Friday 27 October 2023

The Tiny River Alne - Typhlotic and Tyromancy

After deciding to give myself a buzz cut recently, (just prior to Spain in-fact) the winters warmers are coming out in anger, with homemade soups, curries and stews the main food in the Newey household at the moment (no salads to be seen here). Lets hope the fishing of late will improve as I've not done brilliant of late I must admit. The Alne has got to me because of the capture of that 12 ounce dace I caught recently which was a surprise I must admit, but then looking back over my archives those decent dace do turn up for time to time.  

Now if dace weighed 3-4lb, I have little doubt that they would be at the top of many a river angler's list of favourite species. But of course they do not grow so big: a half pounder is a good one, yet still a relatively little fish. 

A tasty saag paneer !!! 

Thus dace tend to take a back seat compared to larger-growing river fish except to some discerning anglers who have discovered that what dace lack in weight is certainly compensated for in spirit. Size for size they fight as hard as any chub. Dace fans also appreciate that where they are found, shoals are quite big. Almost to the extent of chub they are prepared to continue feeding merrily when river conditions have ruled out sport with the more temperature conscious species. 

Offhand I cannot think of a river anywhere in Britain where dace do not occur, though in the middle and lower reaches of slow flowing streams the shoals tend to be rather isolated and take some finding. On the whole, dace prefer shallow, cleaner, swift- flowing sections.

As rivers are subjected to more and more abstraction, so flow rates fall, resulting in a deterioration in the quality of dace fishing compared to that of several decades ago. Nowadays the upper reaches of rivers, sidestreams and small tributaries are far better places to look for quality shoals. 

One From the small Warwickshire Alne
Above the main areas of pollution, the river is characterised by a livelier and more consistent flow. It runs clearer and you may think it strange that while I deliberately refrain from writing about ways to catch larger than average specimens of other species, I feel compelled to emphasise the capture of bigger than normal dace. 

I make their small size my excuse. Whatever the reason, those intimate headwaters and sidestreams are the best spots to seek out the better shoals which may well have dace averaging 8-10oz or more depending on the river's quality. 

Dace over a pound, once an attainable target on many rivers, are becoming almost as scarce as mermaids. 

The current record fish weighed 1lb 5oz and was caught from by Simon Ashton River Wear, Sunderland in 2002. 

Larger fish than that have been recorded apparently, including the one-time record held by R.W. Humphries at llb 8oz 5dr, hooked from a tributary of the Hampshire Avon in 1932. (The fish was removed from the record list in 1969 due to insufficient proof of its capture.) The Bedford Ivel once produced huge dace such as L. Cookson's specimen of 1lb 8oz, and the Eden in  Carlisle produced a llb 6oz fish according to the literature I have at my disposal. 

Being realistic I have to conclude that it seems unlikely the record will ever be broken, yet there are still a few rivers capable of springing a surprise and certainly able to produce dace of over a pound. Even the Little Ouse could do the trick. Other rivers include the Norfolk streams Thet, Wensum, Tud and Tas, the Berkshire Kennet, the Herefordshire Wye, some of the Hampshire chalk streams with the Suffolk Stour, at one time a Mecca for outsize dace and still holding a few big fish in some stretches.

River Alne Chub and Dace, brothers in arms !!!
Most specimen dace I have heard about were caught by accident, usually by an angler fishing for roach or chub in slower deeper runs than those generally preferred by ordinary dace. 

The biggest specimens tend to isolate themselves from smaller shoal fish apparently, and the spots to look for them are deeper glides, pools and slacks, prefer- ably overhung with branches or vegetation. Perhaps they think they are chub!

Little chub are often mistaken for large dace, I recall a classic example when Chris a fishing friend, legered for chub after dark one very cold winter's night. Baiting with a chub-sized lump of cheesepaste he had one belter of a bite. 

My best so far a 12 ounce River Alne Chub
His strike met only token resistance from an apparently very small chub, which was unceremoniously wound in splashing back across the surface, lifted from the water, unhooked and was about to be thrown back into the pitch dark river when Chris noticed a decidedly un-chublike feel about it. Torchlight revealed a dace nudging the one pound mark.

Even in daylight there is confusion between small chub and big dace, for there is so close a similarity that at first glance many anglers are fooled into thinking they have caught a specimen dace. A second look will show clearly that they have clear identification points. 

The anal and dorsal fins of the dace are distinctly concave, while the chub's are convex. The dace's ventral and anal fins are pale coral pink instead of orange/red like the chub's. The dace's tail is a translucent pale green; the chub's is dark grey, sometimes nearly black. In any case, the slim delicate shape, narrow head, large eye and small mouth of the dace characterises the species quite well enough if you compare it to the thick-bodied chub with its broad head, thick lips and large mouth.

Anyway I've struggled to get out fishing of late with work and family life getting in the way so I was hoping that the Alne had settled down to at least give the fish some breathing space from the mosh pit. That extra water really did colour it up but the wrong colour was my excuse !!. So I was back with some bread and worms as bait and some liquidised bread in the feeder for attraction.

This section of the Alne has some really deep bits and also a few swims with decent depth which I'm sure helps when the Wife is reaching for the central heating override switch. Those bigger fish like depth over their heads I'm sure when temperature's drop. So anything doing ?

Well just one bite and one fish, the dace were not showing at all and yet the colour looked superb for a bite a dark green colour. The key was after fishing 2 swims without even a bite was to fish tight to some cover where after missing a bite the next cast a few plucks the tip went round....

....and a fish was on

It was giving me a run around at first and I thought it was a trout but then it tried to get in to two bits of cover and at one point in the fight I was worried I'd lose it. Not a bad chub for the Alne going 3lb and 3 ounces on the scales. It looks blind in one eye with its left eye clouded over but apart from that fighting fit. 

The rain was on and off throughout the session and it felt chilly especially when the sun started to go down. The fish apart from this one had gone AWOL but still a lovely fish and a decent scrap I went away happy. I fancy another chub, this time from the Avon, now where is that cheesepaste I've just made. 


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