Winding down on the Wye

I invited Russell up to try for chub and barbel on the Wye just before the close season.

It was an odd day. We arrived to find someone playing a nice barbel in the first swim we passed, and I honestly thought we’d have a decent session after the prolonged spell of mild weather.

However it was tough and between us we only had a few bites through the day, with no pronounced feeding spell ever materialising.

But there aren’t many more scenic places to wind down another river season. We’ll be back for the next one.


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.




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.

A Good Start on the Wye

With a little extra water in the river and the first month of the river season generally seeing cloudy, blustery days – it’s been a great start on the Wye.

I’m really lucky to be able to head over to the river for a few hours after work as and when conditions dictate. I’ve made a couple of short and sweet trips to the river fishing for three or so hours each time, travelling light with the aim of tempting the odd chub or barbel.

I’ve no real desire to haul in barbel by the dozen, but it’s always nice to get a few fish in the quiet and beautiful surroundings of the Wye valley.

Interestingly, over the two trips I’ve had plenty of shoal size barbel fishing feeder and pellets into the fast water, but a trio of much better barbel and some stonking chub have come to big chunks of meat freelined into a deep slack, right under my feet.

With hot weather on the way and the holiday season about to start, it’ll soon be a lot busier on the river and I’ll probably leave it alone until the autumn. But there are lots of other angling adventures to be had…

The Wye web

Barbel fight web

Wye gold web

Wye chub web

9lbs barbel 2 web

net web

Freelined Chips

Ah, June the… well, 20th. Surely the time to hit the Wye and bag up on barbel? No! Time to hit the M4 and the M25, in the relentless rain and travel to… Hemel Hempstead.

I was off to visit my mate Rob on his home patch. He has a wealth of water available locally and while the Grand Union Canal or the River Gade may not have quite the same pull to the travelling angler as the Wye, there really is some superb fishing available in and around this bustling Hertfordshire town.

Rob’s had all sorts from the Grand Union since he’s lived over here. Carp to just shy of 20lbs, 3lbs perch, big bream, numerous chub over 5lbs and even one over 6. Big fish for anywhere.

He had a few spots for us to try and a couple of wild cards up his sleeve. We started off on the canal, just as the rain subsided on the Monday. I was hoping to try for a carp at some stage and perhaps a chub on the river. We also wanted to have a go at the big bream shoals that patrol the canal.

It was pretty tough going though. We did get some nice roach on lobs and a few quick, violent bites –probably chub – that we failed to connect with.

A move to a renowned perch section saw us get a few decent stripeys, but it was fairly quiet for the most part. We snuck off at 7pm to catch watch England against Slovakia and by full time, wished we’d stayed out fishing! Still the beer was cold and the sun was shining…

The next morning we made an early(ish) start on the canal, but it was even slower than the previous day. The bright sun wasn’t helping and we moved onto the river. By mid-morning the cloud had moved over and we began to get a few bites. We soon had a bream each and plenty of good dace on the stick float. But it wasn’t easy and the fish would arrive in bursts before drifting off for periods of time. We all know early season river fishing can be very hit-and-miss and so we agreed, following a bit of lunch, to make a final move to another stretch of canal, via a quick stop on a much shallower, faster flowing stretch of the river Bulbourne.

canal web

And that’s when the day got interesting! Straight away we found some good chub on the river, cautious but clearly up for a lump of Spam rolled gently through the swim.

I tied on a size 8 and impaled a chunk of meat. And first run through, just as the Spam bumped past that most classic of chub features (an enormous tractor tyre) a good chub dashed out and literally grabbed the bait from under the nose of a smaller fish. I saw the bait in its mouth, waited that agonizing couple of seconds for the fish to turn, and… wallop!

I was buzzing after that. I’ve not stalked a chub in that way since the back end of the season before last. Raw, exciting fishing.

But the best was yet to come! A feral canal carp is something I’ve wanted to catch for a long time. I’ve been especially inspired by Jeff’s writing on his mission for a canal carp a couple of years ago, and Rob has done well fishing for them, ever since he landed his first from the canal the last time I was in town.

So, every moment relating to the capture of this canal mirror will long remain etched in the memory. My springy, unruly line; watching the carp – finally – slurp down the floating crust; the initial minute of absolutely brutal power; quietly helping the fish regain its energy; watching it swim away back into the deep, cool canal. I can’t really take much credit in catching the carp, as Rob had found them previously, but it was a memorable moment and fish. I just need to find my own, local one now…

We then sat down in another area to have a good go for some bream. And we had a few. And just as it was time for me to think about heading back, we found some more carp – warily sampling the odd bread crust.

I left Rob to it – I’d had my carp – and decided to scatter a few of my chips into a snaggy swim up from where Rob was. And it was a freelined chip, over a chippy groundbait, that produced not one, but two big bream, including the biggest of our trip by far. A great afternoon, in the end. Cheers mate.

Rob in one of his favourite canal spots
Rob in one of his favourite canal spots
Returning a truly memorable canal carp.
Returning a truly memorable canal carp.

13_8 Canal Carp 2 web

River Bulbourne chub web

bream and chips

Back on the Wye

Isn’t it nice to be back on the rivers? I tend to leave the Wye alone for the opening week or two, just to let things settle down a bit. My first session of the new season was spent on a stunning part of the river, fishing a short evening session for barbel and chub. It took a while for them to switch on, but on dusk they duly arrived. Great fun. Rod tips 2 web 6lbs 8oz barbel web 4lbs 8oz chub 2 web

London Chubbing

My final session of the 2014/15 season was spent with a friend, fishing for chub in London.

It was tricky – bright sunshine coupled with a low and clear river meant it was always likely to be a bit of a struggle. But it was a lovely day to be outside, exploring a genuinely urban stretch of water. Such fishing may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but I just love it. A fish of any sort feels like a real achievement when you consider what they’re up against.

I took just the bare minimum of gear and roved around. It wasn’t until late afternoon that I found what I was looking for – a decent chub, tucked well away under an overhanging tree.

A link-ledgered piece of Spam, fished just above the snag failed to elicit a response. So I removed the shot and freelined a huge lobworm right under the tree. The chub nailed it first time. Buzzing.

Whitechapel b_wweb



4_2 chubwaterweb

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

Targets, campaigns, strategies and aims

I’m really not the most serious of fisherman. Although I enjoy capturing big fish – who doesn’t – and setting new personal bests, I’m not hell bent on it. I lose interest in fishing for any one species, venue or style after a short while.

Travelling back from a brilliant session on the Wye last week, my mind started to wander. A short evening trip had produced nine, battling barbel and four chub. Special fishing on a special river. And yet as I drove home all I could think about was trying to catch a big, feral carp.

A lovely Wye barbel
A lovely Wye barbel

barbel 2 web

Carp: I have a funny relationship with them. My best ever carp fishing experience was on a mature, overgrown lake nestled at the top of a golf course. Previously a syndicate water, it had drifted into a state of limbo and was not really being managed by anyone. The golf course would half-heartedly charge you five or six quid to fish, but hardly anyone did. And yet there were still some good carp in there. Nothing big enough to attract the specialists, but some lovely old fish up to around 25 pounds or so.

Over one year I fished it regularly. By positioning a Nash Whiskey pop-up with a pva bag of pellets on a bolt rig (pretty cutting edge at the time!) tight to one of the overhanging trees at the shallow end of the lake, a chance or two over the course of an evening session was possible. And it was great fun. Waiting for that explosive take, sending the buzzer into meltdown and having to sit over the rods to ensure they weren’t dragged in. I only ever had commons from the place, to just shy of 20 pounds and boy did those fish fight.

A long, lean golf course lake common carp from around 15 years ago.
A long, lean golf course lake common carp from around 15 years ago.
This one went 18lbs 15ozs - my second best from the golf course
This one went 18lbs 15ozs – my second best from the golf course
My brother having a cast on the golf course one Christmas eve many years ago. We actually got a tench that day!
My brother having a cast on the golf course one Christmas eve many years ago. We actually got a tench that day!

But since then I’ve not really fished for carp specifically. The odd trip to Lake John after perch would usually involve a carp rod fished ‘sleeper’ style. And they inevitably make an appearance during the winter, while after perch on commercials.

I had a go on a proper, muddy puddle after them in the spring and it was as a depressing fishing experience as I’ve had in a while. After one hour and three carp I packed up and went home.

And yet just a few days earlier I landed a gorgeous, dark 13 pound common from the gin clear quarry I’ve been fishing for tench – it was a memorable fish and one I was really pleased with.

A perfect common carp of 13lbs 8ozs from the tench lake
A perfect common carp of 13lbs 8ozs from the tench lake

But a carp’s a carp, right? Wrong. My aim, now, is to get a proper, wild, feral carp from a local canal. I guess it’ll be a campaign of sorts, something a bit more serious perhaps…

A perfect start

While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to grips with my new tench water over the spring, I knew that once the 16th arrived the pull of the river would be hard to resist.

And so earlier this week I made my way down to the Wye for a few hours by the river. Grey clouds had enveloped the valley and after days of clear blue skies and hot weather it felt like a change in the weather was on the way.

I’d simply grabbed a rod, reel and a few bits as well as a few half used bags of pellets and groundbait left over from my spring tench fishing. A quick detour via Tesco ensured I was armed with my favourite river bait – a tin of good old Spam.

After a short drive I arrived at the river. And, as ever, it was a sight for sore eyes. The river’s transformation from its sparse and skeletal late-winter condition to its buoyant, vibrant summer state was striking.

I made my way downstream and settled into a nice looking swim. I’d brought my old beach water shoes so I could wade out into the shallow margins – partly to reduce the distance between me and the run I wanted to target but also because I simply wanted to get into the river and enjoy the cool, clear fast flowing water around my ankles.

Wading into the Wye
Wading into the Wye

I started rolling chunks of Spam around the swim and, to be honest, I thought I’d pick up a few chub quickly. An hour or so later and I’d not had a touch.

So I got the ground bait out, mixed up a quick batch and deposited a few feeder full’s at the top of the run.

I’d soon set up a feeder rig, finished with a couple of halibut pellets at the end of a long hook length.

The taps and pulls from small chub dace started immediately. And it didn’t take long for a more substantial pull to develop – a firm strike a fish was hooked and soon in the net. A lovely chub of around two-and-a-half pounds.

The first fish of the new season is always a special one
The first fish of the new season is always a special one

Another chub soon arrived, only a small fish of less than a pound followed soon after by a lovely, golden barbel of perhaps four or five pounds.

A longer wait began before another chub of around two pounds turned up. Then it did really did quieten down, though I was more than content to simply watch the tip of the rod moving backwards and forwards in the flow and stand in the cool river as it pushed the constant flow of water downstream. It was so peaceful.

Soon the sun had disappeared behind the trees and I guess it was well past 8.30pm when the rod suddenly buckled over dramatically. I lifted into the fish and immediately felt an incredible, purposeful resistance. At first I couldn’t do anything except hold on as the fish took line against a tightly set clutch. Then it began driving in a straight line, directly upstream, with me unable to alter its course let alone move it from the bottom of the river.

And then the fish turned and surged across the river at pace, heading for a sunken tree that, if it reached, would surely result in me being smashed up.

I reversed the angle and applied as much pressure as I dare – and after a few seconds of stalemate the fish turned and headed back downstream to the calmer water on the inside of the run. It was at that point I knew the worst of it was over, as long as the strong but small size 14 hook held!

And it did. And when I netted the fish I knew I’d finally done it – my first ever double figure barbel.

I let her rest in the net in the margins while I grabbed my scales and camera. A couple of snaps and a quick weigh revealed a new personal best barbel of 10lbs 12ozs – I was ecstatic. I’ve fished for barbel for over 20 years and despite many fish of 8lbs and upwards I’d never managed a double. My previous best was a 9lbs 8oz Lea fish I caught on Halloween night a few years ago.

A new personal best barbel - 10lbs 12ozs
A new personal best barbel – 10lbs 12ozs

I took a last, admiring look at her before wading back out to let her get her strength back in the flow. She was soon ready and gave a flick of her tail as she swam back into the river.

I did consider packing up there and then, but I thought I’d give it another half hour or so. A couple more chub put in an appearance, both sparkling, chunky fish that made me smile, but it was of course that big old barbel that had made my day.

Rob’s giant canal chub

My old mate Rob had a right result on the Grand Union canal yesterday. Targeting perch, he was fishing a big lobworm tight to a boat on a suburban stretch of the waterway.

And this is what found the bait – a 6lbs 3oz chub. Rob thought he’d hooked a carp initially, but eased off when he saw it was a big old chevin!

It’s a seriously big chub for a canal. The biggest I’ve heard of is a 7lb 3oz fish from the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal.

See Jeff Hatt’s excellent British canal record fish list for more info:

Well in mate.

Rob's 6lbs 4oz Grand Union canal chub
Rob’s 6lbs 3oz Grand Union canal chub