Wednesday, 29 February 2012

That's it! enough is enough.

The thought that I may get a second outing this past weekend had never entered my head. I had the weekend sorted in my mind; Friday go south and pour liberal amounts of maggot into a chalk stream, Saturday go to work all day and then Sunday spend the whole day with Jacky. So when Jacky proclaimed that she assumed I would want to go out Sunday morning as the weather was no nice I was stunned. Just to make sure it was not some kind of insidious trap I replied, "well I wasn't  planning on going out" to which she confirmed it was ok and I should go. It did cross my mind that she may of been drinking or that Gerard Butler had finally succumbed to her psychic pestering and was heading round for a Sunday morning liaison. Turned out neither was correct and she instead had a date with chap called Link who wears green tights and lives in the land of Nintendo.

Conveniently I just happened to have a pint+ of magics left over from Friday, which I was intending to freeze for use in a few weeks time. But a pass plus bait equals fishing. So off I went early Sunday to do a spot of dace fishing on one of my favourite river runs.

I do love dace fishing. Probably because it is relatively easy to land a whopper. I don't think a lot of anglers put two and two together when they catch a big dace and realise what they have in their hand. It's odd because in these modern days of commercial fishing where everyone wants to catch weighty carp that very species serves best as a perspective species for the humble dace. Catch yourself a 10oz dace and it is about equivalent to catching a near 35lb carp. Which I don't suppose a lot of us could claim to have done, and trust me it certainly going to be easier to land a 10oz dace than a 35lb carp.

When I arrived at this spooky dace filled river, it was shrouded in mist and I was shocked to find an over keen twitcher hiding behind a thicket trying to snap a kingfisher that often perches close to the bank. Awaiting a tasty young dace no doubt.

The dace fishing went off like a dream. It only took a couple of plops of the feeder to line them up and I was off. The only problem was there were too many of the wrong sort of fish at first. I was averaging five small roach and two dace to every ten casts. Keeping the bait going in regularly soon changed those numbers as the dace came onto the constant stream off grubs flowing down the river and eventually pushed the roach off never to be seen again.

My rhythm wasn't broken until a pike swirled in the centre of the river nicking my feeder as it did so. Unperturbed I quickly set up and found the shoal had not been disturbed by the attack only feet away. Again I got back into that all important rhythm and again what seemed to be the same pike broke me out of it, stealing a small dace this time. It nabbed one more feeder before disappearing for a good few hours.
In that time I got my head down and the dace grew bigger. I landed my first 8oz fish just as Baz dropped by to say hello on his way down to another section of river, piking. 

I did suggest he stick around as the pike seemed to be both here and feeding, but he stuck to his plan and headed off to another a stretch he fancied for a pike or two.
The pike for their part had seemed to have gone quite. So I went about my business of dace bashing whilst the sun warmed my back through the trees. Most of the dace I caught seemed to be slender males and apart from two deeper females I had landed earlier but all were seemingly the same year class.

I was just skipping a small fish across the surface when I spotted a pike dart out from my own bank and snatch it clean off my hook. The next two got savaged no matter how quick I reeled them in. I was getting seriously hacked off as they were ruining a great session and worst of all was I hand only really light feeder rods with me. 

When the biggest dace of the day was robbed twenty feet from my hand, that was it, I'd had it! Earlier a passing angler mentioned he had a pike rod with him to cater for such a situation. So off I went to cheekily ask for the loan of a rod and to which he happily agreed.
Two foot of 20lb braid and a size two Drennan specimen hook and I was ready to attack. One of the savaged dace was floating in the edge where I'd tossed it. That plus a couple of 3xssg shots and I had a cobbled together jigging rig. 
I also located my Polaroid glasses from my bag so as I could get a full on view of the strike. Holy crap! What I saw when I put those glasses on shocked me. There was not one, but three pike all of a similar size, racked up in a row like bleeding sausages. But when my dead little fish sank past them, they did not react how I would've expected them to.

All three started slowly moving towards it but not one of them struck. Time and time again they followed it round vacantly. I did eventually split them up and that's when the first one had a shot and missed by a mile. This in turn seemed to force another to strike at it, and that too missed. They all seemed to drift off into deeper water after those couple of attacks but I kept jigging the silver bait up and down until shadows again appeared below it. One of them approached looking like it was going to grab it then turned off at the last moment. I was trying to spot one coming in from the deeper water when a round nose came from under my own bank and nobbled it in a confident flash of the gills.

It had no idea it was hooked until it's head poked out the water then it went mad thrashing about. I think it was then that I remember something I had neglected. For as long as I can remember I have been using a Fox predator spoon net head. I use it for everything from Zander fishing, carp fishing and just general stuff. Today however I thought as I was after dace the 16" drennan net would suffice. WRONG!

For a while I did consider just chinning it out. But the thought of lying on my front in the mud trying to grab hold of a thrashing pike did not appeal, so I went for gold and tried to scoop a three foot long pike into a 16" of landing net. Low and behold it somehow went in and as I lifted it up what I though was an over sized Jack turned into a chunky young lady.

She was absolutely fin perfect from head to tail and was certainly and well feed on little dace it would seem, as she pulled the scales round to 12.8lb.
As I released her back into the water I warned her to remember my face as I ain't the sort of angler that tolerates fish theft. Then as she went off, one of the others which was still hanging round took a swipe at her.

I then returned the loaned rod back and thanked the chap before packing up and heading off. Looking back as I went off towards the car I am sure I spotted him walking over to my peg with that pike rod in hand looking like he fancied one himself.

Monday, 27 February 2012

A third scratch at that itch.

On this my third visit to that southern wonder the river Itchen, I was again filled by the trepidation that I had felt on my first ever visit. On my second trip down I felt no such worries as I had total confidence that the abundant fish population of this amazing river had forgotten how good maggots tasted over the long fluff chucking season, when the likes of me are not permitted on this sacred beat to commit carnal acts of maggot murder.
This time however we were not visiting in those first heady days when you could trot a sketch of a maggot through and a pound plus Grayling would gobble it up before it passed by. But instead we were making pilgrimage at the end of winter in that worrying awkward time when trips like this can go either way.

My role as the heathen of the group I knew would be cemented when my compadres bore witness to my rod quiver. In a blatant and possibly ill founded act I had made the decision to take no float rods. During my first visit I trotted so much that I began to develop a serious case of repetitive strain injury leaving the elbow of my rod arm aching for two days afterwards. On the later part that same trip I spent the last few hours fishing the maggot feeder which opened my eyes totally.
Yes it's idyllic and beautiful to watch a hand made float glide through gin clear chalk stream as a few hundred pounds worth of precision engineered centre pin effortlessly peels line off, controlled only soft caress of your thumb. But for me the ruthless efficiency of the tip rod sorts out the proper ladies of the stream from the trannies of the trickle. So it is a simple case of art verses efficiency and as I am only here for one day I must therefore be as succinct as possible; hence my quiver was packed with three rods of ascending power.

Light feeder - To fish tiny maggot feeders or equally as small cage feeders should the bites be so subtle that only a rod capable of detecting such hints will do it.

Medium feeder - Essentially the same as the light feeder but with more grunt and much stiffer blank. This helps if the flow is heavy and more lead is needed to hold bottom whilst still retaining sensitive bite detection, and will double as a possible float rod if I became desperate.

Light Barbel rod - I know this river holds both barbel and big chub and last trip I gave the barbel  few hours, to no avail. But this time water conditions should be just right for a possible barbel encounter and certainly for a chunky chub or two.

The night before we left I did one last idiot check to confirm nothing was forgotten before taking a final look at my three rods just before I went to bed. This was probably a silly mistake as I lay in bed thinking what I would do on the bank and it took me ages to get off to sleep. My alarms were set to go off at 3.45am which would give me a few taps of the snooze button and still enough time to get up grab a brew and stare vacantly at the TV until Baz arrived to pick me up.
In actual fact I initially woke at 2.30am and then turned over and went back to sleep before waking again two minutes later. This was repeated for the next forty minutes or so until I was eventually unable to get off again lost my rag and got up at...

Getting there never seems to take long and after Baz picked me up we chatted all the way south and finally arrived, as did the rest of the group a full hour early. Standing next to the river waiting was killing us as we nattered about the days plans. It never takes much too build anglers excitement at the best of times, but this was torture.
We did eventually get going and I as normal went for what I consider to be one of the best fishing and certainly the worst looking swim on the lower Itchen fishery.
Still unsure of what to expect I began swinging small feeders full of wriggling red grubs towards the far bank. To my relief bites came straight away, though they looked suspiciously minnowish! Fifteen casts, thirteen minnows and two tiny grayling later I was getting concerned that my suspicions were right - that was until my rod nodded in a very positive way before bending seaward. My strike was met by solid force, followed by a zig zagging upstream towards me on my own bank. Moments later in the clear shallows a I spotted a fresh run spring salmon which seemed to be attached to my line just before it really went berserk snapping my two pound hook link like baby hair. A repaired rig was swung out and the next bite snapped me off too.
This was war! The medium rod was put away and the light barbel rod came out. With the suspicion that the second fish was not a salmon. I winged a decent size chunk of bread into the run.
I had to wait for a while but it eventually went round and my strike met solid force. I honestly was not sure what was on the end of the line, and the fish just seemed to hang in the water before slowly succumbing to the pressure. When I first saw a thick golden side roll in the middle, I thought I'd hooked one of the Itchen's rouge carp. That was until a massive white mouth appeared near the net and the culprit became clear.

My first Itchen fish of this trip was not quite the six I'd hoping for the past few weeks, but at 5.12lb this chub was a very nice start. Albeit a bit not the best looking chub in the river.

After the chub the swim died and rather than waste precious time I moved on to another swim which the bailiff had tipped me off to contain some nice roach and he was spot on with his advice, proving you should always listen to the bailiff on these kinds of rivers. With my light rod and the smallest feeder know to man I deftly flicked my rig under a tree and got an instant reply. A slew of amazing clear water roach cued up to eat my flake bait. I landed eight  before this bites stopped as the roach shied off the feed. The best one came out at 1.2lb. And although I know they weren't to monsters these southern chalk streams are renowned for, they certainly could be one day.

The middle of the day proved a testing time for myself. I fished no less than eight different swims over the entire bottom beat of the lower Itchen fishery with what could only be considered poor results. Over lunch with Jeff and Baz (Keith was not present as he sent word that he would not come down stream until a good grayling was in his net). We mulled over our options. Jeff went up and Baz and myself went down as since making my way up river the fishing had declined for me. So I headed back to the devil I knew.
After having a few casts at the southern most swim of the entire fishery without a single bite, I moved up the weir run, fishing a couple areas until I dropped onto a spot Sash had plundered first thing. Things seemed slow all round, so I stuck it out looking for a big roach by casting a small bread feeder into the flow and letting it find its own crease in the slack water at the edge of the run.
Whilst I waited patiently, I noticed a tame bird had stopped by for a free feed, something it obviously did daily. Now I have fed  tame robins, ducks and swans. Hell, I even feed a Heron a dead bait once. But never before have seen such an unlikely fishery pet as this, and only a southern chalk stream would have one.

A tame yellow wag tail.

Be it a he or a she this little bird defended this area venomously. And you can understand why! This area is where most visiting anglers stop off at on their way home and should they have a lot of bait left over then hand fulls  must come this little birds way.
Whilst I sat staring at a motionless rod top I remembered I had put a cigar in my bag to celebrate my certain recapture of the record gonk. Which never happened I should add. 
When I finally found my celebratory stogie  it was residing between a carton of Five Alive and a bait box and was quite simply busted. 

Half was sent off to the Solent and  I puffed away on the remaining half as I filled the weir in with bread and the air with pungent smoke.
My persistence paid off and coupled with me rotating hook baits from bread to maggots the bites turned on again as the afternoon wore on.
Even though I had come specifically searching for grayling I had kind of written them off by this point, as the best I had managed all day was a paltry six ounces. But fr the final few hours they came on the feed. After a run of Ladies around a pound I finally hooked something bigger which swirled like a dervish in the powerful weir before I slipped the net under plump southern grayling of 1.10lb that made my day.

I stuck the weir race out for a while hooking only landing one more fish - a superb looking brownie who fancied my bread flake. But after that the swim died a death and it was time for one last move.

Desperate to make the most of the dusk I nipped back to the roach swim I had fished earlier in the day to chance for a monster as the light went. Although I did land a couple more roach, they generally seemed nervous on this second visit and the twitchy bites were hard to convert into fish.
Although this first winter trip was not as hectic as my previous October sessions, it did still produce some great fish and I will certainly look forward to my return later in the autumn to try and beat my grayling PB.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Show and Short Session reports.

Well it has been a busy one for me this past weekend. On Saturday after spending the morning paying all those annoying monthly bills, I headed over to the Richo arena to have a look round the Midland Carp & Coarse show to hopefully get pick up a few things. 
First of all, I have to say how impressed  I was with this show. I have been to loads of shows, fairs and festivals relating to angling and at just about every one I always find myself walking away thinking something like there was too many manufactures, or that there was not enough retailers, and that what the were peddling was a load of old junk. This one however seemed to have the right balance of just about everything; a few large manufacturers plus their obligatory big names such as Bob Nudd and Dean Macey - the latter of the two I spotted munching down on a banana just as we walked past. 
As well as the big boys there were lots of smaller companies showing off their new ideas, including it would seem, every possible flavour of bait you can (and can't!) think of.
For me and most of the other penny pinching anglers in attendance, the retailers were really where the action was. And for once there was some real top quality bargains to be had. 
I was adhering to a strict self imposed budget, as I have in the past gone mad at these things, so for once I knew what I was after and from whom it should be purchased.

My first stop was at Eric's Angling. Last year I bought some Fox camo soft steel line from them via mail order and was very impressed with both the line and the price. This is the old packaging version of it, but as far as I can see there is little difference between this and the new stuff. 

Retail £18
Eric's sell this at normally £8 
Show price £5 

Next on my hit list were these Nobbler leads which are made and sold by Atomic tackle. Last year I was just using normal grippa leads for moulding hali pellets round for barbel fishing on the rivers, and this year I fancy these may help with that job as well as using them for bream and tench fishing on the Method.

Retail £1.90 each
Show price £10 for 13

I am a massive fan of back leads and although I have recently not been using a purpose made ones and instead I have been using a cheap bombs combined with a quick clip. These, cheekily nicknamed 'The Nutz', caught my eye!

Retail £1.90 each
Show price £10 for 13

Lately I have had some luggage problems. My Korum ruck bag is far too bulky to be used on short mobile sessions, so I have been squeezing the small amount of kit I take on these roving sessions into a tiny satchel sized bag. This always leaves me a bit short of space so I have been looking for a small to medium sized holdall to fill the void, and this oak leaf camo holdall with ergonomic strap and handle looked perfect for the job.

Retail unknown
Show price £11 (That is just a bargain no matter what the retail was)

The final item is a far as I am concerned a must for all anglers camera bags. I bought my first ever bank stick to camera adaptor from the local tackle shop and lost it on a beach in Suffolk in autumn last year. I begrudgingly paid and exorbitant price for a replacement on my return. Then at the show I saw a massive pot of these at a ridiculous price.

Retail £4.50 each
Show price £1

For me anyway, this show seemed a real success. It was attended well by all types of companies and organisations.  Though it was not one of the gargantuan monster shows like they used to have at the NEC, it's simple size, free entrance and parking all seemed to help to pull in maximum numbers of punters. I think everyone involved must of been impressed as money was happily changing hands and anglers were struggling back to their cars weighed down by plenty of bargains. I hope it happens again and will keep my eye out for it next year.


I am determined to get in as many trips to the river as I can before the season ends no matter how short they may be. In previous years I have been lured away in February and the first two weeks of March, eager to get onto thawed lakes. But this year I am sticking to my guns and refuse to leave running water until the very bitter end of the season.

Sunday was the chosen day for my family to mass in a reasonable food establishment to celebrate the 89th birthday of my Grandmother. I love her to bits but the fact that she insists on eating dinner not that long after the time most people are enjoying a leisurely Sunday breakfast, kind of scuppers any plans to do anything that day other than go to dinner with me nan. So with a short amount of time and a self made commitment to maximise my time on the river I opted to again go in search of that rarest of fishes, the 6lb chub from the upper Warks Avon.

I knew I had made the right decision when I stepped out the back to collect a frozen net head and was met by the sight of  a light sprinkling of snow on the ground. I was also very disappointed no one was around to see the best slide I have ever done on the icy path going to the car. Rod in one hand, net in the other and my bag on my back I slid a full five or more feet perfectly calmly right up to the car boot, stopping inches short and pressing the boot open button on the key with my mouth.

The river looked spot on flowing harder than my last visit with that bit of colour that just looks right.

My first cast into the near edge under cut produced straight away when a nice three pound chub gave me a quick double tap as it engulfed my lob worm bait and signalled they might be on the feed.

Just lately I have switched from cheese paste and bread over to worms as I know this stretch contains some nice perch which gobble up lob worms before they even hit the bottom on the right day.
After breaking up a couple of sub par worms and depositing them into the flow, I walked of the have a look at something I'd spotted on the way to the river leaving my swim to settle down again. 
It seemed most of the swans in the county were in residence in some poor farmers field munching away at his soft and tender crops. Literally hundreds of them were grouped in one single field calmly mooching about unhindered, which made for quite a sight.

Back in my swim  and cast back into the undercut I thought the perch may of turned up when I got some very tentative plucks and my worm came back a bit mangled. After casting in again, the tip hooped violently as a brain dead 1-2lb chub crashed around the swim. Unusually this was followed by two more of the same year class which is odd because I have only ever caught micro chub or full size chub from this area.

The three marauding smaller chub seemed to ruin this swim totally so I upped sticks to go and fish a snag on the top of the meadow. After thinking I had cleverly made the perfect cast under the slumped tree, I sat on that it for about thirty minutes until a clump of dead reed forced me to reel in,  where I found my perfect cast was not so perfect at all and that I was well and truly connected to the snag. My pulling for the break only served to yank a swinging branch up and down into the swim ruining this usual banker in only one perfect cast.

My time was running out and although I had another swim in mind way down stream. I opted to return to the original swim to run out my session and save the other one for another day.

Honestly I never expected to get another bite. So I was only half watching my rod tip whilst I scanned the mornings doings on Facebook when I spotted the first nod over the top of my phone screen and instantley dropped the the phone into my bag. It took a while for the bite to develop but it eventually did and I found myself connected to a real experienced brute. This one knew every trick in the book and used every one as well. Twice I had to pull it out of the dead reeds on my own bank as it tried desperately to bury itself deeper. In the end I snatched it before it made antoher to bid for freedom.

A short and stocky four pounder rounded off the morning well and as I packed up happy with five nice fish under my belt I wondered where that elusive six I know is here is hiding.


I thought my fishing was done until later in the week, until Jacky mentioned she was going out for dinner to Leamington with her work colleges to celebrate the end of a particularly busy month in student immigration. At first it never dawned on me and just told her there was loads of parking in Leamington. But then the next day when I was residing in my silent ear defender world it clicked 'there are two rivers run very close to Leamington and  my kit from the previous session is still set up ready to go'.
I felt like a real hero offering to drive her out for the night and then offering to hang round in the dark waiting to pick her up afterwards. Jacky gratefully consented to me dropping her off and I whipped straight over the corner shop to obtain a tin of luncheon meat for bait.

I was strange going to a bit of river I had never fished before and casting blind in the night. Straight away I was into the silvers fishing leftover bread flake on the hook and fruity liquidised bread in the feeder.
My meat line had sat silently on the bait runner since being cast close to a over hanging tree upon arrival but about half way through the session it went off with no warning straight onto the baitrunner.
I felt sure I was going to be met by absolute power of a barbel. So much so that I had dug my feet into the mud and almost spat on my hands before striking. But the power was not there and all to easily another chub found it's way into my net.

My first night time self take of 2012 did not go to well. I didn't even realise until I got home that it was a duff. I suspect the lens had misted up on hitting the night air after being wrapped up nice and warm in my snug new bag.
Now although I am determined to maximise my catches this year by fishing for appropriate species in the suitable seasons. My continuing appearance on my own blog holding nothing but chub is getting to me a bit! So next time my ugly mug appears on the internet I hope to be holding a Lady of the Stream which rightfully could be a man...

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The lure of piscatorial idlers quest on the warks Avon returning past Ryton

In the worst of the winters fishing every year I make pilgrimage to a stretch of river that I know has some serious potential when everywhere else struggles. I have been trying to get a good long freezing cold session on this stretch now for about about a month, but just before every opportunity I have been thwarted in one way or another.
This weekend it nearly went that way too. Whilst visiting my local fishing tackle emporium I was informed by the sooth sayers behind the counter, when asked where I was going, that a large number of other locals were also heading to the very same patch of hard worn earth to try and take advantage of this winter bounty.
My only option was to get up at stupid o'clock and be there well before light. Which I did with Andy off of in tow. All we could get in the dark was a few minor trembles but once dawn broke the biomass went basserk and it was soon a fish a chuck.
After an hour of one a chuck the bites stopped almost instantly, which seemed a little odd.
A while later we spotted the first other angler of the day crossing the bridge downstream and he looked a bit familiar. It was Keith off of come to partake of the now finished fish frenzy. Not long afterwards another familar face crossed the bridge tackled up. This time it was Baz off of and if four blogging bloggers wan't enough, who should turn up a bit later but Jeff off of .
How bizzare that all of us should turn independently up at the same venue on the same day, although it could say something of the calibre of the fishing that can be had here.
Though considering how the morning went I suppose you could put it like this:

How many bloggers does it take to catch a 10oz dace?

As bleeding many as you want! cos we had five of em and we never caught one.

Myself and Andy were lucky from what I hear. We did have an all but brief spell where the fish fed and Andy did snaffle a nice pike just under double figures around mid morning. For me I had to settle for the biggest dace of the day, a mere four ounces.

In the few days that have passed since the uber blogger, The lure of piscatorial idlers quest on the Warks Avon returning past Ryton, fished  this ancient bit of river I have been perplexed somewhat over the seeming poor performance. Reading that Jeff too has been mulling the situation has pushed me towards some conclusions of my own.
I initially thought a temp drop may have been responsible for a drop off in feeding in this normally reliable winter hot spot. Then I suspected it may have been a drop in barometric pressure or that the two cormorants may have been signs of a more insidious problem. But now I realise that I for one may have been attributing blame to all the normal scapegoats and ignoring the obvious...
I first fished this stretch when not one grey hair sprouted from my temples and way before I had forgotten what a razor felt like on my chin. At that point I remember even in winter we had to stamp dead winter foliage so our lines didn't get tangled in it and in the summer it was impossible to get any further into the thick scrub than the swim I was fishing in. Now it can comfortably hold multiple anglers which leads me to my final theory on what may be affecting the fishes feeding in this once forgotten wilderness. It's us! back in the day I would guarantee that these naive fish would feed from light till dark. I for one remember going home early after running out bait on several occasions. But now the ground is bare and hard from the scuff of anglers feet and at any one time multiple anglers will be in attendance. So if it is not our fault we must at least put ourselves in the same categories as all the other reasons we try to blame for the fish not feeding in our favourite winter hot spot.

Changing tack I do love a good fishing show and on Tuesday morning I received my Leamington angling news letter only to see that unbeknownst to me that we had one on our very door step in only a few days time.

I would just like to say thank you to Anthony for putting that on the newsletter as I for one would not have realised it was on. Also, to the organizers of this show, even though I live in Coventry and work regularly at the Richo arena, I had no idea this was on so maybe your local advertising at least needs some work. 
I will certainly be going over to purchase some much needed supplies that I have been planning on ordering online that I fancy will help me out with my summer campaign 'The Lake';  I will let you know if it was any good and what bargains I got from it next time.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Snow go

I have always got a real kick of being out in extreme conditions. Even in my youth I would happily trudge round Bedworth in frost and snow doing my paper round. I even had a couple of places on the local cut where the constant the trickle of  entering streams kept enough water liquid that I could freeze myself half to death scratching out blade roach on squats. That's why I was half looking forward to this weekends fishing. 
I say half because I although I do love this weather I knew full well it would probably naff up my plans for two sessions this weekend. 
With that in mind I watched the weather as we all do and tried to keep positive whilst saying to myself  'it will only be a sprinkle of snow and both venues fish even in the worst weather'.
Saturday morning I looked looked out the window to see blue sky and smugly thought, ah I was right, it ain't going to be that bad. 
Two hours later I stood amongst the 1960's buildings of Coventry city centre and watched a bar of thick grey cloud approach. My initial plan was to get out for three-ish and fish until dark to make best of a winter witching hour. The approaching weather front forced my hand however and I went out around twelve. This proved to be my best move of the weekend.

The swim I fancied for a winter chavin is a great environment for fish, with its five foot deep, half fast half slow water nestled between two deeply under cut banks fringed with masses of dead reed. Perfect to keep them snug in the worst of weathers. Above the water on our side of the fence its awful; miles of open flat fields in every direction and every time I've put up a brolly in this swim it's been the kiss of death, so I left that at home!

The wind was cutting through all five of my layers the moment I stepped out of the car and it did not get any better as I walked across the field dotted by cow pats, which were frozen like organic Frisbees. Not that I threw any. 
Being so open I approach this swim in a massive circle so as not to freak out any of it's occupants. Once in position with the wind to my back and my rod as low as I could possibly have it and still register a bite, I looked over the bait options. I'd only brought bread as a back up, so it became a toss up between cheese paste and Lob worms. I have in the past caught more fish from this area of the upper Avon on cheese paste BUT the biggest chub I have ever seen on the bank came from this very stretch on Lob worms, so the answer was clear.

Once cast out I had barley wiped the ook of broken worms of my hand and poured a steaming mug of tea before the snow flakes started flying sideways past me, and I gave an inane chuckle to myself with a kind of macabre glee.
Half an hour in and I had sat on the one cast tight against the far bank the whole time. As well as throwing in two broken up worms and the result had been zero. So I decided to gradually pull the bait across into the faster water on my own bank.

Bingo!  Half way across the river the tip nodded and the culprit was hooked. In the water it looked alright, three or four pound maybe. In the net it was a much chunkier a chub than I've caught in a good many years.

5.2lb-  that will do me. I tried desperately to do a self take shot only to discover that it is nearly impossible to do so on a snowy day with no shelter to help reduce the bright white light on the open tundra. So I had to settle for the net shot. Which was not a bad thing! As in the couple of ghostly attempts at a self shot my face looked like old jack frost was slapping me just before the camera beeped.

After this I was not going to dally. That age old anglers thought of just one last cast never entered my head. It was just a case of one cast one chub that will do me thank you very much and I headed back to the car.
Bearing in mind that I had only dipped the net once and then walked back across the field, when I got to the car my Fox Predator spoon landing net was very rigid. So much so that I had to stamp it flat to get it in the  car boot.

Sunday my intent was to do a bit of pike fishing at another winter hot spot on the Avon. But whilst Facebook lit up with a million posts about snow  I sat cursing the stupid white stuff. At midnight I poked my head out the front door to hear the wondrous sound of melting snow and I went to bed hoping to awake to it all being gone in a few hours. As per normal I was wrong. Though what remained had only a short time before it turned to that classical English snow type. Slush.

I had to play it safe and I did not fancy crawling miles with my arse twitching every time the car slid around, so I changed tack, pulled on my lunker boots and hit the alleys as I headed off to the brook.
I could not rightly face catching any more half pound chub as compared to the previous days catch they would seem a little inconsequential. So I avoided any know Chub haunts and dropped on a swim I know has some as yet unmeasured roach potential. 

The river looked great with that lovely winter colour and with a bit of snow on the banks. The roach however were in residence but had obviously read my last blog post and were being suitably coy.
After a few casts when my bait returned with the hook sticking out the back of a small gob of bread I came up with an idea. Decoy fishing for Roach. It is so simple I don't know why I didn't try it last week. Pinch a tiny crumb of bread onto a tiny size 18 hook and leave the hook point well exposed. Then pinch much bigger chunk on the line above it. Even if the bigger bit slips down the line, the stinger is always the little bit at the back which the roach plucks at.

First chuck a small but perfectly formed winter Roach on the decoy.

After landing the first one, my conversion rate went through the roof from about fifteen trembles to one fish to three hard bangs to a fish. I ended up landing thirteen fish up to 6oz and enough minnows to keep me in perch fishing for a full week.

I was having such a good time I never felt my feet getting cold. But once they had gone I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to go. Then when a huge sheet of ice came crawling round the corner it seemed the perfect reason to get up and move home for a warming brew and an afternoon on the sofa watching a movie.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Those maddening darn Roach

Those who have cast a line for a big Roach will already know of the fickle nature by which they can possibly feed, and do not need me to remind them of the maddening ability to pluck a Roach develops around the age of 10oz. With a barbel, carp or pike and their developed methods of capture, angling them has become simple in a way. Simple in that once the finned culprit has the intent of your bait upon it's mind it comes down to a simple choice of yes I am going to eat it or no I am not. Whereas in the case of the not so humble big Roach it becomes a case of sucking, plucking, blowing, spitting and possibly maybe even eating. Add into this infuriating equation a flowing river and a recipe for madness is complete. Oppositely there are those days when like all fishes the big Roach can be as stupid and gullible as an angler in a tackle shop; to be on that bank on that sacred day is the provision of a lucky man, one whom in the past may have stumbled over a pile of rocking horse droppings and landed face first in a patch of four leafed clovers. But for most of us even if we know the location of a sacred shoal and we enjoy angling for a pound of silver in our net, we will have to endure a little madness as payment for the honour.

Having decided that Roach were to be my quarry of the day, I wondered as I drove south in the dark whether if by magic today was to be my day again, as I have had only one other real roach red letter day in the past.
Though before feeders filled with bread crumbs arc across the Warwickshire sky, another darker date stood before me. I do find it hard these days to visit the Avon without a a Zander rod in my quiver. Even if like on this trip I only have a short while to await for that single nod of my rod that might indicate the subtle intentions of a Zander. I still do it.
Early on as dark became light I had two enquiries in quick succession. I wouldn't say I missed them, just that the Zander responsible for both bites had a change of heart at the last moment, and put down my dead Rudd bait for reason only known to them. Although I suspect my pack of frozen glassy eyed fish may have been in and out of the freezer one to many times to be considered fresh.

Done with distractions of the predatory kind I shoved off upstream to the spot I knew I would fish. Ever since my arrival I had been watching it out of the corner my eye hoping no wasteful lure angler would pass through and ruin the whole area searching for a pickerel of a pike, which would probably not look twice at there gaudy rattling lure. 

Winters and floods change the dynamics of swims easily, and this one was changed since I last cast here. The flow is now channelled awkwardly across the centre of the swim and worse the soft biting fish lie just beyond the entire pressure of the  Warwickshire Avon on a small gravel run. The swim will again change when the next flood rips away the barriers accumulated on the far back which on this occasion hinder me. But for today it is just a case of making do.

It takes me a while to figure where my bait ends up on my first cast. Unlike a feeder full of wetted ground bait which sinks fast, a feeder stuffed with fluffy liquidised bread sinks slowly allowing the river to catch it and deposit it much further downstream than a wet crumb feeder. 
It's making bottom at least two metres further down stream than I want it to, so I compensate by flicking it further into the flow and my calculations are rewarded with a bite. Albeit a very subtle one. 
A few more loads of bread clouding through the water gets them in the mood and the tip now dances feverishly as fish pluck at the bread. Then finally a tiny sliver blade wriggles in after the feeder. The hooked fish drives off the shoal and I have to wait a while for the next bite. But once that comes they once again begin to compete.
A proper bite results in resistance on my light rod and a beautiful 13oz roach is landed and my hopes that the red letter day could begin get higher.

After this the madness begins! The shoal is disrupted and for all I can figure are moving round the swim. As the bites seem totally random, I focus as we are told, on one area, and try to hit the same spot again and again which does seem to get them in line a little. They have no confidence but infuriatingly are still interested in eating.
How many bites I strike at and miss grows quickly and my-patience to deal with this dwindles. In the end I find myself hitting good fast roach bites as the tip comes back, and no fish can be hooked when your bait has been spat out.
Luckily for my sanity they push off and the bites stop and now my tip sits still. The thought that a big straggler may still move over the baited area makes me stick around for sometime just in case. Soon enough I move off again down stream to a another choice spot. Here again the bites come quickly and a small chub which is novel in this section for the river gets away in a snag under my feet.

All too soon it is time to go as other engagements press my time. Even though those infuriating fish have pushed me close to the edge, I still wonder when I will be back as I walk to the car.