That’s the British weather for you!
I haven’t seen another angler on the Lower Severn syndicate stretch that I fish for ages now, with the low water conditions being the reason why. Everyone else fishes pretty much exclusively for barbel, and so they are waiting for some rain to freshen the river and increase their chances. And on a section that isn’t easy at the best of times, I don’t blame them. The lower Severn in general plays hard to get but this particular bit really knows how to wear the barbel angler down. It’s not for those that lack perseverance, that’s for sure. But for me, the venue this autumn and beyond, is going to be about another species altogether. The zander.
They aren’t that widespread and whilst not exactly on my doorstep, ease of access down the M5 means that they are definitely within easy reach. Travelling down the motorway this week saw me making my third visit of the autumn, and as per the previous trips, setting up to do a two-night session. Although I do catch zander during the daylight hours on the river, it’s at night that I feel more confident that I will get a good fish. The weather was again very summer-like and with no rainfall for some considerable time, the banks were quite hard as I pushed the pegs in while setting up my bivvie.
A good zander in the early hours
The swim I chose to fish was the one where I caught a double-figure zander from last time round. Although it’s a tight swim, the sluggish nature of the river meant that I could comfortably fish two rods. Using a 1.5 ounce lead I was able to place one upstream and the other downstream underneath an overhanging purple willow. (That’s the name of a tree by the way, not the colour!) I started to get enquiries on both rods for a couple of minutes an hour or so into dark, but nothing developed. I visualised a shoal of small zander in the area, ultra-sensitive to any resistance; and even though I was tuned in as light as possible, nothing was to be tempted.
I had to wait until 1.00am for some real action, as a definite run resulted in me striking into a good fish. And to emphasise the sensitivity and delicate nature of zander fishing, the hooks came out once the fish was in the net. In fact just moments before, on the other rod, I had lost a fish while playing it briefly. It was a very mild night and the activity brought me out in a sweat. There have been June, July and August nights this year where I have been shivering! But by the time I had another enquiry, at 5.00am, the conditions had changed again though and it was very chilly. The British weather eh!
An awesome prospect for a small roach
I had a small morning pike and this was followed by hooking a tree root close to the edge. As the water was just inches deep I decided to go after it, along a branch. The bottom line was I stumbled and belly flopped, thus getting soaked in the process. I ended up with a washing line of clothes hanging from one of the trees in the swim, and with the day warm and breezy, they soon dried. But whenever I mention that I end up in the water, I always follow it up with a word on safety. If there was any chance of compromise involved, I wouldn’t have attempted to retrieve the tackle. It was only because it was over extremely shallow water that I did what I did. Nothing is worth risking life for – and dare I say it – not even a snagged fish.
Not that I don’t take an interest in fish welfare by the last statement, because I do. Zander, in spite of their ferocious appearance, are actually quite sensitive and as such needed to be treated accordingly. As my sole fish of the session didn’t even need the hooks removing it was pretty much ready for immediate release. But even then I stayed with it, as the fish rested in the net for a while just to be sure. If needs be I would have cradled it and only when I was totally happy with everything would I have let it go. Yes, they are only fish. But at the same time if we set out to catch them I believe that we also have a duty to ensure their safe return. With privilege comes responsibility.
Making sure it’s ready for release
The second night of the session was very quiet, just a missed run at 4.30am to get me on my feet. But I was more than happy with the fish the night before and as is the case so often, I was just on the right side of that thin line between success and failure. Very similar to some of the Wolves games I have seen this season in the Premiership! But I’m happy with our start to the Premier League, and I’m also pleased with my zander campaign to date on the lower Severn. But whilst I will be happy if Wolves simply survive this time round, I’m looking for a bit more from my fishing than just getting by!
Bird-wise I had a great time this week, with the highlights being a barn owl that flew downstream into dark and a male lesser spotted woodpecker that landed briefly on a tree just feet from where I sat. I saw four swallows on day one with a group of c40 migrating a day later. It’s that time of the year where the seasons are merging because a flock of male chaffinches were also in the area, and that’s a sign that summer has definitely gone. Yet on the other hand, the warm daytime sunshine had several small white butterflies flitting along the bank. Confusing? Well, as I’ve already written, that’s the British weather for you!
(click icon above for this week’s video)
(Originally published October 2009)