Flowing Water Finale

As always seems to be the case, the last few weeks of the river season seem to fly by at twice the speed of most weeks! For what was to be my last day on the rivers, I headed down south to try and catch a big dace.

I haven’t targeted a big dace for a long time. Over 10 years ago there were a few places you could target huge dace, with fish of a pound or more being a realistic target. Rivers such as the Upper Kennet, Wear, Hampshire Avon and Windrush all contained shoals of good fish, with plenty over the magic pound mark. Add to that the southern chalk streams and there was a number of places to target ‘big darts’ I caught good fish from most of those rivers, but landed my best of 1lb 1oz from the upper Hampshire Avon in 2005. This was a couple of weeks after my mate Martin had landed his own 1lb 1oz fish, from a tiny Avon side stream. What great days on the rivers those were!

There is still the odd river where you can target big dace, but you need to act quickly because they can disappear as quickly as they arrived. A few cormorants can make a shoal of the largest dace vanish almost overnight. With this in mind I jumped at the chance to join a mate on a section of southern chalk stream, where a shoal of good dace were shoaling up prior to spawning. Last season, from the same place, he’d caught fish over a pound, and this year he’d caught them to 15oz. I hoped for similar results, but a ‘double’ (A fish of 10oz or more) would make me more than happy.

The dace were in a classic spot for the time of year, in a pool near some shallow gravels where the females will lay their eggs. The tactics to catch them would be simple stick float fishing, with white maggots on the hook.

Things were slow at first, before the odd small dace put in an appearance. We were just getting worried that they might have started moving to their spawning grounds, when we finally started to get the odd better fish. Soon after that, doubles came to both our rods, but nothing over 10 – 12oz. However, I was more than made up with these specimen dace.

As there was no rhythm to the fishing, we decided to explore other pools and glides, before returning to the dace swim later in the day.

Several swims were fished and a few nice chub fell to our rods. There was nothing to even consider getting the scales out for, but it was good fun. Plus, you just never know what’s going to turn up in these rivers. One of the chub was in absolute pristine condition, fin and scale perfect.

It wasn’t too long before the thought of a giant dace lured us back into the original swim. The weather had changed slightly in the few hours we’d been away, with a blustery wind making float control tricky. Perseverance paid off though, as a string of good fish came to the net. It wasn’t just dace we were catching. Roach, trout and grayling all gate crashed the party, but no real specimens were amongst them.

I managed my best dace for a number of years at 13oz, but sadly the real giants didn’t show. You can’t complain at catching specimens like this though!

As usual, just when you’re having loads of fun, the light started to fade and it was time to bring the curtain down on another eventful season. After a quick photo of some of the better fish, the trotting tackle was put away for a few months.

What delights will flowing water hold for me next season? For now though, it’s all about canals and still waters, with more targets to aim for. Isn’t fishing and the variety of venues and species to target great?


Magic Spell (Part 2)

As I wrote in my last blog, it seemed every time I went fishing I had a cracking result. This, coupled by the fact we were into the last week of the river season, meant I was dashing to the river bank at every opportunity, usually straight after work.

For this particular trip I thought I must be mad. It was throwing it down, but I put my head down and ploughed through the fields in my waterproofs and wellies. My target would hopefully be roach, and I hoped they liked mashed bread, as I’d got a bucket full of the stuff!

The river looked in great trim, but it was raining so heavily I expected these perfect conditions to last no more than a couple of hours. I primed my usual swim with mashed bread, plus a new area I wanted to try. An hour later, I’d managed just the one roach, probably not quite a pound in size. I noticed it had blackspot, as had a few others I’d caught recently

I moved to my new area, not knowing what to expect. After several trots through, the float slid away as something snaffled my bread hook bait. My rod pulsed to the rhythm of a big roach ‘jagging’ away in the flow, hoping to slip the hook. And slip the hook it did, along with the next fish. I was ticking inside, thinking I’d messed my chance up, when I was fortunate enough to strike into what felt like another big redfin. This time my size 14 hook held firm, and I admired a roach that was sure to go over a pound and a half. I placed it into my net and fished on.

The next couple of trots also produced classic bites, both resulted with me striking into solid resistance. They were landed after nervy tussles in the increasing speed of the flow. One was another lump of a roach, close to 2lbs, plus a smaller pound plus sample.

The roach seemed to be queuing up to be caught, but my luck ran out when my hook pulled out of another good fish. Not surprisingly, the bites dried up after that and I trudged back home. Soaked through, frustrated, but happy.

Straight after work the next day, I was back in the same peg. It was a lovely, mild late afternoon, and the river looked good. I half expected it to be too coloured after the previous days rain, but the colour was perfect, though the flow was a bit on the quick side for light hook links and big roach. After feeding some bread mash into the head of the swim, I started to trundle my bread flake, under a float, through the same area.

After an hour, I’d had nothing at all. I let the next trot go a bit further downstream, where the float slid away. After hitting a good fish I realised that this was no roach. There was nothing I could do to move the fish so I walked down to it, where I finally netted a 4lb+ chub. A muscular torpedo of a fish. It even straitened my hook, I don’t know how I landed it to be honest.

Another quiet spell followed, before eventually I had my second bite and I hit into what was obviously a good roach. The next trot followed the same pattern. They were an ounce either side of a pound and a half. Brilliant fish for my locality.

What had switched the roach on. My constant trickling of mashed bread into the swim, the fading light, or both? Whatever the reason, a dead swim now seemed full of good roach.

My next fish was again a roach, I could tell by the fight. This time though I was struggling to gain any line. It was just a stalemate with the fish using it’s size and the flow to it’s advantage. Thoughts were flashing through my head. It was obviously a very good fish, so I decided to walk downstream to make landing it easier. Just when I thought I was going to win the tussle, disaster struck and the hook pinged out. I was gutted. I know you can’t tell for sure, but I know it was a a roach and it felt a lot better than anything else I’d hooked in the swim. Crestfallen, I went home with an empty feeling in my stomach.

The next day, at work, all I could think about was the lost fish. It must have been a ‘2’ that had slipped through my fingers so I had to return straight away, to try and right a wrong. And anyway, I still had some bread to use up!

Once again, it was a lovely evening and the river was a perfect colour. This time the flow seemed to have slowed a little, in fact the conditions were as good as it gets for big roach fishing. I went through my usual routine of feeding mashed bread 30 minutes before my first cast. I was into fish straight away this time, though not the good fish, but mint roach between 6 and 12oz. At least the future roach fishing looked in good shape with different year classes present. I returned all these roach 30 yards upstream, just so I didn’t unsettle the others in the swim.

On my next trot the float bobbed, bobbed again and then jabbed out of sight, only this time it wasn’t the expected scrappy 10oz fish, but something far more substantial. I eased the fish into netting range, where I could see what looked like a very big roach. If I’d lost the fish then I’d have sworn it had to be over 2.8. I managed to land this one though, everything held and I was looking into my net at a very lean, long old roach. It’d obviously been a lot heavier in it’s prime, but it’s best days were now behind it and I’d had the pleasure of seeing one of natures survivors. It was so lean I had no idea what it would weigh, but I soon found out. It’s weight was 2lb 1oz, another roach from my local river over the ‘magical’ mark. I placed this one into my keep net and tried to catch a few more.

As if a switch had been flicked, I now connected with a roach over a pound on most trots, with the odd 1.8+ specimen to get my pulse quickening.

I trotted until I ran out of mashed bread and could no longer see my float in the failing light. I’d already decided to end my local roach fishing on a high, so there was to be no more straight after work sessions. I think my girlfriend must have thought I’d left home as I was never in for more than 30 minutes each afternoon!

What fishing I’d had the pleasure of having though. Long may it continue, and I hope next season is just as enjoyable. I had one last look at my silver and red prizes, then watched them swim back to their home, hopefully for a 3 month rest.

A Magic Spell! (Part 1)

As we hurtled towards the end of the river open season, the days were starting to draw out which meant I could grab the odd hour or two on my local rivers after work. A good flush of rain, while I was working, saw me grabbing my trotting gear and a loaf of bread as soon as I’d finished. After rushing to the river, I was pleased to see some colour in it. A far cry from recent months where it had been painfully low, clear and almost stale.

I set up a simple stick float rig, with the bulk shot at two thirds depth, and a single dropper below that. A thumbnail sized piece of flake was squeezed on to the shank of the hook, and I cast this towards the far side foliage.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, maybe a chub or two. I just wanted a few bites to keep me active. After a few incident free trots, I flicked the rig right next to the reeds for my next run through. Blow me, the float  buried straight away and I struck into what felt like a roach. This was soon confirmed as I quickly landed a fish of probably 2 or 3 ounces over a pound. It was a real battered, jumble scaled survivor, but this fish had made my day.

I thought quietly to myself that roach don’t usually swim around on their own, so I tried for another with renewed enthusiasm. Again, I went a couple of trots without a bite, until my next cast was perfect, just shaving the reeds. This puts the flake in a slightly deeper, slower flowing bit of the river. This must have been where the roach were sitting because the float went under like a shot. A strike met heavier resistance this time, and I quickly saw I was attached to a better roach. A nervy battle commenced in the pacy flow, until I walked downstream of the fish and used the current to my advantage. This saw me quickly get the upper hand and I triumphantly landed an absolute fatty of a roach. It was almost crucian shaped, and very fat. I wasn’t shocked when the scales went to 2lbs exactly, but I wondered if it was a beast of a roach that would grow very big, or whether it had something wrong with it. It seemed fine, and was almost scale perfect, a fish I’d not seen before.

I was looking forward to catching a few more redfins as it looked like I’d found their hiding place, but disaster struck. I put my next cast in the reeds and lost my float. I went into my bag for another and realised I’d left all my floats at home. What a pudding! The light was starting to fade fast and I knew I didn’t have time to get another then start again. I called it a day, though I was bursting to get back.

I was off work the next day, so I sauntered down to the river to hopefully do battle with the redfins, but was stopped in my tracks. The water was a chocolate brown colour with loads of rubbish coming down. It looked hopeless for roach, but I didn’t want to waste my day off. I reckoned some barbel might feed, especially as the temperatures were into double figures. I checked the EA river levels website and the Trent seemed like it was ok. I returned home, threw my barbel gear into the car, and headed to some decent swims that usually produce when the river is up a bit.

When I arrived, it seemed a few other anglers had thought the same as me as it was fairly busy. I was surprised to see them throwing their baits well out into the strong flow, then struggling with debris coming down, sweeping their baits out of place. I set up a very big feeder on one rod and just lowered it off my rod tip, in to around 6ft of slightly slower water. The feeder was packed solid with strong smelling goodies that should slowly leak out over 30 minutes or so. About 5 yards downstream of this rod, I placed a running lead rig with a couple of 18mm boilies on the hook link. Again, this was just lowered off the rod tip. Then I just sat back to wait.

A couple of taps on the downstream rod tip grabbed my attention, then the rod lunged round. I lifted the rod up into nothing, and reeled in to find my coated braid hook link snapped. I’d put no pressure on whatever fish it was, so assumed that my line must have been around a razor sharp snag. Thinking I’d missed my chance, I still tackled up again, but this time used a strong fluorocarbon hook link. A few minutes later the same rod tip twitched, twitched again, and I was just picking it up when it slammed round. I lifted into a heavy weight, but straight away I could feel rubbing on a snag. The rubbing sensation became so bad I was expecting a breakage at any moment, so I rushed downstream to alter the angle of the pull. This did the trick and I was now in direct contact with a solid weight. It plodded around in the flow, until I gained the upper hand and eased it over the net rim. At this point the fish just avoided being netted, and the battle lasted a few minutes more as it went on a few powerful runs. Eventually it tired and I made no mistake with my second landing attempt.

As I rested it in the net, it looked a good double, but when I lifted the net onto the mat, it felt heavier than I expected. The fish was in great condition, big and strong, almost barrel shaped. 

The scales gave a reading of 13lbs 6oz, justifying my change of venue.

I checked my line for damage because of the grating sensation, but surprinsingly it was still perfect. I expected a few more fish after the action packed start to the session, but strangely I never had a good bite. I had the odd twang and bang on the rod tips, though I suspected these might be from chub.  I still went home more than pleased. It’s not every week you land a 4lb+ perch, 2lb roach and a 13lb+ barbel. How long would my luck last?

Returning to same peg two days later, I was shocked to see how much the river had risen. I put a bank stick at the exact level of the water and an hour later noticed it was still rising.

I fished the same tactics, but nothing happened. As darkness fell, I decided to put a big lobworm on the upstream rod. I just thought I’d try a different floodwater hook bait. The change worked and soon the bait runner purred as line was taken against the clutch. I lifted into a decent fish and after a good scrap expected to see a barbel. I was surprised to see a chub in the beam of my head torch. It felt a weighty one too.

I landed it with no problems and wondered what it would go on the scales. It was a very deep, solid chub, in great winter condition. It looked a good 6 pounds plus, as I laid it on the mat.

I was proved right about it being over 6lbs but only by an ounce! I was a tad disappointed to be honest, I thought it was bigger. That’s probably because I don’t fish for big chub much, if at all in recent times. I’m out of practice with my guesstimates.

However, on the plus side it seems my luck was in again. Would the good run keep going? Not for the rest of this night it wouldn’t, as my worms attracted a succession of bream, most being over 5lbs, which gave a decent account of themselves in the strong flow.

Because I was up early for work the next day, I didn’t stay too late and was soon heading for home. It had been another good trip, even if I didn’t land my target species.

The next few days saw a lot more rain fall, putting the rivers out of action for a while. I was chomping at the bit to get back on the bank, as the river season was coming to a close very quickly. I gambled on my roach river being fishable on a lovely, still, Sunday morning. I was to be rewarded for my gamble. The river was still up on it’s normal level, with a perfect tinge of colour still in it. Surely I would catch some roach, that’s if they were still in the swim from before.

I took my time, pre baiting the swim with good helpings of mashed bread while I fished other swims on the stretch. I managed a couple of modest chub, to perhaps 3lbs or slightly more. This gave me hope that any resident roach would also be on the feed. I soon had my answer. From the same swim that I’d fished before, I landed a string of cracking redfins on trotted bread flake. They were absolute pearlers, in pristine condition. None managed to make the 2lbs barrier, but the best were only between 1 and 3 ounces short. You can’t turn your nose up at such specimens, especially in these predator infested days.

I placed a few on the mat for a photo and marvelled at their pigeon chests. When I was growing up fishing this river, the older anglers always commented on these chests that appeared in the winter months, it seemed the gene pool was still strong.

Incidentally, I take photos of both sides of any of the big roach these days to help with future identification. It was only when I got home, I realised one of the fish, that weighed 1.14.5 (to be exact!) was almost certainly the same fish I caught at 2lbs the last time I was in this peg. You can probably tell by the photos that it’s nowhere near as fat as before, yet I doubt this is down to early spawning. I suppose it’s just some natural fluctuation, though it looks far better proportioned now.

I had to work for a while after these captures, though my mate Martin carried on fishing the swim for a few more short sessions, catching several lovely big roach. I decided for the last week of the season I’d fish another area. I knew it held some good roach, I just hoped the classic roach conditions would hold.




Commercial Perch

Bob Roberts got in touch with me and some other anglers to tell us about some big perch being caught from a ‘local’ lake. He wondered if we’d be up for a bit of a social on the place and to hopefully catch a big perch or more. To be honest, I was happy just to turn up for the social, but when he told us that a recent match had produced 12 perch in excess of 2lb 14oz, my attention was well and truly gained. He told us he’d reveal the location closer to the date, but it didn’t stop most of us from having a guess or 3, all wrong I hasten to add! As usual, some anglers had to drop out for various reasons, but on the day 6 hardy anglers met up on a cold, dark February morning.

Believe it or not, when the venue was revealed, it was somewhere I’d walked past many times without a thought of what lurked under the surface. A bonus was that the generous  owner had let us have the place exclusively to ourselves for the day, with free hot beverages thrown in! Any fish caught would be a bonus. When we walked around the lake prior to fishing, it looked absolutely spot on for perch and it wasn’t hard to imagine the places where they’d probably be lurking. In fact there were too many features and it was a case of trying to work out where a big perch would most want to be.

We chose numbers for the order of picking pegs, and it was just my luck that I had the last pick. Never mind I thought, but luckily after everyone else had chosen their peg, I was left with loads of water that was free, and it was the place I fancied most. The reed fringed margins looked a great starting point, but I thought any small fish were more likely to be in deeper water in the cold. And lets be honest, these perch grow big by eating smaller fish, so I wanted an ambush point in deeper water. I chose to put my baits in hopefully the perfect area. Straight ahead was a 10 yard gap between 2 long, thin islands. I could just see (in my mind anyway!) big perch sat on the points of these islands, waiting for some unsuspecting small fish to swim straight into their trap. Surely I couldn’t fail!

I made myself comfortable and used 2 rods, both with link legered lobworms on the hook. These were cast to both points on each island. I also fired a few broken lobworms and casters, my favourite big perch baits, over the top.

For bite indication, I used alarms with very light bobbins on a long drop. That would allow me to keep an eye on the water for any action, plus I could relax and not miss any bites. One hour into the session though, all I’d had was a few twitches and plucks, where’s everyone else was catching. Only the odd modest perch was landed, up to around 2lbs, but some cracking carp were bending everyones rods to the limit.

In the end, my craning neck got the better of me and I switched the right hand rod to float fished casters, occasionally using a worm segment. I thought I still had a chance of a perch on that rod, with any small fish activity possibly bringing the big perch into the swim.

The change finally brought me some action, from a few small roach and a couple of carp. They at least warmed me through, plus I finally caught a perch of around a pound. Things were looking up. Eventually the lobworm rod received a screaming take, but I could tell from the odd powerful run that it was probably a carp. I was right, but still, at least the area was producing now.

Nothing much happened until well into the afternoon. I was just having a coffee from my flask when the sounding alarm grabbed my attention. The bobbin was quickly sailing to the rod butt, so I instinctively grabbed the rod and swept it back. I connected with a solid fish, forcing me to drop my coffee. I slowly eased it towards me and I was a certain it was a big perch. It was heavy, shaking it’s head, but it hadn’t gone on any powerful runs like the carp do. I’d dropped to a 0.15mm fluorocarbon hook link, so I couldn’t bully it too much. I eased the fish to the surface where my suspicions were confirmed. It was a perch and it looked huge! Luckily, the lake owner had insisted we use his landing net heads, and though smaller what I’d normally use, its manoeuvrability enabled me to scoop the fish straight in, before it could make a lunge for the reeds. It only just fitted in as well!

My tirade of swear words followed by the word perch alerted everyone to what I’d caught and they all came walking round to have a look. I placed a sling onto my scales and carefully zeroed them. The Reuben’s gave a reading of 4lbs 1oz, slightly less than I thought, but a magnificent fish from a South Yorkshire pond. After many photos from all and sundry, I put her back to grow bigger still, as she seemed a young fit perch in perfect condition.

I did eventually manage to carry on fishing, but it was mainly a social for me after that perch. I did manage some lovely looking carp on my lobworm rod, and Bob also managed a 3lb perch on his dropshot outfit.

All too soon it was time for us to say our goodbyes and head off home to wherever we came from, but not before we’d all chatted until it was pitch black. It had been a great day. A lake all to ourselves, some nice fish caught, but more importantly it was a day spent with friends who were great company. Roll on the follow up event next winter!