Tuesday, 6 April 2021

60 Second Blog Roll - Storm Dennis

15th February 2020.     With a couple of hours free in the evening and the rivers too high to fish on the back of Storm Dennis, I headed to Astwood Fishery in pursuit of it's resident ghost carp. There are also a number of french-strain mirror carp in the fishery with deep shoulders that give them an almost dinner-plate body shape. It's the ghosties though that for me, set this fishery apart from other commercials in Worcestershire.

I'd never fished it in the winter, and was fully expecting to blank. Nonetheless the freezer was overflowing with ageing particles which needed getting through and a little me-time sounded like a reasonable end to the afternoon.

Without a huge amount of time I kept things simple - Harrison torrix 11ft rod and a 'pin attached to a delicate float and 6lb hooklength. The bait would be mixed particles boosted with Severn Valley Barbel Products Tardip in Ambush flavour. I originally planned to fish a number of marginal swims in rotation. However, with the weather at the fishery a little worse than it was at home I settled for hunkering down beneath my waterproof in just a single spot. 

I spent a little time looking for the deepest marginal swim I could find on the back-end of the wind, settling on one with an overhanging bush and 2ft of depth tight to the bank. The idea was to pick up the odd carp which may have been moving in and out of the bay on routine evening cruises hunting for discarded bait. 

The first hour passed uneventfully. But as dusk started to arrive the float gave the tiniest lift from it's wind-tilted position before settling again. It was just enough to catch my attention and moments later the float sailed away. Striking into the fish I instantly felt the connection with the slow heavy plod of a winter carp. With the water temperature in low single figures, there was none of the usual crazed tearing about usually associated with margin-hooked carp. Rather, the fish stayed deep and steady resisting any attempt on my part to intervene. 

Moody Skies
The first glimpse of the fish confirmed it was my target quarry, a deep-bodied ghost carp. My existing pb was a touch over 13lb, and the fish looked there or thereabouts. With just that one glimpse the fish pulled back hard and dived back to the depths. A few more nervous minutes passed before the fish re-surfaced and rolled over and into the waiting net.  

The fish was thick-set and had a pronounced belly, tipping the scales at 14 lb 6 oz. One bite, one fish, and a personal best. Not the first time I've written about venturing out into poor weather conditions and breaking a pb! Looking out of the window at the unseasonable snow as I write this... does make me wonder whether I should have picked up a rod rather than my laptop this evening! 

14lb 6 oz - and a personal best

Cream-set grey scales give these fish their 'ghostly' appearance beneath the surface. 

Monday, 1 March 2021

Winter Blanking - Severn at Bewdley

8th Feb 2020    As we moved into February the Midlands’ rivers, whilst high, were finally out of the fields. With the weather cold and bright I decided to make a trip out onto the Severn to try the KDAA stretch at Bewdley, which typically fished well in high-water and with a roving approach there were always a few fish to be found. However, on arrival at Bewdley Tackle & Leisure to pick up a day ticket and some bait it became apparent that this stretch was booked for a match. Without an immediate Plan B, I took the opportunity for a long overdue catch-up with Adam over a brew, including his exploits fishing for big carp in France. We also weighed-up nearby available day ticket options and on Adam’s advice settled on the Dudley Angling Club stretch immediately upstream of Blackstone Rock. The river here is wide and split in two by an island. A deep gulley runs down the side of the island and this is a particularly good holding spot in low-water summer conditions.

Feature rich - an understanding of the riverbed's landscape can be critical. 

The flow however turned out to be too heavy to hold in this area of the river and I instead settled in the deep slack water a few rod lengths out. I introduced hemp and maggot by baitdropper and fished this area for much of the day, both with a feeder and stick-float. After trying every trick in the book without so much as a pluck I upped-sticks and tried 3 or 4 locations upstream, again targeting the slack water either side of near bank trees. The barbel it seemed just weren’t in the mood. Even the chub, normally reliably greedy whatever the conditions, couldn’t be roused from their wintery bolt-holes. A chat with the bailiff at the end of the day confirmed that I’d been presenting the right baits, the right ways in the right areas. 

Barbel can be fickle creatures during winter, and blanking is part and parcel of being out on the bank at this time of year. There are rich rewards to be had with fish carrying a little extra winter padding and many of my personal bests have been broken at this time of year. But the fishes feeding activity and therefore the catch-rate does tend to nose-dive and so the blanks must be expected. They re-affirm my conviction that any day with a barbel on the bank is a success, especially in winter. Besides, despite the lack of fish it was a fine sunny day to be out on the river, and it was a joy to get back out there after the seemingly endless weeks of flooding!

Maggots and hemp - come into their own for shy winter feeders

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Good Weather for Sailing - Ellerdine in High Winds.

11th Jan 2019     With the rivers in flood and stillwater-inhabiting coarse fish still cold and lethargic, a couple of opportunities to go fishing in January meant fly-fishing was back on the agenda. Speaking of flies, there was just one in the ointment - high winds. With winds forecast for 30 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph casting was going to be mostly a downwind affair. Still, I'd whetted my appetite for a big trout from Ellerdine and still wanted to catch my first tiger, spartic or blue trout. 

Dawn - a beautiful time to arrive at any fishery

On arrival I opted for the lake immediately in front of the lodge, and positioned myself on the point of a spur that juts out into the lake. The wind was blowing from behind (and slightly across) from me, so I was able to use the wind to my benefit rather than work against it. It's worth noting that you should take great care casting flies in windy conditions and if there's any doubt about whether the fly is going to catch you rather than the fish it's better to try something different. If you do persevere then  a pair of safety specs or sunglasses are well worth considering to protect the eyes. 

I started with a black leech on a slow intermediate, with a 12 ft leader. The first couple of casts resulted in the fly just sitting limply on the surface, and so a little sinkant was applied to get the fly down in the water. My third cast, and the first to result in the fly actually sinking resulted in a sharp tug part way through the retrieve. A quick strip of the line and a lift of the rod and I was into my first fish. Arriving early and creeping along the banks of busy fisheries often seems to yield quick results.  A rainbow of a couple of lbs put up a spirited fight before slipping into the net. Not one of Ellerdine's monsters but a welcome sight and confirmation I wasn't completely mad to be out fishing in the conditions.

Black snake / leech - deadly in coloured water for fry-feeding trout

Casting back out I had two tugs in quick succession, neither resulting in a fish, likely the fish just nipping at the back of the leech without quite engulfing the hook. After no further action for an hour I inspected the movement of the fly in the water and it again seemed to be staying a little high in the water column for my liking. I applied another liberal coating of sinkant, checked the fly in the margin and cast back to the horizon. After no more than perhaps 5 yards of stripping another tug and another modest rainbow was connected with and brought to the net. 

Another twenty minutes passed before I connected to my third fish of the day, the fish hammering into the fly and shooting away, stripping line through the rod rings and off the reel. The fish put up a really dogged fight and my eyes lit up as I caught that first glimpse of the fishes flanks as it turned and bolted under the rod tip. Tiger! Getting control of the fish and myself I managed to navigate the leader past the bankside cover without incident and brought my first Tiger Trout to net. A quick photo and a weigh in the net and the fish was slipped back. My first Tiger Trout at 3 lbs 12 oz. It's interesting to see the difference between the different species, the big paddle-like caudal fin, thick caudal peduncle and powerful jaws. Not to mention the pretty mottled pattern across the back and flanks. 

Tiger! Look at those markings!

The next hour was one of frustration. I connected with three fish and failed to land any of them. The first, a savage take whilst stripping the leech quickly through some rising fish snapped my leader as I trapped the fly line against the rod with my hand. The second snapped me off after the fly line wrapped around some bull rushes at my feet. The third, a nice brown, simply fell off at the net. Still my mood lifted when I finally landed my fourth fish and my first ever blue trout. The unmistakable blue hue of the trout's back almost seemed to glow in the water. Weighing the fish at 2lb 3oz I returned the fish and continued. A small tiger, a 3lb rainbow and another smaller rainbow all followed before pausing for a spot of lunch. It had been a superb morning's fishing. I'd achieved my objectives and the sport had been really prolific. 

Blue Trout! I can't imagine where they get their name from...

Retreating to the warm lodge with it's crackling log fire and a flask of soup I reflected. I would try something a bit different for the afternoon. My casting arm was getting tired, and I'd seen a number of fish fry-feeding in against the downwind bank which was being lashed by the waves generated by the high winds. 

Choppy - Fish can often be found on the tail of the wind

Picking myself back up I headed back out into the cold. A few casts into the wind resulted in the fly landing behind me rather than in the water. With the waves high and the water coloured I guessed that the fish steaming into the near bank margin to harass fry weren't going to be overly cautious. Flicking the fly into the margin with no more than 4ft of leader off the end of the rod tip I proceeded to walk the fly along the margin. Tea in one hand, rod in the other it was only a moment before the rod tip bent round and a fighting fit rainbow shot out of the margin tearing line off the spool. Sacrificing the tea I took the rod in both hands and played the fish to net in the waves and the wind. At 3lb 7 oz the fish was above average and took the fish count to eight. Moving to the next bay and fishing the same technique, I reached the end of the bay and was just lifting the leech to flick it back out and a huge blue trout leapt from the water engulfing the fly in the process. My excitement was short-lived however with the fish shedding the hook on it's first run. I was gutted. The fish was comfortably into double figures. Thick-set, long, aggressive. But not to be. You can't win them all I suppose!

The next fish resulted in my third new species of the trip, a spartic! The fish was short and stunted, but tremendously fat and tipped the scale at 2lb 7 oz. Another spartic followed shortly after, breaking my newly set pb with a weight of 4lb 6 oz. Another rainbow followed before losing a final fish hooked during a retrieve along the reed-line.  

I'm Sparticus!

No, I'm Sparticus!

With eleven fish and four different species of trout it had been a tremendous day's fishing. My only regrets would be that in losing that brownie at the net I hadn't quite completed the full-house of trout stocked within the fishery. That and the ghost of that enormous blue trout leaping from the water was now etched onto my memory. 

So much did that lost brown haunt me in the coming days, I revisited Ellerdine a few weeks later, (22nd Jan). This time the water was mill-pond calm, but I still managed three rainbows and that brownie that evaded me the trip before. The fish was a deep silver with large black spots peppering it's flanks, weighing 3-4 lbs.

The Elusive Brown - Better late than never!

Ellerdine truly is a fabulous fishery, and I've really enjoyed catching something a little different to the average stockie rainbows that I'm perhaps used to. I'll definitely be back, perhaps that big blue trout fancies another tussle...

River Wye Fishing - Cover Photo


Dec 2019              When I started writing this blog I hadn’t quite anticipated how writing would influence another growing hobby of mine, photography. With the blog in mind I’m rarely on the bank these days without a camera, even if it’s just my trusty smartphone. I find myself thinking more carefully about the shots that record my time on the bank and have taken real pride in some of the results. It was with great joy then that one such photo was selected as the cover photo for the River Wye Fishing facebook group and it’s near 3k members. It felt like a testament, that hopefully I was getting something right and my photographs were providing as much joy to other anglers as they were myself.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Winter Sunshine - Taking advantage of feeding windows

In the height of summer there's often no worse condition than bright sunshine. With fish increasingly wary of predators, and water low and clear, nothing sends barbel diving for cover like a clear blue sky. And yet in winter the exact opposite can be true. Barbel fishing is undoubtedly tougher in winter. The fish will feed in the coldest of conditions, but their appetites are much reduced and concentrated into narrow time-windows as they manage energy budgets in cooler water. The trick is to look for the environmental conditions that open these windows, and also those that will slam them firmly shut. I was reminded of this on a trip to the River Wye in December 2019. The river was high and coloured and the day had started off cold and overcast. We had fished the morning without success, targeting both the pacier water out in front and the calm slacks above and below trees that overhung the bankside and now acted as breakwaters to the relentless flow of tea-coloured water. The full range of bait options had been explored, and every trick in the book deployed. Not so much as a nibble, other than on the delightful chicken and chorizo pasties Nick had baked. The barbel's appetites may have nodded off for the morning, but chunks of chorizo and strips of chicken doused in a sticky spicy sauce and encased in pastry were doing it for me! (Leave your email address in the comments for the recipe! #omnomnomnom!)

Mid-afternoon brought a change in the weather. The sky cleared, the sun rose in the sky and the temperature bumped up by around 8 degrees. The conditions only lasted an hour or so before the falling sun and the clear sky caused the temperature to drop sharply once more. But there was no doubt about it, it was the sort of weather change that brings barbel on the munch in the depths of winter!  

Poised... rigs perfect, conditions right... Any moment now?

It pays to be ready for these conditions. Rods set, baits ready, hooks checked for sharpness, hooklengths for frays. You don't want to sit and wait in the cold all day and then miss your one opportunity. We decided to hedge our bets. I fished the deeper pacey water, and Mr. Fisher targeted the slacks. We were sure the weather would bring them on, we knew this section of the river regularly held fish, so fishing their two main haunts seemed a sensible bet. We were confident that the change in conditions would bring the fish on the feed, and we were ready... waiting... out of pasties.

My luck came in first. No more than half an hour after the change in conditions my rod twanged violently and then went slack for just a moment as the dislodged lead shot down river taking up the slack from the bowed line. The rod hooped over just as my hand gripped the slender cork handle and I lifted into a typical floodwater barbel, staying deep and holding easily in the flow. Each surging run stripped of yard upon yard of hard-won territory. Bringing fish back upstream in these conditions is never easy. The nearside bank is peppered with now-sunken shrubs and there's only a narrow section to guide them through. Precision stuff.  After a long tussle of man vs. fish, with fish using several hundred cubic metres of water per second to it's every advantage I guided the net underneath my winter trophy. Not a huge fish, perhaps 5-6 lbs, but it shone like a bar of gold in the winter sunshine. It's metallic flanks iridescent, peach coloured fins aglow. There are moments when you just have to admire the beauty in nature, and this was one of them. A beautiful fish, so perfectly adapted to life in a raging river. This wasn't a fish hiding down the edge, it has been caught in the tooth of the flow, a large bow of slack line the only think keeping the lead in place. 

Bar of gold - iridescent in the winter sun

Peach-hewed pelvic fins keep barbel anchored to the bottom in flood conditions

Slipping the fish back I tried for another in the same location without success. Keen to not waste the opportunity of a feeding window I gambled with a switch to a slack section between two trees, deep water with cover and sheltered from the flow. Before I had the chance to see if my rod would hoop over again I was rudely interrupted  by the familiar shout of 'Fish on!' from up-river...

Bankside trees provide breakwaters in the flow and natural shelter for barbel in flood.

As I arrived Nick was trying to keep a barbel from embedding itself in the near-bank snags. Time and time again it shot off downstream, dragging Nicks tackle through the bankside scrub. Eventually the fish obligingly shot out into open water and Nick was able to guide it upstream and back into the bank to his waiting net. Another fish of perhaps 5-6lbs. Nick seemed to have taken offence at my suggestion it was just a splasher of 3lb or so. Barbel are so deceptive to gauge size-wise until you've got them on the bank. I'm genuinely rubbish at guessing when they're in the water! 

Stunning. Size doesn't matter when fish look this good.

No sooner than Nick had slipped the barbel back the sun began to descend in the sky, the temperature dropped and the window closed. There were no more takes, just a glorious sunset. It had been a glorious day on the river. Not just because we'd caught that feeding window amongst perfect conditions, but catching a few was certainly the icing on the cake. 

Sunshine - warmer conditions can bring fantastic sport. Be ready...!

Friday, 5 February 2021

Exploring New Waters - Ellerdine

Leaving the New Forest behind, my mind turned to my next trip, supposedly a visit to the Wye hoping it would give up its first double figure barbel. With the rivers in the fields a rethink was needed and I decided to head to Ellerdine trout fishery for a spot of fluff-chucking. Mr. Fisher was joining proceedings, and having never tried fly-fishing before it would give me a chance to introduce him to the sport. 

Famed as a big-fish water, but also holding tigers and spartics which I had never fished for, I had hopes of catching something special. In reality when visiting a new water, and especially with a beginner to thrash the water to a foam, any fish on the bank would be a success. 

Given the travel distance to the wrong side of Telford, it seemed rude not to call in at Ironbridge to watch the sun rise. It didn't quite turn out as planned, arriving a little late with both the access roads and footpaths around the bridge closed by flooding. Still, with a little perseverance I managed to find my way safely down to a part-flooded towpath to capture the last hint of golden hue on the ironwork and mist rising from the river.  

Ironbridge. A venue I hope to fish some day. 

Navigating my way onwards to Ellerdine proved equally tricky with a number of deep floods blocking access. After a few detours I found my way onto the long gravel track leading across the fields. The fishery is properly tucked away in the Shropshire countryside and you'd never stumble across it by accident. The fishery comprises four pools, the smallest of which is catch and dispatch only. The pool immediately in front of the lake is open water with bays of flag iris and rushes along the left hand bank. Two spurs at the far end provide natural holding spots for feeding fish. There is a reasonable depth against the bank and trout can be caught immediately against it. 

Ellerdine - 4 lakes, each stuffed with an array of trout

The second pool beyond the front plane of the lodge is dominated by islands which forming its snake-like arrangement with one deeper open section of water at the far left-hand side. This water reputably holds an upper-20lb blue trout which was stocked but never caught. The third and largest pool is located to the rear of the lodge with a central island running down it's length at 'just about' casting distance. The fourth pool, also behind the lodge is the smallest and being catch and dispatch is presumably mostly populated with stockies.

Drifting - Letting the wind do the work is a great way to rest weary arms. 

We spent the first hour introducing Nick to the basics, a simple single haul cast and the important mantra that you don't need to cast any further than a single rod length. I remember when someone taught me the latter, I nodded obligingly but didn't really believe it given I could always see fish rising just out of my reach. It's absolutely true however and you're far more likely to catch in the margins than anywhere else. These days my first few casts in any particular swim are to check whether there's anything lurking against the bank. More often than not, there is!

Nick caught early doors, with possibly the most comedic 'first fish' I've witnessed - a perch so small it had barely begun to form it's body shape. It was barely bigger than the white snake he was fishing with! Still, you've got to love greedy, ambitious fish. If I was a tiny perch in a water filled with hungry fry-bashing trout I'd probably try to eat anything that moved too. Quick! Get bigger! Get bigger!

"It was this big" Possibly the smallest perch ever landed on a 2" snake...

The water seemed to be in a funny mood and not many were catching. I managed a couple of small but welcome trout on an olive damsel and cats whisker respectively, but Nick struggled to connect. He was fishing with my floating 7 wt, whilst I fished on an intermediate 5 wt. I've since learnt that fish at Ellerdine seem to prefer a sinking line. You don't see a huge amount of rises, so this also supports the view that the fish perhaps feed on aquatic life a little deeper in the water column. 

Poised for a tug...

Another greedy perch followed before we departed for a warm pub (the Ugly Duckling - purveyors of a truly amazing sharing platter!). I gifted the trout to Nick to take home and cook for the family. He had obviously enjoyed a spot of fluff chucking as he very shortly afterwards invested in a a fly rod! Next time I'll set him up fishing under the bung so he can feel the joy of fighting an angry trout attached to a fly line. There's nothing really quite like it!
Mission successful

Perch - stunning fish, even the small'uns.

Sunset - No evening rise, but a beautiful way to end the session.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

The Fisherman's Haunt – Pt III - Throop

The third and final installment of our trip to the New Forest saw us make a visit to the chub fishing mecca that is Beat 2 at Throop Fishery. Thanks at this point must go to Dave Roach of UK Angling Forums for giving some advice on all-things-fishing-in-Dorset, though I must admit I feel a little like I've failed him thus far without managing to bank a single fish!

The Dorset Stour was considerably higher and angrier than the Hampshire Avon, but Dave had assured me that if the path opposite the new weir was passable then the remainder of the beat should be accessible. Having forgotten to pack my wellies, I only hoped he was correct! However 12-18 inches of water across the towpath suggested otherwise! 

"You'll be fine" said Dave...

Fortunately I had the wifely packhorse with me, and she had packed her wellies! So building a rudimentary bridge across the worst of it with a spare plank and stripping off my boots and socks, I waded off through the oh-so-cold water whilst my better half ferried the fishing gear! 

Anyone for a team-building day?

With the river so high, it was impossible to discern any meaningful features. I adopted a position which should at least give me some options, positioning myself on the outside of a sweeping bend with fast water downstream and a deep slack upstream sheltered by over-hanging trees. If my judgement had failed me, there was always luck!  I focused my efforts on the edge of the crease with a maggot feeder, whilst my second rod alternated between two positions - 30 yards downstream from my maggot feeder, and underneath the upstream tree. My maggot line was intending to catch anything that swims, whilst the second rod was hoping to picking up a barbel or perhaps a greedy chub, so a big smelly bait was the order of the day.
Ohhh... It's going to be one of those days...

After half an hour of relentless tapping on my finest quiver tip, I had failed to register a fish. Switching to a helicopter rig, better suited to roach I started catching silvers a-fish-a-chuck. Nothing of notable size, though I did manage to catch a gudgeon, something I haven't caught from a UK river in years. Wifely packhorse must have thought I'd gone quite mad, seeing my apparent excitement at landing such a small and seemingly insignificant fish!

Go on.. .Give us a kiss...

As the day progressed the stamp of roach began to improve with better fish of around 8-10 ounces. A couple of roach fisherman trotting breadflake a little way downstream hadn't managed any better. With the day wearing on and a  three hour drive home ahead of us we needed to leave the river mid-afternoon. With an hour to go I packed up most of my gear and went for a rove to target some marginal slacks on a stick float. It wasn't to be. 

Stour Roach...

As we made the long journey back home I reflected on what had been a fantastic long weekend away, even if it was relatively light on fish. The pub was warm and cosy, the food fabulous and the company even better. The weather had been mild and sunny and I had a little more of an understanding of two unfamiliar rivers. I'd learnt a lot, and look forward to revisiting these beats in future to apply that knowledge. Oh, and I'd caught a gudgeon!

Another look? Oh go on then...

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

The Fisherman's Haunt – Pt II - The Royalty

October 2019 still, and day two of my trip down to the New Forest. With an unsuccessful few hours the night before at Winkton the warm atmosphere of a cosy pub was just the tonic I needed to refresh morale and chatter through hopes and dreams for the following day. I knew relatively little about the Royalty other than you had to buy a day ticket on the day from Davis Tackle and on a weekend it would likely be very busy. And so it was an early breakfast at The Fisherman's haunt before loading the car to what felt like a mad dash to Christchurch. I hadn't realized that the Royalty tickets were cash only and despite getting to the shop for doors-opening had to divert to the nearest cashpoint at a local supermarket. Returning to the shop I bought a ticket and headed down to the bank with only a handful of other anglers already there. These red letter trips always build so much hope, but with that also comes the risk of disappointment. For me the experience ends up loaded with anxiety, which somehow seems to defeat the purpose of being there! Definitely something I need to work on. In this case there were a few 'known' swims I wanted to head for and the anxiety was driven by not being able to get onto one of them. Daft isn't it?

The Royalty - Keepers of possibly the best man-cave in fishing

The beat was a lot more urban than I expected but was stuffed with attractive features, not least the amazing lodge with its trophy adorned walls and vintage fishing gear. A proper man-cave I thought. The river twists and turns, almost back on itself in places, as it meanders through the length of the beat and every section seemed to offer something to beckon me to fish there! In the end I opted for the pipe swim. The river was up and pushing through, but the weather was mild and conditions I thought looked ideal. I positioned one rod out in the flow and the other in a near side slack. There was a lack of action for the first few hours, but it was a beautiful sunny morning and I was kept active trying to photograph some of the wildlife which has made this quasi-urban river environment home. I managed some decent snaps of a kingfisher who was doing far better at catching fish than I was and a woodpecker feeding on its regular haunt, a hole peppered silver birch tree.

King of the fishers - certainly having more success than I!

There's so much more to being on the river than the fishing

Another hour rolling meat around the swim failed to draw the fish from wherever they were holed up and it was time for a spot of lunch and a wander. A couple fishing upstream of the railway bridge had hooked and lost one, but otherwise it seemed like people were struggling. Conditions to me seemed perfect apart from the bright sunshine, but I wasn't familiar with the river so couldn't really judge what switched these frequently fickle fish off an on.  

Whilst giving the beat a good explore, I noticed that everyone seemed to be carrying far less tackle than me, and it certainly seems a roving approach is favored here. Another downside of fishing somewhere completely new and far from home - having to pack the kitchen sink to give 'options'. Abandoning the pipe swim I made my way downstream of the railway bridge. Again, this looked perfect. Fast turbulent water flowed under the constraints of the bridge and gave way to a deep slack against some rushes. 

The railway - a perfect swim if ever there was one

If there weren't any barbel there should at least be some chub I thought. Cheese paste then, positioned on the riffle where fast and slack-water meet. Again I was thwarted with not so much as a pluck. A few more spots were tried but it seemed the fish just weren't in an obliging mood. Still, a lovely place to spend some time and some lessons learnt for a return in future. The Royalty is one of those beats recorded in angling folklore and it's wonderful to have fished it, even if unsuccessfully. I'll return once we've consigned COVID to the history books with my roving gear and perhaps the pike fly rod, there are after all some hefty crocs on the wall of that man-cave!

Saturday, 22 August 2020

The Fisherman's Haunt – Pt I - Winkton


October 2019. Ok, I know… I’m a long way behind! I must admit it's strange writing up articles from the pre-COVID era. It seems so much has changed and there was so much we took for granted.

With my birthday approaching the wife asked me if I wanted to go on a romantic break away. A quiet little pub somewhere in the middle of nowhere, riverside walks, a picnic or two and some R&R. She’s not daft, and of course realizes we have very different ideas of a romantic break… As it was my birthday treat, the rods were always going in the back of the car!

A blessing of being Midlands based is there aren’t many fishery’s out of reasonable reach. Even with the Severn, Wye, Warwickshire Avon and Teme on your doorstep, most of the UK's barbel-holding rivers are within a couple of hours travel. Eeny... Meeny... Miny... Mo...

I’ve long wanted to fish the Dorset Stour and Hampshire Avon, with both Throop and the Royalty on every river angler’s bucket list; and so a trip to the New Forest was swiftly agreed and penned in for the birthday weekend. With logistics left to my better half I could focus on researching the target beats and sorting out the right gear and bait for the trip. A huge thanks at this point should be extended to Mr. Dave Roach from UK Angling Groups for his advice and support. 

The rivers had been in flood in the run-up to the trip which caused more than a little anxiety, but with the levels just starting to fall off and the hotel non-refundable we decided to give it a go. We left early on the Friday with a plan to explore the New Forest National Park en route. It’s a beautiful part of the world and we spent a good part of the day hiking through woodland in beautiful autumn livery. Think flooded fords, endless leaf litter punctuated with a litany of mushrooms, and wild ponies around every corner. 

Wild Ponies...

Flooded Fords...

Even the mushrooms are picture perfect!

By late afternoon we headed to our base for the weekend, The Fisherman's Haunt at Winkton. Ideally placed just a short distance from Throop and the Royalty, this cosy little pub was just the place for our romantic/angling retreat.

The Angler's Haunt

With the Royalty planned for Saturday and Throop for Sunday, there was just about time to fit a short session into Friday evening. The main channel of the Avon was in flood but Upper Winkton offered a sheltered backwater known to hold specimen roach. We only had a couple of hours at dusk, but there’s no better time. The biggest challenge of any short session on a new water is trying to work out where the fish are and how best to target them, with little margin for error. With the top end of the beat looking very busy I set up as far downstream as I was able, just above the final sluice. I fished just into darkness, trying light feeder and float tactics, but to no avail. A chat with some of the locals suggested the fish hadn’t yet arrived at their backwater wintering grounds and that Avon roach didn't respond well to the river carrying colour. It didn't matter, the main events of the weekend were still to come and it was a lovely little stretch to explore. It really is perfect for running a float through and I hope to return some day to try and winkle out a big roach or two.

Almost perfect...

An evening in a warm pub beckoned… a few beers, good food and the company of a good woman; surrounded by angling trinkets and memorabilia, and even the odd photo of a local monster or two. Inspiration indeed for an early start to fish the Royalty!

I'm sure there's barbel in here somewhere...

Monday, 24 February 2020

Rolling Meat - Short Session on the Severn

Mid-October and I managed to fit in a short evening session before the clock's changed. The river was up so I headed to a local beat where there are a few long sheltered slacks against the near bank. My plan was to wander the beat rolling meat through a few swims for an hour each to see if I could provoke a barbel into snatching the meat before it trundled past. 

I'm a relative newcomer to rolling meat so still trying to refine my tactics and get confidence in the method. I'm yet to take a fish on it, but I'm sure once a few fish have graced the net it'll be a tactic I'll turn to more and more for my mobile fishing. 

Pin! Rolling Meat down the edge of a flooded river
Rig wise, I set-up on my 11ft Harrison Torrix. I had the rod custom built to be as light as possible, including titanium rings, and it's the perfect tool for the job. It's as light as a feather but pulls like a train when you lean into the blank. I paired the Torrix with a 'pin loaded with 15lb line. I used an olivette to provide a little additional weight, held in place with a float stop above and a swivel beneath to prevent line twist. A 2ft hooklength was finished with a size 6 hook to which I had mounted tungsten putty along the shank using shrink tube (instructions here: https://www.drennantackle.com/martin-bowlers-top-tips-12-rolling-meat/). 

Shrink Tube and Tungsten Putty - Credit: Photo and Idea to Martin Bowler!

Despite my best efforts the barbel either weren't on the feed, or just weren't in the parts of the river that I was targeting. The river was high and colored but the flow wasn't raging through so I suspected they were out dancing in the current rather than tucked up on my nearside line. Still, always nice to be out on the bank and a little more experience gained with a new method!