Catch and Release net you say! 30 Sept 2014

This is a little bit of a blog entry coupled with a review of my latest acquisition. I am a sucker for new tackle and my garage is a testament to all the stuff I have bought over the years. When I told my wife I was going to buy a new landing net and after she picked herself up and asked why I needed another net and what was wrong with the six I had already. I sheepishly explained that this was a new concept in landing nets and how it would benefit the fish’s welfare…….and that’s when I got the sigh and whatever sign. The net is made by Glen Pointon and a professional seamstress. I had seen pictures of the net on Facebook and really liked the look of it. What appealed to me most was the ability to keep fish comfortable while you sort yourself out and get the camera ready. Several times in the past I have released good fish before I got what I wanted from the camera, wrong setting, angle ect. With this new net I would be able to keep the fish in a comfortable state while I faffed with the camera. I also watched a short video reviewing the net, where the angler rested his rod on the net freeing up both hands without having to wade to the bank, genius! So I was sold, got in touch with Glen and placed my order.

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The net arrived the next week and my first impressions were it looked bulky and heavy. This was not the case though
the net felt light in the hand and there were loops to connect the magnet for hanging off your back. Having been a master tailor in a previous life I looked over the stitching with a critical eye. It had been extremely well done nice neat lines and a quality thread used for the purpose. Glen has incorporated a neat logo with his name and an outline picture of a Grayling which looks very professional. The handle is a soft foam affair which allows a good grip even when wet. The net cost £95.00 delivered and comes with a no quibble guarantee from Glen, so a fairly expensive piece of kit. Would it be worth the cash, I would need to go to a place where I knew it would be well used, where else than the Wiltshire Avon. Prior to even seeing the net I had arranged a day with Richard Thorpe who is the Chairman of Army Angling (Game) and an all-round good egg who has sorted out fishing for me on more than one occasion. Richard has only taken up river fishing in the last few years and is keen as mustard. Having the Avon on your doorstep is a big help and several of his friends also river fish. We had mutually agreed to meet up at Charlie Crossing having had such great success on my last visit.

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We were meeting at 0900hrs and the sun was already burning through the morning mist. I would not have been surprised to have seen a Mayfly flutter by, but this was the very last day of September! The weather this month has been freakish and better than some August weather that I can recall in recent years. Even at this early hour fly life was prolific and varied, Richard offered to show me a bit of the river I had yet to see, how I could refuse. We marched off downstream until the Graveyard was in sight as we walked we marvelled at the number of fish in the river, spotting some better than average Grayling in the mix. We walked until we reached the bottom of the beat. Richard stopping just short to allow me some water below him about fifty yards of what looked like prime water. I tackled up with my tried and tested Mary nymph and got into the water, immediately spooking a large shoal of Grayling, bugger! What I really like about Grayling is their forgiving nature and after standing still for ten minutes they soon came back on station. They were however still a bit spooky and my first efforts were largely ignored.

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You know how superstitious anglers are, I am no different. Armed with my lucky pants, socks, shirt and hat how could I
fail? Was this untested net going to be unlucky? I need not have worried after slowly getting into position the fish started to come. Not big to start with but reasonable on a 2# rod. The net was brilliant, being able to stick my rod on top of the net and have two hands free to release the fish and slip it back into the river, just perfect! After netting a few fish I thought I would try a couple of pictures. So the first good fish that came to the net I carefully unhooked the fish without moving my feet and placed it back in the floating net. I now had time to ensure the camera was on the right setting and the lens was clean. I was always pretty happy with my pictures from the Lumix, but conscious that I had to be quick to get the fish back in the river. Now I had the luxury of a little more time I think the imagery has improved. Once the fish is released you can recover the rod from the floating platform and carry on fishing. You have not disturbed the water by moving to the bankside and can carry on fishing where you stand. As the day progressed I soon found myself not reattaching the net to my back. I simply let it float beside me in the water and when required I simply slipped it under the oncoming fish. So was it worth the money, to me the answer is yes. I fish a lot and I enjoy taking pictures of the fish I catch. But uppermost in my mind is the welfare of the fish and I think that this net and the use of barbless hooks ensure that the fish have the best chance to recover. I can whole heartedly recommend this net for the serious angler it is a well thought out and innovative product and Glen Pointing should be applauded for bringing it to market.

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Anyway to the rest of the days fishing, having taken around 15 fish in fairly short order and a good mix of brown and grayling I had reached the section Richard had started at. I hopped out the river, actually that’s not quite true, I dragged my fat arse up the side of quite a high banking and was grateful that no one was around to witness the clumsy extraction. I wandered up the bank and was startled when Richard broke the silence he had taken my words on stealth to a new level and was secreted into the bushes in the river. He had managed a few fish to dry and nymph and exclaimed that there were a few fish in front of him. I moved low up the bank so as not to disturb him, as I moved to cross a bridge 50meters upstream I saw a huge grayling who dropped back under the bridge. I was surprised that it did not bolt for cover, the small nymph I had would not reach the depth so a quick change to something with a bit more weight. I had got onto my knees at this point and after several unsuccessful attempts to get the nymph in the fishes path I finally watched as it engulfed the fly. I lifted and I was into a huge fish, it fought like a demon. Of course I did never really believe that I would catch the fish and was now at a loss as to where I would land the fish. High banks on both sides and no easy access in sight! I decided to slide down the bank into the water and hope that my feet would hit the bottom before I felt the cold water trickle in over my waders. With more luck than judgement  my feet hit bottom and I managed to coax the fish into the waiting net. Bonza!!! It was a cracker only a little smaller than my PB from the Avon, I was well chuffed. Richard had now joined me and we walked past some slow deep runs until we reached another likely looking spot. Richard moved upstream a little and I again slipped into the water from a high bank. I noticed some grayling taking of the surface and it wasn’t long before they began to visit the new net in turn. I noticed a large rise in my peripheral vision and immediately switched in mid cast to the area. I was rewarded when the water exploded in front of me and a lively brown trout hurtled of downstream stripping line from my reel. My heart in my mouth I started to regain control of the fish and after a short but eventful fight I had the biggest brownie I had taken from the Avon at a little under 3.5lb. I again extracted myself from the river and wandered up to find Richard. He had found a nice pod of grayling and was picking away at them. I got in about fifty yards up just in front of another pod, I had taken three or four when my belly reminded me it was time to eat.

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Richard and I wandered up to the car for a sandwich and a brew and discussed the mornings extraordinary sport. Perhaps it was the mild weather that was causing the fish to feed so hard prior to the onset of winter. I don’t know if the truth be told I was just very grateful. In the afternoon we were going to move upstream, I had already worked out a couple of marks from my previous trip that I was keen to revisit. My favourite run of this bit of the river looked good if a little shy of water. I could see several fish rising across the pool but was a little dismayed to have my offering rejected time after time. I tried going small at #22 I tried going bigger at #14 and all the bits and bobs in-between. Eventually after a good half hour I had managed one small brownie and a similar sized grayling, disappointing. I moved up to the fallen tree where on the previous visit I had spotted several fish. This time I waded across to the other bank and put myself in a good casting position. I could see the fish rising around me but could not tempt even one, it was all going wrong! After the legendary morning the afternoon was proving a little more challenging. I picked up the odd fish here and there until I arrived at the large weir pool by the cottage. Always good for a few fish, quack quack oops! Nothing not even an offer. I decided to move above the weir to my last bastion of hope to save the afternoon session, time was wearing on. First cast a 40 plus Grayling, super. I am pleased to say the grayling was not alone and several of her mates joined in as well. Another bumper session on the Avon, many thanks to my host Richard Thorpe ( the flies will be forthcoming soon ).


My next trip to the river will be Broadlands and I can hardly wait…….there be monsters in that river!