Flying through January

For the first time in years, despite being what normally feels like a really long month, January has flown by. It’s been a real mix of weather that’s meant the fishing has been really varied and it’s had a little bit of everything. 

Slipping back into the last days of December, and looking for that post-Christmas fresh air, fishing mate, Mike and I grabbed a window between the storms and headed out in search of Grayling. The river was far from ideal and still carrying a lot of water but it was at least dropping rather than rising. The Tamar is a long way from classic chalk streams like the Test where the water runs crystal clear but there’s grayling in there and the chance to get the centre pin reel out for some proper trotting meant we’d ignore the fact the water was more akin to the Bristol Channel and Cod fishing conditions. 

As we always do, we have it our best shot and ran the floats through and water that looked reasonably settled, which wasn’t much. The first run is one I’ve fished before, again in less than favourable conditions but it just looks like the one. Yet again though it didn’t produce so off we set feeding maggots and steering loafer floats through the heavy water. I do love river fishing as every 50 paces you can find such a different challenge to fish. We nearly walked past a little slack that was no more 18 inches deep but I had to go back for a quick cast. 

First run through and putting the float just on the quiet side of the crease to float dipped with just a fraction more conviction than if the bulk shot had clipped the bottom, enough to make me strike anyway. I still get that childish buzz when a strike is met by that lively sensation of a real live fish on the end of the line. This particular fish was a huge four inches long and as many ounces but in the circumstances, against the odd it felt like a huge result. We celebrated in style with Mike’s Kelly kettle brewed coffee and a fine pasty. 

We fished on but the next approaching storm was really taking hold. It was gusting to gale force when we finished a short time later and any control of the floats through the difficult water was all but impossible. With a fish in the bag we stomped back to the car and as we left the heavens opened. We’d found a weather in the window and caught a grayling against the odds, that’ll do for us! 

The weather then turned cold and unusually for this part of the world, some lakes even froze over. No problem for us, we’ll just go sea fishing instead. In recent years we’ve seen a return of the traditional winter mackerel around Cornwall. We can’t catch one for life nor money in the summer but they’re abundant in winter. Wanting to catch some mackerel to make some shark fishing chum for the summer I decided to take the boys on the boat. The plan was get our, catch a box of mackerel and hopefully see the dolphins that stay the winter in the Fal. Easy on paper but with the weather so cold keeping the boys warm would be the hard bit. 

Dressed in 17 layers we made our way out. I learned the hard way when taking my kid fishing that clothes, food and drink is way more important than rods and reels. With the boat to sort as well I did wonder, “is it worth it?”.  But they won’t remember going to the park for the rest of their lives but a first encounter with dolphins, that’s memorable. 

We head for the deep channels and started watching the sounder for signs of life. Five minutes in a bingo, dolphins dead ahead! A pod of around 12 were rolling ahead casually. They weren’t in the mood to play and we kept our distance but at only 15-20 metered away the boys had no trouble spotting them and squealing every time they surfaced. Worth the effort? You get! 

We then found the mackerel just as the boys were getting cold. Strings of mackerel warned them up and although it wasn’t fast and furious we got enough chum in the freezer for a couple of days’ shark fishing in the summer. 

With the cold dry weather the rivers were in good condition so I had a crack at the Cod. They’d been a few around but no great numbers, enough to warrant an effort though. If not had the big beach casting gear out for ages. The line on the reels was shot so digging through the supplies is put something together that would be ok, but not exactly ideal. With a load of lug worm and squid I gave it ago. 

It’s been years since I wound up a telegraph pole if a rod with a six ounce lead on the end. The first couple of casts were a bit tentative but with confidence growing I enjoyed loading up a couple of big casts. The whiting soon came out to play but there was no sign of a cod. If I’m honest, it was more fun launching the leads than it was winding in the whiting on those big rods. It was good to be out catching a few but it’s not my favourite form of fishing. Perhaps if I swap those whiting for a confer of a Huss, it might be a bit more fun. 

Back on the freshwater, I got the feeder rods and maggots out (so different to the big beach casters!) and enjoyed a couple of evening in search of big roach. There’s no denying, a sheltered lake is easy and continent fishing. They might not be easy to catch but you do at least know the fish are in there, unless the cormorants have had them…

I am still hoping to catch a winter mullet and have had a look for them, and found them. But I’ve yet to catch one. I’ve only ever caught mullet by float fishing and perhaps more important, during daylight hours. With daylight hours in winter being rather limited the challenge is to mean how to catch them using feeder fishing tactics, in the dark. It’s not exactly ground breaking but it’s new for me and it’s something new to learn. When I’m float fishing for mullet, feeding is key to catching. In daylight you can typically see what’s happening, how many fish are or are not in front of you and how they are responding to the feed. You can then adjust what you’re doing to try enduce a bite. In the dark it’s completely different. Are the fish even there? Are they feeding? It’s a new challenge and that’s what keeps it interesting. 

The weather now is very mild again and reasonably dry. With the evenings starting to draw out and the birds starting to sing again, thoughts are carp won’t be too far away but for now another month of roach and hopefully that night time winter mullet. 

Winter Roach fishing with The School of Fish