Good and Bad Decisions

As the end of the river season approached I was eager to make the most of any time I could get by flowing water. After some rain coloured the Hampshire Avon I looked at the temperatures to see if they were favourable for some big roach fishing. Metcheck said that overnight temperatures would be 5 degrees, rising to 11 during the day, with 75% cloud cover. Perfect! Unfortunately these readings were 48 hours before my day off work and I didn’t look to double check if they had changed. As I arrived in the Avon valley, following a 4 hour drive, the digital read out in the car gave an outside temperature of -1.5, with bright clear skies to follow. I was gutted. I knew the river would fish hard and when I reached the banks the frosts had also knocked the colour out. I knew I’d be going through the motions for roach, with a chance in the last 30 minutes of the day.

That’s just how things panned out. A 4lb chub fell to my trotted maggots, then a roach of 12oz or so on last knockings. Some other anglers caught a few chub, with one guy landing a 1.10 roach from a peg I’d fished earlier, but didn’t fancy!


As much as I love the Avon I wasn’t going to fish it again in winter under the same conditions. 4 hours driving followed by 8 hours fishing for just that 30 minute window when I have a chance. Also, due to the floods, the same 12 pegs were getting hammered every day because the rest of the river was impossible to reach or fish. I decided I’d be better fishing for something else.


My next day off work, and my last in the river season, saw me faced with the same conditions, though the temperature was now reaching 14 degrees in the day. I decided that this weather would be warming the local rivers nicely and I’d spend an evening after barbel on the River Trent. I fancied that they’d be starting to feed hard so went through all my left over pellets, groundbaits and boilies. I placed these in my crusher and made my own mix of coarsely ground pellets, mixed with a tiny bit of groundbait and crushed boilies. After a generous helping of monster crab spray and a little water, I had a mix that would pull fish in from miles downstream, or so I hoped.

The evening started quiet, but then both rod tops started knocking all the time. Some fish started rolling in my swim and I’m sure that they looked like good roach. I almost tied a smaller hook and bait on, but thought if there were any over 2lbs present, they’d be able to eat my 15mm hair rigged boilie. I balled some of the bait into the steady flow and more fish seemed to arrive in the swim. Finally I started to hook a few. A couple of chub that both weighed around 5lbs 8oz were followed by a few bream.


Eventually the 2lb test curve rod bent round into the species that it was designed for and battle commenced. Soon I was looking at a cracking barbel that weighed 12lbs 8oz. They certainly seemed to be piling on the weight now following the floods.


Things went a little quiet after that until just before home time when I hooked into a beast. This fish took 30 yards of line with ease and I had to follow it down stream. After 10 seconds where it found a snag I managed to free it and started making some line back. Then the hook link snapped with very little pressure on it. I presume the snag must have damaged the line making it very weak. I packed up with a cloud hanging over me. Was it a big barbel or carp? I had to return to try and find out.

The next evening I arrived straight after work. It was slightly warmer than the previous day and there were a few anglers just up stream of me. I adopted the same ground bait feeder rigs with a 15mm boilie on the hair. I just cast the one rod out then poured a coffee. Before I had time to finish it the rod started bouncing in the rest and I was playing a good fish. With the weight on the line it had to be a barbel despite it plodding around. The barbel only went on one run when it saw the net and was soon landed. I knew it was a good fish and the needle on the Reuben’s had to be studied carefully before I gave it the weight of 13lbs on the dot.


After landing 4 fish in a handful of evenings from the same pegs that were between 12lbs 2oz and 13lbs 2oz, I wondered if any were repeat captures. I couldn’t tell by looking at my camera so I decided to check at home. (All 4 barbel were later checked and are different fish, so there’s a decent head of doubles in that area) Soon after I landed another chub over 5lbs and recognised it as a fish I caught the day before. With my eyes getting sleepy I decided to bring a halt to my river season until June the 16th.


Avon Calling

In my book there is no finer fish to catch than a large roach. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s from a still water or a river, but a big river roach is a very rare creature these days, so carries more kudos. One place where you have a chance of catching a large river redfin is the Hampshire Avon near Salisbury. Unfortunately, this winter, the river has been flooded and some stretches have been impossible to fish. I’ve been chomping at the bit to try for a river redfin and finally, after a week of dry weather, a few pegs are now fishable, though you need waders to fish most of them.

After a phone call to Stu, the river keeper, I made plans to fish an afternoon down there. Stu had told me not to bother coming early in the morning as the forecast overnight frost and clear blue skies would kill sport until the last hour or so of daylight. He was right too as when I arrived all that had been caught amongst a dozen anglers was a grayling and a couple of chub. After Stu had given me all the latest info and catch reports I elected to trot a steady run 30 yards upstream of a weir. It’s a peg I’d fished a couple of times in the past, so I knew the rough depth and areas to trot.


I set up a 7 number 4 stick float, one of the Shallow Water models from the new Dave Harrell range. This was mainly because with the pace of the flow, I knew the bites would come at the end of my trot, so the large domed tip would not only help with visibility, but also let me drag a little line on the bottom. I set a bulk shotting 3 feet from my hook, then I had 4 bunched number 8s 14 inches below that (neater than a number 4 shot) then a number 10, 8 inches above a size 18 hook to a .10mm hook link. This tackle is light enough to fool a wily roach, but balanced enough to land most fish.

For bait I was using red maggots. White maggots or casters are my favourite roach baits, but I was assured by Stu that the reds were taking most of the roach caught. I started trickling these into my swim 30 minutes before my first cast, hoping to get any resident fish competing for free food. It took a dozen or so trots down with my float before I had my first bite. Despite the float burying I missed it. A few minutes later I received bite number two and this time I made contact with what felt like a chub. I bullied it hard after seeing the angler upstream having his line smashed by one that did it’s usual dirty trick in diving into the near side foliage. What made today even trickier was we couldn’t get within 10 feet of the normal near side vegetation because of the flood water. This was where my extra long landing net pole did it’s job, helping me net a nice chub before it could dive into the thick rushes. The chub was a nice start to the session and meant I’d avoided a blank. It weighed somewhere between 3lbs and 3lbs 8oz at a guess, not massive, but a good fish.


Soon afterwards I bumped what felt like another chub at the tail of the swim, then hooked and landed a crazy tail walking sea trout (I’m no game fish expert, but I think it was a sea trout) It was quite a surreal fight. Because I was up to my thighs in the water I could have sworn the trout jumped as high as my head! I’ve never known a fish charge around as fast or jump as high. I can’t believe everything held firm.


By now the light was fading fast and we were getting into prime roach time. As my eyes strained to see my float tip at the end of the run it vanished, without warning, under the water. Again, my strike met solid resistance, but the jag jag like sensation coming down the line told me this was probably a roach. I played it hard, mindful of what I’d been told about some big pike looking for an easy meal. Luckily, the fish stayed mid river keeping away from the near side foliage. When it came to the surface I saw that indeed it was a good roach and eased it towards my outstretched landing net. It went straight in with no dramas and soon I was staring at a silver chalk stream jewel.


It didn’t quite look the magic weight of 2lbs and the scales confirmed that it was a mere 2oz short. Still, how could I be disappointed. Here was an increasingly rare creature, a prime river roach of almost 2lbs. I think I’m going to catch a lot of them next season……or at least try!