An angler's journal

An angler's journal

Monday, 15 January 2018

Chub - A winter warmer

Having spent the best part of a week wiped out by a nasty bug, I was itching to get back outside again. I didn't really care about the conditions as getting out the house and breathing some fresh air would be enough after a severe bout of cabin fever.

The first fish of the day
That said, conditions weren't bad. The river had dropped so that it was only several inches above normal and the colour had started to drop out to give it that look that spells chub. With that in mind my batch of cheese paste was defrosted and a few lumps deposited into several likely looking swims. The idea was to stay mobile and hopefully pick up a few fish along the way. Although the air temperature on Sunday was pretty chilly the river itself was hovering around 6°C so I was confident a few fish would bite. I set up a simple running ledger rig employing an 1/2 oz bomb to hold bottom with a size 8 hook. My bait was flicked into position. Within 10 minutes the rod arched round and the centrepin screamed into life. A lively chub was on and heading for the downstream tree. Chub put up a great fight when tackled with suitable gear. A fact often lost when they frequently turn up whilst fishing for barbel and offer little resistance. With their determination to find the nearest snag, my tackle was tested but the fish was successfully landed. A decent fish of over 3lb lay in the net and signaled a great start to the session. Next cast threw up another, albeit smaller, chub before it became apparent this swim needed resting.

The next swim saw immediate interest although the bites were finicky. Eventually, a fish was hooked
Winter and chub go hand in hand
but then lost. With a few missed bites and a lost fish I decided that this swim should also be given a break. My next location again saw me miss a couple of bites so I decided to return to swim number two where I had lost a chub. I didn't have to wait long and I was soon into a hard fighting chub which I gleefully landed despite some powerful runs towards an old reed bed. It was another fish of over 3lb but bigger than the first. It also proved to be the last of my action. It was almost dark now. I did cast in a lump of meat in the hope I might find a hungry barbel but that wasn't to be. However, it has been an enjoyable couple of hours on the Avon and something I have vowed to do with more regularity.

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Monday, 1 January 2018

In the nick of time

December has been tough. Snow, changeable temperatures and high water have sent our rivers into disarray. Apart from my PB chub earlier in the month, I have had to settle for a run of blanks despite targeting a variety of species. With the last day of the year upon us one last trip to the river beckoned. I had hoped to visit the Wye for pike but the a rising river put paid to that. The Severn suffered the same affliction but the Warks Avon was falling and would be fishable.

I arrived at lunchtime. The river was tearing through but I knew that some swims downstream would afford me some more favourable conditions. I started by throwing a lure around a backwater that contained lots of prey fish sheltering from the high water. It was a bit of a long shot given the heavy colour and so it proved. After half hour or so I trudged off downstream empty handed to where the river widened and the flow became more to my liking. Two rods were cast into place. One on meat, the other with homemade paste. A couple of hours passed with nothing to report. The thermometer
Finally, the December barbel arrives
showed 7°C so I remained slightly optimistic that something would feed. With an hour or so of light remaining, the paste was swapped for lobworm. Soon after the meat bait showed a few signs that some fish might be on the move. Time was running out as New Year's Eve plans beckoned. Eventually, the worm rod started to bounce as the upstream bait was dislodged. A fish was on and was brought to the bank without much fuss. I suspected a chub but a small barbel was the culprit and how welcome it was. I have been attempting to catch a barbel during every calendar month of the river season. December had let me down so a barbel on the last day of the month was a bit of a god send. The fish was returned and no sooner had I put he net down then my other rod lurched round with a typical 3ft twitch. A fish was hooked and it felt good. It powered downstream and I have to be honest and say there was little I could do to stop it. Unfortunately, the pressure against the extra water in the river proved too much and the hook pulled. Moments later I slipped on the treacherous banks and ended covered in sludge. An eventful 5 minutes or so!
This Wye double proved to be the highlight of my summer

The light soon faded and no further fish
showed and with that came the end to my fishing for 2017. It's been a decent year. The start was of the year was slow. A uneventful winter didn't match the previous one when I experienced some great perch fishing. The spring saw me have a go at some carp off the surface. I'm not a huge fan of carp fishing but find this particular tactic rewarding and I had fish to just over 16lb. Not monsters but good fun whilst the rivers were out of bounds. The summer came and it was all about barbel for me. I had set myself a challenge - to prove that the Warks Avon could produce barbel away from the popular venues. It turned out to be a huge success. Choosing a less than obvious venue I  went on to have a one of my best summers on the river. There were no monster but I had fish over 9lbs and proved that you don't have to be fishing Marcliff, Salford Priors, Fladbury, etc to experience great fishing. However, the highlight of the summer had to be my first Wye double. A superb looking specimen that came from spectacular surroundings. But the seasons soon change and with it we travel full circle back to my PB chub of 5lb 7oz that turned out to be a bright light in an otherwise bleak winter so far.

A PB chub 
Some fun off the top
With 2018 upon us I do hope that the predator fishing will improve. It simply hasn't got going yet. I also aim to snare a barbel for the the final three months of the season to hit that personal challenge of a barbel every month of the river season. Hopefully, it will prove easier than the last few weeks. Have a great New Year and tight lines for the rest of the season. 

Sunday, 10 December 2017

A PB chub lifts spirits

The changeable weather over the last few weeks had coincided with three straight blanks. I'd set myself a little challenge this season of catching a barbel in each month of the river season. So far, so good but December's deep freeze and a lack of daytime fishing opportunities meant that it was starting to look unlikely. Last week saw a brief lift in temperatures before the next wave of freezing weather arrived.

It was already dark when I left the house and a late change in mind with my chosen venue saw me on the banks of the Warks Avon by around 6pm. The river was around 7°C, which was a rise on the previous week so it meant something ought to bite. I had only taken one rod as I aimed to be mobile
if required. A chunk of meat was cast mid-river. After a quiet 20 minutes it became apparent that the chub would be the most likely species. The tell tale knocks and grabs began, none of them enough to warrant a strike. Something was definitely interested and the pulls continued for a good 15 minutes. I remained patient. Striking too early would most probably end in failure and see the opportunity lost. Eventually a positive pull that kept going saw me strike into a nice fish. I've had some decent chub from the stretch throughout the season with a few big four pounders but the chub that lay in the net before me was no four pounder. A broad shouldered chub sent the scales to 5lb 7oz and was a new personal best for me and a cracking result for a December evening.

As I sit writing this, the countryside is white over. It looks like it could be a tough week or so as Christmas approaches. Hopefully, there's still time to manage a few more fish before the year is out. Good luck if you're planning a trip.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Des Taylor drops a clanger

It appears that Des Taylor has been enjoying some long trotting down on the river Test. A good catch of grayling ensued and at the end of a successful day he posted the following on his Facebook account. Now for some, this won't pose a problem. Rules state that a single angler may take two grayling between 30 and 38cm on any given day. Presumably he had the help of a friend to make his quota legal.

However, the point of the argument is Des's rhetoric over the past decade. He has been a vocal campaigner. Indeed he almost prides himself on ruffling a few feathers. It appears that if you say it louder than everyone else it must be right, or at least is Des's world it does. As mentioned, Des has been an active in promoting the threats to fishing over the years. He was recently pictured at Powick Weir following a successful campaign to save it. He is also an Angling Trust Ambassador.

He even said upon being granted the title, "Waters like my river, the Severn need to be looked after for the future of angling and I see that protection coming from the Angling Trust. I am honoured to be asked to be an Ambassador for the Trust." 

This of course for a Trust that has tasked themselves with saving waterways from predation and poaching amongst other things. Therefore, I feel it was pretty bad taste for Des to be posting dead fish on his page. At best it was plain stupid and a man of his experience ought to have known better. In reality, I won't be alone in thinking this stinks of hypocrisy. If a non-British angler had posted this it would have caused a social media meltdown with all sorts of stupid comments being posted. Instead it was a national ambassador for angling - great work in promoting our sport!

Friday, 3 November 2017

The Colours of Autumn

Autumn is a fantastic time to be out in the countryside. The colours of autumn show themselves in all their glory and of course, with winter around the corner the fish feed in earnest. There are few better occasions to be on the bank and the recent mild weather has provided anglers with a great opportunity to land some cracking fish.

Perfection in minature
With a week off, there was a real chance of a big barbel. I missed the ideal window of opportunity and ended up on the lower Severn about a week ago. Unfortunately, the level had dropped compared with a few days before and it also coincided with the coolest evening we had seen in an otherwise mild spell. Needless to say, my quest failed and the evening passed without so much as a tap on either rod. With my optimism dented I visited the Warks Avon the following day. I took my nephew out during the afternoon with a spinning rod and we managed a few hits resulting in small pike. As the light faded we changed tactics with one rod baited with boilie and the other with meat. It wasn't long before the boilie rod showed a few signs of feeding fish. Therefore, it was no surprise when a 3lb chub hooked itself and was safely landed. Another, slightly larger chub soon followed. At this point, I swapped the meat so that both rods were baited with boilies. It seemed that this bait was gaining more interest on this occasion. A few twitches on the downstream rod signalled a fish was closing in. The rod wrapped round and a barbel was on. The next few minutes saw me experience a memorable battle as a powerful fish tested my tackle to its full. The fish was landed and a solid looking barbel lay in the folds. It was a deep fish but lacked the length needed to send it over ten pounds. The scales settled at 9lb 3oz. It proved to be the final action as the swim switched off and home beckoned.
A cracking 9lb 3oz autumn barbel

A few hours with my son completed the week. We caught a few silvers on maggots, lost a pike on the worm before my half mackerel deadbait was finally picked up. Another good battle commenced as the mild conditions meant an energetic fish gave its all. I didn't weigh the fish but I reckon it was heading towards double figures.
With the cooler nights and the clocks going back it won't be long before the perch come into focus.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The barbel keep on coming

The last two weeks have seen me continue on the Warks Avon. A bit of rain a fortnight ago lifted the level a few inches and added a tinge of colour. Nothing much to get excited about but compared to recent months it was a definite change. As a result, I was confident when I arrived on the bank and my optimism was soon confirmed. No sooner had I cast in with a boilie hookbait and PVA bag  a few indications told me fish were present. It was no surprise when the rod wrapped around and my first barbel of around 7lb was in the net. A great start as I had literally only been fishing a matter of minutes. The bait was straight back out and again I was soon into a barbel albeit this fish felt better. A chunky looking barbel was landed and the scales registered 8lb 11oz. It was a great looking fish. A period of activity then followed before the chub moved in. Three chub were landed in succession before the swim died.
A beautifully conditioned barbel of 8lb 11oz

With river levels back to their low, clear and normal self, I again pursued a bigger fish. My second session was eventful even if it ended rather frustratingly. A barbel of around 6lb was landed within ten minutes, which promised a fruitful session ahead and indeed it should have been. However, lady luck was not on my side on this occasion. Another barbel was hooked but the hook quickly pulled and the fish was gone. Worse was to come when I later hooked a fish that was of much better quality. I had it right under the rod tip where it thrashed giving off an enormous splash. It then powered off downstream and found the sanctuary of a snag. I tried everything to get it moving again. I could feel it kick but nothing was freeing my rig from the its solid hold. Therefore, the inevitable happened and the line parted and with it the swim was killed. I gave it half hour but it was all in vain.

Another short trip (my visits tend to be 2-3 hours) saw me move slightly downstream of my newly found snag. After twenty minutes, a small barbel of around 5lb was hooked and landed. There was a definite chill in the air that reminded me that autumn had definitely arrived. Having being spoiled by some mild temperatures recently, the now cooler temperatures were sure to have affected the barbels' appetite. I had changed tactics slightly in so much as presenting a meat bait on one of the rods. It was this bait that was picked up by a chub, which was played to submission when it inexplicably found its freedom. Nothing happened for the next forty minutes and the session was ended.

There's a definite feel that winter is around the cornier. Having said that, I am determined my new stretch will produce some double figure barbel in the right conditions. A return of 33 barbel so far is a decent result compared to previous seasons' efforts although the really big fish are eluding me. I'll keep trying as I am convinced it's just a matter of time. However, we are reaching that time of year when other species start to distract and chub, pike and perch become the focus of my thoughts. Plenty to go at but so little time!

Monday, 4 September 2017

River Wye - Double Delight

Every so often a session will come along that sticks in the memory for a while. I had opted for a change and chosen the Wye for a few evening hours in unfamiliar surroundings. It's not a river I have fished often, indeed this was only my fourth visit, with my last being over two years ago.

I arrived at the venue around 3.30pm and decided to have a look around. Although I had an outline plan in my head I am a firm believer of not being too regimental. Within 10 minutes I had a completely new approach mapped out. Greeted by a gin clear and low river together with bright sunshine, I had originally envisaged feeder fishing in the slightly deeper areas hoping the darker pools would offer sanctuary. However, my walk found me drawn to the shallow, weedy areas. Although only a few feet deep, I found myself bewitched by the beds of ranunculus weed that stretched as far as  the eye could see. It hypnotically waved with the current revealing clean gravel runs and was convincing enough for me to settle confident a fish or two would be hiding amongst it. With this decision came a new approach. If I was fortunate enough to hook a fish then the weed would create a barrier with regard to landing it successfully. Therefore, the feeder was ditched. I didn't want a heavy feeder dangling about and creating an obvious snagging point. Instead I would fish a straight lead of 3oz together with PVA bags which would deposit enough pellets to hopefully entice a barbel or chub to forage and find my hookbait, which began as two 8mm Dynamite Source pellets on a size 12. The other decision came in the shape of fishing upstream. Firstly, there appeared to be a slightly deeper area upstream but I also hoped any hooked fish would hopefully drop downstream with the flow and therefore not see me trying to drag it against the weed. Going with the flow so to speak made it pretty painless.

10lb 11oz - A great start
I made my first cast just after 4pm. After 15 minutes or so I reeled in having received no obvious interest. I changed the hook bait to two regular 8mm halibut pellets and again cast mid-river to my chosen area. The bait had hardly been in the place for a minute or so when a thud on tip resulted in a definite drop back. I took up the slack and struck into my first barbel of the session. It felt a decent fish in the strong current. By now it had dropped directly in front of me and I was keen to keep the rod high and the fish moving to prevent it from getting snagged. I caught a glimpse of the fish in the clear water and was able to watch it as it eased ever closer. Steady pressure got it under the rod tip where it made several lunges for the main current. Eventually the fish was netted. It looked a nice fish but most Wye barbel tend to be in the 4-7lb class and although it looked slightly better than that I was not expecting what lay in the folds of the net. As the fish was laid onto the unhooking mat I knew instantly that I had landed my first Wye double. The scales soon confirmed this with a reading of 10lb 11oz. It was a beautifully conditioned fish with its golden flanks glistening in the September sun and had plenty of room for further growth. What a start after 25 minutes of fishing. My first Wye double!  Another barbel came to the next cast albeit of the more expected proportions. The next few casts saw me admiring the surroundings. Much has been written about the beauty of the Wye Valley and with the sun beaming down there was nothing to dispute this. A lone buzzard soared above the far bank woodland. The water glistened and sparkled as the odd strand of weed broke surface every so often. It was truly a moment of contentment.

I finished with 7 barbel in a frantic 4 hours or so
Half an hour passed without me even noticing. I reeled in twice to find my bait gone, probably from small fish, so I changed to a boilie which I find a bit more robust. I broke a few bits off to make an irregular shape and off I went again. By 8.30 it was almost dark. I had manged seven barbel. Most in the 6-7lb mark although two were probably around 8lb. Despite fishing a heavily weeded area, I suffered no tackle loss and only lost one fish to a hook pull. Even better was the small amount of bait I used. Although I had packed 6 pints of hemp, corn, pellets and boilies my total for the session was a few 8mm pellets, 2 boilies and the contents of around 15 PVA bags. Who says you need loads of bait to catch barbel? I was obviously fortunate to have stumbled upon them so bait was not required to draw fish to me. It proved just how important location is as well as not turning up with preconceived ideas. Had I stuck with my original plan I would have no doubt struggled with maybe a fish as the light faded. However, the main lesson I learned was not to ignore this majestic river for so long. There are few better places to spend a few hours catching fish.

My first Wye double