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.

bridge-2-web

graffiti-web

hanging-tree-mosaic-web

bridge-web

Perch fishing with Russell

I spent a really enjoyable day fishing with erstwhile angling blogger and top bloke Russell Hilton on his local canal patch recently.

We had perch in mind. Russell’s had some really good perch from his local canal network and despite the prospect of a cold, bright day, enthusiasm was high as we met at dawn on a section that was alive with small fish topping under the pale pink skies.

Russell’s strategy involved building a swim by feeding liquidised bread and then waggler fishing bread punch or maggot over the top. Bites from roach, rudd, silver bream and perch came every cast. A bigger bait was then presented nearby in the hope a big perch may be attracted by the commotion.

I was content to reap the rewards of these carefully laid plans by simply sitting next to him!

Russell was soon into a lovely early morning perch
Russell was soon into a lovely early morning perch

We had a really good day with plenty of big, colourful perch, a pike each and all sorts of other fish on the waggler – including some serious rudd. Russell managed a special perch after a flurry of activity just after lunch. Frustratingly, the majority of big perch we hooked during this particular feeding spell came off. I had a decent one not too far from the net when the hook pinged out and Russel also lost a couple of good ‘uns… But of course it didn’t really matter a jot.

My best perch of the day. I lost an even bigger one later.
My best perch of the day. I lost an even bigger one later.
Slick-sense
Slick-sense
X marks the spot?
X marks the spot?

It was a pleasure simply sitting and chatting. From angling blogging to angling blaggers; from bureaucracy to bream via politics and perch – we discussed a range of subjects, interspersed with some lovely fish and regular enquiries from passers-by. Russell was even called into action to help a guy, who explained in broken English that he’d lost his bag by the water. He failed to grasp the notion that the police were unwilling to treat this as an emergency and come out immediately to root around for his bag!

A cracking day all-round. Hopefully we’ll find the time to do something similar again soon.

Sleeping Swans and Rising Rudd

My local canal is an engaging place to fish. It’s overgrown, weedy, deep and gin clear with little boat traffic and it sits relatively off the beaten track – I’m sure it’s capable of producing a big roach or rudd.

With a decent number of prolific club and day ticket venues nearby it also receives little angling pressure. It suffered a major pollution a few years back and while it had reasonable carp and bream form prior to this, I think they are ghosts now.

However the silver fish population has recovered, to an extent. There are not large shoals of fish, but they are there in pockets. Fishing bread flake over small amounts of bread mash over a couple of short sessions last season I had a couple of dubious rudd – both around a pound in weight, some good roach of a similar size and a silver bream/rudd hybrid. Using maggots I added dace and a canal trout!

Not a brace of fish you see to often - canal rudd and trout
Not a brace of fish you see very often – canal rudd and trout

I was keen to try again and see if I could locate a decent rudd. With the numbers of roach, silver bream and all manner of hybrids, it may be that there are no genuine rudd in there, but I’m enjoying trying to find out. So, armed with some bread, a rod, net and camera I ventured out for a couple of hours in the morning, in the hope of making contact with canal gold.
The sleeping swans were alert to the bread mash feed, but fortunately after this unexpected alarm they wound their necks in and went back to sleep.

Sleeping swans and rising rudd
Sleeping swans and rising rudd

It didn’t take long for a positive bite and a silver bream was the first fish to find the bait. A fish of maybe eight ounces, it was the first genuine silver I’ve caught.
Soon after a nice roach getting on for a pound put in an appearance, before numbers of much smaller fish moved in and attacked the bread on the drop, giving unhittable bites. I persevered for half an hour, but it proved frustrating.

I moved round to a shady position and fed some more mash further out into the channel. It took a while, but eventually fish began topping and some of the ‘slaps’ were from much better fish – big rudd?

I managed to extract three more good roach – all taking the bread once it had sunk right down in around eight feet of water. It was nice to get the roach and I’ll certainly try for them in winter, but no sign of the rudd this time.

That final shake of the head from a good roach
That final shake of the head from a good roach
Bread flake really does sort out the better canal roach
Bread flake really does sort out the better canal roach

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

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.

Wye roach – finding silver

Having a birthday at the arse-end of January has always been a bit shit. Christmas is but a distant memory; the weather is invariably dire; the days are short and most people are still a week off payday and skint after the festive excesses.

And yet I always seem to manage a decent birthday fishing trip on or around the 22nd Jan. A few years back I had a lovely, big Lea barbel on the day itself and I had a personal best perch at the time just a couple of years ago.

A lovely Lea barbel that I had on a memorable birthday trip a few years ago
A lovely Lea barbel that I had on a memorable birthday trip a few years ago

This year I managed to get out the day after my birthday, for a few hours on the Wye. I’d originally planned to fish purely for perch, but the tackle shop had no lobs. I thought I’d hedge my bets and try trotting maggot with a view to targeting roach and perch, hopefully.

The river was in great shape. A lovely murky green colour, up slightly, and after the freezing weather just a few days before, we were back in the early teens in terms of temperatures. The fishing was really enjoyable – far from a bite a chuck or even any really big fish – but totally absorbing; technical, methodical, interesting. I managed nine or ten really good roach, with the best two weighed at 1lbs 8ozs and 1lbs 4oz respectively. Plump, silver, unblemished fish – Wye roach really are lovely creatures. I had a solitary, small perch and one dace too.

A brace of big river Wye roach
A brace of big river Wye roach

1lbs 8oz Wye roach web

I’ve only been fishing the Wye for four years now, but by all accounts much of the river offered great roach fishing ten, fifteen or so years ago. Yet today they are quite localised with many formerly productive areas now barren of roach and other ‘silver’ fish. The Wye rightly is famous for its truly fantastic barbel fishing in beautiful locations, but this wonderful river offers all sorts of other interesting opportunities for some of our less glamorous, but perhaps more interesting species.

Winter on the Wye
Winter on the Wye

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!