When focusing on a species, particularly if my campaign is primarily on rivers, I always try to have a back-up still water venue. Obviously this only applies to certain species; take for example barbel – I am firmly in the camp that believes that they should be in rivers only, and so when targeting them, if river conditions are not ideal I just switch to another fish.
But others are widespread in their natural habitats and so can literally be caught anywhere. No fish typifies the across-the-board adaptation more so than the roach. So although I am currently concentrating my efforts on the River Severn, I have had a gravel pit venue firmly lodged in the back of my mind for when the river is not good for roach. And with a couple of metres of cold water running through, I figured it was time to switch!
With gale force winds, the conditions were atrocious. The only blessing was that it didn’t rain, because if it did I would have been soaked, due to the fact that setting up the umbrella was impossible. Knowing the gravel pit well, I had in mind exactly where I was going to fish. Fishing into the deepest water of the venue, I still didn’t connect with any shoaled-up roach though. Still, I daresay I will be back before the end of the season, so hopefully I will do better on future visits!
With the river fining down (but still over a metre above normal level) I decided to see the week out back on the Middle Severn. It was a very cold day, with frost everywhere, and even as the sun tried to break through the cloud, the fields held on to their white coating for most of the day. However, as we know as anglers, what really matters is the temperature of the water. But at barely 5 degrees, this didn’t offer any glimmer of hope, particularly as the Severn had seen a fall of 1 degree from the previous day’s reading.
Still, you don’t catch sitting at home do you! Putting my tackle in the car I commented to my wife how committed I am. ‘Committed’ she replied, ‘You need to be!’ Faced with the prospect of another hard session ahead, I must say I was tempted to agree with her. And after sitting on the bank of the river for almost five hours with one solitary sucked maggot to show for my efforts, then all I could do was merely confirm her observations!
But if I could use one word to describe my approach to angling it would be ‘perseverance’. Hence as the day wore on, instead of thinking about packing away I merely adopted an attitude that was all about digging in for the evening, as I intended to fish well into dark. My doggedness was rewarded though while it was still light, as the quiver tip pulled round, and I struck into a decent fish.
At first I couldn’t tell whether it was a small barbel, a large chub or a monster roach – although I must confess that the latter was more wishful thinking than anything else! Although it was obviously a decent enough fish, it didn’t put up that much of a fight, certainly as I was approaching it all rather cautiously due to the 4lb line and size 16 hook that my hopes were pinned on. No doubt the cold water played a contributing role in the sluggish nature of the fight, and within a short time I saw the silver side of a nice chub as it keeled over ready to submit itself to the waiting landing net. No roach, but I was more than happy!
A year or so ago, if I was pushed I would have said that the chub was my favourite fish. Now, I’m not so sure. Not that I don’t like fishing for chub, far from it, but as a genuine all-rounder I must say that the fish on top of my list is the one I am fishing for at that time. Which brings me back to my current roach campaign! I am yet to catch a good fish, but the way I see it is that when I do it will be all the more memorable. And in the meantime, if I can catch specimens of other species – like this chub – then I’ll certainly be happy enough.
I carried on fishing well into dark, and amazingly enough as the sun set the river came alive with smaller fish. A succession of gudgeon, dace and a small chub made their way to the bank. The chub had a nasty gash along its flank, as can be seen in the photograph. When we see fish like that we tend to blame pike, but with otters and also numerous cormorants in the area, the culprit may not have been another fish. Looking at the wound I really couldn’t tell what had caused it. But the fish was feeding and it was lively enough as it went back to fight another day.
One of the distinct advantages of fishing alone is that you can stay as long as you like, without having to take anyone else’s views into consideration. On most sessions where I am not intending to stay right through till morning, I literally fish until I have had enough. Hence, when that time came, I packed away and began the walk back to the car. By now it was very cold and it was great to feel the warm air blowing all over my hands and face as the heater warmed up!
I spent the journey driving home doing what I usually do – analysing the session I have just had and then after I have exhausted my thoughts, planning the next one. There are still a few swims I want to tackle on the Severn in pursuit of what is becoming an elusive quarry – a big roach. Plus I want to give the gravel pit a few more hours of my precious time, even if only to discount its obvious roach potential. With about 11 weeks to go till the end of the season, there’s still plenty of fishing hours left to accomplish my target!
(Originally published January 2005)