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.