Redfin Riot, Barbel Blues

The barbel fishing on the new areas of the River Trent I’ve been fishing are tough to say the least. A couple of blanks, without so much as a tap, and a few bream on another trip left me frustrated and needing a bit of action. It’s all a learning curve of course. We’ll never learn anything new if we fish the same swims or places all of the time, but I was in need of a confidence boost.

I headed to Collingham on the tidal Trent. Surely I’d get a bite or two there. I was surprised to find the place empty, bar for one angler towards the weir. I settled into an old favourite of a swim, a nice gravel run that has regularly produced for me in the past.

After a short period of baiting up, followed by a coffee, I was thrilled to see the rod lurch over straight away after casting out. It felt a heavy fish as it powered off steadily downstream, when there was a crack and the line snapped! I was livid. I blamed myself for setting the clutch too heavy, though line was being taken, but then I thought there’s no way 13lb main line should break before the 9lb hook link. The line must have rubbed against a rock or something sharp, causing it to fail. It was at this point I realised why I rarely fish Collingham, unless its after October.

A couple of other anglers appeared, looking down to where I was fishing, talking quietly to one another. Then there was a shout of “You don’t mind if we drop in here mate do you?” They wanted to fish 15 yards downstream of me, where I’d just hooked the fish that still had me steaming inside! Now, I could have objected, but they were quite polite, and probably knew no better. I mean most pegs on commercial style fisheries are no more than a rod length apart. They probably thought there was loads of room. I shouted back “Course you can mate, no bother” Inside though I was raging, hence me not objecting. I’d have probably kicked off big style if I objected, so I went for a walk to calm down. I mean there was 2 anglers in over half a mile of river, so it’s obvious to fish 5 yards downstream of me you pair of f*****g f***wits. Talk about pea brained!!

Anyway, I went to see the other angler to see how he was fairing. He’d not had a bite all day and if he did hook anything other than a skimmer, it was never fitting in the smallest landing net I’ve ever seen, complete with a pole of less than 6 feet!! What goes on in some peoples heads? It just put me in even more of a foul mood.

I went back to my peg and made a big noise moving all my gear 30 yards upstream away from morons 1 and 2, halfway between them and moron 3. They looked a bit sheepish, perhaps realising I was a bit angry. I was determined to catch a barbel now in amongst all this complete lack of etiquette and basic common sense.

Soon enough, after some careful feeding to hopefully draw any feeding fish from my original swim into my new one, I was into another barbel. This one felt pretty small, but I milked it for all the morons to see. When I landed it I was surprised to see the size of it, so I gave it a quick weigh. At just under 9lbs it did little to lift my gloom, because I was now thinking the fish that I’d lost was something pretty big. Still, as I packed up I stomped past the morons with the smuggest of faces.

It was time for something more gentile to calm me down, so I settled for some roach fishing on my local river. After a lengthy walk, I thought I’d found some decent roach tight to some overhanging vegetation. I carefully fed them for a couple of hours with loads of casters, fishing another swim in the mean time. I caught some lovely small roach, plus a lumpy perch of over 2lbs, but soon it was time for the main event.

The dark shapes were hard to make out due to the mottled light and vegetation, but I was sure they were roach. I carried on feeding casters, drawing them away from their cover, until they were right under my feet. They were roach, but it was hard to say how big they were. There was also some very excited greedy chub joining in the party. Now it was time for my tried and tested methods of singling out the larger roach while keeping the rest feeding, unaware of my cunning plan.

I fed the shoal some more casters, then laid my rig (the usual trotting gear of my crystal dibber float, set 3 feet deep, with double caster fished on a tiny size 20 hook) under my rod tip in the margins. You stare at the casters waiting for a fish to see it and split from the main shoal to intercept. If it’s a chub or a small roach you quickly pull the bait out of the water, but if its a good fish you strike gently once the bait is taken, but feed more casters at the exact same time. You need to have the casters in your hand at all times or the shoal will just bolt. Get it right and you’ll catch a few specimen roach, get it wrong and you’ll end up with just one at the best.

The first roach seemed a decent one, so I let it sip in my casters. It’s a joy to watch a specimen roach gently take your hook bait in crystal clear water without a care in the world. I’ll never tire of it. Anyway, I struck gently and fed at the same time. The roach took a few seconds to realise it was hooked, but the others were already chasing my lose fed casters well away from any commotion. I used the flow to quickly get the roach downstream, away from the swim, where I played it to the net. It felt and looked a good one, and this was confirmed when I lifted the landing net. The scales said 1lb 12oz, so it looked like my shoal of roach were indeed decent fish.

I was pretty excited now and after a few more minutes feeding casters, fish number 2 was a formality, with the exact pattern followed as with the first fish. I recognised it straight away as the one Martin had landed a few weeks ago at 2lbs, with the damaged tail and pectoral fin. Again it weighed 2lbs, but it had moved well away from it’s original swim. I took a photo on my phone and sent it to Martin at work. He said he’d be with me in 40 minutes!

I had placed both fish in a keepnet, well downstream from me, where I was landing the roach. Any fish returned to the swim would end the action straight away. A few more quality roach were landed. A few that i’d estimated a few ounces either side of a pound, plus another specimen roach that still had its summer colours.

Then disaster struck. As I played what looked and felt another 2lb+ roach, it started heading downstream far quicker than all of the others. Then I saw a sizeable pike zooming up behind it. In these situations I just bully the fish hard. I’d rather lose it to a hook pull than a pikes belly, and thats what happened. The hook pulled and after 3 short chases the roach lived to tell the tale, thankfully!

This saw the end of my chances of catching big roach in numbers. Soon another pike arrived on the scene and they both sat close to my keepnet waiting for any big roach to be led into their lair. Martin arrived just then, so I just caught one more fish to show him how it’s done! This time I played it upstream away from the pike and that did see an end to the action. The commotion sent the remaining shoal in all directions. Another specimen redfin was landed though, giving me 4 over 1lbs 10oz, plus some chunky back up fish. To be honest, the success was in avoiding catching fish, if you know what I mean!

After Martin had taken some good photos and we’d watched the roach sulk back to their home, I had to catch some of the greedy chub just to see their sizes. Fish of just under and over 4lbs were landed, before the famous ‘one last cast’ produced one of well over 4lbs. I was certainly over my Trent nightmare now!

For my next barbel trip to the Trent, I headed to a stretch closer to home as the shorter daylight hours caught me out. I arrived just as it was getting dark, but the river looked lovely, like a mill pond. Fish were jumping everywhere and I was soon weighing a barbel of 3oz over 10lbs. That’s more like it!

Soon after I had a good bonus chub, but then that was it. Just as I thought the swim was building the action ended. At least I’d caught a decent barbel this time. I had intended to fish the Trent again on my day off work, the following day, but I had to take my dogs to the vets with my girlfriend for their annual check ups. That meant another trip to the local river for whatever I fancied.

The day started off on a sour note as I saw a goosander tearing into a shoal of good roach. After I scared it off, I saw the roach bolt out of the weed in a tight ball, up to where I’d caught the big ones earlier in the week. That probably explains why they’re moving about a lot, to avoid such a nasty and greedy predator. I’ve only seen one of these birds before, and it ate a lot of quality roach on that day, before the fishery owner blasted his shotgun at it. Unfortunately, or fortunately, he was closer to shooting Martin and I than the bird, though I doubt it would’ve gone back!

Feeling dejected at what I’d seen, I did a lot of walking, checking up on other stretches wondering why big roach have gone on the missing list for a year or more. I saw some interesting things. There are a number of large chub shoals, containing 20 or more medium sized chub. I fed them plenty of casters and studied them. They use cover well and are very spooky, but the casters had them lowering their guards. I was surprised to see each shoal of chub contained at least 3 big roach, all around 2lbs or more. Why they are mixed in with chub I don’t know, but when I first started fishing for them they were in one big roach shoal. Maybe it’s a safety thing, to avoid predators or to avoid anglers. Whatever the reason, it’s effective.

I fed one of the shoals that contained 4 big roach until i could single them out. I almost blew it as I lost the first roach after a few seconds, but amazingly it carried on feeding! Once, 2 big roach raced for my hook baits before turning away at the last moment. It was only when I reeled in that I noticed I had a just a quarter of caster on my hook instead of 2! How do they do that? It was only a matter of time before one made a mistake, and I was soon playing and landing another specimen roach. With time ticking away before it was time to go to the vets, I couldn’t single out another big roach, though they were still feeding. I tried my hardest but instead had a lovely chub beat it to the bait for a nice autumn brace. These chub were just over a pound a couple of years ago, but most are now well over 2lbs, with some over 3lb. If only the roach grew like that!

I’m loving my roach fishing at the moment, but I hope the barbel action hots up soon, and we need a lot of rain quickly! Tight lines.



Autumn Starters

Autumn and spring are my favourite seasons, both in general and fishing terms. Once the trees start to shed their leaves you know that its time to make plans for fishing in the colder months. You also know that fish will start to feed harder to store up energy for the colder times ahead. Also, as is normal in my case, it’s another chance to reflect on a poor summers tench fishing!

Anyway, I kicked off my autumn fishing with a trip to my local river for big roach. The day before I’d had a chat with Martin, which had him telling me he was now only a couple of ‘2’s behind me on our local gem. We’re both a bit competitive, which goes all the way back to our school days when we were strikers in the same football team. It was always a competition to see who could score the most goals and that’s what we’re both still like today, so this time I set off to find some big girls instead of the normal ‘shoal’ fish.

In a usual holding area, I came across half a dozen chunky redfins, possibly 8-10oz. I threw a couple of handfuls of hemp in the swim and sat down to watch. Blow me, if 6 big roach didn’t ghost out of the weed and start tearing the bottom up to get to my hemp! I knew this swim would be a patience game so I threw some more hemp in and went for a walk, armed with some bait.

A few hundred yards away I came across a shoal of medium sized chub. After studying them for a while, I noticed in the middle a couple of them looked like roach, but it was hard to tell, so I crept right to the margins for a closer look. After feeding some mashed bread slightly upstream, I could clearly see three big roach, that were almost as long as the chub! I gave them a few good helpings of mash, then headed back to my ‘hemp’ swim.

On my return the roach were still going crackers for my hemp. I started feeding a few grains every minute, and in doing so, I managed to manoeuvre the fish all over the swim, which is perfect for singling out individual specimens. I soon had them feeding right under my near bank and noticed one with a shredded tail. I remember Martins last ‘2’ had such a tail so I targeted this fish.

My tiny dibber float was used to trot a single grain of hemp on a 20 hook. I managed to hook my target fish on the first run through and after a great scrap on the light gear, I was looking at her in the net. But it was obvious I’d been fooled, as this was an imposter, only weighing just over a pound and a half!

I settled back into my feeding rhythm, but the fish were a bit more nervy now. I noticed a couple of the big fish were hiding under some weed, but were darting out to intercept the loose feed on most occasions. I ran my dibber through once again, tight to the weed. The float jabbed under once more, and I was attached to another good fish. This didn’t put as good a scrap up as the first roach, but it was bream like in it’s depth, so I suspected a good sized specimen. I landed her with no problems, despite the tiny hook, and knew as soon as I picked it up that it should be over 2lbs.

At over 14 inches long (I’ve started measuring some of my ‘2’s now) It weighed in at 2lb 1oz. I sent the photos to Martin straight away, who was at work, just to let him know I’d stretched my lead! I then took a couple of rather poor self take photographs. It’s tricky trying to show a roach to it’s full potential on a ‘selfie’

After this roach I managed to land another of well over a pound, but this spooked the shoal full stop. I didn’t use a keepnet and I think that was the problem. The returned redfins headed straight back to their shoal mates and they knew what my game was! Time to move on to the ‘bread’ swim

When I got back to the other swim all of the fish had gone, but a couple of handfuls of more mashed bread had them returning. While I steadily fed them, I rigged up a small stick float rig, with a size 12 hook this time, just the right size for a piece of flake.

I was beginning to think it impossible to target the roach over the chub, but I noticed the chub would drift 5 yards downstream just after some bread was introduced, but then they quickly worked their way upstream to eat it. The roach however, seemed that little bit braver and on occasions were isolated at the front. On my first attempt I had to quickly reel in when a chub and roach went for my bait together, but a few minutes later, one of the roach was a full 5 feet or so in front of the other fish at the head of the swim. I couldn’t cast in quick enough, and held my float back hard so the flake fluttered right in front of the roach’s eye line. I then let the float through at the pace of the current, and the roach did the rest.

It felt like a real chunk when I set the hook, but by using a size 12 hook, I was confident that if I didn’t make any errors, she would soon be mine. That proved to be the case, despite the roach using the flow to it’s advantage. Once on the mat I could see this roach  was well over 2lbs, despite being the same length as the 2.1 I’d caught earlier. This was so deep and broad, and the scales confirmed this when they said 2.4, my best redfin from this river. I called Martin to see if he’d help with the photos. In the hour it took him to finish work and walk to the river, I managed to catch one of the chub, but the remaining roach had long gone. Still, I think it had been a good day!

After work the next day, I was straight back in the ‘hemp’ swim. This time I never had time to ‘bait and wait’ so it was a case of catching like I was in a match. I also used a keepnet and had a great evenings sport, though all of the roach were between 4 and 12oz. They were so pristine and chunky, they all looked like future 2 pound fish, so they were all treated with respect. I did lose a big fish at last knockings, but as I knew from the day before, it could have been anything from 1.8 to one of the ‘2’s You can’t complain with a nice bag of hemp caught river redfins though.

After having my roach fill, and stretching my lead over Martin, I looked for some new areas to fish for barbel. As I type this, I’ve had a couple of short trips after work that have produced plenty of these.

Just when I was getting sick of catching bream, the rod bent double and I leant into my first barbel of the autumn. What a great fight they put up. I managed a couple, both around 8lbs, but it’s a start.

I think I’ll stick to barbel fishing for the next few weeks, though Martin has reduced the 2lb roach deficit by one already!




Late Summer Update

Sorry for the lack of recent blogs. I’ve managed the odd trip on the local front, but haven’t been out anywhere near as much as I’d like.

There are a number of reasons for this, but I gave the rivers a miss early season due to the high temperatures and what looked to me, unhealthy, battered fish. Even well into mid July, the fish were looking in a sorry state. I thought I’d give them plenty of time to recover.

Martin and I have walked a lot of local rivers looking for fish, well mainly big roach. We wanted to find more fish away from our usual areas. We succeeded big time, with Martin catching a number of 2lb fish, though 2lb 1oz was the best. They should be an ounce or two heavier in winter though! We found any deeper holes were worth a try. Feeder fished mashed bread was a winner at dusk after work, with plenty of fish over a pound falling to these tactics.

Over enthusiastic pike were a problem, and a few roach were lost to hook pulls after bullying fish, to save it from being pike food! This redfin had the closest of escapes!

I was sensible though, and every time this happened I moved swims, even though a prime roach or more were there for the taking.

One swim gave several ‘2’s to Martin and after he tipped me off, I managed a couple myself. These two fish weighed 1.11 and 2lb 1oz, and still showed signs of over enthusiastic spawning behaviour. They seemed healthy though and were starting to fill out a bit.

We were now getting plenty of rain, and the extra flow and colour this gave the river was giving ideal roach fishing conditions. It was at this point my problems began

I fancied some trips after big barbel or bream, but my car developed electrical gremlins meaning I had to be recovered whilst on the way to the Trent. A couple of weeks and a few quid later and I was sorted, only for the head gasket to go whilst sofa shopping with ‘her who must be obeyed’! Anyway, I decided the car has served me well doing almost 150,000 miles. It has dents, tatty carpets, a broken bonnet catch, chipped windscreen, smells of fish and boilies plus the head gasket problem. Because of this I’ve decided to get another instead of splashing out more than it’s worth to get it ship shape again! As i write this I’m still on the hunt. I wouldn’t be bothered but I’ve just bought Tracey another car after hers started playing up. Talk about everything going wrong at once!

Anyway, I didn’t need wheels with my local roach fishing, just a bit of walking. But there was more to go wrong. I damaged my left eye when I was 17 when a branch went into it. I was told I may need cataract operations in later life, and it left me with 20/20 sight in one eye, but only 4/20 in the other. After a struggle to get used to this over a year, my overall sight eventually adjusted itself so that it was fantastic (as long as I had both eyes open!) I could bat easily against international bowlers at cricket, and I never noticed anything wrong until I woke up a few weeks ago with a cloud like blur over half of my sight.  It was far worse in the low light of dawn or dusk and I was booked straight into hospital for a lot of tests, which means I’ll be having a cataract operation very soon. The downside is the trauma caused to my eye when I was 17 means there’s a chance I could lose my sight in the left eye. But I’ve got to try as it’s as good as blind now. Tests revealed my right eye is like a hawks, reading everything the tests threw at me, sadly the left eye is now measured at less than 6 out of 120!

Anyway, because I was struggling to see at dawn or dusk, I had some day time sessions trotting for roach, but gladly accepting everything that came along. I also started using stewed wheat as bait.

My Gran used to tell me my Grandad swore by this bait for local big roach back in the day. She was also in charge of preparing it, and it had to be just right. I compared it against hemp and sweetcorn in the now crystal clear water and the roach definitely liked the wheat more. I was soon taking some good bags of roach on trotted wheat. The only disappointment was the big roach that had been located a few weeks ago had gone. This is a big part of modern big roach fishing in small rivers. Where the cormorants once had easy pickings back in the early 1990s, these new generations of roach have learnt to hide, and almost vanish for months on end before appearing again. Finding big roach back then was easy. On a sunny day, they’d be basking just under the surface almost without a care in the world. Today, they hide under weed, tree roots, overhanging banks, and anywhere else where there’s any cover at all.

With the big ones hiding I had a lot of fun trying for smaller fish, though chunky redfins of 1.10 were caught amongst them.

The odd chub gatecrashed the party too!

It was noticeable how many year classes of roach were in the same shoals. This is great for future roach fishing.

Some days produced numerous specimens over a pound, all in their dark bronze like summer garb. This is just a part of one days catch.

Other shoals were less bronze, but just as welcome, such as these fish between 1 and 2 pounds

And this brings me up to date. Hopefully I’ll be on my travels again in the next blog, and if I’ve had my op, I hope my sight gets back to what it was. In the meantime, roll on those cooler days where the roach won’t be quite as hollow, unlike this 2lb specimen caught in August. Tight lines!

The ‘Glorious’ 16th?

I’ll start the blog a little before the so called glorious 16th. I had a couple of weeks at the end of May to go tench fishing. I never had a fish on both a gravel pit and a reservoir. I just can’t seem to get my timing right regarding the tench. I have to book my dates off work almost a year in advance, so if the tench aren’t playing ball, its tough luck. Now, I know it might just be me that’s rubbish at tench fishing, but in my defence, out of 13 other tench anglers on the same venues, at the same time, just 1 tinca was landed, despite fish rolling in our swims. I could go on about natural food etc, but I’ll just finish things by saying my bobbins never twitched!

I consoled myself by doing some fish spotting on the local canal. The bream were spawning and the roach were starting to go as well. The water was pretty clear now, giving a good insight into the canals potential. The shoals of roach were vast and there were some real lumps to be seen. I took some photos with a long lens, but it distorts the sizes a bit. You can judge the girths in some pics

And length in others.

There were stacks of quality specimens, showing that I was just scratching the surface with my catches in April. The amount of fish between 12oz and 1lb+ was staggering. Then there were the better fish, with more than a handful between 1.8 and probably over 2lbs. A quick shot from Martins iPhone gives a better indication. And you have to remember that this is just part of a shoal!

I think they might be worth some serious effort when the rivers are out of bounds or un fishable!

Anyway, back to the ‘Glorious 16th’ I’d decided to target the rudd of the Fens, a large network of drains in the flat, middle east of the country. I didn’t bother last year after a poor start to the season a couple of years ago. Back then, Martin and I spent all day trying to locate some good fish. We only saw the one roll, which resulted in a cracker of 2.8 for me, but the place was a shadow of it’s former self.

It was a lovely hot day as I drove down, which I knew would be perfect conditions to locate any surface feeding rudd. As I crossed over the River Trent, I thought there was a massive car boot sale on the banks, as I could see white vans for miles. Then I realised it was every man and his dog waiting for the start of the season. I hoped the Fen drains wouldn’t be as busy!

When I arrived at the drains the countryside was a picture. Lush green fields, trees swaying in the breeze and big rudd rolling in the drain! I could hardly contain myself not to cast in until the next day! A walk up and down revealed some other anglers who had pre baited some swims, but I wouldn’t be fishing near them. There seemed to be no real hot spots, the rudd were rolling as far as the eye could see, probably taking insects off the surface.

I tackled up on the bank in readiness for the next morning, and fed a few bits of crust to see if the rudd would take them. Some were taken, but they mainly seemed pre occupied with natural food. At least I’d sorted the main thing out. I’d located some good fish.

I had a snooze on the bank, setting my alarm before 3am. I awoke just before this and could hear voices. After getting my bearings, I noticed a few lights moving about in the drain itself. A closer inspection revealed some anglers in boats who’d floated into position in the dead of night. I hoped things wouldn’t get any busier!

I saw a few rudd swirling right in front of me so I flicked a few crusts out. They were taken instantly. I couldn’t resist the urge to start. I thought my large pellet waggler float should be visible in the first embers of the morning light. Thats one of the reasons for using them. They cast a large piece of crust easily and are highly visible. Later, as the light intensifies, I usually change to a dumpy crystal waggler that shouldn’t spook the fish as much.

I had to use my head torch to hook my piece of crust on a size 12 hook. Prior to casting in, a few more crusts were fired both up and down the drain, to get any feeding rudd looking for more bait. I cast out to the far bank, then eased my float back into the middle, where I could see the silhouette of the tip on the mirror like surface of the water. A small ripple appeared just beyond the float, where the crust should be. Had something taken it, or was it a small fish with eyes bigger than it’s belly? The float started to slide away so I struck and made contact with a good fish. In these weed choked drains there’s no time to really enjoy the scrap, so I bullied the fish into the edge, using the 3.5lb line to my advantage. The netting process was a bit hairy as I’d taken my head torch off, but I managed to bundle whatever it was into my net. Shining the torch onto it revealed the deep, golden flank of a specimen rudd.

Putting my hand around it to tease the hook out, I thought it might make 2lbs. My Rueben’s proved me right, with the needle settling on 2lbs 2oz. What surprised me though was how warm the water was. I know we’d had a couple of hot days but i never expected it to be this warm.

I placed a large keepnet in the deep margins and placed her into that. I didn’t want any other fish in front of me to be spooked as there were still fish rolling for my crusts. The next cast saw a large fish erupt through the surface to take my bread. This was going to be easy I thought, and I was partly right as I played the second good fish of the morning to the net.

By 6am I’d managed to land 10 good rudd to a best of 2lbs 5oz. I had weighed one other fish over 2lbs, but I never weighed the others. I’d have estimated them between 1lb 8oz and probably just under 2lbs, plus I’d also had a few fish between 8oz and a pound that managed to fit a chunk of crust in their mouths!

I’d caught the first 5 from my original peg and placed them into my net. The others were landed around 50 yards away, so I’d returned them straight away. If I’d caught a large specimen I’d have put it into the net for a photo. What frustrated me was the fact that big rudd were still rolling regularly in most pegs from time to time, but they weren’t interested in my bread. If I fed 5 bits of crust, one would be demolished, but the rest ignored. They were a bit more crafty than they used to be!

As the sun peered over the horizon I took a quick photo of my catch on the mat.

I tried to do a quick self take of one of the ‘2’s, but found out I’d left my camera bank stick adapter at home. I still took a quick effort with the camera resting on my bag!

What struck me as I watched them all swim strongly away, was that only one of my rudd seemed to have been marked by a cormorant. In the past, nearly every fish has had heeled up slashes on them from the ‘black death’

I hoped that this was a good sign and hopefully mean these fish will be here for many more years.

When I got home I looked at all the photos of fish what other anglers were catching that they’d put on the internet. I couldn’t help but notice how skinny and out of condition most of these fish looked (to me at least!) especially the ones caught close to my home. I walked down my local rivers and there were loads of anglers all trying to catch the same fish. One would move from a peg and another would move straight in. Again, the fish they caught were skinny and looked in poor condition to me. Some barbel and chub were still spawning on the gravels, but anglers were still trying to catch them. This leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and I won’t fish the rivers for a few more weeks, when they’ve fully recovered. Especially in this hot weather. How many barbel will be going belly up after a scrap in oxygen depleted water? After all, they already look in poor condition before being caught.

It’s about time the closed season was reviewed. Forget the bullshit about tradition. The fish people are catching this week look in poor condition and this hot weather won’t be doing them any favours. Fish will be dead after being caught. Surely a closed season from mid April till July will be far more beneficial for the majority of fish. Still, that would ruin the ‘floppy hat brigade’s’ life, not having a ‘special day’ The weather and seasons are changing, I think us anglers should be following suit.

Anyway, rant over. Without sounding like a hypocrite, I thought the Fenland rudd were in fantastic, plump condition. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have fished for them.



Using My Loaf On The ‘Cut’

When it comes to nearby canals to fish, I’m spoiled for choice. I’ve got the South Yorkshire Navigation, which then splits into two, to form the new Junction and Stainforth and Keadby canals. These very large, wide, deep canals hold tremendous stocks of fish, with some neglected specimens of a few species amongst them. Even closer to my home than those though is the tiny Chesterfield Canal. Despite it not being in Yorkshire, I can be on the banks from my front door in less than 15 minutes.

Now the ‘Cheggers’ canal, as we called it when we were lads, will always be a special place for me. It was where I caught my first ever chub and dace. They were about the same size as my finger, but they were still chub and dace! In fact there used to be some very large chub in this canal for the time (80s to early 90s) Specimen anglers used to travel a long way to sample the many 4 and even the odd 5lb+ fish, which were real lumps back then. In fact Matt Hayes was fishing and writing about them in magazines, such was their repute.

I will always remember it for its big roach though. Pound plus roach from a tiny canal were huge to us boys who were just starting on the amazing journey of an angler. In fact I remember the day of Sunday July 7th 1985, when myself and two mates caught huge roach on a red hot day. Google says that was the date, because it was the day a 17 year old Boris Becker defeated Kevin Curren in the Wimbledon tennis final! We kept those giant bars of silver in the keepnet all day, until my Dad picked us back up in the evening. We were desperate to show them off, for more often than not we hardly ever caught anything worthwhile.

Anyway, fast forward to late last autumn, and Martin sent me a photo with loads of big roach milling about in crystal clear water. They were all over a pound, with some real lumps amongst them, and they were from this very canal. We both went back a week later but couldn’t locate them, although we only had about 5 minutes to spare. We decided to have a go at tracking them down in April through to early May, when the river season had ended. Unfortunately the canal now had a tinge of colour making selective roach fishing impossible. We’d just have to play a numbers game, until hopefully the canal clears again in the cooler months.

I started my campaign in the area where Martin had originally seen the roach. It was a classic area where big roach will thrive. Tree lined, so no cormorants can land or take off, and where dog walkers like to feed bread to the ducks. So how was I going to tackle these redfins and try to be selective with the sizes? Fishing lumps of bread flake of course, in conjunction with liquidised bread as feed.

Because the canal was only 3 to 4ft deep, I used very light float tackle and set it so the bread on the hook fell slowly through the cloud of smaller liquidised particles. I was quite happy to catch a couple of 8oz roach early on my first trip, though I wasn’t expecting the crackers that followed it. They were thumping roach for such a tiny canal and gave a real scrap, but I knew far larger ones lived amongst them.

On my next trip I landed a few smaller roach, along with a couple of bream. I’d have been over the moon with this sport when I was a lad. It just shows how some waterways thrive on neglect.

I struggled to catch any big roach after the first trips as mother nature conspired against me. The area of canal that contained the roach became coated in all kinds of foliage, making fishing almost impossible. It was hard to move on hearing the roach rolling as I walked away.

I had the next few trips on other parts of the canal, but used the same tactics. It was a real eye opener as to the canals potential. There was nothing massive caught, but the fishing was superb for a couple of hours at first light. Sometimes I caught bream

And sometimes I caught tench

One of the tench was strange. It was a male, and at first I thought it had three pelvic fins, but then realised one had probably been damaged a while ago and grew back like this

Somedays I caught a mixture of bream and tench. In fact one day I must have caught over 70lbs of fish, but just one small roach.

Eventually I managed to get back on the ‘roach stretch’ Martin had lost a very big fish a day earlier, but I couldn’t manage anything large. They were still great fish for a tiny canal, though it was obvious they weren’t far away from spawning. Some of the bream were as rough as I’d seen with spawning tubercles, especially on their heads.

I had one last trip before leaving the roach to spawn. Again I landed no monsters, but finished with a fine net of redfins. Maybe I’ll try to catch some more in the Autumn, but I’ll more likely be after big river roach. It’s a nice choice to have in these cormorant infested times!





Filling the Gap

It’s that awkward time of year again where I try to fill in the gap between the end of the river season and the time to fish for the ‘summer’ species such as tench, rudd and bream. I’ve already decided where I’ll fish for these species, but I’m not going to flog away on those tough fisheries until the weather warms up a bit. In the meantime, I’m fishing some diverse places that hold big roach, amongst the other fish.

The first port of call was to a midlands day ticket lake that holds one or two roach over 3lbs, a number over 2lbs, plus stacks around a pound or more. My mate Martin and I both had a couple of trips in very cool but bright weather. Martin had visited the place a few times before over the years, landing many good roach up to just under 2lbs. This time the fishing proved a lot tougher.

The cold wind put sizeable waves on to the lake which made bite detection hard and accurate feeding almost impossible. We toughed it out though and eventually caught some nice fish.

On the first morning I thought I’d catch a shed full as my first couple of roach were well over the pound mark. Soon after the wind sprung up and I struggled for most of the day. All of the roach were in great condition though.

Every know and then I thought I’d caught a real specimen roach, only for those silver and orange flanks to have the backside of a bream attached!

At dusk, as the wind dropped, I landed loads of roach around the pound mark.

One of the main reasons for this was that I could finally fire casters around my float, instead of over half of the lake!  Almost 30 big roach graced my net, but not the hoped for ‘2’ I know they were in the swim though, as I lost a real lump under my rod tip. I wasn’t too disheartened because it was hooked in the pelvic fin! It was a strange fight, like I was bringing in a big lump of wood or something. Then, as I pulled as hard as I dare, this great big roach surfaced, saw the net, and bolted. The size 20 hook pinged out straight away, but at least I knew they were out there.

The next day saw the wind blow just as strong, so I fished right under the rod tip on hemp. It took a while to get the fish feeding confidently, but when I did, some nice redfins graced my net.

I was catching in bursts, as if a couple of big roach charging around the swim would disturb the shoal, but a steady trickle of hemp would soon get them back again.

Again, I didn’t land the hoped for ‘2’, but I can’t turn my nose up at a handful of roach an ounce either side of 1lbs 8oz. They were lovely plump fish that scrapped hard.

I enjoyed myself so much, I’ll be back in the autumn, hopefully to catch one of the big old girls. For now though, I’m fishing for specimen roach much closer to home, from a tiny overlooked venue. At least until the tench wake up that is!


Canal Perch

It’s always tricky filling the gap between the river close season and the warmer weather when tench and the like being to feed properly. Sometimes I fish stillwaters for big roach, but I fancied a big canal perch this year. On my first trip out it was freezing cold and I just hoped for a bite. It was a surprise when my delkim signalled that my link legered lobworm had been taken. In the crystal clear water it looked like I was playing a good stripey to the net, but on landing it I realised it was very lean, tatty, and probably a very old fish.

It was good to be off the mark and later on I thought I was into a better perch. I was float fishing a lobworm on the near side shelf when, just as the light was fading, the float bobbed twice and then slipped away. I could tell what I’d hooked was the right weight, but unfortunately it turned out to be a hard fighting bream!

I thought the bream might be a bad omen because as the year progresses the canal comes alive with all kinds of fish. When it’s cool you tend to only catch big perch, which is obviously what i wanted to catch. I like catching most fish, but lobworms are expensive to feed to loads of roach, bream etc! My fears were confirmed on my next trip when I started getting lots of bites from all sorts. Roach x bream hybrids, roach, bream and small perch, all frustrated me and I realised it would be time to move on once I’d used my lobworm supply up.

I used a keepnet just in case a returned fish spooked any possible big perch that might be in the swim. Eventually I did hook what felt like a better perch and after a brief battle I was holding a decent fish that was now starting to get chunky around the midriff. I weighed this one and it was just on 3lbs.

It was not a monster by any means for this canal. I’d heard of a few other big ‘3’s getting caught that week so I was hopeful of more action. Sadly that was it for the day, but I’d give the place at least one more week. When I lifted the net out I realised I’d had a decent days fishing for a canal.

On my next trip I fished a different area, but only landed a couple of perch to just over a pound. I gave the place one last try as the weather was starting to pick up. In fact, I’d say nature was a couple of weeks in front of where we were this time last year, though that can soon change in spring.

On my next trip I landed everything from roach to flounder! I only managed some small perch, but had some cracking bream that were going on for 6lbs I’d say. The time to move on to other things was sealed when I started catching small eels. It had been a short and frustrating time on the canal, but I suppose it’s nice to be catching wild fish in the middle of nowhere. All kinds of wildlife was around, from buzzards and owls, to foxes and deer. Some deer even went for a swim in the next peg to me!

I’ll find a few more targets over the next couple of weeks, then it’s time for tench. I’m due a lump or more this year!


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.