Sunday, 3 March 2019

Short Session Rewards

Sunrise over the River Severn - well worth an early start.

In recent weeks I've been struggling to get out on the bank fishing, but promised myself I would at least make it out to do some hiking and photography as and when opportunities arose to provide some blog content. With a weekend's DIY programmed, there would be little opportunity in the day, so I decided to make an early start to take advantage of a hard morning frost to capture the Severn Valley in all it's beauty.

Departing just before dawn, I headed for the closest stretch of the Severn at Holt Fleet. The view on my arrival was magical, even from the road bridge, with the sun just beginning to climb up over the horizon.

Taking a moment to capture a few photographs and enjoy the feeling of a little warmth on my face, it was apparent how early spring had arrived this year. Though the hard frosts were still biting in the morning, there were plenty of signs of an early spring, from catkins on the trees, to the first snowdrops of the year. Perhaps the most notable of these is the return of the dawn chorus, something I've always enjoyed and associated with early morning fishing trips, a soundtrack of sorts to the River. It's a joy to hear it's return, and keen to get farther into the rural reaches of the countryside in time for it to begin in earnest, I left the bridge towards a stile beyond the Holt Fleet pub.

Dry and bright early spring mornings - characterized by hard frosts and warm yellow light.

I headed up into the the fields above the river to enjoy the view down towards the river across the rolling hills that characterize the Severn Valley and rural Worcestershire. After exploring Holt Church and photographing a Kestrel perched in a churchyard conifer, I made my way down to the River and up to Holt Weir.  There's a
pleasant vantage point here down to the bridge that was designed by Thomas Telford in the early 1800's, with the River smooth as glass above the sill and turbulent and violent beneath it. The weir attracts fish for a host of reasons. The bottom is scoured to bedrock and gravel, which many fish prefer to feed over. The turbulent flow provides both shelter and disorientated prey, and oxygen levels are super-saturated. I note that the Environment Agency are due to install a Shad pass here as part of their campaign to open up the River Severn. It'll be interesting to see whether this changes the character of the river here, a popular spot with both coarse and salmon anglers alike.

Holt Weir - Icy black glass above and turbulent white water beneath. 

From the vantage point above the weir, I headed back to the car and homewards to the endless joy of decorating, albeit via the local farm shop for a fantastic full English Breakfast. By the time I got home, the clock had barely struck 10 and I couldn't help but think how easily I could have wasted such a beautiful morning.

I spent the rest of the day being as productive as possible, with one eye on an 'evening pass' and my mind on the turbulent depths of that weir pool and the late-season treasure it might hold. It was music to my ears whilst making one final cup of tea to be met with the magic words 'Go on then'. Without having mentioned a word, the Minister of Fishing Permits had noticed exactly where my mind had been all day and set me free into the early evening.

Bundling my rods into the car and hoping they were still set up from the session before, I hot footed it down to the bank as the sun was starting to fall in the sky. By the time I had made it out onto the narrow concrete ledge at the side of the weir and unfurled a rod from the quiver, there was barely half an hour of light remaining.

On the bank at last! Albeit with time against me!

Normally in a low and clear winter river I'd be considering maggots and hemp. But with no time to build a swim, subtle would be a luxury I could ill afford, so large and smelly was my plan of attack. An 18mm Krill It Boilie with a large lump of matching paste was quickly flung out to the tail of the Weir. A small PVA bag of crushed boilies was added to the hook and another dab of paste around the lead for good measure. 

With rod number one positioned, I mused over whether it was worth the effort to set up a second, the Harrison Torrix was geared up for float work so would require a full re-set... With the odds against me, I decided to go for it and quickly set about tying a simple but effective rig. Always keen to offer the barbel something different across the two rods, I attached a 15mm Ambush Pellet to a hair rigged size 10 hook. Keeping with the principle of large and smelly, Ambush have never let me down and I'm absolutely confident in their barbel pulling-power. The water temperatures have just started to climb, and the ambush pellets aren't particularly oily, so I wasn't overly concerned about using pellet in these conditions.

Casting rod number two upstream just into the edge of the turbulent water of the weir, I sat back to wait. The colour just beginning to drain from the landscape as the sun dipped behind the horizon.

Last light - using the skyline can help watch for bites well into dusk.

At around 6pm, with just a little light left, the otherwise motionless Torrix gave a small bump as the lead adjusted itself. With no debris and the flow not otherwise effecting the 3oz lead, I pondered whether this might have been a fish disturbing the lead as it rooted around. I steadied myself. Again the rod bumped... I held my patience. It seemed to take an eternity as I peered up to the horizon from the gloom, but my initial instincts proved correct.... Thwack! The rod arched over and then went completely slack as the fish took off downstream. Reeling into the slack and giving a short strike quickly confirmed contact. Fish on! My first thoughts were that I had hooked into a small barbel. It seemed easy to manoevre towards me; and gave me little trouble for the first part of the fight. As always, the fish kept plenty in reserve for once against the near bank, and despite leaning into the fish to keep it's head up and away from snags, there was to be no hurrying it as it took off again and again on short surging runs under the rod tip. Finally slipping the net under the fish I was pleasantly surprised at the lump settled in the net. With the briefest of rests in the cool water, the fish was unhooked, photographed, weighed and rested once more before return. The back-eddie against the near bank of the weir is relatively strong, so this final resting is always important for the fishes welfare and safe return. A very respectable 9lb 7oz and a personal best for this beat. My joint second largest ever barbel!

A short session's reward! 9lb 7oz and my second largest barbel!

Rather than recast, and giving myself no more than a final fifteen minutes, I put my faith in rod number two and that large wrapping of paste that by now must have left quite the scent trail downstream. Holding out just a little hope, I checked the baitrunner and busied myself packing away all but the essentials ready to leave.

It was fully dark now, and I could just make out the rod tip against the moonlit horizon. Barely a moment before I reached down to wind in for the day, the rod tip began to shake violently with the tell tale signature of a chub... Hooking into the fish I foolishly paused to fumble with my head torch and that moment's lack of pressure allowed the fish to dive into a mid river snag. Walking along the ledge I managed to find a different angle and with a little pressure pulled the fish free. From there-on the fish came in with little fuss. A very reasonable chub at 4lb 10oz. 

An unexpected bonus - in the shape of a 4lb 10oz Chub!
For some reason I've never found the Severn overly prolific for chub, though I know others find excellent sport for Chevin's from it's banks. At over 4lb, this fish was a comfortable PB for the Severn, my previous an unweighed fish of around 3lb. Heading home, I was more than happy with the evening's exploits, and a very enjoyable time spent on and along the river at either side of the day. It just goes to show that by getting your location and tactics right, there's plenty of value in super short sessions and taking whatever opportunity arises to get out on the bank. Get out there!


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p.s... Please vote for my photo of a barbel in the Sportfish Photo of the month competition here:

1 comment:

  1. p.s. Please vote for my photo of a barbel in the Sportfish February photo of the month competition here!