A few years ago I had the insanely genius idea to avoid the rivers on the opening day of the season. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made as I ended up practically having Napton to myself and having a red letter day to boot. Ever since that day I have continued this avoidance of the hordes of anglers desperate for river glory and destined for trickling disappointment; instead I have bagged up on loads of cracking fish by slowly sauntering down to a lake whilst everyone else is succumbing to bleary eyed boredom of the river.
Unusually this 16th turned out to be a rather cloudy and chilly occasion round these parts. Normally it is bright sunshine wall to wall to get those barbel and chub scurrying for cover. I actually had to get my old hoody from the car boot to keep warm on the breezy Napton banks as I angled after another vintage crucian. The one great thing about this overcast and cutting breeze was that if I got into a decent and fish-able position the fish should feed for as long as I could keep them in the swim.
After pitching up in a swim with the wind on my back I deployed the weed rake to confirm the swim was clear enough to fish and went about setting up stall to keep under the wind and fish tight to a nearby reed bed. The rake always clouds up the swim nicely and in the clear waters of Napton this is like ringing the dinner bell. The roach were first on the scene and after a few annoying plucks I finally got a decent bite which resulted in me hooking the first of several nice roach between ten ounces and a pound.
I knew if the roach were that quick to arrive that the tench would soon arrive and when they did things really went off. The first fish got off but after quickly re-baited and getting back on the spot I was straight away into another tench which couldn't resist my sweetcorn hook bait sitting temptingly amongst the scattering of pellets and dusting of pungent ground bait. This fish gave me a right run around and quickly informed me of all the weed beds in proximity of the swim. Being careful and gently pulling it out of all of these weed beds soon saw me netting a stunning first tench of the day.
The tench kept coming all afternoon with the crazy smaller males charging here, there and everywhere and the much bigger and powerful females really pushing my gear to the limits as I tried to weave them in and out of the maze of weed beds along my bank. Most of them ended up in my net but a few managed to dive so deep in the weeds that all my tugging only served to pull the hook and leave the embedded tench to find their own way out.
As per normal it turned out to be another of those sessions where I probably didn't get within half a lake of the precious old crucian and thus it was filed away with the hundreds of other sessions just like it. I did end the session on a high by landing a large stunning female tench that was a decent step up in size from most of the fish I had caught so far this year. Her capture adds credence to my theory that the tench in Napton, though reduced in numbers, are becoming bigger.
Sooner or later I had to get down the river and after a reccy lure session along the Barford AA stretch of the Avon with a lure rod, I concluded that although low and clear there did seem to be fish holding in the faster oxygenated water. So the night after the day before I returned armed with a barbel rod and a bucket full of fishy bait to hopefully garner myself a bite or two. With the conditions being sunny and the river very clear I guessed things were going to be hard and that any decent fish would more than likely being hanging out in any cover they could find. This in mind I pitched up in a swim with plenty of beds of streaming weed thinking this was my best chance of teasing out a few fish in such dire conditions.
After watching for a while through polarized eyes I started to see the occasional dark shape drift from one weed bed to another. With as little disturbance as possible I dropped my rig along with a golf ball sized PVA bag of freebies in between two weed beds where I thought I stood a chance of extracting a hooked fish. I was kind of thinking I would have to wait for a bite and I went about busying myself making a few more PVA bags of pellets. I'd barely got half way through the second one when the rod which was trapped between my legs pulled hard over and the butt was pivoted up in my nether regions. In the panic the bucket of pellets went flying, my tube of PVA stocking fell precariously close to the river and a small yet pungent pot of bait glug was spilled on my lap as I tried to get the rod butt out of my groin.
From the savagery of the initial bite I was under the impression I had by sheer luck hooked a early season barbel, but it turned out to be a chub who did an amazing impression of a barbel. It turned out to be quite a nice chub in reality...
My luck however was seemingly spent on that first chub as for a lot of interest from the first fishes shoal mates I suspect, I received no more savage bites on this first river outing. Though for the records purposes I will mark this single fish session as a total success as there's been plenty of early session sessions when I have had the dreaded blank. Thinking back now the capture of that single chub, after spotting several drifting around deep in the cover on a sunny day when not a lot was doing, seem aptly pure to me.