Friday, 15 May 2009

A Return to the River

10.5.09 An afternoon river walk in mid-May after a dry spell. The sun was out.

One thing the close season on the rivers grants me is a little respite from the maddening rush I always seem to be in to go fishing in them. When the season is in full swing I wouldn't dream of calmly walking a stretch of river without a hook somewhere about my person. I would be striding it out intent on rendering the thing currently residing at the forefront of my thoughts from the place probably already burned onto my minds eye. The only frequent exceptions to this are reccy's on new water and the exploratory strolls inevitably brought on by slow sport.

You know you're getting to know a stretch when particular conditions subconsciously conjure up precise directions to your brain about where and how you should be fishing. River walks like these power those instructions by storing every sighting you make whilst your hands are tied behind your back.

I was armed with polaroids and a cap, a bait pouch of 6mm pellets, a small catty and a drink. Perfect.

Making the most of this freedom I walked top to bottom of the middle section of a Club water of the Warks Avon near home. The water was low and clear and the sun was high in the sky so fish spotting was a dream. Especially easy were the big lazy Chub sunbathing on the top in the slack water. Only slightly harder to spot but greater in number were their shoal mates slowly moving around in the streamier water. I expect I was just as easy to pick out against the skyline though as a heavy footfall or unthoughtful approach and all Chub in sight would quite calmly dematerialise from view.

I fed in most swims, and the Chub were always first to the bait, taking the pellets as they sank through the layers. The Chub could be pulled upstream into a pool quickly and easily after a few hand fulls, however fish in upstream pools were never pulled down. I'm guessing this was simply because they were oblivious to the feeding going on downstream, probably as any feeding noise and scent were being carried downstream - like they were 'upwind' of it.

If I fed to a consistent place, eventually the Chub would group up on the deck and start sifting the gravel where the pellets had settled twisting, flashing in the sun as they forced small clouds of silt from the bed.

In just two spots I stuck around a while and fed more persistently and I saw Barbel in both. The Barbel were never immediately visible in the swim but always concealed beneath cover, coming out into the light much less readily than the Chub. The Barbel ate greedily once on the bait though and seemed to cycle in an orderly way up through the swim. A fish would begin truffling at the bottom of the baited gravel area and snuffle upstream. Once at the head of the feed it would peel off and up into the current and turn and swim pointing downstream before once again rejoining the conveyor belt.

At one point I had a group of five Barbel and about thirty Chub - some very large - feeding 6ft under my nose as I peered over the grass bank; amazing!

After seeing so many fish and feeding them freely on a cracking spring day I was tempted to declare myself a sovereign state and move quickly to distance myself from the UK and pass a whole new raft of laws which allow me to fish when and where I please. Roll on June 16th!!


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