Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Subliminal messages - Turbulent Thames

This weekend saw myself and Jeff Hatt of Idlers Quest, finally meet to do some fishing together on a stretch of the upper Thames, we had been planning this trip since about November, but each time our plans were thrown into disarray by the very inclement weather and flooding that followed it.

However the weather seemed to settle a little bit and in fairness probably lured us into a false sense of security, so plans were cemented into place, Jeff coming down by train to Didcot station at around 8am and meeting with myself and very kind driver (mum). As the train pulled in, there was no mistaking Jeff as he appeared, rods on shoulder, seat in hand and rucksack on back, greetings and handshakes were exchanged, it was nice after all this time to eventually meet up with him.

A short journey later we was unpacking the gear and making our way to the Thames, unfortunately two days prior to the trip it had been raining solidly in my locality and the river was reacting in expected fashion, however despite the water levels being on the rise, the colour looked spot on and we was both confident of a bite or two, both planning to fish feeder tactics for the majority of the trip, with perhaps a lone rod out for the resident chub and barbel.

Jeff starting at the weir and myself dropping a little way downstream of it, chancing my luck in an area where the flow is broken by a tiny island with numerous bits of debris that had collected behind it, lobworms were the starting bait for both hopeful anglers, after about forty minutes I had a very light tap, a most miniscule bite, but a bite nonetheless, sadly a full bite failed to materialize, little did we know that this was going to be a recurring pattern throughout the day.

It wasn't long before Jeff past me by and informed me that some of his feeders had fallen victim to the weirs numerous snags and that there had been a distinct lack of bites forthcoming from this area, so he decided to try some spots further downstream.

I was going to stay and fish more static, as I really felt my spot could produce a good fish or two especially being adjacent to many nice features, but at around 11am the lock keeper came down and decided it was time to open all the sluice gates, the river reacted instantly, water rising and my swim starting to churn, I can't say that I was exactly overjoyed to see him at this time.

I decided to scrap the static approach and make my way downstream. It was at this point that the amount of debris left by the previous floods really hit home, broken kayaks, masses of plastic bottles, linen baskets and even full size televisions were sat on the riverbank, along with huge tree trunks, if ever you needed reminding of the force of nature then this certainly did, I must admit one of the plastic bottles did raise a smile and chuckle from me, the label containing an almost subliminal message.

Making my way to Jeff, I stopped and we had a bite to eat and chat, he mentioned he had a small perch but nothing else, however as is sods law, he had a more confident bite as we chatted, which took him a bit by surprise, especially given the lack of action most of the day, to all intents and purposes it looked like a chub bite.

We were both spurred on by this extra bit of activity and more hopeful that we might pick up more fish as the day went on, I decided to drop into a swim just downstream of Jeff, where there was a slight bend and some protection from the extra flow, with a partially submerged tree to my right, a larger amount of groundbait moulded round the lead and out it went, this area looked good for a bite and sure enough thirty minutes in I had one, the quiver tip jerking round and then motionless, nothing more or less, both Jeff and myself were a tad puzzled to say the least, we were coming to the conclusion that it was going to be one of those days where you would be scratching about for bites on the river.

Spot the television in the distance

A variety of spots were tried, some with the odd half hearted bite forthcoming, many with not so much as a pluck, Jeff meanwhile had ventured further afield and was fishing downstream, with one other rod out on cooked mussels, whilst trotting a float with his other.

Daylight was now slowly but surely fading away and any hope of adding to that one small perch along with it, so we decided to move to a slower area, usually good for a nice mixed bag of fish, this time the bites began in earnest, Jeff having taps and plucks on bread straight away, the same for myself on lobworm, it looked promising, but the fish were only flattering to deceive and soon enough the bites dried up, popping down to Jeff, we compared notes,  "I was getting bites straight away on bread, but they have suddenly stopped"  said he, " same for me on lobworms and loose fed groundbait" I replied.

We pondered, shared biscuits and mused. It had certainly been a real head scratching trip, but just as we was going to pack up, I was saved from a blank by a baby chub of no more than 7oz's. A welcome fish on a most confounding day. I really enjoyed fishing with Jeff and some of the conversations that we had were very amusing and interesting, that is one of the things that I really enjoy about blogging, being able to share ideas, read about other anglers trips and also now getting a bit more used to meeting up and fishing with a few of you chaps, it really is something that I appreciate a lot, even if the fishing was a bit of a damp squib on this particular occasion!


  1. Fair play for making the effort Mark. Those little bites can make your head spin some days, I think its just the fish having fun at our expense :o)

    1. Cheers Dave,

      Fish head scratching aside, it was an enjoyable day spent with Jeff, just ashame the fish weren't in a bit more of a forthcoming mood for him.

    2. It was enjoyable in a head scratching way! Looked good too, but was really tough going. Not bothered about catching fish the whole time, Mark, it's the trying to but getting nowhere that's bothering but still interesting because there was no reason for it we could fathom. But the fish had good reason and I wonder what that reason was? I think the fact that a whole river can just shut up shop is fascinating.

    3. Agree with you on that Jeff 100%.

      The water colour looked decent and I have had fish from there when the water has been a whole lot more muddy or tea coloured, I do wonder why they weren't really on the feed too, that certainly was quite baffling.

  2. Hi Mark

    Still reading and enjoying your wonderful blogs.

    Can I ask, where on the Thames were you exactly?

    All the very best

    1. Hello there Russ and thank you.
      I can't give the exact location but will say it is on the upper Thames.

  3. Well done guys for giving it a go. Sometimes its good to just be on the bank and stick two fingers up at the weather and poor river conditions. I enjoy the upper Thames too. I was due there 2 days prior to the season ending but got snowed in! Ah well there's always next season.

    1. Agreed Nathan, I have to say that even though the season was not the most straight forward, what I did fish of the upper Thames has me wanting more. It is rather beautiful. Unlucky about getting snowed in, lets just hope next season has a bit more of a steady weather pattern to it.