Stags, Festivals and Tench

May has been fairly hectic all-round, yet I’ve still managed to squeeze in a couple of short early morning trips on my local tench pool this month.

Spring dawn - tench time
Spring dawn – tench time

The first session right at the beginning of May was fantastic – a number of big, lumpy tench fell to simple float fishing tactics using three dead red over loose fed dead maggots.

4lbs 2oz web

4lbs 12oz tench web

The silkweed in this clear, deep venue is really thick and carpets the bottom, so the dead maggot approach works well as they don’t crawl away and they’re light enough to not sink into the weed too deeply – plus the tench love ‘em!

Unfortunately so do the great big eels that live here and the second session was tench free – despite the swim, at times, absolutely bubbling away – it was only a couple of big snakes that took the hookbait.

eel web

Still, in terms of enjoyment, I can’t think of many things to rival sitting in the early morning sun catching big and wild fish on the float from a lily fringed pool, all before the world wakes up.

We also went along to the latter stages of the annual Wye River Festival that takes place along much of the river through spring.

The 2016 festival programme saw all sorts of activities, performances and locations – including a sound installation at Redbrook and torchlight procession at Llandogo. It was good fun and you can’t help but embrace the distinctly pagan undertones running through much of the festival.

The overarching theme was: Celebrating of the outstanding landscape of the Wye and our complex and universal relationship with water – undoubtedly something all anglers can relate to!



These gentle activities were in complete contrast to my mate Joe’s stag-do over in Dusseldorf, also this month. A brilliant city and great people, we had a blast. A real highlight was heading over to Cologne to take in a third tier (3. Liga) match between SC Fortuna Koln and FC Erzgebirge Aue.

We’d timed it to perfection as Erzgebirge Aue needed a win to secure promotion, which they duly did. A full on pitch invasion took place on the final whistle which we all got involved in! Both sets of fans were great and it was a real party atmosphere. Good fun.

SC Fortuna Koln vs FC Ezgebirge Aue

Keeping it local – part one

I was lucky enough to grow up just a few minutes’ walk from the wonderful Suffolk Stour and the good variety of fishing it offered.

These days I have to travel a bit to get to the (admittedly excellent) coarse fishing on my local river – the mighty Wye. The journey is nothing major, but I do miss having the opportunity to simply grab a few bits and walk down to the river for impromptu hour or two at dawn or dusk.

Still, my sessions on the Wye tend to be short, evening affairs, especially at this time of year with the river low and busy with boats. Fishing quite literally the last couple of hours of daylight is usually productive.

I ventured out for my first Wye session of the season at the end of a hot day recently. Initially I tried a precise, scaled down pellet approach to no avail. It wasn’t until I tied on a bigger hook and impaled a large piece of spam that I began to get bites – from eels!

The Wye in its full summer glory
The Wye in its full summer glory

The last snake gave a decent impression of a barbel, giving a savage bite and really pulling the rod round as it made for some snags close in. It was a better fish than the others at around 2lbs.

Big Wye eel
Big Wye eel

However by around 8.30, things had gone very quiet. I moved to an area with a short stretch of slightly more oxygenated water and using a light lead, let a big lump of Spam trundle through the swim, before it settled off the main current. Within minutes a scale perfect barbel of just under 6lbs was in the net after a brilliant tussle in the flow.

A short while later a subtle bite was met with a firm strike. The power of the hooked fish in the first two minutes or so was breathtaking. Despite using 12lb line and a 2lb test curve rod, I couldn’t do anything to move the fish which was hugging the bottom in the flow. I did wonder if I’d become snagged, but then the fish took line quickly, against a tightly set clutch, moving upstream without me being able to do anything to stop it.

The stalemate continued before, suddenly, I was able to budge the brute. After another couple of powerful runs and a bit of splashing under the tip the powerful gear told and I netted a big, stocky barbel with an enormous tail. She weighed 9lbs exactly, setting a new Wye best for me.

A new Wye best barbel of  9 pounds
A new Wye best barbel of 9 pounds

My next two hour trip was made under similar conditions, but on this occasion things proved more tricky. A small chub took the bait straight away but then a quiet spell finally ended with another big eel putting in an appearance. I had to wait right until dusk again before a better fish arrived – this time a nice chub getting on for 3lbs or so – very welcome.

Wye chub
Wye chub

Floody hell!

My first session of the new river season on Saturday evening was mainly spent cowering under my cheap and cheerful Argos brolly, beside an extremely high and coloured river Wye.

Despite the fact that, as I arrived, three anglers that had been on the stretch for the day were pulling off, bite-less between them, I decided to give it a go in spite of the conditions. I settled into a swim that at least had a bit of a slack right under my feet, where my feeder would hopefully settle.

A chocolate coloured river Wye

The rain had pretty much held off all day, but of course as soon as I arrived the first drops started to fall from the heavy, slate grey skies. And it didn’t relent, pushing the already swollen river up even further as the evening wore on.

Despite such tricky conditions there were clearly a few fish about. I had two eels and lost another on Spam hook baits before a switch to pellet produced another series of tappy, eel-like bites. When the tip went around just a little bit more deliberately and then stayed there, I decided to hit the bite.

Instead of the expected writhing, fidgety fight of a small eel I was confronted with the powerful resistance of a good fish hugging the bottom in 12 feet of flood water.

A barbel! I was able to play the fish quite hard having geared up with 10lbs line and my old Hyperloop barbel rod, but she battled well and it was a relief when I finally got her in the net. A lovely fish of 6lbs 7ozs was the perfect way to open my river campaign and a memorable first ever Wye barbel.

My first Wye barbel at 6lbs 7ozs