Monday, 4 January 2016

A game of two halves

Well my first post of 2016 and a rather overdue update at that! I hope everyone had a peaceful non hectic Christmas and has seen in the new year.

A few weekends ago I made piscatorial plans, a mental script of how the day could go, yet knowing full well that it might take a detour by that uncontrollable of factors, that a fish must be willing and despite an anglers water craft, the stark reality that he must still procure some luck, I had decided to spend the morning till late afternoon in search of perch on link ledgered lob worm and a feed of krill maggot, then from evening time change species to chub, bait a few swims with liquidised bread mixed with seed and maggot, changing to the blue krill cheese paste for hook bait.

It was a cloudy morning with an on and off helping of fine rain, the kind that convinces you that it is not making you that wet, but believe me this type of rain lies to an angler and is never to be trusted. My first swim brought me to a smooth bend, pacey but with some nice slack sections, a light feed of maggot was introduced before I rolled a double lob worm through, a few minutes in and the quiver twitched invitingly, a solid fight ensued from a very pretty chub, not my intended morning quarry but a nice looking fish of 3.11.

I considered taking a quick photo as I like to record most of my chub captures, as it helps give me an understanding of fish location and movement. Prior to setting up the camera I was landing my second fish of the trip, a smaller chub and decided it would be just a simple matter of slipping the net under it, that was indeed the case as the larger fish sprinted out as I did so! I must admit I saw the funny side and told myself to stick to the perch plan and move swims with a twenty minute regularity. Numerous good spots were tried and a few inquisitive taps were had as well as the odd trout which were hanging around areas that one would not have expected.

The final hour of daylight found me in a slower area of the river, here the fronds of what were once summer weed beds moved slowly back and forth, unwilling to give up their summer ghosts.
Not wanting to spook this small area I stayed back and fed a little and often trickle of maggots upstream of the swim, my first trundle connected with an adjacent bush instead of water, it was with some chagrin that I reached over and retrieved the link ledger sans one ssg shot, a second cast was attempted, this time the lob worm plopped into place rolling just under the bush and I must say it looked good for a bite. Five minutes later and a couple of tentative, harp like plucks occurred, they certainly had a touch of perch about them.

It was perhaps ten minutes after the kingfisher had flown passed my swim when the quiver tip nudged round with certain conviction, a light strike and nothing, just the feeling of something holding bottom, unwilling to move, at least until it awoken and that was when the clutch started chattering excitedly, I was having to play along with what felt a very good fish, after the initial dashes a proud dorsal and the bloodiest of red fins broke the surface, that was when the salivary glands that had been working fine all day switched off, dry tongue, dry mouth and a healthy helping of tightening throat kicked in as she disappeared back into the shadows to put me to the sword, the cogs of thought churned as did my stomach, was the hook hold a good one? Don't apply to much side strain, let her go a bit, this was fast turning into probably one of my best river perch scraps. After a couple of premature netting attempts she was safe within its confines.

Red finned gem (3.5)

If there were such a thing as perca perfection then she was not far from it with her blood red fins, in fact you may have thought I had taken a colouring pen to them they were so vivid! I was deeply  overjoyed, especially as tracking down the larger perch can at times be quite challenging on this particular waterway. After watching her swim away a sit down and a cold drink were needed, if anything to whet my dry whistle and compose myself.

By now daylight had been replaced by a rather gloomy evening, the wind was calm and it looked perfect for a switch of bait and species, heading to some swims downstream I decided to lightly bait these with some knobs of the blue krill paste and the mixture of liquidised bread, seed and maggot, a few inconspicuous balls placed into each swim, allowing these swims time to settle before fishing them. The first couple of spots produced one very good bite between them and forty minutes later it was becoming all too obvious that this may have been a one off and I had perhaps blown my chances either that or the fish had dropped off further downstream. I decided to move again and made my way to the third spot, a slack with a solid helping of debris and undercut bank. A large piece of cheese paste was soon winding its way toward the debris before settling under the bank.

I suppose it was around half an hour later when the bite occurred, if you can call it a bite, the butt of the rod was nestling against my leg at the time, ready for wary grab and go plucks when the rod  nearly launched off the front rest, savage would be putting it mildly, there was no way I could miss it and I was soon having a real game of soldiers trying to get control as the fish charged along the undercut bank and into the main flow, in doing so I could feel the line clipping the debris, it was a heart in mouth tussle to say the least and there is something special I always feel when you see a good chub break the surface, the broad, blunt looking head,thick set lips and chain mail armour, it was with some relief when I netted her.


I have been lucky to have had my share of nice chub over the years but this was probably one of my favourites, proportionally it had a lovely length and girth with a nice healthy gold enamelling to it. I did consider staying a little longer to try a few more swims but I was beyond content with the day's fishing, it had been a game of two halves where both species had proved most willing.

Just before Christmas I had arranged to meet up with Tom and take him to a waterway that I have made a couple of trips on in the past, one being earlier this season where I put the wax worms to use.


After our cars met bumper to bumper at one of the local car parks and having waited a few minutes for Tom to grab a loaf of Warburtons toastie we were soon on our way, it was evident that we were both looking forward to a days chub worrying and we had a cornucopia of baits with which to tempt them with, as we made our way to the little river I explained how it responded to rainfall rather quickly and at the same time usually dropped pretty fast too, today I expected it to be rather low and clear much like it had been for most of the season.

September panorama of a forgotten waterway

It was a sunny morning but that was to be short lived and eventually replaced by squally showers.
We started in a few earlier swims upstream as I felt it best for us as these areas were as of yet undisturbed, being sure to leave a large gap between Tom and I so that he would have a good area to go at before meeting up with me downstream. Leaving Tom to crack on I headed downstream to chance my arm along some scoured bank replete with tangled tree roots, a few trundles later and I had the first small chevin of the day, picture perfect condition and a feisty little fellow, once safely returned no more bites were forthcoming and it was a case of moving on.

Like all tiny rivers this particular waterway is condensed with features that hold chub, perch, dace and many other species, some of these are great nursery swims for younger year groups of fish however along with these features and the fact that I do consider this waterway a bit of a spate river it also has the uncanny ability to replace an anglers ssg armoury with an empty tub or two along the way, something both Tom and I found throughout this trip.

For want of a deeper analysis I am usually quite a loner, something I am trying to rectify but it has not been without having my fingers burnt in the past. When it comes to my fishing I do generally prefer my own company, I focus better and feel a lot less socially awkward and drained owing to not needing to attempt to read into another persons well meaning or conniving body language during or after this social interaction and I would say this has also helped spur me on in finding places that are often overlooked from a fishing point of view, as I also seek solitude and peace, not only some forgotten fishing venues to wet a line upon. Obviously I am not advocating my social demeanour I'm simply stating how I am, those who don't understand or whom wish to grind their own agendas, cast aspersions openly or behind another's back need not apply.

I hope the above doesn't come across as being impolite or indeed seemingly rude, as I do try to be as forthcoming as I can and at times this has led to other anglers taking me for a bit of a ride due to my lack of ability in reading their intentions.

I guess that I went off at a bit of a tangent there..

Tom and I met up downstream near to a nice section of double bends, an area with plenty of flotsam and coverage. A section where I have had chub in the past and I suggested it would be a good idea to try this area, not that Tom or myself need to be asked twice when it comes to such sumptuous features, after a couple of casts he was soon playing a rather frisky chub that had other ideas as it made several dashes for snags.

A healthy small river chub

Heading on from here we decided to partake in a spot of lunch and fish a swim that you might call a bit of a nursery pool, many bites were had here and numerous chublets were caught, a very healthy sign for the future, Tom also had quite a few enquiring taps and had his first perch from this waterway. Unfortunately by now the little river was rising rapidly and the wind increasing, branches were dropping at random intervals and it was safe to say that it was a bit Russian roulette as to whether a dead branch would perhaps hit one of us, Tom soon found this out in a swim which he had a chub from when a bit of a near miss occurred.

The day had sped by and as daylight changed to a dank grey we found ourselves in the final downstream swims, leaving Tom to explore another set of inviting bends I headed down to another  area of the river, a smooth steady flow with a nice slack at the opposite end, a few minutes later and I had a very confident bite from a healthy, slate grey chevin.

Just as I was about to slip this fish back Tom came to inform me that he had caught a better fish, on reaching his swim I could see a plump chub sulking in the net, a quick guesstimate was made between us as we weighed her, I had said 3.8 to 3.12, the scales settled at 3.7, she was rather hollow  and given her frame could have been a 4lb fish, a most satisfying capture for Tom from a waterway which I am sure has larger fish hiding along its concourse waiting for us to seek out.

A happy Tom

Now some anglers might think to themselves, why fish an unknown venue when either of you could be targeting the likes of Avon, Stour and Loddon to name but a few good rivers for large chub, but the fact is that there are many unknown smaller rivers out there and overlooked brooks which have the capacity to produce some excellent fish, so why not? Granted in such rivers the populace of larger fish may not be as high and you do indeed need to do your groundwork to locate them, but the feeling of appreciation and reward when you do so is incomparable.

Come evening time and as we made our way back to the car we chatted tiredly, happy even if a tad windblown.

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Fishing For Memories

A couple of days after boxing day I decided to make my way to the Loddon and see if I could perhaps pick up an end of year barbel, taking with me a frugal mixture of birdseed, krill powder and liquidised bread as well as a small amount of slick sense barbel boilie barrels, I can't say it was without some head scratching as a couple of trips before the festive period had given me a sound lesson in humility and despite the mild conditions a couple of barbel blanks.

It was another mild afternoon, not quite as breezy as it had been, the river level was up with a nice tinge of colour to it with the odd weed raft and branch floating by, this factor tempered my choice of swim and I decided to fish an area that had some nice marginal features as well as a slack just off the main flow, a perfect place for food to accumulate and fish to move into to rest away from the main current. A light helping of liquidised bread and seed was placed into the edge of this slack along with no more than five free offerings of the boilie barrels. By around 4pm I had received a few jerky taps which I suspected were chub fiddling with the bait, however that was not to be the case as the clawed and whittled bait told a different story of crayfish claws, after not having a single bite from a crayfish or indeed a barbel on the prior trips I did wonder if a change of swim might be in order, after a good chat with my other friend also oddly called Mark (ok I admit I talk to myself) I decided to change baits to a harder hook bait and stay put.

At about 7pm and after having quite a few jerky knocks and taps the reel went into meltdown and I was soon playing a strong fish that was hell bent on making for some downstream snags, bushes and anything it could seemingly find, numerous little scrapes and thuds could be felt as main line and lead tripped too close to these. After a cracking scrap a long barbel slipped over the net, peering into its folds I could make out a slight mark on one flank, a small round blemish which you could almost call a birthmark, I instantly realised this fish was an old friend and indeed my barbel pb from a year ago. She looked in good condition but down in weight, sure enough she was and weighed 14.7, to put this into perspective I caught her last October at 15.6, so she was down in weight by 15oz's which is quite a lot considering the mild conditions compared to last winter.

I was so very happy to see her again, healthy even if down in weight and I guess you could say that it was a bit like meeting a fond friend for a Christmas get together. After wishing her a safe journey I drained the dregs from my coffee flask, gave the river a smile, murmured thank you and slowly made my way home.


  1. Happy New Year Mark.
    What are the chances of catching the same great fish twice? Amazing!

    1. Happy new year to you too mate I hope 2016 is a good year for yourself and relatives. Catching the same fish can happen, depending on a few factors such as populace and an individual fishes necessity to feed, I was just glad that she remains safe.

  2. Some special fish there Mark, very very nice indeed. I'm looking for a big Chub, still not managed it. I hope your "fond friend" is just a little behind schedule, let's hope she's okay

    1. Hello there James, I was over the moon with the trips, not always the case that you get two species in the right mood during one trip. I did think it was odd at the time for her to be down in weight, someone did suggest age, but oddly enough Tom also caught his old chub pb on the same day whilst out fishing another river and that was down in weight too. So not sure what to make of it really because with such mild conditions you would expect them to be feeding and bulking out more? It is a curious one to say the least. Talking of good fish, you had a cracking season and that pike you had recently was a lovely way to see out the last month of the year.

  3. Fantastic brace Mark, a chub and a perch of the very highest quality.... I'm green with envy :o) I won't even mention the barbel :-O

    Happy new year!!

    1. Happy new year Dave, I'm not sure where 2015 went but it went faster than most years, or maybe that is just something that happens as you get older. Thanks so much it was a wonderful fishing trip and that would be putting it lightly.

  4. A lovely read Mark, as always... Some cracking fish there mate and thanks again for such a great trip! Hopefully the rivers will fine down and we will be put back in the lottery for some decent chub sport :)

    1. Hello Tom, it took a few evenings to piece such a large blog post together and in hindsight may have been wiser to not leave it so long before updating it all, you're welcome with the trip and thanks for also offering me trips down your neck of the woods too. Fingers crossed the rivers do fine down, that said they did need a good flush through and I am told that the weather is getting more colder from next week, awaken the frosty dawns and misty mornings of the chub angler.