Well, it’s here again, the dreaded March 14th has been and gone in the blink of an eye and another river season has gone in a flash. They seem to come round faster every year. I do hope at the very least the closed season is moved back soon because in the next month rivers and their fish will come into their prime. Last year, when the season started, most fish were just starting to spawn or had just spawned in my local rivers when we were allowed on the banks again. Then the EA cut almost all of the weed out in some of them! That is absolutely farcical and makes a whole mockery of having a closed season.
My fingers are crossed that it’s either moved or even scrapped altogether so that any clubs can impose their own closed season. If clubs feel they need to rest their stretch of river, just like a lot did in last summers heatwave, they can do so at a sensible time, not one that was decided over 140 years ago. Anyway, enough of the politics, let me tell you about the last full week of the season.
I’d got the full week off work and I’d planned a trip to a great stretch of the Hampshire Avon with my mate Matt, but a ‘Danger to life’ weather warning meant I gave that a miss. The next couple of days were spent catching up on paperwork and DIY jobs. I didn’t mind this because Wednesday looked as perfect for barbel fishing as it could get. A temperature of 11 degrees on Tuesday night gave way to even warmer ones on Wednesday. Couple this with steady drizzle and the odd shower and I simply couldn’t fail. I made my sandwiches and flask up, threw my ready made up tackle in the car and set off for the River Trent. I’d got as far as the end of my street when I remembered I’d forgotten my head torch. I turned back, stalled the car on the drive (I’d forgotten it was still in gear when I stopped!) but grabbed the torch and got back in the car, only it wouldn’t start! Leaving the lights and wipers on for less than a minute had only gone and flattened the battery. I got the jump leads out and waited for Tracey to come home, but by the time this was done it was 4pm so I decided to knock it on the head and go the next day.
The next day the car wouldn’t start again, so after jump starting it once more, I headed to get a new battery fitted. By the time this was done it was the afternoon, and the weather had turned very cold. I decided not to go once again, especially after looking at some anglers reports. Some anglers had bagged up the day before, with the area I fancied ‘fishing it’s head off’ according to social media. One chap had landed over 10 in an afternoon and lost around the same amount. A good number were doubles to over 15lbs. I recognised where the photo was taken and it was virtually the same swim I had in mind. Oh dear! The latest reports were of a quickly rising river though, with a lot of debris coming down in the flow and not many fish being caught. I’d assess things again in the morning.
With the weather being really cold and wet I tidied my tackle until Sunday because I’d rearranged my Avon trip for this day. With torrential rain once more forecast for down there, once again we called the trip off. 440 miles is a long round trip to be faced with dire conditions, so it was best to play it safe till next season. By now I’d decided I was going fishing somewhere even if I knew I’d blank. I headed to a small local river to fish for a chub or roach. Anything would do, I just wanted to get out of the house and get a few bites on the river before the shutdown. Conditions actually looked quite good when I reached the river. Just enough colour to see the bottom in shallower areas, but not in deeper ones. I spent an hour walking up and down, feeding mashed and liquidised bread into likely looking swims. I then went to set my float rod up and I couldn’t believe it. I’d only grabbed a butt section and 2 middle sections of my float rods! How didn’t I notice? I’d been carrying them in my hands for over an hour!
After nipping back and returning, I repeated the same feeding regime, but I noticed the river had risen slightly and it was more coloured. You couldn’t see the bottom anywhere now. Also, a very strong gale force wind had sprung up. It was so calm earlier when I’d turned up. Still, this day was just going the way of the rest of the week before, but I had to give it a go this time.
I trotted a pinch of bread flake on a size 12 hook under a 5 number 4 stick float. I bulked most of the shot 16 inches above the hook link, then had one small dropper on the 0.10mm line. First cast the float jabbed under but the strike produced nothing. ‘Maybe I’m a little too deep’ I thought, before the same happened the next cast. This time I hit into a decent fish and soon an 8oz roach was on the surface waiting to be netted. The flow made me think it was a lot larger than it was, but then a large pike crashed out of the water just missing my roach. I quickly bullied it in after that and at last I’d caught a fish!
Usually, in this area, if you found some roach there’d be the odd good fish amongst them. This concentrated the mind, but after another hour all I’d landed was a chublet. I thought that maybe the pike had spooked the roach shoal away so I tried different swims upstream and down, but with no luck.
I noticed that tight to the far bank some reeds had created a few slack areas in the current. I doubted whether any fish would be in those as the river wouldn’t be much more than 18 inches deep over there. I gave it a go and blow me, my float went under straight away! Because the water was still I knew it had to be a fish and this was the case. I quickly caught several more chunky roach with the best probably not quite a pound in weight.
By now it was almost impossible to hold the float in the swim such was the strength of the wind. It was also very hard to cast the float in the right area, despite the river only being 2 rod lengths wide at the most. Several bites were also being missed and fish bumped because of the bow the wind was creating in my line.
One cast was dragged out of the slack by the wind, but it crept down the swim right on the crease of the main flow. The float slowly slid under as it reached the end of the slack and I expected to have fouled some debris on the river bed. The strike met a solid resistance though, followed by a couple of thumps. Things went still for a short while, but steady pressure brought the fish up in the water. I was expecting a chub when a great roach appeared like a ghost through the murky water.
The first thought that came into my mind (after bloody hell!) was the pike. I didn’t want to lose this fish, and even worse would be for a pike to take it, so I took advantage of the strong flow and the fact there was no cover for quite a while on my bank. I quickly walked downstream of the fish while holding my landing net. After getting it well away from the swim the flow brought the roach towards me where I quickly netted it. I don’t think I’ve bullied a big river roach like that before but the size 12 hook certainly helped me.
I knew as soon as I lifted the net that this was well over 2lbs, the only question was by how much. The needle on the Rueben’s went to 2lbs 5oz, a monster for this small river. I also measured her at just over 15 inches long from ‘nose to fork’ though half of her tail was missing! She’d also had another close shave looking at the missing scales on either side of her body, close to the tail. Was it the pike or a bird? One thing was for sure, this roach had quite a few tales to tell whilst getting to this size.
I marvelled at her one last time before taking a photo on my phone to send to Martin, before placing her into the net. She was very well proportioned compared to a lot of big roach in this river. ‘Pigeon chested’ is how most of the older generation described the roach from this river, but not this one. Broad across the back yes, but not like some of the other roach pictured below that I’ve caught in the past from here.
I rang martin and asked if he was busy, and if not could he come and witness the roach and take a few photos. As luck would have it he was fishing the same river, and not too far away from me.
Martin came to do the honours while the light was still good, despite him also having a good day with the roach. He’d landed fish of 1.8 and 1.4 as well as a number of back up fish. As he came towards me, a huge bank of black cloud started to envelop us, brought by the gale force wind. We brought the fish out to admire and took a few quick photos, just as we started to get pelted by freezing rain and hail.
We didn’t mind our soakings though as we trudged off home. We’d ended the season in style, thankfully in my case, for my sanity if nothing else after the week I’d had!