Very cold – but still catching! (roach entry, article 134)

With daytime temperatures hardly moving much above freezing, it was always going to be a struggle this week. Therefore, with just the one trip planned, I didn’t feel that I was missing out on anything. Not like those windows of opportunity when everything is perfect – and for whatever reason you can’t go fishing that week! So I was more than happy to be able to get just the one session in.

I again set off for the middle reaches of the River Severn in pursuit of roach. With the river at normal winter level, the swim I fished didn’t need a heavy lead to hold bottom. In fact a ½ ounce bomb was sufficient to position a static bait a third of the way across the river. Main line was 2 ½ lb with 1lb 6oz for the hook length. That was a short four inches, ensuring that I would be in touch with any finicky roach that played their usual lightning fast tricks with the bait.

As I was intending to fish a single red maggot, I opted for a size 20 hook. I mention red because that was the colour that I had decided to fish with. Now if I am totally honest, I am not 100% convinced that fish can actually tell the difference between, say, a bronze and a white. Very often colour choice is more to do with angler confidence than anything else. But confidence plays a massive part in fishing so we shouldn’t underestimate these things.

The Severn can be very popular in the summer months with walkers, tourists and families on days out. But at this time of the year the banks are hardly walked on. I did have plenty of company though, from three male mallards, who as soon as I dropped my gear on the bank, came round me and started pestering me for food. They are obviously very tame, and must get fed lots of titbits from people passing by, as they promptly got out of the river and started to rummage in my bag!

I didn’t mind though, and as I always take more bait than I actually need (just in case!) there was plenty left over to share with my new found friends. In addition, I also had another feathered visitor who I fed maggots to. I’m sure we’ve all had robins drop by from time to time, but I had a grey wagtail come within a metre to pick up bait that I threw to it.

I do enjoy birding, and get out as much as I can during the week. It’s much easier to fit into my schedule than angling. For one, you don’t necessarily need to travel, you can do it from your own doorstep. In fact this winter we have had a male blackcap visit the bird table in the back garden, which I have observed several times while sitting next to the fire in the living room. Now you don’t get more comfortable than that!

First cast out I hooked a decent roach. Well, I thought to myself, even if I catch nothing else at least I haven’t blanked. Not that I am being negative you understand – just realistic. And when you’re in a cold spell like the current patch of weather we are experiencing, it’s no use getting carried away with visions of continual bites from crucian carp, rudd and tench. You have to pitch your angling objectives at a reasonable level.

However, I did continue to catch through the day. The bites weren’t what you would call fast and furious, but they were regular enough to put the cold to the back of my mind – even if my toes totally disagreed with that way of thinking. As well as roach I also caught dace. All the fish I landed were in excellent condition, with fins and mouths looking like they had never been caught before. But at least if they have, then they have been handled by caring anglers, who have returned the fish to the river in the same condition they were prior to taking the baited hook.

You do have to say that the condition of some fish is a total disgrace. And what is saddest of all is that it is totally avoidable. I wonder if some anglers even know what a disgorger is, never mind carry one. But having said all that, I do feel that education not judgement is the initial answer. I use the word ‘initial’ very carefully, because if people refuse to listen to the voice of reasonable persuasion, then they deserve all they get in terms of criticism.

With it being a very cold day, once the sun started to set I was more than happy to pack away and get back to the car. Driving along the lanes that took me to the main road I couldn’t wait for the red needle to rise on the temperature gauge. As soon as it did, I turned the blower on full, directing the heat on my legs, hands and face, and drove the rest of the journey home warm and contented. But it’s nice to be still catching fish in spite of the cold weather, and for that I am very thankful indeed.

(Originally published February 2006)

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