Chasing the ladies to keep warm! (grayling article, entry 33)

My fishing has been limited over the last week or so due to various reasons; however with the temperatures being rock bottom it’s been much easier to swallow. Warm, mild winter periods are like windows of opportunity and I like to take full advantage of them. So with temperatures in the low singles during the day, and minus at night, it’s certainly made things much easier knowing that in reality I haven’t been missing much anyway.

However, a man can only take so much cold turkey, and by the time Thursday came round I was glad to get the car packed and head off west to tackle the River Teme. The conditions made my choice of species an easy one to make – it was grayling that I was going to target. However, at this point, if you are a purist please look away. In fact exit the site right now!

Not only was I intending to leger in pursuit of the Lady of the Stream, but I was also intending to fish with a cage feeder! However, before the jury decides to hang me as a heretic, in my defence I must add that I was intending to fish into dark and target chub. Well, that’s my excuse anyway and I’m going to stick to it!

The river itself was, as expected, at normal winter level and colour – after all, we have had no significant rainfall for a good week or so. Taking the water temperature, I was proved correct in my estimation of four degrees. Although it did dip to three while I was there, it went back up again mid-afternoon, and that’s where it stayed.

I decided to fish a big cluster of maggots in an attempt to entice a nice grayling or chub. The cage feeder enabled me to place a nice bed of crumb and dead maggots in the swim, which was six feet deep. Although I was fishing way upstream of the usual barbel haunts, there is still some deep water available. It does though, start to get shallower overall, and the stretch I was fishing has areas both up and downstream where you could literally walk across the river.

Within an hour I started to get a few taps and eventually I managed to connect with a small grayling. I’m afraid that this week there are no ‘captor plus fish’ photos to display, all fish caught can be displayed adequately in the palm of my hand! Still, I was just grateful to catch anything, given the weather conditions.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘it’s too cold to snow’? Well, I’m not sure about that, but I do know that it was freezing and by mid-afternoon, white flakes began to fall from the sky! Listening to my radio, I paid particular attention to the weather updates. There was a line from Wiltshire to North Wales whereby everything to the west appeared to be receiving heavy snowfalls. Fortunately it wasn’t due to hit my part of the Midlands much later in the evening so I carried on fishing in peace.

I added another couple of Ladies before darkness fell – both marginally larger than the first one. I have fished the stretch before and haven’t caught a fish over 1lb, most of them being, in fact, below the half-pound mark. Still, I just count myself fortunate to have reasonable access to grayling where I live, as they are one fish that you can really count on when the temperature falls to rock bottom.

As the sun set, it really did become cold. In fact I entered into a mental battle with my body. My mind said ‘stay’ but my toes said ‘go home’. I’ve tried everything over the years, from neoprene to specialised socks, but still my feet remain the weak spot as far as the cold is concerned. On this occasion I kept my toes on the move, jiggling them around within my boots in the desperate attempt to generate some heat.

But eventually I yielded to the weather and packed away, with my car on the horizon offering some respite from the weather. The very first thing I did was to get the engine going, so that by the time I started the journey home, the car would be warm. Even though I had the heater on full, it was only when I was within five miles of Sedgley that I actually felt de-frosted.

My wife thinks I am mad wanting to fish in weather like this, perhaps she is right! However, I know that I am not alone and that regardless of my sanity, I know that I share this state of mind with countless thousands of other like-minded nutters!

On a final note, I added a couple more species of birds to my tick list for the year. A Chaffinch and a Dipper took my tally to thirty-nine. If you follow my angling journal regularly you will know that this year I want to see how many different species of birds I can spot whilst actually fishing. I’m hoping to reach one hundred, and only time will tell.

(Originally published February 2004)