The recent extremes in the weather have thrown my angling plans into confusion. Approaching the start of the river season on June 16, I had it all sorted, both with species and venue. However, no matter how meticulous your plans, when mother nature intervenes then there is nothing that you can do about it. But with the lower Severn back within its banks and falling to normal summer level, I decided to head south on the M5 and do some predator fishing.
Even though it’s been a couple of weeks since the heavens opened, the evidence was still everywhere. The moment I drove into the Worcestershire / Gloucestershire border area, I noticed the bright blue water dispensers parked up in the villages – a sharp reminder that many people are still without safe drinking water. Then as I drew closer to the river itself, the ‘tide mark’ left behind by the receding water was still very visible. One lane that I drove down had obviously been totally underwater, as the whole of the hedgerow was a dirty dark brown as the rising river had left its calling card in the form of mud and debris.
However the most obvious sign of the recent devastation was not visual – and it was down to one of my other senses to fully appreciate what had happened. I’m talking about the smell of death and decay. The moment I first sniffed the outside air it reminded me of when you visit the seaside and come across rotting crabs on the beach. Consider all the fish, mammals and other living creatures that had either drowned (as with the latter) or left stranded (as with the former) and it’s hardly surprising that there was a pungent smell in the air.
And with the temperature in the low 20’s, the intensity of the sun merely compounded the problem. The amount of fish loss must be of gigantic proportions; a news item on local TV demonstrated this point as several thousand fish alone were recovered from a riverside cricket ground. But hopefully there were some still left in the river, I thought to myself as I tackled up. I was there to target zander, but first I had to catch some livebaits. And that proved more difficult than expected as quality roach after quality roach decided that they fancied a maggot. Where are the tiddlers when you want one? You can guarantee that if I was after specimen roach then I’d have caught a net full of one ounce fish.
Fortunately I had taken some small rudd with me from my home bait freezer. The first fish to pick one up was not a zander though but a pike. It wasn’t a big fish but as with any session, it’s always nice to get the first one in the net. As darkness drew in, a shoal of zander had obviously moved into the swim as I had three runs, one after the other. But it was the third one only that saw me strike into a fish. The fish was actually my sixth personal best of the season, but before I give the wrong impression, it weighed in at a colossal 2-13-0. It goes without saying that I haven’t done much zander fishing, but of course we all have to start somewhere.
Fortunately it was only a small fish, as when I got home and started to load the photographs on the computer, the image of the zander had disappeared. I don’t know what happened, but I do know that it had disappeared into the unknown. If I had caught a 12lb fish and reported the same thing, there would no doubt be people who would think that I was making excuses, such is the suspicious nature that hangs around the angling world. You can have as many blanks as you like, and you won’t get the slightest reaction. But catch a nice fish and you soon stir up the dark of side of human nature. I find it all quite humorous really! There must be hundreds of hours sleep each week lost by anglers who are in a metaphorical battle with other fishermen!
The lack of live fish once it got dark meant that I was restricted to dead rudd. The lower Severn is alive with eels come dark and continual single bleeps on the indicator meant that within an hour a single fish was stripped down to bare hooks only. It certainly made me rethink my next visit, and I will be back earlier in the day with a more focused approach to ensure that I have enough bait to see me through the session.
The birding was good though. When I’m away from angling I have some good kit, which is made up of a pair of Swarovski binoculars and a Kowa scope. But there’s no way I would take them with me, so I have a cheaper pair of Bushnell instead. I saw my first green sandpiper of the year, and had three sightings of a common sandpiper, although they could have been the same bird of course. In addition a calling raven flew overhead, two female mandarin duck came upriver, a group of juvenile chiffchaff played in the willow tree in the swim and tawny owls regularly broke the silence of the night. The fishing was slow, but the bird activity more than compensated.
(Originally published August 2007)