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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.