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?