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…

Wye Perch – Gatecrashers

The Wye has been well up over the last fortnight after remaining very low and clear through the winter. In the low conditions the fish tend to shoal up tightly and even productive stretches can become very ‘peggy’.

The extra water sees the fish spread out and with the water warming up I expect some really good fish to be caught before the close season.

I ventured out for an afternoon last week on a warm, sunny day as the river was beginning to fine down. Armed with maggots, worms and meat, the plan was to try the float or maggot feeder and get a few bites before switching to worm at dusk in the hope of a perch.

I had a few dace and a chublet over the first couple of hours, but it was quiet and I wasn’t getting many bites. I decided to flick out a chunk of spam while I enjoyed a late lunch in the sunshine. Just as I was about to tuck into a Kit Kat, the rod flung round and I found myself attached to an angry barbel – the first of the day’s gatecrashers!

The afternoon was very quiet and as is so often the case on the Wye, I knew dusk would offer the best chance of a perch.

I’d tried a few swims without luck, and with the light fading fast I was starting to think it wasn’t going to happen. However a final move saw me connect with a perch first cast, to a worm presented tight under a tree. And it was one a chuck. Until it went quiet. I selected the largest lob and flicked it to the zone.

The bite came and I thought I’d hooked a giant perch at first. But then it absolutely tore off into the middle of the river and I presumed it was a barbel. But then it started coming up in the water and I thought it may be a nice pike… For a while an odd kind of stalemate ensued with the fish holding mid river, me not giving any line and the rod stuck in a dramatic curve. Slowly but surely I managed to get the fish closer and it wasn’t too long until I got a glimpse of an enormous trout or salmon.

I got it just a few inches from the net before it bolted down to my left and bit through the line. Damn. I think it was certainly seven pounds, maybe bigger, and though I’m rubbish at identifying game species, I think it was a very big trout. Still it made for an exciting end to the session and I suppose you can’t rely on gatecrashers to behave as you’d like them to!


A Good Start on the Wye

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…

The Wye web

Barbel fight web

Wye gold web

Wye chub web

9lbs barbel 2 web

net web

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

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.

Perch Fishing – Impatience is a Virtue

I’m in a busy London Wetherspoons, having decided on a quick pint before heading home.

There’s an old guy in front of me, clearly struggling with the concept of a drink coming ‘free’ with his meal, let alone the table numbers and cold Guinness. I help him out and he’s soon enjoying his pre-meal pint of almost-room-temperature beer. He thanks me and says: “You’re patient – I wouldn’t have been that patient when I was your age. I would’ve been mouthing off after a minute.” I tell him I’m a fisherman. “Well that explains it son, you’re a bloody garden gnome!” He shuffles off, laughing quietly to himself.

The funny thing is that I’m not really a patient fisherman at all. I rarely fish for more than a few hours at a time and I tend to move around looking for chances rather than sitting and waiting for them to come to me. I really can’t sit still for too long. I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing, though. There are plenty of times when I think chopping, changing and moving have cost me. But on balance, I think fishing in this way does result in the odd extra fish.

At the beginning of February I had to go and collect an Ebay purchase (a TV cabinet, in case you’re wondering). Fortunately the pick-up location was right by a productive stretch of the Wye, giving me enough time for three or so hours by the river. It was cold and the river was low and clear, but it was nice and overcast after a few days of bright sunshine.

By the time I’d settled into a great looking spot – a nice, deep slack with a big, perchy snag to my left – there were only a couple of hours of daylight left. I started flicking a few maggots upstream of the snag and had a cup of coffee. I positioned a nice, big lobworm close-in. I sat and thought about what fish may be lurking in the area – perch were my target, but it looked to be great chub territory too and an ideal spot for a giant pike to lurk. Then my thoughts turned to the football games that had just kicked off and Ipswich’s slump since a glorious December. Then, all of 30 minutes since I’d started fishing, I decided to move. I was feeling restless.

I tried a second spot. I drank another cup of coffee. I recast. I felt impatient.

I can’t deny by that point I was already thinking about maybe grabbing a bite to eat somewhere warm before collecting my cabinet. There were no other anglers around. Why not? Did they know something I didn’t? It was cold. It was February. “What are you doing out in this, Hennessy?” I thought to myself.

I moved down again and peered into the cold, green and gloomy depths. I settled into a less obvious looking spot, but one with a lovely depth of water right under the rod tip.

Out went a pouchful of maggots, followed by a fresh worm. 3.20pm. 3.22pm – the tip goes round steadily, I hit it, fish-on! The big, strong head shakes gave away the fishes identity, but it was the first glimpse of those black stripes, deep down in the bottle green water that made my legs start going a bit wobbly.

A good tussle ensued, but I soon had the big perch in the net – what a fish. I knew it was a personal best and the scales revealed it to be just that! A long fish of 2lbs 12ozs and a truly stunning example of river perch.

A 2lbs 12oz river perch.
A 2lbs 12oz river perch.

I took some photos and had one last admiring look at the prehistoric beast, before releasing it back into the river.

Astonishingly, the very next cast saw the same thing happen again – and another super perch was hooked and landed. An equal of my old personal best of 2lbs 8ozs this time. Amazing!

I cast out another worm. A bit of a wait this time, but soon enough another bite and another good perch thumping away in the depths of the swim. And it was another cracker at 2lbs 6ozs this time – what a session this was turning out to be.

Another big Wye perch.
Another big Wye perch.

After releasing my third two pounder, I realised I had no more than ten or fifteen minutes of daylight left. Another worm was placed in the hotspot. A short while later and again another perch was hooked – but a much smaller fish this time of around a pound. I cast again, impatiently, hurridly, the excitement getting to me and the rig went just a few inches too far and into a small overhanging branch.

I had to pull for a break, but I didn’t mind. I tackled down there and then, content with a mad 45 minutes of the best perch fishing I’d ever experienced. But then I decided to be impatient. Maybe, just maybe there were still perch down there and perhaps one of them may be my target, my long-term aim – a three pounder. I set up again and carefully positioned the biggest worm I could find back in the zone.

And I waited. I didn’t feel impatient now, I felt focused. And when the bite came I was ready. Upon hooking the fish, it pulled back just a bit more fiercely and a bit more aggressively than the others. In the gloom I could see it was another big perch. But it wasn’t until I lifted her clear of the water, making my old net handle creak that I could see it was a big perch. 3lbs 1oz. Perhaps impatience really is a virtue.

The perch I've been waiting for - a 3lbs 1oz river beauty. What a fish!
The perch I’ve been waiting for – a 3lbs 1oz river beauty. What a fish!

Agricultural barbeling

As a method of fishing, it’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer. But hurling a feeder the size of a fist into a raging river in an effort to attract the Wye’s population of distinctly un-subtle barbel is great fun.

I enjoy the whole process of mixing up a stinking groundbait and pellet concoction, depositing a few feeder full’s close-in, before setting up with gear that feels like it would be more suited to the cod that are beginning to arrive downstream of here, where the Wye meets the Severn. It’s all rather agricultural, but then I am a Suffolk lad at heart…

A short mid-afternoon session on Saturday produced two lovely barbel that both pulled well beyond their weight. I lost one too. And despite the sheer amount of crap coming down the river, gathering around the strategically placed shot a few feet up from the feeder and dislodging it every ten minutes, the trip was great fun, in an un-subtle kind of way…

The river was tanking through, but the barbel were feeding...
The river was tanking through, but the barbel were feeding…
A small Wye barbel from the floodwater
A small Wye barbel from the floodwater
A stocky Wye barbel - great fun in the flow
A stocky Wye barbel – great fun in the flow

Wye chub experiment

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.

Wild flowers by the river
Wild flowers by the river

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.

4lbs 2oz
4lbs 2oz

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.

3lbs 15oz
3lbs 15oz

Targets, campaigns, strategies and aims

I’m really not the most serious of fisherman. Although I enjoy capturing big fish – who doesn’t – and setting new personal bests, I’m not hell bent on it. I lose interest in fishing for any one species, venue or style after a short while.

Travelling back from a brilliant session on the Wye last week, my mind started to wander. A short evening trip had produced nine, battling barbel and four chub. Special fishing on a special river. And yet as I drove home all I could think about was trying to catch a big, feral carp.

A lovely Wye barbel
A lovely Wye barbel

barbel 2 web

Carp: I have a funny relationship with them. My best ever carp fishing experience was on a mature, overgrown lake nestled at the top of a golf course. Previously a syndicate water, it had drifted into a state of limbo and was not really being managed by anyone. The golf course would half-heartedly charge you five or six quid to fish, but hardly anyone did. And yet there were still some good carp in there. Nothing big enough to attract the specialists, but some lovely old fish up to around 25 pounds or so.

Over one year I fished it regularly. By positioning a Nash Whiskey pop-up with a pva bag of pellets on a bolt rig (pretty cutting edge at the time!) tight to one of the overhanging trees at the shallow end of the lake, a chance or two over the course of an evening session was possible. And it was great fun. Waiting for that explosive take, sending the buzzer into meltdown and having to sit over the rods to ensure they weren’t dragged in. I only ever had commons from the place, to just shy of 20 pounds and boy did those fish fight.

A long, lean golf course lake common carp from around 15 years ago.
A long, lean golf course lake common carp from around 15 years ago.
This one went 18lbs 15ozs - my second best from the golf course
This one went 18lbs 15ozs – my second best from the golf course
My brother having a cast on the golf course one Christmas eve many years ago. We actually got a tench that day!
My brother having a cast on the golf course one Christmas eve many years ago. We actually got a tench that day!

But since then I’ve not really fished for carp specifically. The odd trip to Lake John after perch would usually involve a carp rod fished ‘sleeper’ style. And they inevitably make an appearance during the winter, while after perch on commercials.

I had a go on a proper, muddy puddle after them in the spring and it was as a depressing fishing experience as I’ve had in a while. After one hour and three carp I packed up and went home.

And yet just a few days earlier I landed a gorgeous, dark 13 pound common from the gin clear quarry I’ve been fishing for tench – it was a memorable fish and one I was really pleased with.

A perfect common carp of 13lbs 8ozs from the tench lake
A perfect common carp of 13lbs 8ozs from the tench lake

But a carp’s a carp, right? Wrong. My aim, now, is to get a proper, wild, feral carp from a local canal. I guess it’ll be a campaign of sorts, something a bit more serious perhaps…