted against the backdrop of trees and a bird of prey circling high above, the river flowed like a stream of indigo dye and starlings formed patterns in the sky as they twist and turned forming patterns in the sky, the evening light fell away and we packed the car to head home. Joining the red snake of tail-lights on the motorway I said to young Tales that we would try again the following day but instead of targeting grayling we would try and catch a good perch.

As daylight broke I put all the tackle in the hallway as young Tales slept. The clocks had gone back an hour so it was much lighter at 6.30am. Before we headed off fishing later in the morning the House of Tales took a brisk walk along to tow path, something we hadn’t all done together for a while. Herons stood on guard in their grey tunics as they watched for small bait fish, mitten crabs and shrimps in the outflow steams and pools left by the outgoing tide. After a good hour we had done a circuit via the Wetland Centre and then stopped off at Sonny’s Kitchen to reward ourselves with a light breakfast before the final leg home to pack the car and head of to Lower Sunbury.

Close to the Lawns at Lower Sunbury we set up on our usual swim in order to target a few autumn Thames perch. With the water flowing with a little colour we decided to float fish but this turned out to unproductive so we switched our set up and attached a small Kammasan Black Cap feeder after a couple of casts this was met with a favourable response as a couple of small dace took the maggots offered on a small size 18 barbless hook. A good cast to the far bank under a tree with deep aubergine coloured leaves resulted in a fine Thames perch, a real little fighter and in top condition came to the net, for young Tales there was a brief level of excitement but he was keen to catch his own. Cast after cast he managed to catch another dace but still not the perch he was so keen to catch, frustration soon led to tears, was this just tiredness, a lack of sustenance or the fact that Percy the perch was shy of making his acquaintance. For young Tales it had been a busy day, two fishing forays in as many days, no hibernating on dark autumn days but more memories.

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And the runner up is ……

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I’ve been totally out fished this season by my young son affectionately known as Young Taleshe’s caught the most and the largest fish. Although I’ve been out a few more times and caught fish on most outings I don ‘t count the small perch, dace, roach and other sea fish in the tally.

Yesterday there was a small window of opportunity to head back down to the Itchen and to catch up with my old fishing companion Shaun. We’ve been fishing together for nearly three decades, mostly trout fishing and when time and conditions allowed spent the odd autumn day grayling fishing. It just so happened that we’d both taken the Monday off to do some general maintenance on our properties. Shaun was in the middle of fitting out his bathroom in his cottage near Bentley and I’ve been busy painting the the inside of the house, however the temptation of such a warm and clear day got the better of us so we downed tools and agreed to meet up mid morning for a couple of hours on the river.

The conditions were good although the river was still flowing quickly and with a bit of colour from some overnight rain. There was a slight breeze that put some ripple on the open water and to our surprise we were pretty well the only people out fishing. Most of the river on the spot we fish is lined by trees with the occasional stretch of open pasture that leads to the river where it is lined with bank-side vegetation. There are several small tributaries that run into the main river and it passes underneath a couple of bridges the there are some deep pools that hold fish.

We’d been fishing for a couple of hours and without success. The only other fisherman seen out on the river had caught a couple of small sea trout, a roach and a healthy sized perch. He was fishing an area of slack water in between some trees and having to cast to the far bank with a feeder full of maggots. Walking further downstream we came across a deep pool and started to fish. Casting out a small Avon float and suspended below were two red maggots. As the float bobbed its way in the swirling current it momentarily dipped either from snagging the bottom or from smaller fish chasing the bait. Time and time again I ran the float down the swim in search of a larger fish that were clearly their as they would tease us by surfacing causing a big swirl as they would take the odd fly from the surface, possibly a sea trout as they were clearly running the river in good numbers. After several casts in search of grayling the only taker was a small sea trout that upon being hooked jumped out of the water several times before gracefully gliding into the net, this was a pleasant way to end a day out and some consolation after having been witness to my sons achievements of Sunday.

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A Lower Itchen Sea-trout.

A cry for help….

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The weather was unseasonably warm, broken cloud gave way to intermittent sun, red kites took to the skies gliding on the thermals and cows grazed in the lowland pastures. Every now and again the peacefulness of the Hampshire countryside would be broken by the buzz or roar of the planes taking off from Southampton Airport, we were on this day fishing a free stretch of the River Itchen in search of ‘the lady of the stream’, the grayling.

Having watched the weather forecast all week the conditions seemed favourable however the overnight rain would impact on our fishing. After the hour or so drive from South West London we arrived by the River Itchen at just after 10.30am. The rods were put together and appropriate reels in order to float fish using maggots as bait.

There were several people already on the water, it ran clear if not a little too fast so fishing wasn’t going to be easy. Having spoken to a couple of local fisherman they mentioned that there was a good run of sea-trout so there was the likelihood that one of these fish may also take the bait. As the hours past the only bend in the top of the rods came from the bunches of weed that made its way downstream with the flotilla of autumn leaves. Every now and again we would see a fish rise in a swirl of water, the rippling water fading out as the current dispersed the rings.

I had found myself a small opening on the riverbank, I placed the old Efgeeco tackle box on the muddy bank and set up the rod on the rest and watched the tip. Gazing across the meadow I was aware the young Tales was doing his own thing, now a competent fisher I left him to fish on his own, always mindful of the dangers of any river he was safe enough and within constant watching distance. Young Tales would now and again shout out “dad, there’s a big fish”…was this just the eagerness to catch something, could he see the trout running through the weeds or was it his imagination. It wasn’t long before I heard another shout, this time, “dad, I’ve got a fish!”, I glanced to the right to see his rod bent right over and Young Tales hanging on for dear life, what on earth had he hooked. I rapidly made my way to him, net in hand and when I got to him he said, “it’s huge!” Looking over the bank down to the water sure enough there was a large mass of Silver and dark grey swirling around in the water. I needed to look twice, it wasn’t a sea-trout but a salmon he had hooked. I could only deduce this from the prominent ‘kype’ on the lower jaw. Clearly a large male fish. It ran and thrashed about for some time as Young Tales held on. I told him to walk back and keep his rod up in the air so I could lean down and get the net beneath it in order to land it. Well this was more than we had bargained for, a sea-trout was one thing but a salmon was a surprise. Once netted and on the bank we carefully unhooked it, took the trophy photograph and then returned the fish to the water.

I’m so proud of my Young Tales. He’s out-fished me all season and good for him. To see the excitement in his eyes and to know that memory will last a lifetime is worth every minute of taking him to the river. .

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Tempted by Mrs Simpson…oh yes!

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In much the same way as Edward VIII could not resist Wallis Simpson neither could I pass up the opportunity to add two more Mrs Simpson flies when presented in a vintage Dickson & Son Inc Alex Martin tin on the stand of Mr John Andrews of Andrews of Arcadia at Spitalfields Market.

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Mrs Simpson…

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In this mornings post a letter from York had enclosed in it a packet of deadly Mr Simpson lures. Like the lady herself these are dressed to deceive. These sculpin imitations are ideal for predatory fish such as perch.

I will head out later with a light #3-4 7ft rod in order to catch Edward the perch.

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