Hardly turned round from my trip to Draycote and I was off to Grafham. I am so lucky to have such an understanding wife. I had offered up a days fishing on Grafham for AT Team England thinking no one would bid, I mean I can't even get my friends to sit in a boat with me! So I was over the moon that William Sleeman had placed a bid and we had arranged to meet up at Grafham for a day afloat. At the time I had no idea that this was going to clash with the Lexus Individual (on Sunday) and the Team event (on Monday). As it was it all fell in nicely, the leg was still and is still giving me some bother and Richard Thorpe kindly came and picked me up on a Saturday morning. I always look forward to fishing Grafham in May the buzzer hatches are legendary. The weather forecast was not good though with some pretty heavy wind forecast and on the Monday rain as well.
When we got to the fishery though the weather seemed fine and the wind not so bad so we tackled up with midge tips, William who had been fishing for over thirty years on rivers was happy to set up with some buzzers. We started over to the north shore I knew it would be busy with every boat booked and a number of folks waiting to see if one would become available. The first drift towards Hill Farm was interrupted by an anchored boat which was a shame as this was to be one of the hot spots in the days to come. So we moved round into Pig Bay still fishing buzzers success came instantly as we drifted into the left hand corner. A violent take that resulted in no lock up woke me to the fish’s presence. The next cast and we were into fish, a nice stocked fish that gave a good account of itself. William had also latched onto a fish but unfortunately it did not stick. Onwards and upwards we moved round Hedge end and moved into Church Bay. The wind had started to pick up considerably by this stage and it was time to abandon the buzzers and nymphs and move onto the lures and sinkers. This was the right choice as fish started to come to the boat fairly steady as I pulled into yet another fish William also hooked a fish. Keen that he got this one to the boat I let my line go slack and concentrated on netting Williams fish. Another benefit of barbless hooks once the tension is released the fish easily come off. William played the fish with a practiced hand and after a spirited fight the fish received its last rights bound for the dinner table. I got a snap of William with his first trout from Grafham and what a great fish to kick off his account. The wind was getting continually stronger and it was near lunch time. I decided a bit of shelter in Savages would be as good a place as any so I slowly made my way up the wind. I dropped the anchor and we had twenty minutes chatting fishing and eating sandwiches. After that I went through some basic rigs for the water including the bung and showed William how I tied my dropper knots on which after a little practice he liked. A half hearted look at the July bank and with the wind calming it was time to go back to the North Shore. It did not disappoint and fished really well to lures. William had a further four fish and I had amassed a respectable total myself. The day was almost spent and we called it a day, William had a two and a half hour drive home and I had another two days fishing! I would like to think that William enjoyed his day and hopefully learned something new and useful.
The next day was the Lexus Individual, I don’t usually enter individual comps preferring the banter and comradeship of team fishing. Unfortunately due to the boats being fully booked it was the only way to get on the water. I had drawn a
young Polish lad who was a river angler over from Poland to gain experience. He arrived on the boat with very little kit and his English and my Polish did not really meet in the middle, might be a long quite day. The wind was up a bit but still very manageable, in no time at all we were on the North Shore. Already a number of anglers who had secured boats were already there and catching fish very promising. Our first drift into Pilon Point was uneventful and thoughts of a tough old day crossed my mind. Those thoughts were however ill-conceived and the next drift produced a cracking bar of silver. Proceeding drifts saw more fish come to the net Jasper was quick to follow my lead quickly changing to a faster sinking line and boobies. I reached four in the first hour and thought that this was reasonable. It was not fish soup but most drifts would produce some action for my boat partner and me. It’s worth mentioning the quality of the fish at this point. Having just come from Draycote which I thought was a bit special Grafham raised the bar further with some of the strongest fish I have come across anywhere. They were beautiful to behold bars of silvered up Polaris missiles. Several fish would just buckle the rod almost in half before taking off at high speed. They fought like a jock on the piss trying to get to the front of the queue in the kebab shop….awesome! Having picked away all day I had to build a decent bag and as luck would have it had only lost one fish thus far. Now I was on fish 13 one to come, that’s when it started a sharp take no lock up….fish on lost it. I managed not to spit the dummy out though and kept my head it was only a matter of time. Sure enough with an hour and a half to go the last fish surrendered. It was a shame to pack up really what a great days sport. Jasper had only caught one fish the day before and I assume that he was fairly pleased with his five. He was giving nothing away though and would simply nod occasionally. We decided to head back over for the last half hour in front of the lodge. Others had thought the same though and Valley Creek looked pretty busy. Jasper indicated to go to the left as that’s where he had taken his fish the previous day. An inspired choice as he quickly bagged another two fish before time. A great days fishing and it had reinforced what I had learned from the day before deep and slow………
A great field of anglers had descended onto Grafham for the Lexus team heat, the Fish Hawks, Rio, Elinor and the Nymphomaniacs to name but a few. I had lucked right in with the boat draw and gotten Paul Haskey a seasoned comp angler who I knew would have done his homework. After losing the toss Paul was content to let me take him across the pond to the North Shore. The wind initially was not too bad but the rain was an annoyance I could have done without. The first drift deep inside Church Bay produced nothing. Moving up slightly I managed a good brownie to the boat, that’s when I noticed an angler waving at me. I initially thought it was Paul Calvert but as I drew nearer it was evident that it was one of Pauls teammates Richard Slater who reported five to the boat! I asked Paul what he had been doing and he told me, he had been doing that since the off. The next drift produced another stunning fish for me fishing slow and deep. Paul was still toiling away for not so much as a sniff, we noticed boats up on Hedge end and decided to join the happy throng. There were fish being caught everywhere around us, it was pretty frustrating. I watched as guys were ripping their lines back at blinding speed and locking up on fish. Paul at last hooked into a fish to huge cheer from the boats behind, a kind lot those comp boys. Hedge end was starting to look like a gang of tramps on a bag of chips it was time to move on. Richard Slater was out in the open water and another conflab with Paul saw us out by ‘P’ Bouy Paul got a fish as we started to drift, the wind and the rain was quite something to behold by now. The boat was filling up with water fast and when you looked around it was so heavy that you could barely see the banks. It did not seem to stop the fish though and after changing up to a five and rolly pollying for all I was worth a sharp take when I had reached the end of the retrieve resulted in another fantastic fight. This time though the fish had the better of me and I lost it under the boat. Paul had taken another as well and at last we both felt we were in the game. Another short drift produced nothing back to ‘P’ bouy nothing. Morale took another nose dive more than halfway through the match it was time for a drastic and for me fatal decision. We headed over to Valley Creek, it did not look busy and Paul had reported that his teammate Ed Foster had gone there to start. We located Ed and went in for a chat. He had fished nymphs and buzzers all day for nine, good enough. We went around the back to join the other drifting boats. At this stage it was not to busy, my first cast with the new rig was caught by a sudden gust and ended up in my lap looking like Chinese noodle soup. That’s when the purple patch came and Paul banged out five fish in a row while I frantically tried to get back in the game. Not to worry we could go back round for another go both bolstered by the sudden turnaround in fortunes we headed round. Sportingly Paul gave me some of the successful patterns and we fished hard through the productive area. Not so much as a follow it was as if the area was again devoid of life. We kept going but the writing was on the wall for me after the day before I had piled in from a great height with a poultry three fish. Paul had done extremely well considering the poor start and finished on a very credible nine fish. I would like to say I enjoyed the day but it would be a lie I was wet cold and pretty miserable. As we were tying up at the dock it was fairly evident that we had not done enough to qualify and I was bitterly disappointed with my own performance. If it was not for the bad leg I may have had to go home and dig up the dead cat and give it a damn good kicking!
I suppose every comp angler goes through the helter-skelter of emotions one minute your king of the world the next your on your arse. Ah well there is always next time J
Many thanks to my driver once again for making the whole three days possible, overall it was a great few days. If you find yourself looking for a day out you could do worse than visit Grafham. You won’t be disappointed.