Monday, 23 February 2015

The River Blythe - 50 Shades of Cray

The crayfish infested River Blythe is a small intimate river with some of the cleanest flowing water you will ever likely to find in England. Crayfish infested? Well yes because after drowning a worm three times in its clear waters, that’s all I’ve bleeding caught, the river is full of the little crazy biters. A friend of a friend who has a licence to trap them on a different river and often has up to 50 crayfish per trap and he uses 10 traps. He sells them to local gastro pubs and restaurants for something like 10 quid a kilo. He uses road kill as bait believe it or not, apparently they are partial to a bit of badger.


Gravel and clay-bedded rivers such as the Blythe can support a thriving crayfish population provided the water is pure, and the banks soft enough to burrow into. It’s such a “particularly fine example of a lowland river on clay” in 1989 is received Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and therefore has protected status. The river flows through Warwickshire, through the borough of Solihull and and on to Coleshill, it’s largely uncharted and un-fished especially as of late where many would rather fish parked next to a mud puddle where a blank is an impossibility. It’s a roving angler’s delight and suits me perfectly.



For the fisherman the mudbugs can be a either an asset or a hindrance. An asset because the fish are dining on them and they are getting bigger, fatter and fast. Where there is crayfish, there is a likelihood of overly large fish. A hindrance because especially when fishing a static bait the crayfish are so prolific that they home on to the bait before a fish does. I’ve even caught crayfish whilst trotting a weir the Warwickshire Avon so they even take moving bait suspended off the bottom too, the jammy gits.


The environmental agency reported a while back Perch of just four years old who had crayfish as part of their diet were reaching 4lb in weight. Yes 4lb, startling statistics really. Super size me indeed. Chub are also enjoying the addition to their diet and rivers such as the River Lea which also has an infestation are producing near double figure fish, that’s huge for a Chevin and not that long ago fish that big were unheard of.

This particular stretch of the Blythe in the summer months is barely fishable, not only is it difficult to get to the swims because of the dense undergrowth but the river in most parts is inches deep. Come winter time though when the thicket has reduced, access is easier and the levels make it fishable and the crayfish are also less active. It has shallow, fast-running stretches to slow moving lengths with deeper holes and overhangs and it was these holes and overhangs I intended to target.

It didn’t even cross my mind what to fish with, simples. My 8ft superlight TFGear quiver rod armed with a link ledgered lobworm, I also had ½ a pint of red maggots to drip feed the swim and some cheese paste for back-up.


It was a difficult morning, after a few hours and 7 or 8 swims I was still biteless, I swopped to two red maggots and again not a titter on the tip. It was a bitterly cold wind and no signs of any fish. The coloured water seemed to be getting more tea like so I decided to prebait a chubby looking swim with red maggot, chopped lobs and a few bits of cheese paste and let it settle for 1/2 an hour. I also changed the hook link to a cork ball on a bayonet hair and used a walnut sized piece of cheese paste, a chub sized gob stopper. No matter how bad the clarity of the water the stinky bait would surely be found if there were fish in the swim.


I plopped the mouldy dumpling against some nearside cover and waited. After 15 minutes or so a short sharp rattle on the quiver. The bite didn't develop so I sat on my hands till it did, no point being premature for a Chub. You will know when to strike, you ain't going to miss it. I was mid bovril when BANG, a huge bite and the rod was making a bid for freedom. A fish was on with the rod bent double, it was hold and hope for a few seconds. For such a dainty 8ft rod it's got some some backbone and with a snaggy swim and a big Chub there is no messing around you have to get on top of it otherwise it will snag you up and you will lose it. It was all over the swim trying to reach any snags and at one point I thought he had succeeded! but eventually after a hard fight a chunky Chevin was in the net.


I needed the scales for this one, it was a good'un. 4lb 9oz and equalled my PB. The camera was now flat but luckily my iphone came to the rescue. Certainly encouraging considering I've only fished the Blythe a few times, I'll be back.

6 comments:

  1. Well persevered Mick. It was tough going for most at the weekend.

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  2. Indeed hard going, a few other anglers fishing when I was and I didn't see anyone else landing a fish.

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  3. The Blythe is hardcore. People may not appreciate just how bad a crayfish infestation can be till they've fished this river. It is simply beyond belief in places. One day I resorted to trotting maggots mid water. They still managed to snap them up. The only thing I can say is that when (and if) the crayfish bites stop, then there's chub or large perch about and you'll likely catch them. My best chub from the river was 5lb 4oz, Mick. I know there's very big perch in there somewhere too. I've a few pounders and they were stunning fish. The river record pike is a whopping 30 pounds 8 ounces....

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    1. Interesting you mentioned Pike as out of the three other anglers that were there the weekend, two were using dead baits. I’ve hardly fished it to be honest Jeff but a mate is a bailiff for Coleshill and District Angling Club and he has had decent Chub from the Maxstoke Lane stretch in the past. He hardly fishes it now though as he usually trots a float in waders and found the same issues as you. It’s one of the rivers I’d love to fish for a whole season as I bet there are some right surprises to be had. I couldn’t justify the traveling time and mileage though, the stretch I fished last weekend was 17 miles away. Not a huge distance in the grand scheme of things but eats in to my fishing time especially when within 10 minutes I can be sat at a peg on the Avon.

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  4. Interesting that Mick, I grew up fishing the Blythe as I lived in a village near Coleshill then. There were never any crays at the tame end in the late 80's or early 90's to my knowledge, but I do remember when I fished Blythe waters commercial fishery in knowle around that time that someone informed me that the pools there had been stocked with red signal crays for farming in years gone by, I certainly hooked a few there. The pools are next to the river hence the name... Hmmm makes you wonder though doesn' t it.
    There's some monster fish in the Blythe as a result of the invasion, but they also add to it being a tough cruel old river to fish at times I think. Nice chub though.

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    1. I've caught them from Blythe Waters when I've fished a works match there, could well explain how they got in there. They are throughout the whole stretch now, I bet Somers has them too. They are certainly less active in the winter months so best time to fish it, ruined the river ? maybe but at least the fish are getting bigger.

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