Justin Grapes - The Highs & Lows

I can remember having a conversation with good friend Darryn before Christmas about needing more rain to fill the rivers up, but now I wish it would give it a rest; since Christmas it’s either been flooded, or as soon as it starts to fine down it’s back in flood again. This isn’t the best for catching chub, but I was still going to get out when I could.

My next trip to the river was on a Saturday, and Darryn and myself had planned to fish a stretch which is mostly very hard and full of crayfish. The river had started to drop from a couple of days before, and was still carrying a bit of colour, but we would give it a go anyway. We made our way to the top of the stretch, but on the way there is a small ditch which you have to cross; one of the floods had flipped over the bridge, and it was laying in the water. Me being Bear Grylls, I was first to give it a go, and, as I jumped from the wood to the bank I knew I wasn’t going to make it - and I didn’t; my right leg sunk into the ice cold muddy water. I threw my rod out of the way, and tried to scramble my way out by grabbing lumps of grass and mud. After I had dragged myself out, and Darryn had stopped laughing, I sloshed my way to the top of the stretch, planning to fish the whole length of the mile stretch as we went.

I dropped into a swim which had a slack just off the main flow, which was a bit too strong for the chub. As I set up in the swim I had a good feeling about it, and cast just into the slack water and sat back to see if there was anything about. Lo and behold, I had a bite within 5 minutes of casting out, and after the initial shock of getting a bite on this stretch, I struck into a hard fighting chub; it tried to do anything to get me snagged up but after a few minutes I scooped the chub, and half the bank, into the net . After clearing out half a ton of dead rushes and weed there at the bottom of the net was a chub, not massive but very welcome. After telling Darryn the joyous news, we continued down the stretch, fishing every fishy looking spot after fishy looking spot but to no avail. As it got dark we called it a day, and hoped that the river would drop a little so we could have a go the next evening. The next evening saw more rain, and it looked like there would be enough to push the river over its banks again and make it unfishable for a few days.

My next fishing was back to the perch in my lunch time, which had been up and down. I’ve found that there are a few conditions where I would be more confident catching, and at the start of the week the flood water was making its way down river and it was starting to colour up, which I like when using the Ned rig.

I always start my lunch break by checking the colour of the water, and then choosing the colour and type of lure. I don’t pretend to be an expert at lure fishing; it’s all trial and error and learn as you go for me . With it being so coloured I normally go for the Ned rig with an orange and green lure and a 4g jighead. I’ve found that the slower you can twitch it back, the better the results, and when the colour is falling out then a heavier snap back works better. I don’t tend to catch loads on the Ned rig, but they do seem to be a lot bigger fish.

I normally aim for an area where it’s a bit shallower and there are still some dead weed beds , but yet again it depends on air pressure as to where the fish are in the water column, so if it’s high pressure I tend to go for either drop shot or jig fishing in the deeper water or around boats; yet again it’s a decision I have to make quickly at the start of my lunch break. As I cast about the area I wasn’t getting much action or taps on the rod tip, so I moved to a deeper area,and started to get some interest; on changing the colour of the lure to a yellow and green Ned I had a hit, and on striking it felt like a good perch, with lots of head shaking. As it popped out of the coloured water it looked a nice fish. It came to the net easily in the end and looked like a perch of around 2lb+, and I’ve got to be honest, I still love catching perch of all sizes and a 2lb+ perch is still a big fish in my book. One fish of that size made my lunch break and gave me confidence for the rest of the week.

Unfortunately the rest of the week was slow, with a few small perch and pike being landed. I did have another fish over 2lb at the end of the week and it has got to be one of the best marked perch I’ve seen, with dark green flanks and jet black stripes and those unmistakable blood red fins.

With the rivers being out of sorts during the week , it was lucky that, when the weekend came around, the river had dropped enough to give it a go again. I met up with Darryn again at first light, and the conditions were better, but with the chance of rain later in the day. The colour had dropped out more than we thought it would have but there was still a strong pace in the flow.

After an early success in the first swim with a chub of 4lb 15oz, which looked like a young fish and one for the future, for the next few swims I had no action, and it wasn’t until a change of area that I had my next bite and fish; this time it was a smaller chub, in the 3lb bracket but very welcome all the same. With the rain now starting I moved to the last swim.

I had only fished this swim once before, with no action, but it looked like it should produce fish, as it had a lot of features.

The first cast at the head of the swim produced a bite straight away and again, like the last fish, it was a smaller fish. Shortly after I was joined by good friend Glen, who had been fishing up stream, and as we were having a chat I had a bite, which I missed. Luckily the next cast hit the same spot and after a few minutes I had the same outcome, and another missed bite. One good thing about it was I was at least hitting the same spot with the casts, even if I was not hitting the tentative bites. With the pressure of having Glen watching me miss two bites, I made another cast and luckily it hit the same spot again, and again, after a few minutes, I had another bite, but this time thank god I connected with what felt like a good fish. After a spirited fight I landed what looked like a nice size chub . After a quick weigh and a couple of pics I returned my 5lb1oz prize.

After that, enough was enough with the weather, and I called it a day.

The start of the next week in my lunch time fishing fix started slowly again, with a few small perch and the odd jack pike. Later in the week the conditions were more favourable, and I did manage another two pound perch on the Ned again, and it gave me the right run about; with a course for work being planned for the start of the next week, it would be the last fish for a few days.

I did manage a few hours with good friend Robin on the river after a pike or two, but to no avail, despite our best efforts; it was still good to have a catch up, though. While I was away on my course in Poole in Dorset I did travel past some stunning rivers like the Stour, Test, Avon and Blackwater, and I did say to myself that I should make the effort and travel down that way and have a go in the future.

When I got back to work on the Friday I did get out on my lunch break and wet a line, and again I was lucky enough to catch a nice perch around the 2lb mark, another one with stunning colouration.

Yet again on the Thursday and the Friday we had rain, and again enough to put the rivers into flood, so we made plans to go to Bawburgh lakes for the morning after the pike. To cut a short story even shorter, we both blanked and left for home by 12 oclock. The rest of the weekend the rivers were still dirty brown and high, so I decided to leave the rivers until the middle of the next week.

When I got back to work on the Monday I could see as I parked up at work that the river had a lot of colour coming down, so it would make it tough going at lunch time but in saying that I have done okay on the Ned rig when it’s been coloured, so I was confident I might get some action. As normal I was relieved when the lunch time hooter went, and I rushed to the van to get a rod and net, etc. Most of that lunch break was many uneventful but with a couple of taps I thought there might be something about, so I slowed the retrieve down even more and just tried to flick the lure a inch at a time and leave it a couple of seconds in between; as I had soaked the lures in Nightcrawler oil ( which is a worm extract ) I was confident that, even if they didn’t see the lure, they would smell it.

It was getting close to the end of my lunch break when I had a solid thump on the line, then another twitch, so I struck, and immediately I knew it was a good perch;I didn’t know how big until it popped to the surface out of the gloomy water and I saw this monster perch looking back at me; at that point I started to panic as I could see the lure hanging on by a thread. “Please stay on, please stay on“; after a few heart stopping seconds it was in the net and it looked huge to me . “That must be my PB “; as I looked at this monster perch in the net I couldn't believe how fat it was and the shoulders of the fish were nothing like what I had seen before , even in my previous PB. Then I noticed that the hook had fallen out in the net, which was lucky, so I secured the fish in the net, and rang up work mate Gareth to see if he could come over and take some pictures for me . I ran back to the van to get the mat, sling, and scales to see what this beast would weigh. As I got back, Gareth arrived at the same time. I got everything ready, then zeroed the sling on the scales, put the fish in the sling, lifted my prize, and waited for the scales to latch onto the weigh. After a couple of seconds it settled and I was gobsmacked to see it settle on 3lb 15oz. I wasn’t expecting it to be so close to 4lb and I was over the moon to say the least.

With the lunch period being over, Gareth took loads of quick pictures and I returned my new PB back to its home to fight another day.

I was buzzing for a few days, as the perch was one of the species that I wanted to up my PB on for a long time, and I hope in the future to bag myself a 4lb + perch, as they are such impressive creatures. Whether this fish liked the lure or just liked me tickling it, I don't know, but amazingly I caught the same fish three days later but at two ounces lighter.

I did take a couple of pictures just to make sure it was the same fish; when I looked back at the two pictures it was definately the same fish.

My next fishing was that evening, and a trip to the Wensum after work was planned . It was a cold night, and by the end of the short session the rings in my quiver tip rod were icing over, but I did manage a 5lb2oz chub which came out of the blue from a swim which doesn’t normally produce. On getting back to the van and seeing it was -2c, it was no wonder I couldn’t get my landing net pole to retract until I wrapped my hands around the joint. By this time there were forecasts saying that Norfolk was going to be hit by the Beast from the East, so after a bit of a lie in on the Saturday morning, I made my way to a cold River Wensum to see if there were any chub biting. To be honest when I got out of the wind and into the sun it felt really nice but when I fished the open swims it was raw and I didn’t give them too long . With the river levels and flow back to normal I felt if I could find the areas the chub were sitting in I would catch, and after dropping into a swim I had caught from before, I flicked a piece of cheesepaste out under a far margin bush; after a few minutes I had a bite, and on hooking the fish it ripped off down stream and took some line, so I know it was a good fish. It was a dirty fighter, trying to snag me up at every opportunity, but after a cracking fight a good sized chub was in the net. As I lifted the net she looked a long fish but with not much depth, so it was difficult to guess a weight. I got the sling ready and she went 5lb14oz which was a bit bigger than I anticipated.

This was my biggest from this stretch so after a few self takes she was returned safe and sound. I did manage another smaller chub but with the big girl I was well chuffed at my efforts. So as I’m writing this now and the Beast from the East has hit us with a good covering of snow , I’m not holding out much hope for the last few days of the river season, as when all this snow melts and takes the salt off the roads, etc, and loads of ice cold water floods into the rivers, I think it will be tough to even get a bite, or even get near the river. But I will keep my fingers crossed, as next week the temperatures are meant to hit around 8c in the day, so there might be a glimmer of hope. I’ve got my fingers crossed for everyone that we get a few opportunitys before the close.

Till the next blog tightlines.

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