Whilst the barbel anglers were bemoaning the lack of rain and the fact that the Severn was slow and sluggish, it suited me fine. Targeting zander, it meant that I could fish with light leads, thus creating the minimum amount of resistance. Plus there was no debris being washed downstream, which at this time of the year means that with a decent flow, within minutes your lead and bait are covered with leaves.
Arriving at the water’s edge, the whole scene looked very autumnal. Although the sun was out, as we move on in the year its summer power is diminishing – just like the batteries in my head torch, which reminds me to get them charged for the next session! As a person, not just as an angler, I really do appreciate the four seasons. And even though we British are well known for our obsession with the weather, one thing that we can say is that during the course of the year we do get to see each season play its part. Not always in the right order though!
From an angling perspective, autumn has to be up there competing with the others for the title of ‘the best’. It all depends on the venue and what you are fishing for of course, but on the lower Severn there is a definite case for this time of the year being ranked at the top of the pile. The boat traffic has died down, the nights are longer – and the water temperature is still reasonable. In fact many anglers don’t fully appreciate that the temperature of the water and the air don’t move in a parallel way.
The sun sets and it starts to get chilly, so the angler decides to pack away as the sudden fall in temperature will put the fish off the feed, he tells himself. But what we have to remember is that it’s not what the thermometer says this side of the surface of the water that counts, but rather what is going on beneath it. And water temperature doesn’t fluctuate at the same rate as that of the air. In fact this particular session saw a very chilly start to the dark, but the water remained constant.
And with the clear sky becoming quite cloudy as the night wore on, I actually found myself sitting outside the shelter enjoying a cup of tea as we approached midnight, and even removing a layer of clothing. The water temperature rose slightly. It didn’t result in any zander though, as they were not out to play during the night. But one thing that I did notice though is that the eels did a disappearing act. Instead of baits being stripped within minutes of casting out, I was able to put the rods in the rests, sit back and enjoy.
I must confess it has been a pain during the previous sessions, and that has been magnified by my lack of ability to catch small fish. I ended up catching either fish that were too big or nothing at all. And there must be a law for it, as this time I had some fish in the keep net but I didn’t need them. I had to laugh at that; when I really needed fish they were playing hard to get, but now it wasn’t that important, I had caught during the afternoon.
I wasn’t predator-less though as the first day a pike picked up the small roach legered on the river bed. It was a good fight, but eventually it was netted, weighed, photographed and returned to the river. For the second trip in a row I had no zander but a mid-double pike had come to the rescue. Although I do specifically target one species (hence the inclusion of the fish alongside each week’s article) I am not disappointed in the slightest when something else is caught instead.
Going back a few months to the spring, I did a three month bream campaign. I actually caught very few and certainly not the double I was hoping for. But I did catch some excellent tench, including a fish of 9lb 12oz. The fact that I was after bream did not diminish the pleasure I experienced from netting that fish. And likewise here, no way did I consider the pike I had caught to be a ‘nuisance’ fish. I can appreciate anglers being woken in the middle of the night by small fish though, and it can become a problem at times.
The big pike was followed by a smaller one later on, and that was that. Even though I fished on into darkness on the second day, no zander showed, although I did get several enquiries during the session that I suspected were from smaller fish. Now that the eel problem is sorted (and I hope I’m not being presumptuous by saying that) and the nights are really long I am hoping to catch a decent zander. It’s one personal best that could do with being upped!
*** This week’s video clip is Darkness on the lower Severn
(Originally published November 2007)