Ebay Dace

The one advantage of being sent off to collect random Ebay purchases (new hob, Bristol) is that occasionally the places I visit happen to be near interesting bits of water.

A couple of years back I had my best ever perch session, fishing just two hours before I had another Ebay collection to make (TV cabinet)

I’ve also discovered a really interesting bit of canal to try in the summer – overgrown and snaggy – it looks spot-on for a canal carp. I found this spot after another Ebay collection (kid’s bike)

So with my hob collection arranged for midday, I had just over two hours spare to try a new river – the Chew, near Bristol.

I’d purchased a pint of maggots from the excellent Premier Angling beforehand and the plan was simply to trot a few swims on a free stretch and see what was around. From what I’ve read online there seems to be just about most species in the river with dace, grayling and chub the predominant species.

The river was in good shape with decent colour and flow. I had dace from every swim I tried, but it was the last spot that produced especially well. I had two particularly nice dace there and weighed the best at 9ozs. I also had a solitary small roach, but no sign of any grayling or chub. I can’t wait to get back.






Bloggers Challenge – Aiming for Europe

While Leicester continue to confound expectations in the Premier League, I don’t think it’s any surprise to see James Dennison running away with the Bloggers Challenge 15/16. A very good angler indeed.

I think Russell and George have second and third place tied up respectively, but beyond that I think there are Champions League and Europa League places up for grabs!

I’m quite pleased with my current seventh place position. And I’ll try and squeeze in two or three more short trips before the 1st May in an effort to find a few more points.

My one shot at real glory came a few weeks back on the Wye. A tricky day came to life as dusk arrived and I hooked a succession of good fish on worms. A surprise 1lbs 8oz roach / bream hybrid had me convinced I’d hooked a special roach in the gloom (and earned me an invaluable ten challenge points) and was accompanied by a number of good perch to 2lbs exactly.

Tintern gulls
Tintern gulls
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A nice perch of two pounds - how I wish I'd landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!
A nice perch of two pounds – how I wish I’d landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!

But the last fish I hooked was, I’m 99% sure, a very special perch indeed. I never got a glimpse of it, but having had the two pounder just previously on the same gear, this fish felt easily twice as heavy, with my 6lbs line and medium feeder rod at times feeling seriously under-gunned. I finally steered it away from the nasty snags downstream, got it to the relative safety of the near bank and out of the flow, only for it to do me on a totally innocuous looking twig right under my feet.

I went back for a couple of hours at dusk a week later – but the river had dropped and was cold and lifeless.

I finished the river season in traditional fashion – at the wonderful Britford fishery with my friend, Mike. Mike’s getting hitched this summer, so we had a mini stag-do of sorts, fishing followed by beers in Salisbury.

It wasn’t easy, but a couple of swims on the old river produced the goods. I was hoping for a decent grayling for the challenge points, but also as I’d not had one in a few years. I think third trot down I had a lovely fish around a pound, followed by one a shade bigger at 1lbs 1oz.

A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
An Avon perch
An Avon perch

We had dace, trout, perch and minnows – all great fun on the float. After a good few beers in town and an overnight stay, we awoke to the most horrid weather. Very wet, very windy and bitingly cold. ‘Orrible. We put it off for as long as we could, but eventually trudged down at 1pm. The river was rising rapidly and to be honest we toyed with the idea of heading straight home. Still, at least it hadn’t burst its banks – yet. We headed to the sluice to hide in there for a bit, have a coffee and see if things might improve.

We decided to flick out big baits from the sluice and see if a suicidal trout or chub might oblige. None did, so Mike went wondering and I set up a maggot feeder and began casting from the sluice again. Half an hour later I had, during the briefest of lulls in the wind, a subtle pluck. Next cast and I was in. I just presumed it’d be a small chub or trout, so when a big roach rolled on the surface I eased right off!

It was a stunner of 1lbs 9oz and a best of the season for me. Neither of us had another bite, but it’d been a good couple of days in great company.

1lb 9oz Avon roach
1lb 9oz Avon roach
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike braving the elements!
Mike braving the elements!
Couldn't resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.
Couldn’t resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.

Bloggers Britford Christmas Bonanza

Well, the plan was to meet up with Russell and James for a bloggers Britford fish-in – but after settling into a nice swim right at the top of the stretch and with plenty of bites forthcoming, I was loathe to move…

I love Britford. It’s such an absorbing, interesting place to fish. I started out in a favourite pool that fishes really well at times, yet the mild weather and surprising lack of pace meant it was minnow city. River keeper extraordinaire Stuart came by and suggested a move to the main river. With a tinge of colour and decent flow, this was clearly the place to try.

A glorious place to spend the day trotting.
A glorious place to spend the day trotting.

And it was there I stayed for the majority of the day. The fishing was totally engrossing – I had to run my float across a very specific path, a few feet off the far bank, and then hold back at a certain point to get bites from the better roach and dace in the swim. Anywhere else and a minnow was the inevitable outcome. The width of the river, coupled with blustery, swirling wind made it that bit more difficult to control things. But with steady, accurate feeding and sticking to a routine of feed, cast, run, hold, run and repeat the bites, at times, came every cast.

A quartet of Hampshire herrings.
A quartet of Hampshire herrings.

I had loads of clonking Hampshire herrings, with best dace weighing in at 8ozs. I had a couple of fat gudgeon and some small chub. The pike were highly active too. If a dace was grabbed on the way in, the pike would let go eventually, but with a pike rod set up in anticipation of such a situation, the dead dace would simply be lowered back in the general area of the attack, and a pike was usually the result. I had three jacks in the end, only up to 5lbs 8ozs, but great fun.

Avon pike web

Back you go...
Back you go…

The roach were proving tricky though, and just when I thought I was set for a run of them, they disappeared again. I managed six at intermittent stages, but frustratingly lost a couple of better fish – one which certainly felt just like a good roach: thump, thump, glide… thump, thump, glide… ping!

A trio of Avon roach.
A trio of Avon roach.

I mistakenly tried for a big chub with big baits during the last hour, but the area I tried was still clogged with weed and no chub turned up. I probably should have stuck it out in search of roach.

All in all a really great day – even if I never did catch up with Russell and James!

Canal Rudd – A Small Spark

It was by total chance that I found the shoal. In fact, I thought they were plump roach when I found them. But an unlikely gang of canal rudd is what has finally sparked a bit of interest in me going out fishing again.

It’s been an odd one, this summer. There’s nothing specific I can really point too that made me feel quite so indifferent about going fishing. Even when I had the odd chance to get out I simply couldn’t be bothered with the whole process.

And one evening, after some rain, I prepared the gear, psyched myself up and went out. I knew I’d catch barbel and I did. And while I was there, in the moment, I enjoyed the process and the fish and the session – but I didn’t even look at the pictures until weeks after. However, with the arrival of Autumn, the dipping temperatures and shorter days, my enthusiasm feels sharpened and refreshed.

A nice early Autumn barbel from the Wye
A nice early Autumn barbel from the Wye

One warm, early autumn afternoon we took the boys over to the canal to enjoy the sunshine, a picnic and mooch around the Gloucestershire edgelands.

The edgelands...
The edgelands…

My local canal is an interesting, neglected and slightly unusual place. I’ve never seen any fish of note here. The odd tiny roach and mini jack pike. It suffered a bad pollution a few years back and much of it is thick with weed and algae.

A couple of lads were trying for pike, without luck, and had resorted to catapulting maggots anywhere but the water. They assured me there were pike, roach and perch in the canal.
As the sun began to dip, we made our way back to the car. My youngest wanted to look at a boat tied up close to the bank.

We went over and that’s when I spotted a decent shoal of plump and deep bodied sliver fish. I can’t deny I thought they were roach. But there were a few decent ones in amongst the sprats. And one fish, sat deeper than the others really did look a fish worth catching – maybe not 2lbs but, perhaps, not far off…

As I sat watching Match of the Day later that night, while my eyes were watching some infernal 0-0 it was that shoal of fish that were on my mind. How big was the biggest I saw? Were bigger fish were lurking under the boats? Would a bread or maggot approach work? Were they roach or, perhaps, were they rudd?

The next morning I arrived at dawn with a float rod, reel, net and a few bits and bobs and a loaf.

Just after dawn on the canal.
Just after dawn on the canal.

I decided to fish a small waggler close in – one of my favourite methods. 3lbs line direct to a size 16 and a pinch of flake.
I baited with some mash and set-up, excitedly.

Bites soon came, but they were frustrating. The float was dancing around but trying to hit the wonky, wavy and frankly weird bites was proving tricky. I shallowed up a touch and soon enough I hooked into a deep bodied silver fish that thumped satisfyingly in the deep, green water.

The depth of it suggested rudd – but on closer inspection looked like a bream hybrid of some sort. I think it may be a silver bream x rudd hybrid? I’d love to hear what people think.

Sliver bream x rudd hybrid?
Sliver bream x rudd hybrid?

Having that fish extracted from the shoal spooked them a touch and the bites slowed. I tried a mere fleck of flake and the next bite was just a touch more positive. A sparkling rudd this time of 1lbs exactly was the result. I was enjoying this. All too soon the dog walkers arrived and the boats started chugging but not before I’d added a couple more rudd of a similar stamp.

A lovely canal rudd of one pound.
A lovely canal rudd of one pound.

I returned a week later, but on a much cooler, overcast morning. The bites were quick to arrive but even more frustrating this time. Just as I was thinking about trying something different – perhaps a pellet or corn – I hooked a beautiful roach. Then another before another decent rudd made an appearance.

The bites tailed right off. I had a few old maggots with me, so tried a couple. A feisty, darting fish was hooked on the drop – a rare canal trout! And I added two small canal dace as well as more small roach before the sunshine arrived and the canal reverted back to appearing lifeless…

A canal trout!
A canal trout!

So, while these fishes will never set the world alight, they have at least sparked some real interest in me.

Fishing the Edgelands

I’m halfway through reading a wonderful book called Edgelands. It’s a charming read that explores the overlooked and undervalued spaces that exist between urban and rural areas – spaces authors’ Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts argue represent Britain’s true wilderness.

A lot of my favourite fishing places past and present are located on the Edgelands. I find it thrilling to find signs of life in these disparate and often neglected areas of the UK, and as Farley and Roberts note, many species of bird, fish and plant prosper in such places.

The majestic river Avon that flows around the edges of the Cathedral city of Salisbury is one of my favourite spots to fish and while the Avon’s lauded angling history mark it out as a more special place than the average suburban stream or pool, its location alongside busy roads and under graffitied bridges make it a venue on the Edgelands.

I travelled down to Salisbury to meet a friend, Mike, at the end of last week. At the beginning of the week the freezing weather had us in two minds whether to make the trip, but as the temperature slowly began to creep up and with the river at a good level, we opted to head down to the Avon.

The river was cold but things felt positive and after half an hour of priming my swim with maggots I trotted my float through a pool towards a narrower, reed-lined area that I’ve taken many good chub from in the past.

It took a while for the first bite to materialise, from a nice dace, then another and then a nice roach. My fourth fish was a special one – a dace of 12ozs and a new personal best.

Avon Edgelands
Avon Edgelands
A new personal best dace of 12ozs
A new personal best dace of 12ozs

Before long the swim really came to life, and for a while a big dace or chunky roach (and the odd missed bite) came on nearly every cast.

A big Avon roach, magic

I’d recently replaced the missing eyes and whipped on some new ones to my favourite Shimano Hyperloop match rod. It’s a smashing tool for trotting using light tackle and I’d soon got into that mesmerising routine of feeding, flicking out the float and then working it downstream and my DIY repairs were working well.

By the early afternoon things had slowed down. I had a cup of coffee and a cheese roll and rested the swim, keeping the bait going in.

Upon resuming, I took a lovely roach just over pound followed on the next run through by a wonderful grayling of a pound and a quarter, which twisted and turned in the water.

A nice grayling and roach taken on consecutive casts
A nice grayling and roach taken on consecutive casts

After that, things really slowed and while I continued to pick off the odd, nice roach, they’d dropped right back and were obviously a lot more cautious.

Holding the float back hard worked for a while and it felt like I was almost easing the bait into the fish’s mouths. A fat, bristling perch of a pound or so gave a good account in the flow and a couple of six inch salmon parr also put in an appearance.

A chunky Avon perch that put up quite a scrap
A chunky Avon perch that put up quite a scrap

But eventually the swim died completely and I really wanted to try and get a chub, having not had one since October. I decided to rove around for a couple of hours, but even the swims I’ve taken good chub from in the past were quiet and I didn’t manage to tempt one in the end.

It was a great session though, and putting together a really mixed bag of wild, river fish that are living and prospering on the Edgelands was immensely enjoyable.

It’s all Greek to me…

My last two fishing trips have been very different affairs, with the vivid blue of the Aegean Sea providing an exotic contrast to my local river Lea.

Unpacking our bags after arriving in the north of Rhodes for a family holiday, you can imagine my partners surprise at discovering my battered six piece Shimano travel rod, a old reel and a few other bits and bobs hidden under the beach towels…

For the first few days the sea was just too rough to even contemplate snorkelling or fishing – just getting in and out for a swim was hard work.

However the wind eventually dropped and at daybreak the next morning I went down to the sea with Tom, who had broken the unofficial code of the teenager and got out of bed to join me at least five hours before he normally surfaces.

We took it turns, trying different baits including bread, mussels and corn that I’d snaffled from the dinner table the night before. After two hours and with the sun rising rapidly, we returned home bite-less for breakfast.

Snorkelling that afternoon revealed the main reason we hadn’t had any fish earlier in the day. There were none there.

However further out on the edge of a sand bank, we found the odd cluster of rocks and sunken beach umbrella stands that had attracted a variety of fish including bream, some colourful exotic species and the occasional, good sized mullet.

They were well out of casting range so the next afternoon I devised a plan. I made up a couple of hand-lines featuring a half ounce lead as a sinker running through to a size 12 super specialist baited with corn. The plan was to just float above anywhere we found fish and drop the rigs down into the rocky areas.

After an hour of searching we found a little group of wrasse type fish that looked big enough to pursue.

I missed a bite then Tom almost had a little bream that was too quick again. And then finally I hooked one. I think it was a species called serranus cabrilla and, at five or six ounces he was not only a new pb but one of my most memorable captures of late.

During a trip to Rhodes town itself, I had a great conversation of sorts, involving lots of hand gestures and broken English with a highly animated, big bearded chap who drove a cab all summer then went spear fishing through the winter months.

He said the area was quite poor for fishing until around October time when the small fish would move into the area in numbers followed by the larger fish. His favourite catch were “four kilo octopus my fren!” and he told us on October the 1st, after all the tourists had left, he and several of his friends would go out on a boat and simply hunt and eat Octopus and drink Ouzo for a few days – sounds fun!

Tom fishing the beach at dawn

The river Lea was a far more familiar, but no less enjoyable place to wet a line last week.

After heavy rain hit the valley for a few hours over the afternoon, I thought the barbel would switch on.

But I spent two hours fishing for them in a swim I fancied without a proper bite ever looking like it would develop. I could have sat it out, but I fancied a change.

Firstly I went up to a reliable hole that always has a few fish shoaled up and spent an enjoyable hour or so snatching hand sized dace on maggots before a pike moved in.

As the evening approached, I reverted to attempting to extract a chub from a particularly precarious swim. It required a difficult upstream cast to an overhanging bush that had a number of dark shapes warily cruising beneath it.

After a while spent scattering the odd crushed spicy prawn boilie into the hole, the chub seemed to be in a confident enough mood to risk a cast.

However they certainly weren’t throwing themselves on the hook and it took two or so hours of careful fishing to extract a couple of the smaller fish in the shoal. Great fun nonetheless.

Last and least, I know this is a fishing blog, but – what’s going on at Ipswich? Sort it out Jewell!

I finaly tempted a chub out from his hole
A nice Lea dace