The first real frost of the autumn hit the area – and I chose that very night to go fishing on the River Severn. However due to working my angling around the fixed priorities in my week, it’s not really so much a case that I chose the day, but rather it was the free slot that I had left after everything else was in my diary. Beggars can’t be choosers, and ultimately I’d sooner be fishing in difficult conditions as opposed to sitting at home waiting for all the right boxes to be ticked before I venture out.
Preparing for the night ahead, it was goodbye to my shorts that I have worn so far this season and hello to the Sundridge fleece suit. I took some small perch deadbaits with me, which was just as well because during the whole of the session I failed to get even one bite on maggot. Not that I fished continually with the cage feeder rod, but I did put a few hours in. I have come to the conclusion that not only does the lower Severn play hard to get for barbel, but that it’s not a single species thing, as it is consistent with whatever you are fishing for.
Therefore it’s not just the barbel that are fickle, as you often hear anglers say, but rather it’s ‘something in the water’. But to me, this is what makes the lower Severn so attractive. We all know ‘easy’ waters, where we can pretty much guarantee – well as much as you can use that word in angling anyway – that all we need to do is turn up and cast out. But anyone that knows the area of river that I am talking about will definitely be nodding in agreement. And if you aren’t, then please get in touch with me and tell me the secret!
As the sun set on the start of the first night it was really cold. And as the evening pushed on it became so bitter that I pulled the draw string of the sleeping bag over my head and went into hibernation mode. I didn’t venture out again until first light and with the air temperature being minus three, I dread to think what it was a few hours earlier. The area I fish is very quiet and rural and I get to see just the odd person from the local village, and one lady who jogs every morning was amazed to see I had been out all night. And she was doubly shocked to find out I was staying the next night as well!
At first light there was a coating of frost over everything – and because I am still under a Fox Evolution shelter – that included my sleeping bag too. No wonder people think I am mad, and perhaps I am, as it doesn’t bother me in the slightest and I actually relish the challenge of fishing in adverse conditions. I’ve always been like that, even as a kid. Those were the days before neoprene, Sundridge winter suits and modern materials, and I used to battle with cold feet big time. But I always pushed on, and when other anglers had all gone home I would be the last one left at the water’s edge.
I can remember family holidays that we took to Rhyl in north Wales. During the day I would fish the River Clwyd estuary along with lots of other holidaymakers, but then as the evening wore on I would be the only figure there. My parents would be in the Schooner pub over the road watching me through the big glass windows, or sitting outside; and while other kids were drinking vimto from a bottle through a straw, and eating packets of crisps, I was catching flatfish and eels, and always hoping that a very elusive bass would turn up. But it never did. In fact before my dad passed away last year, fishing at Rhyl was one of the memories I shared with him from my childhood. I miss my dad a lot.
As the sun came out on the lower Severn, the frost eventually disappeared, but it was still a cold day. I was hoping to pick up a pike during daylight but the bite alarms remained absolutely silent. I am forever the optimist though and so going into the final night I was hoping that a hungry zander would be unable to resist the small perch as it lay on the river bed. And my positivity was rewarded when in the early hours I had a take on the right rod, which was fished a third of the way across the river.
I really did want to catch this fish, as it would be the difference between a blank and a result, and one of the things that goes through my mind when I am playing a decent fish is ‘How well has the hook taken?’. I kept thinking to myself, is the zander (I knew what it was) well and truly hooked or am I hanging on by the slightest of nicks with just one hook on the treble? Needless to say, as I slipped the net under the fish I was a relieved man.
It was another personal best, and I am now past the half-way mark as I edge towards a double figure zander. There are still plenty of sessions to go before the end of the season and I am looking forward to the day when I can pose with a 10lb+ fish, and all those cold-toe nights will be just a distant memory.
This week’s video clip – The first proper frost of the autumn
(Originally published November 2007)