Face to face with a bear on the River Stour
It is often said that a change is as good as a rest and without doubt it’s the flexibility of my own angling to switch from one species to another that helps to keep the enthusiasm boiling. As I often write, I have nothing but respect for those anglers who are single-minded in what they fish for. There’s nothing wrong in pursuing one species and one species alone, but for me personally, variety is definitely the spice of life. So after a week eel fishing (I tend to fish in blocks after specific fish) I fancied hitting the River Stour and in particular the roach.
There are a number of Stours in the country and the one I am referring to is the one that flows into the River Severn at Stourport. With several miles of its embryonic growth in the Black Country, it has always been precarious in terms of pollution threats. But in recent years with many old and inefficient factories closing for good, plus a greater awareness of the environment, the Stour has moved on from the bad old days and is a nice little river to fish. It’s not the sort of place that you would particularly travel a great distance to fish, but if you’re local as I am (it’s the closest river to where I live) it’s worth a visit, and particularly so if time is limited.
A roach from the Stour
I arrived at the river for session one on a very hot and humid evening. Although the river had a nice colour to it, it was low, as was expected after a prolonged dry period. There were two anglers already there and I was surprised to find that they were both fishing open pegs. Surprised because on the stretch there are some extremely overgrown swims where the fish will congregate. They will move into the open water from dusk onwards but in the afternoon with the sun still high in the sky, these pegs will be barren. Neither angler had any action whatsoever and by the time they finished in the early evening I am sure they were thinking the river isn’t fishing well.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not being judgmental and I’m certainly not mocking anyone. I am merely highlighting how crucial watercraft is and the importance of reading the river. In the meantime I was tucked into a tight swim, fishing up to a dense overhanging clump of willow trees, and although it took me thirty minutes to get a bite, from then on the fish were active, even if I only had the one roach to show for my efforts. Lots of plucks, taps and knocks but just the one fish! The conditions were challenging, of that there was no doubt at all. But the fine line between success and failure is a line that can very often be drawn to our advantage if we think things through.
A beautiful looking fish
My style of fishing may surprise many Stour regulars as I was using a 20g cage feeder. Although a small river, even when it’s low, the Stour can have a reasonable pace in places. And the last thing I wanted was to be feeding the swim twenty metres downstream. By using a cage feeder I was able to put the bait of predominantly hemp but laced with tares and corn (plus brown crumb to hold it together) in exactly the right spot under the branches of the overhanging tree. I was fishing 2.5lb Maxima line straight through to a Drennan Super Specialist size 14 hook with single corn as the bait that caught the roach. The hooklength was about 12″ and created by a shot covered with a bead. I was fishing with a Fox Duolite rod with a 0.5ounce glass tip.
I had to be up early the next day, so didn’t stay beyond midnight, as I had a funeral to conduct (I’m an ordained Minister when I’m not fishing!) and was pleased to see a badger cross the road. Sadly most badgers I see are dead ones, the victims of collisions with vehicles. I was back a day later on the Stour and this time I had the stretch in question to myself. I fished another peg and although I had open water in front of me, just downstream were overhanging trees that I intended to fish to. It again took me time to get the fish feeding but once they did they were very active, this time with some proper bites not just fish playing with their food. I had just the one fish worthy of a photograph though. Anything from half-a-pound upwards is a good fish on the Stour with a 1lb+ fish a specimen. I haven’t caught a ‘2’ yet there, but that’s one fish that would really make my day!
To round the week off I managed a third and final trip to the Stour. This time I swapped the cage feeder for a 3.5g flat lead and reduced the hooklength to 5″, but apart from that everything else was pretty much the same. There had been a little rain since my last visit. Not enough to affect the river in any major way, but there was a deeper tinge, which could only help the fishing. It was another hot day but the intensity of the humidity had lessened so it was quite pleasant fishing late evening. It took a while for the roach to come on the feed but once they were active, the bites were regular. I had several fish with some cracking bites resulting in one or two better quality fish.
The highlight of the session though had nothing to do with angling. Walking back to the car and still following the course of the river I came face to face with a badger foraging at the water’s edge. It must have been surprised to see me because for what seemed like an eternity it just stared. And hoping to take advantage of what would have been a great photo-shoot, I got my camcorder from my bag. But just as I was ready to press the record button, the badger ran off into the undergrowth. Typical isn’t it! Still, I counted it a real blessing to come within ten feet of one of our most impressive mammals in the British Isles. And although it is really a large weasel, it is thought of by many people as a sort of bear! So I thought I would take advantage of that; it certainly makes for a good headline anyway!
(click icon above for this week’s video)
(Originally published July 2009)