Friday, 23 February 2018

Winter can do one!

It's not been an auspicious start to the year for myself. In fact quite frankly I'd happily forget the best part of January. It's been one of those seasons that for some unknown reason I haven't clicked particularly well with and thus so whenever I have been out fishing it feels like I am pushing against the flow rather than going with it. Other years I have reveled in the cold of winter and even at the hardest of times I have made good choices and reaped the rewards. This winter though has just been generally a bit blah. Getting the bona fide flu for the first time in decade didn't really help things and this in itself took two weeks to fully recover from, keeping me away from the bank the entire time. But for the dreadful start to the year and sickness, I have actually got out here and there slopping about in the flood deposited mud on the banks of the Avon; having a jack pike filled session lure fishing an old estate lake; and a foray onto the canal to try out some new pole floats I like the look of for crucian fishing when memories of this infernal winter have faded away into oblivion.

Being away from the bank though has not been without its disadvantages. Time spent indoors has been used well to subtly wind young BB into a fishing fervor via his magnetic fishing game (which I must say he's a terrible cheat at,) That combined with him seeing me go off fishing has him ready to have his first fishing trip come the summer and catch his first fish, which he is insistent must be yellow. Which sort of yellow fish that might be I haven't decided yet, but it sure as ice is cold it ain't gonna be a carp I know

I finally found my rhythm a little while ago when all things aligned themselves once again and for the first time in a long time I made the right decision. The Avon was within its banks and it seemed just the right timed session for me to head to the upper reaches to try and tap up some old haunts for a big river perch before the season wrapped up. The upper Avon is not that well renowned for its masses of big perch, but over the years I've stumbled upon a few pockets of fish I always suspected could produce a lump or two in the near future.

Conditions looked spot on with over cast skies and wrapped up against the bitter wind I crossed the freshly ploughed field towards the line of mismatched trees marking the course of the river. Having fished this area a few times before I knew the deeper holes and torpid slacks were the best place to start and they all looked perfect with lots of flotsam hung up on the overhanging branches forming rafts of cover on the edge of the main flow.

The first spot was a deep hole right on my own bank where it's been undercut by the incessant flow when the river is in flood. Gently I cast a single lobworm into the centre of the river with little more than a single swan shot to drag it down. After paying out a little line once the bait hand reached bottom I held the rod stationary as the flow forced the bait into the bank and under the bank. Instantly the tip of the rod nodded and as it bent round I struck into nothing. A bait less hook indicated some had got a free meal off of me. Repeating the cast two or three more times brought no more bites and I concluded to move off downstream to the next swim.

This time the target spot was a slack on the opposite bank where some unseen object forced the water eddy round back upstream and any passing goodies to get deposited in the slack under a tree. With more weight added to the rig to prevent the bait getting dragged out of the slack I cast under the tree. The bait had barely settled before the tip was dragged round and the fish swung across the flow towards my own bank. The fight was dirty and after dragging it again and again out of the reeds lining my own bank I stretched to my very limit to slip the net under a nice chub.

After releasing the chub in an area I didn't intend to fish I returned and diligently scoured the swim for perch to no avail and so was off again to another slack on the inside of a bend. This normal banker swim produced not so much as a nibble and frankly I wouldn't have mentioned it, but after I left it I walked a good way down to the next spot I fancied via a field of sticky rutted mud, a water filled ditch and a hawthorn hedgerow which I had to crawl through. It wasn't until I reached my intended destination that I realised my two favourite extendible bank sticks and rod rests were in fact still in the last swim an obstacle course away. Cold and unhappy at the prospect, I grumbled my way back sans the rest of my gear through the hedgerow and ditch to venture across the fallow field like some Arctic explorer, on a mission to retrieve the rod rests.

Spot the rod rests competition.
The last swim I felt was my best shot at a perch or two. Although complex due to the several possible hiding holes all over the swim, I had always found the perch seemed to congregate on a shallowing inside bank were food gets naturally washed by the flow and also where minnows in their millions congregate in the summer months. Once again using the almost free lined worm with a single swan shot to drag it down I flicked the rig deftly into the tree in the other bank! And then had to pull for a break! This annoyingly sent the line shooting back through every ring on the rod.

After retreating to the field to set up again I again crawled into position amongst the undergrowth, hooked up a whole worm and began swinging it back and forth before letting fly with cast and cringing as the rig passed with inches of the branch that had claimed my last rig. If there were perch present it wouldn't take long for them to cotton on to the bait after it slowed into the slacker water where I hoped they would be. A ten minute wait produced no response so I went about searching some of the other perchy hiding holes in the swim all bar one seem devoid of fish. The one that produced was a snaggy spot right under my feet. The angle of the line looked comical to me coming almost back under the rod, but no sooner had the bait settled than the rod whacked round as another chub found the my bait. That fish was the last of the session and I won't say that I was disappointed being unable to find my target for the session as the perch up here aren't easy to locate and a couple of nice chub on a freezing cold winters day roving round on the upper Warks Avon will do me just fine.