An angler's journal

An angler's journal

Sunday, 30 June 2019

A slow start bursts into life

I have to be honest, the start of the river season has kind of passed me by this year. A combination of other things going on meant that for the first time in decades I missed out on the 16th June. A couple of trips in the first week or so resulted in a blank and then a couple of small chub. It was all a bit underwhelming.

Last Tuesday saw a whole heap of rain fall in Worcestershire and the Avon inevitably began to rise. By Wednesday evening it had peaked and was around 3ft up but starting to fall. The weather was grey and cloudy and I did have second thoughts on venturing out. The fact that a heat wave had been predicted for Thursday and beyond was enough to give me a nudge to get my act together so by 7pm I was set up in a swim that gave me some nice steady water on the inside with the fastest water on the opposite bank. The river looked good and as expected, several other anglers were on the bank hoping to take advantage of what looked decent conditions. However, not much had happened and a few were already calling it a day.

I cast out two rods. Upstream with pellet, downstream with meat. Both with a cage feeder packed
The first barbel of the season, and a double.
with scalded pellet to act as an attractant. A few chub topped mid-river so at least I knew some fish were about but all was quiet as far as the baits were concerned. To be honest, I didn't expect much. However, that was all about to change. Around one hour in and the pellet was picked up and it was a barbel. A good fish held its own, using the extra water to its advantage. I kept the pressure on and inched it closer to the bank where it was finally beaten. A good fish that surely had to be a double. Indeed it was, weighing in at 10lb 14oz. My mood had completely changed. What a way to open my barbel account but better was still to come. Both rods had seen a few knocks and at around 9pm the meat was picked up and another barbel was on. This fish just held station. It didn't really run and I could hardly move it. I think at one point it might have snagged but I managed to get it moving again and finally it surfaced. Another double and bigger than the first. The second fish went 11lb 5oz. I packed up at 10pm. I maybe could have stayed on a little longer and maybe another would have showed but I was more than satisfied with two doubles in less than three hours of fishing. The river is now back to normal and we've just seen some very hotweather so right time, right place and all that.
The second of the session at 11lb 5oz 

Anyone that does read this may have noticed I have slowed up with the post releases. I have decided that I will slow down my output, probably posting an update every month or so and maybe an extra if something turns up worth mentioning. However, I'm not really sure how many people are reading this anymore and social media seems to have taken over. There's plenty on here for those that want to search around. Thank you to those that still check in and comment. That's always appreciated.
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Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Tench - Heaven 17

If you're here because of the 80s synth band, Heaven 17 then you're going to be disappointed. However, if you enjoy tench then read on as I'm about to describe a super day on the banks. With some recent warm weather, I decided it was time to catch some tench so set off for a water I fished a couple of times last spring with some reasonable success. The fish are average size with some over 5lb but give great sport on the float. There are rumours of fish to 8lb but I've not found any evidence of them yet.

The first tench of the session
Despite the warmer weather, the day I visited was quite cool with a persistent wind blowing towards me. This was punctuated by some pretty strong gusts and the occasional rain shower. I'd had my heart set on fishing relatively close in using the traditional lift method. A size 16 hook was baited with double maggot and I was up and running. It didn't take long before the float started to twitch. The culprits could have been some of the roach and rudd that also inhabit the lake but I was sure that the tench were not far away. Eventually the float disappeared from view rather than lifting and my centrepin started to spin gently as a fish moved away. A strike saw me connected with the first tench of the day. My new Avon rod gave a satisfying bend as it toyed with its first fish. A fish of over 3lb gave a good account of itself and was safely netted. I thought this would open the flood gates but the next 2 hours were pretty slow. Lots of dips of the float but nothing worth striking at. I tried some modifications. I put a fake maggot on the hook along with a live one. I hoped that a better balance might enable a more confident pick up and also enable the bait to sit on, rather than sink into the weed. The result was instant. I was tighening up to the float when it lifted, fell flat and I felt the line pull. The second tench was netted and a third followed not too long after. However, I was
5lb 7oz and the best of the day
not happy with my presentation. I was convinced tench were in the swim but my optimism was not converting to bites. The wind wasn't helping which by now was pretty strong. I made the decision to switch to a thin tipped waggler. This change proved pivitol as bites came regularly and were now positive. No more maybes, just a twitch and gone. These bites proved easy to hit and the result was tench after tench. I had a few hours where nearly every cast resulted in a tench. I ended with 17 tench. Most were 3-4lb with the best going 5lb 7oz but provided non-stop entertainment. I even had a roach of 1lb 7oz which somehow found a way out of my net as I set up the camera for what would have been a nice photo. It was a great session in what were less than perfect conditions with the troublesome wind. I'm already planning my next trip.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Perch bring spring action

With almost a month passing since the close of the river season I was beginning to get a few withdrawal symptoms. With the weather still cool, my target was perch so I headed to my stillwater destination full of confidence. Arriving at around 1pm, my intention was to fish through until around 6.30pm, which would give me plenty of time for the perch to decide on feeding.

2lb 2oz to kick things off
Two rods were set up. The first a running ledger baited with a large prawn, the second a more traditional bobber float and worm combination. Although there have been occasions when the fish have fell to both baits during the same session, I have often found the perch have a preference to one or the other on any given day. One day can see all the fish fall to worm with prawns ignored while another can see the complete opposite. I hoped that my approach would cover both bases. I started off catching a few fish on maggot for a bit of entertainment. A large gudgeon and a few rudd made an appearance. Soon after a worm was placed into position with the prawn rig positioned just outside the main feeding area. The little and often approach to feeding maggots meant that there were plenty of smaller fish in the swim and I hoped the
The 2lb 7oz
perch would not be far behind them. Any stripy predators observing from afar could pick up the prawn and then when they decided to go on full hunt mode and enter the fed area then the worm would hopefully provide an easy meal. After an hour I was perchless. A few fish had shown signs that perch might be about. I was convinced they were not far away so I put a prawn on the float set up as well and dropped it right under where the maggots were being fed. Within moments the float buried and I was into a perch. It put up a super fight, probably the best I've had from a perch and the prize was a lovely fish of 2lb 2oz. Within twenty minutes another fell to the same approach weighing in at 2lb 7oz. A carp of around 6lb then found its way to the bank marauding through my swim in the process. After a pause in the action the ledgered prawn was then picked up and the third perch of the day was landed. Again the fish put up a great scrap with this perch registering 2lb 5oz on the scales. Another carp came along with a perch under a pound and  then sport curtailed around 5pm. Just at the time you'd expect fish to feed the opposite happened and I packed up as planned with no further fish. However, that 90 min spell during the afternoon and produced three 2lb+ perch. Prawn had won the battle of the baits and given me a great day's fishing in anyone's book.
The third and final 2 pounder of the session
I was then given an unexpected opportunity to return a few days later. I was keen to experience more of the same and even attempt to beat my PB which the lake is more than capable of doing. The conditions were spot on so I was optimistic and deployed the same set up as the previous session. After 2 hours I had only managed to catch a dozen or so roach and rudd. The prawns and lobworms had been ignored as far as the perch were concerned. I was convinced they hadn't wandered too far from the area so I took the decision to try a livebait. Within ten minutes a familiar fish was on the bank. A repeat capture of the 2lb 2oz perch and its distinctive split dorsal fin fro a few days earlier. Another live was lowered and mullered instantly. I hadn't even put the rod down. This perch went 2lb 6oz. I lost another decent perch later to a hook pull but that was the end of the action and then banked a smaller perch of around a pound. They had certainly been more difficult to catch on this day. Neither prawn or worm had returned me a perch and a blank would have been the inevitable result but for the change to live baits.

The 2lb 6oz from the return visit

Monday, 18 March 2019

Barbel bring the season to an end

After my pike adventures of the winter, I was keen to finish off the season with a few barbel. The weather was relatively kind too. Temperatures were reasonably mild and most rivers had extra water. The only issue was that the levels had been up and down on an almost daily basis so stability was certainly lacking.

A Severn 9 pounder
With the last weekend of the river season upon us, I headed to a stretch of the middle Severn. This stretch had been kind in the past, especially when carrying extra water so I was confident of a bite or two. A rather busy car park greeted my arrival. Hardly surprising but a little disappointing nevertheless. It forced me upstream instead of my usual ventures downstream. I bumped into a couple of chaps who had blanked the previous day. It was similar news among the other anglers there but I found myself a likely looking swim and gave it a couple of hours. It was an uneventful few hours too without so much as a tap. I'd have liked to have roamed the stretch but it was too busy for that. By now it was lunchtime so I decided that given no one was catching it was time for a different stretch. Fifteen minutes later and I was in a new swim. Again fishing was slow despite what looked to be great conditions. A change to a pellet hookbait accompanied with a PVA bag finally saw a bite and a barbel was on. A lovely plump fish of 9lb 2oz was the result. I hoped it would prove to be a catalyst for a few but it was to be the only bite of the day.

The first Avon fish
Two short sessions on the Warks Avon after work completed the season for me. The first was on a rising river that had yet to colour up. Within 45 minutes a barbel was landed at 8lb 7oz falling to pellet presented upstream towards the far bank tree cover. The river continued to rise rapidly and by 7pm I called it a day with no more action seen.

The final day of the season saw me back on the river. It was highly coloured but dropping. A few fish had come out during the day to other anglers so I was mildly optimistic. That optimism soon dissipated as my baits were ignored. It looked for all intents and purposes that the season was going to end in a disappointing blank. The session was drawing to a close so I began to pack up. The first rod came in and was dismantled when out of the blue the bait on the remaining rod was picked up. My third barbel of the week was landed. Although very welcome, it wasn't huge probably going between 6 and 7lb and with it my 2018-19 season was over. Much has been discussed regarding the close season although I for one welcome the break. I may be in the minority these days but a break makes the heart grow fonder and it will allow me venture to pastures new. While the weather is still on the cool side I will target perch and then switch to tench as the water begins to warm. By then my thoughts will already be wandering towards the 16th June.
The final barbel of the season

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Another nice pike

The last time I blogged, I was in the middle of an enjoyable pike fad. Having already landed some nice river doubles my appetite had yet to be sated and I was still on the hunt for more. Several sessions saw me catch on each of them although the fish were small. One Sunday afternoon session was particularly slow. Sat in my banker swim, the light began to signal the end of another February day. It looked like a blank was looming. I drew the float back towards me, partly as the light was now departing making it difficult to make it out on the water's surface. In its new position it sat nicely in between the reflection of some trees. It was then that it moved ever so slightly into the darker part of the reflection. It was a matter of inches but it had definitely moved. Was it the current? I was unsure. If it was a bite then it was very subtle. I held the braid between my fingers and felt for movement. A slight tug registered but again very subtle. If this was indeed a fish then it had barely moved upon picking up the bait. Another slight pull on the braid was enough to see me wind down and strike and indeed a fish was on. It felt good. No alarming runs but a decent force at the other end nevertheless. By the time it made the net it was pretty much dark. However, I could see enough to be sure another great river pike had been landed.
It also was a great learning experience, showing me how little a pike can move a float despite picking up the bait fully. I had another smaller pike do the same more recently so it really does pay to give your full attention. With March now here and the river levels fluctuating almost daily it has almost certainly signaled the end of my pike campaign for this year.  Three very nice pike have been landed with plenty of smaller ones keeping me busy on the slower days. With the season almost over I shall now look to finish with a barbel or two.

Monday, 14 January 2019

New Year breeds pike shaped enthusiasm

So another year is upon on us and with it comes new targets and new found enthusiasm. I finished 2018 on the hunt for barbel. I set myself a target of catching one in every calendar month of the river season. I am yet to succeed with the winter months always proving tricky and as far as December was concerned, time was fast running out. A couple of days on the Warks Avon gave me seemingly perfect conditions but I failed to trouble the scorers and with just a few days left it took a trip to the Severn to break my duck. I bumped into a chap that had a red letter day 24 hours earlier. He had managed a barbel first cast and looked set for another bumper session but had failed to record a bite since. How many times have we returned to the same spot and used the same tactics after a good day only to see a tough session ensue? It's what makes fishing impossible to predict and keeps anglers going back in the hope that today will result in that magical catch. However this particular day turned out to be tough. Even fishing maggots which I had hoped to be my secret weapon failed to produce the barbel I was looking for. I upped sticks and moved to a swim that has produced for me in the past. It was going to be an all or nothing approach with about 90 minutes to go before the light was gone and and the session would end. I switched to worm but still ensured a slow release of maggots from the feeder to hopefully attract some interest. Eventually the rod twitched twice and a small barbel kept my challenge going for another month at least.

January has seen me targeting pike. I have to be honest, it's been really refreshing and I've has some
success which has given me fresh impetus. Although there are many ways to catch a pike I still think a float setup is hard to beat. It gives me the flexibility to stay mobile and search the fish out and bite indication is straightforward with no need for extra kit such as alarms. In fact, the sight of the float bobbing slightly as a pike picks up the bait before it moves across the water and slides from view certainly sets the pulse racing. My first session of the year could hardly have gone better. Fishing sardine, a pike found the bait quite quickly but refused to pick it up purposefully. Slight movements for what seemed an age had me doubting it was even a pike at all. Maybe smaller fish were pecking at the bait? I recast. The same thing happened. Lots of movement on the float but nothing to make me feel a strike was warranted. I pulled the bait a few feet hoping the movement would entice a take. Eventually the float sailed away and a pike was on. It was a good one too. It leapt clear from the surface adding to the experience. It was netted. It looked easily 15+ pounds and maybe a good deal more. It was rested whilst I set up for a photo and scales. However, whilst taking the photo the fish flipped. I lost my grip and it found its way back to the river before returning to the depths never to be seen again. It was a slight disappointment not knowing what the fish weighed but it didn't hide the fact it was probably my second best pike from the stretch. A smaller fish resulted from another spot but it had been a rewarding few hours.

A few days later and I was back. The swim of the big fish was tried. I hoped to catch it again to put to
Another decent river pike. This one didn't mind a photo.
rest my nagging doubts but that did not happen despite missing a run. I then visited the swim that had given me the smaller pike. After 20 minutes or so the float started to move towards the reed bed on the near bank. Another good pike was successfully hooked. The fight was less spectacular than the previous decent fish but it was another great river specimen. It went 15lb 12oz with the photo and weighing passing without any drama on this occasion. The fish was returned safely and no more action was seen.

My most recent session saw a jack pike arrive quite quickly. Another soon followed. There were almost identical in size but I always feel that when the smaller pike are this active it signals the bigger fish are not feeding. If you were a pike of a few pounds, you'd keep a low profile if a fish 4 times your size was on the look out for lunch. I then lost a fish at the net, again estimated at several pounds before another spat the hook. I think this can always happen as the smaller pike takes that bit longer to position a reasonably sized bait in its jaws. Strike too early and you won't hook it. Too long and you risk a deeply hooked fish, especially if it turns out to be a bigger fish that will engulf a bait more rapidly. I think today's culprits were smaller fish. It's been a really enjoyable week or so on the bank and my relative success with the pike has certainly freshened things up and renewed my enthusiasm. Hopefully there will be few more fish to follow.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Wonderful Wye

Recent weather finally brought some rainfall and with it the hope that the rivers would finally give us something to get excited about. While this week's weather has seen a cold blast hit UK shores, the last few weeks have been very mild with most rivers returning temperatures of about 10°C. However this had been largely coupled with low clear water so any rainfall would be gladly welcomed.
One of my chosen swims

With the temperatures so high for November it seemed silly not to have a go for barbel. The weather is fickle at this time of year and it could be weeks, even months before another opportunity this good arose. My local Warwickshire Avon saw no change to its levels, well maybe a few inches but nothing to set the pulses racing. The Severn had risen a little but again it didn't really fill me with confidence. The Wye however looked to have about 4ft on and was starting to drop. It was what I was looking for and my mind was made up pretty quickly.

I arrived just after lunch to find the stretch empty. Just the way I like it. I had not fished this stretch before in such conditions so a bit of roving was the order of the day and with no one else there it meant I was free to do what I liked. I walked upstream, eyeing a few likely looking spots behind trees. It was this type of swim that I dropped into first.  With the main current a torrent I hoped the fish would be sheltering behind these obstructions. I had only brought one rod and that was tackled with a straight lead to a size 2 hook baited with meat. I aimed to give each swim up to 30-40 minutes. In these conditions a fish ought to show relatively quickly if they are indeed present.

Within minutes of settling down the heavens opened. The forecast has not mentioned rain so without an umbrella I simply had to sit it out. Soon after it turned to a sharp hail storm. It was not a great start but the sun returned and gave me just enough heat to attempt to dry off a little.

A promising start in the new swim
The first two swims produced nothing other than one sharp jag on the rod tip. I dropped further downstream to an area that looked a whole lot more promising. A smooth looking glide screamed barbel so my bait was cast just my side of the crease. I didn't have to wait too long before a tap turned into a wrap around and the first barbel of the day was hooked. It put up a decent scrap and a fish of just over 8lb was my reward.

I did contemplate moving on again but this area looked as promising as anywhere else so I decided I would sit it out on the premise that if it was good enough for one barbel then they'd probably be another in the area at some
The best fish of the session
point. The next hour or more was pretty quiet fishing wise but the Wye Valley is as good as anywhere to spend an autumn afternoon. With stunning scenery, buzzards soaring overhead and the chance that any moment could signal the arrival of a barbel the afternoon flew by. The sun started to set and with it daytime began to lose its grasp. This time of the day is always synonymous with a barbel bite and today was to be no different. A positive bite saw me connected with another barbel that put up a much more stubborn resistance than the first fish. Another fine looking barbel was landed with this one going 9lb 9oz. It was a fitting way to end an enjoyable afternoon on the river Wye.

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