Second Wind

It was the barely-there breeze one evening that told me a break in the relentless heat was finally on the way. By the next morning the wind had really whipped up and it was a relief to feel cooler air at last. I hoped it may have the same rejuvenating effect on the Wye’s barbel population, because tonight I was going fishing.

I drove over to a favourite stretch straight after work. The wind was now being funneled down the river, dramatically pushing against the flow, and causing the huge beds of streamer weed to churn and drift relentlessly. There had also been an algal bloom and the river was a murky brown colour, despite being low. I knew by now it wasn’t going to be plain sailing.

It was a wild and windy evening in the Wye valley

And for the first two or three hours it was very difficult. I had to abandon my two rod, feeder approach as huge patches of the ranunculus weed were constantly breaking free and drifting into the lines. I lost feeders and leads. Hooks and line. Bloody fishing.

Fortunately I had a plan B – big pieces of Spam fished with just a SSG shot on the line and cast just a few feet out and to a deeper hole in the river. A tree reaching into the water upstream would collect the weed in its branches and leave the spot relatively clear. Barbel would be drifting into the hole in search of supper. I’d timed it perfectly, surely!

After the fifth eel and another trashed rig I muttered a series of expletives about fishing in general and considered loping off with tail firmly between legs.

But after I tackled up again, the eel activity had suddenly abated. And I felt that second wind kick in at last…

Spring Carp – Rain or Shine

As another Great British Summer (TM) slowly but surely lumbers into our collective consciousness, its traditions, old and new, shape those precious few weeks when everything feels different.

Seaside. Silly Season. Fish & Chips. Camping. Cricket. Mr Whippy. BBQs. Brexit. Wasps. Lager. Pub Gardens. Headlines. Headaches. Nostalgia. Knees. Festivals. FA Cup Final. Music. Mud. Sweltering public transport. Traffic. Tennis. Trump. Shorts. Shades. Sunburn… Rain.

Tenby, West Wales. Great British Summer 2016

And as spring turns to summer, even that big burning ball in the sky makes an appearance a bit more regularly. And with it, carp return to the upper layers of the water, searching for food items on the surface.

After a sweltering day in the office, an evening by the lake, quietly floater fishing for carp, offers the ideal tonic.

I’ve spent a couple of evenings trying for carp on my local lake recently, most recently under a clear blue sky and warm sunshine, but the first in torrential rain. And I caught some lovely carp on both occasions. I really enjoy the simplicity of it all, a rod, a net, some bait.

Just the essentials…

The carp here aren’t big – in the grand scheme of things – but the lake is peaceful, the fish are a challenge and landing one feels like an achievement. The common carp pictured below would drift in and casually take a mixer or two that I’d been feeding right under my feet, before ambling back into the middle of the lake, refusing to even consider the hookbait maybe a dozen times.

Finally, as dusk approached – I stopped feeding mixers and trying to chase fish around the swim and tore off a large crust, lowering it just past the reeds under my feet. The common had it straight away.

12lbs mirror web

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

Something special

Part of the magic of fishing is that you never quite know when something a bit special is going to turn up…
A proper lump of a tench - no wonder I look a bit shellshocked!
A proper lump of a tench – no wonder I look a bit shellshocked!
I had this brute on a spur-of-the-moment early morning session. Float fished corn next to some pads. Thought it was a carp until I saw a big green back in the clear water! 8lbs 1oz – a new PB by some margin. Awesome!

The Dog Days are over

Firstly, apologies to anyone that clicked through to my blog yesterday only to be presented with an article about choosing the perfect conference venue! Gremlins in the system or something like that…

***

I’m fairly sure I went fishing on what was the last real day of summer last week. When I made my first cast mid afternoon from a set of large, jagged rocks jutting out of the river Wye, the genuinely hot weather was slowly being replaced by overcast conditions coupled with a cooling breeze that saw the temperature really drop. And it’s stayed that way since – there’s no doubting autumn is here.

The Wye was looking stunning as I arrived. Though the river was low and clear, it was looking fresh and healthy in the sunlight. Clambering out onto the rocks with a minimum of gear was real Boy’s Own stuff – precarious and fun.

I started off having a good look into the clear water, using the Polaroid’s to look for where to fish in the short, feature-rich stretch of water.

A deep pool at the top end of the rocks shallowed off into a streamer weed filled run that then gave way to a rocky, boulder strewn pool that looked like it’d be good for a barbel.

I made up some groundbait, pre-baited the lower pool and left it to settle. In the meantime I set up my old Avon rod, attached a reel loaded with 8lbs line and finished with a size 8 super specialist hook. A couple of AA shot were pinched a few inches from the hook and I was ready to roll!

Fishing from the rocks
Fishing from the rocks

I used to struggle with rolling meat. I think the key is really not to think of it as an exact science. It should be a fairly loose method and letting the bait settle and then bounce slowly along the river is what makes it work. I like to flick a good sized bait with the hook buried in the meat well upstream and, keeping the rod high, almost ‘walk’ it downstream with a slight bow in the line. Bites are usually fairly obvious.

It was the chub that I was hoping would respond, and respond they did. An early, sparkling fish of 4lbs 5ozs hit the bait hard and gave a great tussle in the flow, charging in and out of the streamer weed.

A perfect Wye chub of 4lbs 5ozs
A perfect Wye chub of 4lbs 5ozs

Soon after a second chub of two pounds or so intercepted the bait, before the shoal spooked.

Just as I was about to move down and try my barbel swim, a final cast into the more oxygenated water mid-river resulted in another splashy two pounder.

I moved downstream to the lower pool and topped up the swim with another few balls of groundbait and set up my barbel rod.

I opted to start with a small chunks of Spam on a hair rig with a strong size 14 hook, 10lbs mainline and a long mono hooklink made up of the same mainline material. A good sized groundbait feeder completed the rig.

It wasn’t long before the taps started and I was expecting a bite. But it wasn’t until the third cast that the tip finally whacked round and an arm aching, exhilarating tussle with a stunning, golden brown barbel ensued.

A stunning Wye barbel of 7lbs 12ozs
A stunning Wye barbel of 7lbs 12ozs

After a quick photo and a good rest in the net, the barbel swam off strongly. I rested the swim and introduced a bit more bait. Another wait began and after half an hour or so of inactivity, I decided to try a pellet hookbait.

Soon enough, the second barbel of the day was hooked. And again the raw power of the fish was breathtaking. I love barbel fishing and that slow build up of anticipation of that dramatic, raw moment when a fish is hooked – exhilarating stuff.

Only this time, mid way through the scrap, the hook pulled. On checking the hook point it was completely blunt! Serves me right for A: not checking the point and B: using hooks without a beaked point on a rocky river such as the Wye.

By then the weather had changed and I only had an hour or so left of daylight.

I introduced some more bait and left the barbel swim. Moving back to the upper pool, I reached for the Avon rod and spam once again. Almost straight away another good chub hit the bait. 4lbs 4ozs this time – brilliant. Last season, on the Wye, I landed a chub that was almost certainly five pounds but it slipped back into the river before I could give it a number after I foolishly left it on the mat while I reached for my scales. Since then I’ve only managed the odd three pounder, so it was nice to finally get a couple of better chub.

A few more runs through yielded no more chub, until I cast much further, into the middle of the river and let the bait bounce back towards me. A sharp pull on the line was met with a firm strike and another good chub was on.

This one was really pulling back, surging out into the flow and it was a relief when a long, brassy chub went into the net on the second attempt.

This one went 4lbs 13ozs and it was a lovely, powerful fish. I tried a few more casts but by then the chub had again dispersed and I went back to my barbel swim to fish for another hour, without any sign of a another fish.

Another lovely Wye chub that fell to rolled meat at the end of the day
Another lovely Wye chub that fell to rolled meat at the end of the day

The fat lady will soon be singing…

I’m over the cold weather now. I do hope we get a consistent spell of mild, rain-free weather before the end of the season. Fortunately the last four weeks of the river season – and the last fortnight especially – usually provide some great fishing, even when it is cold.

It must be something to do with that extra hour or so of daylight that wakes the fish from their winter slumber and with the snowdrops poking through, things just feel a little more positive from here on in.

Britford is on the agenda before the 15th March and I’d like to try for a Wye pike or barbel before it’s all over for another season.

A nice Hampshire Avon roach - I hope to get on the Avon before the end of the season
A nice Hampshire Avon roach – I hope to get on the Avon before the end of the season

 

I'm already looking forward to getting into the sea and chucking a lure around some quiet coves in the summer
I’m already looking forward to getting into the sea and chucking a lure around some quiet coves this summer

 

 

A chevin challenge

I went down to the Wye for a few hours fishing the other evening. After a clear, still and hot day I thought it may be that dusk would offer the best chance of a barbel, but they didn’t make an appearance. The river was low but with a bit of a mucky brown tinge to it and after my last visit, when four or five ounces of lead were required to hold bottom even quite close in, now a one ounce lead was holding mid-river.

I set up two rods. One with the intention of attracting a barbel, with a ground bait feeder fished out into the flow. On the other I set up a lighter outfit, fishing close-in with a spam hook bait in search of chub. After my friend Rob and I tempted some good chub over two days in July, I’ve been thinking about targeting the species a bit more seriously. Now I decided to try for a chevin.

The river Wye at dusk
The Wye – home to lots of chub

I’ve also been pondering the size potential of Wye chub. Now of course the Wye is a big river that holds a LOT of chub. And chub of all sizes. When Rob and I shared our catch of chub and barbel we had them ranging from one right up to five pounds. The biggest, a fish that I didn’t get to photograph or weigh as I carelessly left it on the mat next to the river while I reached for the scales, flipped into the water and back to his snaggy home. It would have been a five pound plus chub from my fourth UK river and I’d have loved to have put a number on him.

But that fish, and the odd report of some very big chub in the angling press, means that perhaps there may be a chance of a new personal best from the Wye. It’ll be a numbers game for sure, but I don’t mind that!

A trotting approach with maggots or casters or perhaps bread could be a good way to target them. I’ll definitely be creating some pungent cheese paste and I’m already looking forward to spending a cold winters day lowering big pieces of bread or paste in to likely looking areas.

On this session, only one obliging chevin put in an appearance. A long, lean fish of perhaps three and half pounds – it was a typical chub for the Wye. It did provide a good tussle in the flow and on the lighter rod and line was a worthy adversary.

I look forward to finding his big brother.

A badly lit photo of a lean summer chub from the Wye. A quick bit of Photoshop work has improved the image a bit.

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

Ahhh, Ahhh, Atchoooooooo!

Yes, hay fever season is here. The hot and dry conditions have meant that ghastly grass pollen is suddenly everywhere. Horrid. I used to get the fever badly growing up in Suffolk but it was noticeably less fierce over the last twelve or so years I’ve been in London. In fact I’d almost forgotten about it until this weekend. But here and now, in glorious and green Wales I have a streaming nose, eyes that are red raw that sting unless they are shut and stupid bouts of hardcore sneezing. Bloody hay fever.

Pollen horrors

The good news is it will soon pass. It was always basically June that was the problem month and with the Beconase on hand to ease it, I’m hopeful that my first trip of the season to the river will be sneeze-free.

I’ve been out for a couple of short trips to my local club lake over the last month. The first trip was a few hours on a bright and blustery evening, the second, a classic summer dawn affair in search of tench. I’m really enjoying getting to grips with this interesting lake, as it offers a lot more in terms of variety and challenge than the two commercial style fisheries that, although closer to home, offer little other than the ubiquitous ‘match’ sized carp.

However, I didn’t manage to tempt either a tench or crucian carp, my two main target species on the venue, but I did have fun putting together a respectable bag of bream on the first session. The slabs apparently go to over ten pounds in the lake – my pb is a shade over 7 – so the potential for a new pb is there. The first three bream I tempted were all over four pounds in weight and dark, muscular fish that gave a respectable account of themselves on the light float gear.

When I arrived for the evening session the sun was bright and the wind was blustery. I opted to start on a very light lead, fished next to some pads a rod length out. It took a while for the bites to come, but by consistently feeding little handfuls of hemp and pellet, the fish soon arrived. A small roach preceded the arrival of the first trio of slabs and by dusk the wind had dropped sufficiently to warrant a switch to float tactics. I decided to use a pole float fished slightly over depth, the idea being that the extra sensitivity may show any possible crucian bites a little more positively. No crus in the end, but five more bream and a couple of skimmers fell to the pole float tactics. As it was getting properly dark, the swim really started to fizz and I briefly hooked something much stronger before the little hook fell out. Oh well.

A nice bream from the club water

I also spent a beautiful, but strangely quiet morning on the lake as the weather started to improve, but before my hay fever hell began.

Plenty of skimmers, but no better bream or tench or cru’s. Still, it was a stunning morning to be out and there’s nothing quite like watching a little float, next to the pads as the morning mists swirl and drift across the surface of the lake.

A classic summer dawn by the lake

My first ‘five’

I’ve recently been going through my old fishing photos and scanning the best ones.

I came across this today, my first five pound chub at 5.1, caught from the Dorset Stour at Throop in the summer of 1998. It fell to free-lined bread flake under the school bridge after I’d seen a trio of big chub moving nonchalantly through the deep water of that classic Throop swim. I must get back there sometime, I wonder if the ladder tree is still there?

My first five pound chub. 5lbs 1oz from Throop, 1998.