Back to school
At my time of life going back to school doesn’t involve pens and exercise books but I’d reached a stage in my fishing where it had become a little stale and lacking in results. When you reach this stage you take some comfort from telling yourself that ‘it’s the same for everyone’ or ‘the river needs a good flush through’ but I knew I needed a tactical change.
I’d spotted a post from the Barbel Society promoting their Barbel School which immediately caught my interest so I signed up. It was held at the end of August which happened to be in the middle of my 2 weeks off work so it fitted in well.
I made the long journey to the river Teme and upon arrival was made to feel very welcome by the organising team. The first part of the school was a comprehensive talk and demo covering everything from swim selection to rig setup and it was during this talk I had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments when I realised that given the conditions my whole approach wasn’t so much as wrong, but it was inappropriate.
My usual method was to choose a swim and bait drop 6 or 7 payloads of hemp and pellet followed an hour later by the hook bait and often a feeder full to keep the swim topped up, if no action after 15 minutes I’d recast. In complete contrast I learnt that fishing a small rivers where the barbel population is scarce requires a softly softly approach.
The setup was similar to what I’d been using but a lot more refined. I’d always used long hook links of around 2 foot to try to avoid contact with the main line when a fish was inspecting the bait but I’d never thought about back leading the main line a few feet up from the main lead. This is simply achieved by using an olivette which slides freely but is stopped by a small float stop, that way it’s adjustable and more importantly safe in the event of a snap off.
Next the hook link, I’ve always used a supple mono for hook links but braid was the hook link material of choice in this setup, a 15lb sinking braid that was supple and blended in better with the bottom. As you’d expect the hook is matched to the size of the bait and as we were each kindly given a goody bag containing the Lone Angler 10mm dumbells from the famous Sausage Sizzle range with matching paste a size 12 micro-barbed hook was perfect for the job. To complete the refinements a grippa lead is used instead of a cage feeder or even a natural stone can be used, both will take paste and/or a glug resulting in an added bit of attractant when it’s in position.
The cast and wait approach
On a river like the Dove when fishing close in the cast isn’t so much a cast but a lowering in of the rig as quietly as possible. If I need to then a gentle under arm cast will get the rig in place without a fuss, this is followed by a few small pellets to provide some additional feed.
The next thing to do is sit back and wait, and wait, and wait. Sitting on my hands becomes the only option as I don’t want to disturb the swim so eventually I’ll decide on sending that text or making a cup of tea, it’s at this point that the rod will almost certainly be wrenched out of the rod rest and the battle ensues.
After the talk we tackled up and moved into our swims. Stealth – creeping into position, something I’m more use to doing whilst chub fishing but also necessary when taking the softly softly approach for barbel. I prepared everything up top well away from the swim taking care not to cast a shadow.
The swim itself was a wide sweeping bend fairly slow-paced and plenty of nearside snags to my left. A number of large stones formed a patrol route for the resident babel and the nearest around 2 rod lengths out and slightly upstream needed nothing more than an underarm cast to position the bait. I was using my Rapidex pin with 12lb mainline through to a braided hook link, a bow in the mainline ensured that the light lead wouldn’t be pulled out of position so with the ratchet set it was time to sit on my hands.
Ten minutes went by before the first indication of a fish in the swim, a pluck followed by a screaming pin, a short fight and a small chub was skulking in my net. “Not the target species but welcome all the same” (why do we always say that?) anyway it was welcome, any fish is welcome in my book.
I recast to the same spot, the chub hadn’t splashed about too much so I hoped for an immediate response. An hour later and I couldn’t sit on my hands any longer so I checked the phone, I had a message from Bill asking how it was going. In the middle of replying and true to form the reel broke the silence and I lifted into my first Teme tiger. As predicted it headed straight for the nearside snags and the 12′ Porky Pig rod hooped over, my arm ached but I applied the pressure just enough to ease the fish out into open water. Soon after the tiger was tamed and left resting in the net.
Later that evening a few more barbel of a similar size were banked and at breakfast the following morning we’d all had similar results. A great weekend with good company, some new friends and a beautiful beat of the Teme plus I’d learnt a new approach to my barbel fishing on small rivers, that’s a result and one I’d be very grateful for in the weeks that followed.
With lessons learnt my next visit to the Dove was a week later. The usually meandering of the banks during the day, rolling meat on the off chance, it was a half-hearted affair as I knew the river was still too low and clear but at dusk I headed for a new beat I’d been told about.
With everything prepared well back from the river’s edge I crawled into position and observed 2 small perch in the undercut bank, it was 4′ deep and crystal clear but I knew once darkness fell it would form a secure feeding spot for the barbel hiding under the streamer weed a few feet away.
The rig was lowered into position, a 14mm halibut pellet wrapped in the Sausage Sizzle paste silently plopped into the river. Half a dozen free pellets were dropped in by hand and after 20 minutes all was quiet so I poured a cup of tea which obviously is the international barbel signal to take the bait!! The centre pin screamed, I screamed as I spilt hot tea but I was in. The fish darted back into the weed and everything went solid, I thought it had slipped the hook but gave it plenty of slack just to be sure, nothing, I pointed the rod at the weed and started pulling for a break, a faint pull back gave me hope and sure enough it was game on. Without the weed covering it’s head it went nuts in the edge spoiling any chance of another fish but I didn’t care, it was my Dove barbel box ticked and a decent size too going 9lb 9oz on the Avons and in great condition, very pleased indeed.
Both trips since have produced new PB’s, same beat same tactics. A 5lb 7oz chub taking the bait as I was packing up and the following week a new PB barbel at 11lb 4oz taking a liking to the Lone Angler Ocean Pride dumbell again wrapped in matching paste.
Confidence restored and my fishing freshened up by Barbel School I’m keen to continue chasing barbel into the autumn and then turn my attentions to the bigger chub in the winter months, it’s good to have a plan even better to know it works!!
Where there’s a will there’s a way…..
Acknowledgement – My handmade/homemade feeders are inspired by my friend Paul Fisk of Fiskys Fantastic Feeders. His words of encouragement and valuable advice have helped me significantly to reach a stage where I can build feeders of any size to suit my fishing needs, thanks mate!!
I’d been looking for a suitable mesh to make my own feeders for quite some time but then Swifty gave me a huge feeder made from a plastic hair curler weighing some 70g and I thought hang on that’s easier than forming mesh into a cylinder shape so I trawled the internet for hair curlers but they aren’t that easy to find until you realise that they now come with a layer of fluffy stuff on them!! Once you realise that it’s like buses and you spot them everywhere, so the starting point is to get some Velcro Curlers also called Velcro Rollers which come in various diameters and coloured velcro, the are however all of a similar length of around 65mm but more of that later. As for where to buy them you’ll be surprised but Home Bargain shops, Poundland etc they all do them and I’d expect to pay no more than a pound for a pack of 4 to 8 rollers depending on the size you require.
Once you’ve got your velcro rollers the first thing to do is to remove the velcro which is glued along one side so take a pair of sharp scissors and cut it off carefully. This will serve two purposes firstly we’ve no need for the velcro unless you can think of a use for it and secondly family members and neighbours will stop looking at you like you’ve lost the plot.
This will leave the plastic roller which is a translucent colour and you can then decide whether or not to paint it a more ‘manly’ black, green, camo, sand, textured or whatever you want or feel will not stick out like a sore thumb on the bottom of a lake or riverbed. I personally think it’s irrelevant on rivers and the jury is out across the different genre of angler, on the one hand your super stealth carper will buy a camo tea mug if they think it’ll give them the edge and put more big carps on the bank but footage of hard feeding barbel has shown them almost attacking a bait dropper as it hits bottom as they’re more interested in its contents than what’s to follow shortly after.
I’ve experimented with a stone effect spray which I can only say left the feeder looking like an explosion in a sand factory, maybe I should have primed the plastic surface first but anyway suffice to say it didn’t adhere very well. On Swifty’s advice I went for a cheaper tin of BBQ spray, it dries to a black satin finish and covers the entire roller easily enough, do a dozen or so at a time and your well on your way to a nice batch of feeders.
Next is the lead weight – now sometime ago I bought a handy little book called Lead Casting for Pleasure and Profit by Gordon T. Horton and originally it was to look at making my own lead weights but as I soon realised there are a number of drawbacks to casting lead firstly it’s a valuable commodity and not that easy to get hold of these days and secondly it can be quite dangerous particularly if there’s any moisture in the mould.
Instead I decided on buying a sheet of lead flashing and with a bit of cunning and some basic metalwork produce a lead weight of various widths and weights to suit my needs. This is more readily available than scrap lead and I found a seller on Ebay who sells it in handy sizes enough to make around 15 x 2oz feeders for around £6 delivered, the sheet is grade 4 and approx 1.8mm thick.
Before we move onto cutting the lead sheet into strips I should mention the basic tools used to make the feeders are shown in the photo below, you don’t necessarily need them all although the most useful one I’ve found is a small vice, this helps flatten and shape the lead as well as hold it firm when filing.
The first strip will need to be around 100mm long this will form the strap that’ll fold into the feeder at either end. Cutting the lead couldn’t be easier with either a strong pair of scissors or tin snips the width will determine the initial weight of the feeder but a 20mm wide strip will weigh in at around 38g or 1.3oz
Next if you need a heavier feeder just cut further strips at 60mm long and use a suitable epoxy glue to bond them to the strap. You’ll notice I’ve rounded off the corners in the photo above, this is to ensure there are no sharp edges that could lift a scale or worse whilst playing the fish.
The finished lead should look something like this and whilst I haven’t tested it under water for long periods of time the glue may at some point fail and the lead strips delaminate so to protect against that I’ll add a piece of heat shrink tubing around all the lead strips.
There are number of ways to connect the feeder some shop bought feeders come with rubber O rings others use power gum, some have a normal swivels others use a big eye swivel and some dispense with a swivel and just have an hole the end of a plastic boom. It’s down to personal preference and how you want to connect the feeder to the mainline. In my case I wanted a stiff link and a normal size 8 swivel as I use a free running clip swivel so I can change feeders or swap to a lead without breaking down the end tackle.
The materials needed to make mine are shown in the photo below, I had the stainless steel wire in stock for making the eyes on handmade floats and initially tried it doubled up through the eye of the swivel the used a drill to put an even twist in it but a pair of pliers and a bit of patients would produce the same result.
I then used a piece of rigid PVC tubing that was slightly smaller inside diameter than the swivel body and feed the wire through pushing the swivel home to leave just the eye exposed. Then by twisting the wire back on itself you form a loop and with a bit of work with a pair of pliers form this into a triangle shape wide enough to go over the width of the lead strap. I’ve found that using a pair of long nose pliers or even a pair of forceps inside the loop and opening them out will form the shape you need as well as test the strength of the connection.
Fisky uses trace wire and a crimp which sits behind the folded strap and then rig sleeve to the swivel so there are a number of options and you’ll settle on one that suits your needs. I’ve since found a plastic coated green wire meant for tying garden plants again in the pound shop and the benefit of that is it’s a little more flexible than the stainless steel wire and not shiny!! I still form the loop but then pass the tag ends through the loop and push them back up the tube making for a very secure joint.
The feeders as mentioned earlier are 65mm long but to make a smaller feeder simply cut the roller using scissors or snips and file or sand down any sharp edges, obviously the lead strap will be shorter and the additional weights shorter too. I like a lighter feeder for my Avon rod and I’m using a few weighing no more than an ounce at present as the river I’m fishing is low and clear so there’s no need for anything bigger. It’s all well and good building big heavy feeders but you must match the maximum weight to the casting limit of the rod, a 3oz feeder of the size I’m using here will weigh 4 or 5oz when fully loaded, I can certainly tell the difference when I use a 12’ heavy feeder rod compared to the 10’ Avon rod.
I’ve made a range of feeders recently that would have cost around £1.50 to £2 each but I’d be surprised if my DIY efforts worked out to more than 50p each in the long run so it’ll make the pain of losing one in snags a little easier on the wallet.
In testing the feeders performed very well, they are easy enough to fill with a groundbait and pellet ‘sandwich’ and cast well, on the retrieve they are easy to bring to the surface and the swivel prevents twisting the mainline unlike some cheaper made feeders. I’ve even pulled free from a snag and recovered the feeder undamaged along with said snag, a new PB I’m going to call ‘stick’
Final thoughts – Some anglers don’t use feeders at all and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that but I believe in the summer months laying a scent trail for the fish to follow will lead them to you hook bait it’s therefore important to cast accurately every time and for your feeder to hold station even when empty to keep the hook bait in the baited area. The ground bait of choice for me is the Hemp & Banana or Hemp & Halibut DINNERbell, it is pre-moistened and doesn’t need water adding on the bank which in turn means anything I don’t use is put back in the bag, it doesn’t go off so it’s really economical.
A new river beckoned…..
So how did I end up here? It’s a question I often ask myself whilst staring at a motionless tip but as I’ve said before I enjoy angling and it’s more than just catching fish, for me it’s about getting out into the open countryside to enjoy the surroundings and unwind from the weekly grind so how did I end up fishing the river Dove? In order to answer that question I’ll take a brief look back at the autumn of 2014 and also recall my first session on the river Dove that I wrote about here in my Blog at the time.
Towards the end of 2014 I decided I needed a change from the weekly sessions on my local river Dane, when I say local it’s still a seventy mile round trip however as it’s mostly all motorway it only takes around thirty five minutes door to door. I’d spent most of my weekly sessions for the past three years on one particular beat called Daisybank and had plenty of chub and the odd barbel but as the season moved on I started to struggle, familiar swims which previously almost guaranteed results stopped producing or would make me feel grateful for a solitary 3lb chub after twelve hours of walking it’s banks. I was going through what I call a ‘dry’ period and there was nothing drier than my landing net.
As we all tend to do I analysed the situation in an effort to find out why it had suddenly ‘dropped off’ my tactics (rightly or wrongly) remained consistent, I was using a 10′ Hardy Avon rod and either my trusty centre pin or an equally reliable Mitchell 300, 6lb line straight through to a six 6 hook with either cheese paste or a lump of meat for bait. Occasionally, if conditions allowed, I’d trott bread flake through a tempting swim and very occasionally it would oblige with a nicely conditioned chub but during the autumn months of 2014 I started a series a blank sessions that drove me to start looking else where. Whether it was the resident tarka, the occasional sighting of the black winged death, the cheeky mink or just bad angling I needed a break and a new challenge.
The river Dove is twice as far again and takes me around an hour and a half to travel the eighty miles or so each way but I needed a change of scenery as well as change of luck. Looking around I found a number of clubs offering various beats but after some sound advice from Congleton based Rob Swindells I joined Burton Mutual AA who control 9 miles of the Dove on both banks from Tutbury to its confluence with the river Trent and then a few miles downstream of the Trent giving me more than enough to get my chevin chasing underway in earnest. So at the end of November I took advantage of a half year membership and joined the club. Soon after I was sitting on the uppermost beat of the clubs stretch, the weir further upstream denoting the boundary and I must say I was very impressed, with Tutbury castle as a backdrop who wouldn’t be!!
I headed upstream and found a very tempting swim with a smooth glide. Dropping in I sat back for five minutes and just observed my new surroundings. The sheep in the field bounded around in between munching grass, bullocks turned up to have a nosey at the new bloke and flocks of geese performed aerial manoeuvres overhead.
Another angler wading upstream of me flicked his fly with rhythmic precision and although I did consider walking up to have a chat my eagerness to cast was too great so I set about it with a ceremoniously overhead flick, my fishing on the Dove had begun.
A fresh cheese paste I’d made the night before felt just right as a first offering to the chub, it hit the crease with a ‘plop’ however I’d under estimated the pace of the river and was soon dragged into the nearside bank. I reeled in and stepped up to a 30g black cap feeder filled with hemp and as I recast to the same spot, it stayed in position allowing for a slight bend in the tip.
A reassuring pluck was registered and like a gun fighter in the wild west my hand hovered over the rod ready to strike, it pulled around and I lifted into a fish. It lept almost immediately from the water and I could see it wasn’t a chub but it still fought well and within a few seconds was in the net. I’d been fishing less than fifteen minutes and had my first Dove fish, I wasn’t use to that kind of start and thinking back I should have guessed the trout were in residence after all the clue was staring me in the face fifty yards upstream.
I probably stayed too long in the swim but I wasn’t in a rush and had the rest of the day ahead of me but after a further half hour I went in search of the weir.
The weir marks the upper limit of the beat and also the start of nine miles of Derbyshire countryside for me to explore. I wanted to fully appreciate the river from start to finish, I knew that wasn’t achievable in a day but I have all the time in the world for this kind of river, wider than the Dane overall but of a similar depth and a complete unknown which is why I’m fishing it.
I’d researched my surroundings and felt acquainted with their form, I had my bearings and Google earth is a powerful tool but you have to be careful not to make any assumptions particularly when it comes to boundaries and barbed wire fences!!
The shingle beach provided a stable footing for my chair but I stood near the edge and rolled a piece of free lined meat around in the turbulent water hoping to get a quick take from an unsuspecting barbel. Eventually my lack of sleep caught up with me so I attached a 2oz grippa and cast it forty yards or so into the heart of the weir, propping the rod on the rest I tucked the long cork handle under my arm hooked my finger around the line and drifted off into a much-needed sleep. An hour later I was woken by the sound of panting just behind my right ear, disoriented for a moment I turned and came face to face with drooling dog who’d come over to inspect this strange man sat in the middle of his patch. The beat is popular with dog walkers who nod knowingly if you catch their eye and seem to be a friendly enough bunch.
I reeled in only to find the meat had long gone, perhaps it had been plucked carefully away by a giant chub who managed to avoid the hook, if it had I wouldn’t have known a thing.
Walking back to the car I stayed close to the river’s edge scanning potential swims for my next visit, every twenty yards I could see a ‘chubby’ looking spot, the Dove was quickly getting my seal of approval.
I decided to use the last hour of light to find a second car park downstream and set off in the general direction but it was soon apparent that the sat nav didn’t know where it was going either and I ending up driving around in circles until eventually it was pitch black.
Heading back to just below the road bridge I dropped onto the next beat. It too screamed chub and had a bit more pace judging by the occasional procession of foam. Mid way was as good as any and within a couple of minutes I was casting a rod length out and letting the flow take the feeder to a natural resting place. I poured a coffee and watched the starlite, it flickered slightly and then pulled steadily around a nicely conditioned chub of 3lb 12oz was the result.
Pleased with the chub I decided the far bank needed a run through so I punched the feeder across and this time held onto the rod. The cheese paste had barely come to a halt when I felt a familiar tingling through the line. I didn’t hesitate and stuck firmly to my right but no resistance was forthcoming and I reeled in quickly to recast. Just under the rod tip I caught a glimpse of a fish and much to my surprise my second chub was banked. At only eight inches in length it was a chublet but it was the first chublet I’d seen since Bicton on the river Severn back in September and it signified a healthy river with a growing population, result!!
My final couple of hours were spent wandering downstream where eventually I came across another angler, a brief chat confirmed my location and he said there were a couple of anglers beyond him so I gathered my tackle and headed off to find a vacant peg. A suitable peg found I had a look to see if I was close to anyone else, two glowing night lights twenty yards away confirmed I was so I said hello and we started chatting.
As luck would have it I was speaking with the current barbel river record holder and he spent a good half hour or more telling me about the Dove and how he’d fished it since the mid 70s, he clearly knew the river intimately. His river record hadn’t come from this section but he said it still contained some lumps so I spent the last hour casting frequently and learning about my new home which although it’s likely to be a long haul I’m happy to drive those extra miles each week to once again enjoying my fishing.
If you want to follow Bob aka Grazy and his mates on their fishing exploits as they unfold I usually put a post up on Facebook when I’m out so click the button below.
River Dane 8th February 2015
With the car in again for repair on the Saturday I decided on a Sunday session on the Dane. The levels looked plausible and the weather nowhere near as windy so I arrived around 8:30am and marched confidently down the hill. It was foggy and overcast, perfect conditions for a days chubbing and the levels were good too, today could be the turning point.
I dropped quietly into ‘Shrinkers’ swim and setup away from the water’s edge, dropping a piece of free lined paste in I settled back and routed out the flask, a hot cup of coffee warming me up. After half an hour the peace was broken by a panting dog some six-foot behind me, an angler appeared out of the mist and enquired as to whether I’d had anything, my reply was short enough not to engage further in conversation as aside from spooking my swim I didn’t want to get into why he’d obviously not noticed the sheep at the top of the field nor read the club rules about dogs on club waters, I just couldn’t be bothered.
Another half an hour passed and another pair of anglers appeared, they stopped in-line with my bait right on the skyline and I was asked once again had I had anything, ‘No and I probably won’t now from this swim’ my response prompted the pair to continue downstream probably calling me a grumpy old git. Finally a friendly face appeared, this time crouching to my right and speaking in a hushed whisper as you should do, it was Paul and he’d had a couple of 1lb chub in the corn field earlier.
I thought I’d try another swim way down stream in the corn field, I’d had a double figure barbel from the swim this time last year and a decent chub so I trudged along the river’s edge and passed the two sky-liners. The swim was baron and provided no cover so I set up well back and crept into position. As I dropped the first cast in with a gentle plop one of the sky-liners stomped across the back of me and headed for the other side of the overhanging tree, no-more than 20 yards away – unbelievable!!
Any chance I had of drawing a chub up from downstream was completely ruined whether it was intentional or not I’d have never gone anywhere near another angler had I stumbled across them like he did, now I really was peed off with the ‘Sunday Circus’
I gathered the tackle and again stomped off towards the final beat but on approaching the Rope Tree swim a couple of anglers on the far bank had me adjust my course and I veered off left towards the Sandbank swim. I knew this would need a very stealthy approach so lay down my tackle some twenty yards away, as I did so the mobile rang and the silence was broken, bugger!!
Settling into the swim everything seemed right, an under arm lob was all that was needed to drop the cheese paste on the spot. I perched on my bucket like an expectant garden gnome and touch ledgered, my favourite means of fishing. Within a couple of minutes I felt a vibration through the trapped line and as I struck prematurely the cheese paste flew over my right shoulder and tangled in the trees behind me. At least I knew a fish was present so I recast and repeated the procedure – feel the bite, strike, untangle the line from the trees and recast. After the third time I realised I wasn’t going to get this crafty chevin so as darkness fell I headed back upstream to the Gate swim, surely the fishing Gods had seen enough of my amateur antics and would take pity on my last ditched attempt to avoid another blank?
The Gate swim doesn’t give up it’s secrets easily so I was a little hesitant but it felt right so a baited with a large chunk of meat and tossed it out into the flow. The isotope nodded occasionally and I imaged the free lined bait wafting seductively at the end of the run which in the summer you can see the streamer weed and imagine a chub or two darting in and out to collect free offerings.
I’d left all the paraphernalia at the top of the swim and sat patiently on my unhooking mat, if it was going to happen it’d be quick so I didn’t want to create any undue noise setting up a chair or clonking a tackle bag down.
As my eyes honed in on the isotope a shadow on the far sandbank distracted me, it was almost pitch black and still very overcast but I could just make out the dark shape – it was the resident otter. I stood up to get a closer look and as I did so he dived into the river his red eyes caught in my head torch submerged like torpedo and headed up-stream – game over.
River Dove 14th February 2015
Back on my favourite river and this time a new stretch to try. Known as Monks bridge the river runs under the main dual carriageway which means lots of road noise but that didn’t detract from its appeal.
I set up in a lovely looking swim just before the bridge, it ran through in two places either side of the central pillar so either way I’d cover a lot of water from one vantage point.
It was close to the main road but the drone of the traffic soon disappeared into the background as I got on with the task in hand. The pace of the river was deceptively slow and a 1oz lead insufficient to hold bottom so I let it take the bait along and under the far arch rather than step up to a heavier lead. I think chub are opportunist so they’ll lay in wait and pick up baits on the move as much as they will search out a static bait.
Oddly I didn’t get a bite not even a pluck so after two hours I moved to a more familiar beat and settled in for the evening session. My phone rang, it was Cliff and we both agreed that Spring was just around the corner, the evening bird song was reminiscent of those long forgotten Spring evenings, the river was in fine form and with a cloudy sky I couldn’t have planned it any better but did I catch? Well let’s just say the self take below taken to set-up the camera before dark says it all…… note how optimistically wide apart my hands are!!
River Dane 21st February 2015
Back on the river Dane this week again due to some final repairs to the fishing wagon, this time an early morning visit whilst my mate ‘Little Robbie’ replaced the offending part, hopefully now it’ll stop losing water. I can’t complain it’s approaching 200,000 miles on the clock and usually doesn’t miss a beat when peddled at a steady 75mph on the motorway, it never complains even when driven down the muddiest of dirt tracks and I rekon it’s good for another 100,000 miles if I look after it.
After the car was repaired I headed off to catch the second half of my sons football match where he made his début as goal keeper, they were 4-1 down but he did his best and only one more goal was scored in the final moments.
It was early afternoon by the time I arrived I headed upstream of my usual beat and bumped into Phil and Dave who’d had a few fish in the morning so things looked promising. I picked a somewhat inaccessible swim that required my rope to descend into but that was part of my logic, if it’s popular with anglers and easy to get to perhaps the fish have become wise to that area and found sanctuary elsewhere, I mean how many times do you catch within ten minutes of your first cast only too sit there for a further hour without a bite?
I started off on cheese paste made as usual with the Laguna Blue Cheese SAC juice and their Milk Based Pro base mix, a few small piece were tossed in randomly to entice, if there’s a fish within the immediate area they’ll soon be onto it and so I took my time tackling up before a gentle under arm lob placed the 1/4oz bomb out in the flow, it bounced around and swung in under the downstream tree, perfect.
Sure enough a familiar feeling was transmitted through the line as a young chub toyed with the bait, I didn’t hesitate and struck into my first fish in many, many weeks. The pristine chub lay in the bottom of the net, it wasn’t worth weighing and soon returned but my confidence was restored,
I decided to chance another cast as the mid-afternoon showers had arrived meaning I’d get soaked moving swims so I took a lazy approach and recast to the same spot. In between the showers I’d move upstream poking the rod through the trees and improvising with whatever was available, this is how chub fishing should be but far too often we take enough gear to sink a battleship and moving swims can be a major operation.
Today I was happy to rest the first swim and run a bait through these little fished areas just to see if I could catch an unsuspecting chub or two.
It was well after dark before the first swim showed any kind of activity, a flick on the isotope before a steady pull around producing three more fish in quick succession, I had not only broken my run of blanks but had hit the jackpot!!
I left after the swim went quiet again, it was late and I’d had my fill, time to return home a very happy angler.
The final weekend of February was spent in the good company of fellow chevin chasers on the river Lugg and river Wye in Herefordshire but I’ll save that write-up for next time.
If you want to follow Bob aka Grazy and his mates on their fishing exploits as they unfold I usually put a post up on Facebook when I’m out so click the button below.
I haven’t been updating my ‘weekly’ Blog recently due to there being little in the way of anything interesting or indeed fish on the bank to report. It’s a difficult time of year for the hardy river angler and a long cold fish-less session doesn’t really make for a good write up.
Despite managing to get out every Saturday since the Christmas festivities my enthusiasm has waned, perhaps the close season can’t come soon enough, perhaps the river angler in me needs a well earned rest. What I do know is that although the year got off to a superb start it’s been a struggle ever since. If it’s not a rising and very coloured river or high winds biting through the multiple layers of winter woollies it’s being in the wrong place at the wrong time. To top it off I discovered recently that a swim I fished well throughout 2014 and again last weekend produced nowt for me but the very next day another club member bounds into the same swim and nets himself a 4lb chub first chuck, is it any wonder I’m feeling a little disheartened?
That said I do enjoy looking back on my sessions and apart from the wonderful new PB chub I’ve avoided too much detail to save the poor reader from reaching the depths of despair that I have. Enjoy the photo’s taken mostly on my phone since scratching the lens of my rather expensive Canon rendering it beyond economical repair, that’s another thing that’s added to my ‘doom and gloom’ outlook recently however with nothing to loose I’ll be buying a replacement lens unit and changing it myself, I mean what could possibly go wrong!!
River Dove 29th December 2014
Nothing to see here so move along!! I arrived at 6pm to six inches of frozen snow, I blanked and left at midnight very cold, so cold in-fact the lock on the passenger door had frozen in the open position and I ended up holding it closed with a couple of bungee straps for the long and rather dull 80 mile journey home. Perhaps I shouldn’t of bothered, I was the only angler on the bank and the odds were definitely stacked against me. The only cheerful sight was the Christmas reindeer’s on the edge of the village green.
River Dove 3rd January 2015
Since the end of November I’ve been back to the river Dove almost every week and although I’ve explored another beat called Horseshoe Meadow there is still miles of river to wet my eager line in. I often pour over the maps mid-week planning where to go next so on the 3rd of January I decided to revisit the section I first fished at the end of November.
Although the weather was less than ideal I set up under my brolly and as usually flicked a lump of paste out into the steady flow, the bank was higher than I’d had liked so I kept the rod tip low and and left the bail arm off allowing the bait to free line through the swim. Just after I snapped the bail arm shut the tip gave a little tug and as I struck the familiar thump thump was felt and I was in on only my second cast of the session.
The Avon rod hooped over but always felt in control and as I’d upgraded to 8lb line straight through I wasted no time in playing the fish into the waiting net. On the bank I gave a loud shout of “Oh yes!!” as I realised I could have my first chub of over 5lb, it looked ever inch a five and it’s girth was bigger than anything I’d handled before. It had taken the bait right down the back of it’s throat and I needed to use the forceps to reach the hook, clearly an opportunist that had taken the Laguna ‘Posh’ cheese paste on the move mid-water.
I resisted the temptation to weigh it immediately and instead rested it in the margins, it didn’t take long before it was thrashing about impatiently so I lifted up the scales and let out another shout of delight as they settled on 5lb 4oz, a new PB and a significant milestone in my chub fishing to date.
River Dove 10th January 2015
A week later and I was back to the same stretch only this time on the opposite bank. A chance conversation with another angler at the end of the previous weeks session told me he’d had a PB chub himself which at 6lb 10oz had certainly wet my appetite.
The weather was against me and the strong winds meant finding a slack with some shelter dictated where I would end up which turned out to be opposite the bank I’d had the 5lber from the week before. This was my downfall, firstly the swim was downstream of a huge raft giving the slack water, secondly it was through a hole in the gorse bush and down into a dip giving the shelter and thirdly I was that tired I just set up my chair, got comfy and stayed there. The one golden rule of chub fishing is move frequently so it was no wonder I went home fish-less once again.
River Dove 17th January 2015
My mate Peters ticket had come through so I had company for this trip and I must admit it renewed my enthusiasm somewhat. We arrived at the river just before 9am and stood on the main bridge admiring the views before setting off downstream to an area I was now familiar with.
Peter quickly gained his own group of admirers and they watched with as much anticipation as we did. We continued to move downstream until late afternoon when the light was fading we trudged back to where we started for the last couple of hours into darkness.
Once again we bumped into another angler who told us of 6lb+ chub to be had in the horseshoe, the only other area I’d fished previously, and that just reinforced my resolve to keep trying, maybe it wouldn’t happen this side of the close season but come June I’d be back and, fully rested, will do battle again for my first 6lber on this incredible river.
River Dane & Farm Pool 24th January 2015
The fishing wagon was in for a routine cam-belt change so my good friend Bill came to the rescue and we headed off at 6am for a days trotting on the river Dane. I’d been watching the levels as I always do but for some reason the Dane levels are only updated every 12 hours or so and on this occasion it had risen significantly overnight.
A call from Cliff as we pulled into the car park confirmed it wasn’t good but we decided to don our waders and give it a go with an option to move somewhere else around lunchtime.
To say the river was pushing through was understatement and the murky brown colour made trotting futile but being a pair of stubborn old gits we pressed on and managed to fish a few slacks. Penno arrived mid-morning and setup a ledger rod but his 2oz feeder was swept away leaving his rod pulling sharply right and pointing to the inside, not good at all so I did what anyone would do in those circumstance and had a brew followed by a short nap on the bankside.
Eventually Bill reached the road bridge and phoned me to say he’d had no luck, Farm Pool was agreed upon and we headed back to the car.
When we arrived at Farm Pool a tree had come down and was scattered all over the car park, the recent high winds taking it’s toll on the habitat. We settled into three adjacent pegs and shouted ‘all in’ the match had officially started!!
I stayed with single maggot and was soon into small (but perfectly formed) roach of no more than a couple of ounces, Bill and Penno pressed on with feeder tactics cast close to the island and at 1pm, when Bill pulled for a break, we called the ‘all out’. Of course I’d clearly won the match by a massive margin and celebrated with another hot brew and a chunky Kit-Kat.
River Dane 31st January 2015
Once again the mid-week dilemma was to return to the Dove or try something a bit closer to home. The Dove was rising on all four monitoring stations and I feared snow melt the cause so it was an easy decision to head for the river Dane and my favourite stretch at Daisybank.
It was November last year when I was last walking down the concrete path but not much had changed, it was a little muddier but when I reached the river I dropped straight into a familiar swim as if I’d only left it the week before. The grass was surprisingly short and a muddy trail followed the river bank, unusual but after looking closely I spotted sheep droppings a sure sign that the farmer had taken in some sheep for grazing over the winter.
Whilst preparing for the first trott down an audience gathered behind me and the puzzle was complete. The risk of losing sheep in a harsh winter on the mountain is offset by renting a field in the Cheshire countryside, simple but obviously cost effective and they made a change from the usual dairy cows who churned up the soft ground so are mostly kept in the milking sheds and paddock.
The river looked good to me although once again it was not ideal, it had the right pace and sufficient clarity to see the freebie maggots I was trickling in drift off downstream. The wind was full on and in your face from the start, it cut right through my five or six layers and soon had me wishing I’d brought more. My padded bib n brace did the job and kept my legs from getting cold.
I’d decided that, due to the high wind, a centre pin would quickly end up in knots so my ABU 501 closed face reel was dusted off and given it’s first proper outing since I’d bought in in May last year.
After an hour it was obvious that trotting wasn’t going to work so I set-up a maggot feeder and continued with a change bait on the hook. I moved swims and found shelter from the wind, again another favourite swim and one I’d done well from in the past but at 5pm the sun was disappearing behind me and the light was starting to fade. I’d had enough which from recent experience is when you start thinking of a warm car and the journey home.
I’ll be without a car again next weekend as the final bit of engine work to fix a water leak is completed but I’ll no doubt be heading out somewhere, anywhere I can find feeding fish and get a much needed bend back in the rod.
If you want to follow Bob aka Grazy and his mates on their fishing exploits as they unfold I usually put a post up on Facebook when I’m out so click the button below.
Dove Dane Grimsditch Mill Pool 27-12-14
After a lovely couple of Christmas days spent with the family what better way to start the weekend than a day on the river Dove? That was the plan and the usual night before preparation saw the car loaded up and ready to go but as I needed the tracking doing on the afore mentioned car it wouldn’t be the usual 6am start, instead a civilised 8am rise saw me heading out of the house at 9:30am.
First Problem – I was greeted by a completely flat rear tyre, unloading the car to get at the spare I was thinking it was a good job I was going to get my tracking done so wasn’t too disappointed and swapped the tyre in a matter of ten minutes or so.
Second Problem – I had a cheque to pay into the bank so called in first, the cheque paying in machine wouldn’t take the cheque so after insulting it’s intelligence I stormed outside to the ATM, cheque paid in successfully I asked for £20 grabbed the card and headed off to the petrol station at Sainsbury’s.
Third Problem – Queuing up to pay for the diesel I realised when opening my wallet that I hadn’t waited for my £20 to come out at the ATM, instead some jammy sod had probably spotted it flapping about in the breeze and collected it for a day on the beer at my expense. On the off chance the machine had taken it back in headed back to the bank and queued patiently (again) only to be told it hadn’t been taken back by the ATM and there’s nowt the bank could do.
This was the second time this year although the last time I consoled myself that some needy student had taken it and treated themselves to a nice curry, this time I knew the locals well and unfortunately they’d have been straight around the pub or/and the bookies blatantly laughing at my stupidity.
Fourth Problem – After at least successfully getting the tracking done and puncture repaired I joined the M6 at junction 21a I could see the stationary traffic, the signage indicated ‘Slow Salt Spreading’ and the 40mph signs were lit, no problem I’ll just sit it out, Eventually we started moving albeit second gear but we were moving, an hour later we’d reached junction 20 so I tuned into a radio station and waited for the traffic news….. “The M6 southbound should be avoided this afternoon, no apparent reason just shear weight of traffic means it’s gridlocked all the way down to junction 15 at Stoke” You don’t feckin say!!
I made the decision to abandon the Dove and head for the river Dane at junction 18 so a thirty five minute journey had taken two and half hours still I was pleased to be off the motorway and would shortly be wetting a line. As I glanced at the river from the slip road it appeared swollen and chocolate brown in colour, not ideal but I’d check the levels from the farm yard so I pressed on uncertain on what to do.
The latest levels showed it was rising fast at 4am, it was now 2pm so was bound to be in the fields, I know this stretch well and have fished it in flood many times but usually without success so I made the decision to go and visit Grimsditch Mill Pool, a lovely little club water and it would give me a chance to try out my new (to me anyway) rod, a Hardy Richard Walker 13′ Matchmaker.
I’d bought it mainly for the close season but also for trotting when conditions allowed, it’s three sections and an early fibreglass rod but very light and easy to hold comfortably for long periods of time so perfect for the job.
Grimsditch had a light spattering of snow and judging by the lack of foot prints I was the only one daft enough to be fishing it. The pools surface was perfectly still apart from the occasional shower. The wildlife was less obvious than when I was last there in June but eventually it showed itself in the form of grebes and the occasional coot, a tiny field mouse ran under my feet on a mission to recover a small cube of meat I’d dropped and scurried back into the undergrowth.
I fished the float rod and also the Avon rod ledgered out towards the island but neither showed any signs of life beneath the surface, perhaps I was too over gunned on the tackle, perhaps they’d gone into a dormant state and stopped feeding or perhaps, as the title suggests, I should have just stayed in bed!!
As you’d expect I’m not the type to give up that easily so I’m planning another attempt to reach the river Dove and being a week day I think my chances are good but then again I always do think I’m in with a chance as long as I can get a bait in the water!!
River Vyrnwy 20-12-14
Last week I gave the river Dove a miss, it wasn’t a difficult choice as I had the chance to visit a new stretch of the Vyrnwy with a couple of mates. The former day ticket stretch is further upstream than my clubs stretch and looked very promising when we arrived at 9am, a total contrast to 36 hours earlier when it had well and truly burst it’s banks.
We set up at the upper stream limit and I found a slack area near to the rushes, a 5/8oz bomb was sufficient to hold bottom and I started off on cheese paste hoping to take an early fish.
After thirty minutes I moved downstream and my two amigos did the same, we had too much to go at and not enough hours in the day but the next swim felt like a ‘keeper’ so I set the chair up and got comfy, so comfy I nodded off and woke an hour or more later to find Pete had moved off and Penno looked as though he’d collapsed on the floor but on closer inspection he’d simply taken a mid afternoon nap too!!
Realising that it’d be dark soon I collected some tackle and my bait bucket and wandered off to find Pete, Penno said he’d be heading home in an hour so we said our goodbyes and I left him to it.
Pete had found a nice slack behind a midstream island and I dropped in about fifty yards upstream of him, the river was racing through but the nearside tress created a nice looking back eddy, surely a chub or two would be resting up here?
Unfortunately they weren’t so just before dark I headed back to the ‘comfy’ swim for the last hour. My cheese paste had raised a little interest but I fancied ledgered crust popped up around 6 inches, I’d been feeding a slack to my right and was ready to give it a go.
At 6pm I could see Pete’s head torch coming around the hillside as we’d agreed, an earlier than usual finish for me but at least we’d be home at a reasonable hour and apart from the A483 being closed we would have been but instead a detour added a further hour to our return journey.
I liked the Vyrnwy, it reminded me of Llandrinio with it’s sheep grazing hillside and rugged banks, the river must look absolutely stunning in the summer with so many trees and features to cast a line at I’ll be back and maybe next time, if the levels a little better, try a little harder to find the fish.
River Dove 13-12-14
I took last weeks blank session in good spirit, it proved my resolve and determination was stronger than my desire to bank a fish or two. To quote from the map book….
You have to be in the right place at the right time, get it right and a good bag of fish is guaranteed, get it wrong and you’ll have a dry net. Still, sometimes just being ‘on the Dove’ is enough?
Well I wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time although the midweek rain had swollen the river a little it was dropping nicely when I arrived, later than usual, at 1pm. The car park was frozen and you be forgiven for hesitating if it was your first visit because it did look deeper than it actually was.
I also noted the map book said that the Mill Fleam, a small brook that runs into the Dove in the area I was fishing, provided good sport in flood conditions so I headed straight to the furthest point giving me a 100 yards or so of the Mill Fleam to put the theory into practice.
I spent twenty minutes in six or seven spot before I reached the confluence with the Dove which was a complete contrast to the week before, it was up a good two foot and pushing through on a stretch that previously looked perfect for trotting for Grayling.
The sunset was incredible with trees silhouetted against the mackerel sky, a perfect opportunity for capturing the moment.
I found a nice slack on the inside and settled down for the evening ahead, it was dark by 5pm and the sky was crystal clear, a frosty evening awaited the hardiest of anglers. I was sticking with cheese paste as it seemed to generate the occasional pluck on the rod tip and I didn’t think it’d be long before it pulled round all the way. I decided to pour a much needed coffee and (you guessed it) the ratchet on the Trudex starting singing, a run at last but by the time I’d put the flask down and lifted the rod it was gone further proving my theory that chub have an uncanny knack of knowing when your not paying attention!!
Another hour passed and I moved around the bend, this time I dispensed with the luxury a a chair and dropped my paste into another slack using the rod rest to steady the tip whilst I touched ledgered standing up like an expectant pelican. Again a few plucks indicated fish were present (or I was being fooled by drifting weed?) but again no takers so I moved a further fifty yards downstream just ahead of where I started off last week.
This final spot was perfect as the higher bank behind me shielded the slight breeze which had cut through to the bone in the more exposed pegs, it wasn’t windy as such but just enough to increase the chill factor to ‘uncomfortable’.
I sat it out till midnight and didn’t take a fish, if I’m honest, I didn’t care. I’d had another great day, a proper winters day out in the fresh air, I’d seen an amazing sunset and some extremely clear shooting stars as I gazed up at the night sky, no my glass wasn’t half empty or even half full it was instead overflowing with a feeling of success and I can’t wait to get back there.
River Dove 06-12-14
This was my second visit to the River Dove and I headed for an area recommended by a Dove regular last week. One of the drawbacks of fishing a new stretch of river is the lack of knowledge not only about the swims and where the fish can be found but also simple things like where the car park is and how to get across the fields to the river, it isn’t always obvious and club map books can sometime be a little vague.
I’d bought an OS map of the area covering the entire stretch available to me, the sat nav let me down last week and I was reading maps long before satellites were launched or Google Earth even thought of. I found the track leading down to the car park and set off across the nearest field finding what I thought was the Mill Fleam (a small brook) as the book described but as there was no obvious way around it I retraced my steps and ended up back at the car park.
This turned out to be a blessing as I realised I’d left my side lights on and had I not noticed a flat battery would have resulted upon my return, I doubt very much the RAC would have easily found me in such a remote location. Another look at the map and I figured out which gate the map book referred to.
The field was muddy around the track area and required careful navigation to avoid getting bogged down but eventually I picked my way through and reached the Mill Fleam. Knowing this led to the river I followed it for a hundred yards or so and sure enough it ran into the Dove at a very chubby looking spot, the book suggest good sport can be found in the Mill Fleam when the main river was in flood and I can well imagine some decent sized specimens taking refuge from a raging river in this side stream, it had John Wilson written all over it!!
I decided to come back to that area later on and walked a further 150 yards downstream to a lovely looking swim, couple of features on the far bank to cast to and a steady pace for some trotting later on, it was 11:30am and I planned to spend no more than half an hour in each swim.
I was using a method that had worked last week, a black cap feeder filled with hemp and cheese paste on the hook but after half an hour of no interest it was becoming obvious that the sudden drop in temperatures had switched the feeding fish off. Every now and again a light aircraft passed overhead and I figured this was a route for flying lessons, it proved tricky to get a good photo but when the fishing is slow I’ll often turn to photography to pass the time.
After a couple of hours I wanted to explore the rest of the stretch so leaving the gear behind and armed with my camera I wandered off down stream. What struck me immediately is the sheer diversity of a typical small river, every bend revealing a different run of water to go at. There is also an abundance of wildlife which, if you sit still long enough, shows itself without any fear. I returned, collected my tackle and spent the hours of darkness roving downstream, it was a cold moonlit night and I knew there was little chance of a fish but at every tempting looking swim I stopped and cast a line giving it twenty minutes before moving onto the next. At 10pm I reeled in for the last time and headed back to the warmth of the car which, due to my earlier good fortune, started first time. Here’s a gallery of photos that capture the beauty of this river in winter, I can’t wait to see it in full bloom come June next year.
I’ll leave this weeks post at that, suffice to say the Dove had the upper hand but as I’ve said before it’s not about the catching, if it was I’d have given up a long time ago!!