Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Avon is Dead. Long Live The Avon.

Tuesday 29th June, 16:00 - 21:45. Stratford Lido on Warks Avon. 26>19C. Blustery wind.

I was talking to a lifelong match man at a family wedding last Saturday and when I asked if he fished matches on the rivers he wheeled out the oft-heard arguments about local rivers being dead and opined that only matches on commercials were worth fishing nowadays. The cormorants, the zander, the otters had all played a role in the catastrophic downfall of running water in our area apparently. He reminisced about times of bulging nets and went on to wearily recount more recent blanks. He had a few years on me so I was in no position to disagree with his powers of recall but the image he painted wasn't one I entirely recognised.

In the thirty years I've been fishing I've noticed a change in the rivers too, and I'm not pretending they're all for the better. Firstly there seems to be a little less water in them year on year and secondly the water that is there during low times is cleaner. I'm familiar with the recent history of the Trent and how a combination of reduced warm water power station outputs and suspended nutrients (sewage) quickly lead to a dramatic increase in water clarity. This in turn changed the size and number of fish the river could support but I've not heard it called 'dead' for a long time. The species mix has changed in my home river the Warks Avon, and I doubt if I'd be regularly fishing for zander and barbel if it hadn't. I just think things have changed and as anglers we need to change too. If the rivers are in a healthier overall state then so what if we have to diversify to find our sport?

I came to the Avon after Dace in our fishing challenge and set up at the tail of the bay at Stratford Lido. I fished a waggler two-thirds across where the river looked at it's deepest and fished maggot on the hook. There is a lot of weed around and not much push at the moment.

Scratch your balls if you love the Avon.
I put a few sparse pouchfuls out whilst I readied my tackle and first cast in I had a hybrid of just over a pound. Roasting hot and bright - a good start.

The boat traffic was heavy in the late afternoon but they were mostly small hire boats coming up from the town so didn't interfere with the float fishing much at all. If I were fishing a feeder it might have been a pain. I saw one boat crash and a second drive straight under an overhanging willow whilst I fished. The overhanging willow incident had the occupant girls screaming like extras in the film 'Titanic' but no one was badly hurt.

Shaven headed youths weaved, smoked skunk, drank beer at the wheel, over-revved the outboards and swore loudly. My Leamington Angling work party colleague Ian summed things up nicely last week when we stood and watched a similar display, "And you wonder why every f****r hates you." he whispered under his breath as one urban-massive belted upriver loudly speaking patois. We were all young once I suppose, it's just the older you get the harder it is to remember.

Looks like a pole but it is a rod.
 After the hybrid I had a single pure roach, a few skimmers, bleak, dace and perch.

Then I caught a silver bream.

Now this time last year I didn't even know that silver bream existed. I just thought it was the name some people gave to skimmers. It's only through Jeff Hatt's learning's that they've appeared on my radar and I reckon I can now tell them apart from other things.

Over the next few hours a couple more silver bream joined the first in the net and so when Danny arrived I told him the river had thrown up these little surprises.

Danny settled in downstream and as the evening progressed things turned to a fish a chuck for me. More perch and dace came to hand. Then as if a switch had been flicked the swim went dead. Predators no doubt.

And it stayed dead for over an hour.

Only after eight o'clock did the bites start again, and the first fish of this new dawn was....... a silver bream. Next cast, another silver. Smaller than before, but that made five in total.

The light was fading now.

Another silver. Six! I'm giving an excited (and probably highly annoying) running commentary to Danny and the bloke who lives in the big house on the opposite bank who had come down to fish at the bottom of his back garden. He had some clonking bream out to about five pounds on corn and a groundbait feeder.

At just before ten I had a massive tangle at the reel caused by pulling out of weed and rushing to get back in. I knew I wasn't near a dace or perch point but the silver bream was touch and go.

The pure roach weighed 11ozs.

I had about three and a half pounds of perch.

I had 8ozs of dace across about ten fish.

I weighed the silvers......... 2lb 12ozs.

Danny handily had the targets to hand and only after I'd weighed-in said what I needed to hear - the silver bream target was 2lb 2oz.

Well I never expected that from this evening. I thought I wasn't going to get anywhere near this point all year and had Jeff down for it if anyone would.

I've left the pure roach and immature bronze bream at the bottom of this first photo for comparison.

 The silvers were all peas in a pod.

Here's a close up of one and the tail of another.

And finally here are the scores tonight.

The Avon is dead. Long live the Avon.


Thursday, 24 June 2010

Looks Like I'm Not Going to Have This All My Own Way......


Fishing the River Leam.

Tuesday 22nd June, 16:30 - 21:30. River Leam at Offchurch (LAA book). 24>21C Hot. Light breeze.

I came to the Leam after dace thinking that this stretch at Offchurch upstream of where the canal comes in on the east side of Leamington would contain clear flowing water.

As it happens the water was of a similar turbidity to the stretch I fished (and was so utterly underwhelmed by) last year. I just don't 'get' the Leam. Myself and others have recently reported the upper reaches of various midland rivers running low and clear but the Leam moved slowly and had the appearance of a canal. Is it the farmland it passes through that gives it this dull character?

The surrounding countryside was however resplendent on this sunny afternoon.

I hiked along the waters edge to the far end of the stretch on the look out for a streamy accessible section.

I was soon at the lower limit and bumped into a guy who'd been fishing all day on three of the more open pools at this bottom end. Despite the water clarity the river obviously deepened and slowed at this far end. Given it was the deep, covered water where I'd found fish in on the Avon last week I settled in the shade of a tree to fish.

I fished a pole and maggot at about five metres in the light flow. It's worth noting here that the pole negated the need for any casting in this diminutive river. At the end of each short run through I could simply lift the rig up and place it back at the head of the swim where the maggots were going in. Also, where the pool shallowed at the tail I could gently hold the rig back with the tip of the pole directly above the float, avoiding the whole lot swinging into the near bank. Most effective.

I caught gudgeon, the odd roach, small perch and a single dace. Tiny fish flipped on the surface. It was hot. Then the float dived under more purposefully....

This 2lb perch took some persuading on light line and all of a sudden I liked the Leam again.

Next put-in after weighing photographing and returning....

...I had a 2lb 9oz Eel.

I 'need' both species and so turned the concentration up a notch but no more large fish came to the bank during the evening.

At the end I walked back to the car with a smile on my face after these fish. Whilst walking I was alarmed at the air temperature differential between the river side and some hot spots in the long grass. The air was at one moment hot and then cold in localised areas. I wondered what caused the terrestrial hot spots and wondered if the same effects were present under the waters surface.


Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Six Pounds Well Spent?

Thanks to Merv' to for putting me onto these hooks.

Both the pound shop and the 99p shop in Coventry are currently selling eyed barbless hooks and swivels. In addition, the 99p shop is doing two jelly lures for....99p.

I bought a pack of hooks from each outlet the other week and destruction tested them in my back garden.  Although I could destroy them it took quite a bit of effort, and one of them handled a pretty violent fight in the field with a double figure barbel just last week. Others landed seven carp to just over double figures from Stockton on Saturday.

They have really good sharpness and a nice pattern. The smaller ones look really good for paste.

I Qc'd the hooks myself and chucked out perhaps ten percent due to malformed eyes or other faults. Still, I ended up with perhaps 80 hooks for a quid.

I've yet to use the jelly lures but they look OK. The first thing I will do is remove the bottom treble so they won't catch bottom.

Worth a look?


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Browny Point Out of The Blue.

Sunday 20th June, 09:45 - 13:00. Lanny's Lagoon small pool. 14>17C. Light NE.

I had the kids all day yesterday whilst my wife worked. I took them to Stockton in the afternoon to fish for carp. It's fathers day today and when my good lady suggested I might like a couple of hours fishing this morning my eyebrows met my hairline. I was out of the house toute suite.

I pole fished red maggot over a particle and groundbait mix down the edge. I was after the elusive brown goldfish point again.

As before, I caught loads of bream, baby carp and crucians. I think I redid the crucian point again this morning.

After the first hour and a half I had only one brown goldfish to show for my efforts, and that was caught on the way down to the deck. How did Danny manage to catch so many of them I wondered?

As time marched on I forced my hand and shallowed up from four foot deep to just eighteen inches. I sparingly fed the particles to see if my luck would change up top.

First put in and a second brown goldfish was in the bag. I didn't look back after this catching seven more of them up in the water.

I ended up with eight for 6lb 12ozs and so that's worth a point in our fishing challenge.

I also think I caught a silver bream of 7ozs. What do you think Jeff ? You seem to know what one looks like.


Monday, 21 June 2010

Down Time.

Saturday 19th June, 15:00 - 19:30. Stockton Reservoir with the kids. 15C. Blustery NE.

I took the kids fishing to Stockton this afternoon. None of the remaining species I need in our competition were a suitable option with two kids in tow.

I started both rods on zig rigs and black foam but after forty five minutes hadn't had a run. We sat in the corner by the car park well out of the chilly wind.

I spodded a slop over the baits but there was little sign of surface activity.

I put a bottom bait on the left hand rod and it was soon away.

Now with bottom baits on both rods and regular spods over the top the water turned black with rooting fish.

See the dark patch of water in front of the island?

We had seven carp up to double figures.

Whilst winding in the last rod we had a crucian of about a pound on the end. It wasn't hooked before the retrieve and so I guess it took the bait into it's mouth just as my daughter started winding in.

Really enjoyable.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Home on the Avon.

Thursday 17th June, 12:30 – 21:30. The Plough AS. 23>17C. light breeze.

I’d brashly claimed to my fishing pals that I was aiming for a maximum of six points and a minimum of two across these two days fishing. When I turned up on the upper Avon on a hot and bright day and saw the water clarity and lack of flow I thought I might be eating my words.

Low and Clear.

I started by bouncing bread down stream after chub.

I mould the bread around a hair and run it down the current off a centrepin. It’s a method that’s proven reliable for chub in the past. Not dissimilar to free lining apart from the small amount of weight added to the line to ensure the floating bread flake bounces along the bottom layers.

Here’s how I tie the hook up:

The lack of flow hampered my efforts. I tried the method in three swims but like a plane without airflow it stalled and the bread fell to the bottom and stuck amongst the proliferating weed.

In the bright sunlight the river looked devoid of fish apart from millions of minnows. It was like all the big fish had disappeared.

Slightly hot and exasperated I threw some pellets from a bait pouch into a swim where I’ve seen chub before. Fish came out from under shadows, tree roots and every other hidey hole and started to chow down. I put some paste on the hook and had a chub first cast.

Here's a chub.

I worked my way downstream taking a fish from all likely pegs like this. I soon had the chub point sewn-up. Great fun once I’d cracked how to catch them in the heat. Often the paste was taken before it had chance to reach the bottom.

[Danny, Jeff and Pete. I have loads of photos of chub lying in the net if you want to see them but they're not that exciting!]

I carried on downstream and focused on locating barbel. I found some out in the open feeding greedily, probably on bait put down by previous anglers.

I crept into position, topped up the swim and caught two more chub. No matter what I did the chub always got to the bait before the barbel. I even resorted to pulling the paste out of the chubs mouths as catching them was just spooking the other fish.

Eventually I hooked up with one of the gravel Hoovers and all hell broke loose in the tight swim. Playing the fish in an area the size of a car park space is nerve jangling stuff. I was shaking with excitement before and after I hooked it.

On the bank this fish constantly broke wind. Something I’ve never experienced before. When it first blew off I thought the noise must have been from the head end as fish can grunt and grind when on the bank. But no, it then let out another massive toxic event and I could see full-on bum-hole vibration. Guff after guff after guff.

When it was recovering in the edge the bubbles were still coming out. Hemp perhaps?

Get my best side!

9lbs 12oz Barbel.
Leyton Jones alerted me to the evening match on the stretch when he recognised my car as he drove by and so I went to meet up with Pete down on the lower section and settle in to a more static approach for the evening.

Concentrate man!

The first peg I tried was dead so I took a wander up towards the church meadow end. A decent looking area was free but the river was in shadow so I couldn’t make out the bottom contours. I rang Leighton for some intel on the best spot to fish.

Centrepins in tight swims are a real benefit - Instant clutch control.

I had four more chub up to about four pounds before connecting with something more solid.

Another amazing fight with the reel singing and the line cutting the water. This fish meant I needed just one more barbel for a point.

9lbs 0oz Barbel.
To save time with hair rigging I tied up a lassoo on the hair. I used a hook from the pound shop on the rig. I’ll tell you about these hooks in more detail another time but the risk was not that great as I’d previously destruction tested them at home. Thanks for putting me onto them Merv’. On the hair was one of Jeff Hatt’s pellets which fell into the boot of my car last year.

Whilst on the phone to Pete who was downstream I had another take. I put him on speaker and I whinnied like a little girl when I saw the size of the fish. It was another white water fight and the pound shop hook held firm.

The competition only really came into focus once I’d appreciated and safely returned this third barbel, but the fish secured a challenge point and found me punching the air and whooping in jubilation.

Massive fish tiny head - 11lbs 4oz Barbel.

I’d scored two points in a day and cracking the barbel point at the first attempt buys me a lot of time to chase other things. I nearly did it in two fish with the first and third fish.

Here are the scores on the doors today:

And finally here is a gallery from today of how not to take fishing photos!

My complexion's never looked so good.

Out of focus.

Nice bucket!

I love the Warks Avon.


Opening Day.

Wednesday June 16th, 04:30 - 21:45. LAA Stratford Upon Avon town water. 13>21>17C. Bright and sunny with light NE.

Catches on the opening day of the season rarely live up to expectations. But that’s only because expectations have had chance to breed and multiply unchecked by angling realism for three solid months. Running water memories quickly distill and by the time the 16th finally arrives your head is swimming with all manner of outlandish aims for that first morning.

On the other hand the opening day can never truly disappoint either, for we anglers have been away from the river for so long the pleasure of returning is enough in itself to entertain.

My stride towards the theatre stretch contained purpose and elation. I bid good morning with a broad smile as I passed the four other guys fishing. The sun was yet to rise and I put two zander rods out by the chain ferry. I savoured the mist on the water and eventually the suns rays cutting through it. Stratford was silent.

I had three enquiries before the day really got going but succeeded in missing all three – rustiness.

I couldn’t miss the fourth bite which was from an 8lb 14oz Pike.

As things brightened I tried for perch down the edge on red maggot. I caught just over 2lbs of them before these bites dried up too.

I moved, then moved again but the river was slow, clear and the day was bright. I couldn’t find the fish. Stratford was now humming and the river bank and grassed area looked Blackpool-esque with school parties, tourists from various nations and the heat coming up off the concrete banks. The fishing was reminiscent of the type you see on holidays abroad when the tourists stop for a while to watch the fishermen. “Gee Grace look here, this guys fishing! You after snapper buddy? I fish back home [let me tell you about it…]”.

I moved to a shady spot, drank a cold beer and fell asleep.

I awoke reinvigorated and set out for bleak on the whip. I had eight fish for eight ounces so that’s worth a fishing challenge point for me.

One of the bleak was head and shoulders above the others in size. I weighed it in a carrier bag and the scales said three ounces! At times like these I wish I had a pair of super sensitive scales. Mine read in ounce increments up to fifty pounds and although the carrier bag didn’t register when weighed on it’s own, just one ounce here is a third of the fishes weight. Given the bleak record is just four ounces it was a proper mini-specimen.

Evening advanced and I moved down to the weirs to finish the day as I started – after zander.

I had two in quick succession. The best was this fish of 5lbs 6ozs.

After this flyer I thought I could be on for a zed point too but the bites just fell away completely.

I moved again, upstream, but no more pulls resulted.

I walked back to the car sated but weary after seventeen hours on the bank.


Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Ryton's Rudd.

Tuesday 15th June, 16:00 - 16:45. Ryton Pool Information Desk Peg (1). 19C, NE breeze.

I'm off work for a couple of days now to reacquaint myself with running water. To kick things off I had an hour after work for Perch at Ryton on red maggot on the pole.

Barry Swain joined me on the peg and I trickled maggots in and fished up in the water.

I had nothing for the first fifteen minutes.

We then saw a rudd top for a floating caster.

Directly after this sighting I had a fish a chuck for half an hour as rudd intercepted the bait.

I caught eighteen rudd and a couple of perch. I lost my grip on six rudd and they dropped back into the water before I could get them into my small keepnet, so the photo below is only two thirds of my catch. The peg is in a parlous state angle-wise and so it's like fishing on a sloping floor in a 'house of fun' at the fair. Everything you put down makes it's way towards the water!

Notwithstanding a few scales missing from their recent transfer (or better still from spawning) it's good to know the rudd are doing well. They provide an extra dimension to the fishing at Ryton. I'm in favour of putting more of this splendid species into the water. If they grow on half as well as the carp which went in they will soon be worthy specimen quarry.


Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Wrong Type of Fish

 Thursday 10th June, 16:00 - 19:30. Lanny's Lagoon, small pool. 15C, overcast but dry, NE.

When was the last time you rolled your eyes when you saw a bream on the end of your line?

Oh hang on, that doesn't work. Let me try that again.....

When was the last time you rolled your eyes when you saw a crucian carp on the end of your line? Exactly. A crucian carp is always welcome right? Apart from that is when you're going all out for brown bloody goldfish! The type of fish most of us never target or hope to catch because they're neither here nor there species-wise and not generally prized. A fishing challenge like the one I'm in turns everything you know upside down.

I was after the buggers on a short time-limited session and came close to a point but 'no cigar'. I had five of them for 3lb 13oz.

They look like this:

Or variations on that theme. Brown in colour with no barbels around the mouth. Often exaggerated fins like an ornamental and with a distinctive serrated first spine on the dorsal fin.

I lost count of the fish I caught. I had a shed load. All on a bunch of maggots on a pole. Loads of the wrong type of fish.

I had what felt like millions of these:

Thousands of these:

Here we have the lesser-spotted half-carp.

Hundreds of these:

They are true crucians all day Danny, but a bit late to claim a point now.

And one of these:

One thing I did have to watch out for was a scale blinding the hook point. There were so many fish in the swim false bites were inevitable and if a strike didn't result in a hook-up the bait needed checking to ensure the hook hadn't been blinded.

This could cost you five minutes of missed bites if not dealt with.
Once again I had a cracking few hours sport at this fishery. For those with young kids this pool would be a great place to take them. Out of the wind and stuffed with various species up to a few pounds it's plenty entertaining.

Here's me not getting a point tonight:

And here are the current scores.