Fleeting Autumn

So much to see and do, before the cold weather really begins to bite, yet so little time… Autumn is the most fleeting of seasons.

monmouth-view-web

misty-morning-1-web

drum-web

chub-and-barbel-web
At this time of year, even an hour in the right spot, at the right time, can pay off. I had these lovely chub and barbel within minutes of each other, during a very quick session when the river had risen slightly after rain.

Perch and Pikeels

I went to try and catch a big perch from a local pond at the weekend. During my last visit in September, I sat in a t-shirt and had probably two dozen feisty perch to over a pound and a half in weight. So confidence was high as I arrived for an afternoon session on a colder, overcast afternoon. The plan was to see if any bigger perch were around.

We’d had a good bit of rain on the days prior to my visit and on arrival the water colour told me everything I needed to know – it was going to be a struggle. A feeder stream had emptied thousands of gallons of tea coloured water into the lake, turning it 50 shades of Pantone 7412 C.

Pantone 7412 C - not a shade to instil confidence...
Pantone 7412 C – not a shade to instil confidence…

It was frustrating as the weather has already seen off two perch trips this autumn – the rain doing for a planned day with Monty and Hurricane Gonzalo halting the other scheduled trip on the Grand Union with my mate Rob, who’s quietly been getting amongst some good fish this year.

Oh well. I decided to stick it out, but I knew deep down it wasn’t going to happen. I did get some nice roach in the end, but even they disappeared after a couple of hours.

An iridescent lake roach
An iridescent lake roach

I hope the rain doesn’t completely finish off any chances of some decent winter river fishing, but it’s not looking good. Still, winter commercial perch fishing is something I enjoy a lot, so it’s something to fall back on.

Daggertooth pike conger
Dear old Matt Hayes. He gets a bit of stick on the forums and social media, but I think he comes across as a decent chap. He certainly takes a good photo. He recently posted an image on Twitter – don’t think it was one of his – of a Japanese pike eel. Now there’s something I’d never seen before. A quick Google brings up all sorts about these fish and what must be either the same species or a close relation, the Daggertooth pike conger. The stuff of nightmares!

Japanese pike eel
Japanese pike eel

Agricultural barbeling

As a method of fishing, it’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer. But hurling a feeder the size of a fist into a raging river in an effort to attract the Wye’s population of distinctly un-subtle barbel is great fun.

I enjoy the whole process of mixing up a stinking groundbait and pellet concoction, depositing a few feeder full’s close-in, before setting up with gear that feels like it would be more suited to the cod that are beginning to arrive downstream of here, where the Wye meets the Severn. It’s all rather agricultural, but then I am a Suffolk lad at heart…

A short mid-afternoon session on Saturday produced two lovely barbel that both pulled well beyond their weight. I lost one too. And despite the sheer amount of crap coming down the river, gathering around the strategically placed shot a few feet up from the feeder and dislodging it every ten minutes, the trip was great fun, in an un-subtle kind of way…

The river was tanking through, but the barbel were feeding...
The river was tanking through, but the barbel were feeding…
A small Wye barbel from the floodwater
A small Wye barbel from the floodwater
A stocky Wye barbel - great fun in the flow
A stocky Wye barbel – great fun in the flow

Autumn perch

They may be at their heaviest right at the very beginning of spring, but come the autumn, I can’t resist fishing for perch.

Autumn leaves
Autumn leaves

Dropping something wriggly, suspended beneath a bulbous float, into deep, slack water, preferably close to cover, is the only way to fish for them in my eyes – real boys own stuff.

A river perch lair
A river perch lair

I had a succession of stunning perch last week from both the river and a local pool. While the river is low, they make for a far more enthusiastic target than the chub and barbel.

A perfect Wye perch
A perfect Wye perch
A decent river perch from a deep pool
A decent river perch from a deep pool
A chunky pond perch
A chunky pond perch

Wye chub experiment

Well, my canal carp campaign has pretty much fizzled out. After another session right at the end of July without a sign of anything other than micro pike and tiny roach, and in the knowledge that a fish kill a few years back may have decimated stocks more significantly than I first thought, I’ve knocked it on the head for now.

I didn’t get out in August and so the few hours I spent out roving the river on Monday evening were a real pleasure.

Wild flowers by the river
Wild flowers by the river

Although I was tempted to sit it out in the hope of a barbel or two, I instead opted to fish a slower stretch of the river a few hundred yards above some rapids in search of chub.

My thinking was that I’d try for the chub specifically in the slightly deeper, slower water in an effort to see if I could get through to a better stamp of fish. Fishing the faster, shallower runs this season has resulted in plenty of barbel and chub, but the chub have only been up to around 2.5lbs or so in weight. After seeing a photo of a stunning 5lbs 12oz chub from the slower water and with my own best Wye chub coming from the same section, albeit during a summer flood, I decided to explore a few new swims in the area.

The river was up a bit from my last visit and with a touch of colour running through, too. I must admit I was tempted to scrap my chub plan and target the barbel, but I stuck to my guns and began fishing a light-ish lead close-in with a chunk of meat as bait.

It was quiet at first and the sun was still quite strong, but it was only just above the trees and I knew it’d soon duck down below them.

I repositioned the rig and soon after a lively chub snaffled the bait – but it was another small fish of perhaps a pound-and-a-half. After that I hooked another small one that came off. So much for the better fish theory!

The swim went quiet, so I moved. The next area I eventually settled into, I almost walked past. It was quite well hidden and, in terms of access, one of the more challenging areas along the stretch.

But I’d travelled light and so had just enough room for my rod, net and bait. I was positioned a good six feet above the river, but there was just enough space to get down and net a fish, should I hook one.

The water in front of me looked great, with a clearly defined crease a quarter of the way across the river and with plenty of tree cover above the run.

I baited with a couple of balls of dampened pellets and flicked the rig out. First cast and I was in – another mini chub…

I balled-in some more pellets, well upstream of the target run and let it settle while I had a cold drink.

I cast again, just beyond the crease this time. Nothing happened for a while but I was content to sit in what was a lovely, warm early autumn evening.

When the tip whacked around, it caught me unexpected and my fumbled strike met with nothing.

Another wait ensued before another bite, and finally a much better chub was hooked. The fish really went well on the lighter set-up and it was a relief to get it in the net. At 4lbs 2ozs it was a reasonable chub for the Wye.

4lbs 2oz
4lbs 2oz

By now I was in to a routine of sorts and the groundbait going in on each cast had obviously drawn the fish in. As the light dropped, the chub responded and a succession of chunky fish made their way to the net. No sign of any real biggies, but they certainly were a better stamp of chub than I’ve managed this season. Great fun.

3lbs 15oz
3lbs 15oz

Autumn action

And so the most exciting part of the fishing season begins. The short period from September through to the end of November offers, arguably, the most productive spell of fishing for most species of coarse fish.

The cumulative effects of some subtle, but tangible changes in the weather seemingly brings the rivers to back life again, as the fish wake from their summer slumber and begin to feed in earnest in preparation for winter.

I was lucky enough to find the river in tip-top shape last week. Warm, wet and blustery conditions for a few days had stirred the fish up and after arriving for an afternoon session I was confident of finding a fish or two.

I started on an upper stretch that is generally good for a few bites. While the fish are invariably quite small, it’s a lovely little piece of water that still requires a bit of thought to tempt a bite. I found the fish in a responsive mood. A bit of loose feed was deposited into a nice run and left to settle. First cast I had a splashy chub of around three pounds. Then three barbel in quick succession that, if they hadn’t been caught so closely together, I would have guessed were the same fish! All about a pound in weight, they were immaculate little fish.

Early autumn chub
A lovely early autumn chub

After the bites dried up to the static baits, I reverted to rolling a piece of spam through the swim. It was nailed by a better barbel getting on for three pounds that gave a great account of itself on balanced tackle in a confined swim.

I moved downstream to another stretch in the early evening. I’d soon re-tackled and gently lowered a boilie hookbait with a little pva bag of crushed baits a few yards upstream of some fish I’d spotted laying under the cover of a tree. After an intense half hour of plucks, pulls, dinks and donks on the rod-tip, it finally went round in dramatic fashion and a very angry, fat little common carp of six and a half pounds came to the net. Despite the fact it wasn’t a barbel, I was delighted as it was my first ever river carp.

I was literally packing away the last of my gear, bar the rod and net, when the baitrunner started whizzing. An exciting struggle in the dark ended with a perfect barbel of 7lbs 1oz coming to the net.

Golden barbel
A nice barbel that came at the end of a nice session

Autumn glory

The period from September through to Christmas has always been a productive time

Looking out from the office window at the leaves on the trees as they quite suddenly start changing from their slightly dishevelled, late summer green to a definite yellow really makes me want to get out on to the river! Combined with a noticeable chill in the evenings and the increasingly short days; autumn is certainly upon us.

I love fishing in the autumn, despite it being a short season compared to the summer and winter, like the spring, it is perhaps one of the best times to be out on the bank.

The period from September through to Christmas has always been a productive time for me and in the past I’ve managed some stunning individual fish as well as enjoying days where the bites have come consistently.

I haven’t managed to get out at all recently, although a few hours on a Suffolk Stour weir pool in August did see a few nice perch come to the net. The river then was in need of a good flush through, and as I write reports suggest the rivers I fish are all quite low.

Can’t wait to get out again though, it was during a mild day last October that I actually found a barbel on the Lea at Fishers Green, I even had him feeding at one point before my clumsy cast saw him melt away never to return!

A stunning autumn grayling
A stunning autumn grayling