An angler's journal

An angler's journal

Wednesday, 26 July 2023

Is the Teme back in business?

In my last blog, I mentioned the Teme was in my thoughts. My last barbel from the river was exactly 6 years ago, a small fish of a few pounds that came at last light. I've visited most seasons since once or twice each summer to keep tabs on progress. There had been little to report with blanks or chub the usual result. 

Many will know that the Teme was once a prolific barbel river with multiple catches normal. Then the demise set in. Much has been written as to what the cause was with major flooding, otters, over extraction and pollution all blamed. To be honest, they have probably all contributed in some part. The outcome however could not be disputed. There have been far fewer barbel in the river in the last 15 years than before. 

So, my latest visit beckoned. I had been ill recently and not really up to speed with things. I knew we had seen a weekend of rain that had ruled out the test match but it had made little impact on the Avon so assumed there would be little effect on the Teme as well. On arrival, I saw the river was coloured. It was up but not by a great amount. If I had anticipated these conditions then I'd have gone with a meat approach. As it was, I had to adapt. I saw a swim that I'd never fished before. In normal conditions, I'd just keep walking. In these conditions it looked too good to ignore. A smooth, steady glide. I settled into the swim and decided to bait with one and a half boilies on a size 8 hook and a PVA bag of crushed boilie and pellets. In summer, coloured water usually means barbel will be quick to the bait if they are present. They also don't mind moving so I was hoping the scent trail would pull any nearby fish in and onto my hookbait. I cast and sat back to take in the tranquil surroundings. The Teme valley is beautiful and if you have never visited before then I'd recommend it. It's part of the reason I've continued to visit even though the fishing has been less than successful in recent years. It's a river that has very little interference from humans. Trees have fallen into the river and been left there, the banks are wild as the river runs over shallow gravels and into deeper pools.  

A first Teme Tiger since 2016
Back to the fishing and I was about ten minutes in when to my surprise the rod wrapped round and I was into a fish. Was it a barbel or a stubborn chub? The longer the battle went on then the more optimistic I became. A sudden run confirmed a barbel was definitely the culprit. It was safely netted and looked around 6lb. What a cracking start. After all those years, it had taken ten minutes to succeed where I had failed before. 

I decided to have another cast to see if this was just a lone fish and I'd got lucky or whether the conditions had seen a few congregate in the swim. I attached another PVA bag and cast to the same spot.

A second barbel in as many casts

Again, the bait had not been out too long when I was connected to another spirited Teme Tiger. This fish put up a determined resistance, one that its predecessors had made the river famous for, but it was a little smaller than the first. I had been fishing for less than half an hour, made two casts and now had two barbel for my efforts. I was in total surprise. 

Catching two fish so quickly made me decide to give the swim a rest so the fish could regain some confidence and maybe even see something larger move in. I went for a walk to check out some possible swims and then returned and deposited some hemp and pellet into the swim with a bait dropper. I then took my essentials to try another spot. The next swim gave me some twitches but it wasn't really deep enough to give me huge confidence. By the time I returned to my original spot, an hour had past since the second barbel. Out went the same bait and a small PVA bag and you've guessed it, another bite and

The biggest of the three barbel
another barbel. It was larger too, probably 7lb or so. Another cast saw another rod bending bite but this time a chub was the result. The chub signaled a halt to the frenzy and for the first time, the fishing was quiet. I decided that I'd deposit some more bait into the swim and try another spot. The new spot was very different but my options were limited by steep banks that were now wet following an earlier shower and also overgrown. I settled for 40 mins or so but there was nothing to report and it saw me return to the original swim at around 8.30pm. The river had dropped quite quickly, about 6 inches judging by the lines on the trees. This had certainly switched the chub on and a few had been crashing on the surface. It seemed to have the opposite effect on the barbel who had now appeared to have gone into hiding. As the sun finally dipped below the horizon, I was hoping for one more bite. It did arrive, another slam on the rod tip but the level of resistance told me it wasn't the big barbel I had hoped for. Another chub was added and with it I decided to call it a day. 

It had been a really rewarding session, my best on the river for many a year. The barbel were not huge by barbel standards but they didn't need to be. They provided me with as much satisfaction as the 12 pounder I caught last week off the Avon. They also gave me huge encouragement that the Teme is recovering. It may never return to the 1990s numbers but I believe that you can now visit with optimism and it will hopefully keep getting better. 

Blogger Widgets

Hunt for the next challenge

 A new season is upon us and we're at the end of July already. As I've got older, my fishing has been more about my own personal challenges and learning. I don't need to catch the most fish or even the biggest. There are rivers I could visit and no doubt obliterate my PB, but what would it prove?

A few years ago, I embarked on tackling a new stretch of the Warks Avon that had no real barbel form or history. Initially, the challenge was to prove barbel could be caught anywhere and not just from the popular venues. I managed this and caught consistently to prove it was no fluke. This had been as a result of tinkering with baits, baiting approaches and subtle presentation differences. I've worked out the most reliable locations and have caught from a number of swims along the stretch. I've now settled on a method that's proven reliable so the next challenge became about finding a double. A string of 10 pounders came my way but a decent double of 12 pound plus from the venue had eluded me until now. 

This year's glorious 16th June was anything but glorious with just a chub and bream to dampen my new season enthusiasm. A hot spell kept me off the river and then last week I found myself on an evening session. My tactics were my standard approach. One rod upstream with boilie and then another rod baited with pellet over a bed of feed. The boilie resulted in a chub and then a barbel of just under 9lb came to the pellet before a lull in activity. As dusk approached, anticipation increased. I was not concerned by the lack of activity. I'd rather this than chub plucks, which normally tell me barbel aren't active. When it's quiet but I know I'm in a good spot then I know a bite can appear from nowhere. True to form, without warning the rod ripped round and saw me connected to a barbel that stayed deep and plodded about mid-river. A few runs and the fish was netted. It was certainly a double and the thickness across its back told me this was more than ten pounds. 

A super Avon barbel of 12lb 6oz

The scales showed 12lb 6oz and was a real result on a stretch I've been fishing for a few years without it revealing its hidden gems. 

So, what next? I'd love a 13 pounder and this latest fish makes me believe that it might be a distinct possibility. One thing I have not worked out is where the fish go once November kicks in. My reliable spots go quiet and I've not caught a barbel from the stretch after October. I am sure this is the key to the really big fish as 12 pound summer barbel are certainly much bigger come the winter months. Another challenge I want to pursue is the barbel on the river Teme. It's been a while since I caught one but there's been some encouraging stories over the past 12 months for me want to rekindle this. 

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Perchy Ponderings

With autumn upon us, I decided to target some river perch. The venue was a middle Severn stretch that I have fished on many occasions over the years but not too often in recent times. It was a lovely warm day with some October sunshine to boot. Not ideal conditions for perch who prefer to feed in low light but I did have an ace up my sleeve. Although the river had returned to normal level, it was still holding some colour. I also chose a swim that afforded me some shade. A quick plumb of the swim told me I had just under 5 feet of water a rod length out. There was some slight flow with trees upstream and downstream of where I planned to drop a bait. I began fishing a whip with maggots to see what was lurking in the swim. Unsurprisingly, bites came quickly with small dace, roach and chublets all making an appearance. This was encouraging since as any perch angler will know, where there are small fish then predators are never far behind. After half an hour or so, I dropped in a few broken bits of worm and baited a size 8 hook with a lobworm. I use barbless hooks with perch as they can at times end up deeply hooked. A barbless hook makes this event a lot more straightforward to solve. A small piece of elastic band on the bend prevents the worm escaping. The hook was tied to 6lb line with a bobber type float shotted with a single SSG shot around 8 inches from the hook. I see no point in over complicating matters. 

A 1lb 7oz was the pick of the first batch
Results were pretty instant with a 1lb 7oz perch the pick of the first three perch. They soon moved off and I went back to catching the small silver fish. With the steam engines of the Severn Valley Railway chugging along the valley it really did add something to the trip. After a bite to eat in the warm autumn sun, it was perch time once again. The second stint through up another fish around around the pound and a half mark before I hooked something completely different. I knew it was not a perch and and as the lively battle came to an end, a small pike came into view hooked right on the edge of its mouth and thus preventing my line being bitten through. Then the float dipped and again solid resistance was felt. The tell tale jags told me this was a perch and of much better stamp than its previous relatives. This fish really did put up a good battle and a beautiful perch was netted. It went 2lb 2oz which was a decent result and capped off a really enjoyable day. I plan to return when conditions allow as I know a 3 pounder is a real possibility and who knows, maybe something bigger. 
The 2 pounder promises much for the future

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Off to a flyer

The past year has been a challenge for most. With the ongoing pandemic, my work has dominated this past 15 months and rightly so as there's been a lot to do for the greater good. However, it has come at the cost of my own personal interests. I noted that only one entry on this blog had taken place since June 2020. To be honest, not that much fishing happened and when it did I wasn't really prepared so unsurprisingly there was little to write about. When spring arrived, I was determined to try and make a bit more effort to make time and balance things up. I did a fair bit of cycling during the April and May, raising some money for Prostrate Cancer along the way. I used the Easter break to attack the garden after moving house at the end of last year and finally I was determined to go fishing on the rivers again once the season reopened on June 16th. 

Of course, it fell on a work day and I had meeting which delayed my start but I finally made it to the river at about 7.30pm and promptly baited a swim with the trusty dropper. Eight loads of hemp and mixed pellet were deposited just off a far bank tree. This is quiet part of the Warwickshire Avon away from the crowds but several seasons of investigations has seen me find a small population of barbel on the stretch. I gave the swim half hour to work its magic as I went for a stroll. A pellet baited rig was cast over the bait with a second rod baited with boilie and placed mid-river for any nomadic fish that passed through. 

A few taps and raps were seen as the evening progressed. The stretch has a big population of chub who are always first on the bait but nothing developed. By 9.40, I was starting to think that a typical underwhelming opening day session was about to play out. The 16th June always brings eternal hope and anticipation but as anglers reading this will know only too well, it is often an anti-climax. I'd told myself that I'd need to start thinking about packing up not long after 10pm with a busy day ahead the following morning. 

Then at 9.45, without any warning, the pellet rod suddenly wrapped round and the first fish of the season was on. A great battle ensued as the fish made several blistering runs across the river. I caught a glimpse and it looked a decent barbel as its golden flank flashed beneath the surface. It was then safely landed and allowed to rest. This is vitally important during the warmer months. I could see it was a very solid fish as I lifted it onto the unhooking mat. The scales showed 10lb exactly meaning I had just about scraped a double on the first day of the season. I'm not sure I have managed that before and it was a great way to begin the new season. By the time I'd returned the fish safely, it was time to call it a day. I really hope this is the beginning of more positive year ahead and there will be plenty more stories to share. 

A great way to start the season

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

2021 brings hope or does it?

Well, 2020 has finally passed. For many, it will go down in history as one of the worst years in living memory. I realised I haven't posted on here since the end of June. To be honest, having worked throughout the epidemic and facing some tough challenges along the way it was obvious some sacrifices would have to take place. For me, it meant fishing ended up a way down the list and to be honest, the lack of focus yielded pretty mediocre results when I did manage to get out. That said, many have found rivers a tough gig during the past year so maybe I didn't miss out too much. 

2021 commenced. A dawn of new hope maybe? I did manage a trip on the Avon with the end of the Christmas break looming on the horizon. The river had fallen. It was certainly cold but the water had taken on that tinge that always screams chub. Out came the cheese paste. This particular batch must be over a decade old now and has been in and out of the freezer more times than I care to remember. A light quivertip rod, size 8 hook and 6lb line together with just enough gear to allow me to stay mobile was all I needed. The first swim produced some indications but a few strikes met with thin air. My second swim saw me miss a really positive bite that I was way too late reacting too. Off to what turned out to be my final swim. I had seen some chub topping here so I had reason to feel optimistic. Two chub resulted pretty quickly plus another bite that I hopelessly missed. Neither fish was huge at 2-3lb but they brought some welcome cheer on a cold afternoon. The light soon faded and it had also started to rain so that signalled the end of the session. 

Within 48 hours, Lockdown 3 had been announced. It looks like fishing will be down the list once again for a while.  In the meantime, stay safe in whatever you're up to and let us all hope that better times are around the corner. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Slow start eventually bears fruit

The opening of the river season seems to have been an anti-climax for many of the anglers I know. Despite several rivers being fished by some good anglers, the results have been the same - very little to write about.

My opening day saw me fish the Avon after work with a solitary 3lb chub saving a blank. A few days later saw me out again in what looked reasonable conditions. A bit of extra water had coloured the river up but I didn't get so much as a tap. I did get a to watch a family of foxes with an excitable cub, two roe deer and a barn owl all in the space of about 15 minutes, which is all I can say about a pretty uneventful session. 

I changed tactics altogether on my next trip, going lure fishing with my son on a completely different stretch. He christened his new spinning rod with a pike and managed to lose one that spectacularly leapt to freedom. I managed a couple of my own and a small perch. It was just nice to find some fish on a deserted BAA stretch of the river. 

Another blank followed that week and it seemed that the chance of an early season barbel was disappearing fast. As the end of June approached, I went out determined to put that right and set about hatching a plan to see a barbel grace the net. 

I baited up a likely looking spot and then fished some rolling meat to see if anything was lurking. I managed to get the bait moving nicely with just enough plasticine to get the bait down to the bottom. Two chub were caught quite quickly before the shoal spooked. That was the signal to get a bait out and sit it out for what I hoped would be a plan coming to fruition. I had a small chub before all went quiet. Then at about 9pm the rod wrapped around in unmistakable fashion. A barbel was on although it didn't put up too much of a battle. A couple of short runs and it was safely netted where it then proceeded to put up more of a fight than it had at any point in the water. It was a nice fish though. I hoped it might be a scraper double but suspected it would fall short with the scales settling at 9lb 9oz to confirm this. It was a great looking specimen and a fitting fish for my first barbel. 

A lovely conditioned barbel

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Happy New Year - A Pike PB

It was New Year's Eve and I was long overdue a pike or two. The rivers had been carrying extra water since October and windows of opportunity had been far too slim. I had however had my eyes on a new stretch of the Avon that I felt might throw up a decent fish so I hit the banks at first light.

The obvious spot was actually quite snaggy and after an hour I'd seen very little to give me confidence. I reeled in and went exploring. It broke the morning up a little and allowed me to search out some potential new spots. An opening in the trees revealed a swim that had to be worth a cast so I walked back to my gear, collected the essentials and dropped a sardine a rod length from the bank. The bait had barely been in the water for 2 minutes when the float started to tremble as a pike picked up the bait. The float sailed away and I was into a solid fish that stayed deep and performed some powerful runs. It was however safely netted and unhooked and it was obvious a very nice fish lay in the net. The scales showed 18lb 9oz which was a new best for me from the river. The search for that Avon twenty goes on but this was a great way to sign off 2019.