Trying To Make Short Sessions Count

This is almost a repeat of last months blog, with time for fishing being very scarce. At least Tracey has finally had a scan on her bad knee. 3 torn ligaments out of 4 is bad enough, no wonder she was in so much pain and can’t walk, but waiting almost 3 months for the scan and results is ridiculous. Even now we could be waiting 3 more months to see if they’ll do an op or not. The staff who work for the NHS are first class, but unfortunately they’re let down by a criminal lack of funding. The net result for me is I have 2 horses to look after and feed every day after work, so fishing time is limited!

I did manage to fit 3 short evening trips in for barbel. I fished twice on the tidal Trent and once on the middle river. The lack of water and clarity is alarming, meaning daytime action is rare unless you fish with particles.

I’d rather use boilies and fish into darkness as this fits in with the time I have available so this is what I did. On my first trip the light was just fading as I had my first screaming take. It was only a small barbel around 4/5lbs, but look at the shape. This looks like it could be a real beast in the future.

I had a few more slightly larger barbel and bream before catching my first double of the autumn. A lovely fish that gave me a good scrap! (don’t laugh at the hair, it was windy!)

I remember in 2005 when I set out to catch my first Trent double. I went with Matt Brown, who’d caught a serious number of barbel that season, but only one double at the time, though it was a good fish. He showed me he was catching one double for about every 90 barbel caught. Now I was lucky enough to catch a double that night, but just look at the river now. I catch doubles on more trips than not!

After the double I packed up and went home, returning to the same swim a couple of days later. I couldn’t believe no other anglers had been seen on both evenings, but it suited me fine as I could try and draw fish up from a long way downstream. Again I caught steadily with 5 more barbel, including a double, backed up by even more bream. The bream became an increasing nuisance so I called it a day around 10pm The barbel were in pristine condition.

As the night air cooled, massive ‘Icebergs’ of foam came down the river making things a bit surreal. The below photo was a small example of what was floating down the middle of the river at night.

My next trip took me to the middle river where I only caught one barbel, plus numbers of bream! As per usual the barbel was a good fish, touching 11lbs, but it had a horrible golf ball sized lump on it’s tail that was bleeding.

It didn’t seem to affect the fish though as it gave me one of the best scraps I’ve had from a barbel. The river was so low and clear I had to land it 20 yards downstream, because there were too many boulders just under the surface where I was fishing. I doubt the barbel would have made it in to the bank above them!

In-between the barbel trips I carried on walking my local smaller rivers looking for any good fish, namely big roach. I’ve not seen a decent fish now since the start of the season on a previous trip. I’m both saddened and worried how so many big roach can go missing in 6 months. I just hope they’ve moved elsewhere rather than the other possibilities! Anyway, I had a couple of hours spare so fished a swim which usually produces a few roach. After feeding for a while with casters, a chunky dace and 2 chublets wrecked the swim sending the roach under some overhanging branches. I coaxed a few small fish out and a better sample not far short of a pound. I let one trot go right under a raft of debris. I was expecting to get snagged up but just at the point of no return my float jabbed under and I struck into a good fish. This is where things went haywire and I played a blinder, in my opinion!

About 8 big roach flew out from under this raft in all directions followed by a couple of big pike! I realised I was attached to one of the big roach but the pike sensed something was wrong and was in full hunt mode. I lowered my rod and took the bail arm off so the roach stopped twisting in the current and headed back downstream. I followed it before tightening down and hoping for the best. It worked a treat as the hook had stayed in and battle commenced 20 yards downstream from where I’d originally hooked it. It was well away from the pike now, so after a tense battle on light tackle, I eventually netted my first big river roach of the season. At 14 inches long it tickled the magic weight on the scales, but more importantly I’d found one of the survivors. A roach that’s made it to a special size despite all the challenges it’s faced over the last 10 years or more. Fingers crossed it’s not my last from this tiny magical river.




No Time and Psychic Payback

To any people who like to read this blog, I’d like to apologise for the lack of recent updates, but I’ve simply had very little time for fishing.

In 4 months I’ve had a handful of trips lasting a couple of hours on my local stream, plus an evening on the Trent and a trip to the Hampshire Avon. This is because my girlfriend dismounted her horse doing a triple salchow (with pike) and has damaged her knee. Unable to get around the house, or even get into the shower, this has meant all my spare time has been spent trying to help her. Even now she’s still on crutches and can’t get upstairs, but is just about good enough for me to maybe start sneaking in some longer days out on the bank.

On a couple of short recce’s to my local stream I spotted 2 big roach, but they were living in different shoals with a lot of smaller roach acting as bodyguards. One looked so big I simply had to try for it, but despite several near misses, it refused to take my caster hook bait. I did catch a few of it’s smaller shoal mates though, and plenty of perch which seem to be increasing in numbers.

It was puzzling me where all the big roach had gone. Hopefully they were hiding and have not died or been predated on. I tried a couple of possible holding spots. The first has produced a few 2lb+ roach to both Martin and myself, but this time I only had a few lovely smaller fish and a perch around 2lbs.

The next spot was one where I had a good bag of big roach from last autumn, and again I could see some shapes milling around under some willow branches. I couldn’t be sure if they were big roach or not so I just tried to catch what was on offer. They certainly looked big roach size, but alas, it was those big roach imposters of the river, the chublet of around a pound! There were a few nice roach mixed in with them, and the obligatory perch, but the swim left more questions than answers.

Speaking of those chublets, 3 years ago there was a shoal of similar sized fish that gave good roach impressions whilst playing them. I cursed when they used to surface, but I fished for those same fish a few weeks ago and they’re now almost all over 4lbs, with some over 5lbs!! They gave me a great scrap on light float gear, but if they keep growing they’ll be real specimens. I doubt they will keep growing though because most chub in this river top out at 4lb 8oz, with the odd ‘5’ Again, this catch included the obligatory ‘stripey’

Just when things were looking bleak on the big roach front, I received a late night call from my mate Martin telling me he’d just caught a belting fish for these parts of 2lbs 4oz. At the time he was without his mobile phone, so instead of ringing me to take the photos he had to call on the services of his eldest son Joseph, who did a fine job.

Martin told me there looked to be a few more big roach in the swim so I paid the same area a visit 2 days later. It was a place we’d never tried before so we hoped we’d struck gold, but the big fish looked to have gone when I arrived. They may have been hiding in some foliage, but I could see some other decent roach so I just assumed they’d moved on. Just to be sure I fished for everything in the swim and put a nice net together. The roach were quality fish, but not the lumps this river can produce.

I also caught some chub and of course a lumpy perch of well over 2lbs!

The highlights of the day were these little fellows. I’ve not caught any for ages but I’ve a real soft spot for the gudgeon. When I was a kid they saved many blanks for me and most venues seemed to be teeming with them.

Finally I had a chance to fish for several hours so Martin and I headed for a stretch of the Trent that we knew held big roach as well as big barbel. The plan was to fish for roach until the light started to fade, then switch to the barbel gear. Last year we both caught some cracking redfins from the same swims that we again jumped into on this trip. Plenty were around or over a pound, but the stretch has produced several confirmed 2lb+ fish, so we were full of hope. Unfortunately the roach were not in residence. Last year our quiver tips never stopped twanging and banging, but this time we just caught a few small dace apiece. There may be a reason for this though because powerful forces may have been at work!

Martin and I have always been interested in the ‘unknown’. Right from our middle school days Ghosts, UFO’s and everything in between has always been discussed openly and debated as to whether we think things are true or not. This fishing trip saw the spoon bending psychic Uri Geller being discussed. If anyone searches online they will find evidence that he’s a ‘fake’ and how he achieves his deception, especially in James Randi documentaries. This saw Martin and I openly criticising him and anyone who thinks he’s genuine. He even claimed to move the football for a penalty during the England vs Scotland Euro 96 match! Anyway, while I was slating Uri and his believers I stood up to take a pee, when I heard a crash behind me. I turned just in time to see my Shimano Baitrunner, attached to my rod heading towards the sea at a rate of knots!

It was obviously a barbel that had done this but how it didn’t break the fine ‘roach’ hook link that I had on, before it flattened the rests and dragged the rod away, heavens only knows……….or was it Uri getting revenge?

Anyway, I was gutted at losing all that tackle and having a fish drag my rod through the swims. The long hook link was very fine so it should snap like cotton as soon as the rod reaches the snaggy bottom, but it was still bad angling, especially as I was using a baitrunner. Lesson learned and no more fish caught!

For my last trip I visited the Hampshire Avon to check some big roach out. I’d been invited down by a friend and he told me to prepare myself for seeing something special. At dawn we were on the banks, walking the meadow, looking for signs of roach. Eventually I spotted a fish gliding over some thick weed and said “there’s a chub over there” To which my mate replied “I’ve never seen a chub in this area of river before” We watched the fish ‘waddle’ over the weed, turn to face the flow, and saw its size. We also saw it’s red fins and tail. It was a roach of goliath proportions! “told you you’d see something special” said my mate. And he was dead right, for as the sun rose, we caught sight of more and more roach in the swim. They were very wary though, sticking tight to the weed stems where they entered the river bed, allowing the flow to push the rest of the weed over their backs, making them almost invisible to predators and anglers alike.

Soon we were able to get a handle of the numbers of roach in the swim. There were loads of ‘bodyguards’ probably well over 100+ fish in the 8oz to pound plus size. Then there were the ‘2’s probably around 20+ in numbers ranging from ‘scrapers’ to near ‘3’s and then there were the giants of the shoal. Probably half a dozen, possibly into double figures in numbers, these were the fish to make any anglers lifetime. Genuine 3lb+ river roach swimming just feet from where I was stood, and eating my introduced casters! One must have been almost 18 inches long, with flanks like a bream. I’d hate to estimate what that weighed. It’s a sight that I’ll always remember.

It was obvious from the start these giant roach were tackle shy, but due to the thick weed, you couldn’t fish too light. There were several near misses as a giant would go for my caster only to shy away at the last moment. Unfortunately some of the bodyguards took the bait before I could get it away from them. I knew that for each one landed, the giants would be a lot harder to tempt. The smaller roach had to be admired though. They were perfectly conditioned, so deep and broad that they had to be future giants themselves. Most were in the 12oz to pound plus size, still making for a good day.

We knew that dusk would provide our best opportunity, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, almost falling in the river as I fell asleep stood up! I was privileged to have seen such roach though, and I’d only just set off for home when my mate messaged me with a roach he’d just caught that was well over 2lbs. I daren’t read any more messages he sent after that, but I couldn’t help wishing I lived 200 miles closer! Here is his prize alongside one of the mint ‘bodyguard’ fish we caught.



No Double Trouble For The Rebel M.T.

I was back after a big tench again, and yet again things were going wrong. My first week of fishing ended abruptly with the cut to my hand. Now all my other days off were wiped out because of a meeting and Tracey going abroad on a Hen Do, leaving me looking after 3 dogs! This is the trouble with having to book my annual leave for the summer nearly a year in advance. If anything crops up I’ve had it.

Anyway, my gear was ready to throw in the car so as soon as Tracey was back I zoomed off to at least grab a couple more days chasing a green giant. I’d intended to arrive at first light, the best time to spot any fish activity, but a motorway closure soon put paid to that. After driving for ages through an endless amount of tiny villages, I finally returned to the motorway. The sat nav’s time of arrival had gone up by about 1 hour. You couldn’t make it up. To relieve stress, I spotted a McDonalds drive through and went for a coffee and bite to eat. A few minutes later wouldn’t hurt any more now. I went to get my card out of my pocket, but there was nothing there. I’d only left all my cash cards at home! Luckily, I had a  £5 note on me, thus avoiding the ‘slow lap of shame’ in the ‘Drive Thru’. I got a coffee and carried on. It was then I looked at the fuel gauge with horror. It was below half a tank and I still had about 80 miles to go. I was going to turn around and plod home, but I’d had enough of things cropping up. I was going tench fishing even if I ran out of fuel!

I arrived with just over a quarter of a tank of fuel left, but more importantly the lake was almost full. At least it took the stress out of choosing a peg. I went into where I’d blanked last time out, but this time with no rolling fish I had a really good cast around with a marker float. I chose to fish on the nearside of the gravel bar this time. On top of the bar it was 6-7ft with lots of scaggy weed, but at the bottom of the gravel slope it was silty and clear, dropping from 11 feet to 13ft, before a there was a bed of Canadian Pondweed. Hopefully the tench would patrol this area.

I spombed out a 4 lots of hemp and pellet, then fished a couple of feeders over the top. One was full of maggots, with maggots on the hook, the other was chopped worms, with hair rigged worms for bait. It was then time to get the kettle on.

In summer, when I go fishing at a daft early morning time, I really struggle to keep awake these days, as was the case on this trip. In between snoozes, I would fill the feeders up to keep some fresh bait going into the swim. I’d just looked at my watch at 5pm, thinking I was going to have another blank day when it happened. The alarm bleeped and I looked at the rod. The tip was bouncing from whatever had caused it, when the alarm went into overdrive as the bobbin dropped, then lifted up as a fish had obviously hooked itself.

I lifted the rod to feel something on the end. I had to remember what to do now, it’d been so long since I’d had action when after tench! After a few seconds loads of coots scattered as my line cut through the water. ‘Don’t tell me I’ve hooked a duck’ was my initial thought. I felt something ‘thump’ a couple of times, before it kited steadily to my left. Whatever it was didn’t feel very big, nor powerful and I was wondering whether it was a bream or a big roach. The kiting became a real problem because the reeds extended a long way from the bank. I leant as far forward as I could, but the fish reached the reed stems. ‘Don’t tell me I’m going to lose it without seeing it’ was my next thought. After a short stalemate the fish came out of the reeds and fought in open water, about 10 yards in front of me. I saw a deep flank twist and thought it was a bream. I had my polarising glasses on my forehead so slipped them over my eyes, where I could see big paddle fins. It was a tench!

Now I suddenly realised if the tench was so deep, it could be a pretty big fish. This put more pressure on me but luckily, after some steady pressure, it wallowed into the net with no problems at all. I tried not to get too carried away, but it felt a good weight, and when it was on the mat I kept saying to myself ‘that has to be a double, it’s got to be’ After all, it was almost as deep as it was long.

Out came the carefully zeroed Reuben’s. It seemed wrong to bundle such a stunning fish into a sling, but this sport is almost always a numbers game in one way or another and it was time to put a number to this stunning specimen. The needle sailed round well past 10lbs before coming back to settle on 10lbs 5oz, what a fish, and a great way to end my tench jinx of recent times.

A carp angler came to have a look and even he was impressed. He offered to take some photos which led to a bit of awkwardness. I had to decline, I told him ‘I’ll sort it out after I’ve cast back in’ The trouble is I’ve had a few shocking photos of big fish taken by carp anglers! I didn’t want this to be in the same bracket. If the photos were cocked up, I wanted it to be my fault.

I went to put her in a sack, when she went mental on the bank, giving me a real beating and covering me in slime! She didn’t really fight in the water, but she was now! When she was safely secured in the margins for a couple of minutes, I sorted my camera out and managed to get a few quick shots before slipping her back. I hoped she’d make someone else as happy as I was at that moment. Isn’t it funny how quickly your fortunes can change in fishing?

The rest of the day went without incident, but I wasn’t bothered one jot!

The next day I was up at first light and saw a few tench roll, but not over my baits. I repeated the same feeding routine that I’d done on the first day, then it was just a case of steadily working the swim, hoping a few more tench would come along.

At midday I had another screaming bite. This fish felt in a different league and I suspected a carp to be the culprit. It charged off, then came running at me at speed. It was heading for some sunken branches to my right and I had to give it everything the 8lb hook link had to keep it away from sanctuary. I managed to turn it at the last moment and bring it under the rod tip. Well blow me, I could see it was another tench. What a scrap this had given me.

I managed to get it into the net at the first time of asking and at first I thought I’d got another double.

I soon realised it’s dimensions weren’t quite like the first tinca, but it was a stunning fish. It was a mixture of greens, golds, yellows, browns and black, not to mention the little red eye. What a gorgeous fish. The scales said it was 8lbs 14oz, another cracking specimen.

I should have let the carp angler take the photos of this fish because my efforts were pretty poor! I shouldn’t have left my dark top on because it doesn’t contrast well with the dark tench. Never mind. I was still having a session to remember.

A short while later I missed another bite where the worm had managed to fold over the hook. Ah well, you can’t win them all. Incidentally, all 3 bites came to the worm rod and not the maggots. Maybe I should have changed the maggot rod over to worms too, but I couldn’t complain with my lot. 2 tench for over 19lbs was more than I could have hoped for. Now I just had to try and get 190 miles back home on hardly any fuel. And my phone had ran out of battery too!

The journey home was a white knuckle ride, but by not going over 60mph, these modern diesels showed what they can do. I arrived home with fuel to spare! I was stunned and it shows how much more fuel we use when going 70mph. For once all my decisions had gone for me and lady luck had smiled on me.

That’s it for my real specimen tench fishing, though I may fish for them on a local lake with a traditional closed season. Roll on June the ‘magic’ 16th when I can fish there and also all the rivers and drains! Tight lines



Canal Roach and Tench Blank.

My early spring fishing on the local canals finished abruptly when a sudden heatwave sent almost every fish into spawning mode. It’s always time to leave them alone then.

Prior to that, I’d struggled in my morning sessions compared to last year, taking the odd good roach with a few decent bream thrown in for good measure. I’d have loved catches like these though when I used to fish the canal as a boy.

All of my catches were falling to float fished bread. But on one catch after catching a number of nice bream, my keepnet was full of sweetcorn skins! Someone had obviously been piling the ‘yellow peril’ in.

Frustrated by the lack of big roach, I switched to fishing in the evening to see if that made a difference. It was like flicking a switch as a number of quality specimens fell for my light line tactics. One redfin of a pound and a quarter gained my attention. It was pretty chunky, but not pigeon chested like many others. It had lovely coloration though. Interspersed with the textbook roach colouring was the odd patch of bronze, where lost scales had grown back, but in a different colour. It’s amazing how stunning our coarse fish are when we take a close look.

I placed a few roach for a photo before putting the rest back. I had 15 more like the ones in the photo. While not massive roach, fish around a pound are true specimens for a tiny urban canal, and I’ll never tire of catching them.

Following the heatwave that saw almost every roach in the canal getting all frisky, I turned my attention to a big tench, or hopefully more!

I’ve not had much luck in pursuit of tench in recent years. The Oxford gravel pits have never yielded a tench to me, despite watching them roll in my swim on many occasions. I tried in Norfolk, and caught a couple of nice fish on my first trip. With a couple of weeks booked off work I looked forward to more, but fractured ribs in a freak fall stopped me getting on the bank again.

This years effort started in dodgy fashion as I drove down to the gravel pits I’d decided on fishing, arriving at first light, but then I took another hour to find the gate to get into the place! Once in, I arrived at my chosen lake to see a few tench rolling in open water. With no other anglers in the area, I quickly put some gear in the swim and got my plumbing rod out. I found a nice clear gravel bar which the tench were rolling behind. I then got my spod rod out to put some bait in, hoping to gain their confidence before casting in. Then disaster happened!

I opened a can of hemp to mix with my other baits that I was going to spod out. As I pulled the ring pull, I felt a very sharp pain and instinctively clutched my hand tight to my body. A quick look down at all the blood confirmed my suspicions, I’d got a very bad cut. Even worse was the fact I’d carried a first aid kit with me all winter, but had left it in my float fishing bag!

I kept wrapping my thumb in wipes, trying to stop the flow of blood whilst trying to start fishing, but it was no use. I had to find a shop. Eventually I bought a load of plasters, germaline and antiseptic wipes. The cut was pretty bad but I wasn’t driving back home. I was here for another day and a half, so I put plenty of plasters on that pulled the cut together, then started fishing!

It was no surprise that the tench activity had stopped by now. Despite my optimism, I never saw another tench roll, nor did I get any bites. My tench fishing luck just has to turn one day!

Canal Frustrations

I’ve been concentrating on all three of my local canals over the last few weeks. They’re all different venues, not only in name but their sizes, depth and characters. They range from tiny, shallow and intimate to large, deep, exposed and tough. A range of species, many to specimen size, reside in them all, meaning there’s always something to target. Unfortunately, the heavy rains and flooded rivers even started to effect these canals.

I wanted to fish for big perch, but heavy colour in my chosen venue, caused by the River Don flooding, meant I tried to catch a big chub from a different canal. The pegs I headed for are steeped in canal chub history. In the glory match days of the late 80s and through the 90s, when this ‘cut’ always had big matches every week, these were the pegs to draw for the chub. Once the matches stopped and the canal was almost abandoned, the chub grew on, and some were claimed to top the 7lb mark. I’ve only occasionally fished here in the last few years, catching some nice chub averaging just under 5lbs, but I was stunned to see what had happened while I’ve been away. I know we’re well behind weather wise this year, but I think the pictures will do the talking.

This is what I was greeted with, but below is what these pegs should look like

As you can see, some real butchery had ruined the chub hot spot. Even worse, all the willow branches had been dumped on the canal bed, meaning it is now an absolute snag fest. It doesn’t really affect the boats, as the canal is about 10ft deep here in the middle, but it certainly buggers light line fishing for chub up!

I still had a go, using a cage feeder, liquidised bread and flake on the hook. I used 4lb line straight through, I daren’t go any lighter. The first bite was a drop back, but by the time I made contact with the chub it was in a snag under my feet! As soon as it felt the hook, before I’d struck, it had motored 15 yards towards me into that snag! I knew then how tough this session would be. After 3 chub had broken my hook links in various underwater branches, I managed to net the fourth, a small sample that would have been between 3-4 lbs. It wasn’t exactly enjoyable stood up cranking it in as hard as I could. I decided to try and brave the murky canal for big perch instead.

The perch venue had cleared slightly, though visibility was just a couple of feet. Normally it’s crystal clear, but I still hoped some big perch would find my juicy lobworms. I had plenty of them with me, and Martin came along too, though he was going to float fish on bread for the bream, roach and chub.

I fished around 70 yards away from Martin, not that I was being unsociable. I just knew that the area Martin was in had produced very few big perch over the winter, so I tried a less popular area.

The bream certainly liked Martins bread as he started putting together a fine net from a canal. I’m really surprised more anglers don’t fish these neglected waterways instead of fishing in muddy ponds. 50lb nets of bream, roach and chub are easily caught, and that’s in just a few hours. I also caught some bream on my worms, link legered at the base of the near shelf. I then hooked a fish that fought a bit harder. I saw it was a perch and it looked a big one too, but I quickly landed it without too many alarms. Despite its impressive girth, it didn’t have the length to threaten the 4lb barrier and weighed 3lbs 9oz. A cracking result in such murky water.

Just before darkness fell, Martin came to take a few photos, we then went back to his peg. He’d caught plenty of slabs, so many he struggled to lift the net! A good day had been had by us both, but our timing was good because the next day the canal flooded badly after yet more heavy rains. It was like fishing the river Trent according to some anglers, yet a few days later it was like a ditch as some bright spark had failed to close a lock gate while they ran loads of water into the River Don! No wonder the fishing was so different on what would be my last day after perch.

I caught dozens of perch, but nothing was over 12oz. I also caught the first roach of spring, and lost another roach around 12oz, signalling time to change the target species as the roach become very dominant. Multiply the photo below by 20 and you have an idea of my catch. It can be quite expensive feeding all those tiny perch expensive lobworms!

I moved canals again, targeting quality roach. Even this canal, well away from rivers, was heavily coloured. Over a couple of early morning sessions, float fishing and feeder fishing bread, I managed some nice roach. Not the big pound plus fish Martin and I had last year, but some nice quality redfins. Of course, the bream are everywhere these days, so numbers of slabs were also netted.

I noticed a lot of the roach had marks on them, possibly from goosanders or cormorants.

On my second trip, one roach had a nasty slash from a cormorant, but it had lived to tell the tale! At least I think this is almost certainly the work of a cormorant!

This canal is very urban, but maybe the cormorants visited while the rivers were raging through and most stillwaters had an ice lid on them. I certainly hope it’s not a regular thing, as the roach are real stunners in this tiny canal. They will also be my local targets for the next few weeks, along with some canal bream and tench……….and then it’s time to try and catch some really big tench from some gravel pits. Roll on summer!



Rain Stopped Play

Well, the end of the river season has passed and what a let down. The river was almost over it’s banks in the end, but things were looking very good with 3 weeks left. Even then things didn’t go to plan.

It was my day off work and my local rivers were looking in fine trim. The temperatures were freezing overnight but almost double figures in the day. It was probably a bit too cold for barbel, so it was either chub or roach fishing, or possibly both. Before I could fish though, I heard the dreaded words ‘I think the dog needs to go to the vets Mick, he’s squinting badly, are you ok to book him in straight away at 8.30 when they open please’ Talk about a spanner in the works. That was the start of the frustrations! By 12.45 I was back home with the dog, but £160 lighter in the pocket. Thats a decent rod in angling currency! I put the dog in the house, went straight into the garage, then shot down to the river to salvage what I could of the day.

I decided to fish a swim I’d not fished since summer, just to see what was at home. A long glide finished where a tree had fallen in the water. I trotted maggots up to the tree, then held back hard, before repeating the process many times. By fishing well over depth I managed to get the odd bite, with most coming almost right under the tree.

I landed a couple of spanking 6oz roach then managed to lose a few good fish that straightened my hooks. I thought they were chub so wasn’t too bothered. Eventually I landed one of the chub and followed it with a lovely roach that was 3oz over a pound

This gave me plenty of encouragement, but the only other fish I landed were a few more 6oz roach. After losing my 4th good chub of the day to another straightened hook, I decided to move swims before I ran out of hooks! It had been a good couple of hours in the swim though.

I headed to a swim where I’d caught the chub and perch from in the last blog. A nice crease swim against some far bank cover. I fed it first with maggots while I had a rest. I was working out my plan of action. After fishing this swim I’d fish a couple more, both known to hold big roach, saving the best swim till dusk.

Before I could put my plan into action I received a text from Tracey. Her daughters car had broke down at work, could I pick her up at 5pm and go to the shop too………You can guess what I thought! I estimated I’d have about 40 minutes fishing left before I had to get home so thought I’d give the swim I was in my full attention.

Surprisingly, after feeding regularly and trying all sorts when I was trotting I never had a touch. That was until the float went under and I hooked the bottom, which then started to move slowly upstream! I’d obviously hooked into a heavy fish, possibly a pike that just kept going, very slowly upstream, before the hook pinged out, almost straightened again! I don’t think the fish even knew it was hooked.

There was too little time to tie another hook on, so I bent it back into shape and trotted again. This time the float shot under and I played a very roach like fish to the middle. It was hard to see what it was in the coloured water, but there were no silver flashes so I suspected a big perch. Just as I saw what looked like stripes, the hook pinged out again. It wasn’t going well today. On the next trot the float buried again and I was into a big roach. I knew straight away this time as it came straight to the surface to give the game away. It’s always nerve racking landing a good roach in flowing water but my bendy hook held firm and the day was suddenly getting better. It looked like a fish I caught on hemp at the end of summer. If so, that meant it usually swims in a decent shoal of big roach, possibly 12 to 15 in number, with several over 2lbs.

The next cast saw the float bury again, and another tense battle took place with another good roach. I soon landed it to make it 2 roach over a pound and a half in successive casts.

The next few trots saw a couple of missed bites, before I hooked big roach number 3. This time it out smarted me by diving into a clump of weed, where it shed the hook before my eyes. What a crafty sod. Almost chub like. To top things off, as I pulled my hook out of the weed, it pinged back and wrapped round the tip of the rod into a right old birds nest. I took that as my time to leave as I’d not even have time to tackle up again before I’d have to set off home.

I tried to sum the day up. A disaster? possibly, but you can’t call those river roach a disaster. Maybe it was a case of what could have been. I wasn’t too bothered though as I’d found a good shoal of big roach. I thought I’d surely get a chance to target them before the ‘dreaded 14th’, but alas, the ‘Beast from the East’ then heavy rain put the river out of action until a couple of days after the season ended. There was one small window to fish but I was busy that day. Martin landed a couple of fish just under 2lbs on that day, from the last swim I’d planned to fish in my ‘ruined’ plan.

‘As one door closes another opens’ is the saying, so it’s time to fish my local ‘cuts’ for some perch roach and chub, which all grow to specimen sizes if you know where to look. On my only short trip so far, I fished lobworms for big perch. I turned up in the early afternoon, just as a few match anglers were packing up. They tipped back 4 small roach between them as the ‘beast’ had really cooled the water. You should have seen their faces 5 minutes later when both my rods went off straight away, just after I’d cast in. A couple of bream wasn’t what I was after, but they kept me on my toes, as did plenty of others.

In fact it got me thinking just how good my local canals are. As I’ve said, they definitely hold big roach to over 2lbs, chub to over 7lbs, perch to almost 5lbs, plus numbers of 20lb+ pike. The hard thing about targeting these fish though is the sheer numbers of bream. The canals are full of them. In fact since the closed season was abolished, my local canals have never fished better……food for thought!!

Lovely Chubly

The weather has been a mixed and rather cold bag since I last wrote on here. The temperature today though touched double figures, but it’s also rained all day. There are signs that the fish are starting to wake up, in my local rivers at least, so hopefully sport will pick up before we have to abandon the rivers just as they’re reaching peak form.

Speaking of abandoning the rivers as they hit peak form, the EA is looking into the current close season on our rivers and the Angling Times also ran a poll along the same lines. Now I don’t usually do angling politics on here, but I think the current system has had it’s day. ‘Rivers are better than ever’ some people say, but not in my neck of the woods they aren’t. Apart from the River Don, that used to be an open sewer, all my local rivers are dire compared to when I was in my teens. Some are almost sterile and no close season will have any effect on them any time soon.

Here’s a stretch of river that used to produce 2lb+ roach and 4lb+ chub, not to mention the swarms of gudgeon that swam over the gravels in their hundreds.

Yes there is a river under that lot! Cormorants took most of the fish, and over abstraction, probably linked to over population, have since rendered it almost invisible.

A bit further downstream it looks more like it used to when I started fishing.

Some evenings, when the big roach used to roll here, you had to shout to make yourself heard! Now the river here is empty and abandoned by the EA. There’s no need for a close season here, in fact it may as well be turned into a road.

The tiny rivers where I learned to fish, The Torne, Idle, Mother Drain and Ryton all teemed with fish. All but the Ryton were famous round these parts for their big roach, not to mention all the other fish that meant you could catch from almost anywhere. The Ryton held a lot of large dace, and big chub for the time, up to and over 5lbs. Again, the cormorants soon polished those smaller fish off.

All of the above rivers do still hold some fish, but a tiny fraction compared to my youth, and it’s a heck of a job to find them. I’d say that there is about 2-5% of the fish populations of old in these 4 rivers at the very most. That’s not me trying to over sensationalise things, but the truth. All the rivers are crystal clear so it’s not hard to make this number up and see how empty they are.

Looking at some of my results on these rivers, you’d wonder why I’m moaning. All contain numbers of chub over 4lbs up to well over 5lbs, which I’ve caught, as well as some lumpy perch to over 3lbs. The roach still remain, and considering Martin and I have caught around 30 x 2lb+ roach in a couple of years you’d think it was heaven. However, that is not the case. Those roach have been caught from 13 areas, or swims, over many miles of rivers. Once there was many huge shoals of roach from ounces right up to fish beyond our wildest dreams. There is just a fraction of those numbers still hanging on. The chub will be in shoals sometimes over a mile apart. There are no gudgeon or the many shoals of fish such as perch and dace that once filled the gaps in between. In fact I’ll make this bold statement. If the young Mike Townsend was playing down his local woods today, peering off the bridge into the river, he wouldn’t have begged his dad to buy him some fishing tackle for Christmas. Those roach and gudgeon I used to stare at for hours captivated me, but they’re not there now, so I doubt I’d have ended up being an angler.

Anyway, on to the original point, there’s just no need for a close season round here on my rivers. On those rivers that have larger fish populations, I’m sure a mid April till mid July close season would suit the fish far better. And if the EA really cared about fish and the environment, it would stop over abstraction that has choked what bit of life remained in my locals, then at least they might have a chance to recover. In a time when every news agency jumps on bandwagons such as the ‘plastic pollution’ one, they turn a blind eye to the very thing that is effecting our environment more than anything, the mis use and over demand for the nectar that supplies the planet with life, water!

Right, that’s politics done with, now for some fishing.

The temperature was still hovering just above freezing when I tackled my local river for roach. The colour and levels of the river looked good after some rain, but it was cold rain so I was unsure how things would go.

Trotting maggots under a stick float bought a few bites from some roach with the day brightened up by a 1lb 6oz roach. It was more than welcome in such conditions.

After a couple of trips where I struggled, the air temperature suddenly headed to almost double figures! I walked up and down the banks feeding various spots, and soon spotted some shadowy shapes moving tight to some cover. I was pretty certain some were chub, but some smaller shapes were ‘big roach size’ so I concentrated on this particular area. I fed maggots into the swim for around 30 minutes prior to casting in. On my first trot through, the float buried and I thought I’d hooked the bottom, but then the bottom nodded!  It turned out to be a chub, and a decent one at that for this area, it weighed 5lbs 4oz

I also added chub of 4lb 4oz and 4lb 11oz. They gave my light trotting gear a real good workout.

I then hooked into something that felt like a big roach, but I couldn’t see any silver flashes through the slightly coloured water. It turned out to be a perch, full of defiance to the very end, bristling with anger that I’d disturbed it. It wasn’t a big fish, around a pound and a half or so

As dusk was starting to set, I got into an almighty birds nest after pulling out of another fish, probably a chub, so I tackled down and vowed to return the next day.

After a few delays in the morning, I returned to the banks early in the afternoon. It was 9 degrees now, and we’d not had an overnight frost. I set about feeding a few swims again and it was now a lot easier to see fish as the colour was dropping out by the minute. In one I could see a couple of big roach, but they were flanked by their chub bodyguards. After feeding maggots for a while, all the fish were really hunting out the bait. With the fish so active, I headed to the spot where Martin and I have had a lot of good roach since the end of November.

It’s slightly deeper and steadier here so I kicked off on the stick and maggots again. A couple of chunky 6oz fish came early followed by a real old warrior of 1lb 8oz. I don’t know if this fish bears the marks of an earlier pike attack, when there was a real menace causing havoc in early winter, or if its the goosanders again. It could possibly be some disease, as a lot of fish have ragged, split or worn tail fins. Some might say it’s keepnets, but when Martin and I find these roach, we’re usually the first to catch them and they’re already tatty and battered. Plus, they’re only in the net for a couple of hours at the most.

The fish was also covered in leeches, suggesting the larger fish may have been laying dormant in the cold water. I quickly removed them all before placing her in the net.

After the early roach, I then hooked and landed a couple more 4lb+ chub. They’re not usually caught around these swims, but I think it proves they’re getting really active and hungry now.

The swim went quiet following the commotion, but as dusk lowered the light levels, the roach switched back on. Amongst the 4 -8oz fish, a few more better samples were landed, 1lb, 1lb 6oz, and 1lb 11oz roach made it a good day and one to get me excited that I may have an end of season bonanza.

When I got home and put the photos onto my pc, my enthusiasm was tempered a touch. The 1.11 and the 1.6 were the last decent roach I’d caught over the last 6 weeks in previous trips. After seeing a couple of shoals in this area in clear water, totalling around 20 or more big roach, I’d have though the chances were slim of those 2 fish being caught again before any others. Time will tell whether the others have moved on or fallen the victims to predators, but for now it’s time to rest the roach until the weather warms or the season is about to end…….which brings me back to where I started!




January Struggles

The fishing has been a bit tough this month. The weather hasn’t helped because it’s been all over the place. Heavy rain, freezing temperatures, strong winds and finally a mild spell meant the fish won’t have known whether they were coming or going.

Because of this, it was hard to pick a species to fish for on my days off work so I stuck to local venues. Unfortunately when we had the short mild spell I was busy! Typical, but I did catch a few fish, just no real specimens.

I started off trying to catch big roach on my local river. It was running quite high and with good colour. The ‘going’ area was a bit slow of late so I tried a different stretch that produced some good fish for me when the river was the same state last year. When the river had been clear a month earlier there was nothing in the swim, so I was only going to give it 30 minutes. Bait would be my usual winter fare of mashed bread and flake on the hook.

I was down to the last 5 of those 30 when I missed a good bite. The next cast I was ready though and I struck into a good fish. Sadly, the hook pulled after a few seconds without me seeing the fish. I gave the swim a bit longer, feeding a bit more mashed bread. Just as I was thinking of moving I had another bite and made contact again. This time everything held, and I was soon slipping a good roach into the net. It was in lovely condition, silver and red, with the lovely blue hue shot through it’s upper flanks. It was a fish I’d not seen before and it weighed in at 1lb 13oz, with a length of almost 13.5 inches.

It was only when I saw the photos later on that I realised it had a slight two tone colour on both sides. I’ve never seen this on a roach before.

I carried on, buoyed by my success and landed a smaller sample of probably just over a pound, plus another roach that I could swing in. I was hoping for more but that was it. No more bites or fish. At least 2018 had got off to a decent start.

The weather then turned really cold so I had a day after pike, and blanked. No bites no nothing!

I then had a go for some chub. Not for big fish, but just on some local rivers where I might get a bite or two. With the temperature around freezing plus a biting wind thrown in, any action would be a bonus. I had a few nice fish that almost warmed me up!

The best fish were touching 4lbs and in lovely condition. 

Martin and I were soon back after the big roach, but things were very slow. One day I kept seeing the slightest knock on my float as my bread trundled through the swim. I was convinced fish were there but not feeding. I wondered if it was bread they were wary of. I’d seen big roach in the clear water in summer go crazy for baits such as casters, hemp and bread. After you’d caught a few from the shoal, they’d suddenly become very wary of the bait you were using. A switch to one of the other baits would soon see them feeding again. Because of this I started feeding some white maggots into the swim while I changed my size 12 hook for a tiny size 20. The first run down the swim saw the float bury and I was into a roach. It wasn’t big at 6oz but at least I’d caught a roach!

I kept feeding and working the swim, putting a tidy bag of fish together. Roach between 4 and 10oz were the mainstays, with the odd chublet. Something I never seem to catch on bread. As the light faded and the bait kept going in, I eventually started to connect with some of the larger redfins. A number of fish over a pound, topped by a cracker of 1.11 turned the day on its head. It was pretty hairy playing them on such light gear in the strong current. What was interesting was that Martin only caught one roach of around a pound on bread. He fished well, but I think I’m right in thinking that they’re spooking away from bread. It’s understandable I suppose, as Martin and I have landed a lot of good fish from this certain area, all on bread, nothing else. I hope they switch back onto it though because it’s a lot easier, and better for the heart,  playing a big roach on a size 12 hook than a 20!

Here’s part of my catch

The weather then made the river unfishable again. Cold chocolate brown water and a raging flow are not to the liking of any species. When it did fine down I returned to trot my maggots again. Big roach eluded me, though the maggots threw up some nice surprises that I rarely catch, such as this roach bream hybrid

I also landed a perch with the most vivid colours

I was still getting good ‘bags’ of fish on the maggots, but the best roach were not making one and a half pounds, which were common sizes a month or so ago. Maybe catching the smaller fish first unsettles the larger fish, or perhaps the big girls have moved elsewhere. Maybe the predators are causing havoc. Mink and gooseanders frequent the area, plus a few roach I’ve caught have been through the wars a bit.

Maybe all these negative thoughts will vanish the next time I’m trotting and then strike into the proverbial ‘brick wall’ followed by that ‘thump thump’ pulsating through the rod. Time will only tell!






Christmas Crackers

It’s that crazy time of year again if you’re a postman, or one of Santa’s helpers! The daylight is at it’s shortest and I’m at my busiest, so fishing trips are hard to squeeze in. However, I have managed a few after work trips and a couple of hours in the morning on my day off. All on my local river of course, as travelling is out of the question because things are just too hectic in December.

Every now and then the river gives you a nice gift and this Christmas I’ve had mine. After the goosander troubles had rendered all my usual roach swims as no go areas, due to no fish being there!, I was walking the banks, fish spotting, when I came across a shoal of nice chub. The water was really low and clear so I crept up on them. I disturbed them slightly and they headed for the middle, where there was a bit of weed for cover. It was at this point I became rather excited. Yes there was 3 nice chub to look at, but the rest were great big roach. I watched them for a while, illuminated by the low winter sun, and I was sure they were fish I’d not seen before. I headed home for my tackle and was back on the bank an hour later, after preparing some mashed bread for feed.

I baited the swim for half an hour or so while I assembled my tackle. If these roach weren’t fished for, I was pretty certain they’d be easy to catch straight away, but it’s always nice to give them plenty of time to lower their guards and get a taste for the bait before starting. The first run through of the stick float saw a redfin of just over a pound come to the net. This was slightly disappointing as most of the roach looked bigger than that. I was happier after the next trot because a lovely fish of 1lb 10oz gave me that familiar heart in mouth roach tussle. That fish had made my day, but things got better on the next cast. I thought I’d hooked one of the chub at the bottom of the swim, but as it came within netting range I could see a cracking roach. I prayed the hook would stay in place and it did, which saw 14.5 inches of silver and red slip over my landing net.

The weight was bang on 2lbs, and another new fish for me at this weight, which probably confirmed my suspicions that this was a new shoal of big roach I’d found.

The light was starting to fade so I called it a day. I phoned Martin with my news and would you believe it, he’d already found the shoal and had caught a 2lb fish himself! What made this news better though was that after comparing photos, they were obviously different fish and again, it wasn’t a fish we’d seen before. I couldn’t wait to get back.

My next day off work saw me waiting on the bank for it to get light, while feeding a little mashed bread now and then to get them ready for my piece of flake, hopefully! The conditions were poor for roach, freezing cold and clear, but at least the lack of wind would make float control easy. After a couple of hours I’d landed a dozen prime roach with several over one and a half pounds. It was dream fishing, but alas with no ‘2’s this time, the best fish being 1lb 11oz. I could have continued but I had a busy day ahead of me. I’d just have to fit more sessions in when I could.

I ended my next session early. I could have carried on catching these magnificent roach, but a pike, possibly around 8 to 10lbs was attacking everything I hooked, even fish it had no chance of fitting down it’s mouth. This was marking a few of the roach badly so I decided to do something about it.

I returned and quickly caught it on a small roach deadbait. Now I could never kill a pike for doing what it does naturally, unlike some people, so I ran as fast as I could with it in my sling before placing it about 100 yards away, in with a large shoal of small to medium sized chub. I told this most aggressive of pike that they taste far nicer than roach, and I think she realises this as she hasn’t bothered my roach since!

My next session was an after work quiver tipping job in the dark. Again, the weather was freezing and I was expecting chub more than roach. This was what happened on the first cast as the tip started bouncing with a chub trying to make away with my bread. An hour later though and it was turning into another cracking roach session as more chunky roach banged the tip round, almost like barbel do. I could have sworn the best fish was going to be 2lbs, but it fell short at 1lb 13oz. It looked all the world a ‘2’, but when I measured her at 13.5 inches I could see she needed to grow just a tad longer. I know roach are built differently from river to river, and stillwaters of course, but the general length of 2 pound fish in this river is between 14 and 14.5 inches long, thanks to those genetics that give them their broad backs and pigeon chests.

As I write this I’ve just come out of hospital after my eye operation and the good news is my sight has been restored, far better than I could ever have hoped. It’s just a tad sore at the moment and I’ve a bit of double vision, but in a couple of weeks everything should have settled down nicely. Even better news is Martin has landed another ‘new 2’ from the shoal at almost 2lb 2oz, so it seems we’ve discovered another cracking shoal of redfins. We’re not going to hammer them though, probably only going once a week at the most. While we know that the great fishing can end as quickly as it started, we don’t want to be the ones to cause the demise. There seems to be at least a few other ‘2’s in the shoal, but even if we don’t catch them, how can you not be happy with a few over 1.5lbs every time in a short session?

All I need to do now is wish everyone who reads this blog a Happy New Year for 2018 and may your lines always be tight! All the best


‘Cut’ Gems

Fishing time is usually at a premium for me as we approach the Christmas period, but this year it’s been even worse. A couple of operations on one of my dogs left him with a large open wound that needed someone with him at all times. He’s fine now, but then there was family birthday meals, birthday parties, etc etc etc! To save me going round the bend, I’ve had to snatch the odd few hours here and there on local venues. Here are the highlights and lowlights from them.

To start with I was down in the dumps as my local rivers roach population were taking a hammering from a few goosanders. There’s not much I can do about this other than hope the roach manage to hide somewhere safe. I visited one prolific spot and all I could see in the clear water was a couple of chub and a perch. There wasn’t a roach in sight. I had a dabble for what I could see and caught the perch. It was a lovely plump thing, a monster for the future (hopefully!

A week later Martin and I set off across the fields to try and see where any redfins might be hiding. But when we arrived at the river some overnight rain had badly coloured the water and there was a lot of debris coming down in the flow. This was a shock, but with both of us having very little spare time we quickly hatched a plan. We walked back and drove a few miles down to our local canal. We only had a few hours spare so we had a short match, hoping to focus our efforts on catching as much as we could. We both used casters and were fishing for anything, but I bet we were both secretly hoping for one of the big roach in this stretch, I know I was!

To be fair, fish wise and action wise, Martin thrashed me. He had a cracking net of dace (yes, canal dace!) and some plump perch. However, I only landed seven fish, but the smallest was a 10oz roach, as well as 3 chunky bream, plus 3 hard fighting chub. It was a real contrast of catches despite us only being a few yards apart.

I even had a few photos taken of my fine canal net of fish

The chub, whilst nothing special from most venues, were pretty big for a tiny canal. The best ones were 4lb 2oz and 3lb 14oz. They were a bit scabby, but very long and broad across the back

Martin and I were disappointed with the lack of roach, though the one I caught suggested more might have been in the area. We’d both fished ultra light canal float tactics, but because the water was crystal clear, we suspected the line shy roach might have shied away from our baits. To see if my hunch was right, I returned a week later armed with different tactics. A bag full of liquidised bread and a few slices for the hook was coupled with a very sensitive ‘bomb’ rod and some tiny cage feeders. The only problem was the weather was now ‘Arctic’ and the canal looked devoid of life. A short walk saw the odd bream milling about, then some chub on the far bank. I never saw any roach, but I know they’re pretty well camouflaged, even in very clear water.

I started where I fished on my last time out. The first cast saw a plume of white bread particles follow my pinch of flake to the bottom of the canal. I tensioned the tip slightly, when it tapped and pulled round slightly. I could tell it wasn’t a roach when I struck, but a hefty slab. You could see it fighting in all it’s glory as I played it to the net on the ultralight tackle. It was like the proverbial wet sack!

After this fish, it was a succession of quick raps, typical of shy roach bites. I landed a dozen nice roach, not massive, but some of over half a pound. It was a good few hours fishing and I think I’d cracked ‘the method’ for the roach. The trouble with this though was the amount of dog walkers, cyclists, and nice people who stopped for a chat. I was struggling to hit a lot of my bites as I was in danger of cracking them in the face with my rod. Thats the trouble quiver tipping in such a tight space. When someone is looking at your rod tip it’s a bit rude to suddenly swipe them across their nose! I needed to think about my problem.

I decided to fish the last hour or so of light, on a tiny canal float, with bread on the hook. I fished well over depth, making sure I had a few inches of line on the bottom. I reckon it would work, despite the temperatures now reaching freezing overnight, and not much more in the day!

And it did work, despite seeing some very strange characters near the canal as darkness fell. I fished until I could no longer see the float, though sometimes I couldn’t see it because a big bar of canal silver had engulfed my bread.

I’m wondering whether there’s any 2lb + roach in this canal. Rumours say there might be and I’m on the right track, though I might have to wait until the close season to find out!