Tuesday, 23 February 2010

This Evenings Timeline

Tuesday 23rd February, 16:00 - 18:00. Upper Warks Avon. Sleet and snow with 13mph easterly wind. 3C upon arrival 1C departure.

15:00 Leave work walking past my mate Pete who looks out of the large office windows at the horizontal snow then back at me and shakes his head slowly in disbelief. Pete's new rule is not to go fishing unless it's 6C or above.

15:30 Park up at the bottom of Ryton village after driving through heavy sleet and snow from work. Change in the car from mild-mannered IT developer into 'Fishing Man' - two pairs of long Johns, three base layers, two fleeces, huge winter waterproof coat, beanie hat, thermal wellie inserts and thigh waders. Unload my fishing gear which was readied last night.

15:40 Find a fallen tree blocking the path to the river. Unload fishing gear and move tree from path using super human abilities. Take off woolly hat as now rather warm. Notice puddles on floor.

Snow is in the air, everywhere I look around....

15:45 Have I ever mentioned the wooden footbridge before? It's in the distance in the photo below. The path to it is covered by water.

15:47 I decide that mere water is not enough to halt my progress and carefully wade over the bridge using my bankstick as a wading staff. The water comes above knee line on my waders and given it's currently snowing I call off plan A and retreat to the car. If the water rose any more I would need more than thigh waders to get back safely.

16:00 I drive up to the top of the village to an alternative entrance to the club water. By this time though I've done a bit of walking whilst fully togged up and so am starting to feel the heat.

I sit in the car for ten minutes contemplating my options. Waspo? Too far. Ryton? Too cold. Organic Gardens stretch? No handy high water pegs and too far to walk.

School children walk past the car from their school bus and I pretend to read my map as the weather has taken a turn for the worse and even I realise that starting fishing in this is madness.

I eventually make it out of the car and load up my gear as an old boy walks past and comments on my mental state.

16:00 Walk ten minutes over sodden ground in the driving sleet to the swollen rivers edge. There are no less than four gates to overcome with tackle. I am now boiling hot.

I walk up and down the river sans-tackle and select a semi-fishable run on an inside bend.

16:20 Fishing now but uncomfortable as the trek has upset my hypothalamus. Like my tackle my clothing was selected for longevity in the cold and not traipsing long distances across fields. The stiff wind proves to be a facer on this part of the river and it carries sleet and snow with it.

16:45 I see a fox try to ambush a coot roosting in the reeds on the far bank. The coot takes flight and the fox bounds after it, falling short of it's prey when it skitters over the water. The fox first hears then sees me when I reach for my camera and is gone across the golf course before I can take a photo.

17:15 I see a kingfisher blast upstream. My tip is showing some signs of movement but it's soft movement, the sort brought on by the force of the current against the line rather than that signifying connection with the other realm.

17:45 My brolly is blown fully inside out whilst rebaiting. Why do things like this always happen when your hands are occupied?

18:00 Now slightly delirious and biteless I am loudly exclaiming profanities in a thick French accent. Probably some dim and distant subconscious reference to Monty Python, but it passes the time.

18:05 Enough! I don't mind high water but it's the facing wind carrying the icy weather which is proving too much tonight. Fred .J Taylor's, "I'll be glad when I've had enough of this", was never so apt.

18:15 Guinness in the Malt Shovel and someone has brought their beautiful pet Barn Owl in for a pint. I wonder if it realises how lucky it is to be warming it's feathers indoors whilst it's brethren chase mice amongst the slush. It's tough out there at the moment.

I'm salmon fishing in less than a month and this morning the Scottish Dee was reportedly frozen over in places after overnight temperatures of -12C. Last weeks fishing was all but a wipe out with grue killing all sport. Grue is where ice crystals form in the water when the temperature nears zero, forming a slush puppy of a river. If the temperature rises too sharply next month then the snow covered mountain tops will be in the river all at once and a river in full spate is bad news for fishing. I'm hoping for a gentle warming from here on in to bring a run of fish into the river.


Keith .J

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Eight to Two - Quick

16th February, 16:00 - 19:30. Middle Avon at Wasperton. 8C on arrival 2C on departure. Rain then clearing skies.

Not much to report tonight. I chose a spot close to the lower car park at Waspo where I'd seen plenty of Roach previously.

I put out a sleeper rod for Zander but it slept all night.

I swung out and fished an inside line with a straight lead and maggot on a light quiver but was frustrated with indications I couldn't hit all evening. Perhaps my tackle was too stiff for small stuff. I scaled down to an 18 hook and light hook link but still couldn't make anything of the trembles. I am firmly of the opinion a float would have been king this evening.

At dusk the light rain moved off leaving clear skies. The temperature plummeted and a heavy mist quickly filled the river valley.

One positive bite I made contact with was from a Bream of 5lbs 14oz. I'm sorry this fish got muddy whilst on the bank but it had proper attitude, flipping and slapping continuously. Most un-bream like.

This fish came just before the mist arrived.


Sunday, 14 February 2010

Guest Post: Who Said You Can’t Catch Barbel in Winter?

Rob Hudson achieved something I certainly never have by catching a wintertime Barbel (early Feb'). Rob has kindly written up his capture to give us all hope! Over to Rob.....


It was the back end of October 2009 when I caught my last Barbel. Since then we have been gripped by one of the coldest winters I can remember, with the fishing being hard to say the least.

A Chub swim on The Leam.

Yet I have kept persevering every weekend regardless of the conditions, just targeting different species on different venues. Chasing Chub on the Leam & Upper Avon when stupidly cold and barbel on the Middle Avon when things warmed up a little.

Mr Chub has been very kind to me, making a least one appearance on each visit to the Upper, bar the 2 blanks (but we don’t count those as fishing days). The average weight has been about the 4lb mark on the Upper. Not quite the monsters ‘r Keith catches! And the Leam has thrown up the odd 4lber too!

More often than not it’s been ‘stupid cold’ on the days I have had my ‘fishing pass’ stamped, so my attempts at catching a winter barbel have been few and far between.

Both of the Winter sections in ‘Barbel, A life times Addiction’ by Trefor West and ‘Quest for Barbel’ by Tony Miles & Trefor have been read and re-read until they have been firmly etched into the angling segment of my brain. Armed with this ‘insider’ knowledge I have been careful to study all forms of weather information in the vain hope I might hear those infamous words ‘rain coming up from the south west’. But alas only a few times have they been muttered this winter!

So when, at the start of February, we were told that a warmer front from the south west was fighting its way north against the seemingly ever present Siberian winter, I waited with baited breath. Would it push further than Worcestershire & Gloucestershire? Or would it fizzle out yet again? Or worse still clash with the cold and fall as snow, now this would be a real killer. Although I’d still probably go fishing, but for what? Please let it rain, please let it be barbel..............

It’s not true what they say about the Met office, they do get it right- sometimes. The rain came and the river rose. The initial rise was around Wednesday. This I figured would be pointless as the rain was falling on frozen ground and would be dropping the river temperature. Lucky, because I had to work.

Thursday and Friday past with a little more rain on both days. This I was hoping would keep the river level up, ready for Saturday’s foray. The venue was a foregone conclusion, middle Avon, Wasperton. A long stretch suited to a mobile approach. Although I was confident the water temperature had gone up, I was still aware I’d have to go and find them.

A quick chat with the lady serving in our work’s canteen on the Friday, confirmed the river was still up and looking like ‘hot chocolate’. Unfortunately no crystal ball involved, she lives in Barford and walks the Avon every day. Another good contact made!

My mind then turned to bait, tackle & tactics. Considering the venue, I opted for a classic Spam attack! I would unleash the Garlic Salt & Archie Braddock’s Barbel Magic flavoured cubes of spam.

The rod would be my trusty Korum Neoteric Twin Tip, sporting the slightly sexy 2lb top. This was coupled with the ‘common-in-all garden’ Shimano 5000RE bait runner. I’d be surprised to find anyone who doesn’t own one!

Main line would be PowerPro braid. Hooklink would be 15lb Mantis gold, 10-12”. Hook being size 6 Drennan SS Barbel tied using knotless-knot. I would be using standard running rig set-up. Lead size determined by flow etc.

My fishing approach would be determined by the condition of the river, but I did have a method I was hoping I could use. One I had been practising and hopefully perfecting!

Saturday morning came and was started off, as usual, in Alfonso’s cafe with a ‘Full English’. This did mean a slight delay in proceedings but it’s always worth it. I set off just after 10am. On the way I crossed the Avon via the M40, a quick glance over the bridge confirmed my want. Still chocolate in colour!

I parked up by the river around 10.30. It’s only a short walk to the river’s edge so I left the tackle in the van and went to have a ‘shufty’ about. The Avon still had about a foot or so on it, but had lost the force (and crap) it has when in the first stages of rising/flooding. This would make life a little simpler. Things were looking good, especially as I couldn’t see anyone else further downstream.

Unfortunately I couldn’t take a water temp due to somehow pulling the wires out from the casing of my digital thermometer. Something else to add to the ‘must fix-it’ list. But I was confident it was up, if only slightly.

Back to the van to grab the tackle etc. Rod, landing net, scales and a few items of essential tackle stuffed into pockets was all I needed.

Back at the water’s edge I selected a 2” cube of meat and impaled it onto the size 6 hook. Pushing the bend of the hook out the other side of the meat I slipped through the obligatory piece of grass; pulling the hook back once in place to secure it. (This I have done since I was at school, and with every piece of meat I have ever fished with.)

On went a 3oz lead and we were set. Where to start? My mind recalled pages of numerous books and magazine articles about winter floods and how to fish them. Now, the main one that has stuck with me the most predominantly is the teachings from Mr Trefor West, probably because it cost me £150! I shall not divulge all as I really recommend you spend a day with him yourself. He is a mine of information and tales.

So, with my mental note of possible swims I make my first cast. River is running right to left as I stand facing it. The method I chose was one Mr West showed me, which is also in his book, so no new fancy technique coming up I’m afraid. I’ll explain briefly to those who have not yet read his book...shame on you!

The cast is made upstream, in steady flow. As the lead lands you feel it bounce along the gravel. It holds tight. At this point I reel down and take up the slack. My rod tip is angled a foot downstream of where the line enters the water. This creates a downward tension on the line. The theory being that any weed/debris build-up will only drag the lead downstream out of position. Indicated by dink, dink, dink. Now, if the bait is taken by a barbel, due to its natural feeding movement of ‘suck, lift & turn’ the lead lifts up off the bottom. This you feel, a slight pluck on the line before the lead bounces again. At that point, and in Trefor’s word’s, ‘Assume the position and whack it’. Job done.

So, now I’ve shared my £150 with you, back to the fishing.

I made my first cast into a likely swim. Lead bounced a few times along the gravel. The braid providing excellent ‘feel’. It held. I wound down. I waited. Eventually the lead dislodged under the weight of some weed. Dink, dink, dink it went. Then stopped again. Nothing until it moved again. After 5 minutes the lead worked its way along the swim, past me, and downstream. I reeled in.

I repeated the process for another 20 minutes. I usually give each swim 3-4 runs through before moving on.

The next swim I chose had produced before in similar conditions, so I was feeling confident. The river narrows slightly here due to reed beds one side and a collapsed bank complete with trees, the other. The river deepens slightly here too before rising up again into a shallow, gravel run.
On went another 2” cube of Bob’s Special Spam Surprise. The cast was made upstream as usual. Lead bounced, lead held. Nothing came of the first 2 runs.

Before I recast I put a new piece of meat on and the usual check of the hooklink was made. This cast landed further across and came to rest against an old reed bed. As I wound down it felt as if I’d probably snagged it, it was held that firm. I waited, feeling the small bits of rubbish bounce off the braid with my right index finger. The braid was so tight it was singing in the cold wind at times.

It felt like forever before I felt any sort of lead movement. But this time I felt a pluck on the line and a slight lift of the lead. I played the routine through my head quickly, ’tight-line, pluck, lift, bounce, whack it!’ By the time the lead had hit the river bed again the Korum was flying backwards picking up as much slack line as possible. Meanwhile I was hurriedly reeling forward. Was it game on or had I caught a stick again?

As I reeled down the movement of the braid went upstream. Game on!

She plodded upstream for a while before I turned her back with some strong side strain. She then made a couple of hard surging runs towards a sunken log in front of me which required a good pull up and over style of playing a fish, before a last gasp roll at the net. Top Banana! I had finally bagged a winter Boris!

Bang on 11lb of pure Warwickshire Avon beauty.

I fished on through the day along the whole stretch and back up again, but alas no more where to fall to Bob’s Special Spam Surprise, but I didn’t care as my mission had been completed and a happy man I was too!


Thanks for sharing Bob!

A Second First

Sunday 14th February. 10:00 - 12:00. Upper Avon - Ryton village stretch. 4C arrival, 7C departure. Watery SUN!

The youngest half of our offspring was learning to swim this Sunday morning and last night I’d stupidly told the older half that MacDonald's’s also do breakfasts. My daughter ensured we were up and out of the house by a quarter to nine and washing down sausage and egg McMuffins soon afterwards. So that’s; a first performance of Stravinsky’s Firebird by a symphony orchestra last weekend, and first MacDonald's breakfast this. White trash with big aspirations - that’s us.

I suggested an hour on the river before lunch while the dizzying MSG was still in full effect. I had a rod and wellies in the car as quick as a flash.

There was a match on the pegs I fancied a go at by the power lines but there was plenty of water left for us. We worked our way downstream either trundling or light legering bread on a hair. I got into more tangles and tip wraps today than I usually do in a season. It wasn’t until we were nearly back down at the wooden footbridge that we had our first bite.

I seem to mention and photograph this footbridge every post recently.

The sun was out and there was a little warmth in it. Great.

We ended up in the peg in the reeds and put the rod on a rest. It didn’t take long for a bite and we netted a 4lb Chub.


Saturday, 13 February 2010

Barbel In Mind - Other Offers Accepted

Tuesday 9th February, 16:00 - 19:30. Middle Avon. 4 C upon arrival, 2C departure. Cold brisk NE.

With no rain since I last saw the river on Sunday it was back down to approximately ten inches above summer level by Tuesday evening.

Although not any warmer recently the gradually increasing day length and rapidly decreasing opportunity to fish the rivers has once again ignited a fuse within me driving me to try and catch a Barbel before the season ends. The same thing happened last year with exceptional results.

Reading about (Boilie) Bob’s recent success with a winter fish from the middle Avon was fuel to my fire. A Barbel in early February, especially given recent conditions is noteworthy and I’ve asked Rob if he will write up his catch on here give us all hope!

I’m not very good at keeping secrets but I’ve identified an area of the Avon I think has the potential for a surprise Barbel so I’m going to give it some attention and try to keep it under my hat until the season ends.

My net is full of holes however as I’m sure most of you will recognise the spot from the photos I’m inevitably going to post here.

Here is a photo of me fishing my not-so-secret swim somewhere below the BAA at Wasperton and somewhere above Hampton Lucy weir. I'm crap at subterfuge.

I had Barbel in mind but was open to other offers and so started with flavoured maggots on the hook and a groundbait feeder.

I was lobbing across to the faster water on the far side and too often my feeder was bouncing around once empty. I added a second strip of lead from another feeder and this helped hold bottom. There was a surprising amount of pace in the current.

I made a few other rig adjustments within the first hour (I won’t bore you with the details) and this itself gave me confidence I was fishing okay.

It wasn’t until dusk that I started to get indications but I couldn’t connect. Often a pluck would dislodge the feeder and it would bounce round again. Interestingly I rarely received a second bite once the feeder had moved. I think it was bouncing off the baited line.

Eventually a more positive jaggy bite resulted in a Chub about 2lbs.

The sky had now cleared and the temperature plummeted. There was ice on my landing net handle and tackle bag. My feet were cold and beginning to hurt. I tried to ignore them.

Once your feet get cold fishing they rarely come back. I had waders on which don’t provide much insulation against the cold. I was still getting the odd pluck on the tip but when my legs started twitching I had to give in and walk back to the car with breeze block feet.

So soaring aspirations but similar results to other recent sessions tonight. I can’t wait to feel the blow of a spring south-westerly in my face again.


Tuesday, 9 February 2010

OCD Blogging With a Rhythmic Frequency

It has not escaped my notice that I have not relented in the frequency with which I post on here, after virtually signing-off in December of last year.

Like others in this space, writing up the events of my fishing trips has now become a habit proving hard to break. So much so I withdraw my resignation.

Here's looking forward to another fishing year........


Sunday, 7 February 2010

Curling One Out Before a Work Party

Sunday 7th Feb. 08:50 - 09:20.

I spent half an hour with a 15ft salmon rod practicing my left bank Spey casting this morning at Wasperton. I need the practice.

The long distance looks I received from the two guys Pike fishing downstream were priceless.

The look I received from the guy walking the river whom I asked, “…Many Salmon around at the moment?”, was even better.


(Gary Thorpe - Thought I recognised you this morning but wasn't sure so apologies on my part)

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Walk on By (......Please)

Sunday 31st January, 09:15 - 12:45. River Sowe at the bottom of a school field with Jeff.

Apart from a few years away being educated and generally exploring I've lived on the East side of Coventry all my life. This means I've never been far from the River Sowe (with an 'E').

I played in trees by the river on 'Monkey Island' whilst I was in junior school and walked alongside it every day to get to senior school. I've seen friends overshoot the sledging slope and end up in it and caddied for my dad on a golf course which it runs through. I've seen the local rugby club's goat beheaded and floating in it the day after a particularly eventful derby game and I've surveyed and netted a Crucian Carp from it as part of my biology studies. I regularly stare into it when out on a walk with the family and in recent years I've wondered what it might hold.

One thing I'd never done however is cast a line into it.

Anglers always have species and venues competing for the attention of their imagination and although I've had space set aside to explore the Sowe for some time it had become overgrown and buried by a thousand other hair-brained schemes.

Reading about Jeff's catches in the rivers upper reaches and from a section appearing to amount to no more than a ditch I dusted off my plans and set about action. Before the eventual first cast of this trip I can honestly say I was genuinely excited. I have a growing sense that small waterways are something of a forgotten frontier of English fishing. It seems everyone I've talked to about this recently has a story of a stupendous Trout, Roach or Eel from a stream you can 'jump over'.

I recce'd the stretch of the Sowe at the back of Tescos on Clifford Bridge Road on Saturday afternoon but it was shallow and fast upstream of where Smite brook (exiting Coombe pool) piled in. It offered little by way of slower deeper pools. By this time I'd roped Jeff into the mission and reasoned there wasn't enough fishing here to keep us occupied for a morning.

Smite Brook wades-in straight ahead, The Sowe is from the Left

I drove a little further downstream and took a look at a section which runs through a school field. Here the stream turned into a small river and things looked promising. I counted half a dozen spots in which I would fancy a dabble.

I met Jeff in Tescos car park the next morning and we made haste to the little river. Parking in a Close in front of peoples houses was a little un-nerving but I donned a hood, cap and sunglasses to avoid recognition. I is an urban fishing-man.

Jeff's already written about how he was undergunned with his eight foot wand, and when a gentle underarm swing with my eleven foot rod and 1g feeder hit the far bank with a 'sploosh' it started to feel like we were both out of sync with the river in front of us.

Out of Proportion

Jeff caught a Roach from the pool pictured above.

I had a crack on the pool which was by far the best pool on the stretch and had a bite within seconds. A small Chub resulted which for me was a momentous occasion.

Next cast and another bite which saw me briefly hook up with a larger chub perhaps 2lb+.

Now this is not a big fish by anyone's standards but the fact this was happening from a stream I've lived next to for so long had me reeling!

I could tell Jeff could see the potential of this tiny place and we both agreed our strategy: first see it down on it's bones in the clear water months to identify the pools holding the fish. Second, remember those spots and return next winter and throw up a few surprises.

ps. If you do live in my area - walk on by when you see the Sowe - please.


Flickering Needles

Tuesday 2nd Feb, Upper Warks Avon. 15:45 - 18:15

I think we’d all agree that catching fish requires a mix of watercraft, angling skill, tackle know-how and of course luck - in roughly equal measure. Most people can succeed in catching enough to keep them interested without all elements falling into place and there is always room for improvement for most people in most areas.

I might be oversimplifying things here but I don’t get on well with modern carp fishing methods as when I’m sat behind rods the combination of elements is not sufficiently balanced to provide me with any great enjoyment. Alternatively, I’ll happily spend a day on the hoof stalking carp at close range and have a wail of a time.

For me our sport remains captivating because you never quite know what challenges await you on each trip. Sometimes additional dimensions will be thrown into the puzzle-pot for us to deal with.

This Tuesday I planned to notch up an easy point in our competition by catching Chub from a previously productive peg. It has a long run of bushes downstream on the far side and my plan was to cast to the head of the cover and pull the Chub up in a procession that would bring four-pounders to the net at regular intervals.

The river was still up but the section over the footbridge was now accessible. I made my way through the deep thick mud on the path feeling confident. I could see just one pair of boots had passed this way since the water subsided and whilst I was setting up the owner of the boots walked back downstream. We stopped for a chat and talked Chub.

The peg I was on is almost in two parts. So much so that I was sat on 25A and just downstream is peg 25 proper. The bushes on the far side run from the bottom of 25A and down through 25.

The guy I’d been talking to dropped into 25. He was perfectly within his rights to do so, it just meant we were essentially fishing to different parts of the same feature.

By the time I’d set up he’d caught a Chub - casting over to the bushes. Within fifteen minutes he’d caught a second.

I cast out but all I could see in my minds eye now were wildly flickering needles on an analogue dial superimposed on top of the subsurface Chub’s heads. I’ll try to explain my hallucinations. My small river Chub fishing and observation has shown a repeating pattern. Being omnivorous souls if chub are in the area you will soon get indications to that effect after casting. Once you’ve caught a Chub there will be a lull whilst the remaining fishes confidence returns. I imagine the dials on their heads reading +5 on the spook scale when the angler arrives, bouncing wildly around whilst their shoal mate is hoiked ashore and then coming to a twitchy rest at say +10. If a second Chub is caught then the lull between the next bite is exponentially longer and so on, and if there were just three Chub in the shoal to start off with you might as well pack up now. Because after the second capture I believe the dials go into the red rendering the remaining Chub nervous wrecks.

I had intended to pull the chub up from the cover but all I could imagine now was them bunched up more tightly under it than previously.

I accept this is a potentially lazy assessment of my lack of bites but I stuck it out to try and prove I would have caught had the dimension of another angler not pissed on my chips.

My only problem now was that the platform I was sat on was becoming submerged by a rising river. I let the water rise approximately seven inches before the thought of crossing the invisible wooden footbridge in the half light got the better of me and forced a move. I gave the peg in the reeds half an hour but I was sat ankle deep in water. It then started raining hard and I had no brolly and so needless to say a retreat soon followed.

On the walk to the peg that evening the pitch perfect A of a full orchestra tuning up was clearly audible in my head. All the component instruments could be heard and each section seemed poised and prepared to launch into a melody, a symphony why not, of Chubalicious proportions.

On the return walk to the pub it was the discordant soundtrack of a late seventies Polish animation about the cold war that accompanied my steps. The only respite cam from a blackbird singing in a nearby bush. A sure sign spring is only round the corner.

Have you ever heard of so much effort going into writing up a blank!?