I hope to be writing regular little updates on here about my fishing and overseas travels, as well as a bit of fishing on home soil too, and as this is my first blog piece I’ll use it as an opportunity to catch up on the last few months or so.
I left my job in the tackle trade early in Jan 2013 with a view to taking a good few months off and enjoying a break. Ten years in the same job had left me wanting to seek new challenges and, as this year is my 40th, I decided to take some time out and enjoy some fishing on my own terms – and of course spend some quality time with my elderly Dad and daughter Kodi.
As you get older, I think you start to really appreciate what is most important in life……anyway, that’s probably going a little too deep here!
I decided to embark on a little mission to try and rekindle my love of river fishing for other species instead of carp, so after purchasing two local club tickets and buying some lovely new Harrison specialist rods I was ready to go. Despite living in probably the best area in the UK for specialist river angling, I’m embarrassed to say that I have totally neglected this type of angling over the years. Lots of specialist anglers would dearly love to be located 10 minutes from the Dorset Stour and Hampshire Avon but I have totally taken it for granted to be honest. Still, I now had unlimited time to make amends and planned to try for a good sized Roach and some Chub to begin with.
I started in early January, in the middle of a reasonably mild spell of weather, but with the warm temperatures came the deluge and most days were spent huddled beneath a brolly as the rain relentlessly fell. Consequently, the rivers were above their banks and highly coloured for weeks on end and the fishing was really hard going. I did find some success whilst fishing for a few hours before and into dusk on a tidal stretch of the Stour; fishing with quiver-tipped bread and feeding some mashed bread at the same time.
Here, the river is a lot wider and, with a flooding tide, the pace slowed almost to a standstill at times, so the fishing was quite comfortable with regards to being able to feed and hold bottom etc.
Fishing alongside my friends Ash and Trev (Cooke), we managed some nice Roach up to around 1lb, some good Dace to 12oz and a few Bream up to 6lb’s plus, which were surprisingly good sport on the light feeder gear. I also had a nice little bonus in the form of a battered old common carp of around 12lb which gave me a terrific fight in the flow – almost killing off the gears in my old Mitchell 300 reel for good!
Towards the end of the month we had the start of the prolonged spell of cold weather, which we still seem unable to shake off, and I decided to try my hand at a spot of river Pike fishing. I’ve done a little piking in the past, mainly on the Ringwood pits, so the challenge of a good fish from flowing water was quite exciting.
I started on the middle stretches of the Avon, around Fordingbridge, and just fished for a few hours from midday until dusk, roving around fishing paternostered deadbaits or ledgered ‘deads’ in any available slack water. On my second afternoon I had my first chance and, after an epic fight in some fast water mid-river, I landed my first River Avon Pike of the year. Although not a monster, I was well pleased and took a couple of quick snaps before slipping him back – probably a mid double at a guess.
The following day I decided to head to the famous Royalty fishery on the lower Avon as this stretch has tremendous winter form for big Pike, and I was pleasantly surprised to find an empty car park on my arrival; no doubt due to the biting cold Easterly and floodwater conditions. I was soon cast out into a big, shallow bay with very little flow and feeling quietly confident as the banks seemed fairly untrodden giving the impression that not too many anglers had been there recently.
At around 3pm I noticed one of my floats dip violently before sliding across the surface towards some marginal reeds. I quickly wound down to the fish, felt a few faint kicks so swept the rod back…into thin air! Upon retrieving the bait, it seemed fairly unmarked which was strange………..a big perch perhaps? Anyway, a fresh popped up roach was quickly deployed and I settled back under the brolly for a coffee from the flask. I had to be off the water by 5.15pm and at around 4.50pm I saw a huge swirl next to the float which immediately had me stood up next to the rod. Sure enough, the float dipped and slid away towards the flow of the main river and this time the strike was met with a dead weight pulling back sharply!
After a good fight in the deep margin just down to my left, I had a good fish in the net so wasted no time in sorting out the mat and unhooking gear. I’m still relatively inexperienced in dealing with Pike on the bank, so I was certain to make sure I had everything to hand…… forceps, glove, side cutters etc. I also made sure I watched plenty of videos on YouTube about Pike handling before I ventured onto the river and, whilst I totally concur that these can never be a substitute for experience, I found them to be a huge help and gave me the necessary confidence to safely deal with a big fish if required.
Anyway, I was soon holding up a new PB of 23lb 8oz for a couple of pictures, which sadly didn’t come out too well as I had the camera on the wrong focal setting, leaving me perfectly in focus but the fish slightly blurred…oh well! The fish was safely returned and was only out of the water for a few short minutes, which certainly has to be priority over a trophy shot.
I spent the next few weeks doing pretty much the same, fishing mainly afternoons until dusk, and managed a few more fish up to mid doubles which was great fun even in the snow and bitterly cold weather. After spending so many past winters fruitlessly trying to catch carp in the harshest conditions, I vowed to myself that my future winters would be spent in pursuit of other species as i was enjoying my fishing more than ever.
In mid February we seemed to have a little spell of settled, albeit cold weather, so I decided that I’d had enough of Pike hunting (with the exception of a long, cold day in a boat on Chew Valley – which was a blank!), so I decided to spend the last few weeks of the season trying for a good Roach and some Chub.
I spent a few sessions on the famous Throop fishery on the Stour, but apart from losing a good Chub on light tackle, these trips were unsuccessful. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really enjoying my fishing on Throop as the stretch is incredibly pressured due to the high number of monster chub and Barbel it holds. The worn banks, busy car parks and difficult fishing soon had me beaten, so I vowed to return next winter with a fresh mindset and better preparations to try and catch a big chub by design. The regulars on Throop have built up a huge amount of knowledge over the years and I’ve got total respect for their skill and dedication…that type of thing can’t really be taught and they are fully deserving of their captures which are very well earned in my opinion.
I headed off to some familiar stretches of the middle Avon and tried my hand with the swim feeder and maggot approach, which brought fairly instant success with some nice chub up to around 4lb’s in weight. They were certainly not monsters but great fun which is what it’s all about in the end. I also found a huge shoal of Dace in one of the Avon side streams, which were made for brilliant sport on the trotting kit for a few hours………..so much so in fact that I spent two or three afternoons running a float through the swim, enjoying some great sport on the centre pin. Right at the end of the season I spent a few days on a stretch of the Avon which has produced some big Roach in the past but the conditions were pretty hopeless in all honesty.
That said, I did manage to catch a few Roach by design using the light feeder approach, with the biggest one going 1lb 4oz..again not a monster but I was pleased as punch and enjoying my fishing with a real vengeance.
Sadly, the end of the season came around all too soon and the river kit has been packed away in readiness for next winter. Next week I’m heading over to Belgium to do some Carp fishing and see lots of my Benelux friends at the first Monkey Climber Magazine meeting. Monkey Climber is a Carp and specialist magazine which is in its infancy and is well worth checking out if you haven’t already. Don’t worry – if you can’t read Dutch, just enjoy the awesome photography as I do!!
I’ll let you all know how the Belgian trip goes next time.