The coldest winter for thirteen years (dace article and video, entry 290)

The coldest winter for thirteen years

Weather forecasting is one of those professions that by its very nature involves lots of numbers being banded around. Even the basic weather report at the end of any TV news programme consists of temperatures, wind speeds, and as we have found out in the last week or so, depths of predicted snowfall. One of the statistics that has cropped up on several occasions has been that this is the coldest winter in thirteen years. Those of us anglers who fish round the calendar don’t need any reminding of that fact. In recent times we have been spoilt by wet and mild winters, so much so in fact that it has been some years since I achieved the honour of catching a double figure barbel in every month of the river season. But so far this year, my barbel rods have been gathering dust on the wall.


The temperature plummets

If I thought it was cold the week before, the first session of the week made some of the previous trips seem like summer beach excursions. A bitterly cold wind blew in from the north-east as I braved the elements on the canal towpath. It was a different stretch to where I have been fishing recently, one that I had made a mental note of some time back when out birding. It has a particularly outstanding feature (I won’t say what as that would give the game away, and rightly or wrongly, I do play my cards close to my chest) but the grass along the towpath proved that no-one has fished it for at least some considerable time as it showed not even the slightest hint of angling activity.

It goes without saying that I seriously struggled, so the single roach that I caught around the half pound mark was quite an achievement really. But I will definitely be back and I would expect perch, carp and eels to be target species along the section I fished. It is a good walk from the access point and as with so many angling venues, the ‘car park’ swims are the ones that see the most action. These shouldn’t be ignored of course, as a venue where everyone goes home two hours before dark will see rich pickings for the thinking angler. But assuming we have the health to walk (and it’s not just laziness) then some cracking swims can be ours for the taking.


A dace from the River Stour


Heading for the River Stour

By the time the next outing came round the local canals and pools were frozen solid and so the only option available was to fish a river. I’ve enjoyed my perch fishing so far but I decided to go for another species, the dace. Having half a day at my disposal, which at this time of the year isn’t that long, I set off for the River Stour. Not the crystal clear Dorset waterway but the Severn tributary that flows through the industrial Black Country, before eventually emptying itself into Sabrina at Stourport-on-Severn. And incidentally that’s where the town gets its name from if ever you wondered about the Stour bit.

In years gone by the Stour was affected by pollution, as indeed were many of our rivers. And not just the urban ones either, as agricultural abuse also saw (and still does although things are getting better) mass killing of fish and wildlife. But like its counterparts around the country, the Stour has vastly improved, and so consequently has the quality of fishing. It’s not the sort of river that you would want to travel across the country to fish but if you’re local, then it’s handy, if nothing else, particularly for short, cold winter sessions.

Christening a new rod on the river






Tip of the week


Don’t ignore your local small river. It may have been polluted in the past but it may well have a surprise or two up its sleeve.

You never know, but the only way to find out is to fish it.


The Stour rises in the Clent Hills, then flows through towns such as Stourbridge (Like Stourport, the clue’s in the name!) before leaving the conurbation behind, becoming pretty much a rural river apart from a brief excursion through Kidderminster. There are a couple of club and day ticket sections that I am aware of but there is a lot of access where it runs alongside the Staffs/Worcs Canal and many people fish from those sections. I’ve been fishing the river on and off for several years in a number of places, and have caught a wide variety of fish from there, but it’s the dace that interest me, as the Stour has some really good fish that live there.

I left it a couple or so hours into daylight before leaving home and was fishing by 10.30am. With a sharp frost overnight I waited for the sun to at least rise a little in the sky. I have recently bought a new (well I had two actually) Fox Duo-Lite Specialist rod and so it made its river debut. I opted for the glass 0.5 ounce insert and fished with a 1/8 ounce lead, 1lb 6oz hooklength and size 20 hook. The hooklength was Drennan Team England and the hook a Super Specialist, and no I am not sponsored by anyone, so when I mention items of tackle it’s totally 100% because I choose to use them and nothing else.



A shame it wasn’t a true roach

It comes good at the end

The session started well with a dace about half a pound, but it went downhill from there. Although I had a few taps I added just one more fish, a roach, before I finally packed away and headed for home. But I had enjoyed my session and with snow and cold weather around for the rest of the week, I decided to head back to the Stour and leave the canals until they defrosted. I fished the same stretch and having it all to myself I was able to fish two swims. I caught several small roach and a bream/roach hybrid that until I realised what it was as it came to the net, thought it was a good quality roach. It has been a hard week and many anglers have probably been put off by the weather, but I’ve certainly enjoyed myself and that’s what angling is all about.


Click on the icon for this week’s video clip


The week ahead

With cold weather forecast for the next few days at least, I will be continuing with the River Stour and focusing particularly on dace, but if a few good roach put in an appearance I won’t be complaining.

(Originally published February 2009)

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