You have to be in it to win it
(Left to right: Ready for action, My first fish of 2010, The River Stour, Second roach of the year)
What a cold start 2010 brought with it, with many anglers deciding to give fishing a miss. With temperatures dropping well into an overnight minus, I understand why tackle remained at home; but for me I like to start the New Year out at the water’s edge and so just like any other time of the year, conditions are irrelevant really. All you need to do is give it some thought about species and venue, and for me with local stillwaters frozen, it didn’t take much to know that I would begin the year on a river.
With many of our rivers well up with cold water that meant further selection had to be made, so it was to the Stour that I headed. There are several rivers in the country that bear that name, this one is the one that flows through Staffordshire and Worcestershire, eventually entering the Severn at Stourport. I chose the Stour for a number of reasons: it is local, it drops back quickly after extra water causes a rise, and most importantly, it has some nice roach that feed in the coldest of conditions.
On New Year’s Day I arrived about lunchtime as the afternoon is when the river will be at its highest temperature-wise. So many anglers are oblivious to the fact that at this time of the year the few hours before dark – and after – give the best chance of catching a fish. Just because the sun starts to set and it’s cold for us, it doesn’t mean to say that the water is following the same trend. And even though the conditions were what you might call polar, the water rose by 0.2C in the time I was there. And that’s a step in the right direction.
After finally managing to get my bank sticks in the rock hard ground I caught the only fish of the session while it was still light. It was a fantastic bite, the sort of take a barbel angler would be proud of – a very confident pull-round. I then lost another decent fish that came off at the net, which by now (4.00pm) had welded itself to the ground as the frost took over big style. A few more taps followed but due to the conditions I was certainly happy to end the day with just one fish.
I was back the very next day, again fishing the hours up to dark. It took me quite a while to get the first bite, but once I did I thought I had missed it. Or rather I thought the initial taps had not developed. So after a minute or so I lifted the rod to find that I was connected with a roach. Either I had hooked one the moment it had taken the maggot or else the previous fish had picked up the bait and was so lethargic that it hadn’t realised it was hooked yet and therefore hadn’t moved. Either way I was more than happy to avoid my first blank of the year. A few more taps followed but just the one fish.
On the nature front, I spotted a goosander high in flight following the course of the river. They are quite wary birds and it no doubt dropped down a few hundred yards away where it wouldn’t be disturbed. The other sighting of note was a raven, or to be precise, a pair. Again they were in flight, and passed over a number of people out walking. Those below were totally oblivious that right above their heads were a couple of decent birds for this area. It’s amazing what we miss if we aren’t switched on to what’s around us.
(Originally published January 2010)