An angler's journal

An angler's journal

Sunday, 25 March 2018

An afternoon down the canal

What a contrast to seven days ago. This time last week the UK was gripped by sub-zero temperatures and a covering of snow. Today was a glorious spring day and by far the warmest of the year yet. With some maggots left over from last week's perch session I decided to have a few hours in the afternoon sun. The Birmingham to Worcester canal was the chosen venue. In all honesty, I rarely fish canals these days but I fancied a change and was intrigued as to what might turn up.

I dusted the pole off, it's first outing for quite some time, and set up to fish down the centre of the canal. It was about 4ft deep. The single maggot was dropped into place and a little and often feeding approach was employed. Bites on the canal are not usually difficult to come by but today was different. After an hour, I was starting to doubt there were any fish present. However, in the warm sunshine with the sound of new born lambs not too far away there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. I decided to go for a short walk when I noticed a 25 metre stretch of the margins was home to population of breeding toads (I think). As the afternoon wore on I was still fishless. In fact, still biteless. It had just gone 4.30pm and I remember setting myself a 45 minute target. If I had still to register a bite I was going to call it a day. It was just so strange to have not encountered any fish after a couple of hours that I had begun to think the stretch was barren and maybe they had shoaled up somewhere else after the cold weather of the last few weeks. Then a couple of fish topped and restored my confidence.

The 11oz roach
At just gone 4.50pm my first bite of the day saw a dace landed. Only a few ounces but more than welcome given the circumstances. Then a steady trickle of roach appeared with the odd small chub and a solitary perch. Things were looking up at last. I then connected with a better fish which turned out to be an 11oz roach. It was in immaculate condition and much bigger then its predecessors.

The hybrid
It was heading for half past six now. The change to British Summer Time afforded me an extra hour of daylight. The sun had dipped now but was causing havoc off the water's surface meaning seeing my float was tricky. The bites continued. It wasn't frantic sport but a bite every so often kept my interest. The float dipped from sight one more time and this fish saw the elastic stretch from the pole tip with purpose. It was a much better fish but what was it? I caught a glimpse beneath the surface and it looked bream like but the fight was anything but bream like. Instead of coming to the net like a wet sack, this fish wasn't going to give up easily. Finally, it was beaten and it silver flanks showed it was a roach/bream hybrid. It was a bit of an ugly work of nature to tell you the truth but it did weigh 1lb 10oz so was a decent fish for the canal. I gave it another 40 minutes or so but the commotion killed the swim and I called a halt to proceedings on what had been an enjoyable afternoon.
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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

New PB Perch

My focus had switched to perch now that the rivers were out of bounds. A catch up with a couple of friends saw us head to a stillwater that I had been introduced to a couple of years back. It's fair to say the water had been kind to me . My first visit saw me break my perch PB twice in around 30 minutes. A subsequent visit saw me increase it to a respectable 3lb 2oz.

So it I set off at lunch with high hopes. After a frustrating month or so on the river the new challenge saw my enthusiasm renewed. A second wave of the 'Beast from the East' had returned to our shores and the east wind was certainly biting . Air temperatures were just above freezing but that wind was sending it the wrong side of zero and it played a big part in swim selection upon arrival. We managed to find a relatively sheltered bay that the three of us could occupy and fish reasonably comfortably whilst remaining social. My tactics were a simple running ledger rig baited with a prawn and then a bobber float baited with a large lobworm. Maggots would be fed regularly in the hope of attracting smaller fish which would in turn see them followed by some specimen sized stripeys.

My new personal best perch
Sport was predictably slow and that wind was ever so cold. The weather however was anything but predictable. At times we were blessed with sunny spells that almost felt pleasant. Then foreboding clouds formed that were soon followed by snow blizzards. We fished on in what turned out to be an uneventful first couple of hours. It was approaching 3pm by now and with nothing happening I decided to chop up a couple of worms in the hope it might trigger something. Literally moments later the bobber float slid purposefully from view seeing my strike met with solid resistance. I was confident it was a perch and this was soon confirmed when a sizable fish wallowed to the surface. It was safely netted and indeed I had a worthy specimen in the net. It looked like it could threaten the magical 3lb mark and could even topple my PB. The scales proved this to be the case when they registered at 3lb 3oz beating my own record by 1oz. This was more than a satisfying result to my first perch session of the spring campaign. Ben soon had a fish of his own, a nicely coloured common carp was the culprit however. Although he enjoys catching carp of all sizes I know he'd have preferred a perch on this occasion. It was soon my turn to do battle with a torpedoed shaped carp that fought powerfully and Tom also saved a blank with a carp of his own. Unfortunately, no more perch were to put in an appearance and Ben and I both managed another carp as the day closed in. By now it was freezing. My hands hurt, the landing net had contorted itself into a weird looking shape and a journey home to a hot shower seemed the best option.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The longest of winters

One of the few recent captures
Another river season has come and gone and the lack of activity on these pages tell its own story. Since Christmas there have been few opportunities to capture some large winter fish. Since my previous post where I enjoyed some nice chub fishing in January, it has been a tale of woe. The changeable weather conditions have been most unhelpful. We have had to endure long periods of freezing weather which saw the Warks Avon dip to below 2°C at one point then we've had to contend with the inevitable snow melts that saw the river rage and spill its banks. A couple of small pike managed to put a bend in the rod but a string of blanks appeared to be the norm for me.

Mother nature flexes her muscles
Despite the lack of fish, the countryside can be at its most striking at this time of year. From the beautiful snow covered landscape to witnessing the power of mother nature when a river is in full flood. I had the pleasure of witnessing a starling murmuration for several weeks through the colder months. Quite why starlings do this prior to roosting is a mystery but it certainly makes for an interesting spectacle on a cold, winter's afternoon.

The final weekend saw the river rise dramatically. Had it not been the last chance to fish the river then I'd have probably given it a miss since I have found the Avon rarely produces when on a rapid rise. Despite reasonable water temperatures, a winter barbel could not be tempted. I even gave the river a final chance on the 12th but again she was on another quick rise following a day of heavy rain. I struggled to place a bait even in the slacker swims and was forced to retire early.

There are few better sights than the countryside shrouded in a blanket of snow

The PB chub
As I write this, I have awoken to find we are once again greeted by snow. It's certainly been an interesting start to what is supposed to be spring. Looking back, it's been a reasonable season full of highs and lows. The barbel fishing through the summer and autumn was some of the best I've enjoyed on the Avon in recent years and my first Wye double was a stand out memory. A personal best chub brightened up my winter before the weather took its grip. With March upon us it affords time to regroup and explore new challenges and I for one hope that the close season remains although that's a debate for another day. The next few weeks will see me switch to big perch and hopefully some better times to come.

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.


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!