I keep notes when I’m out fishing, and one morning while reading through them, I came across the details of a winter campaign I did some years ago on my local River Stour. In the passing of time I had kind of forgotten what a good time I had. Not big fish compared to many venues, but as we know, everything is relative.
With the builders still at home, I needed somewhere I could get to pretty quickly so I could be fishing by dusk. And with all the stillwaters frozen solid, I decided to renew acquaintances with the Stour. With air temperature minus 3 during the day, as you can imagine, it got pretty cold once the sun set! But you never catch sitting at home, and as always, I was confident!
I made my rod up ready, so once on the bank was fishing in no time at all. A simple 20g cage feeder set-up with four maggots on a size 12 hook was my approach for the session. I only managed one but at least I wasn’t a blanker. And in sub-zero conditions any fish is a result. It had been feeding well as its throat was stuffed with crumb and mashed maggots.
My next few sessions were on the middle Severn and did I struggle! It was really hard going and although I caught (and blanked!) I had nothing of size to pose in front of the camera with. I alternated between the Stour approach and bread on the hook and in the feeder. But it was tough, it was like the river was dead.
And was it cold! My toes were suffering big-time and in spite of putting on more socks than a five-a-side football team, it remained my weak spot as the biting cold attacked everything that dared to confront it. Even during the day the air temperatures were minus and getting back to the car on one session it had dropped to minus 7.
And as you can see from the photograph above, it got so cold the camcorder refused to work. Well on that particular occasion I didn’t miss much as I only caught a bullhead. Although don’t see the use of the word ‘only’ as negative. No such thing as a nuisance fish and I do love our mini-species.
On the subject of blanks and struggling sessions you may wonder why I even mention them. Well a number of reasons really. Most importantly because I have them. If I only record red-letter days I’m giving a false impression. Telling it how it really is rather than how we want others to see us, is for me an important facet of angling writing.
I do catch some good fish along the way, but if I only declare the sessions when I have results I’m coating my fishing with a false veneer of success. The truth is if you’re an all-weather, all-year-round angler who is up for the challenge it won’t always be rods bent double, screaming reels and smiles in front of the camera as you hold big fish after big fish for trophy shots.
Then, just as quickly as the weather had originally gone from mild to cold in one day, it turned once more. And this time the heavy rains from the incoming SW winds brought rain. And lots of it. In just one day the Severn was up over two metres and still filling.
The EA graph looked like the Spanish unemployment chart. Shooting up and out of control. And I don’t say that to ridicule or laugh at Spain in any way, just stating fact. Isn’t it funny, how in these days of everyone being offended, we have to clarify everything for fear of causing offence.
So, with the rivers up and in the fields again, I had to look elsewhere for my angling. But after failing to get a decent chub I was really looking to do business with that species rather than switch. The danger is that we become stubborn, but as long as we’re genuinely up for the challenge there’s nothing wrong with that.
And I was up for it. But where to go? Obviously a stillwater, and with chub being pretty prolific nowadays in my local Staffs/Worcs Canal, that’s where I headed. I actually fished somewhere new, and in the context of a struggling week, that could be considered brave. But, even as I was on the Stour and the Severn, I was still confident.
I fished 4lb line through to a size 6 hook (that I later changed to a size 4), a free-running 3.5g bomb and the hook length of about 6 inches (15cm) created by a small shot and a Greys top rubber. A very simple set-up, but as you can see from the photos, one that worked. The very light lead allowed me to get the bait down but also to fish with a slight slack in the line.
I didn’t want to be so tight as the fish would feel resistance immediately, but wanted just that little time so that it had taken the bait properly before it knew something was wrong. We’re only talking a split second but sometimes it’s the minute details that make the difference.
Anyway it worked and I caught a few chub, the best one being photographed against the bridge I was fishing next to. Stone structures, although man-made, become natural features for the fish. Not only offering shelter but also, if they extend through the water, a source of food as they will become growing stations for all manner of underwater vegetation and creatures.
Really encouraged, I was back the next day on the canal for a first-light and then dusk-into-dark session. In between I went home and did some work. As I’d already been in my office till the early hours the day before I was pushing myself. But I’m a great believer in not letting the grass grow beneath your feet. Anyway, with fishing as the carrot being dangled, the incentive to push on was a positive one.
Both sessions were great and I got amongst some decent fish as the last two photographs show, all caught on bread by the way. As I netted and photographed the first one I reminded myself of the days when, if I wanted to catch chub like that, I had to go to the upper Severn. And here they are on my doorstep. Well comparatively speaking anyway.
So what started out as a real struggle came good in the end. Those of you who do follow my angling adventures regularly will also know I fish the canal for carp. You’ll also be aware of how I come across fish in the bits I fish, which are very elusive. I usually go and give somewhere a go on the basis that if they are in here, then this is where they’ll be.
However, as I struck into chub and a number of bream about 1.5lb, I also found myself connected with a couple of carp. Although I got broke on both occasions I was actually really encouraged because I had quite clearly located a new spot for the future. And with a few more days of mild weather predicted, the future is now! Join me next week to see how I get on! (Published February 2 2013)
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