So, that was autumn

 The run up to Christmas is normally a pretty steady, transitional period weather wise with the really harsh conditions usually reserved until after the festive season. But as I write this entry in late November, the country has been in the grip of a big freeze for over a week and the cold spell is expected to last for at least another fortnight. I’m sure the fish will acclimatise and the fishing will pick up at some stage, but at the moment the few hardy souls daring to venture out are no doubt finding things very hard.
Back when the leaves were starting to take on their spectacular autumnal hues, the rivers and lakes of the UK appeared to quite suddenly come alive. There were some great catches recorded in the weekly angling press as species like perch, carp, chub and barbel fed in earnest in preparation for the lean months ahead.

My local river Lea was generally low and clear through the autumn and the fish, when they came, generally arrived after spells of prolonged rain or at dusk.

At the end of September I cycled to a narrow, upper stretch of the river for a couple of hours fishing. Using a short wand style rod and simply free-lining meat I had five or six chublets and a small, fin-perfect barbel in an area that is wonderfully overgrown and wild. Very different to most of the lower reaches!

The jungle swim
A wild and over-grown swim on the upper lea.
A baby barbel
A lovely little Lea barbel.

I had a great day in October on a stretch a bit further down the Lea. Fishing worms the afternoon after a spell of heavy morning rain, I managed a nice brace of chub, loads of small perch and my final bite of the day saw a gentle pull on the quiver-tip followed by a strange, spirited fight with something that didn’t tear around like the chub I’d hooked earlier. As I drew the fish towards the net I could see it was a roach, a big roach! It weighed 2lbs exactly, but, as you can see from the second photo there’s definitely more than a hint of bream in there. Still, a cracking fish.

A big roach?
A two pound roach...?
Roach/bream hybrid
...more than a hint of bream in there!

A couple of visits to the same section in lower, clear conditions were much harder going. A single chub on each trip; both at dusk, both on little pieces of spam on scaled down tackle and both from the same tricky-to-access, near-bank chub hole. In a way, finally tempting a bite on a difficult day is as rewarding as the more action packed sessions. Netting a big brassy chub at the very end of an otherwise fishless and frustrating day feels like just reward for your efforts.

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A barbel, some bream and rain in-between

Tackling up just as a heavy storm descended on the valley, I regretted travelling quite so light with no umbrella to shelter me from what was some pretty serious rain.

Although the vast majority of anglers in the UK travel to their chosen fishing venue by car, I rely on the rail networks, footpaths and cycle tracks of this country to get me to my angling destinations. A minimum of gear is beneficial when it comes to travelling by bike and suits the way I fish as well. One or two rods and a net handle strapped to the frame; a small bag with all the essential stuff including bait and an un-hooking matt to sit on (and even un-hook fish on occasionally!) is all that I need for these sort of short, opportunist sessions. 

I’ve managed a couple of productive trips recently by doing a bit of what any decent marketer calls desk, or secondary research, backed up by getting on my bike and having a good old explore around some areas that I’d not fished before. I spent a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon recently carefully walking and observing a stretch of water not too far from my home rumoured to contain that most enigmatic and handsome of river fish – the barbel. I eventually found a far bank raft where, after gently lobbing out a few small handfuls of hemp and pellets for a while a trio of golden barbel appeared. Little chunks of spam trundled over the gravel close to their weedy homes resulted in two of the three taking the bait, one lost to a hook pull and the other landed – a handsome chap of just over three pounds. A week later I arrived at a different stretch of water where I’d spotted a couple of nice barbel during a previous visit. 

Tackling up just as a heavy storm descended on the valley, I regretted travelling quite so light with no umbrella to shelter me from what was some pretty serious rain. Fortunately a group of trees and their dense summer canopy provided me with enough shelter to save me from a full on soaking. After the storm subsided, the extra water coloured up the river nicely and by the time another group of ominous looking clouds started to move into view I’d managed four decent river bream, a chub and a beautiful golden barbel of seven pounds and two ounces.   

Jungle swim
Summer swim.
7lbs 2oz Barbel
A great way to end the day.