One of the advantages of this time of the year is that you can get a fair amount of night fishing in, and still be home before midnight. The downside though, is that with darkness setting in quite early in the day, it can be a race against time sometimes to make it to the water’s edge before the sun sets. So it was I found myself heading for a new stretch on the middle reaches of the River Severn, trying to locate some roach. However, with traffic favourable, I made the river with plenty of time to spare.
I set up on a big sweep of an outside bend that certainly looked promising. However, with the number of roach I had caught up to that moment on my current campaign, I wasn’t building up any hopes! Fishing with red maggots and using a cage feeder to present crumb and deads, I cast out and settled back. Due to the cold weather I knew it was going to be a hard session, and when you struggle to get a bite on maggots, then you know you are up against it!
However, an hour or so into darkness I found myself striking at a bite. Immediately I could feel a decent fish on the end. A thought of a really good roach – or even a chub – quickly evaporated as I realised it was a barbel I had connected with. But if I sound disappointed, I wasn’t – a fish is a fish. Although I do like to keep focused, there is no such thing as a ‘nuisance’ fish in my book. They are all welcome.
After a relatively short fight – considering I am using only 4lb line – the fish was netted, photographed and released. By now the air temperature had dropped sharply and I dug in for the rest of the session. But apart from a couple of tremors, there was no other action to be had. So as it worked out, the solitary small barbel proved to be the fine line that divides a catch and a blank!
To round off the week I headed for the opposite end of the Severn, to see if I could tempt something from the lower reaches of the river. It was another cold day, and due to muddy banks I settled on a new swim that offered some stability. Particularly when fishing into dark, safety is an important issue. If you read my Angling Journal regularly you will know that I beat the safety drum enough times. But when you are talking about the difference between life and death, then I believe you really can’t emphasise the point enough.
The river was low and clear (relatively speaking, of course, as this is the Lower Severn after all). During the hours of daylight I caught a solitary chub, about 6oz. But the highlight was the sighting of my first confirmed otter. I had noticed a water bird and got the binoculars out to take a look. It was a Little Grebe, and as I was focusing on the river, I noticed a log making its way downstream.
The log however, on close inspection, was going slightly across the flow. Zooming in, I was delighted to find that I was looking at an otter making its way across the river! I had a good few seconds before it dived under the water. This year I have seen a couple of, what I believed to be, otters on other rivers, but as both sightings were well into dark, I couldn’t be 100% sure. But with this one there was no mistaking!
As darkness set in, I started to get bites. What a delight it was to catch my first roach in a few sessions! As you can see from the accompanying photo, it was no specimen. In fact, blink and you may mss it! But nevertheless it was my target species, and for that, I was very grateful! Hoping that this fish meant that more were to follow, I cast out again with a high level of expectancy. As the tip slammed round and I struck, I felt that my birthdays had all come at once! However, instead of a good quality roach, it was a nice perch that I found myself netting.
Still, as I have already said, there is no such thing as a nuisance fish as far as I am concerned. No, not even the three eels that followed later on! I’ve always thought of the eel as a summer species, so it did come as a surprise to catch not only one but three, on the run-in to Christmas! I have since spoken with anglers who fish more regularly with maggots than I do, and they confirmed that they too catch eels throughout the winter months. So after my initial surprise, I realised it wasn’t that unusual.
With a clear sky, as the evening wore on it got quite dark, and as is often the case at this time of the year – the water temperature was in excess of the air reading! I fished on until almost eight o’clock and then decided I’d had enough, and it was time to pack away. This is one of the benefits of being a solitary angler – you can come and go as you please, you don’t have the considerations of another to worry about.
It’s been a week of variety certainly, with barbel, chub, eels and perch all putting in an appearance. But with the solitary roach – and a small one at that – the only one of my target species to grace my presence, it’s true to say that…The quest continues…
(Originally published December 2004)