An angler's journal

An angler's journal

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.
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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.

Friday, 21 September 2018

August Catch Up - Wye and Warks Avon

August finally saw the heatwave leave our shores and with that the rivers were once again fair game. I love this time of year. You can sense autumn is on it's way. The nights begin to draw in and dusk sees the geese travelling to roost in their v-formations. It is also a great time to be on the banks fishing.

A failed barbel trip on an Avon weir pool did see me unlock some decent predator potential so I
A weir pool pike
returned a few days later armed with just a lure rod. It didn't take long to connect with a fish but whilst I was expecting perch and pike to be the likely targets it was indeed a chub that put in the first appearance. A small perch followed then a couple of fish were lost. Unfortunately, the weir pool has a large bed of underwater cabbages on the near bank and to land fish successfully I had to manoeuvre them over this obstacle. That was fine for the smaller fish but anything that could stay low used them to escape and there was little I could do. A decent pike that was certainly a double beat me this way as did a nice perch or two. I did manage a pike a few swims further down before the perch became active at dusk. Another decent perch was hooked but as before the near bank plant growth got the better of me. Maybe it's a chapter to return to when the weed dies back a little.

A Wye fish going 9lb 11oz
I don't fish the Wye too often, indeed it's been a year so as August came to its conclusion I once again found myself in wonderful and beautiful county of Herefordshire. Much has been said about the beauty of the Wye Valley so I won't attempt to convince you here. My swim was relatively shallow and laced with streamer weed. I had to do a fair bit of bank clearing to find enough space to be comfortable for the day. In swims like this I always fish upstream. That way you are not pulling your rig or fish back up against the weed which often results in inevitable breakages and lost fish. The bites will be drop backs and the fish will drop with the flow allowing you to bring them across the river without too much trouble. A couple of barbel showed up in the first hour before the daytime drought set in. I did attempt some trotting, wading mid-river but the slightly increased level meant there was a huge amount of weed coming down the river that hindered presentation meaning a biteless one hour. A bit of roving after lunch rewarded me with a third barbel before I settled in my original spot late afternoon. The bites started again and I finished the session with 9 barbel including a 9lb 11oz, 9lb 9oz and an 8lb 13oz plus a chub of about 4lb. By 8pm the level had rose by about a foot and the already problematic weed became impossible to fish on in. A good session was ended slightly earlier than intended but it was a super session in what became pretty testing conditions.

A few days later I was on the Avon, keen to try a new area in search of some larger fish. I didn't arrive until about half past 7 and immediately baited three swims. A 3lb chub showed up quite quickly in the first of them before I moved to the area I had not fished much before. I am convinced there's fish to be had there but as yet they were not playing ball. By 10pm I'd barely a tap. Time was fast running out so I moved slightly upstream to probably the shallowest part of the stretch at about 5ft deep. I cast a chunk of meat mid-
Another 9lb 11oz barbel, this time from the Avon
river. About 15 mins later the rod arched round and I commenced what turned out to be an epic battle. The fish took me way downstream in an instant. I heard a splash as it broke the surface. I then teased it back upstream. There was a lot of reed growth between me and the river. I then saw the fish for the first time and realised I'd have a game getting it out. A few more powerful runs and she was beaten. I tried to net the fish with difficulty. My right leg went in upto my knee but I eventually netted my prize. I was convinced an Avon double lay before me. However, it wasn't to be as the scales settled at 9lb 11oz. Not to be grumbled at as it was a fine fish that won't be easily forgotten.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

When a plan comes together

With the brother-in-law up for the weekend the inevitable fishing trip was arranged. We'd been given most of the day to fish rather than my usual few hours after tea. Arriving late morning on the banks of the Warwickshire Avon, we set up in a new area that offers potential but had yet to bear fruit. I'm sure a fish will come from it this autumn but the middle of the day was probably not the best time to put its credentials to the test. After 40 minutes, a few sharp bends of the rod was all that could be reported. The plan was then to fish a maggot feeder further downstream to encourage a few bites during the warmest and brightest part of the day. Once Mike had his eye in on the casting front the bites started to arrive. Most of them were lightning quick but eventually some fish made their way to the bank successfully. Most were small chub although perch, skimmer bream and a roach all put in an appearance. One chub had a lucky escape when a pike tried and failed twice to launch an attack as it was brought to the bank.

An Avon barbel goes back strongly
By three o'clock, I decided to go and bait a swim with barbel in mind. I used a bait dropper to put about a pint of hemp and some pellets down. I also threw in around 20 boilies. It was then a case of leaving it alone for at least an hour in the hope that some decent fish would find it and grow in confidence.  Most of the bait had been concentrated in area slightly upstream with a lighter offering downstream and across towards cover. Quite often, larger fish spook when faced with a large bed of bait. Whilst it no doubt attracts fish to the area it is often the downstream rod that performs as the larger, more wary fish hang back. With both baits in place it was a case of seeing if the plan actually worked. Five minutes or so passed when Mike's rod twitched twice before slamming round. It was of course the unmistakable bite from a barbel and a fish of about 4-5lb gave him value for money with several surges towards both banks. He was very pleased with his first Avon barbel and I also took satisfaction from the fact the plan had worked so quickly. Soon after, it was my turn to do battle with an Avon's barbel. This fish stayed low and felt a better fish. Indeed it was at 8lb 4oz. We'd
This fish came quickly after giving the swim time
managed two daytime barbel from a crystal clear river within 15 minutes so things were looking up. Unfortunately, the fish had spooked and the action ceased. Ideally, we should have had another swim prepared to move into but we sat it out with us needing to pack up by 7pm. A barbel decided to jump from the water in front of us signalling they were still in the area. Time for a second plan to outwit them. I decided to change tactics to a blockend feeder with a short hooklink. The size 10 hook had a hair with 3 fake maggots attached and then the hook was baited with as many live maggots as possible. I then taped up the feeder to slow the release of bait. Thankfully this approach also came off as I hooked another barbel of around 5lb with not long of our session left. Mike went home happy although it would have been nice if he could have followed up that early barbel with another decent fish.

Comments are always welcomed to help me gauge the reach of these posts so feel free to leave a few words.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Back to business

Having returned from holiday it was time to get back on my local Warwickshire Avon. Hopefully, the fish would be more obliging than their French cousins. My time away had seen the heatwave pass and with it the the bickering in the barbel world that had been taking place all summer. I didn't get to the river until until almost 7.30pm. A few baits were thrown in and a first cast was made some twenty minutes later. This summer had seen the river alive with chub leading me to start fishing with pellets again as they are not as easily stolen as my boilie baits. On this occasion, I set up two rods to see which bait would prove more effective.

Within minutes of casting a positive bite on the boilie saw a 3lb chub make its way to the bank. It seemed that the chub were still here and still hungry. That said, they were not as ferocious as they had been a few weeks earlier when it was almost impossible to keep a bait in the water for more than a minute. It was soon after that the boilie rod was signifying another bite and this time a barbel was on. A fish of around 4lb put up a great scrap before another chub took a liking for the boilies.

A pause to the action ensued as the evening began to draw in. It was only 9 o'clock but already the
A few barbel put a bend in the rod
sense that autumn is just around the corner is present. I then heard a huge crash in the water just upstream. I stood up to see the bow wave and the trail of something that had moved to the near bank. I suspected an otter so I walked slowly towards the commotion. It was then a deer spritely jumped up the bank before running away, pausing every so often to see if I was a genuine threat. It had obviously decided that the grass was greener on the other side.

The pellet rod now jumped into action with a rod wrenching bite that had to be a barbel. Indeed it was as another fish of around 5lb put up a spirited battle. Another barbel of similar size put in an appearance as light faded before sport stopped dead in its tracks. I was back home just after 10pm so two chub and three barbel was a decent return for just over two hours of fishing.