Thursday, 19 August 2010

A Family Trouting

Last Sunday saw me heading to Grantham with Madeleine for a gathering with her family, with lunch at her dad's house being the order of the day. These gatherings are always pleasant enough, but this one had other benefits.

A few years back her dad moved into his current house. It's a typical newish build 2 bed mid terrace. Nothing remarkable, but it boasts a small stretch of the upper reaches of the River Witham running at the back of it. When I say at the back, I mean quite literally. The boundary of the house runs right up to the river, albeit it's currently fenced off slightly short of the river and left wild.

Previous visits have always been out of season, but I had discovered that it did contain a few fish. On a previous visit her dad had demonstrated their willingness to feed by tossing in a big chunk of bread, which was instantly gobbled up about 10 yards below his house. I was intrigued and we felt that they were probably Chub.

This time around we were in season and I'd been given the go ahead to take the travel rod (which I'll discuss later). After a nice plate of veg and a barbecued Steak, followed by dessert, I was ready for action.

It's only about 6 inches deep directly behind the house, but there was a bit of hole just as the river swept round a bend under a willow. The fish were sat just in the hole. I dropped a few bits of bread in and the fish were taking them confidently, so I was equally confident too.

I wasn't sure how best to tackle it so I started out with a controller float to aid with casting. First trot down and the float was struggling to run through above the weed and I had to recast. The second trot through was more successful and I hit the deeper pool. The response was instant and I hauled the fish upstream through the weed.

It wasn't a Chub though. It was a Brown Trout of about 12oz, which came as a bit of a surprise. I talked Madeleine into having a go and she managed to hook a fish fairly quickly. Unfortunately, we had to run the float a bit further through and she found herself playing a fish and a willow! The fish shed the hook and willow trashed the float, leaving just a swivel on the line.

I ditched the swivel and carried on without a float. Cast followed cast and I was struggling to get a bite now. I was near to packing up. The fish had clearly been spooked and had seemingly backed right off. Madeleine's sister, Nadine, did a bit of a recce for me by walking about 20 yards downstream (technically onto a neighbour's land!) and peering through a small hole in the willows. She assured me that fish were still there.

The next trot through I took a gamble and went a bit further downstream and round the bend with it, to the point that I couldn't see the bait. I knew I was on dodgy ground if I hooked anything, but I was getting desperate. Nadine spotted my bread appear in the swim above the fish and gave me a running commentary of how far off the mark I was. "Your 3 feet short" came the call. I released a bit more line and a cry of "he's got it" was met with a simultaneous jerking around of my rod tip. It's nice to have good ghillie!

I too was then playing a fish, weed and willow at the same time. With a bit of patience and some extreme luck I managed to get the fish out of the snags and it was again another small Brownie of about 12oz. I called it a day at that point, figuring that the swim would be pretty much knackered now.

It was an unexpected bonus session and it just goes to show that a small stream in an urban area can throw up the odd surprise. Better still when you can take advantage from the back garden! In case anyone is wondering, I was sporting and no Trout ended up on the BBQ! They went back to fight another day and will no doubt end up being eaten by some Eastern European sort!

I mentioned my travel rod earlier and it's a cracking little tool. It's the Rovex travel version of the John Wilson Avon Barbel Quiver rod. I actually have the normal 2 piece version of the rod, which also comes with 2ft extension to take it from 11ft to 13ft. To be honest, the extension on that rod makes it a bit unbalanced and I only use it if I need the extra length when legering. At 11ft, it has been a great all round rod though.

The travel version is 11ft and doesn't have the extension. It comes in 5 sections - 4 main sections and then an option of a float top or one of 3 quiver tips. It packs away very compactly and the extra joints don't seem to compromise the rod at all. Definitely one of my better buys.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Somerset 2010 Part 4 - River Huntspill, Sloway Lane

Thursday saw my last session of the week. No trip to this area is complete without tackling the mighty Huntspill. The section I had chosen is actually the least daunting part of the river, as it's more like the width of the Avon along the Recreation Ground in Stratford. Other sections further upstream are more like twice as wide.

Although it's called a river, it's actually an artificial river with a sluice at either end. It was built during WW2 with a dual purpose - partly for essential water supplies for manufacturing and partly for drainage. At 5 miles long and fishable from both banks almost all the way, there's a big volume of water to go at.


The upstream section here isn't fishable as it's kept as a nature reserve. In the far diatance are the sluice gates where it enters Bridgwater Bay.


I fished the first peg below the bridge, hoping for a bit of shelter from the very brisk wind. I had been to the tackle shop in Highbridge earlier and the guy who served me always asks where you're going. His advice never changes - if you're after silver fish, then fish anywhere you like - the river is solid with fish.

Proper Bream are a bit harder to come by, largely because there aren't huge shoals of them. With 5 miles of very wide and very similar water to move around in, they take a fair bit of locating. Again, with about 4 hours to play with, I wasn't going to waste my time looking for them, but it didn't stop me chucking in 8 cricket balls of groundbait. You have to be optimistic that they'll show up!

Bites were slowish to start with, but as I kept the feed going in, the speed of bites picked up. Half an hour in and it turned into another bite a chuck session, but the stamp of fish was pretty poor - lots of 1-2oz fish. There was plenty of variety again though.

I switched to corn, but it didn't have the desired impact. Bites were consistent, but much slower. The stamp of fish didn't improve much though - very littlle over 4oz. The wind continued to pick up and was making the presentation awkward at times.

Although I had a good few fish, I doubt I caught much more than 6-7lb in total. Bites were fairly easy to come by, but it still felt like hard work to build up a weight. It never ceases to amaze me just how many fish there are in this river. As the guy in the tackle shop says, you can catch plenty of fish from absolutely any peg across the entire 5 mile length. It's a far cry from the middle section of Wasperton!

Somerset 2010 Part 3 - River Tone, Newbridge

The Wednesday saw me heading out for session 3 and with other family members due to visit Taunton, I took the chance to venture a bit further south to the River Tone. It's a river I had never fished before, but a bit of research beforehand meant that I knew the areas where I could get a day ticket courtesy of Taunton AA.

I believe there is actually some decent free water in the town centre, but I didn't fancy the hassle of trying to park up and locate it - especially as I had a springer spaniel in tow. Ideally I wanted a quiet, dog friendly, section so I purchased a TAA day ticket and headed for their Newbridge section a few miles out of town.

There was a sluice at the bridge and although I liked the look of the run off just below the sluice, the access wasn't easy and I wasn't in the mood to start a major gardening project just to do a few hours of fishing. Above the sluice it looked deeper and was easily fishable. Fish were topping regularly and even though the water was clear, I fancied my chances as there was a nice bit of weed cover close in that I could fish just beyond.

If you ever suffer with clear water problems, I have a handy solution. Obtain yourself a springer spaniel (all mad as hatters!), point it in the general direction of the water and it will do it's stuff with endless enthusiasm. Clear water is no more...

The fishing was instant and I caught from the off, right up until I left. I gave it a bit of groundbait, but nothing of any notable size turned up. I wasn't too bothered though, as I caught several species, but in the main part it was Roach, Bream and Hybrids up to 8oz.

The stamp of the Roach here was better than I have generally encountered on other natural venues in the area. They were 4 to the pound, or 4oz I guess! When Kev turned up I let him take over for an hour or so and he never stopped catching either. One of the many typical stamp of Roach he took:

I didn't have a keepnet with me for the holiday - I didn't want it stinking the place or the car out all week. I would certainly have been well into double figures for this session though. A very pleasant day and not another angler in sight.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Somerset 2010 Part 2 - River Axe

Monday was a washout and became a shopping day, so session 2 was on the Tuesday. My mother had an afternoon bingo session lined up in Weston-Super-Mare, so I headed in that direction to meet up with Kev later in the day.

The River Axe at Bleadon is only a short drive from W-S-M, so I decided to give it a shot. There's a sluice gate at the road bridge and I used to prefer to fish the section below it. However, it got took over by a private club a few years ago, so I had to fish the much wider and deeper stretch above it.

It wasn't as deep as normal though due to the sluice gate being knackered - something I'd been told about by the old boy in the tackle shop. That had left the river much deeper below the sluice, but 2-3ft shallower above it. There was still a good 9ft of water though. The bank in the photo below is normally under water and fishing has to be done from the platforms. If I'd fished off the platforms on this occasion, I'd have been 4ft above the water!

The session wasn't terribly productive for whatever reason and bites were at a premium - quite unusual round these parts. I managed the odd fish though, but having stuck a bit of groundbait out, I was hoping to get amongst the Bream, but they failed to show up.

Aside from the Roach (above) and a Hybrid of about 8oz the only thing of note was an Eel of 1lb 9oz, that I neatly lip hooked - you can even see the maggot in the photo!

Annoyingly for me, I now seem to be be running up a number of non counting fish for our challenge! Rules are rules though and to be fair, I do spend more time on the bank than Brian, so it's only right that we only count fish caught during joint ventures.

Rain set in for the day and I gave up the ghost when Kev had to leave to collect my mother from the bingo. Even Murphy was happy to get back into the dry - quite unusual for a spaniel!

Somerset 2010 Part 1 - River Brue

Last week saw me heading down to Somerset for our annual family excursion. Although both me and my brother need little excuse to head down to that part of the country, it's something we've done every year to give my parents a week away. Numbers were unfortunately depleted this year due to my dad suffering a stroke last year and he was unfit to travel this time around.

I managed to fit in 4 short sessions during the week and I'll be posting some reports over the next couple of days - it will take me a while to catch up!

The Somerset levels are where I first began to fish as a kid on holiday over 30 years ago. It's an area that just grabbed me all those years ago and I've never lost the enthusiasm for it. For anyone who fancies peaceful river/drain fishing - and I mean really peaceful - then it has so much to offer.

Miles and miles of rivers and drains, with endless numbers of pegs, plenty of fish and hardly another angler in sight - and we're in the middle of the holiday season! During my 4 sessions I saw just 1 other angler and it wasn't as though I fished remote areas. Every peg I fished was within 100 yards of my car.

Session 1 was on the Sunday and I headed for the River Brue at Merry Lane, East Huntspill. It's one of the smaller rivers in the area and I knew of a field owned by a local farmer where you can drive behind your peg. It's only a short field with no more than 7 pegs fishable and the river is about the width of the average canal, but about twice the depth.

On arrival I was shocked to see that the farmer had applied a 100% price hike. Is there no end to the money grabbing in today's recession hit society? I had to dig deep and find an extra pound now! He used to charge just £1 a day, but now it's £2. It's an absolute steal and I'd more than happily cough up a fiver.

I set up a stick float and was happy to while away a couple of hours catching bits on a lightish maggot set up. Things went to plan as I caught a small Perch and what I believe to be small Silver Bream in the first 2 runs down. I'm not an expert on the latter and it's only from reading some of Jeff's (Idler's Quest) posts on them, that I've started to keep a watchful eye for them. I must have caught them in the past and just classed them as small Bronze Bream. What I caught, definitely had the distinctive large eye and I had several more during the session.

Anyway, the 3rd trot through saw me connect with a lump and I had right old scrap on my hands with 2.5lb bottom to a size 18. It was an odd fight and when I eventually got see what it was, I realised it was a Bream. Why was it fighting like a demon though? Another couple of minutes of battling away and I discovered the answer - it was foul hooked. I got top side of it though and it went 4lb 11oz.

No more Bream showed up, but I went on to catch plenty of various other species including Dace, Roach, Rudd, Gudgeon and Hybrids, albeit of no great size. I did catch one other better stamp fish - a Perch of 1lb 5oz.

I didn't have my camera with me for this session, but my brother (Kev) did pay me a visit late on in the session. He took a few photos for me and was on hand when I caught the Perch. I'll post some photos when he sends them over to me.

Edit - photo of Perch now added. Sorry about the weed - the swim was full of it and loads of it ended up in the landing net.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

In the Garden

I was doing a bit of work in the garden today, so I thought I'd check out the progress of the small wormery I knocked up from some spare wood a few weeks ago.

Scraping just under the surface I was happy to find quite a few worms like this:

I topped it up with some unused redworms and some kitchen waste. Hopefully by Autumn I'll have a good supply of Perch bait.

The pond I put in during the summer is coming along nicely now.

A newt moved in a while ago and seems content, while a few tadpoles were acquired when they stuck to my net during a visit to Jubilee Pools earlier in the year. There are frogs aplenty too - spot the frog!

No fish though!

Running Out Of Excuses

I saw out July with a session on the Avon with Brian at Alveston.

Any thoughts of trying the upstream section were instantly off limits due to a match. So, it was off to the usual section at the village end. Shunning the first few pegs (which was my call - possibly a bad one), we took a walk down to the middle of the section.

I gave it a positive approach and heaped in the groundbait and took time out to set up two leger rigs. We'd had a chat in the week and Brian had a theory that we needed to fish big baits and go for the larger fish - the theory being that maggots weren't exactly working wonders. He also suggested trying a popped up bait to overcome the bottom weed which is a bit of a nuisance on parts of this stretch.

I went along with it - but only partly. I rigged up a pop up boilie on a hair rig for my sleeper rig. This is totally new territory for me - I've never fished a pop up before. Testing it in the margins, it worked a treat - I'd go as far as to say it was the dog's taters. This couldn't fail to snare a fish surely?

The other rig was a bit of a cop out - straight lead with a size 15 Kamasan B711 hook that could be used for pretty much anything I had at my disposal. I went for the braid option today, in the hope of getting better bite registration. There was a flaw in the plan - if the fish aren't biting, it makes sod all difference!

The sleeper rod slept - the alarm only giving out the occasional bleep as debris fouled the line. The other rod produced nowt but a handful of Dace and a Bleak. Brian tried various things, but had no luck at all - his only fish being a half pound Perch taken almost at the death, close in on a float rig.

For the last half hour we both flung out lures in desperation, but it amounted to nothing. With tail firmly between legs, we retreated back to the van - soundly beaten by this venue again. Sometimes I wish it was a crap hole of a place to fish and it would be a lot easier to overlook it. The problem is that it's a cracking looking fishery, peaceful and not a boat in sight.

I think it's going to be a venture up the other end of the section next time, but not before we've had a visit elsewhere. We need to get the challenge back on track, so next time we'll be heading for somewhere that will hopefully give up a few points a bit more easily.