Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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In the ancient kingdom

Sunday, 12 February 2017 at 19:02

Ancient law An ancient right allowed us to fish in the heart of an ancient kingdom. It was bitterly cold. I doubt we released more than a couple of handfuls of grayling between us, and they were mostly smaller fish (6-10oz.). Dog-walkers, ball-throwers and fire-eaters went past (fine, I'm joking about the ball-walkers). At its glorious zenith the thermometer reached a magnificent 4C and there was a sneaping downstream wind which chilled fingers, hands....chilled everything. Yet in the shelter of the bank a willow was putting out catkins, there were snowdrops in stream-side gardens and a grey wagtail was busy over the shallows. It wasn't spring, or anything like it, but it could pass for the near end of winter in the ancient kingdom made of fish.

Not quite Graham

Sunday, 12 February 2017 at 18:14

February grayling I don't think I've ever seen an unlovely grayling, but the fish we caught today seemed somehow bleached, enervated and lustreless. If I didn't know better I'd say the poor things were simply...cold.

The first blackbird of spring

Friday, 10 February 2017 at 09:03

Robin Yes, I know. It's a robin: an Alternative Fact.

A week ago I heard a blackbird try out a few very tentative notes in a bitter smear of dawn. I didn't get a good look at the bird and didn't record the song. Yet this morning, in a dawn equally bitter, a blackbird was singing. It, too, was an uncertain song - like a Grade II pianist repeatedly halting over a difficult treble phrase. Yet a blackbird it undoubtedly was, and it won't be too long before we hear the full, magnificent, blood-throated chorus. Meanwhile the evenings are slowly lightening and the coarse fishing season is meandering towards its end in mud and mishaps. Perhaps there'll still be time to catch a grayling or two, or a decent chub, or a big pike, before the lure boxes, the bait tubs and maggot-bags are put away. But then - oh yes, then - it'll be time for trout fishing, and a different angling season will spill away in all its wonderful concentric circles of synchronicity and hope. And before we know it, the bass, too, will be back in the estuary and the dace shoals lying restless on the river shallows.

A christening

Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 17:19

5g softbait I wrote last week that I hoped to bring a further report of Heron and possibly its christening. The rod was duly christened today on a pike of around 7lb., and I released another jack of 4lb., losing a third after a minute or two. This makes it sound easier than it was. Two hours with tandem spinners brought no takes whatsoever; the pike simply wouldn't look at a lure moving at any speed. I changed to a tiny (6cm long) softbait on a 5g jig hook and twitched that scrap of mobile rubber as slowly as possible along the bottom. That worked the oracle. The rod performed well, too, so I was pleased - and even more pleased that when the fitful sun shone the air, for a moment or two at least, smelt more like very early spring than dead of winter.

January pike

Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 17:17

About 7lbs. One of two fish this afternoon. This one was around 7lb. and in good nick.

The Heron - and the Curse of the Early Fish

Saturday, 21 January 2017 at 17:42

The Heron There's something right about rivers and cane rods. It's partly nostalgia, partly a wish to support British rod-makers, partly practicality and partly aesthetics. For some specific purposes I love using cane. Recently I acquired an 8' cane rod for work with perch and modest pike. Called 'The Heron', it was made by Redditch-based craftsman Ryan Burns. The rod is light, balances well with a fixed-spool reel and has a lovely through action. I wish I could report that the rod was christened on its maiden outing, but unfortunately Heron was Cursed by the Early Fish. I moved a small pike five minutes after beginning - a handsome jack of around 5lb. - but afterwards, couldn't buy a take. (The bitter weather isn't helping any forms of angling in the east of England at present, I suspect.) Yet Heron promises well and I hope to write a fuller report before season's end.

A murky Itchen day

Sunday, 8 January 2017 at 13:55

Howard on the Itchen Overnight rain meant the Itchen was carrying extra colour. Although Howard caught a few in the morning it was only around lunchtime, when the main river had started to clear and when the light was at its most intense (although 'intense' is a misnomer given the murkiness of the day), that we began to pick up grayling in numbers, finding one shoal in very shallow water in a crease no more than a foot or two from the bank. It was then, and only then, that we picked up satisfying numbers of grayling - fish of much better than average quality, with plenty of pounders and one or two nudging 1┬Żlb. Red maggots, and later on, a grain of sweetcorn, worked well on 2lb. hook-links. For ninety minutes the Jolly Green Giant had a bit of a field-day, but as the colour drained out of the afternoon the grayling turned quiet, too.

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