If you've read any posts from my previous visits to this stretch, you'll know it has been a struggle. Aside from the odd slab and Chub, it has yielded precious little else. I'd liken it to the Leamington AA's Wasperton stretch - very difficult in the summer months when the water is clear and the fish lie low in the weed & cabbages during the day.
10 weeks on since our last visit and Autumn was clearly taking hold. The willows were starting to look a little sorry for themselves, while pegs that had previously been difficult to fish due to heavy weed / lily growth, were now very managable. We settled on a couple pegs we'd never fished before that were midway bewteen 2 areas we'd struggled on previously.
The wind was blowing through a fair bit directly downstream, which made float presentation difficult. Equally, it didn't help bite registration on the tip either. However, I decided to start off with the tip and balled in the customary 6 balls of groundbait just beyond an overhanging willow towards the middle of the river.
First chuck and the tip banged round. I thought I'd imagined it, or had perhaps knocked the rod accidentally. I'd always struggled for bites here in the past! I cast out again and the tip banged round again - definitely a bite this time and I was now starting to get hopeful. Third cast and I finally hooked a fish - a Roach of about 5oz. The bites continued consistently and Perch, Chub and some Dace soon followed.
Then I connected with something all together more solid that I wasn't sure about. It felt too ponderous for a Chub, but was a bit more spirited than a Bream. It woke up a bit more when I got it close in and I could see it was a decent Chub. It went exactly 4lb and was in mint condition. Quite unusual in the larger Chub I tend to catch - they generally seem to be the battle hardened old warriors bearing various scars.
After the Chub I continued to pick up bits and Brian was doing likewise on the next peg on a close in float line, while hoping for something bigger on his leger rig. I saw him leap up and his float rod arched over. The clutch gave a bit of line and he was into something a bit more interesting. Brian carefully played the fish and we eagerly awaited a glimpse of his prize. I assumed it was a Chub, but we were pleasantly surprised when it broke the surface and we saw it was a Tench. It weighed in at 3lb 2oz.
I recounted my encounters with river Tench over the years and I could only recall having caught 8 of them in just under 20 years and none in recent memory. It was Brian's first from a river and put a big smile on both our faces. Brian also needed a Tench point, so to pick it up from a river made it very satisfying.
Bites continued in numbers but they were very difficult ot hit on the feeder line. I switched to worm and instantly had a better fish. It didn't actually feel very big at first but it perked up when I got it close in. My jaw dropped when I saw it was another Tench. Having not seen one for years, we'd had one each in the space of an hour! It weighed in at 4lb 10oz, which beats my previous river best by 9oz.
Later on another angler popped round for a chat. We mentioned that we'd had a couple of Tench and he seemed perplexed. He'd fished the area for 20 years and had never seen one. Pure luck on the day, or just skillful anglers? I'd like to think it was the latter!
I messed about with the feeder rig, changing from lead, to groundbait feeder, to open end feeder. The results were pretty similar though - plenty of Dace. I decided to switch to a float rig for a change and to see if I could tempt a decent Perch. Earlier on Brian had spotted a Carp slurping bread off the top in the margins, but when I looked down I couldn't see a Carp. I did spot a very long Perch though - certainly a 2lb+ fish (which would be a personal best for me).
I started to catch small fish at a fair old rate close in - mostly Dace and some Bleak that were taking the bait on the drop. I then had that all too familiar feeling where a little fish turns into something bigger. I knew I had a Pike on, but I didn't know if it was hooked or just holding on to the fish. When it surfaced I could see a red maggot just on the outside of its jaw, so I knew I had a fair chance of landing it.
It was only a small fish of 3lb 6oz, but it was Pike point for me and of course a bonus point, albeit it wasn't exactly a challenging target to set!
We carried on catching bits for the rest of the day, but Brian pulled out his lure rod when we watched a Pike leap clear of the water to the left of my swim. Several casts later and he'd had nothing and was about to go back to the float fishing when he had a take close in. I went over to net it, but the fish slipped off the lure. Brian's Pike curse seemed set to continue. Defeated, he vowed to try again during the last 15 minutes of the session. I'm pleased to say he was duly rewarded for his persistance and took the Pike honours with a battle scarred fish of 4lb 8oz, which earned him the bonus.
It was a very pleasant day with us sharing somewhere in the region of 30lb of fish and suddenly this venue doesn't seem that bad after all. Hopefully it will continue to fish well through Autumn into Winter and we'll certainly be back for some proper Piking fairly soon I think.
As well as the Pike, Brian picked up points for Tench, Chub and Bleak to earn 5 points on the day. I had to settle for a sole Pike point. From nowhere, Brian has now sneaked up to just 3 points behind in the challenge. Game on!