Friday, 21 November 2014

Autumnal feelings

So the clocks have gone back and it's dark around 5pm. Chestnuts have been picked and are waiting to be roasted.

I must say this season has been an enjoyable one and has found me doing groundwork on new areas of some of the Thames tributaries that I fish, most of these have been spent building up a picture of the features and general topography of certain swims, I often enjoy this part as much as the actual fishing trips and garner a great deal of enjoyment from them, they certainly whet the appetite and help to give you some idea of how swims might develop later in the season.

Mid September I headed to fish some of these new swims, where shallow gravel runs give way to deeper marginal areas, tangled tree roots descending into them like a half submerged octopus that is worried about wetting its tentacles.

A few small bait droppers of bird seed were placed in as quietly as possible and then the swim was left for about an hour before I gently lowered my bait into place.

The evening was peaceful and even though it was only mid September it was evident that the days were beginning to draw in that much earlier, it's hard to say how this makes me feel, on one hand I personally love fishing during autumn and winter, on the other it fills me with sadness to think summer is passing and with it the dense foliage will eventually wither and fall, leaving a bare landscape of woody skeletons, denuded and stark, branches reaching out upward as if to beg for their petticoats to be returned.

The owls began to call out in earnest, a pheasant caught me unawares as it bundled its way through a nearby hedge, its staccato call ringing in my ears as it ran off in abject horror and slowly but surely the mist developed, rising from the river, eventually shrouding rod and angler in its damp embrace.
It was to be a very quiet evening apart from a couple of taps early on, those whom fish this waterway will know what I mean when I say it has three moods, on,off and deadly. However all of these have their own allure and once you're bitten things are never the same, each fish is procured and very much cherished.

At around 3am I was pondering the rarest of things, having another cast when the rod tip thudded round once more, a gap between bites of a good few hours but a very positive sign, one hour later and the reel purred into action, the fish diving for the cover of tree roots and knowing exactly where it wanted to head, some steady side pressure applied and it cruised into the mid-channel before heading off upstream like a well toned athlete. A mixture of nauseous feelings welled up in my stomach as I felt the line grating on an unseen snag upstream, but thankfully the line did not part company and I was rewarded with a handsome double in the net.

It really was the barbus late show and the skyline was gradually showing that dawn would soon be beckoning, a kindly thank you was whispered to the river and I made my way home.


During September and October I met up with Tom once again, the plan was to do a short days roving and for him to hopefully tempt a personal best chub from the river Blackwater. The waterways perch populace were on fine form and I think I lost count of how many were caught, each one finely marked and healthy.

I had headed further upstream and lost what felt like a reasonable chub to a combination of snag and hook pull, so I suggested to Tom to try another swim just below me, one that had proven fruitful to another friend in the past, this nearly paid instant dividends as he hooked into a very good fish which made a powerful dash for some nearby cover, unfortunately it was not going to come back out from this snag and looked a very nice chub, a possible personal best, we were both rather crest fallen.

A few swims later, on a wider bend and after a few casts trundling flake through the swim he hooked into a rather lively fish, it was to turn out to be his largest Blackwater chub (3.12.5). A fish that had certainly been in the wars and had the battle scars to prove it, each mark on its body a worthy tale to tell.

A jubilant Tom

An interesting side note to this, is that on three occasions with friends on this particular river each one of them has had a chub of 3.12, which I find rather uncanny.

Tom was overjoyed and this fish went a good part of the way to making up for losing the larger fish earlier on. Another interesting couple of captures were of some rather nicely conditioned roach that we both caught and it has given me some serious food for thought about targeting the larger red fins that may inhabit this reach of the river.

This was a very enjoyable trip and on the way back to the car we could not help chatting fervently about the fish Tom had lost and both hoped he might see again.

Our next few trips together were alternated between Blackwater and Wey. 

One of these was during Toms birthday, it was a very crisp day, the first frosts of the year laced the ground, it was a brilliantly sunny affair with a good feeling of autumn about it, both Tom and myself had high expectations, some words of appreciation were passed to mum as she handed us a baked slice each and some cake for Tom before dropping us off at the venue.

We planned to fish until 5pm and see if we could winkle out some of this rivers pristine chub. The waterway was gin clear and it was a very still day, Tom said to me he wished to try some of the earlier swims on this particular stretch, an area where there is quite a few undercut margins on the opposite bank, I could understand why he was so enthusiastic to wet a line here.

Within the first twenty minutes Tom received a positive bite and was soon playing a very energetic chub, a fish that was intent on heading upstream to bury itself in some nearby flotsam, like a lot of the chub that inhabit this waterway this was a very bonny fish, immaculate and with a lovely slate grey meets brassy colouring, Tom was very happy, it was the perfect start to our trip and a birthday chub at that.

Welcome birthday chevin (3.8)

We made our way downstream to an area where the river becomes shallow, but has some very clear, deeper pools, a few trundles here resulted in my first couple of fish in the shape of some gatecrashing brownies, it's always a lively affair when you hook them, although the end result is usually a very spooked swim and has in the past cost us a chance at a nice chevin or two.

By now the sun had warmed up pleasantly and it was turning into a very mild day, Tom was just upstream of me and had picked up a couple of trout from an area that really has chub written all over it, a swim with some dense near bank coverage, deeper margins and sunken wood rafts.

As we ventured onward and after a few too many crayfish we decided to take lunch, I always enjoy these parts of the trips, nothing to do with my appetite of that I can assure you but it allows both anglers to gather their thoughts, share ideas and plans of action, although the food trading that takes place during these moments is rather enjoyable that I will certainly admit.  

We both felt confident and were quite positive as we had not had quite as many interruptions from trout as we had expected, that said despite the chub earlier in the day and the trout, we had not seen much activity from anymore chevin or spotted any on likely areas downstream, despite this fact I was confident and mentioned to Tom that I had seen fish that looked a good 5lb earlier in the season along here.

Tom contemplating

By now we had reached a bend in the river, there was some nice weed beds and a sunken tree on the opposite bank, it looked too good to pass up, no loose feed was introduced just in case there might be the odd trout lurking, instead a single lob worm was trundled along here.

A few moments passed and I received an inquisitive tap, followed again by another more determined thud, I struck and was into what felt like a nice stamp of fish, sure enough it headed for the safety of the weed beds downstream, Tom was in my swim and said straight away  "that looks a nice chub Mark!", he did the honours with a sound netting and there was another pristine chub in the net for us.

Tom chatted excitedly, "Looks a good 4 plus, maybe even a venue pb mate!".

At first glance into the net I was not so sure, yet earlier on had guesstimated Tom's fish to the ounce. Tom looked at me and said, "mate if that isn't a good mid 4 I will eat your weigh sling", this brought about a hearty laugh between us as I assured him that the weigh sling really was not that appetizing.

Sure enough he was right and this resplendent fish weighed in at 4.9  a venue pb.

A perfect bar of gold

With only an hour left we decided to try a few more swims and Tom tried to get the chub feeding on the surface with some bread, although there did seem to be a lot of dace that were also interested in this tactic, just upstream of him I had noticed quite a bit of disturbance along my near margin and began to follow this fish about, it turned out to be a chub of perhaps 4lb maybe a little more, very skittish and wary, by now I had adopted my teddy bear style stalking approach, this fish was having none of it and made for a quick exit back downstream.

Time always seems to pass at a rate of knots when fishing and as we made our way back to the car it was clear that today had been no exception to that rule, it had been an interesting days fishing and a good way to celebrate Tom's birthday with a couple of picture perfect chub, we did muse over how the fishing had been and just how many chub we might have passed by, although this is not an easy area of the river it no doubt holds some larger fish and I for one would not be at all surprised to see it produce a 6lb chub.