An angler's journal

An angler's journal

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
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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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Monday, 12 November 2018

Autumn Perch and Chub

The end of October coincided with high pressure meaning cold nights and bright days. Despite having the week off, I still ended up having to fish on one of the brightest of them. I had decided to target some decent perch and as we all know, bright sunshine is not the perch anglers favourite condition. Arriving at a stillwater that had been kind to me in the past, I tackled up with a ledger set up with prawn and a float set up with worm. Regular feeding soon had the swim filled with the resident roach and skimmers. With perch sport slow, I changed to a maggot hookbait and enjoyed some nice roach.

As the afternoon wore on and the sun began to dip behind the trees on the far side of the lake. I was left in the shade and the temperature dipped sharply as another frosty night loomed. Although chilly, I knew the low light would give me a better chance of a perch so it was all systems go with prawn and worm baits cast into prime position. The waiting game began. Regular feeding kept the prey fish in the area and I just had to hope the big perch would turn up at some stage.

A 2lb 4oz perch
Some of the resident day ticket anglers fishing for carp started to depart. It was now as the lake became quiet that I noticed something a little different. The smaller fish in my swim seemed to have disappeared. Had the perch moved in and caused them anxiety? I recast my ledger rig baited with a prawn. I then placed the rod into the rest. I was still holding the line as I set about clipping on the bobbin but there was no need. A sharp tug registered. Then another. I struck and a decent fish was on. I quickly decided it had to be a perch so I just had to ensure it stayed on. Every time a good perch surfaces it never fails to be a breathtaking sight. They have been described as the biggest fish of all and there's no doubting they make for impressive viewing. The fish was safely netted and although it wasn't going to threaten the 3 pounders I'd had from the venue previously it was certainly over 2lb.

A carp approaching double figures
The scales confirmed this at 2lb 4oz. I hoped this would signal a flurry of activity and another perch around the pound mark fell to the worm. Another positive bite on the worm put a huge bend on the rod and signaled one of the resident carp had been hooked. Whilst good fun on a through action rod and centrepin its marauding around the swim put an end to end hopes of anymore perch. Soon enough the light had gone and the session had ended.

A few days later I was on the Warwickshire Avon. The river  had been low and clear for what seems an eternity. With the temperature dropping it was a toss up between pike or chub with the latter winning. Tactics were going to be simple with trotted bread flake the order of the day. By the time I'd faffed about it had gone 3pm by the time I'd thrown some mashed bread into the head of my chosen swim. With the nights drawing in I probably only had about 90 minutes to make this work. One thing in my favour was the fact the Avon has a great head of chub. Most are in the 3-4lb class but they are great sport especially on fair tackle.
The first fish of the session
A piece of flake was presented on a size 12 hook to a 7lb hooklength. My first cast was made and the float started its journey through the swim. Half way down and the float sunk from view. My strike was met with solid resistance as the first chub of the day made a bid for the nearside cover. It was a great start. The next cast saw a repeat with the float burying and another good chub hooked. This was beginning to look like a super session in the making. It was maybe the next run down that another fish was hooked. However this one had a bit more intent about and took off across the river towards the far bank trees. I was unable to tame it and the hooklength parted. I have no idea whether this was an over energetic chub or whether I had connected with a barbel. I will never know. Another chub showed meaning I had managed three chub and a lost fish within the first 6 or so casts. It was then that the chub vanished almost as quickly as they had been caught. I persevered hoping some more mashed bread would entice them back upstream. Had I not started so late in the day I would have moved and most likely added some more fish but with light fading it was time to call it day. It had been an enjoyable hour or so and something I must do again soon.
A nice return for little more than an hour

Friday, 19 October 2018

Autumn far!

With autumn upon on us, I set out to get some serious barbel fishing in before the cooler nights were thrust upon on us. It's been a really mild autumn so far and aside from a few frosts here and there temperatures have been unseasonally warm. My hope was that this would coincide with a feeding frenzy and some big fish. But fishing is rarely that simple.

Fishing the Avon on a familiar stretch, I set my stall out for a double. A piece of meat was sent mid-river as light faded. Within 20 mins it was taken and a barbel was on. It felt a good fish, it looked a good fish but it fell 2oz short of a double.

With an influx of rain into the Severn during the third week of September I set off for a stretch not too far from Bridgnorth. The Avon had seen no change to its levels so I felt with the Severn offering more favourable conditions it could be the key to some good sport. It started well. Casting a piece of meat in one of my favoured flood swims a fish was hooked and landed on my first cast. A chunky 8lb 7oz barbel showed plenty of signs it had been on the munch. I sensed a barbel bonanza that afternoon roving to all the swims that have produced in the past. However, the fishing became really tough. The level started to drop, quite quickly in fact and it seemed to curb the resident barbels' appetites. One more fish of average size appeared as light faded but I have to admit to being slightly disappointed with the lack of fish that afternoon.
A few of the better fish of the last few weeks

It's about this time of the year that my interest in the lower Severn increases. It's never easy but if you're lucky enough to land a barbel there's a really good chance it will be a good fish. My first session only produced a blank saving chub. The next did yield a barbel but yet again it fell short of the hallowed 10lb, weighing in at 8lb 14oz. My two most recent evening visits have both resulted in blanks. This is one to come back to as the season progresses.

An autumn pike
In between these two blanks was a short evening session back on my local Avon. A bream and a chub sandwiched another nice barbel but again it fell short at 9lb 6oz. There's been several smaller barbel throughout this period as well as the usual chub that inevitably show up. I also had a few hours with the lure rod which threw up a few fish including a nice pike at last light.

As I write this the weather is getting cooler and the last couple of nights have been chilly. With this in mind I am planning a bit of predator fishing this weekend. The barbel can wait for a bit. There will be better conditions to come.